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Title: History of the Commune of 1871
Author: Lissagary, Prosper-Olivier, 1838-1901
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Commune of 1871" ***

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      _Large crown 8vo., cloth, 3s. 6d. each._

       1. THE ENGLISH PEASANT: His Past and Present. By RICHARD

      Preface by R. B. HALDANE, M.P.

       3 & 4. SIXTY YEARS OF AN AGITATOR'S LIFE: George Jacob
      Holyoake's Autobiography. 2 vols.

      and with an Introduction by HENRY DUNCKLEY ("Verax"). 2 vols.

      the Right Hon. LEONARD COURTNEY, M.P., and the Right Hon.

      Political Economy and its History, delivered at Oxford,
      1887-1888. By Professor THOROLD ROGERS. Third edition. 2 vols.

      By Professor THOROLD ROGERS. 2 vols.


      13 & 14. CHARLES BRADLAUGH: A Record of His Life and Work.
      By His Daughter, HYPATIA BRADLAUGH BONNER. 2 vols.

      from the Writings of WILLIAM WHITE, with a Prefatory Note by
      his Son, and an Introduction by JUSTIN MCCARTHY, M.P.


      18 & 19. THE LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. By JOHN MORLEY. 2 vols.

                    LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN.








  PRUSSIANS ENTER PARIS                                             58




  THE EIGHTEENTH OF MARCH                                           78




  SERVICES, AND HOLDS PARIS                                        101


  VENDÔME, AND IS PUNISHED                                         108


  CONSTRAINS THE MAYORS TO CAPITULATE                              116


  PROCLAMATION OF THE COMMUNE                                      126








  MASSACRE SOME PRISONERS                                          162




  HOSTAGES--THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE--THE BANK                        182


  DEFEAT OF THE CONCILIATORS                                       190


  DISPUTES--THE GERMS OF DEFEAT                                    199




  --EDUCATION--LABOR AND EXCHANGE                                  217




  FORT OF ISSY                                                     246




  THE CONSPIRACIES AGAINST THE COMMUNE                             265


  LEFT BETRAYS PARIS                                               271


  RAPP--FALL OF THE VENDÔME COLUMN                                 288


  PARIS ON THE EVE OF DEATH                                        293


  DISSOLVES                                                        304


  EAST--PARIS RISES                                                313


  HÔTEL-DE-VILLE                                                   326


  THE NIGHT OF THE CANNON                                          339


  THE ELEVENTH ARRONDISSEMENT                                      353




  COURTS--THE DEATH OF VARLIN--THE BURIALS                         382






  CONDEMNATIONS                                                    424


  --THE LIBERAL CHAMBER AND THE AMNESTY                            445

  APPENDIX                                                         467



    "Osons, ce mot renferme toute la politique de cette
      heure."--_Rapport de St. Just à la Convention._


_August 9, 1870._--In six days the Empire has lost three battles. Douai,
Frossart, MacMahon have allowed themselves to be isolated, surprised,
crashed. Alsace is lost, the Moselle laid bare. The dumbfoundered
Ministry has convoked the Chamber. Ollivier, in dread of a
demonstration, denounces if beforehand as "Prussian." But since eleven
in the morning an immense agitated crowd occupies the Place de la
Concorde, the quays, and surrounds the Corps Législatif.

Paris is waiting for the _mot d'ordre_ of the deputies of the Left.
Since the announcement of the defeats they have become the only moral
authority. Bourgeoisie, workingmen, all rally round them. The workshops
have turned their army into the streets, and at the head of the
different groups one sees men of tried energy.

The Empire totters--it has now only to fall. The troops drawn up before
the Corps Législatif are greatly excited, ready to turn tail in spite of
the decorated and grumbling Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers. The people cry,
"To the frontier." Officers answer aloud, "Our place is not here."

In the Salle des Pas Perdus well-known Republicans, the men of the
clubs, who have forced their way in, roughly apostrophise the
Imperialist deputies, speak loudly of proclaiming the Republic. The
pale-faced Mamelukes steal behind the groups. M. Thiers arrives and
exclaims, "Well, then, make your republic!" When the President,
Schneider, passes to the chair, he is received with cries of

The deputies of the Left are surrounded by delegates from without. "What
are you waiting for? We are ready. Only show yourselves under the
colonnades at the gates." The honourables seem confounded, stupefied.
"Are you numerous enough? Were it not better to put it off till
to-morrow?" There are indeed only 100,000 men ready. Some one arrives
and tells Gambetta, "There are several thousands of us at the Place
Bourbon." Another, the writer of this history, says, "Make sure of the
situation to-day, when it may still be saved. To-morrow, having become
desperate, it will be forced upon you." But these brains seem paralysed;
no word escapes these gaping mouths.

The sitting opens. Jules Favre proposes to this base Chamber, the
abettor of our disasters, the humus of the Empire, to seize upon the
government. The Mamelukes rise up in dudgeon, and Jules Simon, hair on
end, returns to us in the Salle des Pas Perdus. "They threaten to shoot
us," he shrieks; "I descended into the midst of the hall and said,
'Well, shoot us.'" We exclaim, "Put an end to this." "Yes," says he, "we
must make an end of it,"--and he returns to the Chamber.

And thus ended their "damnable faces." The Mamelukes, who know their
Left, recover their self-assurance, throw Ollivier overboard and form a
_coup-d'état_ Ministry. Schneider precipitately breaks up the sitting in
order to get rid of the crowd. The people, feebly repulsed by the
soldiers, repair in masses to the bridges, follow those who leave the
Chamber, expecting every moment to hear the Republic proclaimed. M.
Jules Simon, out of reach of the bayonets, makes a heroic discourse, and
convokes the people to meet the next day at the Place de la Concorde.
The next day the police occupy all the approaches.

Thus the Left abandoned to Napoleon III. our two last armies. One effort
would have sufficed to overthrow this pasteboard Empire.[1] The people
instinctively offered their help to render the nation unto herself. The
Left repulsed them, refused to save the country by a riot, and,
confining their efforts to a ridiculous motion, left to the Mamelukes
the care of saving France. The Turks in 1876 showed more intelligence
and elasticity.

During three weeks it was the story of the Bas-Empire all over
again,--the fettered nation sinking into the abyss in the face of its
motionless governing classes. All Europe cried, "Beware!" They alone
heard not. The masses, deceived by a braggart and corrupt press, might
ignore the danger, lull themselves with vain hopes; but the deputies
have, must have, their hands full of crushing truths. They conceal them.
The Left exhausts itself in exclamations. On the 12th M. Gambetta cries,
"We must wage Republican war"--and sits down again. On the 13th Jules
Favre demands the creation of a Committee of Defence. It is refused. He
utters no syllable. On the 20th the Ministry announces that Bazaine has
forced three army corps into the quarries of Jaumont; the next day the
whole European press related, on the contrary, that Bazaine, three times
beaten, had been thrown back upon Metz by 200,000 Germans. And no deputy
rises to interpellate the liars! Since the 26th they have known
MacMahon's insane march upon Metz, exposing the last army of France, a
mob of 80,000 conscripts, and vanquished, to 200,000 victorious Germans.
M. Thiers, again restored to favour since the disasters, demonstrates in
the committees and in the lobbies that this march is the way to utter
ruin. The extreme Left says and bruits about that all is lost and of all
these responsible persons seeing the state ship tempest-tossed, not one
raises his hand to seize the helm.

Since 1813 France had seen no such collapse of the governing classes.
The ineffable dastardliness of the Cent-jours pales before this superior
cowardice; for here Tartuffe is grafted upon Trimalcion. Thirteen months
later, at Versailles, I hear, amidst enthusiastic applause, the Empire
apostrophised, "Varus, give us back our legions." Who speaks, who
applauds thus? The same great bourgeoisie, which, for eighteen years
mute and bowed to the dust, offered their legions to Varus. The
bourgeoisie accepted the Second Empire from fear of Socialism, even as
their fathers had submitted to the first to make an end of the
Revolution. Napoleon I. rendered the bourgeoisie two services not
overpaid by his apotheosis. He gave them an iron centralisation and sent
to their graves 15,000 wretches still kindled by the flame of the
Revolution, who at any moment might have claimed the public lands
granted to them. But he left the same bourgeoisie saddled for all
masters. When they possessed themselves of the parliamentary government,
to which Mirabeau wished to raise them at one bound, they were incapable
of governing. Their mutiny of 1830, turned into a revolution by the
people, made the belly master. The great bourgeois of 1830, like him of
1790, had but one thought--to gorge himself with privileges, to arm the
bulwarks in defence of his domains, to perpetuate the proletariat. The
fortune of his country is nothing to him, so that he fatten. To lead, to
compromise France, the parliamentary king has as free license as
Bonaparte. When by a new outburst of the people the bourgeoisie are
compelled to seize the helm after three years, spite of massacre and
proscription, it slips out of their palsied hands into those of the
first comer.

From 1851 to 1869 they relapse into the same state as after the 18th
Brumaire. Their privileges safe, they allow Napoleon III. to plunder
France, make her the vassal of Rome, dishonour her in Mexico, ruin her
finances, vulgarise debauchery. All-powerful by their retainers and
their wealth, they do not risk a man, a dollar, for the sake of
protesting. In 1869 the pressure from without raises them to the verge
of power; a little strength of will and the government is theirs. They
have but the velleity of the eunuch. At the first sign of the impotent
master they kiss the rod that smote them on the 2nd December, making
room for the plebiscite which rebaptizes the Empire.

Bismarck prepared the war, Napoleon III. wanted it, the great
bourgeoisie looked on. They might have stopped it by an earnest gesture.
M. Thiers contented himself with a grimace. He saw in this war our
certain ruin; he knew our terrible inferiority in everything; he could
have united the Left, the _tiers-parti_, the journalists, have made
palpable to them the folly of the attack, and, supported by this
strength of opinion, have said to the Tuileries, to Paris if needs be,
"War is impossible; we shall combat it as treason." He, anxious only to
clear himself, simply demanded the despatches instead of speaking the
true word, "You have no chance of success."[2] And these great
bourgeois, who would not have risked the least part of their fortunes
without the most serious guarantees, staked 100,000 lives and the
milliards of France on the word of a Leboeuf and the equivocations of
a Grammont.[3]

And what then is the small middle-class doing meanwhile? This lean
class, which penetrates everything--industry, commerce, the
administration--mighty by encompassing the people, so vigorous, so ready
in the first days of our Hegira, will it not, as in 1792, rise for the
common weal? Alas! it has been spoilt under the hot corruption of the
Empire. For many years it has lived at random, isolating itself from the
proletariat, whence it issued but yesterday, and whither the great
barons of Capital will hurl it back again to-morrow. No more of that
fraternity with the people, of that zeal for reform, which manifested
themselves from 1830 to 1848. With its bold initiative, its
revolutionary instinct, it loses also the consciousness of its force.
Instead of representing itself, as it might so well do, it goes about in
quest of representatives among the Liberals.

The friend of the people who will write the history of Liberalism in
France will save us many a convulsion. Sincere Liberalism would be folly
in a country where the governing classes, refusing to concede anything,
constrain every honest man to become a revolutionist. But it was never
anything else than the Jesuitism of liberty, a trick of the bourgeoisie
to isolate the workmen. From Bailly to Jules Favre, the moderantists
have masked the manoeuvres of despotism, buried our revolutions,
conducted the great massacres of proletarians. The old clear-sighted
Parisian sections hated them more than the down right reactionists.
Twice Imperial despotism rehabilitated them, and the small middle-class,
soon forgetting their true part, accepted as defenders those who
pretended to be vanquished like themselves. The men who had made
abortive the movement of 1848 and paved the way for the 2nd December
thus became during the darkness which followed it the acclaimed
vindicators of ravished liberty. At the first dawn they appeared what
they had ever been----the enemies of the working-class. Under the
Empire the Left never condescended to concern itself with the interests
of the workmen. These Liberals never found for them a word, a
protestation, even such as the Chambers of 1830-1848 sometimes
witnessed. The young lawyers whom they had affiliated to themselves soon
revealed their designs, rallying to the Liberal Empire, some openly,
like Ollivier and Darimon, others with prudence, like Picard. For the
timid or ambitious they founded the "open Left," a bench of candidates
for public office; and in 1870 a number of Liberals indeed solicited
official functions. For the "intransigeants" there was the "closed
Left," where the irreconcilable dragons Gambetta, Crémieux, Arago,
Pelletan guarded the pure principles. The chiefs towered in the centre.
These two groups of augurs thus held every fraction of bourgeois
opposition--the timorous and the intrepid. After the plebiscite they
became the holy synod, the uncontested chiefs of the small middle-class,
more and more incapable of governing itself, and alarmed at the
Socialist movement, behind which they showed it the hand of the Emperor.
It gave them full powers, shut its eyes, and allowed itself to drift
gradually towards the parliamentary Empire, big with portfolios for its
patrons. The thunderbolt of the defeats galvanised it into life, but
only for a moment. At the bidding of the deputies to keep quiet, the
small middle-class, the mother of the 10th August, docilely bent its
head and let the foreigner plunge his sword into the very bosom of

Poor France! Who will save thee? The humble, the poor, those who for six
years contended for thee with the Empire.

While the upper classes sell the nation for a few hours of rest, and the
Liberals seek to feather their nests under the Empire, a handful of men,
without arms, unprotected, rise up against the still all-powerful
despot. On the one hand, young men who form the bourgeoisie have gone
over to the people, faithful children of 1789, resolved to continue the
work of the Revolution; on the other hand, working-men unite for the
study and the conquest of the rights of labor. In vain the Empire
attempts to split their forces, to seduce the working-men. These see the
snare, hiss the professors of Cæsarian socialism, and from 1863, without
journals, without a tribune, affirm themselves as a class, to the great
scandal of the Liberal sycophants, maintaining that 1789 has equalized
all classes. In 1867 they descend into the streets, make a manifestation
at the tomb of Manin, and, despite the bludgeons of the sbirri, protest
against Mentana. At this appearance of a revolutionary socialist party
the Left gnashes its teeth. When some working-men, ignorant of their own
history, ask Jules Favre if the Liberal bourgeoisie will support them on
the day of their rising for the Republic, the leader of the Left
impudently answers, "Gentlemen workmen, you have made the Empire; it is
your business to unmake it." And Picard says, "Socialism does not exist,
or at any rate we will not treat with it."

Thus set right for the future, the working-men continue the struggle
single-handed. Since the re-opening of the public meetings they fill the
halls, and, in spite of persecution and imprisonment, harass, undermine
the Empire, taking advantage of every accident to inflict a blow. On the
26th October 1869 they threaten to march on the Corps Législatif; in
November they insult the Tuileries by the election of Rochefort; in
December they goad the Government by the _Marseillaise_; in January,
1870, they go 200,000 strong to the funeral of Victor Noir, and, well
directed, would have swept away the throne.

The Left, terrified at this multitude, which threatens to overwhelm
them, brands their leaders as desperadoes or as police agents. They,
however, keep to the fore, unmasking the Left, defying them to
discussion, keeping up at the same time a running fire on the Empire.
They form the vanguard against the plebiscite. At the war rumors they
are the first to make a stand. The old dregs of Chauvinism, stirred by
the Bonapartists, discharge their muddy waters. The Liberals remain
impassible or applaud; the workingmen stop the way. On the 15th July, at
the very same hour when Ollivier from the tribune invokes war with a
light heart, the revolutionary socialists crowd the boulevards crying,
"Vive la paix!" and singing the pacific refrain--

  "Les peuples sont pour nous des frères
    Et les tyrans des ennemis."

From the Château d'Eau to the Boulevard St. Denis they are applauded,
but are hissed in the Boulevards Bonne Nouvelle and Montmartre, and come
to blows with certain bands shouting for war.

The next day they meet again at the Bastille, and parade the streets,
Ranvier, a painter on porcelain, well known in Belleville, marching at
their head with a banner. In the Faubourg Montmartre the
sergents-de-ville charge them with drawn swords.

Unable to influence the bourgeoisie, they turn to the working-men of
Germany, as they had done in 1869:--"Brothers, we protest against the
war, we who wish for peace, labour, and liberty. Brothers, do not listen
to the hirelings who seek to deceive you as to the real wishes of
France." Their noble appeal received its reward. In 1869 the students of
Berlin had answered the pacific address of the French students with
insults. The working-men of Berlin in 1870 spoke thus to the working-men
of France: "We too wish for peace, labour, and liberty. We know that on
both sides of the Rhine there are brothers with whom we are ready to die
for the Universal Republic." Great prophetic words! Let them be
inscribed on the first page of the Golden Book just opened by the

Thus towards the end of the Empire there was no life, no activity, save
in the ranks of the proletariat and the young men of the middle-class
who had joined them. They alone showed some political courage, and in
the midst of the general paralysis of the month of July 1870, they alone
found the energy to attempt at least the salvation of France.

They lacked authority; they failed to carry with them the small
middle-class, for which they also combat, because of their utter want of
political experience. How could they have acquired it during eighty
years, when the ruling class not only withheld light from them, but even
the right to enlighten themselves? By an infernal Machiavelism they
forced them to grope their way in the dark, so that they might hand them
over the more easily to dreamers and sectarians. Under the Empire, when
the public meetings and journals reappeared, the political education of
the workmen had still to be effected. Many, abused by morbid minds, in
the belief that their affranchisement depended on a _coup-de-main_, gave
themselves up to whoever spoke of overthrowing the Empire. Others,
convinced that even the most thorough-going bourgeois were hostile to
Socialism, and only courted the people in furtherance of their ambitious
plans, wanted the workmen to constitute themselves into groups
independent of all tutelage. These different currents crossed each
other. The chaotic state of the party of action was laid bare in its
journal, the _Marseillaise_, a hot mish-mash of doctrinaires and
desperate writers united by hatred of the Empire, but without definite
views, and above all, without discipline. Much time was wanted to cool
down the first effervescence and get rid of the romantic rubbish which
twenty years of oppression and want of study had made fashionable.
However, the influence of the Socialists began to prevail, and no doubt
with time they would have classified their ideas, drawn up their
programme, eliminated the mere spouters, entered upon serious action.
Already, in 1869, working-men's societies, founded for mutual credit,
resistance and study, had united in a Federation, whose headquarters
were the Place de la Corderie du Temple. The International, setting
forth the most adequate idea of the revolutionary movement of our
century, under the guidance of Varlin, a bookbinder of rare
intelligence, of Duval, Theisz, Frankel, and a few devoted men, was
beginning to gain power in France. It also met at the Corderie, and
urged on the more slow and reserved workmen's societies. The public
meetings of 1870 no longer resembled the earlier ones; the people wanted
useful discussions. Men like Millière, Lefrançais, Vermorel, Longuet,
etc., seriously competed with the mere declaimers. But many years would
have been required for the development of the party of labour, hampered
by young bourgeois adventurers in search of a reputation, encumbered
with conspiracy-mongers and romantic visionaries, still ignorant of the
administrative and political mechanism of the bourgeois régime which
they attacked.

Just before the war some discipline was attempted. Some tried to move
the deputies of the Left, and met them at Crémieux'. They found them
stupefied, more afraid of a _coup-d'état_ than of the Prussian
victories. Crémieux, pressed to act, answered naïvely, "Let us wait for
a new disaster, as, for instance, the fall of Strasbourg."

It was indeed necessary to wait, for without these shadows nothing could
be done. The small Parisian middle-class believed in the extreme Left,
as it had believed in our armies. Those who wished to do without them
failed. On the 14th the friends of Blanqui attempted to raise the
outlying districts, attacked the quarters of the firemen of La Villette,
and put the sergents-de-ville to flight. Masters of the field, they
traversed the boulevard up to Belleville, crying, "Vive la République!
Death to the Prussians!" No one joined them. The crowd looked on from
afar, astonished, motionless, rendered suspicious by the police agents,
who thus drew them off from the real enemy--the Empire. The Left
pretended to believe in the Prussian agent, to reassure the bourgeoisie,
and Gambetta demanded the immediate trial of the prisoners of La
Villette. The Minister Palikao had to remind him that certain forms must
be observed, even by military justice. The court-martial condemned ten
to death, although almost all the accused had had nothing to do with the
affray. Some true-hearted men, wishing to prevent these executions, went
to Michelet, who wrote a touching letter on their behalf. The Empire had
no time to carry out the sentences.

Since the 25th MacMahon was leading his army into the snares laid by
Moltke. On the 29th, surprised and beaten at Beaumont l'Argonne, he knew
himself overreached, and yet pushed forward. Palikao had written to him
on the 27th: "If you abandon Bazaine we shall have the Revolution in
Paris." And to ward off the Revolution he exposed France. On the 30th he
threw his troops into the pit of Sedan; on the 1st September the army
was surrounded by 200,000 enemies, and 700 cannons crowned the heights.
The next day Napoleon III. delivered up his sword to the King of
Prussia. The telegraph announced it; all Europe knew it that same night.
The deputies, however, were silent; they remained so on the 3rd. On the
4th only, at midnight, after Paris had passed through a day of feverish
excitement, they made up their minds to speak. Jules Favre demanded the
abolition of the Empire and a Commission charged with the defence, but
took care not to touch the Chamber. During the day some men of tried
energy had attempted to raise the boulevards, and in the evening an
anxious crowd pressed against the railings of the Corps Législatif,
crying: "Vive la République." Gambetta met them and said, "You are
wrong; we must remain united; make no revolution." Jules Favre,
surrounded on his leaving the Chamber, strove to calm the people.

If Paris had been guided by the Left, France would have capitulated that
very hour more shamefully than Napoleon III. But on the morning of the
4th of September the people assemble, and amongst them National Guards
armed with their muskets. The astonished gendarmes give way to them.
Little by little the Corps Législatif is invaded. At ten o'clock
notwithstanding the desperate efforts of the Left, the crowd fills the
galleries. It is time. The Chamber, on the point of forming a Ministry,
try to seize the government. The Left support this combination with all
its might, waxing indignant at the mere mention of a Republic. When that
cry bursts forth from the galleries, Gambetta makes unheard-of efforts
and conjures the people to await the result of the deliberations of the
Chamber,--a result known beforehand. It is the project of M. Thiers: a
Government Commission named by the Assembly; peace demanded and accepted
at any price; after that disgrace, the parliamentary monarchy. Happily a
new crowd of invaders bursts its way through the doors, while the
occupants of the galleries glide into the hall. The people expel the
deputies. Gambetta, forced to the tribune, is obliged to announce the
abolition of the Empire. The crowd, wanting more than this, asks for the
Republic, and carries off the deputies to proclaim it at the

This was already in the hands of the people. In the Salle du Trône were
some of those who for a month had attempted to rouse public opinion.
First on the ground, they might, with a little discipline, have
influenced the constitution of the government. The Left surprised them
haranguing, and, incited by an acclaiming multitude, Jules Favre took
the chair, which Millière gave up to him, saying, "At the present moment
there is but one matter at stake--the expulsion of the Prussians."[4]
Jules Favre, Jules Simon, Jules Ferry, Gambetta, Crémieux, Emmanuel
Arago, Glais-Bizoin, Pelletan, Garnier-Pages, Picard, uniting,
proclaimed themselves the Government, and read their own names to the
crowd, which answered by adding those of men like Delescluze,
Ledru-Rollin, Blanqui. They, however, declared they would accept no
colleagues but the deputies of Paris. The crowd applauded. This frenzy
of just-emancipated serfs made the Left masters. They were clever enough
to admit Rochefort.

They next applied to General Trochu, named governor of Paris by
Napoleon. This general had become the idol of the Liberals because he
had sulked a little with the Empire.[5] His whole military glory
consisted in a few pamphlets. The Left had seen much of him during the
last crisis. Having attained to power, it begged him to direct the
defence. He asked, firstly, a place for God in the new régime; secondly,
for himself the presidency of the council. He obtained everything. The
future will show what secret bond so quickly united the men of the Left
to the loyal Breton who had promised "to die on the steps of the
Tuileries in defence of the dynasty."[6]

Twelve individuals thus took possession of France. They invoked no other
title than their mandate as representatives of Paris, and declared
themselves legitimate by popular acclamation.

In the evening the International and syndicates of the workmen sent
delegates to the Hôtel-de-Ville. They had on the same day sent a new
address to the German workingmen. Their fraternal duty fulfilled, the
French workmen gave themselves up to the defence. Let the Government
organize it and they would stay by it. The most suspicious were taken
in. On the 7th, in the first number of his paper _La Patrie en Danger_,
Blanqui and his friends offered the Government their most energetic,
their absolute co-operation.

All Paris abandoned itself to the men of the Hôtel-de-Ville, forgetting
their late defections, investing them with the grandeur of the danger.
To seize, to monopolize the government at such a moment, seemed a stroke
of audacity of which genius alone is capable. Paris, deprived for eighty
years of her municipal liberties, accepted as mayor the lachrymose
Etienne Arago. In the twenty arrondissements he named the mayors he
liked, and they again named the adjuncts agreeable to themselves. But
Arago announced early elections and spoke of reviving the great days of
1792. At this moment Jules Favre, proud as Danton, cried to Prussia, to
Europe, "We will cede neither an inch of our territories nor a stone of
our fortresses," and Paris rapturously applauded this dictatorship
announcing itself with words so heroic. On the 14th, when Trochu held
the review of the National Guard, 250,000 men stationed in the
boulevards, the Place de la Concorde, and the Champs-Elysées cheered
enthusiastically, and renewed a vow like that of their fathers on the
morning of Valmy.

Yes, Paris gave herself up without reserve--incurable confidence--to
that same Left to which she had been forced to do violence in order to
make her revolution. Her outburst of will lasted but for an hour. The
Empire once overthrown, she re-abdicated. In vain did far-seeing
patriots try to keep her on the alert; in vain did Blanqui write, "Paris
is no more impregnable than we were invincible. Paris, mystified by a
braggart press, ignores the greatness of the peril; Paris abuses
confidence." Paris abandoned herself to her new masters, obstinately
shutting her eyes. And yet each day brought with it new ill omens. The
shadow of the siege approached, and the Government of Defence, far from
removing the superfluous mouths, crowded the 200,000 inhabitants of the
suburbs into the town. The exterior works did not advance. Instead of
throwing all Paris into the work, and taking these descendants of the
levellers of the Champ-de-Mars out of the enceinte in troops of 100,000,
drums beating, banners flying, Trochu abandoned the earthworks to the
ordinary contractors. The heights of Châtillon, the key to our forts of
the south, had hardly been surveyed, when on the 19th the enemy
presented himself, sweeping from the plateau an affrighted troop of
zouaves and soldiers who did not wish to fight. The following day, that
Paris which the press had declared could not be invested, was surrounded
and cut off from France.

This gross ignorance very soon alarmed the Revolutionists. They had
promised their support, but not blind faith. Since the 4th September,
wishing to centralise the forces of the party of action for the defence
and the maintenance of the Republic, they had invited the public
meetings in each arrondissement to name a Committee of Vigilance charged
to control the mayors and to delegate four members to a Central
Committee of the twenty arrondissements. This tumultuous mode of
election had resulted in a committee composed of working-men, employés,
authors, known in the revolutionary movements of the last years. This
committee had established itself in the hall of the Rue de la Corderie,
lent by the International and the Federation of the syndicates.

These had almost suspended their work, the service of the National Guard
absorbing all their activity. Some of their members again met in the
Committee of Vigilance and in the Central Committee, which caused the
latter to be erroneously attributed to the International. On the 4th it
demanded by a manifesto the election of the municipalities, the police
to be placed in their hands, the election and control of all the
magistrates, absolute freedom of the press, public meeting and
association, the expropriation of all articles of primary necessity,
their distribution by allowance, the arming of all citizens, the sending
of commissioners to rouse the provinces. But Paris was then infected
with a fit of confidence. The bourgeois journals denounced the committee
as Prussian. The names of some of the signers were, however, well known
in the meetings and to the press: Ranvier, Millière, Longuet, Vallès,
Lefrançais, Mallon, etc. Their placards were torn down.

On the 20th, after Jules Favre's application to Bismarck, the Committee
held a large meeting in the Alcazar and sent a deputation to the
Hôtel-de-Ville to demand war _à outrance_ and the early election of the
Commune of Paris. Jules Ferry gave his word of honour that the
government would not treat at any price, and announced the municipal
elections for the end of the month. Two days after a decree postponed
them indefinitely.

Thus this Government, which in seventeen days had prepared nothing,
which had allowed itself to be blocked up without even a struggle,
refused the advice of Paris, and more than ever arrogated to itself the
right of directing the defence. Did it then possess the secret of
victory? Trochu had just said, "The resistance is a heroic madness;"
Picard, "We shall defend ourselves for honour's sake, but all hope is
chimerical;" the elegant Crémieux, "The Prussians will enter Paris like
a knife goes into butter;"[7] the chief of Trochu's staff, "We cannot
defend ourselves; we have decided not to defend ourselves;"[8] and,
instead of honestly warning Paris, saying, "Capitulate at once or
conduct the combat yourselves," these men, who declared defence
impossible, claimed its undivided direction.

What then is their aim? To negotiate. Since the first defeats they have
no other. The reverses which exalted our fathers only made the Left more
cowardly than the Imperialist deputies. On the 7th of August Jules
Favre, Jules Simon, and Pelletan had said to Schneider, "We cannot hold
out; we must come to terms as soon as possible."[9] All the following
days the left had only one plan of policy--to urge the Chamber to
possess itself of the government in order to negotiate, hoping to get
into office afterwards. Hardly established, these defenders sent M.
Thiers all over Europe to beg for peace, and Jules Favre to run after
Bismarck to ask his conditions,[10]--a step that revealed to the
Prussian with what tremblers he had to deal.

When all Paris cried to them, "Defend us; drive back the enemy," they
applauded, accepted, but said to themselves, "You shall capitulate."
There is no more crying treason in history. The asinine confidence of
the immense majority no more diminishes the crime than the foolishness
of the dupe excuses the cheater. Did the men of the 4th September, yes
or no, betray the mandate they received? "Yes," will be the verdict of
the future.

A tacit mandate, it is true, but so clear, so formal, that all Paris
started at the news of the proceedings at Ferrières. If the Defenders
had gone a step farther, they would have been swept away. They were
obliged to adjourn, to give way to what they termed the "madness of the
siege," to simulate a defence. In point of fact, they did not abandon
their idea for an hour, esteeming themselves the only men in Paris who
had not lost their heads.

"There shall be fighting since those Parisians will have it so, but only
with the view to soften Bismarck." On his return from the review, this
scene of hopeful enthusiasm manifested by 250,000 armed men is said to
have affected Trochu, who announced that it would perhaps be possible to
hold the ramparts.[11] Such was the maximum of his enthusiasm: to hold
out--not to open the gates. As to drilling or organising these 250,000
men, uniting them with the 240,000 mobiles, soldiers and marines
gathered together in Paris, and with all these forces forming a powerful
scourge to drive the enemy back to the Rhine, of this he never dreamt.
His colleagues thought of it as little, and only discussed with him the
more or less cavilling they might venture upon with the Prussian

He was all for mild proceedings. His devoutness forbade him to shed
useless blood. Since, according to all military manuals, the great town
was to fall, he would make that fall as little sanguinary as possible.
Besides, the return of M. Thiers, who might at any moment bring back the
treaty, was waited for. Leaving the enemy to establish himself
tranquilly round Paris, Trochu organised a few skirmishes for the
lookers-on. One single serious engagement took place on the 30th at
Chevilly, when, after a success, we retreated, abandoning a battery for
want of reinforcements and teams. Public opinion still hoaxed by the
same men that had cried, "A Berlin," believed in a success. The
Revolutionists only were not taken in. The capitulation of Toul and of
Strasbourg was to them a solemn warning. Flourens, chief of the 63d
battalion, but who was the real commander of Belleville, could no longer
restrain himself. With the head and heart of a child, an ardent
imagination, guided only by his own impulse, Flourens conducted his
battalions to the Hôtel-de-Ville, demanded the _levée en masse_,
sorties, municipal elections, and the putting the town on short rations.
Trochu, who, to amuse him, had given him the title of major of the
rampart, made an elaborate discourse; the twelve apostles argued with
him, and wound up by showing him out. As delegates came from all sides
to demand that Paris should have a voice in her own defence, should name
a council, her Commune, the Government declared on the 7th that their
dignity forbade them to concede these behests. This insolence caused the
movement of the 8th October. The committee of the twenty arrondissements
protested in an energetic placard. Seven or eight hundred persons cried
"Vive la Commune" under the windows of the Hôtel-de-Ville. But the
multitude had not yet lost faith. A great number of battalions hastened
to the rescue; the Government passed them in review. Jules Favre opened
the flood-gates of his rhetoric and declared the election impossible
because--unanswerable reason!--everybody ought to be at the ramparts.

The majority greedily swallowed the bait. On the 16th Trochu having
written to his crony Etienne Arago, "I shall pursue the plan I have
traced for myself to the end," the loungers announced a victory, and
took up the burden of their August song on Bazaine, "Let him alone; he
has his plan." The agitators looked like Prussians, for Trochu, as a
good Jesuit, had not failed to speak of "a small number of men whose
culpable views serve the projects of the enemy." Then Paris allowed
herself during the whole month of October to be rocked asleep to the
sound of expeditions commencing with success and always terminated by
retreats. On the 13th we took Bagneux, and a spirited attack would have
repossessed us of Châtillon: Trochu had no reserves. On the 21st a march
on the Malmaison revealed the weakness of the investment and spread
panic even to Versailles. Instead of pressing forward, General Ducrot
engaged only six thousand men, and the enemy repulsed him, taking two
cannons. The Government transformed these repulses into successful
reconnoitres, and coined money out of the despatches of Gambetta, who,
sent to the provinces on the 8th, announced imaginary armies, and
intoxicated Paris with the account of the brilliant defence of

The mayors encouraged this pleasant confidence. They sat at the
Hôtel-de-Ville with their adjuncts, and this Assembly of sixty-four
members could have seen clearly what the Defence was if they had had the
least courage. But it was composed of those Liberals and Republicans of
whom the Left is the last expression. They knocked at the door of the
Government now and then, timidly interrogated it, and received only
vague assurances, in which they did not believe,[12] but made every
effort to make Paris believe.

But at the Corderie, in the clubs, in the paper of Blanqui, in the
_Réveil_ of Delescluze, in the _Combat_ of Félix Pyat, the plan of the
men of the Hôtel-de-Ville is exposed. What mean these partial sorties
which are never sustained? Why is the National Guard hardly armed,
unorganized, withheld from every military action? Why is the casting of
cannon not proceeded with? Six weeks of idle talk and inactivity cannot
leave the least doubt as to the incapacity or ill-will of the
Government. This same thought occupies all minds. Let the sceptics make
room for those that believe in the Defence; let Paris regain possession
of herself; let the Commune of 1792 be revived to again save the city
and France. Every day this resolution sinks more deeply into virile
minds. On the 27th the _Combat_, which preached the Commune in
high-flown phraseology whose musical rhythm struck the masses more than
the nervous dialectics of Blanqui, hurls a terrific thunderbolt.
"Bazaine is about to surrender Metz, to treat for peace in the name of
Napoleon III.; his aide-de-camp is at Versailles." The Hôtel-de-Ville
immediately contradicted this news, "as infamous as it is false. The
glorious soldier Bazaine has not ceased harassing the besieging army
with brilliant sorties." The Government called down upon the journalist
"the chastisement of public opinion." At this appeal the drones of Paris
buzzed, burnt the journal, and would have torn the journalist to pieces
if he had not decamped. The next day the _Combat_ declared that they had
the statement from Rochefort, to whom Flourens had communicated it.
Other complications followed. On the 20th a surprise made us masters of
Bourget, a village in the northeast of Paris, and on the 29th the
general staff announced this success as a triumph. The whole day it left
our soldiers without food, without reinforcements, under the fire of the
Prussians, who, returning on the 30th 15,000 strong, recovered the
village from its 1,600 defenders. On the 31st of October, Paris on
awaking received the news of three disasters: the loss of Bourget, the
capitulation of Metz, together with the whole army of the "glorious
Bazaine," and the arrival of M. Thiers for the purpose of negotiating an

The men of the 4th September believed they were saved, that their goal
was reached. They had placarded the armistice side by side with the
capitulation, "good and bad news,"[13] convinced that Paris, despairing
of victory, would accept peace with open arms. Paris started up as with
an electric shock, at the same time rousing Marseilles, Toulouse, and
Saint-Etienne. There was such spontaneity of indignation, that from
eleven o'clock, in pouring rain, the masses came to the Hôtel-de-Ville
crying "No armistice." Notwithstanding the resistance of the mobiles who
defended the entrance, they invaded the vestibule. Arago and his
adjuncts hastened thither, swore that the Government was exhausting
itself in efforts to save us. The first crowd retired; a second followed
hard upon. At twelve o'clock Trochu appeared at the foot of the
staircase, thinking to extricate himself by a harangue; cries of "Down
with Trochu" answered him. Jules Simon relieved him, and, confident in
his rhetoric, even went to the square in front of the Hôtel-de-Ville and
expatiated upon the comforts of the armistice. The people cried "No
armistice." He only succeeded in backing out by asking the crowd to name
six delegates to accompany him to the Hôtel-de-Ville. Trochu, Jules
Favre, Jules Ferry, and Picard received them. Trochu in Ciceronic
periods demonstrated the uselessness of Bourget, and pretended that he
had only just learnt the capitulation of Metz. A voice cried, "You are a
liar." A deputation from the Committee of the twenty arrondissements and
of the Committees of Vigilance had entered the hall a little while
before. Others, wishing to pump Trochu, invited him to continue his
speech. He recommenced, when a shot was fired in the square, putting an
end to the monologue and scaring away the orator. Calm being
re-established, Jules Favre supplied the place of the general, and took
up the thread of his discourse.

While these scenes were going on in the Salle du Trône, the mayors, so
long the accomplices of Trochu, were deliberating in the hall of the
municipal council. To quell the riot, they proposed the election of
municipalities, the formation of battalions of the National Guard, and
their joining them to the army. The scapegoat Etienne Aragot was sent to
offer this salve to the Government. At two o'clock an immense crowd
inundated the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, crying, "Down with Trochu! Vive
la Commune!" and carrying banners with the inscription "No armistice."
They had several times come into collision with the mobiles. The
delegates who entered the Hôtel-de-Ville brought no answer. About three
o'clock, the crowd, growing impatient, rushed forward, breaking through
the mobiles, and forcing Félix Pyat, come to the Hôtel-de-Ville as a
sight-seer, into the Salle des Maires. He exclaimed, struggled,
protested that this was against all rules. The mayors supported him as
well as they could, and announced that they had demanded the election of
the municipalities, and that the decree in that sense was about to be
signed. The multitude, still pushing forward, goes up to the Salle du
Trône, cutting short the oration of Jules Favre, who had rejoined his
colleagues in the Government-room.

While the people were thundering at the door, the Defenders voted the
proposition of the mayors--but in principle--not fixing the date for the
elections,[14]--another jesuitical trick. Towards four o'clock the mass
penetrated into the room. Rochefort in vain promised the municipal
elections. They asked for the Commune! One of the delegates of the
Committee of the twenty arrondissements, getting upon the table,
proclaimed the abolition of the Government. A Commission was charged to
proceed with the elections within forty-eight hours. The names of
Dorian, the only Minister who had taken the defence to heart, of Louis
Blanc, Ledru-Rollin, Victor Hugo, Raspail, Delescluze, Félix Pyat,
Blanqui and Millière were received with acclamation.

Had this Commission seized on authority, cleared the Hôtel-de-Ville,
posted up a proclamation convoking the electors with the briefest
delay, the day's work would have been beneficially concluded. But Dorian
refused. Louis Blanc, Victor Hugo, Ledru-Rollin, Raspail, Félix Pyat
remained silent or turned tail altogether. Flourens had time to come up.
He broke in upon the assembly with his tirailleurs of Belleville, got
upon the table round which were gathered the members of the Government,
and instead of a Commune proposed a Committee of Public Safety. Some
applauded, others protested, declaring the question was not to
substitute one kind of dictatorship for another. Flourens got the upper
hand, read the names, his own first, then those of Blanqui, Delescluze,
Millière, Ranvier, Félix Pyat, and Mottu. Interminable discussions
followed, the disorder became terrible. The men of the 4th September
felt they were saved, and smiled as they looked at the conquerors who
allowed victory to slip through their fingers.

Thenceforth all became involved in an inextricable imbroglio. Every room
had its government, its orators. The confusion was such that about eight
o'clock reactionary National Guards could, under Flourens' nose, pick up
Trochu and Jules Ferry, while others carried off Blanqui when some
franc-tireurs tried to rescue him. In the cabinet of the mayor, Etienne
Arago and his adjuncts convoked the electors for the next day under the
presidency of Dorian and Schoelcher. Towards ten o'clock their placard
was posted up in Paris.

The whole day Paris had looked on. "On the morning of the 31st October,"
says Jules Ferry, "the Parisian population, from highest to lowest, was
absolutely hostile to us.[15] Everybody thought we deserved to be
dismissed." Not only did Trochu's battalions not stir, but one of the
best, led to the succour of the Government by General Tamisier,
commander-in-chief of the National Guard, raised the butt end of their
guns on arriving at the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville. In the evening
everything changed when it became known that the members of the
Government were prisoners, and above all who were their substitutes.
The measure seemed too strong. Such a one, who might have accepted
Ledru-Rollin or Victor Hugo, could not make up his mind to Flourens and
Blanqui.[16] In vain the whole day drums had been beating to arms; in
the evening they proved effective. Battalions refractory in the morning
arrived at the Place Vendôme, most of them believing, it is true, that
the elections had been granted; an assemblage of officers at the Bourse
only consented to wait for the regular vote on the strength of Dorian
and Schoelcher's placard. Trochu and the deserters from the
Hôtel-de-Ville again found their faithful flock. The Hôtel-de-Ville, on
the other hand, was getting empty.

Most of the battalions of the Commune, believing their cause victorious,
had returned to their quarters. In the edifice there remained hardly a
thousand unarmed men, the only troops being Flourens' unmanageable
tirailleurs, while he wandered up and down amidst this mob. Blanqui
signed and again signed. Delescluze tried to save some remnants from
this great movement. He saw Dorian, received the formal assurance that
the elections of the Commune would take place the next day, those of the
Provisional Government the day after; put these assurances upon record
in a note where the insurrectional committee declared itself willing to
wait for the elections, and had it signed by Millière, Flourens and
Blanqui. Millière and Dorian went to communicate this document to the
members of the Defence. Millière proposed to them to leave the
Hôtel-de-Ville together, while charging Dorian and Schoelcher to
proceed with the elections, but on the express condition that no
prosecutions were to take place. The members of the Defence
accepted,[17] and Millière was just saying to them, "Gentlemen, you are
free," when the National Guards asked for written engagements. The
prisoners became indignant that their word should be doubted, while
Millière and Flourens could not make the Guards understand that
signatures are illusory. During this mortal anarchy the battalions of
order grew larger, and Jules Ferry attacked the door opening on to the
Place Lobau. Delescluze and Dorian informed him of the arrangement which
they believed concluded, and induced him to wait. At three o'clock in
the morning chaos still reigned supreme. Trochu's drums were beating on
the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville. A battalion of Breton mobiles debouched
in the midst of the Hôtel-de-Ville through the subterranean passage of
the Napoleon Barracks, surprised and disarmed many of the tirailleurs.
Jules Ferry invaded the Government-room. The indisciplinable mass
offered no resistance. Jules Favre and his colleagues were set free. As
the Bretons became menacing, General Tamisier reminded them of the
convention entered upon during the evening, and, as a pledge of mutual
oblivion, left the Hôtel-de-Ville between Blanqui and Flourens. Trochu
paraded the streets amidst the pompous pageantry of his battalions.

Thus this day, which might have buoyed up the Defence, ended in smoke.
The desultoriness, the indiscipline of the patriots restored to the
Government its immaculate character of September. It took advantage of
it that very night to tear down the placards of Dorian and Schoelcher;
it accorded the municipal elections for the 5th, but in exchange
demanded a plebiscite, putting the question in the Imperialist style,
"Those who wish to maintain the Government will vote _aye_." In vain the
Committee of the twenty arrondissements issued a manifesto; in vain the
_Réveil_, the _Patrie en Danger_, the _Combat_, enumerated the hundred
reasons which made it necessary to answer _No_. Six months after the
plebiscite which had made the war, the immense majority of Paris voted
the plebiscite that made the capitulation. Let Paris remember and accuse
herself. For fear of two or three men she opened fresh credit to this
Government which added incapacity to insolence, and said to it, "I want
you," 322,000 times. The army, the mobiles, gave 237,000 ayes. There
were but 54,000 civilians and 9,000 soldiers to say boldly, _no_.

How did it happen that those 60,000 men, so clear-sighted, prompt, and
energetic, could not manage to direct public opinion? Simply because
they were wanting in _cadres_, in method, in organizers. The fever of
the siege had been unable to discipline the revolutionary party, in such
dire confusion a few weeks before, nor had the patriarchs of 1848 tried
to do so. The Jacobins like Delescluze and Blanqui, instead of leading
the people, lived in an exclusive circle of friends. Félix Pyat,
vibrating between just ideas and literary epilepsy, only became
practical[18] when he had to save his own skin. The others,
Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc, Schoelcher, the hope of the Republicans
under the Empire, returned from exile shallow, pursy, rotten to the core
with vanity and selfishness, without courage or patriotism, disdaining
the Socialists. The dandies of Jacobinism, who called themselves
Radicals, Floquet, Clémenceau, Brinon, and other democratic politicians,
carefully kept aloof from the working-men. The old Montagnards
themselves formed a group of their own, and never came to the Committee
of the twenty arrondissements, which only wanted method and political
experience to become a power. So it was only a centre of emotions, not
of direction,--the Gravilliers section of 1870-71, daring, eloquent,
but, like its predecessor, treating of everything by manifestoes.

There at least was life, a lamp, not always bright, but always burning.
What is the small middle-class contributing now? Where are their
Jacobins, even their Cordeliers? At the Corderie I see the proletariat
of the small middle-class, men of the pen and orators, but where is the
bulk of the army?

All is silent. Save the faubourgs, Paris was a vast sick chamber, where
no one dared to speak above his breath. This moral abdication is the
true psychological phenomenon of the siege, all the more extraordinary
that it co-existed with an admirable ardour for resistance. Men who
speak of going to seek death with their wives and children, who say, "We
will burn our houses rather than surrender them to the enemy,"[19] get
angry at any controversy as to the power intrusted to the men of the
Hôtel-de-Ville. If they dread the giddy-headed, the fanatics, or
compromising collaborators, why do they not take the direction of the
movement into their own hands? But they confine themselves to crying,
"No insurrection before the enemy! No fanatics!" as though capitulation
were better than an insurrection; as though the 10th of August 1792 and
31st May 1793 had not been insurrections before the enemy; as though
there were no medium between abdication and delirium. And you, citizens
of the old sections of 1792-93, who furnished ideas to the Convention
and the Commune, who dictated to them the means of safety, who directed
the clubs and fraternal societies, entertained in Paris a hundred
luminous centres, say, do you recognise your offspring in these gulls,
weaklings, jealous of the people, prostrate before the Left like
devotees before the host?

On the 5th and 7th they renewed their plebiscitory vote, naming twelve
of the twenty mayors named by Arago, four amongst them, Dubail,
Vautrain, Tirard, and Desmarets, belonging to the pure reaction. The
greater part of the adjuncts were of the Liberal type. The faubourgs,
always at their post, elected Delescluze in the nineteenth
arrondissement and Ranvier, Millière, Lefrançais, and Flourens in the
twentieth. These latter could not take their seats. The Government,
violating the convention of Dorian and Tamisier, had issued warrants for
their arrest, and for that of about twenty other revolutionists.[20]
Thus, out of seventy-five effective members, mayors and adjuncts, there
were not ten revolutionists.

These shadows of municipal councillors looked upon themselves as the
stewards of the Defence, forbade themselves any indiscreet question,
were on their best behaviour, feeding and administering Trochu's
patient. They allowed the insolent and incapable Ferry to be appointed
to the central mairie, and Clément-Thomas, the executioner of June 1848,
to be made commander-in-chief of the National Guard. For seventy days,
feeling the pulse of Paris growing from hour to hour more weak, they
never had the honesty, the courage to say to the Government, "Where are
you leading us?"

Nothing was lost in the beginning of November. The army, the mobiles,
the marines numbered, according to the plebiscite, 246,000 men and 7,500
officers: 125,000 National Guards capable of serving a campaign might
easily have been picked out in Paris, and 129,000 left for the defence
of the interior.[21] The necessary armaments might have been furnished
in a few weeks, the cannon especially, every one depriving himself of
bread in order to endow his battalion with five pieces, the traditional
pride of the Parisians. "Where find 9,000 artillerists?" said Trochu.
Why, in every Parisian mechanic there is the stuff of a gunner, as the
Commune has sufficiently proved. In everything else there was the same
superabundance. Paris swarmed with engineers, overseers, foremen, who
might have been drilled into officers. There lying wasted were all the
materials for a victorious army.

The gouty martinets of the regular army saw here nothing but barbarism.
This Paris, for which Hoche, Marceau, Kleber would have been neither too
young, nor too faithful, nor too pure, had for generals the residue of
the Empire and Orleanism, Vinoy of December, Ducrot, Luzanne, Leflô, and
a fossil like Chabaud-Latour. In their pleasant intimacy they made much
fun of the defence.[22] Finding, however, that the joke was lasting a
little too long, the 31st October enraged them. They conceived an
implacable, rabid hatred to the National Guard, and up to the last hour
refused to utilise it.

Instead of amalgamating the forces of Paris, of giving to all the same
_cadres_, the same uniforms, the same flag, the proud name of National
Guard, Trochu had maintained the three divisions: the army, mobiles, and
civilians. This was the natural consequence of his opinion of the
Defence. The army, incited by the staff, shared its hatred of Paris, who
imposed on it, it was said, useless fatigues. The mobiles of the
provinces, prompted by their officers, the cream of the country squires,
became also embittered. All, seeing the National Guard despised,
despised it, calling them, "_Les à outrance! Les trente sous!_" (Since
the siege the Parisians received thirty sous--1s. 2-½d.--as indemnity.)
Collisions were to be feared every day.[23]

The 31st of October changed nothing in the real state of affairs. The
Government broke off the negotiations, which, notwithstanding their
victory, they could not have pursued without foundering, decreed the
creation of marching companies in the National Guard, and accelerated
the cannon-founding, but did not believe a whit the more in defence,
still steered towards peace. Riots formed the chief subject of their
preoccupation.[24] It was not only from the "folly of the siege" that
they wished to save Paris, but above all from the revolutionists. In
this direction they were pushed on by the great bourgeoisie. Before the
4th September the latter had declared they "would not fight if the
working-class were armed, and if it had any chance of prevailing;"[25]
and on the evening of the 4th September Jules Favre and Jules Simon had
gone to the Corps Législatif to reassure them, to explain to them that
the new tenants would not damage the house. But the irresistible force
of events had provided the proletariat with arms, and to make them
inefficient in their hands became now the supreme aim of the
bourgeoisie. For two months they had been biding their time, and the
plebiscite told them it had come. Trochu held Paris, and by the clergy
they held Trochu, all the closer that he believed himself to be amenable
only to his conscience. Strange conscience, full of trap-doors, with
more complications than those of a theatre. Since the 4th of September
the General had made it his duty to deceive Paris, saying, "I shall
surrender thee, but it is for thy good." After the 31st October he
believed his mission two-fold--saw in himself the archangel, the St.
Michael of threatened society. This marks the second period of the
defence. It may perhaps be traced to a cabinet in the Rue des Postes,
for the chiefs of the clergy saw more clearly than any one else the
danger of inuring the working-men to war. Their intrigues were full of
cunning. Violent reactionists would have spoilt all, precipitated Paris
into a revolution. They applied subtle tricks in their subterranean
work, watching Trochu's every movement, whetting his antipathy to the
National Guard, penetrating everywhere into the general staff, the
ambulances, even the mairies. Like the fisherman struggling with too big
a prey, they bewildered Paris, now apparently allowing her to swim in
her own element, than suddenly weakening her by the harpoon. On the 28th
November Trochu gave a first performance to a full-band accompaniment.
General Ducrot, who commanded, presented himself like a Leonidas: "I
take the oath before you, before the whole nation. I shall return to
Paris dead or victorious. You may see me fall; you will never see me
retreat." This proclamation exalted Paris. She fancied herself on the
eve of Jemmappes, when the Parisian volunteers scaled the
artillery-defended heights; for this time the National Guard was to take
part in the proceedings.

We were to force an opening by the Marne in order to join the mythic
armies of the provinces, and cross the river at Nogent. Ducrot's
engineer had taken his measures badly; the bridges were not in a fit
state. It was necessary to wait till the next day. The enemy, instead of
being surprised, was able to put himself on the defensive. On the 30th a
spirited assault made us masters of Champigny. The next day Ducrot
remained inactive, while the enemy, disgarnishing Versailles,
accumulated its forces upon Champigny. On the 2nd they recovered part of
the village. The whole day we fought severely. The former deputies of
the Left were represented on the field of battle by a letter to their
"very dear president." That evening we camped in our positions, but half
frozen, the "dear president" having ordered the blankets to be left in
Paris, and we had set out--a proof that the whole thing had been done in
mockery--without tents or ambulances. The following day Ducrot declared
we must retreat, and, "before Paris, before the whole nation," this
dishonoured braggart sounded the retreat. We had 8,000 dead or wounded
out of the 100,000 men who had been sent out, and of the 50,000 engaged.

For twenty days Trochu rested on his laurels. Clément-Thomas took
advantage of this leisure time to disband and stigmatise the tirailleurs
of Belleville, who had, however, had many dead and wounded in their
ranks. On the mere report of the commanding general at Vincennes, he
also stigmatised the 200th battalion. Flourens was arrested. On the 20th
of December these rabid purgers of our own ranks consented to take a
little notice of the Prussians. The mobiles of the Seine were launched
without cannons against the walls of Stains and to the attack of
Bourget. The enemy received them with a crushing artillery. An advantage
obtained on the right of the Ville-Evrard was not followed up. The
soldiers returned in the greatest consternation, some of them crying,
"Vive la paix!" Each new enterprise betrayed Trochu's plan, enervated
the troops, but had no effect on the courage of the National Guards
engaged. During two days on the plateau D'Ouron they sustained the fire
of sixty pieces. When there was a goodly number of dead, Trochu
discovered that the position was of no importance, and evacuated.

These repeated foils began to wear out the credulity of Paris. From hour
to hour the sting of hunger was increasing, and horse-flesh had become a
delicacy. Dogs, cats, and rats were eagerly devoured. The women waited
for hours in the cold and mud for a starvation allowance. For bread they
got black grout, that tortured the stomach. Children died on their
mothers' empty breasts. Wood was worth its weight in gold, and the poor
had only to warm them the despatches of Gambetta, always announcing
fantastic successes.[26] At the end of December their privations began
to open the eyes of the people. Were they to give in, their arms intact?

The mayors did not stir. Jules Favre gave them little weekly receptions,
where they gossiped about the cuisine of the siege.[27] Only one did his
duty--Delescluze. He had acquired great authority by his articles in the
_Réveil_, as free of partiality as they were severe. On the 30th
December he interpellated Jules Favre, said to his colleagues, "You are
responsible," demanded that the municipal council should be joined to
the Defence. His colleagues protested, more especially Dubail and
Vacherot. He returned to the charge on the 4th of January, laid down a
radical motion--the dismissal of Trochu and of Clément-Thomas, the
mobilisation of the National Guard, the institution of a council of
defence, the renewal of the Committee of War. No more attention was paid
him than before.

The Committee of the twenty arrondissements supported Delescluze in
issuing a red placard on the 6th: "Has the Government which charged
itself with the national defence fulfilled its mission? No. By their
procrastination, their indecision, their inertion, those who govern us
have led us to the brink of the abyss. They have known neither how to
administer nor how to fight. We die of cold, almost of hunger. Sorties
without object, deadly struggles without results, repeated failures. The
Government has given the measure of its capacity; it is killing us. The
perpetuation of this régime means capitulation. The politics, the
strategies, the administration of the Empire continued by the men of the
4th September have been judged. Make way for the people! Make way for
the Commune!"[28] This was outspoken and true. However incapable of
action the Committee may have been, its ideas were just and precise, and
to the end of the siege it remained the indefatigable, sagacious monitor
of Paris.

The multitude who wanted illustrious names, paid no attention to these
placards. Some of those who had signed it were arrested. Trochu,
however, felt himself attainted, and the very same evening had posted on
all the walls, "The governor of Paris will never capitulate." And Paris
again applauded, four months after the 4th September. It was even
wondered at that, in spite of Trochu's declaration, Delescluze and his
adjuncts should tender their resignations.[29]

Nevertheless, without obstinately shutting one's eyes it was impossible
not to see the precipice to which the Government was hurrying us on. The
Prussians bombarded our houses from the forts of Issy and of Vanves, and
on the 30th December, Trochu, having declared all further action
impossible, invoked the opinion of all his generals, and wound up by
proposing that he should be replaced. On the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th January
the Defenders discussed the election of an Assembly which was to follow
the catastrophe.[30] But for the irritation of the patriots, Paris would
have capitulated before the 15th.

The faubourgs no longer called the men of the Government other than "the
band of Judas." The great democratic lamas, who had withdrawn after the
31st October, returned to the Commune, thus proving their own
helplessness and the common sense of the people. The Republican
Alliance, where Ledru-Rollin officiated before half-a-dozen
incense-bearers, the Republican Union, and other bourgeois chapels, went
so far as to very energetically demand a Parisian Assembly to organise
the defence. The Government felt it had no time to lose. If the
bourgeoisie joined the people, it would become impossible to capitulate
without a formidable _émeute_. The population which cheered under the
shells would not allow itself to be given up like a flock of sheep. It
was necessary to mortify it first, to cure it of its "infatuation," as
Jules Ferry said, to purge it of its fever. "The National Guard will
only be satisfied when 10,000 National Guards have fallen," they said at
the Government table. Urged on by Jules Favre and Picard on the one
hand, and on the other by the simple-minded Emmanuel Arago,
Garnier-Pages, and Pelletan, the quack Trochu consented to give a last

It was gotten up as a farce[31] at the same time as the
capitulation.[32] On the 19th the Council of Defence stated that a new
defeat would be the signal of the catastrophe. Trochu was willing to
accept the mayors as coadjutors on the question of capitulation and
revictualling. Jules Simon and Garnier-Pages were willing to surrender
Paris, and only make some reserve with regard to France. Garnier-Pages
proposed to name by special elections mandatories charged to capitulate.
Such was their vigil before the battle.

On the 18th the din of trumpets and drums called Paris to arms and put
the Prussians on the alert. For this supreme effort Trochu had been able
to muster only 84,000 men, of whom nineteen regiments belonged to the
National Guard. He made them pass the night, which was cold and rainy,
in the mud of the fields of Mont-Valérien.

The attack was directed against the defences that covered Versailles
from the side of La Bergerie. At ten o'clock, with the impulse of old
troops,[33] the National Guards and the mobiles, who formed the majority
of the left wing and centre,[34] had stormed the redoubt of Montretout,
the park of Buzenval, a part of St. Cloud, pushing forward as far as
Garches, occupying, in one word, all the posts designated. General
Ducrot, commanding the left wing, had arrived two hours behind time, and
though his army consisted chiefly of troops of the line, he did not

We had conquered several commanding heights which the generals did not
arm. The Prussians were allowed to sweep these crests at their ease, and
at four o'clock sent forth assault columns. Ours gave way at first,
then, steadying themselves, checked the onward movement of the enemy.
Towards six o'clock, when the hostile fire diminished, Trochu ordered a
retreat. Yet there were 40,000 reserves between Mont-Valérien and
Buzenval. Out of 150 artillery pieces, thirty only had been employed.
But the generals, who during the whole day had hardly deigned to
communicate with the National Guard, declared they could not hold out a
second night, and Trochu had Montretout and all the conquered positions
evacuated. Battalions returned weeping with rage. All understood that
the whole affair was a cruel mockery.[35]

Paris, which had gone to sleep victorious, awoke to the sound of
Trochu's alarm-bell. The General asked for an armistice of two days to
carry off the wounded and bury the dead. He said, "We want time, carts,
and many litters." The dead and wounded did not exceed 3000 men.

This time Paris at last saw the abyss. Besides, the Defenders,
disdaining all further disguise, suddenly dropped the mask. Jules Favre
and Trochu summoned the mayors. Trochu declared that all was lost and
any further struggle impossible.[36] The sinister news immediately
spread over the town.

During four months' siege, patriotic Paris had foreseen, accepted all;
pestilence, assault, pillage, everything save capitulation. On this
point the 20th of January found Paris, notwithstanding her credulity,
her weakness, the same Paris as on the 20th September. Thus, when the
fatal word was uttered, the city seemed at first wonder-struck, as at
the sight of some crime monstrous, unnatural. The wounds of four months
opened again, crying for vengeance. Cold, starvation, bombardment, the
long nights in the trenches, the little children dying by thousands,
death scattered abroad in the sorties, and all to end in shame, to form
an escort for Bazaine, to become a second Metz. One fancied one could
hear the Prussian sneering. With some, stupor turned into rage. Those
who were longing for the surrender threw themselves into attitudes. The
white-livered mayors even affected to fly into a passion. On the evening
of the 21st they were again received by Trochu. That same morning all
the generals had unanimously decided that another sortie was impossible.
Trochu very philosophically demonstrated to the mayors the absolute
necessity of making advances to the enemy, but declared he would have
nothing to do with it, insinuating that they should capitulate in his
stead. They cut wry faces, protested, still imagining they were not
responsible for this issue.

After their departure the Defenders deliberated. Jules Favre asked
Trochu to tender his resignation. But he, the apostle, insisted upon
being dismissed by them, fancying thus to cheat history into the belief
that he had to the last resisted capitulation.[37] The discussion was
growing warm when, at three o'clock in the morning, they were informed
of the rescue of Flourens and other political prisoners confined at
Mazas. A body of National Guards headed by an adjunct from the
eighteenth arrondissement had presented themselves an hour before in
front of the prison. The bewildered governor had let them have their
way. The Defenders, fearing a repetition of the 31st October, hurried on
their resolution replacing Trochu by Vinoy.

He wanted to be implored. Jules Favre and Leflô had to show him the
people in arms, an insurrection imminent. At that very moment, the
morning of the 22nd, the prefect of police, declaring himself powerless,
had sent in his resignation. The men of the 4th September had fallen so
low as to bend their knees before those of the 2nd December. Vinoy
condescended to yield.

His first act was to arm against Paris, to dismantle her lines before
the Prussians, to recall the troops of Suresne, Gentilly, Les Lilas, to
call out the cavalry and gendarmerie. A battalion of mobiles commanded
by Vabre, a colonel of the National Guard, fortified itself in the
Hôtel-de-Ville. Clément-Thomas issued a furious proclamation: "The
factions are joining the enemy." He adjured the "_entire_ National
Guard to rise in order to smite them." He had not called upon it to rise
against the Prussians.

There were signs of anger afloat, but no symptoms of a serious
collision. Many revolutionists, well aware that all was at an end, would
not support a movement which, if successful, would have saved the men of
the Defence and forced the victors to capitulate in their stead. Others,
whose patriotism was not enlightened by reason, still warm from the
ardour of Buzenval, believed in a _sortie en masse_. We must at least,
said they, save our honor. The evening before, some meetings had voted
that an armed opposition should be offered to any attempt at
capitulation, and had given themselves a rendezvous before the

At twelve o'clock the drums beat to arms at the Batignolles. At one
o'clock several armed groups appeared in the square of the
Hôtel-de-Ville; the crowd was gathering. A deputation, led by a member
of the Alliance, was received by G. Chaudey, adjunct to the mayor, for
the Government was seated at the Louvre since the 31st October. The
orator said the wrongs of Paris necessitated the nomination of the
Commune. Chaudey answered that the Commune was nonsense; that he always
had, and always would oppose it. Another and more eager deputation
arrived. Chaudey received it with insults. Meanwhile the excitement was
spreading to the crowd that filled the square. The 101st battalion
arrived from the left bank crying "Death to the traitors!" when the
207th of the Batignolles, who had marched down the boulevards, debouched
on the square through the Rue du Temple and drew up before the
Hôtel-de-Ville, whose doors and windows were closed. Others joined them.
Some shots were fired, the windows of the Hôtel-de-Ville were clouded
with smoke, and the crowd dispersed with a cry of terror. Sheltered by
lamp-posts and some heaps of sand, some National Guards sustained the
fire of the mobiles. Others fired from the houses in the Avenue
Victoria. The fusillade had been going on for half an hour when the
gendarmes appeared at the corner of the Avenue. The insurgents, almost
surrounded, made a retreat. About a dozen were arrested and taken to the
Hôtel-de-Ville, where Vinoy wanted to despatch them at once. Jules
Ferry recoiled, and had them sent before the regular court-martials.
Those who had got up the demonstration and the inoffensive crowd of
spectators had thirty killed or wounded, among others a man of great
energy, Commandant Sapia. The Hôtel-de-Ville had only one killed and two

The same evening the government closed all the clubs and issued numerous
warrants. Eighty-three persons, most of them innocent,[38] were
arrested. This occasion was also taken advantage of to send Delescluze,
notwithstanding his sixty-five years, and an acute bronchitis which was
undermining his health, to rejoin the prisoners of the 31st October,
thrown pell-mell into a damp dungeon at Vincennes. The _Réveil_ and the
_Combat_ were suppressed.

An indignant proclamation denounced the insurgents as "the partisans of
the foreigners," the only resource left the men of the 4th September in
this shameful crisis. In this only they were Jacobins. Who served the
enemy? The Government ever ready to negotiate, or the men ever offering
a desperate resistance? History will tell how at Metz an immense army,
with _cadres_, well-trained soldiers, allowed itself to be given over
without a single marshal, _chef-de-corps_, or a regiment rising to save
it from Bazaine;[39] whereas the revolutionists of Paris, without
leaders, without organization, before 240,000 soldiers and mobiles
gained over to peace, delayed the capitulation for months and revenged
it with their blood.

The simulated indignation of traitors raised only a feeling of disgust.
Their very name, "Government of Defence," cried out against them. On the
very day of the affray they played their last farce. Jules Simon having
assembled the mayors and a dozen superior officers,[40] offered the
supreme command to the military man who could propose a plan. This
Paris, which they had received exuberant with life, the men of the 4th
September, now that they had exhausted and bled her, proposed to abandon
to others. Not one of those present resented the infamous irony. They
confined themselves to refusing this hopeless legacy. This was exactly
the thing Jules Simon waited for. Some one muttered, "We must
capitulate." It was General Lecomte. The mayors understood why they had
been convoked, and a few of them squeezed out a tear.

From this time forth Paris existed like the patient who is expecting
amputation. The forts still thundered, the dead and the wounded were
still brought in, but Jules Favre was known to be at Versailles. On the
27th at midnight the cannon were silenced. Bismarck and Jules Favre had
come to an _honourable_ understanding.[41] Paris had surrendered.

The next day the Government of the Defence published the basis of the
negotiations--a fortnight's armistice, the immediate convocation of an
Assembly, the occupation of the forts, the disarmament of all the
soldiers and mobiles with the exception of one division. The town
remained gloomy. These days of anguish had stunned Paris. Only a few
demonstrations were made. A battalion of the National Guard came before
the Hôtel-de-Ville crying "Down with the traitors!" In the evening, 400
officers signed a pact of resistance, naming as their chief Brunel, an
ex-officer expelled from the army under the Empire for his republican
opinions, and resolved to march on the forts of the east, commanded by
Admiral Saisset, whom the press credited with the reputation of a
Beaurepaire. At midnight the call to arms and the alarm bell summoned
the tenth, thirteenth, and twentieth arrondissements. But the night was
icy cold, the National Guard too enervated for an act of despair. Two
or three battalions only came to the rendezvous. Brunel was arrested two
days after.

On the 29th January the German flag was hoisted on our forts. All had
been signed the evening before. 400,000 men armed with muskets and
cannons capitulated before 200,000. The forts, the enceinte were
disarmed. Paris was to pay 200,000,000 francs in a fortnight. The
Government boasted of having preserved the arms of the National Guard,
but every one knew that to take these it would have been necessary to
storm Paris. In fine, not content with surrendering Paris, the
Government of the National Defence surrendered all France. The armistice
applied to all the armies of the provinces save Bourbaki's, the only one
that would have profited by it.

On the following days there arrived some news from the provinces. It was
known that Bourbaki, pressed by the Prussians, had, after a comedy of
suicide, thrown his whole army into Switzerland. The aspect and the
weakness of the Delegation of the Defence in the provinces had just
begun to reveal themselves, when the _Mot d'Ordre_, founded by
Rochefort, who had abandoned the Government after the 31st October,
published a proclamation by Gambetta, stigmatizing a shameful peace, and
a whole litany of Radical decrees: ineligibility of all the great
functionaries and official deputies of the Empire; dissolution of the
_conseils-généraux_, revocation of some of the judges[42] who had formed
part of the mixed commission of the 2nd December. It was ignored that
during the whole war the Delegation had acted in contradiction to its
last decrees, which, coming from a fallen power, were a mere electoral
trick, and Gambetta's name was placed on most of the electoral lists.

Some bourgeois papers supported Jules Favre and Picard, who had been
clever enough to make themselves looked upon as the out-and-outers of
the Government; none dared to go so far as to support Trochu, Simon and
Ferry. The variety of electoral lists set forth by the republican party
explained its impotence during the siege. The men of 1848 refused to
accept Blanqui, but admitted several members of the International in
order to usurp its name, and their list, a medley of Neo-Jacobins and
Socialists, entitled itself "the list of the Four Committees." The clubs
and the workingmen's groups drew up lists of a more outspoken character;
one bore the name of the German Socialist deputy, Liebknecht. The most
decided one was that of the Corderie.

The International and the Federal Chamber of the workingmen's societies,
mute and disorganized during the siege, again taking up their programme,
said, "We must also have workingmen amongst those in power." They came
to an arrangement with the Committee of the twenty arrondissements, and
the three groups issued the same manifesto. "This," said they, "is the
list of the candidates presented in the name of a new world by the party
of the disinherited. France is about to reconstitute herself; workingmen
have the right to find and take their place in the new order of things.
The Socialist-revolutionary candidatures signify the denial of the right
to discuss the existence of the Republic; affirmation of the necessity
for the accession of workingmen to political power; overthrow of the
oligarchical Government and of industrial feudalism." Besides a few
names familiar to the public, Blanqui, Gambon, Garibaldi, Félix Pyat,
Ranvier, Tridon, Longuet, Lefrançais, Vallès, these Socialist candidates
were known only in the workingmen's centers--mechanics, shoemakers,
ironfounders, tailors, carpenters, cooks, cabinetmakers, carvers.[43]
Their placards were but few in number. These disinherited could not
compete with bourgeois enterprise. Their day was to come a few weeks
later, when two-thirds of them were to be elected to the Commune. Now
those only received a mandate who were accepted by the middle-class
papers, five in all: Garibaldi, Gambon, Félix Pyat, Tolain, and Malon.

The list of representatives of the 8th February was a harlequinade,
including every republican shade and every political crotchet. Louis
Blanc, who had played the part of a goody during the siege, and who was
supported by all the committees except that of the Corderie, headed the
procession with 216,000 votes, followed by Victor Hugo, Gambetta, and
Garibaldi; Delescluze obtained 154,000 votes. Then came a motley crowd
of Jacobin fossils, radicals, officers, mayors, journalists, and
inventors. One single member of the Government slipped in, Jules Favre,
although his private life had been exposed by Millière, who was also
elected.[44] By a cruel injustice, the vigilant sentinel, the only
journalist who during the siege had always shown sagacity, Blanqui,
found only 52,000 votes, about the number of those who opposed the
plebiscite, while Félix Pyat received 145,000 for his piping in the

This confused incongruous ballot affirmed at least the republican idea.
Paris, trampled upon by the Empire and the Liberals, clung to the
Republic, who gave her promise for the future. But even before her vote
has been proclaimed she heard coming forth from the provincial ballot
boxes a savage cry of reaction. Before a single one of her
representatives had left the town, she saw on the way to Bordeaux a
troop of rustics, of _Pourceaugnacs_, of sombre clericals, spectres of
1815, 1830, 1848, high and low reactionists, who, mumbling and furious,
came by the grace of universal suffrage to take possession of France.
What signified this sinister masquerade? How had this subterranean
vegetation contrived to pierce and overgrow the summit of the country?

It was necessary that Paris and the provinces should be crushed, that
the Prussian Shylock should drain our milliards and cut his pound of
flesh, that the state of siege should for four years weigh down upon
forty-two departments, that 100,000 Frenchmen should be cut off from
life or banished from their native soil, that the black brotherhood
should conduct their processions all over France, to bring about this
great conservative machination, which from the first hour to the last
explosion, the revolutionists of Paris and of the provinces had not
ceased to denounce to our treacherous or sluggish governors.

In the provinces the field and the tactics were not the same. The
conspiracy, instead of being carried on within the Government,
circumvented it. During the whole month of September the reactionists
hid in their lurking-places. The Government of National Defence had only
forgotten one element of defence--the provinces, seventy-six
departments. Yet they were agitating, showed life; they alone held in
check the reaction. Lyons had even understood her duty earlier than
Paris; in the morning of the 4th September she proclaimed the Republic,
hoisted the red flag, named a Committee of Public Safety.--Marseilles
and Toulouse organized regional commissions.--The Defenders understood
nothing of this patriotic zeal, thought France disjointed, and delegated
to put it right again two Liberal relics very much tainted, Crémieux and
Glais-Bizoin, together with a former governor of Cayenne, the
Bonapartist Admiral Fourichon.

They reached Tours on the 18th. The patriots hastened thither to meet
them. In the west and south, they had already organized Leagues to
marshal the departments against the enemy and supply the want of a
central impulse. They surrounded the delegates of Paris, asking them for
a _mot-d'ordre_, vigorous measures, the sending of commissioners, and
promised their absolute co-operation. The putridities answered, "We are
_entre nous_, let us speak frankly. Well, then, we have no longer any
army; all resistance is impossible. We only hold out for the sake of
making better conditions." We ourselves witnessed the scene.[46] There
was but one cry of indignation: "What! is this your answer when
thousands of Frenchmen come to offer you their lives and fortunes?"

On the 28th, the Lyonese broke out. Hardly four departments separated
them from the enemy, who might at any moment come to levy a contribution
on their city, and since the 4th September they had in vain demanded
arms. The municipality, elected on the 16th in place of the Committee of
Public Safety, passed its time in squabbling with the Prefect,
Challemel-Lacour, an arrogant Neo-Jacobin. On the 27th, instead of any
serious measures of defence, the council had reduced by fivepence the
pay of the workingmen employed in the fortifications, and appointed
Cluseret general _in partibus_ of an army to be created.[47]

The Republican committees of Les Brotteaux, of La Guillotière, of La
Croix-Rousse,[48] and the Central Committee of the National Guard
decided to urge on the Hôtel-de-Ville, and laid before it on the 28th
an energetic programme of defence. The workingmen of the fortifications,
led by Saigne, supported this step by a demonstration. They filled the
Place des Terreaux, and what with speeches, what with the excitement,
invaded the Hôtel-de-Ville. Saigne proposed the nomination of a
revolutionary commission, and perceiving Cluseret, named him commander
of the National Guard. Cluseret, much concerned for his future, only
appeared on the balcony to propound his plan and recommend calm.
However, the commission being constituted, he no longer dared to resist,
but set out in search of his troops. At the door, the mayor, Hénon, and
the prefect arrested him. They had penetrated into the Hôtel-de-Ville by
the Place de la Comédie. Saigne, springing upon the balcony, announced
the news to the crowd, which, throwing itself upon the Hôtel-de-Ville,
delivered the prospective general and in turn arrested the mayor and

The bourgeois battalions soon arrived at the Place des Terreaux; shortly
after those of La Croix-Rousse and of La Guillotière debouched. Great
misfortune might have resulted from the first shot. They parleyed. The
commission disappeared and the general swooned.

This was a warning. Other symptoms manifested themselves in several
towns. The prefects even presided over Leagues and met each other. At
the commencement of October, the Admiral of Cayenne had only been able
to set on foot 30,000 men, and nothing came from Tours but a decree
convoking the election for the 16th.

On the 9th, when Gambetta alighted from his balloon, all the patriots
started. The Conservatives, who had begun to creep out of their
recesses, quickly drew back again. The ardour and the energy of his
first proclamation carried people away. Gambetta held France absolutely;
he was all-powerful.

He disposed of the immense resources of France, of the innumerable men;
of Bourges, Brest, L'Orient, Rochefort, Toulon for arsenals; workshops
like Lille, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseilles, Lyons; the seas
free; incomparably greater strength than that of 1793, which had to
fight at the same time the foreigner and internal rebellions. The
centers were kindling. The municipal councils made themselves felt, the
rural districts as yet showing no signs of resistance; the national
reserve intact. The burning metal needed only moulding.

The début of the delegate was a serious blunder. He executed the decree
of Paris for the adjournment of the elections, which promised to be
republican and bellicose. Bismarck himself had told Jules Favre that he
did not want an Assembly, because this Assembly would be for war.
Energetic circulars, some measures against the intriguers, formal
instructions to the prefects, would have brightened and victoriously
brought out this patriotic fervor. An Assembly fortified by all the
republican aspirations, vigorously led, sitting in a populous town,
would have increased the national energy a hundredfold, brought to light
unhoped-for talents, and might have exacted everything from the country,
blood and gold. It would have proclaimed the Republic, and in case of
being obliged by reverses to negotiate, would have saved her from
foundering, prevented reaction. But Gambetta's instructions were formal.
"Elections at Paris would bring back days like June," said he. "We must
do without Paris," was our answer. All was useless. Besides, several
prefects, incapable of influencing their surroundings, predicted pacific
elections. Lacking the energy to grapple with the real difficulties of
the situation, Gambetta fancied he might shift them by the claptrap
expedient of his dictatorship.

Did he bring a great political revolution? No. His whole programme was,
"To maintain order and liberty and push on the war."[49] Crémieux had
called the Bonapartists "republicans going astray." Gambetta believed,
or pretended to believe, in the patriotism of the reactionists. A few
pontifical zouaves who offered themselves, the abject submission of the
Bonapartist generals, the wheedling of a few bishops,[50] sufficed to
delude him. He continued the tactics of his predecessors to conciliate
everybody; he spared even the functionaries. In the department of
Finance and Public Instruction, he and his colleagues forbade the
dismissal of any official. The War Office for a long time remained under
the supreme direction of a Bonapartist, and always carried on an
underhand war against the defence. Gambetta maintained in some
prefectures the same employés who had drawn up the proscription lists of
the 2nd December, 1851. With the exception of a few justices of the
peace and a small number of magistrates, nothing was changed in the
political _personnel_, the whole subordinate administration remaining

Was he wanting in authority? His colleagues of the council did not even
dare to raise their voices; the prefects knew only him; the generals put
on the manner of school-boys in his presence. Was a _personnel_ wanting?
The Leagues contained solid elements; the small bourgeoisie and
proletariat might have given the _cadres_.

Gambetta saw here only marplots, chaos, federalism, and roughly
dismissed their delegates. Each department possessed groups of known,
tried republicans, to whom the administration and the part of spurring
the Defence under the direction of commissioners might have been
intrusted. Gambetta refused almost everywhere to refer to them; the few
whom he appointed he knew how to fetter closely. He vested all power in
the prefects, most of them ruins of 1848, or his colleagues of the
Conférence Molé, nerveless, loquacious, timorous, anxious to have
themselves well spoken of, and many anxious to feather themselves a nest
in their department.

The Defence in the provinces set out on these two crutches--the War
Office and the prefects. On this absurd plan of conciliation the
Government was conducted.

Did the new delegate at least bring a powerful military conception? "No
one in the Government, neither General Trochu nor General Leflô, no one
had suggested a military operation of any kind."[51] Did he at least
possess that quick penetration which makes up for want of experience?
After twenty days in the provinces he comprehended the military
situation no better than he had done at Paris. The capitulation of Metz
drew from him indignant proclamations, but he understood no more than
his colleagues of the Hôtel-de-Ville that this was the very moment to
make a supreme effort.

With the exception of three divisions (30,000 men) and the greater part
of their cavalry, the Germans had been obliged to employ for the
investment of Paris all their troops, and they had no reserve left them.
The three divisions at Orléans and Châteaudun were kept in check by our
forces of the Loire. The cavalry, while infesting a large extent of
territory in the west, north and east, could not hold out against
infantry. At the end of October, the army before Paris, strongly
fortified against the town, was not at all covered from the side of the
provinces. The appearance of 50,000 men, even of young troops, would
have forced the Prussians to raise the blockade.

Moltke was far from disregarding the danger. He had decided in case of
need to raise the blockade, to sacrifice the park of artillery then
being formed at Villecoublay, to concentrate his army for action in the
open country, and only to re-establish the blockade after the victory,
that is to say, after the arrival of the army of Metz. "Everything was
ready for our decampment; we only had to team the horses," has been said
by an eye-witness, the Swiss Colonel D'Erlach. The official papers of
Berlin had already prepared public opinion for this event.

The blockade of Paris raised, even momentarily, might have led, under
the pressure of Europe, to an honorable peace; this was almost certain.
Paris and France recovering their salutary buoyancy, the revictualling
of the great town, and the consequent prolongation of her resistance,
would have given the time necessary for the organization of the
provincial armies.

At the end of October our army of the Loire was in progress of
formation, the 15th corps at Salbris, the 16th at Blois, already
numbering 80,000 men. If it had pushed between the Bavarians at Orléans
and the Prussians at Châteaudun; if--and this was an easy matter with
its numerical superiority--it beat the enemy one after another, the
route to Paris would have been thrown open, and the deliverance of Paris
almost sure.

The Delegation of Tours did not see so far. It confined its efforts to
recovering Orléans, in order to establish there an entrenched camp; so
on the 26th General D'Aurelles de Paladines, named by Gambetta
commander-in-chief of the two corps, received the order to rescue the
town from the Bavarians. He was a senator, a bigoted, rabid reactionist,
at best fit only to be an officer of zouaves, fuming in his heart at the
defence. It was resolved to make the attack from Blois. Instead of
conducting the 15th corps on foot, which by Romorantin would have taken
forty-eight hours, the Delegation sent it by the Vierzon railway to
Tours, a journey which took five days and could not be hidden from the
enemy. Still, on the 28th, D'Aurelles established before Blois, disposed
of 40,000 men at least, and the next day he was to have left for

On the 28th, at nine o'clock in the evening, the commander of the German
troops had him informed of the capitulation of Metz. D'Aurelles, jumping
at this pretext, telegraphed to Tours that he should adjourn his

A general of some ability, of some good faith, would, on the contrary,
have precipitated everything. Since the German army before Metz, now
disengaged, would swoop down upon the centre of France, there was not a
day to lose to be beforehand with it. Every hour told. This was the
critical juncture of the war.

The Delegation of Tours was as foolish as D'Aurelles. Instead of
dismissing him, it contented itself with moans, ordering him to
concentrate his forces. This concentration was terminated on the 3d
November.[52] D'Aurelles then had 70,000 men established from Mer to
Marchenoir. He might have acted, for events seconded him. That very day
a whole brigade of Prussian cavalry had been obliged to abandon Mantes
and to retreat before bands of franc-tireurs; French forces were
observed to be marching from Courville in the direction of Chartres.
D'Aurelles did not stir, and the Delegation remained as paralyzed as he.
"M. le Ministre," wrote on the 4th November the Delegate at War, M. de
Freycinet,[53] "for some days the army and myself do not know if the
Government wants peace or war. At this moment, when we are just
disposing ourselves to accomplish projects laboriously prepared, rumors
of an armistice disturb the minds of our generals, and I myself, I seek
to revive their spirits and push them on, I know not whether the next
day I shall not be disavowed by the Government." Gambetta the same day
answered: "I agree with you as to the detestable influence of the
political hesitations of the Government. From to-day we must decide on
our march forward;" and on the 7th D'Aurelles still remained motionless.
At last, on the 8th, he set out, and went about fifteen kilometers, and
in the evening again spoke of making a halt.[54] All his forces together
exceeded 100,000 men. On the 9th he made up his mind to attack at
Coulmiers. The Bavarians immediately evacuated Orléans. Far from
pursuing them, D'Aurelles announced that he was going to fortify himself
before the town. The Delegation let him do as he liked, and gave him no
orders to pursue the enemy.[55] Three days after the battle Gambetta
came to the headquarters and approved of D'Aurelles's plan. The
Bavarians during this respite had fallen back upon Toury, and two
divisions hurried from Metz by the railway arrived before Paris. Moltke
could at his ease direct the 17th Prussian division towards Toury, where
it arrived on the 12th. Three other corps of the army of Metz approached
the Seine by forced marches. The ignorance of the Delegation, the
obstruction of Trochu, the ill-will and blunders of D'Aurelles,
frustrated the only chances of raising the blockade of Paris.

On the 19th, the army of Metz protected the blockade in the north and in
the south. Henceforth the Delegation had but one part to play--to
prepare armies for France, solid, capable of manoeuvring, and finding
for this the necessary time, as in ancient times the Romans did, and in
our days the Americans. It preferred bolstering up vain appearances,
amusing public opinion with the din of arms, imagining that they could
thus puzzle the Prussians also. It threw upon them men raised but a few
days before, without instruction, without discipline, without
instruments of war, fatally destined to defeat. The prefects charged
with the organization of the mobiles, and those on the point of being
mobilized, were in continual strife with the generals, and lost
themselves in the details of the equipments. The generals, unable to
make anything of those ill-supplied contingents, only advanced on
compulsion.[56] Gambetta on his arrival had said in his proclamation,
"We will make young chiefs," and the important commands were given to
the men of the Empire, worn out, ignorant, knowing nothing of patriotic
wars. To these young recruits, who should have been electrified by
stirring appeals, D'Aurelles preached the word of the Lord and the
interest of the service.[57] The accomplice of Bazaine, Bourbaki,[58]
on his return from England, received the command of the army of the
East. The weakness of the new Delegate encouraged the resistance of all
malcontents. Gambetta asked the officers whether they would accept
service under Garibaldi;[59] he not only allowed them to refuse, but
even released a curé who in the pulpit had set a price on the General's
head. He humbly explained to the royalist officers that the question at
issue was not to defend the Republic but the territory. He gave leave to
the pontifical zouaves to hoist the banner of the Sacred Heart. He
suffered Admiral Fourichon to contend for the disposal of the navy with
the Delegation.[60] He indignantly rejected every project for an
enforced loan, and refused to sanction those voted in some departments.
He left the railway companies masters of the transport, in the hands of
reactionists, always ready to raise difficulties. From the end of
November, these boisterous and contradictory orders, these accumulations
of impracticable decrees, these powers given and taken back, clearly
proved that only a sham resistance was meant.

The country obeyed, giving everything with passive blindness. The
contingents were raised without difficulty; there were no refractory
recruits in rural districts, although the gendarmerie were absent with
the army; the Leagues had given way on the first remonstrance. There was
only a movement on the 31st October. The Marseilles revolutionists,
indignant at the weakness of their Municipal Council, proclaimed the
Commune. Cluseret, who from Geneva had asked the "Prussian" Gambetta for
the command of an army corps, appeared at Marseilles, got himself named
general, again backed out and retired to Switzerland, his dignity
forbidding him to serve as a simple soldier. At Toulouse, the
population expelled the general. At Saint-Etienne the Commune existed
for an hour. But everywhere a word sufficed to replace the authority in
the hands of the Delegation; such was the apprehension of everybody of
creating the slightest embarrassment.

This abnegation only served the reactionists. The Jesuits, who resumed
their intrigues, had been reinstated by Gambetta at Marseilles, whence
the indignation of the people had expelled them. The delegate cancelled
the suspension of papers that had published letters from Chambord and
D'Aumale. He protected the judges who had formed part of the mixed
commission, released the one who had decimated the department of the
Var, and dismissed the prefect of Toulouse for having suspended the
functions of another in the Haute-Garonne. The Bonapartists mustered
again.[61] The prefect of Bordeaux, an ultra-moderate Liberal, asking
for the authorization to arrest some of their ringleaders, Gambetta
severely answered him, "These are practices of the Empire, not of the
Republic." Crémieux, too, said, "The Republic is the reign of law."

Then the Conservative Vendée arose. Monarchists, clericals, capitalists,
waited for their time; cowering in their castles, all their strongholds
remained intact; seminaries, tribunals, general councils, which for a
long time the Delegation refused to dissolve _en masse_. They were
clever enough to figure here and there in the field of battle, in order
to preserve the appearance of patriotism. In a few weeks they had seen
through Gambetta and found out the Liberal behind the Tribune.

Their campaign was sketched, conducted from the beginning, by the only
serious political tacticians whom France possesses--by the Jesuits,
masters of the clergy. The arrival of M. Thiers provided the apparent

The men of the 4th September had made him their ambassador. France,
almost without diplomatists since Talleyrand, has never possessed one
more easily gulled than this little man. He had gone naïvely to London,
to Petersburg, to Italy, whose inveterate enemy he had always been,
begging for vanquished France alliances which had been refused her when
yet intact. He was trifled with everywhere. He obtained but one
interview with Bismarck, and negotiated the armistice rejected by the
31st October. When he arrived at Tours in the first days of November, he
knew that peace was impossible, and that henceforth it must be war to
the knife. Instead of courageously making the best of it, of placing his
experience at the service of the Delegation, he had but one object, to
baffle the defence.

It could not have had a more redoubtable enemy. The success of this man,
without ideas, without principles of government, without comprehension
of progress, without courage, would have been impossible everywhere,
save with the French bourgeoisie. But he has always been at hand when a
Liberal was wanted to shoot down the people, and he is a wonderful
artist in Parliamentary intrigue. No one has known like him how to
attack, to isolate a Government, to group prejudices, hatred, and
interests, to hide his intrigues behind a mask of patriotism and common
sense. The campaign of 1870-71 will certainly be his masterpiece. He had
made up his mind as to the lion's share due to the Prussians, and took
no more notice of them than if they had recrossed the Moselle. For him
the enemy was the defender. When our poor mobiles, without _cadres_,
without military training, succumbed to a temperature as fatal as that
of 1812, M. Thiers exulted at our disasters. His house had become the
headquarters for the Conservative notabilities. At Bordeaux especially
it seemed to be the true seat of the Government.

Before the investment the reactionary press of Paris had organized a
provincial service, and from the outset cooled down the Delegation.
After the arrival of M. Thiers it carried on a regular war. It never
ceased harassing, accusing, pointing out the slightest shortcomings,
with a view not to instruct, but to slander, and to wind up by the
foregone conclusion: Fighting is madness, disobedience legitimate. From
the middle of December this watchword, faithfully followed by all the
papers of the party, spread over the rural districts.

For the first time country squires found their way to the ear of the
peasant. This war was about to draw off all the men who were not in the
army or in the Garde Mobile, and camps were being prepared to receive
them. The prisons of Germany held 260,000 men; Paris, the Loire, the
army of the East, more than 350,000. Thirty thousand were dead, and
thousands filled the hospitals. Since the month of August France had
given at least 700,000 men. Where are they to stop? This cry was echoed
in every cottage: "It is the Republic that wants war! Paris is in the
hands of the _levellers_." What does the French peasant know of his
fatherland, and how many could say where Alsace lies? It is he above all
whom the bourgeoisie have in view when they resist compulsory education.
For eighty years all their efforts tended to transforming into coolies
the descendants of the volunteers of 1792.

Before long a spirit of revolt infected the mobiles, almost everywhere
commanded by reactionists of mark. Here an equerry of the Emperor, there
rabid royalists led battalions. In the army of the Loire they muttered,
"We will not fight for M. Gambetta."[62] Officers of the mobilized
troops boasted of never having exposed the lives of their men.

In the beginning of 1871 the provinces were undermined from end to end.
Some general councils that had been dissolved met publicly, declaring
that they considered themselves elected. The Delegation followed the
progress of this enemy, cursed M. Thiers in private, but took good care
not to arrest him. The revolutionists who came to tell it the lengths
things were going were curtly shown out. Gambetta, worn out, not
believing in the defence, thought only of conciliating the men of
influence and rendering himself acceptable for the future.

At the signal of the elections, the scenery, laboriously prepared,
appeared all of a piece, showing the Conservatives grouped,
supercilious, their lists ready. We were far now from the month of
October, when, in many departments, they had not dared to put forward
their candidates. The decrees on the ineligibility of the high
Bonapartist functionaries only affected shadows. The coalition,
disdaining the broken-down men of the Empire, had carefully formed a
_personnel_ of pigtailed nobles, well-to-do farmers, captains of
industry, men likely to do the work bluntly. The clergy had skilfully
united on their lists the Legitimists and Orleanists, perhaps laid down
the basis for a fusion. The vote was carried like a plebiscite. The
republicans tried to speak of an honorable peace; the peasants would
only hear of peace at any price. The towns knew hardly how to make a
stand; at the utmost elected Liberals. Out of 750 members, the Assembly
counted 450 born monarchists. The apparent chief of the campaign, the
king of Liberals, M. Thiers, was returned in twenty-three departments.

The conciliator _à outrance_ could rival Trochu. The one had worried out
Paris, the other the Republic.


[1] The prefect of police, Pietri, attests it: "It is certain that on
that day the revolution might have succeeded, for the crowd which
surrounded the Corps Législatif on the 9th August was composed of
elements similar to those which triumphed on the 4th September."--
_Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. i. p. 258.

[2] Let it be understood that I proceed, the words of our adversaries in
hand--parliamentary inquiries, memoirs, reports, histories; that I do
not attribute to them an act or a word which has not been avowed by
them, their documents, or their friends. When I say M. Thiers _saw_, M.
Thiers _knew_, it is that M. Thiers has said, _I saw_, page 6, _I knew_,
page 11, vol. i. of the _Enquête sur les Actes du Gouvernement de la
Defense Nationale_. It will be the same with all the acts and words of
all the official or adverse personages that I quote.

[3] See the evidence of the Marquis de Talhouet, reporter of the
Commission charged to verify the famous despatch which precipitated the
vote for war. _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. i. p. 121-124.

[4] _Compte-rendu du 31 Octobre_, by Millière.

[5] Which did not, however, prevent his accepting a secret mission
during the Crimean war. He was commissioned by Napoleon III. to propose
to the English to betray Turkey by limiting the war to the defence of

[6] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Jules Brame, vol. i. p. 201.

[7] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. ii. p. 194.

[8] Ibid., p. 313.

[9] Ibid., Jules Favre, vol. i. p. 330.

[10] In his official report, Jules Favre, to clear the Government, did
not neglect to assume the responsibility of this mission, which he said
he had undertaken without the knowledge of his colleagues.

[11] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Garnier-Pages, vol. i. p. 445.

[12] "Constantly in relations with the anxious population, which
urgently asked what was going on, what the Government thought, what it
was doing, we were obliged to screen it; to say that it was acting for
the best; that it had given itself up entirely to the defence; that the
chiefs of the army were most devoted and working with ardour.... We said
this without knowing, without believing it. We knew nothing."--_Enquête
sur le 4 Septembre_, Corbon, vol. i. p. 375.

[13] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Jules Ferry. He even calls the
armistice a "compensation."

[14] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. i. p. 432.

[15] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. i. p. 395. The deposition of
this imbecile, always equally naïve, is all the more conclusive.

[16] "We were able to unite 40,000 men by telling the National Guards
that Blanqui and Flourens occupied the Hôtel-de-Ville. These two names
did not fail to produce their usual effect."--_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_,
ed. Adam, vol. ii. p. 157. "If the name of Blanqui had not been
pronounced, the new elections announced by the placard of Dorian and
Schoelcher would have taken place the next day."--_Enquête sur le 4
Septembre_, Jules Ferry, vol. i. p. 396-431.

[17] See the affirmation of Dorian. _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol.
i. p. 527-528.

[18] He offered a musket of honour to any one who would kill the King of
Prussia, and patronised a Greek-fire that was to roast the German army.

[19] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Jules Favre, vol. ii. p. 42.

[20] Even Félix Pyat was arrested. He managed to get out of prison
through a jest, writing to Emmanuel Arago: "What a pity that I should be
your prisoner; you might have been my advocate." He was set free.

[21] The Minister of War, Leflô, who naturally undervalues everything,
says, "This left us, while assuring the operations of the siege against
the Prussians, a disposable force of 230,000 to 240,000 men."

[22] Appendix I.

[23] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Cresson, vol. ii. p. 135.

[24] Jules Simon, _Souvenirs du 4 Septembre_. His textual expressions.

[25] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Jules Favre, vol. ii. p. 43.

[26] After the disaster of Orleans, which cut in two our army, he wrote:
"The army of the Loire is far from being annihilated; it is separated
into two armies of equal force."

[27] They avoided drawing up minutes to prevent even the appearance of
being a municipality (_Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Jules Ferry, vol. i.
p. 406). A dozen of these brave ones met with a few adjuncts at the
mairie of the third arrondissement. They confined their whole efforts to
seeking some one to replace Trochu. One of them, M. Corbon, has said
(_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 613): "However displeased they
might have been at the manner affairs were conducted by the Defence,
they would not for the world overthrow or weaken the Government."

[28] This placard was drawn up by Tridon and Vallès.

[29] "See," said they, "what a terrible responsibility we should incur
if we consented any longer to remain the passive instruments of a policy
condemned by the interests of France and of the Republic."

[30] See the Minutes of the Government of the Defence, evidently
arranged for the best by M. Dréo, the son-in-law of Garnier-Pages.

[31] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Ducrot, vol. iii. p. xx.

[32] See the Minutes of the Government of Defence.

[33] Who bears witness to the bravery of the National Guard? Superior
officers themselves. See in the _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, the
depositions of General Leflô, Vice-Admiral Pothuan, Colonel Lambert, and
Trochu, speaking from the tribune: "If I did not fear to appear
intrusive, I could show that up to the close of the day the
inexperienced National Guards took and retook with the energy of old
troops, under terrific fire, the heights that had been abandoned. It was
necessary to hold them at any price in order to effect the retreat of
the troops engaged in the centre. I had told them so, and they
sacrificed themselves without hesitation."

[34] Vinoy's corps, which took Montretout, had five regiments and one
battalion of infantry, nineteen battalions of mobiles, five regiments of
National Guards. That of General Bellemare, which took Buzenval, had
five regiments of line, seventeen battalions of mobiles, eight regiments
of National Guards.

[35] "We shall give the National Guard a little peppering (_ecrabouiller
un peu la garde nationale_) since they wish it," said a colonel of
infantry, much annoyed at this affair. _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_,
Colonel Chaper, vol. ii. p. 281.

[36] He told them by way of consolation that "from the evening of the
4th September he had declared that it would be madness to attempt
sustaining a siege by the Prussian army."--_Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_,
Corbon, vol. iv. p. 889.

[37] He has pronounced these words of perfect Jesuitism: "To yield to
hunger is to die, not to capitulate."--_Jules Simon, Souvenirs du 4
Septembre_, p. 299.

[38] Deposition of General Soumairs, _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol.
ii. p. 215.

[39] What disgrace! 175,000 men pretending that they had been sold by a
single one! In the Seven Years' War, in Westphalia, at Minden, when
General Morangies prepared to capitulate, 1500 men, roused by a
corporal, refused to surrender, forced their way, and rejoined the army
of the Count of Clermont.

[40] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Arnaud de l'Ariège, vol. ii. p.

[41] "I return from Versailles. I have come to terms with M. de
Bismarck, and it has been agreed upon between us as a matter of honour
the firing should cease."--Order sent by Jules Favre on the 27th, seven
o'clock evening. Vinoy, _L'Armistice et la Commune_, p. 67.

[42] The decree sacrificed fifteen and spared twenty-four.

[43] _A. Arnaud_, _Avrial_, _Beslay_, _Blanqui_, _Demay_, _Dereure_,
Dupas, E. Dupont, _J. Durand_, _E. Duval_, _Eudes_, Flotte, _Frankel_,
_Gambon_, _Goupil_, Granger, Humbert, Jaclard, Jarnigon, Lacambre,
Lacord, _Langevin_, _Lefrançais_, Leverdays, _Longuet_, Macdonnell,
_Malon_, _Meillet_, Minet, _Oudet_, _Pindy_, _F. Pyat_, _Ranvier_, Rey,
Rouillier, _Serraillier_, _Theisz_, Tolain, _Tridon_, _Vaillant_,
_Vallès_, _Varlin_. The names of those who were elected members of the
Commune are in italics.

[44] In the _Vengeur_, which had taken the place of the _Combat_, he
proved, documents in hand, that for years Jules Favre had been guilty of
forgery, bigamy, and falsification of papers of legitimation.

[45] After the five returned, sixteen candidates of La Corderie obtained
from 65,000 votes to 22,000 votes; Tridon 65,707, Duval 22,499.

[46] Which, besides, has been recounted by Marc Dufraisse in the
_Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. iv. p. 428.

[47] Cluseret, an ex-officer, decorated in 1848 for his spirited
conduct. "I unfortunately displayed too much energy in that disastrous
battle," he wrote in _Fraser's Magazine_ of March 1878. Attached to the
Arabian Bureaux, he threw up his commission after the Crimean war, and
not being able to play a part in Europe, engaged in the American civil
war for a short time, then withdrew to New York, where he campaigned
with his pen. Misunderstood by the bourgeoisie of the two worlds, he
again took to politics, but from the opposite side; offered himself to
the Irish insurgents; landed in Ireland urging them to rise, and one
fine night abandoned them. The nascent International also saw this
powerful general come and offer his services. He did a good deal in the
way of pamphleteering; tried to impress upon the workmen that he was the
sword and buckler of Socialism. "We or nothing," said he to the sons of
the massacred of June. The Government of the 4th September having also
failed to appreciate his genius, he called Gambetta _Prussian_, and got
himself sent as delegate to Lyons by the Corderie, where Varlin, whom he
deceived for a long time, had introduced him. He offered the Lyons
council to organise an army of volunteers which was to operate on the
flank of the enemy.

[48] The working-men's quarters of Lyons.

[49] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Gambetta, vol. i. p. 560.

[50] The Jew Crémieux lived with the Ultramontane Archbishop Guibert
(since made Archbishop of Paris) in his episcopal palace at Tours,
dining every day at his table, and in return rendering him all the
little services asked for by the clergy.

[51] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Gambetta, vol. i. p. 561.

[52] D'Aurelles de Paladines, _La Première Armée de la Loire_, p. 93.

[53] De Freycinet, _La Guerre en Province_, p. 86, 87.

[54] Ibid., p. 91.

[55] On the 11th, the delegate telegraphed to D'Aurelles: "We fully
approve of the dispositions you had taken for your troops round
Orléans.... You will receive instructions. In the meantime redouble your
vigilance in prevision of a return to the offensive on the part of the
enemy."--_D'Aurelles de Paladines_, _La Première Armée de la Loire_, p.
120. Thus, far from speaking of attacking, the Delegation only thought
of the defensive.

[56] "It was only when they could not help it that they made up their
minds to act," Gambetta has said in the _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_.
The avowal is precious, coming from him.

[57] It is most amusing to hear D'Aurelles chaffing Trochu without
perceiving that he is just as ridiculous. In his evidence (_Enquête sur
le 4 Septembre_, vol. iii. p. 201) he says: "I did not deposit either a
plan or a testament at a lawyer's; I confined myself to writing to the
Bishop of Orléans: Monsignor, the army of the Loire to-day sets out on
its march to meet the army of General Ducrot. Pray, Monsignor, for the
salvation of France."

[58] And what other name is merited by the general who abandoned his
post in the field to go and negotiate with the sovereign whom France had

[59] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Rolland, vol. iii. p. 456.

[60] Ibid., Dalloz, vol. iv. p. 398.

[61] If General Boyer, who saw the letter, is to be believed, the
Delegation of Tours on the 24th October made officious advances to the
Empress, and then gave the order to the chargé-d'affaires at London to
go and thank her for the patriotism that she had shown in refusing to
treat with Bismarck, who trifled with her as well as with Bazaine. See
_Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. iv. p. 258.

[62] _Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, Admiral Jaureguiberry, vol. iii. p.


    "Le chef du pouvoir exécutif, pas plus que l'Assemblée
      Nationale, s'appuyant l'un sur l'autre et se fortifiant
      l'un par l'autre, n'avaient en aucune manière provoqué
      l'insurrection parisienne."--_Discours de M. Dufaure contre
      l'Amnistie_, _Séance du 18 Mai 1876._


The invasion has brought back the "Chambre introuvable" of 1816. After
having dreamt of a regenerated France soaring towards the light, to feel
oneself hurled back half a century, under the yoke of the Jesuits of the
Congregation, of the brutal rurals! There were men who lost heart. Many
spoke of expatriating themselves. The thoughtless said, "The Chamber
will only last a day, since it has no mandate but to decide on peace and
war." Those, however, who had watched the progress of the conspiracy and
the leading part taken in it by the clergy, knew beforehand that these
men would not allow France to escape their clutches before they crushed

Men just escaped from famine-stricken but glowing Paris found on their
arrival at Bordeaux the Coblentz of the first emigration, but this time
invested with the power to glut rancors that had been accumulating for
forty years. Clericals and Conservatives were for the first time
allowed, without the interference of either emperor or king, to trample
to their hearts' content on Paris, the atheist, the revolutionist, who
had so often shaken off their yoke and baffled their schemes. At the
first sitting their choler burst out. At the farther end of the hall,
sitting alone on his bench, shunned by all, an old man rose and asked to
address the Assembly. Under his cloak glared a red shirt. It was
Garibaldi. At the call of his name, he wished to answer, to say in a few
words that he resigned the mandate with which Paris had honored him. His
voice was drowned in howls. He remained standing, raising his hand, but
the insults redoubled. The chastisement, however, was at hand. "Rural
majority! disgrace of France!" cried from the gallery a young vibrating
voice, that of Gaston Crémieux, of Marseilles. The deputies rose
threatening. Hundreds of "Bravos" answered from the galleries,
overwhelming the rurals. After the sitting the crowd cheered Garibaldi
and hooted his insulters. The National Guard presented arms, despite the
rage of M. Thiers, who under the peristyle apostrophized the commanding
officer. The next day the people returned, forming lines in front of the
theatre, and forced the reactionist deputies to undergo their republican
cheers. But they knew their strength, and from the beginning of the
sittings opened their attack. One of the rurals, pointing to the
representatives of Paris, cried, "They are stained with the blood of
civil war!" And when one of these representatives cried, "Vive la
République!" the majority hooted him, saying, "You are only a fraction
of the country." On the next day the Chamber was surrounded by troops,
who kept off the republicans.

At the same time the Conservative papers united in their hissings
against Paris, denying even her sufferings. The National Guard, they
said, had fled before the Prussians; its only exploits had been the 31st
October and 22nd January. These calumnies fructified in the provinces,
long since prepared to receive them. Such was their ignorance of the
siege, that they had named some of them several times--Trochu, Ducrot,
Ferry, Pelletan, Garnier-Pages, Emmanuel Arago--to whom Paris had
refused a single vote.

It was the duty of the Parisian representatives to clear up this
darkness, to recount the siege, to denounce the men responsible for the
failure of the defence, to explain the significance of the Parisian
vote, to unfurl the flag of republican France against the
clerico-monarchical coalition. They remained silent, contenting
themselves with puerile party meetings, from which Delescluze turned
away as heart-broken as from the Assembly of the Paris mayors. Our
Epimenides of 1848 answered with stereotyped humanitarian phrases the
clashing of arms of the enemy, who all the while affirmed his programme:
to patch up a peace, to bury the Republic, and for that purpose to
checkmate Paris. Thiers was named chief of the executive power with
general acclamation, and chose for his Ministers Jules Favre, Jules
Simon, Picard and Leflô, who might still pass muster with the provincial

These elections, these menaces, these insults to Garibaldi, to the Paris
representatives; Thiers, the incarnation of the Parliamentary monarchy,
first magistrate of the Republic, blow after blow was struck at Paris, a
feverish, hardly revictualled Paris, hungering still more for liberty
than bread. This then was the reward for five months of suffering and
endurance. These provinces, which Paris had invoked in vain during the
whole siege, dared now to brand her with cowardice, to throw her back
from Bismarck to Chambord. Well, then, Paris was resolved to defend
herself even against France. The new imminent danger, the hard
experience of the siege, had exalted her energy and endued the great
town with one collective soul.

Already, towards the end of January, some republicans, and also some
bourgeois intriguers in search of a mandate, had tried to group the
National Guards with a view to the elections. A large meeting, presided
over by Courty, a merchant of the third arrondissement, had been held in
the Cirque. They had there drawn up a list, decided to meet again to
deliberate in case of double electoral returns, and had named a
committee charged to convoke all the companies regularly. This second
meeting was held on the 15th in the Vauxhall Douané Street. But who then
thought of the elections? One single thought prevailed: the union of all
Parisian forces against the triumphant rurals. The National Guard
represented all the manhood of Paris. The clear, simple, essentially
French idea of confederating the battalions had long been in every mind.
It was received with acclamation and resolved that the confederate
battalions should be grouped round a Central Committee.

A commission during the same sitting was charged to elaborate the
statutes. Each arrondissement represented--eighteen out of twenty--named
a commissary. Who were these men? The agitators, the revolutionists of
La Corderie, the Socialists? No; there was not a known name amongst
them. All those elected were men of the middle classes, shopkeepers,
employés, strangers to the coteries, till now for the most part
strangers even to politics.[63] Courty, the president, was known only
since the meeting at the Cirque. From the first day the idea of the
federation appeared what it was--universal, not sectarian, and therefore
powerful. The next day, Clément-Thomas declared to the Government that
he could no longer be answerable for the National Guard, and sent in his
resignation. He was provisionally replaced by Vinoy.

On the 24th, in the Vauxhall, before 2,000 delegates and guards, the
commission read the statutes it had drawn up, and pressed the delegates
to proceed immediately to the election of the Central Committee. The
Assembly was tempestuous, disquiet, little inclined for calm
deliberations. Each of the last eight days had brought with it more
insulting menaces from Bordeaux. They were going, it was said, to disarm
the battalions, suppress the thirty sous, the only resource of the
workingmen, and exact at once the owing house-rents and overdue
commercial bills. Besides, the armistice, prolonged for a week, was to
expire on the 26th, and the papers announced that the Prussians would
enter Paris on the 27th. For a week this nightmare had weighed on all
the patriots. The meeting, too, proceeded at once to consider these
burning questions. Varlin proposed: The National Guard only recognizes
the chiefs elected by itself. Another: The National Guard protests
through the Central Committee against any attempt at disarmament, and
declares that in case of need it will offer armed resistance. Both
propositions were voted unanimously. And now, was Paris to submit to the
entry of the Prussians, to let them parade her boulevards? It could not
even be discussed. The whole assembly, springing up over-excited, raised
one cry of war. Some warnings of prudence are disdained. Yes, they would
oppose their arms to the entry of the Prussians. The proposition would
be submitted by the delegates to their respective companies. And
adjourning to the 3rd March, the meeting broke up its sitting and
marched _en masse_ to the Bastille, carrying along with it a great
number of soldiers and mobiles.

Since the morning, Paris, fearing the loss of her liberty, had gathered
round her revolutionary column, as she had before crowded round the
statue of Strasbourg when trembling for France. The battalions defiled,
headed by drums and flags, covering the rails and pedestal with crowns
of immortelles. From time to time a delegate ascended the plinth, and
from this tribune of bronze harangued the people, who answered with
cries of "Vive la République!" Suddenly a red flag was carried through
the crowd into the monument, reappearing soon after at the balustrade. A
formidable cry saluted it, followed by a long silence. A man, climbing
the cupola, had the daring to go and fix it in the hand of the statue of
Liberty surmounting the column. Thus, amidst the frantic cheering of the
people, for the first time since 1848, the flag of equality overshadowed
this spot, redder than its flag by the blood of a thousand martyrs.

The following day the pilgrimages were continued, not only by National
Guards, but by the soldiers and mobiles. The army gave way to the
inspiration of Paris. The mobiles arrived preceded by their
quartermasters carrying large black crowns; the trumpeters, posted at
each corner of the pedestal, saluted them, and the crowd cheered them to
the echo. Women dressed in black suspended a tricolor flag bearing the
inscription, "The republican women to the martyrs." When the pedestal
was covered, the crowns and flowers soon wound themselves entirely round
the bust, encircling it from top to bottom with yellow and black
flowers, red and tricolor oriflammes, symbols of mourning for the past
and hope in the future.

On the 26th the manifestations became innumerable and irritated. A
police agent, surprised taking down the names of the battalions, was
seized and thrown into the Seine. Twenty-five battalions defiled,
sombre, a prey to a terrible anguish. The armistice was about to expire
and the _Journal Officiel_ did not speak of a prorogation. The journals
announced the entry of the German army by the Champs-Elysées for the
next day. The Government was sending the troops to the left bank of the
Seine and clearing out the Palace de l'Industrie. They forgot only the
cannons of the National Guards accumulated at the Place Wagram and at
Passy. Already the carelessness of the capitulards had delivered 12,000
more muskets to the Prussians than were stipulated for.[64] Who could
tell if the latter would not stretch out their hands to these fine
pieces, cast with the flesh and blood of the Parisians, marked with the
numbers of the battalions?[65] Spontaneously all Paris rose. The
bourgeois battalions of Passy, in accord with the municipality,[66] set
the example, drawing the pieces of the Ranelagh to the Parc
Monceaux.[67] Other battalions came to fetch their cannon in the Park
Wagram, wheeling them by the Rues St. Honoré and Rivoli to the Place
des Vosges, under the protection of the Bastille.

During the day the troop sent by Vinoy to the Bastille had fraternized
with the people. In the evening, the rappel, the tocsin, the trumpets
had thrown thousands of armed men into the streets, who came to mass
themselves at the Bastille, the Château d'Eau, and the Rue de Rivoli.
The prison of St. Pélagie was forced and Brunel set free. At two o'clock
in the morning, forty thousand men remounted the Champs-Elysées and the
Avenue de la Grande Armée, silent, in good order, to encounter the
Prussians. They waited till daybreak. On their return, the battalions of
Montmartre seized all the cannon they found on their way, and took them
to the mairie of the eighteenth arrondissement and to the Boulevard

To this feverish but chivalrous outburst Vinoy could only oppose an
order of the day stigmatizing it. And this Government, that insulted
Paris, asked her to immolate herself for France! A placard posted up on
the morning of the 27th announced the prolongation of the armistice, and
for the 1st of March the occupation of the Champs-Elysées by 30,000

At two o'clock the commission charged to draw up the statutes for a
Central Committee held a sitting at the mairie of the third
arrondissement. Some of its members since the evening before,
considering themselves invested with powers by the situation, had tried
to organize a permanent sub-committee in this mairie; but not being
numerous enough, they had adjourned until the next day and consulted the
chiefs of the battalions. The sitting, presided over by Captain
Bergeret, was stormy. The delegates of the battalion of Montmartre, who
had established a committee of their own in the Rue des Rosiers, would
speak only of fighting, showed their _mandats impératifs_, and recalled
the resolution of the Vauxhall. It was almost unanimously resolved to
take up arms against the Prussians. The mayor, Bonvalet, rather uneasy
at having such guests, had the mairie surrounded, and, half by
persuasion, half by force, succeeded in getting rid of them.

During the whole day the faubourgs had armed and seized the munitions;
the rampart pieces were remounted on their carriages; the mobiles,
forgetting that they were prisoners of war, went to retake their arms.
In the evening one crowd inveigled the marines of La Pepinière Barracks,
and led them to the Bastille to fraternize with the people.

A catastrophe was inevitable but for the courage of a few men who dared
to oppose this dangerous current. All the societies that met at the
Place de la Corderie, the Central Committee of the twenty
arrondissements, the International, and the Federation, looked with
reserve upon this Central Committee, composed of unknown men, who had
never taken part in the revolutionary campaigns. On leaving the mairie
of the third arrondissement, some delegates of battalions who belonged
to the sections of the International came to the Corderie to tell of the
sitting and the desperate resolution come to. Every exertion was made to
pacify them, and speakers were sent to the Vauxhall, where a large
meeting was being held; they succeeded in making themselves heard. Many
other citizens made great efforts to recall the people to reason. The
next morning, the 28th, the three groups of the Corderie published a
manifesto conjuring the workingmen to beware. "Every attack," said they,
"would serve to expose the people to the blows of the enemies of the
Revolution, who would drown all social vindications in a sea of blood."
Pressed on all sides, the Central Committee was obliged to yield, as it
announced in a proclamation signed by twenty-nine names. "Every
aggression would result in the immediate overthrow of the Republic.
Barricades will be established all round the quarters to be occupied by
the enemy, so he will parade in a camp shut out from our town." This was
the first official appearance of the Central Committee. The twenty-nine
unknown men[68] capable of thus pacifying the National Guard were
applauded even by the bourgeoisie, who did not seem to wonder at their

The Prussians entered Paris on the 1st March. This Paris which the
people had taken possession of was no longer the Paris of the nobles and
the great bourgeoisie of 1815. Black flags hung from the houses, but the
deserted streets, the closed shops, the dried-up fountains, the veiled
statues of the Place de la Concorde, the gas not lighted at night, still
more pregnantly announced a town in its agony. Prostitutes who ventured
into the quarters of the enemy were publicly whipped. A café in the
Champs-Elysées which had opened its doors to the victors was ransacked.
There was but one _grand seigneur_ in the Faubourg St. Germain to offer
his house to the Prussians.

Paris was still wincing under this affront, when a new avalanche of
insults poured down upon her from Bordeaux. Not only had the Assembly
not found a word or act to help her in this painful crisis, but its
papers, the _Journal Officiel_ at their head, were indignant that she
should have thought of defending herself against the Prussians. A
proposition was being signed in the bureaux to fix the seat of the
Assembly outside of Paris. The projected law on overdue bills and
house-rents opened the prospect of numberless failures. Peace had been
accepted, hurriedly voted like an ordinary business. Alsace, the greater
part of Lorraine, 1,600,000 Frenchmen torn from their fatherland, five
milliards to pay, the forts to the east of Paris to be occupied till the
payment of the first 500,000,000 francs, and the departments of the East
till the entire payment; this was what Trochu, Favre, and the coalition
cost us, the price for which Bismarck permitted us the _Chambre
introuvable_. And to console Paris for so much disgrace, M. Thiers
appointed as General of the National Guard the incapable and brutal
commander of the first army of the Loire, D'Aurelles de Paladines. Two
senators, Vinoy and D'Aurelles, two Bonapartists, at the head of
Republican Paris--this was too much. All Paris had the presentiment of a

That evening there were large groups gathered in the boulevards. The
National Guards, refusing to acknowledge D'Aurelles as their commander,
proposed the appointment of Garibaldi. On the 3rd two hundred battalions
sent their delegates to Vauxhall. Matters began with the reading of the
statutes. The preamble declared the Republic "the only Government by law
and justice superior to universal suffrage, which is its offspring."
"The delegates," said Article 6, "must prevent every attempt whose
object would be the overthrow of the Republic." The Central Committee
was composed of three delegates for each arrondissement, elected by the
companies, battalions, legions and of the _chefs-de-légion_.[70] While
awaiting the regular election, the meeting there and then named a
provisional executive committee. Varlin, Pindy, Jacques Durand, and some
other Socialists of the Corderie formed part of it, an understanding
having been come to between the Central Committee, or rather the
commission which had drawn up the statutes, and the three groups of the
Corderie. Varlin carried a unanimous vote on the immediate re-election
of the officers of the National Guard. Another motion was put: "That the
department of the Seine constitute itself an independent republic in
case of the Assembly attempting to decapitalize Paris,"--a motion
unsound in its conception, faultily drawn up, which seemed to isolate
Paris from the rest of France--an anti-revolutionist, anti-Parisian
idea, cruelly exploited against the Commune. Who then was to feed Paris
if not the provinces? Who was to save our peasants if not Paris? But
Paris had been confined to solitary life for six months; she alone to
the last moment had declared for the continuation of the struggle at
any price, alone affirmed the Republic by a vote. Her abandonment, the
vote of the provinces, the rural majority, made so many men ready to die
for the universal republic fancy that the Republic might be shut up
within Paris.


[63] 3rd arrondissement, A. Genotal; 4th, Alavoine; 5th, Manet; 6th, V.
Frontier; 7th, Badois; 8th, Morterol?; 9th, Mayer; 10th, Arnold; 11th,
Piconel; 12th, Audoynaud; 13th, Soncial; 14th, Dacosta; 15th, Masson;
16th, Pé; 17th, Weber; 18th, Trouillet; 19th, Lagarde; 20th, A. Bonit.
Courty remained president, Ramel secretary.

[64] Vinoy, _L'Armistice et la Commune_, p. 128.

[65] The reactionists have said that this fear was feigned; that the
cannon were safe from the Prussians. This is so false that the general
staff itself feared a surprise. See Mortemart, chef d'état-major,
_Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. ii. p. 844.

[66] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Colonel Lavigne, vol. ii. p. 467.

[67] "The first cannons were taken, carried away, on the news of the
entry of the Prussians. And these, gentlemen, believe me, were carried
off by citizens devoted to order, the National Guards of Passy and
Auteuil, and taken where? From the Ranelagh."--_Jules Ferry_, _Enquête
sur le 18 Mars_, vol ii. p. 68.

[68] A. Alavoine, A. Bouit, Frontier, Boursier, David, Buisson, Harond,
Gritz, Tessier, Ramel, Badois, Arnold, Piconel, Audoynaud, Masson,
Weber, Lagarde, J. Laroque, J. Bergeret, Pouchain, Lavalette, Fleury,
Maljournal, Chouteau, Cadaze, Gastaud, Dutil, Matté, Mutin. Ten only of
those elected on the 15th figure in this document. Various delegations,
abstentions, and irregular adhesions had given nearly twenty new names.

[69] Roger du Nord, the chief of D'Aurelles' staff, "heard it said in
all the fractions of the National Guard, 'Why place a man of such energy
at the head of the National Guard if not to make a _coup
d'état_?'"--_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii.

[70] The National Guards of each of the twenty arrondissements were
formed into a separate legion.


    "Cette république a été menacée par l'Assemblée, a-t-on dit,
      Messieurs, quand l'insurrection a éclaté, l'Assemblée ne
      s'était encore signalée au point de vue politique que par
      deux actes: la nomination du chef du pouvoir exécutif et
      l'acceptation d'un cabinet républicain."--_Discours de M.
      Larcy, du Centre Gauche, contre l'Amnistie, Séance du 18
      Mai 1876._


To the rural plebiscite the Parisian National Guard had answered by
their federation; to the threats of the monarchists, to the projects of
decapitalization, by the manifestation of the Bastille; to D'Aurelles'
appointment, by the resolutions of the 3rd March. What the perils of the
siege had not been able to effect the Assembly had brought about--the
union of the middle class with the proletariat. The immense majority of
Paris looked upon the growing army of the Republic without regret. On
the 3rd the Minister of the Interior, Picard, having denounced "the
anonymous Central Committee," and called upon "all good citizens to
stifle these culpable manifestations," no one stirred. Besides, the
accusation was ridiculous. The Committee showed itself in the open day,
sent its minutes to the papers, and had only made a manifestation to
save Paris from a catastrophe. It answered the next day: "The Committee
is not anonymous; it is the union of the representatives of free men
aspiring to the solidarity of all the members of the National Guard. Its
acts have always been signed. It repels with contempt the calumnies
which accuse it of inciting to pillage and civil war." The signatures

The chiefs of the coalition saw clearly which way events were drifting.
The republican army each day increased its arsenal of muskets, and
especially of cannon. There were now pieces of ordnance at ten different
places--at the Barrière d'Italie, at the Faubourg St. Antoine, at the
Buttes Montmartre. A red placard informed Paris of the formation of the
Central Committee of the federation of the National Guards, and invited
citizens to organize in each arrondissement committees of battalions and
councils of legions, and to appoint the delegates to the Central
Committee. The ensemble, the ardour of the movement seemed to bear
witness to the powerful organization of the Central Committee. A few
days more and the answer of the people would be complete if a blow were
not struck at once.

What they misunderstood was the stout heart of the enemy. The victory of
the 22nd January blinded them. They believed in the stories of their
journals, in the cowardice of the National Guards, in the bragging of
Ducrot, who, in the bureaux of the Assembly swore eternal hatred to the
demagogues, but for whom, he said, he would have conquered.[72] The
bullies of the reaction fancied they could swallow Paris at a mouthful.

The operation was conducted with clerical skill, method, and discipline.
Legitimists and Orleanists, disagreeing as to the name of the monarch,
had accepted the compromise of Thiers, an equal share in the Government,
which was called "the pact of Bordeaux." Besides, against Paris there
could be no division.

From the commencement of March the provincial papers held forth at the
same time, speaking of incendiarism and pillage in Paris. On the 4th
there was but one rumor in the bureaux of the Assembly--that an
insurrection had broken out; that the telegraphic communications were
cut off; that General Vinoy had retreated to the left bank of the Seine.
The Government, which propagated these rumors,[73] despatched four
deputies, who were also mayors, to Paris. They arrived on the 5th, and
found Paris perfectly calm, even gay.[74] The mayors and adjuncts,
assembled by the Minister of the Interior, attested to the tranquility
of the town. But Picard, no doubt in the conspiracy, said, "This
tranquility is only apparent. We must act." And the ultra-Conservative
Vautrain added, "We must take the bull by the horns and arrest the
Central Committee."

The Right never ceased baiting the bull. Sneers, provocations, insults,
were showered upon Paris and her representatives. Some among them,
Rochefort, Tridon, Malon, and Ranc, when withdrawing after the vote
mutilating the country, were followed by cries of "Pleasant journey to
you." Victor Hugo defending Garibaldi was hooted. Delescluze demanding
the impeachment of the members of the National Defence was no better
listened to. Jules Simon declared that he would maintain the law against
association. On the 10th the breach was opened. A resolution was passed
that Paris should no longer be the capital, and that the Assembly should
sit at Versailles. This was calling forth the Commune, for Paris could
not remain at the same time without a Government and without a
municipality. The field of battle once found, despair was to supply it
with an army. The Government had already decided to continue the pay of
the National Guards to those only who should ask for it. The Assembly
decreed that the bills due on the 13th November, 1870, should be made
payable on the 13th March, that is, in three days. The Minister Dufaure
obstinately refused any concession on this point. Notwithstanding the
urgent appeals of Millière, the Assembly refused to pass any protective
bill for the tenants whose house-rents had been due for six months. Two
or three hundred thousand workmen, shopkeepers, model makers, small
manufacturers working in their own lodgings, who had spent their little
stock of money and could not yet earn any more, all business being at a
stand-still, were thus thrown upon the tender mercies of the landlord,
of hunger and bankruptcy. From the 13th to the 17th of March 150,000
bills were dishonored. Finally, the Right obliged M. Thiers to declare
from the tribune "that the Assembly could proceed to its deliberations
at Versailles without fearing the paving stones of an _émeute_," thus
constraining him to act at once, for the deputies were to meet again at
Versailles on the 20th.

D'Aurelles commenced operations against the National Guard, declaring he
would submit it to rigorous discipline and purge it of its bad elements.
"My first duty," said his order of the day, "is to secure the respect
due to law and property,"--this eternal provocation on the part of the
bourgeoisie when lifted to supreme power by revolutionary events.

The other senators also joined in. On the 7th Vinoy threw into the
streets with a pittance of eight shillings a head the twenty-one
thousand mobiles of the Seine. On the 11th, the day on which Paris
learnt her decapitalization and the ruinous decrees, Vinoy suppressed
six Republican journals, four of which, _Le Cri du Peuple_, _Le Mot
d'Ordre_, _Le Père Duchêne_, and _Le Vengeur_, had a circulation of
200,000. The same day the court-martial which judged the accused of the
31st October condemned several to death, among others Flourens and
Blanqui. Thus everybody was hit--bourgeois, republicans, revolutionists.
This Assembly of Bordeaux, the deadly foe of Paris, a stranger to her
in sentiment, mind, and language, seemed a Government of foreigners. The
commercial quarters as well as the faubourgs rang with a general outcry
against it.[75]

From this time the last hesitation disappeared. The mayor of Montmartre,
Clémenceau, had been intriguing for several days to effect the surrender
of the cannon, and he had even found officers disposed to capitulate;
but the battalion protested, and on the 12th, when D'Aurelles sent his
teams, the guards refused to deliver the pieces. Picard, making an
attempt at firmness, sent for Courty, saying, "The members of the
Central Committee are risking their heads," and obtained a
quasi-promise. The Committee expelled Courty.

It had since the 6th met at the hall of the Corderie. Although keeping
aloof from, and entirely independent of, the three other groups, the
reputation of the place was useful to it. It gave evidence of good
policy and baffled the intrigues of the _commandant_, Du Bisson, an
officer who had served abroad and been employed in undertakings of an
equivocal character, and who was trying to constitute a Central
Committee from above with the chiefs of the battalions. The Central
Committee sent three delegates to this group, where they met with lively
opposition. One chief of battalion, Barberet, showed himself
particularly restive; but another, Faltot, carried away the Assembly,
saying, "I am going over to the people." The fusion was concluded on the
10th, the day of the general meeting of the delegates. The Committee
presented its weekly report. It recounted the events of the last days,
the nomination of D'Aurelles, the menaces of Picard, remarking very
justly, "That which we are, events have made us: the reiterated attacks
of a press hostile to democracy have taught it, the menaces of the
Government have confirmed it; we are the inexorable barrier raised
against every attempt at the overthrow of the Republic." The delegates
were invited to push forward the elections of the Central Committee. An
appeal to the army was drawn up: "Soldiers, children of the people! Let
us unite to serve the Republic. Kings and emperors have done us harm
enough." The next day the soldiers lately arrived from the army of the
Loire gathered in front of these red placards, which bore the names and
addresses of all the members of the Committee.

The Revolution, bereft of its journals, spoke now through placards, of
the greatest variety of color and opinion, posted on all the walls.
Flourens and Blanqui, condemned in contumacy, placarded their
protestations. Sub-committees were being formed in all the popular
arrondissements. That of the thirteenth arrondissement had for its chief
a young iron founder, Duval, a man of cold and commanding energy. The
sub-committee of the Rue des Rosiers surrounded their cannon by a ditch
and had them guarded day and night.[76] All these committees quashed the
orders of D'Aurelles and were the true commanders of the National Guard.

No doubt Paris was roused, ready to redeem her abdication during the
siege. This Paris, lean and oppressed by want, adjourned peace and
business, thinking only of the Republic. The provisional Central
Committee, without troubling itself about Vinoy, who had demanded the
arrest of all its members, presented itself on the 15th at the general
assembly of the Vauxhall. Two hundred and fifteen battalions were
represented, and acclaimed Garibaldi as commander-in-chief of the
National Guard. An orator, Lullier, led the Assembly astray. He was an
ex-naval officer, completely crack-brained, with a semblance of military
instruction, and when not heated by alcohol having intervals of lucidity
which might deceive any one. He was named commanding colonel of the
artillery. Then came the names of those elected members of the Central
Committee, about thirty in all, for several arrondissements had not yet
voted. This was the regular Central Committee which was to be installed
at the Hôtel-de-Ville. Many of those elected had formed part of the
preceding commission. The others were all equally obscure, belonging to
the proletariat and small middle class, known only to their battalions.

What mattered their obscurity? The Central Committee was not a
Government at the head of a party. It had no Utopia to initiate. A very
simple idea, fear of the monarchy, could alone have grouped together so
many battalions. The National Guard constituted itself an assurance
company against a _coup-d'état_; for if Thiers and his agents repeated
the word "Republic," their own party and the Assembly cried "Vive le
Roi!" The Central Committee was a sentinel, that was all.

The storm was gathering; all was uncertain. The International convoked
the Socialist deputies to ask them what to do. But no attack was
planned, nor even suggested. The Central Committee formally declared
that the first shot would not be fired by the people, and that they
would only defend themselves in case of aggression.

The aggressor, M. Thiers, arrived on the 15th. For a long time he had
foreseen that it would be necessary to engage in a terrible struggle
with Paris; but he intended acting at his own good time, to retake the
town when disposing of an army of forty thousand men, well picked,
carefully kept aloof from the Parisians. This plan has been revealed by
a general officer. At this moment Thiers had only the mere wreck of an

The 230,000 men disarmed by the capitulation, mostly mobiles or men
having finished their term of service, had been sent home in hot haste,
as they would only have swelled the Parisian army. Already some mobiles,
marines, and soldiers had laid the basis of a republican association
with the National Guards. There remained to Vinoy only the division
allowed him by the Prussians and 3,000 sergents-de-ville or gendarmes,
in all 15,000 men, rather ill-conditioned. Lefiô sent him a few thousand
men picked up in the armies of the Loire and of the North, but they
arrived slowly, almost without _cadres_, harassed, and disgusted at the
service. At Vinoy's very first review they were on the point of
mutinying. They left them straggling through Paris, abandoned, mixing
with the Parisians, who succored them, the women bringing them soups and
blankets to their huts, where they were freezing. In fact, on the 19th
the Government had only about 25,000 men, without cohesion and
discipline, two-thirds of them gained over to the faubourgs.

How disarm 100,000 men with this mob? For, to carry off the cannon, it
was necessary to disarm the National Guard. The Parisians were no longer
novices in warfare. "Having taken our cannon," they said, "they will
make our muskets useless." The coalition would listen to nothing. Hardly
arrived, they urged M. Thiers to act, to lance the abscess at once. The
financiers--no doubt the same who had precipitated the war to give fresh
impulse to their jobbery[77]--said to him, "You will never be able to
carry out financial operations if you don't make an end of these
scoundrels."[78] All these declared the taking of the cannon would be
mere child's play.

They were indeed hardly watched, but because the National Guard knew
them to be in a safe place. It would suffice to pull up a few paving
stones to prevent their removal down the narrow steep streets of
Montmartre. On the first alarm all Paris would hasten to the rescue.
This had been seen on the 16th, when gendarmes presented themselves to
take from the Place des Vosges the cannon promised by Vautrain. The
National Guards arrived from all sides and unscrewed the pieces, and
the shopkeepers of the Rue des Tournelles commenced unpaving the street.

An attack was nonsensical, and it was this that determined Paris to
remain on the defensive. But M. Thiers saw nothing, neither the
disaffection of the middle classes nor the deep irritation of the
faubourgs. The little man, a dupe all his life, even of a MacMahon,
prompted by the approach of the 20th March, spurred on by Jules Favre
and Picard, who, since the failure of the 31st of October, believed the
revolutionists incapable of any serious action, and jealous to play the
part of a Bonaparte, threw himself head foremost into the venture. On
the 17th he held a council, and, without calculating his forces or those
of the enemy, without forewarning the mayors--(Picard had formally
promised them not to attempt to use force without consulting
them)--without listening to the chiefs of the bourgeois battalions,[79]
this Government, too weak to arrest even the twenty-five members of the
Central Committee, gave the order to carry off two hundred and fifty
cannon[80] guarded by all Paris.


[71] Arnold, J. Bergeret, Bouit, Castioni, Chauvière, Chouteau, Courty,
Dutil, Fleury, Frontier, H. Fortuné, Lacord, Lagarde, Lavalette,
Maljournal, Matté, Ostyn, Piconel, Pindy, Prudhomme, Varlin, H. Verlet,
Viard. Many of these names, those of the representatives elected on the
3rd, were new ones. On the other hand, many of those that had figured in
the placard of the 28th were missing, because only those signed who were
present at the sitting.

[72] He dared to say from the tribune that he only returned on the 3rd
"to save Paris from any demagogic attempts."

[73] The prefecture of Rennes placarded this despatch of the Government:
"A criminal insurrection is being organised in Paris. I send forces
which, joined to the honest National Guards of Paris and to the other
regular troops which are still stationed there, will suppress, I hope,
this odious attempt."

[74] Jules Ferry, who had remained at Paris, telegraphed on the 5th to
the Government: "Never has a Sunday been calmer, notwithstanding
sinister reports. The population is enjoying the sun and their
promenades as if nothing had happened. I no longer believe in the

[75] "The vote of the Assembly," wrote Jules Favre, "was received at
Paris with extreme disfavour; not only amongst the fanatics and the
agitators; all classes of the population showed themselves almost
unanimous. Every one saw in it an affront and a menace. It was repeated
everywhere that this was the first act of a monarchical _coup-d'état_;
that the Assembly was ready to name a king, and that, knowing the
unpopularity of its work, it sought to accomplish it far from the eyes
of those who might oppose it."

[76] This is the Committee which many took for the Central Committee.

[77] Some Bourse speculators, in the belief that a campaign of six weeks
would give a fresh impulse to the speculations they were living upon,
said, "It is a disagreeable moment to pass through, some 50,000 men to
be sacrificed, after which the horizon will clear and commerce
revive."--_M. Thiers, Enquête sur le 4 Septembre_, vol. i. p. 9.

[78] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, M. Thiers, vol. ii. p. 11.

[79] In the evening D'Aurelles assembled forty of the most reliable, and
asked them if their battalions would march. They all said their men were
not to be counted upon. _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 435, 456.

[80] This is the number of pieces given by M. Thiers in the _Enquête sur
le 18 Mars_.


    "Nous avons donc fait ce que nous devions faire; rien n'a
      provoqué l'insurrection de Paris."--_Discours de M. Dufaure
      contre l'Amnistie, Séance du 18 Mai 1876._


The execution was as foolish as the conception. On the 18th of March, at
three o'clock in the morning, several columns dispersed in various
directions to the Buttes Chaumont, Belleville, the Faubourg du Temple,
the Bastille, the Hôtel-de-Ville, Place St. Michel, the Luxembourg, the
thirteenth arrondissement and the Invalides. General Susbielle marched
on Montmartre with two brigades about 6,000 men strong. All was silent
and deserted. The brigade Paturel took possession of the Moulin de la
Galette without striking a blow. The brigade Lecomte gained the Tower of
Solferino, only meeting with one sentinel, Turpin, who crossed bayonets
with them and was hewn down by the gendarmes. They then rushed to the
post of the Rue des Rosiers, stormed it, and threw the National Guards
into the caves of the Tower of Solferino. At six o'clock the surprise
was complete. M. Clémenceau hurried to the Buttes to congratulate
General Lecomte. Everywhere else the cannon were surprised in the same
way. The Government triumphed all along the line, and D'Aurelles sent
the papers a proclamation written in the conqueror's vein.

There was only something wanted--teams to convey the spoil. Vinoy had
almost forgotten them. At eight o'clock they began to put some horses to
the pieces. Meanwhile the faubourgs were awaking and the early shops
opening. Around the milkmaids and before the wineshops the people began
talking in a low voice; they pointed to the soldiers, the mitrailleuse
levelled at the streets, the walls covered with the still wet placard
signed by M. Thiers and his Ministers. They spoke of paralyzed commerce,
suspended orders, frightened capitals: "Inhabitants of Paris, in your
interest the Government has resolved to act. Let the good citizens
separate from the bad ones; let them aid public force; they will render
a service to the Republic herself," said MM. Pouyer-Quertier, De Larcy,
Dufaure and other Republicans. The conclusion is borrowed from the
phraseology of December: "The culpable shall be surrendered to justice.
Order, complete, immediate and unalterable, must be re-established."
They spoke of order;--blood was to be shed.

As in our great days, the women were the first to act. Those of the 18th
March, hardened by the siege--they had had a double ration of
misery--did not wait for the men. They surrounded the mitrailleuses,
apostrophized the sergeant in command of the gun, saying, "This is
shameful; what are you doing there?" The soldiers did not answer.
Occasionally a non-commissioned officer spoke to them: "Come, my good
women, get out of the way." At the same time a handful of National
Guards, proceeding to the post of the Rue Doudeauville, there found two
drums that had not been smashed, and beat the _rappel_. At eight o'clock
they numbered 300 officers and guards, who ascended the Boulevard
Ornano. They met a platoon of soldiers of the 88th, and, crying, "Vive
la République!" enlisted them. The post of the Rue Dejean also joined
them, and the butt-end of their muskets raised, soldiers and guards
together marched up to the Rue Muller that leads to the Buttes
Montmartre, defended on this side by the men of the 88th. These, seeing
their comrades intermingling with the guards, signed to them to advance,
that they would let them pass. General Lecomte, catching sight of the
signs, had the men replaced by sergents-de-ville, and confined them in
the Tower of Solferino, adding, "You will get your deserts." The
sergents-de-ville discharged a few shots, to which the guards replied.
Suddenly a large number of National Guards, the butt-end of their
muskets up, women and children, debouched on the other flank by the Rue
des Rosiers. General Lecomte, surrounded, three times commanded fire.
His men stood still, their arms ordered. The crowd, advancing,
fraternized with them, and Lecomte and his officers were arrested.

The soldiers whom he had just shut up in the tower wanted to shoot him,
but some National Guards having succeeded in disengaging him with great
difficulty--for the crowd took him for Vinoy--conducted him with his
officers to the Château-Rouge, where the staff of the battalions of the
National Guard was seated. There they asked him for an order to evacuate
the Buttes. He signed it without hesitation.[81] The order was
immediately communicated to the officers and soldiers of the Rue des
Rosiers. The gendarmes surrendered their chassepots, and even cried,
"Vive la République!" Three discharges from the cannon announced the
recapture of the Buttes.

General Paturel, who wanted to carry away the cannon, surprised at the
Moulin de la Galette, came into collision with a living barricade in the
Rue Lepic. The people stopped the horses, cut the traces, dispersed the
artillerymen, and took back the cannon to their post. In the Place
Pigalle, General Susbielle gave the order to charge the crowd collected
in the Rue Houdon, but the chasseurs, intimidated, spurred back their
horses and were laughed at. A captain, dashing forward, sabre in hand,
wounded a guard, and fell, pierced with balls. The General fled. The
gendarmes, who commenced firing from behind the huts, were soon
dislodged, and the bulk of the soldiers went over to the people.

At Belleville, the Buttes Chaumont, the Luxembourg, the troops
fraternized everywhere with the crowds that had collected at the first

By eleven o'clock the people had vanquished the aggressors at all
points, preserved almost all their cannon, of which only ten had been
carried off, and seized thousands of chassepots. All their battalions
were now on foot, and the men of the faubourgs commenced unpaving the

Since six o'clock in the morning D'Aurelles had had the rappel beaten in
the central quarters, but in vain. Battalions formerly noted for their
devotion to Trochu sent only twenty men to the rendezvous. All Paris, on
reading the placards, said, "This is the _coup-d'état_." At twelve
o'clock D'Aurelles and Picard sounded the alarm: "The Government call on
you to defend your homes, your families, your property. Some misguided
men, under the lead of some secret chiefs, turn against Paris the cannon
kept back from the Prussians." These reminiscences of June, 1848, this
accusation of indelicacy toward the Prussians, failing to rouse any one,
the whole Ministry came to the rescue: "An absurd rumor is being spread
that the Government is preparing a _coup-d'état_. It has wished and
wishes to make an end of an insurrectional Committee, whose members only
represent Communist doctrines." These alarms, repeatedly sounded, raised
in all 500 men.[82]

The Government were at the Foreign Office, and, after the first
reverses, M. Thiers had given the order to fall back with all the troops
on the Champ-de-Mars. When he saw the desertion of the National Guards
of the Centre, he declared that it was necessary to evacuate Paris.
Several Ministers objected, wanted a few points to be guarded, the
Hôtel-de-Ville, its barracks occupied by the brigade Derroja, the Ecole
Militaire, and that they should take a position on the Trocadéro. The
little man, quite distracted, would only hear of extreme measures.
Leflô, who had almost been made a prisoner at the Bastille, vigorously
supported him. It was decided that the whole town should be evacuated,
even the forts on the south, restored by the Prussians a fortnight
before. Towards three o'clock the popular battalions of the Gros Caillou
marched past the Hôtel-de-Ville, headed by drums and trumpets. The
Council believed itself surrounded.[83] M. Thiers escaped by a back
stair, and left for Versailles so out of his senses that at the bridge
of Sévres he gave the written order to evacuate Mont-Valérien.

At the self-same hour when M. Thiers ran away, the revolutionary
battalions had not yet attempted any attack or occupied any official
posts.[84] The aggression of the morning had surprised the Central
Committee, as it had all Paris. The evening before they had separated as
usual, giving themselves a rendezvous for the 18th, at eleven o'clock at
night, behind the Bastille, at the school in the Rue Basfroi; the Place
de la Corderie, actively watched by the police, no longer being safe.
Since the 15th new elections had added to their numbers, and they had
appointed a Committee of Defence. On the news of the attack, some ran to
the Rue Basfroi, others applied themselves to raising the battalions of
their quarters: Varlin at the Batignolles, Bergeret, recently named
chef-de-légion, at Montmartre, Duval at the Panthéon, Pindy in the third
arrondissement, Faltot in the Rue de Sévres. Ranvier and Brunel, without
belonging to the Committee, were agitating Belleville and the tenth
arrondissement. At ten o'clock a dozen members met together, overwhelmed
with messages from all sides, and receiving from time to time some
prisoners. Positive intelligence only came in towards two o'clock. They
then drew up a kind of plan by which all the federalist battalions were
to converge upon the Hôtel-de-Ville, and then dispersed in all
directions to transmit orders.[85]

The battalions were indeed on the alert, but did not march. The
revolutionary quarters, fearing a resumption of the attack, and ignoring
the plenitude of their victory, were strongly barricading themselves,
and remained where they were. Even Montmartre was only swarming with
guards in search of news, and disbanded soldiers for whom collections
were being made, as they had had nothing to eat since the morning.
Towards half-past three o'clock the Committee of Vigilance of the
eighteenth arrondissement, established in the Rue de Clignancourt, was
informed that General Lecomte was in great danger. A crowd, consisting
chiefly of soldiers, surrounded the Château-Rouge and demanded the
General. The members of the Committee of Vigilance, Ferré, Jaclard, and
Bergeret, immediately sent an order to the commander of the
Château-Rouge to guard the prisoner, who was to be put on his trial.
When the order arrived Lecomte had just left.

He had long been asking to be taken before the Central Committee. The
chiefs of the post, much perturbed by the cries of the crowd, anxious to
get rid of their responsibility, and believing this Committee was
sitting in the Rue des Rosiers, decided to conduct the General and his
officers there. They arrived at about four o'clock, passing through a
terribly irritated crowd, yet no one raised a hand against them. The
General was closely guarded in a small front room on the ground floor.
There the scenes of the Château-Rouge recommenced. The exasperated
soldiers asked for his death. The officers of the National Guard made
desperate efforts to quiet them, crying, "Wait for the Committee." They
succeeded in posting sentinels and appeasing the commotion for a time.

No member of the Committee had arrived when, at half-past four,
formidable cries filled the street, and hunted by a fierce multitude, a
man with a white beard was thrust against the wall of the house. It was
Clément-Thomas, the man of June, 1848, the insulter of the revolutionary
battalions. He had been recognized and arrested at the Chaussée des
Martyrs, where he was examining the barricades. Some officers of the
National Guard, a Garibaldian captain, Herpin-Lacroix, and some
franc-tireurs had tried to stop the deadly mass, repeating a thousand
times, "Wait for the Committee! Constitute a court-martial!" They were
jostled, and Clément-Thomas was again seized and hurled into the little
garden of the house. Twenty muskets levelled at him battered him down.
During this execution the soldiers broke the windows of the room where
General Lecomte was confined, threw themselves upon him, dragging him
towards the garden. This man, who in the morning had three times
commanded fire upon the people, wept, begged for pity, and spoke of his
family. He was forced against the wall and fell under the bullets.

These reprisals over, the wrath of the mass subsided. They allowed the
officers of Lecomte's suite to be taken back to the Château-Rouge, and
at nightfall they were set at liberty.

While these executions took place, the people, so long standing on the
defensive, had begun to move. Brunel surrounded the Prince Eugène
Barracks, held by the 120th of the line. The colonel, accompanied by
about a hundred officers, assuming lofty airs, Brunel had them all
locked up. Two thousand chassepots fell into the hands of the people.
Brunel continued his march by the Rue du Temple towards the
Hôtel-de-Ville. The Imprimerie Nationale was occupied at five o'clock.
At six the crowd attacked the doors of the Napoleon Barracks with
hatchets. A discharge was made, fired from the opening, and three
persons fell; but the soldiers made signs from the windows of the Rue
de Rivoli, crying, "It is the gendarmes who have fired. Vive la
République!" Soon after they opened the doors and allowed their arms to
be carried off.[86]

At half-past seven the Hôtel-de-Ville was almost invested. The gendarmes
who occupied it fled by the subterranean passage of the Lobau Barracks.
About half-past eight Jules Ferry and Vabre, entirely abandoned by their
men, left without any order by the Government, also stole away. Shortly
after Brunel's column debouched on the place and took possession of the
Hôtel-de-Ville, where Ranvier arrived at the same time by the quays.

The number of the battalions augmented incessantly. Brunel had given
order to raise barricades in the Rue de Rivoli, on the quays, manned all
the approaches, distributed the posts, and sent out strong patrols. One
of these, surrounding the mairie of the Louvre, where the mayors were
deliberating, almost succeeded in catching Ferry, who saved himself by
jumping out of a window. The mayors returned to the mairie of the Place
de la Bourse.

They had already met there during the day together with many adjuncts,
much offended at the senseless governmental attack, waiting for
information and for ideas. Towards four o'clock they sent delegates to
the Government. M. Thiers had already made off. Picard politely showed
them out. D'Aurelles washed his hands of the whole affair, saying the
lawyers had done it. At night, however, it became necessary to take a
resolution. The federal battalions already surrounded the Hôtel-de-Ville
and occupied the Place Vendôme, whither Varlin, Bergeret, and Arnold had
conducted the battalions of Montmartre and the Batignolles. Vacherot,
Vautrain, and a few reactionists spoke of resisting at any price, as
though they had had an army to back them. Others, more sensible, sought
for some expedient. They thought they could calm down every thing by
naming as prefect of police Ed. Adam, who had distinguished himself
against the insurgents of June, 1848, and as General of the National
Guards the giddy Proudhonist Langlois, a former Internationalist, who
had been for the movement of the 31st of October in the morning, against
it in the evening, and was named deputy, thanks to a scratch received
while gesticulating at Buzenval. The delegates went to propose this
brilliant solution to Jules Favre. He refused outright, saying, "We
cannot treat with assassins." This comedy was only played to justify the
evacuation of Paris, which he concealed from the mayors. During the
conference it was announced that Jules Ferry had abandoned the
Hôtel-de-Ville. The other Jules feigned surprise, and engaged the mayors
to call out the battalions of order for the purpose of replacing the
vanished army.

They returned overwhelmed by this raillery, humbled at having been
altogether left in the dark about the intention of the Government. If
possessed of some political courage, they would have gone straight to
the Hôtel-de-Ville, instead of commencing to deliberate again in their
mairie. At last, at ten o'clock in the morning, Picard informed them
that they might bring out their Lafayette. They immediately sent
Langlois to the Hôtel-de-Ville.

Some of the members of the Central Committee had been there since ten
o'clock, generally very anxious and very hesitating. Not one of them had
dreamt that power would fall so heavily upon their shoulders. Many did
not want to sit at the Hôtel-de-Ville. They deliberated. At last it was
decided that they would only stay during the two or three days wanted
for the elections. Meanwhile it was necessary to ward off any attempt at
resistance. Lullier was present, buzzing around the Committee, in one of
his intervals of grave lucidity, promising to ward off all danger and
appealing to the vote of Vauxhall. He had played no part during the
whole day.[87] The Committee committed the blunder of appointing him
commander-in-chief of the National Guard, while Brunel, who had rendered
such service since the morning, was already installed in the

At three o'clock, Langlois, the competitor of Lullier, announced
himself. He was full of confidence in himself, and had already sent his
proclamation to the _Journal Officiel_. "Who are you?" the sentinels
asked him. "General of the National Guard," answered Langlois. Some
deputies of Paris, Lockroy, Cournet, &c., accompanied him. The Committee
consented to receive them. "Who has named you?" said they to Langlois.
"M. Thiers." They smiled at this aplomb of a madman. As he pleaded the
rights of the Assembly they put him to the test; "Do you recognise the
Central Committee?" "No." He decamped to run after his proclamation.

The night was calm, fatally calm for liberty. By the gates of the south
Vinoy marched off his regiments, his artillery, and his baggage to
Versailles. The disbanded troops jogged along peevishly, insulting the
gendarmes.[88] The staff, true to its traditions, had lost its head, and
left in Paris three regiments, six batteries, and all the gunboats,
which it would have sufficed to leave to the current of the river. The
slightest demonstration of the federals would have stopped this exodus.
Far from thinking of closing the gates, the new commander of the
National Guard--he boasted of it before the council of war--left open
all issues to the army.


[81] This order enjoining the troop to file off in the midst of the
National Guards was drawn up in pencil by a captain. Lecomte copied it
in ink without changing a word. The court-martial has denied this, in
order to glorify this general, who died so pusillanimously.

[82] Five to six hundred, says M. Thiers; fourteen men per battalion,
says Jules Perry. _Enquête sur le 18 Mars._

[83] M. Thiers in the _Enquéte sur le 18 Mars_ says, firstly, "We let
them defile," then, twenty lines farther, "We repulsed them." Leflô has
not concealed the fright the Council was in: "The moment seemed critical
to me. And I said, 'I think we are done for; we shall be carried off;'
and indeed the battalions had only to penetrate into the palace and we
were all taken to the last man. But the three battalions marched off
without saying anything."--Vol. ii. p. 80.

[84] The report of the _Enquéte sur le 18 Mars_ said that "the Committee
did not hesitate on the afternoon of the 18th March to take possession
of all the administrations." This is if not a lie, intended to palliate
the stampede of M. Thiers,--one of the grossest proofs of the ignorance
of this report, which attributes the manifestation of the 24th of
February to an order of the Central Committee.

[85] See Appendix II., the details of the proceedings of the Central
Committee during this day, told by one of its members.

[86] Vinoy has the impudence to say in his book _L'Armistice et la
Commune_: "The general assembled his men, and _sword in hand_ he bravely
placed himself at the head of his troops."

[87] Ten days after he recounted in a crazy letter written in the
Conciergerie that he had done everything; taken the Hôtel-de-Ville, the
Prefecture of Police, the Place Vendôme, the Tuileries, &c.; and this
letter is referred to as an authority by the report of the _Enquête sur
le 18 Mars_! For the future, I shall abstain from pointing out the
errors that abound in this report, which is an ignorant and malignant
résumé of the lies, inaccuracies, and animosity accumulated in this
_Inquiry_, from which all the vanquished, and even the smallest
adversaries, were excluded. Entirely insufficient as a historical
source, it may well serve to set forth the intelligence and morality of
the French bourgeoisie of the epoch.

[88] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Marreille, vol. ii. p. 200.


    "Nos coeurs brisés font appel aux vôtres."--_Les Maires et
      Adjoints de Paris et les Députés de la Seine à la Garde
      Nationale et à tous les Citoyens._


Paris only became aware of her victory on the morning of the 19th of
March. What a change in the scene, even after all the scene-shifting in
the drama enacted during these last seven months! The red flag floated
above the Hôtel-de-Ville. With the early morning mists the army, the
Government, the Administration had evaporated. From the depths of the
Bastille, from the obscure Rue Basfroi, the Central Committee was lifted
to the summits of Paris in the sight of all the world. Thus on the 4th
September the Empire had vanished; thus the deputies of the Left had
picked up a derelict power.

The Committee, to its great honour, had only one thought, to restore its
power to Paris. Had it been sectarian, hatching decrees, the movement
would have ended like that of the 31st October. Happily it was composed
of new-comers, without a past, and without political pretensions; men of
the small middle-class, as well as workmen, shopkeepers, commercial
clerks, mechanics, sculptors, architects, caring little for systems,
anxious above all to save the Republic. At this giddy height they had
but one idea to sustain them, that of securing to Paris her

Under the Empire this was one of the favourite schemes of the Left, by
which it had mainly won over the small Parisian bourgeoisie, much
humiliated at the sight of Governmental nominees enthroned at the
Hôtel-de-Ville for full eighty years. Even the most pacific amongst them
were shocked, scandalised by the incessant increase of the budget, the
multiplied loans, and the financial swindling of Haussmann. And how they
applauded Picard, revindicating for the largest and most enlightened
city of France at least the rights enjoyed by the smallest village, or
when he defied the Pasha of the Seine to produce regular accounts!
Towards the end of the Empire, the idea of an elective municipal council
had taken root; it had to a certain extent been put into practice during
the siege, and now its total realisation could alone console Paris for
her decentralisation.

On the other hand, the popular masses, insensible to the bourgeois ideal
of a municipal council, were bent on the Commune. They had called for it
during the siege as an arm against the foreign enemy; they still called
for it as a lever for uprooting despotism and misery. What did they care
for a council, even elective, but without real liberties and fettered to
the state--without authority over the administration of schools and
hospitals, justice and police, and altogether unfit for grappling with
the social slavery of its fellow-citizens? What the people strove for
was a political form allowing them to work for the amelioration of their
condition. They had seen all the constitutions and all the
representative governments run counter to the will of the so-called
represented elector, and the state power, grown more and more despotic,
despoil the workmen even of the right to defend his labour, and this
power, which has ordained even the very air to be breathed, always
refusing to interfere in capitalist brigandage. After so many failures,
they were fully convinced that the actual governmental and legislative
régime was from its very nature unable to emancipate the workingman.
This emancipation they expected from the autonomous Commune, sovereign
within the limits compatible with the maintenance of the national unity.
The communal constitution was to substitute for the representative
lording it over his elector the strictly responsible mandatory. The old
state power grafted upon the country, feeding upon its substance,
usurping supremacy on the foundation of divided and antagonistic
interests, organising for the benefit of the few, justice, finance,
army, and police, was to be superseded by a delegation of all the
autonomous communes.

Thus the municipal question, appealing to the legitimate
susceptibilities of the one, to the bold aspirations of the other,
gathered all classes round the Central Committee.

At half-past eight they held their first sitting in the same room where
Trochu had been enthroned. The president was a young man of about
thirty-two; Edward Moreau, a small commission agent. "He was not in
favour," he said, "of sitting at the Hôtel-de-Ville, but since they were
there, it was necessary to at once regularise their situation, tell
Paris what they wanted, proceed to the elections within the briefest
term possible, provide for the public services, and protect the town
from a surprise."

Two of his colleagues immediately said, "We must first march on
Versailles, disperse the Assembly, and appeal to France to pronounce."

Another, the author of the Vauxhall motion, said, "No. We have only the
mandate to secure the rights of Paris. If the provinces share our views,
let them imitate our example."

Some wanted to consummate the revolution before referring to the
electors. Others opposed this vague suggestion. The Committee decided to
proceed at once to the elections, and charged Moreau to draw up an
appeal. While it was being signed, a member of the Committee arrived,
saying, "Citizens, we have just been told that most of the members of
the Government are still in Paris; an attempt at resistance is being
organised in the first and second arrondissements; the soldiers are
leaving for Versailles. We must take prompt measures to lay hands on the
Ministers, disperse the hostile battalions, and prevent the enemy from
leaving the town."

In fact, Jules Favre and Picard had hardly left Paris. The clearing of
the Ministries was publicly going on; files of soldiers were still
marching off through the gates of the left bank. But the Committee
continued signing, neglecting this traditional precaution--the shutting
of the gates--and lost itself in the elections. It saw not--very few saw
as yet--that this was a death-struggle with the Assembly of Versailles.

The Committee, distributing the work to be done, appointed the delegates
who were to take possession of the Ministries and direct the various
services. Some of these delegates were chosen outside the Committee,
from amongst those who were reputed men of action, or the
revolutionists. Some one having spoken of an increase of pay, his
colleagues indignantly answered, "We are not here to imitate the
Government of the Defence. We have lived till now on our pay; it will
still suffice." Arrangements were made for the permanent presence of
some members at the Hôtel-de-Ville, and then they adjourned at one

Outside the joyous clamor of the people enlivened the streets. A spring
sun smiled on the Parisians. This was their first day of consolation and
of hope for eight months. Before the barricades of the Hôtel-de-Ville,
at the Buttes Montmartre, in all the boulevards, lookers-on were
thronging. Who then spoke of civil war? Only the _Journal Officiel_. It
recounted the events in its own way. "The Government had exhausted every
means of conciliation," and in a despairing appeal to the National Guard
it said, "A committee taking the name of Central Committee has
assassinated in cold blood the Generals Clément-Thomas and Lecomte. Who
are the members of this Committee? Communists, Bonapartists, or
Prussians? Will you take upon yourselves the responsibility of these
assassinations?" These lamentations of runaways moved only a few
companies of the centre. Yet--a grave symptom this--the young bourgeois
of the Polytechnic School came to the mairie of the second
arrondissement, where the mayors had flocked, and the students of the
universities, till now the advanced guard of all our revolutions,
pronounced against the Committee.

For this revolution was made by proletarians. Who were they? What did
they want? At two o'clock every one hurried to see the placards of the
Committee just issued from the Imprimerie Nationale. "Citizens, the
people of Paris, calm and impassible in their strength, have awaited
without fear, as without provocation, the shameless fools who want to
touch our Republic. Let Paris and France together lay the foundation of
a true Republic, the only Government which will for ever close the era
of revolutions. The people of Paris is convoked to make its elections."
And turning to the National Guard: "You have charged us to organise the
defence of Paris and of your rights. Our mandate has now expired.
Prepare, and at once make your communal elections. Meanwhile we shall,
in the name of the people, hold the Hôtel-de-Ville." Twenty names[89]
followed, which, save three or four, Assi, Lullier, and Varlin, were
only known through the placards of the last few days. Since the morning
of the 10th August, 1792, Paris has not seen in her Hôtel-de-Ville such
an advent of obscure men.

And yet their placards were respected, their battalions circulated
freely. They took possession of the posts; at one o'clock the Ministries
of Finance and of the Interior; at two o'clock the Naval and War
Offices, the telegraph, the _Journal Officiel_, and Duval was installed
at the Prefecture de Police. And they had hit the mark. What indeed
could be said against this new-born power whose first word was its own

Everything around them bore a warlike aspect. Let us cross the half-open
barricades of the Rue de Rivoli. Twenty thousand men camped in the
square of the Hôtel-de-Ville; bread stuck on the end of their muskets.
Fifty ordnance pieces, cannon, and mitrailleuses drawn up along the
façade served as the _chevaux de frise_ of the town hall. The court and
staircases encumbered with guards taking their meals, the large Salle du
Trône swarming with officers, guards, and civilians. In the hall on the
left, which was used by the staff, the noise subsided. The room by the
river-side, at the corner of the edifice, was the antechamber of the
Committee. About fifty men were writing there, bending over a long
table. There discipline and silence reigned. We were far from the
anarchists of the 31st October. From time to time the door, guarded by
two sentinels, opened to a member of the Committee who carried orders or
made inquiries.

The sitting had recommenced. A member asked the Committee to protest
against the executions of Clément-Thomas and Lecomte, to which it was
entirely foreign. "Take care not to disavow the people," answered
another, "for fear they in turn should disavow you." A third said, "The
_Journal Officiel_ declares the execution took place under our eyes. We
must stop these calumnies. The people and the bourgeoisie have joined
hands in this revolution. This union must be maintained. You want
everybody to take part in the elections." "Well, then," he was
apostrophised, "abandon the people in order to gain the bourgeoisie; the
people will withdraw, and you will see if it is with the bourgeois that
revolutions are made."[90]

The Committee decided that a note should be inserted in the _Journal
Officiel_ to re-establish the truth. Ed. Moreau proposed and read the
draft of a manifesto, which was adopted.

The Committee were discussing the date and mode of the elections when it
was informed that a large meeting of the chiefs of battalions, the
mayors and deputies of the Seine was being held at the mairie of the
third arrondissement. M. Thiers, during the morning, had given over to
the union of the mayors the provisional administration of Paris, and
they were trying their authority on the National Guard. The Committee
was assured that they intended to convoke the electors.

"If it is so," said several members, "we must come to an agreement with
them to make the situation regular." Others, remembering the siege,
simply wanted to have them arrested. One member said, "If we wish to
have France with us, we must not frighten her. Think what an effect the
arrest of the deputies and mayors would produce, and what, on the other
hand, the effect of their adhesion would be." Another, "It is important
to collect an imposing number of voters. All Paris will go to the
ballot-boxes if the representatives and mayors join us." "Say rather,"
cried an impetuous colleague, "that you are not equal to your position;
that your only preoccupation is to disengage yourselves." They finally
decided to send Arnold to the mairie as delegate.

He was badly enough received. The most radical adjuncts and deputies,
Socialists like Millière and Malon, flatly declared against the
Hôtel-de-Ville, appalled at the dangerous initiative of the people. Many
too said, "Who are these unknown men?" Even at the Corderie,
Internationalists and former members of the Committee of the twenty
arrondissements maintained a diffident attitude. However, the meeting
decided to send commissioners to the Hôtel-de-Ville, for, whether they
liked it or not, there was the power.

The Central Committee had, in the meantime, fixed the elections for the
Wednesday, decreed the raising of the state of siege, the abolition of
the court-martials, and amnesty for all political crimes and offences.
It held a third sitting at eight o'clock to receive the commissioners.
These were the deputies Clémenceau, Millière, Tolain, Cournet, Malon,
and Lockroy, the mayors Bonvalet and Mottu, the adjuncts Murat, Jaclard,
and Léo Meillet.

Clémenceau, half accomplice, half dupe of M. Thiers' _coup d'état_, in
his quality of mayor and deputy, was the spokesman. He was prolix and
pedantic. "The insurrection has been undertaken upon an illegitimate
motive; the cannon belong to the State. The Central Committee is without
a mandate and in no wise holds Paris. Numerous battalions were gathering
round the deputies and mayors. Soon the Committee will become ridiculous
and its decrees will be despised. Besides, Paris has no right to revolt
against France, and must absolutely acknowledge the authority of the
Assembly. The Committee has but one other way of getting out of the
difficulty--to submit to the union of the deputies and mayors, who are
resolved to obtain from the Assembly the satisfaction claimed by Paris."

He was frequently interrupted during this speech. What! They dared speak
of an insurrection! Who had began the civil war, attacked first? What
had the National Guards done but answer a nocturnal aggression, taken
back cannon paid for by themselves? What had the Central Committee done
but follow the people and occupy the deserted Hôtel-de-Ville?

A member of the Committee said, "The Central Committee has received a
regular, imperative mandate. This mandate forbids them to allow the
Government or the Assembly to touch their liberties or the Republic. Now
the Assembly has never ceased putting the existence of the Republic in
question. It has placed a dishonoured general at our head, decapitalised
Paris, tried to ruin her commerce. It has sneered at our sufferings,
denied the devotion, the courage, the abnegation Paris has shown during
the siege, hooted her best-loved representatives, Garibaldi and Victor
Hugo. The plot against the Republic is evident. The attempt was
commenced by gagging the press; they hoped to terminate it by the
disarmament of our battalions. Yes, our case was one of legitimate
defence. If we have bowed our heads under this new affront, there was
an end of the Republic. You have just spoken of the Assembly of France.
The mandate of the Assembly has expired. As to France, we had not the
pretension of dictating her laws--we have too often suffered under
hers--but we will not submit to her rural plebiscites. You see it; the
question is no longer to know which of our mandates is the most regular.
We say to you the revolution is made; but we are not usurpers. We wish
to call upon Paris to name her representatives. Will you aid us, and
proceed with us to consult the elections? We eagerly accept your

As he spoke of autonomous communes and their federation, "Have a care,"
said Millière; "if you unfurl this flag they will launch all France upon
Paris, and I foresee days fatal as those of June. The hour of the social
revolution has not yet struck. Progress is obtained by slower marches.
Descend from the heights where you have placed yourselves. Victorious
to-day, your insurrection may be vanquished to-morrow. Make as much of
it as you can, but do not hesitate to content yourselves with little. I
adjure you to leave the field open to the union of the mayors and
deputies; your confidence will be well placed."

One of the Committee: "Since the social revolution has been spoken of, I
declare our mandate does not go so far." (Others of the Committee, "Yes!
Yes!" "No! No!") "You have spoken of a federation, of Paris as a free
town. Our duty is more simple. It is to proceed to the elections. The
people will afterwards decide on their action. As to yielding to the
deputies and mayors, this is impossible. They are unpopular and have no
authority in the Assembly. The elections will take place with or without
their concurrence. Will they help us? We will receive them with open
arms. If not, we shall do without them, and, if they attempt to obstruct
our way, we shall know how to reduce them to impotency."

The delegates resisted. The discussion grew hot. "But, in fine," said
Clémenceau, "what are your pretensions? Do you confine your mandate to
asking the Assembly for a municipal council?"

Many of the Committee: "No! No!" "We want," said Varlin, "not only the
election of the municipal council, but real municipal liberties, the
suppression of the prefecture of police, the right of the National Guard
to name its chiefs and to reorganise itself, the proclamation of the
Republic as the legal Government, the pure and simple remittance of the
rents due, an equitable law on overdue bills, and the Parisian territory
interdicted the army."

Malon: "I share your aspirations, but the situation is perilous. It is
clear that the Assembly will listen to nothing as long as the Committee
occupies the Hôtel-de-Ville. If, on the contrary, Paris intrusts herself
again to her legal representatives, I believe they could do more than

The discussion was protracted until half-past ten; the Committee
defending its right to proceed to the elections, the delegates their
pretension of superseding the Committee. They at last agreed that the
Committee should send four of its members to the second arrondissement.
Varlin, Moreau, Arnold, and Jourde were appointed.

There they found the whole staff of Liberalism: deputies, mayors, and
adjuncts; Louis Blanc, Schoelcher, Carnot, Peyrat, Tirard, Floquet,
Desmarets, Vautrain, and Dubail, about sixty altogether. The cause of
the people there had a few partisans, sincere, but terribly dismayed by
the uncertain future. The mayor of the second arrondissement, Tirard,
presided, a Liberal, nervous, haughty, one of those who had helped to
paralyse Paris in the hands of Trochu. In his evidence before the Rural
Committee of Inquiry, he has mutilated, travestied this sitting, where
the Radico-Liberal bourgeoisie laid bare all its baseness. We shall now,
for the instruction of and in justice to the people, give the plain

The delegates: "The Central Committee does not wish anything better than
to come to an agreement with the municipalities, if they will proceed
with the elections."

Schoelcher, Tirard, Peyrat, Louis Blanc, all the Radicals and Liberals
in chorus: "The municipalities will not treat with the Central
Committee. There is only one authority--the union of the mayors
invested with the delegation by the Government."

The delegates: "Let us not discuss the point. The Central Committee
exists. We have been named by the National Guard and we hold the
Hôtel-de-Ville. Will you proceed to make the elections?"

"But what is your programme?"

Varlin set it forth. He was attacked from all sides. The four delegates
had to face twenty assailants. The great argument of the Liberals was
that Paris could not convoke herself, but ought to wait for the
permission of the Assembly. A reminiscence this of the times of the
siege, when they fell prone before the Government of the Defence.

The delegates affirmed, on the contrary: "The people has the right to
convoke itself. It is an undeniable right, which it has more than once
made use of in our history in moments of great peril, and at present we
are passing through such a crisis, since the Assembly of Versailles is
making for monarchy."

Then recriminations followed: "You are now face to face with force,"
said the delegates. "Beware of letting loose a civil war by your
resistance." "It is you who want a civil war," replied the Liberals. At
midnight Moreau and Arnold, quite disheartened, withdrew. Their
colleagues were about to follow, when some adjuncts entreated them to
stay. "We promise," said the mayors and deputies, "to make every effort
to obtain the municipal elections with the shortest delay." "Very well,"
answered the delegates, "but we maintain our position; we want
guarantees." The deputies and mayors, growing obstinate, pretended that
Paris must surrender unconditionally. Jourde was about to retire, when
some of the adjuncts again detained him. For a moment they seemed to be
coming to an understanding. The Committee was to give up all the
administrative services to the mayors, and let them occupy one part of
the Hôtel-de-Ville; itself, however, was to continue sitting there, to
retain the exclusive direction of the National Guard, and to watch over
the security of the town. This agreement only required to be confirmed
by the issue of a common proclamation, but when the heading of the
latter came to be discussed, the contest grew more violent than before.
The delegates proposed, "The deputies, mayors, and adjuncts, in accord
with the Central Committee." These gentlemen, on the contrary, desired
to hide themselves behind a mask. For an hour Louis Blanc, Tirard, and
Schoelcher overwhelmed the delegates with indignities. Louis Blanc
cried to them, "You are insurgents against a most freely elected
Assembly.[91] We, the regular mandatories, we cannot avow a transaction
with insurgents. We should be willing to prevent a civil war, but not to
appear as your auxiliaries in the eyes of France." Jourde answered the
mannikin that this transaction, in order to be accepted by the people of
Paris, must be publicly consented to, and, despairing of making anything
out of this meeting, withdrew.

And amongst this _élite_ of the Liberal Bourgeoisie, former exiles,
publicists, historians of our revolutions, not one indignant voice
protested, "Let us cease these cruel disputes, this barking at a
revolution. Woe to us if we do not recognise the force manifesting
itself through unknown men! The Jacobins of 1794 denied it, and they
perished; the Montagnards of 1848 abandoned it, and they perished; the
Left under the Empire, the Government of the National Defence, disdained
it, and our integrity as a nation has perished. Let us open our eyes,
our hearts; let us break out of the beaten track. No; we will not widen
the gulf that the days of June, 1848, and the Empire have placed between
us and the workmen. No; with the disasters of France in view, we shall
not allow her living forces still in reserve to be touched. The more
abnormal, monstrous our situation is, the more we are bound to find the
solution, even under the eye of the Prussian. You, the Central
Committee, who are the spokesmen of Paris, we, who are listened to by
Republican France, we will mark out a field for common action. You
supply the force, the large aspirations, we the knowledge of realities
and their inexorable behests. We shall present to the Assembly this
charter free from all Utopian views, equally regardful of the rights of
the nation and of those of the capital. If the Assembly rejects it, we
shall be the first to make the elections, to ask for your suffrage. And
when France sees Paris raising her force counterpoised by prudence at
her Hôtel-de-Ville, vigorous new-comers allied with men of old repute,
the only possible bulwark against royalists and clericals, she will rise
as in the days of the Federation, and at her voice Versailles will have
to yield."

But what was to be expected of men who had not even been able to pluck
up sufficient courage to wrench Paris from Trochu? Varlin single-handed
had to stand their combined attack. Exhausted, worn out--this contest
had lasted five hours--he at last gave way, but under protest. On
returning to the Hôtel-de-Ville, he recovered all his wonted energy, his
calm intelligence, and told the Committee he now saw the snare, and
advised it to reject the pretensions of the mayors and deputies.


[89] Assi, Billioray, Ferrat, Babick, Ed. Moreau, C. Dupont, Varlin,
Boursier, Mortier, Gouhier, Lavalette, F. Jourde, Rousseau, C. Lullier,
Blanchet, J. Grollard, Barrond, H. Geresme, Fabre, Fougeret, the members
present at the morning sitting. The Committee decided later on that its
publications should bear the names of all its members.

[90] The minutes of the first Central Committee have disappeared, but
one of its most assiduous members has restored the principal sittings
from memory. It is from his notes, checked by several of his colleagues,
that we have taken these details. It is superfluous to say that the
minutes published by the _Paris Journal_, which have been used by
reactionist historians, are incomplete, inexact, drawn up from hearsay,
unintelligent indiscretions, and often from pure imagination. Thus, for
instance, they make all the sittings presided over by Assi, attributing
to him the principal part, because under the Empire he was very
incorrectly supposed to have directed the strike of Creuzot. Assi never
had any influence in the Committee.

[91] Textual. It is from the little man of Paris that the little man of
Versailles borrowed the phrase while he completed it.


    "Je croyais que les insurgés de Paris ne pourraient pas
      conduire leur barque."--_Jules Favre, Enquête sur le
      18 Mars._


Thus no agreement had been come to, only one of the four delegates
having, from sheer weariness, given way to a certain extent. So on the
morning of the 20th, when the mayor Bonvalet and two adjuncts sent by
the mayors came to take possession of the Hôtel-de-Ville, the members of
the Committee unanimously exclaimed, "We have not treated." But
Bonvalet, feigning to believe in a regular agreement, continued, "The
deputies are to-day going to ask for the municipal franchises. Their
negotiations cannot succeed if the administration of Paris is not given
up to the mayors. On pain of frustrating the efforts which will save
you, you must fulfil the engagements of your delegates."

One of the Committee: "Our delegates received no mandate to enter into
such engagements for us. We do not ask to be saved."

Another: "The weakness of the deputies and of the mayors is one of the
causes of the revolution. If the Committee abandons its position and
disarms, the Assembly will grant nothing."

Another: "I have just come from the Corderie. The Committee of the
second arrondissement is holding a sitting, and it adjures the Central
Committee to remain at its post till the elections."

Others were about to speak, when Bonvalet declared that he had come to
take possession of the Hôtel-de-Ville, not to discuss, and walked off.
His superciliousness confirmed the worst suspicions. Those who the
evening before had been favourable to making terms said, "These men want
to betray us." Behind the mayors the Committee beheld the implacable
reaction. In any case, to ask them for the Hôtel-de-Ville was to ask
their lives, for the National Guards would have believed them traitors,
and punished them on the spot. In one word, compromise had become
impossible. The _Journal Officiel_, for the first time in the hands of
the people, and the placards had spoken.

"The election of the municipal council will take place on Wednesday
next, 22nd March," decreed the Central Committee. And in a manifesto it
said, "The offspring of a Republic whose device bears the great word
Fraternity, the Central Committee pardons its traducers, but it would
convince the honest people who have believed their calumnies through
ignorance. It has not been secret, for its members have signed their
names to all its proclamations. It has not been unknown, for it was a
free expression of the suffrage of 215 battalions. It has not been the
fomenter of disorder, for the National Guard has committed no excess.
And yet provocations have not been wanting. The Government calumniated
Paris and set on the provinces against her, wished to impose on us a
general, attempted to disarm us, and said to Paris, 'Thou hast shown
thyself heroic, we are afraid of thee, hence we will tear from thee the
crown of the capital of France.' What has the Central Committee done in
answer to these attacks? It has founded the Federation, preached
moderation, generosity. One of the greatest causes of anger against us
is the obscurity of our names. Alas! many names were known, well known,
and this notoriety has been fatal to us. Notoriety is cheaply gained;
often hollow phrases or a little cowardice suffice; recent events have
proved this. Now that our object is attained, we say to the people, who
esteemed us enough to listen to the advice that has often clashed with
their impatience, 'Here is the mandate you intrusted to us.' There,
where our personal interest commences, our duty ends. Do your will. You
have freed yourselves. Obscure a few days ago, obscure we shall return
to your ranks, and show our governors that it is possible to descend the
steps of your Hôtel-de-Ville, head erect, with the certainty of
receiving at the bottom the pressure of your loyal and hardy hands."[92]
By the side of the proclamation of an eloquence so vivid and so novel
the deputies and the mayors placarded a few dry and colourless lines,
where they promised to demand of the Assembly that same day the election
of all the chiefs of the National Guard and the establishment of a
municipal council.

At Versailles they found a wildly excited crowd. The terrified
functionaries who arrived from Paris spread terror about them, and five
or six insurrections were announced from the provinces. The coalition
was dismayed. Paris victorious, the Government in flight--this was not
what had been promised. These conspirators, blown up by the mine which
they had themselves sprung, raised the cry of conspiracy, spoke of
taking refuge at Bourges. Picard had certainly telegraphed to all the
provinces, "The army, to the number of 40,000 men, is concentrated at
Versailles;" but the only army to be seen was straggling bands of
soldiers wandering about the streets. All Vinoy had been able to do was
to place a few posts along the routes of Châtillon and Sèvres, and
protect the approaches to the Assembly by some mitrailleuses.

The President, Grévy, who during the whole war had cowered in the
provinces, sullenly hostile to the defence, opened the sitting by
stigmatising this criminal insurrection "which no pretext could
extenuate." Then the deputies of the Seine commenced a procession
towards the tribune. Instead of a collective manifesto, they laid before
the Assembly a series of fragmentary propositions, without connection,
without general views, and without a preamble to explain them. First a
bill convoking with the briefest delay the elections of Paris, then
another granting to the National Guard the election of its chiefs.
Millière alone thought of the overdue commercial bills, and proposed to
prolong them for six months.

Till then exclamations only and half-muttered insults had been levelled
at Paris, but no formal act of accusation. In the evening sitting a
deputy applied this requisite. Trochu made a sortie. In this monstrous
scene, which a Shakspere only could depict, the gloomy man who had
softly slipped the great town into the hands of William, threw his own
treason upon the revolutionists, accusing them of having almost a dozen
times brought the Prussians into Paris. And the Assembly, grateful for
his services, his hatred, giving him the crown he merited, covered him
with applause. Another came to fan this rage. The evening before the
National Guards had arrested in a train arriving from Orléans two
generals in uniform. One of them was Chanzy, unknown to the crowd, who
took him for D'Aurelles. They could not have been released without
endangering their lives, but a deputy, Turquet, who accompanied them,
was immediately set free. He rushed off to the Chamber, told them a
fairy tale, and affected to be much moved in speaking of his companions.
"I hope," said the hypocrite, "that they will not be assassinated." This
story was accompanied by the furious yelling of the Assembly.[93]

From the first sitting one could see what the struggle between
Versailles and Paris was to be. The monarchical conspirators, abandoning
their dream for a moment, hastened to do the most urgent work first: to
save themselves from the Revolution. They surrounded M. Thiers and
promised him their absolute support to crush Paris. Thus this Ministry,
that a truly National Assembly would have impeached, became, even
through its crime, all-powerful. Scarcely recovered from the fright of
their stampede, M. Thiers and his Ministers dared to play the
swaggerers. And indeed, would not the provinces hasten to their rescue,
as in June, 1848? And proletarians without political education, without
administration, without money, how could they be able "to steer their

In 1831 the proletarians, masters of Lyons, had failed in their attempt
at self-government, and how much greater was the difficulty for those of
Paris! All new powers had until then found the administrative machine in
working order, in readiness for the victor. On the 20th March the
Central Committee found it taken to pieces. At the signal from
Versailles the majority of functionaries had abandoned their posts.
Octrois, street inspection, lighting, markets, public charity,
telegraphs, all the respiratory and digestive apparatus of the town of
1,600,000 souls, everything had to be extemporised. Certain mayors had
carried off the seals, the registers, and the cash of their mairies. The
military intendance left without a farthing six thousand sick in the
hospitals and ambulances.[94] M. Thiers had tried to disorganise even
the management of the cemeteries.

Poor man! who never knew anything of our Paris, of her inexhaustible
strength, her marvellous elasticity. The Central Committee received
support from all sides. The committees of arrondissements furnished a
_personnel_ to the mairies; some of the small middle-class lent their
experience, and the most important services were set to rights in no
time by men of common sense and energy, which soon proved superior to
routine. The employés who had remained at their posts in order to hand
over the funds to Versailles were soon discovered and obliged to flee.

The Central Committee overcame a more menacing difficulty. Three hundred
thousand persons without work, without resources of any kind, were
waiting for the thirty sous upon which they had lived for the last seven
months. On the 19th, Varlin and Jourde, delegates to the finance
department, took possession of that Ministry. The coffers, according to
the statement of accounts handed over to them, contained 4,600,000
francs; but the keys were at Versailles, and, in view of the movement
for conciliation then being carried on, the delegates did not dare to
force the locks. The next day they went to ask Rothschild to open them a
credit at the bank, and he sent word that the funds would be advanced.
The same day the Central Committee broached the question more forcibly,
and sent three delegates to the bank to request the necessary advances.
They were answered that a million was placed at the disposition of
Varlin and Jourde, who at six o'clock in the evening were received by
the governor, M. Rouland. "I expected your visit," he said. "On the
morning following a change of Government, the bank has always to find
the money for the new-comers. It is not my business to judge events; the
Bank of France has nothing to do with politics. You are a _de facto_
Government, and the bank gives you for to-day a million. Only be so kind
as to mention in your receipt that this sum has been requisitioned on
account of the town of Paris."[95] The delegates took away a million
francs in bank-notes. All the employés of the Ministry of Finance had
disappeared since the morning, but with the help of a few friends the
sum was rapidly divided among the paying officers. At ten o'clock the
delegates were able to tell the Central Committee that the pay was being
distributed in all the arrondissements.

The bank acted prudently: the Central Committee firmly held Paris. The
mayors and deputies had not been able to unite more than three or four
hundred men, although they had charged Admiral Saisset with the
organisation of the resistance. The Committee was so sure of its
strength that it had the barricades demolished. Everybody came to it,
the garrison of Vincennes spontaneously surrendering themselves with the
fort. Its victory was too complete, for it was perilous, obliging it to
disperse its troops in order to take possession of the abandoned forts
on the south. Lullier, intrusted with this mission, had the forts of
Ivry, Bicêtre, Montrouge, Vanves, and Issy occupied on the 19th and
20th. The last to which he sent the National Guard, Mont-Valérien, was
the key of Paris, and, at that time, of Versailles.

For thirty-six hours the impregnable fortress had remained empty. On the
evening of the 18th, after the order of evacuation, it had to defend it
only twenty muskets and some chasseurs of Vincennes, interned there for
mutiny. The same evening they burst open the locks of the fortress and
returned to Paris.

When the evacuation of Mont-Valérien became known at Versailles,
generals and deputies begged M. Thiers to have it reoccupied. He
obstinately refused, declaring this fort had no strategical value.
During the whole day of the 19th they still failed. At last Vinoy, in
his turn, urged by them, succeeded on the 20th, at one o'clock in the
morning, in wresting an order from M. Thiers. A column was immediately
despatched, and at mid-day a thousand soldiers occupied the fortress.
Not until evening, at eight o'clock, did the battalions of Ternes
present themselves; the governor easily got rid of their officers.
Lullier, on making his report to the Central Committee, said he had
occupied all the forts, and even named the battalion which, according to
him, was then in possession of Mont-Valérien.


[92] I need not justify the long quotations I shall make. The French
proletarian has never been allowed to speak in books of history; at
least he should do so in the recital of his own revolution.

[93] The two generals have testified to the extreme consideration shown
them in their prison. See the _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_. Two days later,
on Chanzy's simple promise not to serve against Paris, the Central
Committee set them free.

[94] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Dr. Danet, vol. ii. p. 531.

[95] Of course the Radicals have seen in this a Bonapartist manoeuvre,
have written and said from the tribune of the Assembly, "The Bonapartist
director of the Bank of France saved the Revolution; without the million
of the Monday the Central Committee would have capitulated." Two facts
answer this: From the 19th the Committee had in the Ministry of Finance
4,600,000 francs; the municipal coffers contained 1,200,000 francs, and
on the 21st the Octroi had brought in 500,000 more.


    "L'ideé de voir un massacre me remplissait de douleur."--
      _Jules Favre, Enquête sur le 4 Septembre._


On the 21st the situation stood out in bold relief.

At Paris--the Central Committee, with it all the workmen and all the
generous and enlightened men of the small middle-class. The Committee
said, "We have but one object--the elections. Everybody is welcome to
co-operate with us, but we shall not leave the Hôtel-de-Ville before
they have been made."

At Versailles--the Assembly;--all the monarchists, all the great
bourgeoisie, all the slaveholders. They yelled, "Paris is only a rebel,
the Central Committee a band of brigands."

Between Versailles and Paris--a few Radical deputies, all the mayors,
many adjuncts. They comprised the Liberal bourgeois, that sacred herd
that makes all revolutions and allows all the empires to be made.
Despised by the Assembly, disdained by the people, they cried to the
Central Committee, "Usurpers!" and to the Assembly, "You will spoil

The day of the 21st is memorable, for on it all these voices made
themselves heard.

The Central Committee: "Paris has in nowise the intention of separating
from France; far from it. For France she has borne with the Empire and
the Government of the National Defence, with all their treachery and
defections, certainly not to abandon her now, but only to say to her as
an elder sister: Sustain thyself as I have sustained myself; oppose
thyself to oppression as I have done."

And the _Journal Officiel_, in the first of those articles where Moreau,
Longuet, and Rogeard commented upon the new revolution, said: "The
proletarians of the capital, amidst the failures and treasons of the
ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to
save the situation by taking into their own hands the direction of
public affairs. Hardly possessed of the government, they have hastened
to convoke the people of Paris to the ballot-boxes. There is no example
in history of a provisional government so anxious to divest itself of
its mandate. In the presence of conduct so disinterested, one may well
ask how a press can be found unjust enough to pour out upon these
citizens slander, contumely, and insult? The workingmen, those who
produce everything and enjoy nothing, are they then for ever to be
exposed to outrage? The bourgeoisie, which has accomplished its
emancipation, does it not understand that now the time for the
emancipation of the proletariat is come? Why, then, does it persist in
refusing the proletariat its legitimate share?"

It was the first Socialist note struck in the movement. Parisian
revolutions never remain purely political. The approach of the
foreigner, the abnegation of the workmen, had, on the 4th September,
silenced all social demands. Peace once concluded, the workmen in power,
their voice would naturally make itself heard. How just was this
complaint of the Central Committee! What an act of accusation the French
proletariat could draw up against its masters! And on the 18th March,
1871, could not the people, making greater their great words of 1848,
say, "We had placed eighty years of patience at the service of our

The same day the Central Committee suspended the sale of objects pledged
in the pawnshops, prolonged the overdue bills for a month, and forbade
landlords to dismiss their tenants till further notice. In three lines
it did justice, beat Versailles, and gained Paris.

On the other hand, the representatives and mayors told the people, "No
election; everything is for the best. We wanted the maintenance of the
National Guard; we shall have it. We wanted Paris to recover her
municipal liberty; we shall have it. Your requests have been brought
before the Assembly. The Assembly _has satisfied them_ by a unanimous
vote, which guarantees the municipal elections. Awaiting these, the only
legal elections, we declare that we shall abstain from the elections
announced for to-morrow, and we protest against their illegality."

Thrice-lying address! The Assembly had not said a word of the National
Guard; it had promised no municipal liberty, and several of the
signatures were supposititious.

The bourgeois press followed suit. Since the 19th the Figarist papers,
supported by the police, the altar, and the alcove, the Liberal
gazettes, by which Trochu had prepared the capitulation of Paris, had
not ceased to fall foul of the federal battalions. They spoke of the
public coffers and private property being pillaged, of Prussian gold
streaming into the faubourgs, of documentary evidence hurtful to the
members of the Central Committee destroyed by them. The Republican
journals also discovered gold in the movement, but Bonapartist gold; and
the best of them, naïvely convinced that the Republic belonged to their
patrons, inveigled against the accession of the proletariat, saying,
"These people dishonour us." Emboldened by the mayors and deputies, they
all agreed to revolt; and on the 21st, in a collective declaration,
asked the electors to consider as null and void the illegal convocation
of the Hôtel-de-Ville.

Illegality! Thus the question was put by the Legitimists, twice imposed
on us by foreign bayonets; by the Orléanists, raised to power through
barricades; by the brigands of December; even by the exiles returned
home, thanks to an insurrection. What! When the bourgeois, who make all
laws, always act illegally, how are the workmen to proceed, against whom
all the laws are made?

These attacks of the mayors and deputies and of the press screwed up the
courage of the Hectors of the reaction. For two days this rabble of
runaways, who during the siege had infested the cafés of Brussels and
the Haymarket of London, gesticulated on the fashionable boulevards,
asking for order and _work_. On the 21st, at about ten o'clock, at the
Place de la Bourse, about a hundred of these strange workingmen marched
round the Stock Exchange, banners flying, and advancing along the
boulevards to the cries of "Vive l'Assemblée!" came to the Place
Vendôme, shouting before the general staff, "Down with the Committee!"
The commander of the Place, Bergeret, told them to send delegates. "No,
no!" cried they; "no delegates! You would assassinate them!" The
federals, losing patience, had the Place cleared. The riotous fops gave
themselves a rendezvous for the next day before the new Opera-House.

At the same hour the Assembly made its demonstration. The draft of an
address to the people and the army, a tissue of lies and insults to
Paris, having just been read, and Millière having pointed out that it
contained some unfortunate expressions, was hooted. The demand of the
Left to at least conclude the address with the words "Vive la
République!" was frantically refused by an immense majority. Louis Blanc
and his group, entreating the Assembly to immediately examine their
project of municipal law and oppose a vote to the elections that the
Committee announced for the next day, M. Thiers answered, "Give us time
to study the question." "Time!" exclaimed M. Clémenceau, "we have none
to lose." Then M. Thiers gave those drones a lesson they richly
deserved: "What would be the use of concessions?" said he. "What
authority have you at Paris? Who would listen to you at the
Hôtel-de-Ville? Do you think that the adoption of a bill would disarm
the party of brigands, the party of assassins?" Then he charged Jules
Favre to expatiate on this theme for the special benefit of the
provinces. For an hour and a half that bitter follower of Guadet,
spinning round Paris his elaborate periods, limed her with his venom. No
doubt he again saw himself on the 31st October, when the people held him
in their power and pardoned him, a cruel remembrance for his rankling
spirit. He commenced by reading the declaration of the press,
"courageously written," said he, "under the knife of the assassins." He
spoke of Paris as in the power of "a handful of scoundrels, putting
above the right of the Assembly I know not what bloody and rapacious
ideal." Then, humbly supplicating monarchists and Catholics: "What they
want," cried he, "what they have realised, is an attempt at that baleful
doctrine which in philosophy may be called individualism and
materialism, and which in politics means the Republic placed above
universal suffrage." At this idiotic quibbling the Assembly burst into
roars of applause. "These new doctors," continued he, "have the
pretension of separating Paris from France. But let the insurgents know
this: if we left Paris, it was with the intention of returning in order
to combat them resolutely." (Bravo! bravo!) Then stirring the panic of
those rurals who every moment expected to see the federal battalions
coming down upon them: "If some of you fall into the hands of these men,
who have only usurped power for the sake of violence, assassination and
theft, the fate of the unfortunate victims of their ferocity would be
yours." And finally, garbling, improving with ferocious skill the
maladroitness of an article in the _Journal Officiel_ on the execution
of the generals: "No more temporising. For three days I combated the
exigencies of the victor who wanted to disarm the National Guard. I ask
pardon for it of God and of man." Each new insult, each banderillo
thrust into the flesh of Paris, drew from the Assembly mad hurrahs.
Admiral Saisset stamped, emphasizing certain phrases of the speaker with
his hoarse interjections. Goaded by these wild cheers, Jules Favre
doubled his invective. Since the Gironde, since Isnard's curse, Paris
had not undergone such an imprecation. Even Langlois, unable to stand it
any longer, exclaimed, "Oh, it is outrageous, atrocious to speak thus!"
And when Jules Favre concluded, implacable, impassible, only foaming a
little at the mouth: "France will not be lowered to the bloody level of
the wretches who oppress the capital," the whole Assembly rose raving.
"Let us appeal to the provinces," shrieked the rurals. And Saisset:
"Yes, let us appeal to the provinces and march on Paris." In vain one
of the deputies of the Seine adjured the Assembly not to let them return
to Paris empty-handed. This great bourgeoisie, which had just
surrendered the honour, the fortune, and the territory of France to the
Prussian, trembled with rage at the mere thought of conceding anything
to Paris.

After this horrible scene, the Radical deputies found nothing better to
do than to issue a lachrymose address inviting Paris to be patient. The
Central Committee was obliged to adjourn the elections till the 23rd,
for several mairies belonged to the enemy; but on the 22nd it warned the
papers that provocation to revolt would be severely repressed.

The matadors of reaction, reanimated by Jules Favre's speech, took this
warning for an idle boast. On the 22nd at mid-day they assembled at the
Place du Nouvel Opera. At one o'clock they numbered a thousand dandies,
squireens, journalists, notorious familiars of the Empire, who marched
down the Rue de la Paix to the cry of "Vive l'ordre!" Their plan was,
under the cloak of a pacific demonstration, to force the Place Vendôme
and to expel the Federals from it; then, masters of the mairie of the
first arrondissement, of half of the second and of Passy, they would
have cut Paris in two and menaced the Hôtel-de-Ville. Admiral Saisset
followed them.

Before the Rue Neuve St. Augustin these pacific demonstration-men
disarmed and ill-treated two detached sentries of the National Guard.
Seeing this, the Federals of the Place Vendôme seized their muskets and
hurried in marching order to the top of the Rue Neuve des Petits-Champs.
They were but 200, the whole garrison of the place; the two cannon
levelled at the Rue de la Paix had no cartridges. The reactionists soon
encountered the first line with the cry, "Down with the Committee! Down
with the assassins!" waving a banner and their handkerchiefs, while some
of them stretched out their hands to seize the muskets. Bergeret,
Maljournal, members of the Committee, in the first ranks, summoned the
rioters to retire. Furious cries of "Cowards! brigands!" drowned their
voices, and sword-canes were pointed at them. Bergeret made a sign to
the drummers. A dozen times the _sommations_ were made and repeated. For
several minutes only the roll of the drums was heard, and between these
savage cries. The ranks in the rear of the manifestation pushed on those
in front and tried to break through the lines of the Federals. At last,
despairing no doubt of succeeding by mere bravado, the insurgents fired
their revolvers;[96] two guards were killed and seven wounded;[97]
Maljournal was struck in the thigh.

The muskets of the guards went off, so to say, spontaneously. A volley
and a terrible cry, followed by silence more dismal. In a few seconds
the crowded Rue de la Paix was emptied. In the deserted road, strewn
with revolvers, sword-canes, and hats, lay about a dozen corpses. If the
Federals had only aimed at foes' hearts, there would have been 200
killed, for in this compact mass no shot would have missed. The
insurgents had killed one of their own, the Vicomte de Molinat, fallen
in the front ranks, his face towards the place, a ball in the occiput.
On his body was found a poniard fixed by a small chain. A witty ball
struck in the rear the chief editor of the _Paris Journal_, the
Bonapartist De Pène, one of the basest revilers of the movement.

The runaways traversed Paris shouting, "Murder!" The shops of the
boulevards were closed and the Place de la Bourse filled with rabid
groups. At four o'clock some of the reactionist companies appeared,
resolute, in good order, their muskets on their shoulders, and took
possession of the quarters of the Bourse.

At three o'clock the event became known at Versailles. The Assembly had
just rejected Louis Blanc's bill on the municipal council, and Picard
was reading another one refusing all justice to Paris, when the news
arrived. The Assembly precipitately raised the sitting; the Ministers
looked dumbfoundered.

All their swaggering of the evening before had only been meant to
frighten Paris, to encourage the men of order, and provoke a
_coup-de-main_. The incident had occurred, but the Central Committee
triumphed. For the first time M. Thiers began to believe that this
Committee, able to repress a riot, might after all be a Government.

The news in the evening was more reassuring. The fusillade seemed to
have roused the _men of order_. They were flocking to the Place de la
Bourse. A great many officers just returned from Germany came to offer
their help. The reactionary companies were establishing themselves
solidly in the mairie of the ninth arrondissement and reoccupying that
of the sixth, dislodging the Federals of the station of St. Lazare,
guarding all the approaches of the occupied quarters, and forcibly
arresting the passers-by. They formed a town within the town. The mayors
were constituting a permanent committee in the mairie of the second
arrondissement. Their resistance was now provided with an army.


[96] The aggression was so evident, that not one of the twenty
court-martials that searched into every detail of the revolution of the
18th March dared allude to the affair of the Place Vendôme.

[97] Their names were published in the _Journal Officiel_.



The Central Committee was equal to the occasion. Its proclamations, its
Socialist articles in the _Officiel_, the truculence of the mayors and
deputies, had at last rallied round it all the revolutionary groups. It
had also added to its members some men better known to the masses.[98]
By its order the Place Vendôme was provided with barricades; the
battalions of the Hôtel-de-Ville were reinforced; strong patrols
remounted the boulevards before the reactionary posts of the Rues
Vivienne and Drouot. Thanks to it, the night passed tranquilly.

As the elections on the next day had become impossible, the Committee
declared they could only take place on the 26th, and said to Paris: "The
reaction, excited by your mayors and your deputies, has declared war on
us. We must accept the struggle and break this resistance." It announced
that it would summon before it all the journalists libelling the
people. It sent a battalion of Belleville to reoccupy the mairie of the
sixth, and replaced by its delegates the mayors and adjuncts of the
third, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, and eighteenth arrondissements, in
spite of their protestations. M. Clémenceau wrote that he yielded to
force, but would not himself resort to force. This was all the more
magnanimous that his whole force consisted of himself and his adjunct.
The Federals installed themselves at the Batignolles on the railway
lines, and stopped the trains, thus preventing the occupation of the St.
Lazare station. Lastly, the Committee proceeded energetically against
the Bourse.

The reaction counted upon famine to make the Committee capitulate. The
million of the Monday was gone; a second one had been promised. On the
Thursday morning, Varlin and Jourde, going to fetch an instalment,
received only threats. They wrote to the governor: "To starve out the
people, such is the aim of a party that styles itself honest. Famine
disarms no one; it will only encourage devastation. We take up the glove
that has been flung down to us." And, without deigning to take any
notice of the swashers of the Bourse, the Committee sent two battalions
to the bank, which had to give in.

At the same time the Committee neglected nothing in order to reassure
Paris. Numerous ticket-of-leave men had been let loose upon the town.
The Committee denounced them to the vigilance of the National Guard, and
posted upon the doors of the Hôtel-de-Ville, "Every individual taken in
the act of stealing will be shot." Picard's police had failed to put an
end to the gamblers who every night since the siege had encumbered the
streets; a single order of the Committee sufficed. The great scarecrow
of the reactionists was the Prussians, and Jules Favre had announced
their early intervention. The Committee published the despatches that
had passed between it and the commander of Compiègne, to this effect:
"The German troops will remain passive so long as Paris does not take a
hostile attitude." The Committee had answered with great dignity: "The
Revolution accomplished at Paris is of an essentially municipal
character. We are not qualified to discuss the preliminaries of peace
voted by the Assembly." Paris was therefore without anxiety on that

The only disturbance proceeded from the mayors. Authorised by M. Thiers,
they appointed as chief of the National Guards Saisset, the madman of
the sitting of the 21st, giving him Langlois and Schoelcher as
coadjutors, and made every effort to attract National Guards to the
Place de la Bourse, where they distributed the pay due to the guards of
the invaded mairies. Many came only to get the pay, not to fight. Even
the chiefs began to be divided amongst themselves. The most rabid
certainly spoke of sweeping away everything before them. Those were
Vautrain, Dubail, Denormandie, Degouve-Denuncques, and Héligon, an
ex-workingman, an idle fellow, admitted into the bourgeois servants'
hall, and bumptious like other lackeys. But many others flagged and
thought of conciliation, especially since some of the deputies and
adjuncts--Millière, Malon, Dereure, and Jaclard--had withdrawn from the
union of the mayors, thus still further setting forth its frankly
reactionary character. Finally, some soft-headed mayors, still believing
that the Assembly needed only enlightenment, extemporised a melodramatic

They arrived at Versailles on the 23rd, at the moment when the rurals,
again plucking up their courage, made an appeal to the provinces to
march on Paris. In most solemn attitude these mayors put in their
appearance before the tribune of the president, girdled with their
official scarfs. The Left applauded, crying "Vive la République!" The
Lamourettes returned the compliment. But the Right and the Centre cried
"Vive la France! Order! Order!" and with clenched hands they
apostrophised the deputies of the Left, who naïvely answered, "You
insult Paris!" to which the others replied, "You insult France!" and
they left the House. In the evening a deputy, who was also a mayor,
Arnaud De l'Ariège, read from the tribune the declaration that they had
brought, and wound up by saying, "We are on the eve of an awful civil
war. There is but one way to prevent it--that the election of the
commander-in-chief of the National Guard be fixed for the 28th, and that
of the municipal council for the 3rd of April." These propositions were
referred to the Committee.

The mayors returned home indignant. A despatch of the evening before had
already disquieted Paris. M. Thiers announced to the provinces that the
Bonapartist Ministers, Rouher, Chevreau, and Boitelle, arrested by the
people of Boulogne, had been protected, and that Marshal Canrobert, one
of the accomplices of Bazaine, had offered his services to the
Government. The insult inflicted upon the mayors irritated the whole
middle-class, and called forth a sudden change in their Republican
journals. The attacks against the Central Committee relaxed. Even the
Moderates began to expect the worst from Versailles.

The Central Committee took advantage of this change of opinion. Having
just been informed of the proclamation of the Commune at Lyons, it spoke
out all the more clearly in its manifesto of the 24th. "Some battalions,
misled by their reactionary chiefs, have thought it their duty to clog
our movements. Some mayors and deputies, forgetting their mandates, have
encouraged this resistance. We rely upon your courage for the
accomplishment of our mission. It is objected that the Assembly promises
us at some indefinite period the election of the municipal council and
that of our chiefs, and that consequently our resistance ought not to be
prolonged. We have been deceived too often to be entrapped again; the
left hand would take back what the right hand gives. See what the
Government has already done. In the Chamber, through the voice of Jules
Favre, it has challenged a terrible civil war, called on the provinces
to destroy Paris, and covered us with the most odious calumnies."

Having spoken, the Committee now acted, and named three
generals--Brunel, Duval, and Eudes. It had to confine the drunkard
Lullier, who, assisted by a staff of traitors, had the evening before
allowed a whole regiment of the army encamped at the Luxembourg to leave
Paris with arms and baggage. Now, too, it was known that Mont-Valérien
was lost by his fault.

The generals made a profession not to be misunderstood: "This is no
longer a time for Parliamentarism. We must act. Paris wishes to be free.
The great city will not permit public order to be disturbed with

A direct caution this addressed to the camp of the Bourse, which,
moreover, was visibly growing less. The desertions from it multiplied at
every sitting of the rurals. Women came to fetch their husbands. The
Bonapartist officers, overshooting the mark, irritated moderate
Republicans. The programme of the mayors--submission to
Versailles--discouraged the middle-class. The general staff of this
helter-skelter army had been foolishly established at the Grand Hôtel.
There sat the crazy trio--Saisset, Langlois, and Schoelcher--who, from
extreme confidence, had fallen into a state of utter dejection. The most
crack-brained of them, Saisset, took upon himself to announce by
placards that the Assembly had granted the complete recognition of the
municipal franchise, the election of all the officers of the National
Guard, including the general-in-chief, modifications of the law on the
overdue commercial bills, and a bill on rents favourable to the tenants.
This gigantic hoax only mystified Versailles.

The Committee, pushing forward,[99] ordered Brunel to seize the mairies
of the first and second arrondissements. Brunel, with 600 men of
Belleville, two pieces of artillery, and accompanied by two delegates of
the Committee, Lisbonne and Protot, presented himself at three o'clock
at the mairie of the Louvre. The bourgeois companies assumed an air of
resistance. Brunel had his cannon advanced, when the passage was at once
opened to him. He declared to the adjuncts, Meline and Ad. Adam, that
the Committee would proceed with the elections as soon as possible. The
adjuncts, intimidated, sent to the mairie of the second arrondissement
to ask for the authorisation to treat. Dubail answered that they might
promise the elections for the 3rd April. Brunel insisted on appointing
the 30th March. The adjuncts acquiesced. The National Guards of the two
camps saluted this agreement with enthusiastic acclamations, and
mingling their ranks, marched to the mairie of the second
arrondissement. In the Rue Montmartre a few companies of the Bourse
army, trying to stop the way, were told, "Peace is made," and they let
them pass. At the mairie of the second arrondissement, Schoelcher, who
presided at the meeting of the mayors, Dubail, and Vautrain resisted,
refusing to ratify the convention, insisting on the date of the 3rd
April. But the great majority of their colleagues accepted that of the
30th, and the election of the commander-in-chief of the National Guard
for the 3rd April. Immense cheers hailed the good news, and the popular
battalions, saluted by the bourgeois battalions, defiled through the Rue
Vivienne and the boulevards, dragging along their cannon, mounted by
lads with green branches in their hands.

The Central Committee could not accept this transaction. Twice it had
postponed the elections. A new adjournment would have given certain
mayors five days for plotting and playing into the hands of Versailles.
Besides, the Federal battalions, on foot since the 18th, were really
tired out. Ranvier and Arnold the same evening went to the mairie of the
second arrondissement to say that the Hôtel-de-Ville adhered to the date
of the 26th for the elections. The mayors and adjuncts, many of whom had
only the one purpose, as they have avowed since,[100] of gaining time,
inveighed against a breach of faith. The delegates protested, for
Brunel had had no mandate but that of occupying the mairies. For several
hours everything was tried to talk over the delegates, but they held
their ground, and went away at two o'clock in the morning without any
conclusion being arrived at. After their departure the more intractable
discussed the chance of resistance. The irrepressible Dubail wrote a
call to arms, sent it to the printing-office, and spent the whole night
with his faithful Héligon in transmitting orders to the chiefs of
battalions and providing the mairie with mitrailleuses.

While they were thus bent upon resistance the rurals thought themselves
betrayed. Every day they became more nervous, being deprived of their
creature-comforts, obliged to camp in the lobbies of the castle of
Versailles, exposed to all winds and to all panics. They felt weary of
the incessant interference of the mayors, and were thunderstruck by the
proclamation of Saisset. They fancied that M. Thiers was coquetting with
the _émeute_, that the _petit bourgeois_, as he hypocritically called
himself, wanted to cozen the monarchists, and, using Paris as his lever,
overthrow them. They spoke of removing him, and appointing as
commander-in-chief one of the D'Orléans, Joinville or D'Aumale. Their
plot might have come to a head at the evening sitting, when the
proposition of the mayors was to be read. M. Thiers was beforehand with
them, implored the Assembly to adjourn the discussion, adding that an
ill-considered word might cost torrents of blood. Grévy shuffled through
the sitting in ten minutes. But the rumour of a plot got abroad.

Saturday was the last day of the crisis. Either the Central Committee or
the mayors had to disappear. The Committee on that very morning
placarded: "The transport of mitrailleuses to the mairie of the second
arrondissement compels us to maintain our resolution. The election will
take place on the 26th March." Paris, which had believed peace
concluded, and for the first time since five days had passed a quiet
night, was very angry at seeing the mayors recommence the wrangle. The
idea of the election had made its way in all ranks, and many papers
declared for it, even among those that had signed the protestation of
the 21st. No one could understand this quarrel about a date. One
irresistible current of fraternisation swayed the whole town. The ranks
of the two or three hundred soldiers of order who had remained faithful
to Dubail dwindled away from hour to hour, leaving Admiral Saisset alone
to make his proclamation in the desert of the Grand Hôtel. The mayors
had no longer an army when, at ten o'clock, Ranvier came to ask for
their final decision. Their dispute grew hot when some deputies of Paris
on their return from Versailles announced the news that the Duc d'Aumale
was proclaimed lieutenant-general. Several mayors and adjuncts then at
last understood that the Republic was at stake, and, convinced of their
impotence, capitulated. The draft of a placard was drawn up to be signed
by the mayors, deputies, and for the Central Committee by the two
delegates Ranvier and Arnold. The Committee wanted to sign _en masse_,
and slightly modified the text, saying, "The Central Committee, round
which the deputies of Paris, the mayors, and adjuncts have rallied,
convokes...." Thereupon some of the mayors, on the look-out for a
pretext, rose, crying, "This is not our convention; we said the
deputies, the mayors, the adjuncts, and the members of the
Committee...;" and, at the risk of rekindling the embers, placarded the
protest. Yet the Committee might well say, "Which have rallied?" since
it had yielded no point. However, Paris overruled the mischief-mongers.
Admiral Saisset had to disband the four men who remained to him. Tirard
in a placard advised the electors to vote; for M. Thiers that same
morning had given him the hint, "Do not continue a useless resistance. I
am reorganising the army. I hope that in a fortnight or three weeks we
shall have a sufficient force to relieve Paris."[101]

Five deputies only signed the address for the election, MM. Lockroy,
Floquet, Clémenceau, Tolain, and Greppo; the rest of Louis Blanc's group
had kept aloof from Paris for several days. These weaklings, having all
their life sung the glories of the Revolution, when it rose up before
them ran away appalled, like the Arab fisher at the apparition of the

With these mandarins of the tribune of history and of journalism, mute
and lifeless, contrast strangely the sons of the multitude, obscure, but
rich in will, faith, and eloquence. Their farewell address was worthy of
their advent: "Do not forget that the men who will serve you best are
those whom you will choose from amongst yourselves, living your life,
suffering the same ills. Beware of the ambitious as much as of the
upstarts. Beware also of mere talkers. Shun those whom fortune has
favoured, for only too rarely is he who possesses fortune prone to look
upon the workingman as a brother. Give your preference to those who do
not solicit your suffrages. True merit is modest, and it is for the
workingmen to know those who are worthy, not for these to present

They could indeed "come down the steps of the Hôtel-de-Ville head
erect," these obscure men who had safely anchored the revolution of the
18th March. Named only to organise the National Guard, thrown at the
head of a revolution without precedent and without guides, they had been
able to resist the impatient, quell the riot, re-establish the public
services, victual Paris, baffle intrigues, take advantage of all the
blunders of Versailles and of the mayors, and, harassed on all sides,
every moment in danger of civil war, known how to negotiate, to act at
the right time and in the right place. They had embodied the tendency of
the movement, limited their programme to communal revindications, and
conducted the entire population to the ballot-box. They had inaugurated
a precise, vigorous, and fraternal language unknown to all bourgeois

And yet they were obscure men, all with an incomplete education, some of
them fanatics. But the people thought with them. Paris was the brazier,
the Hôtel-de-Ville the flame. In the Hôtel-de-Ville, where illustrious
bourgeois have only accumulated folly upon defeat, these new-comers
found victory because they listened to Paris.

May their services absolve them from two grave faults--allowing the
escape of the army and of the functionaries, and the retaking of
Mont-Valérien by Versailles. It has been said that on the 19th or 20th
they ought to have marched on Versailles. But on the first alarm these
would have fled to Fontainebleau, with the Administration and the Left,
everything that was wanted to govern and deceive the provinces. The
occupation of Versailles would only have displaced the enemy, and it
would not have been for long, as the popular battalions were too badly
provided, too badly commanded, to hold at the same time this open town
and Paris.

At all events, the Central Committee left its successor all the means
necessary to disarm the enemy.


[98] Here are the names of those who signed the proclamations and
notices of the Committee. We shall restore, as far as possible, their
correct orthography, often altered, even in the _Officiel_, to the
extent of giving fictitious names:--Andignoux, A. Arnaud, G. Arnold, A.
Assi, Babick, Barroud, Bergeret, Billioray, Bouit, Boursier, Blanchet,
Castioni, Chouteau, C. Dupont, Eudes, Fabre, Ferrat, Fleury, H. Fortuné,
Fougeret, Gaudier, Geresme, Gouhier, Grêlier, J. Grollard, Josselin,
Jourde, Lavalette, Lisbonne, Lullier, Maljournal, Ed. Moreau, Mortier,
Prudhomme, Ranvier, Rousseau, Varlin, Viard. Notwithstanding the
decision of the Committee, all its members did not always sign the
proclamations. Finally, some who took part in certain deliberations
never signed at all.

[99] This order had been given the evening before. The treachery of Du
Bisson, nominated chief of the staff by Lullier, had prevented its

[100] Tirard: "My whole preoccupation and that of my colleagues had been
to postpone the elections so as to reach the date of the 3rd
April"--_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 340. Vautrain: "My
colleagues and I thus gained eight days more."--_Ibid._, p. 379. J.
Favre: "For eight days we were the only barricade raised up between the
insurrection and the Government."--_Ibid._, p. 385. Desmarets: "I
believed it necessary to remain exposed to danger in order to give the
Government of Versailles time for arming."--_Ibid._, p. 412.

[101] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, Tirard, vol. ii. p. 342.


    "Une portion considérable de la population et de la garde
      nationale de Paris sollicite le concours des départements pour
      le rétablissement de l'ordre."--_Circulaire de M. Thiers aux
      Préfets, le 27 Mars._


This week ended with the triumph of Paris. Paris-Commune again resumed
her part as the capital of France, again became the national initiator.
For the tenth time since 1789 the workmen put France upon the right

The bayonets of Prussia had laid bare our country, such as eighty years
of bourgeois domination had left it--a Goliath at the mercy of his

Paris broke the thousand fetters which bound France down to the ground,
like Gulliver a prey to ants; restored the circulation to her paralysed
limbs; said, "The life of the whole nation exists in each of her
smallest organisms; the unity of the hive, and not that of the barracks.
The organic cell of the French Republic is the municipality, the

The Lazarus of the Empire and of the siege resuscitated, having torn the
napkin from his brow and shaken off the grave-clothes, was about to
begin a new existence with the regenerated Communes of France in his
train. This new life gave to all Paris a youthful aspect. Those who had
despaired a month before were now full of enthusiasm. Strangers
addressed each other and shook hands. For indeed we were not strangers,
but bound together by the same faith and the same aspirations.

Sunday the 26th was a day of joy and sunshine. Paris breathed again,
happy like one just escaped from death or great peril. At Versailles
the streets looked gloomy, gendarmes occupied the station, brutally
demanded passports, confiscated all the journals of Paris, and at the
slightest expression of sympathy for the town arrested you. At Paris
everybody could enter freely. The streets swarmed with people, the cafés
were noisy; the same lad cried out the _Paris Journal_ and the
_Commune_; the attacks against the Hôtel-de-Ville, the protestation of a
few malcontents, were posted on the walls by the side of the placards of
the Central Committee. The people were without anger because without
fear. The voting paper had replaced the chassepot.

Picard's bill only gave Paris sixty municipal councillors, three for
each arrondissement, whatever might be its population. Thus the 150,000
inhabitants of the eleventh arrondissement had the same number of
representatives as the 45,000 of the sixteenth. The Central Committee
had decreed that there was to be a councillor for every 20,000
inhabitants, and for each fraction of 10,000; ninety in all. The
elections were to be conducted with the lists of February and in the
usual manner; only the Committee had expressed the wish that for the
future open voting should be considered the only mode worthy of
democratic principles. All the faubourgs obeyed, and gave an open vote.
The electors of the St. Antoine quarter formed in long columns, and,
headed by a red flag, their voting papers stuck in their hats, defiled
before the column of the Bastille, and in the same order marched to
their sections.

The adhesion and convocation of the mayors dissipating all scruple, also
made the bourgeois quarters vote. The elections became legal since
plenipotentiaries of the Government had given their consent. Two hundred
and eighty-seven thousand men voted, relatively a far greater number
than in the elections of February; for since the opening of the gates
after the siege, a great part of the easy classes had rushed to the
provinces there to recruit their health.

The elections were conducted in a way becoming a free people. At the
approach to the halls, no police, no intrigues. And yet M. Thiers dared
telegraph to the provinces: "The elections will take place to-day
without liberty and without moral authority." The liberty was so
absolute that in all Paris not one single protestation occurred.

The moderate papers even commended the articles of the _Officiel_, in
which the delegate Longuet set forth the part of the future Communal
Assembly: "Above all, it must define its mandate, fix the boundaries of
its attributes. Its first work must be the discussion and the drawing up
of its charter. This done, it must consider the means of having that
statute of the municipal autonomy recognised and guaranteed by the
central power." The plainness, the prudence, the moderation which marked
all official acts was beginning to move the most obdurate. Only the
hatred of the Versaillese did not abate. That same day M. Thiers cried
from the tribune, "No, France will not let those wretches triumph who
would drown her in blood."

The next day 200,000 "wretches" came to the Hôtel-de-Ville there to
instal their chosen representatives, the battalion drums beating, the
banners surmounted by the Phrygian cap and with red fringe round the
muskets; their ranks, swelled by soldiers of the line, artillerists, and
marines faithful to Paris, came down from all the streets to the Place
de Gréve like the thousand streams of a great river. In the middle of
the Hôtel-de-Ville, against the central door, a large platform was
raised. Above it towered the bust of the Republic, a red scarf slung
round it. Immense red streamers beat against the frontal and the belfry,
like tongues of fire announcing the good news to France. A hundred
battalions thronged the place, and piled their bayonets, lit up by the
sun, in front of the Hôtel-de-Ville. The other battalions that could not
get into the place lined the streets up to the Boulevard de Sebastopol
and to the quays. The banners were grouped in front of the platform,
some tricolour, all with red tassels, symbolising the advent of the
people. While the place was filling, songs burst forth, the bands played
the _Marseillaise_ and the _Chant du Départ_, trumpets sounded the
charge, and the cannon of the old Commune thundered on the quay.

Suddenly the noise subsided. The members of the Central Committee and of
the Commune, their red scarfs over their shoulders, appeared on the
platform. Ranvier said, "Citizens, my heart is too full of joy to make a
speech. Permit me only to thank the people of Paris for the great
example they have given the world." A member of the Committee announced
the names of those elected. The drums beat a salute, the bands and two
hundred thousand voices chimed in with the _Marseillaise_. Ranvier, in
an interval of silence, cried out, "In the name of the People the
Commune is proclaimed."

A thousandfold echo answered, "Vive la Commune!" Caps were flung up on
the ends of bayonets, flags fluttered in the air. From the windows, on
the roofs, thousands of hands waved handkerchiefs. The quick reports of
the cannon, the bands, the drums, blended in one formidable vibration.
All hearts leaped with joy, all eyes filled with tears. Never since the
great Federation had Paris been thus moved.

The filing off was very cleverly managed by Brunel, who, while having
the place evacuated on the one hand, brought in those battalions that
were without, all equally anxious to acclaim the Commune. Before the
bust of the Republic the flags were lowered, the officers saluted with
their sabres, the men raised their muskets. Not until seven o'clock did
the last procession pass by.

The agents of M. Thiers returned in dismay to tell him, "It was really
the whole of Paris that took part in the manifestation." And the Central
Committee might well exclaim in its enthusiasm, "To-day Paris opened a
fresh page in the book of history, and there inscribed her powerful
name. Let the spies of Versailles, who are prowling around us, go and
tell their masters what the common movement of an entire population
means. Let these spies carry back to them the image of the magnificent
spectacle of a people recovering their sovereignty."

This lightning would have made the blind to see. 287,000 voters, 200,000
men with the same watchword. This was not a secret committee, a handful
of factious rioters and bandits, as had been said for ten days. Here was
an immense force at the service of a definite idea--Communal
independence, the intellectual life of France--an invaluable force in
this time of universal anæmia, a godsend as precious as the compass
saved from the wreck and saving the survivors. This was one of those
great historical turning-points when a people may be remoulded.

Liberals, if it was in good faith that you called for decentralisation
under the Empire; Republicans, if you have understood June, 1848, and
December, 1851; Radicals, if you really want the self-government of the
people, listen to this new voice, avail yourselves of this marvellous

But the Prussian! What does it matter? Why not forge arms under the eye
of the enemy? Bourgeois, was it not in sight of the foreigner that your
ancestor Etienne Marcel tried to remake France? And your Convention, did
not it first act in the very midst of the hurricane?

What did they answer? Death to Paris!

The red sun of civil discord melts veneer and all masks. There they are
side by side as in 1791, 1794, and 1848, Monarchists, Clericals,
Liberals, Radicals, all of them, their hands raised against the
people--one army in different uniforms. Their decentralisation is rural
and capitalist federalism; their self-government, the exploitation of
the budget by themselves, just as the whole political science of their
statesmen consists only in massacre and the state of siege.

What bourgeoisie in the world after such immense disasters would not
with careful heed have tended such a reservoir of living force? They,
seeing this Paris capable of engendering a new world, her heart swelled
with the best blood of France, had but one thought--to bleed Paris.


    "Toutes les parties de la France sont unies et ralliées
      autour de l'Assemblée et du gouvernement."--_Circulaire de
      M. Thiers à la Province, le 23 au soir._


What was the state of the provinces?

For some days, without any of the Parisian journals, they lived upon
lying despatches of M. Thiers,[102] then looked at the signatures to the
proclamations of the Central Committee, and finding there neither the
Left nor the democratic paragons, said, "Who are these unknown men?" The
Republican bourgeois, misinformed on the events occurring during the
siege of Paris--very cleverly hoodwinked, too, by the Conservative
press--as their fathers had formerly said, "Pitt and Coburg," when
unable to comprehend popular movements, they cried, "These unknown men
can be nothing but Bonapartists." The people alone showed true instinct.

The Paris Commune found its first echo at Lyons. This was a necessary
reverberation. Since the advent of the Assembly the workmen found
themselves watched. The municipal councillors, weak men, some of them,
almost to reaction, had lowered the red flag under the pretext that "the
proud flag of resistance _à outrance_ should not survive the humiliation
of France." The clumsy trick had not deceived the people, who, at the
Guillotière, mounted guard round their flag. The new prefect, Valentin,
an ex-officer as brutal as vulgar, a kind of Clément-Thomas,
sufficiently forewarned the people what sort of Republic was in store
for them.

On the 19th, at the first news, Republicans were on the alert, nor did
they hide their sympathy for Paris. The next day Valentin issued a
provocative proclamation, seized the Parisian journals, and refused to
communicate any despatches. On the 21st, in the municipal council, some
of the members grew indignant, and one said, "Let us at least have the
courage to be the Commune of Lyons." On the 22nd, at mid-day, eight
hundred delegates of the National Guard assembled at the Palais de St.
Pierre. A motion was put proposing to choose between Paris and
Versailles. A citizen just arrived from Paris explained the movement
there, and many wanted the meeting to declare itself immediately for
Paris. The Assembly finally sent delegates to the Hôtel-de-Ville to ask
for the extension of the municipal liberties, the appointment of the
mayor as chief of the National Guard, and his investiture with the
functions of prefect.

The municipal council was just sitting. The mayor, Hénon, a
wooden-headed relic of 1848, opposed all resistance to Versailles. The
mayor of the Guillotière, Crestin, a known Republican, demanded that
they should at least protest. Others wanted the council to extend its
prerogatives. Hénon threatened to tender his resignation if they went on
like that, and proposed they should repair to the prefect, who was then
convoking the reactionary battalions.

The delegates of the Palais St. Pierre arrived, and were roughly
received by Hénon. One deputation succeeded the other, always meeting
with the same rebuffs. However, during this time the battalions of
Brotteaux and La Guillotière were preparing, and at eight o'clock a
dense mass filled the Place des Terreaux in front of the Hôtel-de-Ville,
crying, "Vive la Commune! Down with Versailles!" The reactionary
battalions did not respond to the prefect's appeal.

Part of the council had met again at nine o'clock, while the others,
together with Hénon, were still wrangling with the delegates. After an
answer from the mayor, which left them no hope of coming to an
understanding, the delegates invaded the council-chamber, and the crowd,
apprised of this, rushed into the Hôtel-de-Ville. The delegates, sitting
down round the council table, named Crestin mayor of Lyons. He refused,
and, summoned to give his reasons, declared that the direction of the
movement belonged to those who had initiated it. After a great uproar,
the National Guards acclaimed a Communal Commission, at the head of
which they placed five municipal councillors--Crestin, Durand,
Bouvatier, Perret and Velay. The delegates sent for Valentin, and asked
him if he were for Versailles. He answered that his proclamation could
leave no doubt on that head, whereupon he was put under arrest. Then
they decided on the proclamation of the Commune, the dissolution of the
municipal council, the dismissal of the prefect and of the general of
the National Guard, who was to be replaced by Ricciotti Garibaldi, noted
alike by his name and his services in the army of the Vosges. These
resolutions were announced to the people and hailed with cheers. The red
flag was again unfurled from the balcony.

The next day, the 23rd March, early in the morning, the five councillors
named the evening before backed out, thus obliging the insurgents to
present themselves single-handed to Lyons and the neighboring towns.
"The Commune," they said, "must vindicate for Lyons the right to impose
and administer her own taxes, to have her own police, and to dispose of
her National Guard, which is to occupy all posts and forts." This rather
meagre programme was a little further expanded by the committees of the
National Guard and the Republican Alliance: "With the Commune, the taxes
will be lightened, the public money will no longer be squandered,
social institutions demanded by the working-class will be founded. Much
misery and suffering will be alleviated pending the final disappearance
of that hideous social evil, pauperism." Insufficient proclamations
these, inconclusive, mute as to the danger of the Republic and the
clerical conspiracy, the only levers by which the small middle-class
might have been roused.

So the Commission found itself isolated. It had taken the fort of
Charpennes, accumulated cartridges, disposed the cannons and
mitrailleuses round the Hôtel-de-Ville; but the popular battalions,
except two or three, had withdrawn without leaving a picket, and the
resistance was being organised. General Crouzat at the station picked up
all the soldiers, marines, and mobiles dispersed about Lyons. Hénon
named a general of the National Guard. The officers of the battalions of
order protested against the Commune, and placed themselves at the
disposition of the municipal council, which sat in the cabinet of the
mayor, close to the Commission.

Forgetting it had dissolved the Council the evening before, it invited
the Council to hold their sitting in the ordinary council-room. They
arrived at four o'clock. The Commission gave up the place to them,
National Guards occupying that part of the room reserved to the public.
Had there been some vigour in this middle class, some foreboding of the
Conservative atrocities, the Republican councillors would have taken the
lead of this popular movement; but they were still, some of them, the
same mercantile aristocrats, chary of their gold and their persons
during the war of the national defence; the others, the same overweening
Radicals who had always striven for the subordination instead of the
emancipation of the working-class. While they were deliberating without
coming to any resolution, the assistants, growing impatient, uttered a
few exclamations shocking to their lordliness, and they brusquely raised
the sitting in order to go and draw up an address with Hénon.

In the evening two delegates of the Central Committee of Paris arrived
at the club of the Rue Duguesclin. They were taken to the
Hôtel-de-Ville, where from the large balcony they harangued the mass,
who answered with cries of "Vive Paris! Vive la Commune!" and
Ricciotti's name was again acclaimed.

But this was only a demonstration. The delegates were themselves too
inexperienced to keep alive and direct this movement. On the 24th there
remained on the Place de Terreaux but a few groups of idlers. The
_rappel_ sounded in vain. The four important journals of Lyons, Radical,
Liberal and Clerical, "energetically repudiated all connivance with the
Parisian, Lyonese, and other insurrections;" and General Crouzat spread
the rumour that the Prussians, camping at Dijon, threatened to occupy
Lyons within twenty-four hours if order were not re-established. The
Commission, more and more deserted, again turned to the Council, which
now held its sitting at the Bourse, proposing to hand over the
administration to them. The Council refused to treat. "No," said the
mayor, "we will never accept the Commune." And as the mobiles from
Belfort were announced, the Council decided to give them a solemn
reception. This was a declaration of war.

The parley had been going on the whole afternoon until late into the
evening. Little by little the Hôtel-de-Ville grew empty, and the members
of the Commission disappeared. At four o'clock in the morning the only
two who remained cancelled their powers,[103] dismissed the sentries who
guarded the prefect, and left the Hôtel-de-Ville. The next day Lyons
found her Commune gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the same evening, when dying out at Lyons, the revolutionary movement
burst forth at St. Etienne. Since the 31st October, when they had almost
succeeded in officially proclaiming the Commune, the Socialists had not
ceased calling for it, despite the resistance, and even the threats, of
the municipal council.

There were two Republican centres--the Committee of the National Guard,
spurred on by the revolutionary club of the Rue de la Vierge, and the
Republican Alliance at the head of the advanced Republicans. The
municipal council was, with one or two exceptions, composed of those
Radicals who know not how to resist the people without being crushed by
the reaction. The Committee and the Alliance agreed to ask for its

The 18th March was enthusiastically welcomed by the workmen. The Radical
organ, _L'Eclaireur_, said, without drawing any conclusion: "If the
Assembly prevails, the Republic is done for; if, on the other hand, the
deputies of Paris separate from the Central Committee, they must have a
good reason for it." The people went straight on. On the 23rd the Club
de la Vierge sent delegates to the Hôtel-de-Ville to ask for the
Commune. The mayor promised to submit the question to his colleagues.
The Alliance also came to demand the adjunction to the council of a
certain number of delegates.

The next day, the 24th, the delegations returned. The Council tendered
their resignation, and declared they would only officiate till their
replacement by the electors, to be convoked with the briefest delay.
This was a defeat, for the same day the prefect _ad interim_, Morellet,
adjured the population not to proclaim the Commune, but to respect the
authority of the Assembly. At seven o'clock in the evening a company of
the National Guard relieved the sentinel to the cries of "Vive la
Commune!" The Central Committee invited the Alliance to join them in
taking possession of the Hôtel-de-Ville. The Radicals refused, saying
that the promise of the Council sufficed; that the movements of Paris
and Lyons were of a vague character, and that it was necessary to affirm
order and public tranquility.

During these negotiations the people had assembled at the Club de la
Vierge, accusing the first delegates of weakness, resolved to send
others, and to accompany them, so that they could not give way. At ten
o'clock two columns of 400 men each drew up before the rails that cover
the Hôtel-de-Ville. These had been closed by order of the new prefect,
M. De l'Espée, an autocrat of iron works, who had just then arrived,
eager to subdue the disturbers. But the people began pulling down the
rails, and it was necessary to let in their delegates. They found the
mayor and Morellet, asked for the Commune, and provisionally the
adjunction of a popular commission. The mayor refused, the former
prefect obstinately tried to demonstrate that the Commune was a Prussian
invention. Hopeless of convincing the delegates, he went to warn M. De
l'Espée--the prefecture being contiguous to the mairie--and both then
making off by the garden, succeeded in rejoining General Lavoye, the
commander of the garrison.

At midnight the delegates, unable to obtain anything, declared that
nobody would be allowed to leave the Hôtel-de-Ville, and proceeding to
the rails, told the demonstrators to reflect. Some ran off in quest of
arms, others penetrated into the Salle des Prudhommes, where they held a
meeting. The night passed tumultuously. The delegates, who had just
learned the miscarriage of the movement at Lyons wavered. The people
threatened and were for beating the _rappel_. The mayor refused. At
last, at seven o'clock, he found an expedient, and promised to propose a
plebiscite on the establishment of the Commune. A delegate read this
declaration to the people, who at once withdrew from the Hôtel-de-Ville.

At the same moment M. De l'Espée conceived the brilliant idea of beating
the _rappel_, which the people had in vain asked for since midnight. He
picked up some National Guards of order, re-entered the now empty
Hôtel-de-Ville, and promulgated his victory. The municipal council
informing him of the morning's agreement, De l'Espée refused to fix the
date of the elections. Besides, said he, the general had promised him
the aid of the garrison.

At eleven o'clock the prefect's call to arms had reassembled all the
popular battalions. Groups formed before the Hôtel-de-Ville, crying
"Vive la Commune!" De l'Espée sent for his troops, consisting of 250
foot-soldiers and two squadrons of hussars, who came up sluggishly. The
multitude surrounded them; the Council protested; and the prefect had to
discharge his warriors, there remaining to face the crowd only a line of
firemen, and in the Hôtel-de-Ville two companies, of which but one was
favourable to the party of order.

Towards mid-day a delegation summoned the Council to keep their promise.
The councillors present--only few in number--were not adverse to
accepting as coadjutors two delegates from each company, but De l'Espée
formally declared against any concession. At four o'clock a very
numerous delegation from the Committee presented itself. The prefect
spoke of retrenching himself and of strengthening the gates for defence;
but the firemen raised the butt end of their muskets, opened the
passage, and De l'Espée had to receive some of the delegates.

The crowd outside waxed unruly, impatient at these useless parleys. At
half-past four the workmen from the manufactory of arms arrived, when a
shot was fired from one of the houses of the place, killing Lyonnet, a
workingman. A hundred shots answered; the drums beat, the trumpets
sounded the charge, and the battalions rushed into the Hôtel-de-Ville,
while others searched the house whence the attack was supposed to have

At the noise of the firing the prefect broke off the conference and
tried to escape as on the night before, mistook his way, was recognised
and seized, together with the deputy of the _procureur de la
République_, brought back with the latter into the large hall, and shown
from the balcony. The crowd hooted him, convinced that he had given the
order to fire upon the people. One of the reactionist guards, M. De
Ventavon, on his flight from the mairie, was taken for the murderer of
Lyonnet, and carried about on the litter on which the corpse had just
been transported to the hospital.

The prefect and the procureur's deputy were left in the large hall in
the midst of exasperated men. Many accused De l'Espée of having provoked
the fusillade of the miners of Aubin under the Empire. He protested,
stating that he had been director of the mines of Archambault, not those
of Aubin. Little by little, the crowd, tired out, dispersed, and at
eight o'clock about forty guards only remained in the hall. The
prisoners took some food, when the president of the Commune, which was
constituting itself in a neighbouring room, seeing everything calm, also
withdrew. At nine o'clock the crowd returned, crying, "La Commune! La
Commune! Sign!" De l'Espée offered to sign his resignation, but added
that he did so under compulsion. The prisoners were in charge of two
men, Victoire and Fillon, the latter an old exile, quite distracted, who
turned now against the crowd, now against the prisoners. At ten o'clock,
being hard pressed by the throng of people, Fillon, as in a dream, faced
about, fired two shots from his revolver, killing his friend Victoire
and wounding a drummer. Instantaneously the muskets were levelled at
him, and Fillon and De l'Espée fell dead. The deputy, covered by the
corpse of Fillon, escaped the discharge. The next day he and M. De
Ventavon were set free.

During the evening a Commission constituted itself, chosen from amongst
the officers of the National Guards and the habitual orators of the Club
de la Vierge. It had the station occupied, took possession of the
telegraph, seized the cartridges of the powder-magazine, and convoked
the electors for the 29th. "The Commune," it said, "does not mean
incendiarism, nor theft, nor pillage, as so many are pleased to give
out, but the conquest of the franchises and the independence ravished
from us by imperial and monarchical legislation; it is the true basis of
the Republic." This was the whole preamble. In this industrial hive, by
the side of the thousands of miners of La Ricamarie and Firminy, they
found not a word to say on the social question. The Commission only knew
how to beat the _rappel_, which, as at Lyons, was not responded to.

The next day, Sunday, the town, calm and curious, read the proclamation
of the Commune, placarded side by side with the appeals of the general
and of the procureur. While this latter, as became a good Radical, spoke
of a Bonapartist plot, the general invited the Council to withdraw its
resignation. He went to the councillors, who had taken refuge in the
barracks, and said to them, "My soldiers won't fight, but I have a
thousand chassepots. If you will make use of them, forward!" The
councillors protested their unfitness for military exploits; but at the
same time, as at Lyons, refused to communicate with the Hôtel-de-Ville,
considering "that one can only treat with honest men."

On the 27th the Alliance and _L'Eclaireur_ altogether withdrew, and the
Commission gradually dwindled down. In the evening, the few faithful
still holding out received two young men, whom the delegates from the
Central Committee at Lyons had sent. They urged resistance; but the
Hôtel-de-Ville was being deserted, and on the morning of the 28th there
were only about a hundred left. At six o'clock General Lavoye presented
himself with the francs-tireurs of the Vosges and some troops come from
Montbrison. The National Guards, on his appeal to lay down their arms in
order to avoid bloodshed, consented to evacuate the mairie.

Numerous arrests were made. The Conservatives overwhelmed the Commune
with the customary insults, and recounted that cannibals had been seen
amongst the murderers of the prefect.[104] _L'Eclaireur_ did not fail to
demonstrate that the movement was purely Bonapartist. The workingmen
felt themselves vanquished, and at the solemn funeral of M. De l'Espée
not loud but deep curses were uttered.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Creuzot, also the proletarians were defeated. Yet the Socialists
administered the town from the 4th September, the mayor, Dumay, being a
former workman at the iron works. On the 25th, at the news from Lyons,
they spoke of proclaiming the Commune. At their review on the 26th the
National Guards cried "Vive la Commune!" and the crowd accompanied them
to the Place of the Mairie, held by the colonel of cuirassiers,
Gerhardt. He ordered the foot-soldiers to fire. They refused. He then
ordered the cavalry to charge; but the guards levelled their bayonets
and invaded the mairie. Dumay pronounced the abolition of the Versailles
Government, proclaimed the Commune, and the red flag was hoisted.

But there, as everywhere else, the people did not move. The commander of
Creuzot came back the next day with a reinforcement, dispersed the
crowd, which was standing curious and passive in the square, and took
possession of the mairie.

In four days all the revolutionary centres of the east, Lyons, St.
Etienne, and Creuzot, were lost to the Commune.


[102] He then and there inaugurated this incomparable lying campaign,
the progress of which we shall closely watch. On the 19th he said, "The
army, to the number of 40,000 men, is concentrated in good order at
Versailles." There were 23,000 men (the number given by himself in the
_Enquête_) totally disbanded. On the 20th: "The Government did not want
to enter into a bloody struggle, though provoked." By the 21st the army
had grown to 45,000 men: "The insurrection is disavowed by everybody."
On the 22nd: "From all sides the Government is offered battalions of
mobiles to support it against anarchy." On the 27th, while the votes
were being counted: "A considerable proportion of the population and of
the National Guard of Paris solicits the help of the provinces to
re-establish order."

[103] "Considering," said they in their declaration, "that the
Provisional Commune of Lyons, acclaimed by the National Guard, is no
longer feeling itself supported by them, the members of the Commune
declare themselves released from their engagements towards their
electors, and resign all powers they have received."

[104] Certain infamous evidence must be quoted in full in order to give
a notion of the delirium tremens of the great bourgeoisie when speaking
of the Commune. Four months after these events the Prefect Ducros, the
inventor of the famous bridges of the Marne, deposed before the
_Commission d'Enquête sur le 18 Mars_: "They did not respect his corpse;
they cut off his head. In the night, horrible to say, one of the men who
had participated in the assassination, and who has been put on his
trial, came to a café offering those present pieces of M. De l'Espée's
skull, and cracking under his teeth pieces of the same skull." And
Ducros dared to add: "The man had been arrested, put on his trial, and
acquitted." Horrible imaginings, which even the Radicals of St. Etienne
have stigmatised.



Since the elections of the 8th February, the advent of the reactionists,
the nomination of M. Thiers, the patched-up and shameful peace, the
monarchy in prospect, the defiances and the defeats were as bitterly
resented by the valiant town of Marseilles as by Paris. There the news
of the 18th March fell upon a powder-magazine. Nevertheless, further
details were looked for, when the 22nd brought the famous despatch of

The clubs, playing a great part in the ardent life of Marseilles, were
at once thronged. The prudent and methodical Radicals affected the club
of the National Guard; the popular elements met at the El Dorado. There
they applauded Gaston Crémieux, an elegant and effeminate speaker, now
and then happy at epigrammatic turns, as, for instance, at Bordeaux.
Gambetta owed him his election at Marseilles under the Empire. Crémieux
at once hurried to the club of the National Guard, denounced Versailles,
told them they could not allow the Republic to perish, but ought to act.
The club, though highly indignant at the despatch, cautioned him against
over-hastiness. The proclamations of the Central Committee, they said,
did not announce any clearly defined politics. Signed by unknown names,
they might well proceed from Bonapartists.

This Jacobin argument was ridiculous at Marseilles, where the despatch
of M. Thiers had given the signal for the commotion. Who smacked of
Bonapartism--these unknown men rising against Versailles, or M. Thiers
patronising Rouher and his Ministers, and boasting of Canrobert's

After a speech of Bouchet, the deputy of the _procureur de la
République_, Gaston Crémieux reconsidering his first impulsive step, and
accompanied by the delegates of the club, repaired to the El Dorado.
There he read and made comments upon the _Officiel_ of Paris, which he
had got from the prefect, and calmed the excitement. "The Government of
Versailles have raised their crutch against what they call the
insurrection of Paris; but it has broken in their hands, and their
attempt has brought forth the Commune. Let us swear that we are united
for the defence of the Government of Paris, the only one that we
recognise." They separated, ready for resistance, but resolved to bide
their time.

Thus the excited population still checked itself when the prefect goaded
it by the most stupid of provocations. This Admiral Cosnier, a
distinguished naval officer, but politically a mere cipher, quite out of
his element in these surroundings, where he had only just arrived, was
the passive tool of the reaction, which since the 4th September had
already several times fallen out with the National Guard--the
_civiques_--who had proclaimed the Commune and expulsed the Jesuits. The
Rev. Father Tissier, though absent, was still its leader. The moderation
of the town it mistook for cowardice. Like M. Thiers on the 17th, it
believed itself strong enough to make a brilliant stroke.

In the evening the Admiral held council with the mayor, Bories, an old
wreck of 1848, who had dabbled in all the clerico-liberal coalitions,
the _procureur de la République_, Guibert, a timid trimmer, and General
Espivent de la Villeboisnet, one of those cruel caricatures in which the
civil wars of South America abound. An obtuse Legitimist, a besotted
zealot, the Syllabus incarnate, a carpet knight and former member of the
Mixed Commissions of 1851, during the war he had been expelled from
Lille by the people, indignant alike at his utter incapacity and his
antecedents. He brought the council the _mot d'ordre_ of the priests
and reactionists, and proposed convoking the National Guards to make an
armed manifestation in favour of Versailles. He would have asked for
more, no doubt, but the garrison was solely composed of waifs of the
army of the East and of a few disbanded artillerists. Cosnier, quite led
astray, approved of the manifestation, and gave orders to the mayor and
to the colonel of the National Guards to prepare for it.

On the 23rd March, at seven o'clock in the morning, the call to arms
sounded. The ingenious idea of the prefect had spread over the town, and
the popular battalions made ready to do it honour. From ten o'clock they
arrived at the Cours du Chapitre, and the artillery of the National
Guard was drawn up along the St. Louis Cours. At twelve, francs-tireurs,
National Guards, soldiers of all arms mingling, gathered in the Belzunce
Cours. Soon all the battalions of the Belle-de-Mai and of Endourre[105]
mustered in full strength, while the battalions of order remained

The municipal council, taking fright, disavowed the manifestation and
placarded a Republican address. The club of the National Guard joined
the council and demanded the return of the Assembly to Paris and the
exclusion from public functions of all the accomplices of the Empire.
The deputy of the procureur Bouchet tendered his resignation.

All this time the battalions were marching up and down crying "Vive
Paris!" Popular orators harangued them, and the club, apprehensive of an
imminent explosion, sent Gaston Crémieux, Bouchet, and Frayssinet, to
ask the prefect to break up the ranks and communicate the despatches
from Paris. The delegates were discussing with Cosnier, when a terrific
clamour rose from without. The prefecture was besieged.

At four o'clock the battalions, on foot for six hours, had moved, headed
by their drums. Twelve or thirteen thousand men having debouched through
the Cannebière and the Rue St. Ferréol, drew up before the prefecture.
The delegates of the club tried to parley, when a shot was fired, and
the crowd, rushing into the prefecture, arrested the prefect, his two
secretaries, and General Ollivier. Gaston Crémieux appeared on the
balcony, spoke of the rights of Paris, and recommended the maintenance
of order. The crowd cheered, but still continued to enter and ask for
arms. G. Crémieux had two columns formed and sent them to the iron works
of Menpenti, whose guns were surrendered.

During this tumult a Commission of six members was formed: G. Crémieux,
Job, Etienne, a street-porter, Maviel, a shoemaker, Gaillard, a
mechanic, and Allerini, who deliberated in the midst of the crowd. G.
Crémieux proposed setting at liberty the prisoners just made, but from
all sides they cried, "Keep them as sureties." The Admiral was conducted
into a neighbouring room, closely watched, and--strange mania of all
these popular movements--asked for his resignation. Cosnier, quite out
of his latitude, signed what he was asked for.[106]

The Commission placarded that all the powers were concentrated in its
hands, and feeling the necessity of strengthening itself, invited the
municipal council and the club of the National Guard to send three
delegates each. The council named David Bosc, Desservy, and Sidore; the
club, Bouchet, Cartoux, and Fulgéras. The next day they made a moderate
proclamation: "Marseilles has wished to prevent the civil war provoked
by the circulars of Versailles. Marseilles will support a regularly
constituted Republican Government sitting in the capital. The
Departmental Commission, formed with the concourse of all Republican
groups, will watch over the Republic till a new authority emanating from
a regular Government sitting at Paris relieves it."

The names of the municipal council and of the club reassured the
middle-class. The reactionists continued drawing in their horns, and the
army had evacuated the town during the night. Leaving the prefect in the
trap into which he had thrust him, the coward Espivent, on the
investment of the prefecture, went to hide himself at the mistress's of
a commander of the National Guard named Spir, on whom he afterwards
conferred the knighthood of the Legion of Honour for this service to
moral order. At midnight he sneaked off and rejoined the troops, who,
without hindrance from the people, lulled into security by its victory,
reached the village of Aubagne, about seventeen kilometres from

Thus Marseilles was entirely in the hands of the people. The victory was
even too complete for heads prone to exultation. That "city of the sun"
is not propitious to soft tints; its sky, its fields, its men all affect
crude colours. On the 24th the civil guards hoisted the red flag and
already deemed the Commission too lukewarm. Sidore, Desservy, and
Fulgéras, regardless of their duty, kept aloof from the prefecture;
Cartoux had gone to Paris for information, and so the whole burden
weighed upon Bosc and Bouchet, who, with Gaston Crémieux, strove to
regularise the movement. Having said that the red flag was inopportune,
the detention of the hostages useless, they soon became suspected and
menaced. On the evening of the 24th, Bouchet, quite discouraged, gave in
his resignation, but, on G. Crémieux' complaint to the club of the
National Guard, consented to resume his post.

These disagreements were already bruited about the town, and on the 25th
the Commission was obliged to announce that "the most perfect accord
united it with the municipal council." But the latter on the same day
declared itself the only existing power, and called upon the National
Guard to rouse from apathy. Trimming between the reaction and the
people, it began that miserable play that was to end in ignominy.

While the Liberals were imitating the Tirards and the deputies of the
extreme Left, to whom Dufaure referred in his despatches, Espivent in
every point copied General Thiers. He had rifled all the administrative
departments of Marseilles. The treasury office of the garrison had been
shuffled off to Aubagne. Fifteen hundred Garibaldians of the army of
the Vosges and soldiers who were rejoining their depots in Africa were
left without bread, without pay, without _feuilles-de-routes_, and would
have remained without refuge if Gaston Crémieux and Bouchet had not
caused a provisional quartermaster to be named by the council. Thanks to
the Commission, those who had shed their blood for France received bread
and shelter. Gaston Crémieux said to them in an address, "You will
remember when the time comes, the fraternal hand that we have held out
to you." He was a gentle enthusiast, who beheld the revolution under
rather a bucolic aspect.

On the 26th the isolation of the Commission became more obvious. No one
armed against it, but no one joined it. Almost all the mayors of the
department refused to placard its proclamations, and at Arles a
manifestation in favor of the red flag miscarried. The fiery spirits at
the prefecture did nothing to explain the import of the flag which they
had unfurled, and, in the midst of this dull calm, in view of Marseilles
looking on curiously, it hung from the campanile of the prefecture
motionless and mute as an enigma.

       *       *       *       *       *

The capital of the south-west also saw its insurrection die out.
Toulouse had vibrated at the thunder-burst of the 18th March. In the
Faubourg St. Cyprien there was an intelligent and valiant workingmen's
population that formed the very sinews of the National Guard, and had
since the 19th relieved the watch to the cries of "Vive Paris!" A few
revolutionists summoned the prefect, Duportal, to pronounce for or
against Paris. For a month the _Emancipation_, which he directed, had
made a campaign against the rurals, and he had even in a public meeting
emphasized his Republican views. But he was not the man to take the
initiative, and refused to break with Versailles. The clubs, however,
beset him, obliging the officers of the National Guard to take an oath
to defend the Republic, and asked for cartridges. M. Thiers, seeing that
Duportal would after all follow their lead, named as prefect De Kératry,
the former prefect of police of the 4th September. He arrived on the
night of the 21st-22nd at the house of the general of the division,
Nansouty, and being told that the garrison consisted of only 600
disbanded men, and that the whole National Guard would declare for
Duportal, he beat his retreat on Agen.

On the 23rd the National Guard prepared a manifestation in order to take
possession of the arsenal, when Duportal and the mayor rushed off to the
Capitol, the Hôtel-de-Ville of Toulouse. The mayor declared that the
intended review was not to take place, and Duportal that he would tender
his resignation rather than pronounce for the movement. But the
generals, afraid of this outbreak of the faubourg, took refuge in the
arsenal. The mayor and the municipal council, understanding it would no
longer do to continue their Platonic rôle, fled in their turn, and hence
Duportal, left alone in his prefecture, shone forth as a great
revolutionist, and therefore all the more worthy of the sympathy of the
National Guard. He exerted himself to reassure the generals, went to the
arsenal, intimated there his firm resolution to maintain order in the
name of the Government of Versailles, the only one he recognised as
legitimate, and was so successful that they advised M. Thiers to keep
him in his post. Kératry, availing himself of his declaration, requested
his aid to take possession of the prefecture, and Duportal gave him a
rendezvous before the officers of the mobiles and of the National Guard,
convoked for the next day, the 24th. Kératry understood and remained at

The object of this meeting was to find the volunteers against Paris
asked for by the Assembly. Four officers of mobiles out of sixty offered
their services to Versailles. The officers of the National Guard did not
come to the prefecture, but, on the contrary, prepared at that same
moment a demonstration against Kératry. At one o'clock 2,000 men were
assembled in the Place du Capitole, and, their banner flying, repaired
to the prefecture, where Duportal received their officers. One of them
declared that, far from supporting the Assembly, they were ready to
march against it, and that if M. Thiers did not make peace with Paris
they would proclaim the Commune. At this name cries burst forth from all
corners of the room, "Vive la Commune! Vive Paris!" The officers,
growing hot, decreed the arrest of Kératry, proclaimed the Commune, and
summoned Duportal to place himself at their head. He tried to back out,
and proposed to act only as the officious prompter of the chiefs of the
Commune; but the officers, inveighing against defection, induced him to
come out to the square of the prefecture, where he was acclaimed by the
National Guard, and they proceeded to the Capitol.

Hardly arrived in the large hall, the leaders seemed much embarrassed.
They offered the presidency in turn to the mayor, to other municipal
councillors, who slunk away, and to Duportal, who got off by drawing up
a manifesto, which was read from the large balcony. "The Commune of
Toulouse," it said, "declares for the Republic one and indivisible,
adjures the deputies of Paris to be the intermediaries between the
Government and the great town, and summons M. Thiers to dissolve the
Assembly." The mass cheered this milk-and-water Commune, which believed
in the deputies of the Left and the oppression of M. Thiers by the rural

In the evening some officers of the National Guard appointed an
Executive Commission, composed, with two or three exceptions, of mere
talkers; in this the principal leaders of the movement did not figure.
It contented itself with placarding the manifesto, and neglected the
smallest precautions, even that of occupying the railway station. The
generals, nevertheless, did not dare to stir from their arsenal, where
they were joined on the 26th by the first president of the court and the
procureur-general, who launched an address calling upon the population
to rally round them. The National Guard wanted to answer by storming the
arsenal, and already the faubourg flocked to the Capitol. But the
Commission preferred to negotiate, sent word to the arsenal that it
would dissolve if the Government appointed a Republican prefect in the
stead of Kératry and entirely abandoned Duportal, who, it is true, had
done nothing. The negotiations lasted all the evening, and the National
Guard, tired out, deceived by their chiefs, and fancying everything
settled, returned to their homes.

Kératry, well informed of all these failures, arrived the next day at
the railway station with three squadrons of cavalry, proceeded to the
arsenal, broke off the negotiations, and gave the order to march. At one
o'clock the Versaillese army, 200 cavalry and 600 ill-assorted soldiers
strong, opened its campaign. One column occupied the St. Cyprien Bridge,
in order to separate the town from the faubourg, another proceeded to
the prefecture, and the third, with Nansouty, Kératry, and the
magistrates, marched on the Capitol.

About 300 men filled the courts, the windows, and the terrace. The
Versaillese deployed their troops and placed six guns in line at about
sixty yards from the edifice, thus recklessly exposing their infantry
and artillerists to the muskets of the insurgents. The first president
of the court and the procureur-general advanced to parley, but obtained
nothing. Kératry made the _sommations_, his voice being drowned by
cries. A single blank-cartridge volley would have scared soldiers and
artillerists, who might besides have been harassed on both flanks. But
the leaders had fled from the Capitol. The courage of a few men might
still have brought about a fight, when the Republican Association
interposed, persuaded the guards to retreat, and saved Kératry. The
prefecture was taken just as easily, and that same evening Kératry
installed himself there. The members of the Executive Commission the
next day published a manifesto of such platitude as to secure them
impunity, and one of them got himself named mayor by Kératry.

Thus the generous workingmen of Toulouse, who had risen to the cry of
"Vive Paris!" were left in the lurch by those who had raised the
insurrection. A disastrous check this for Paris, for the whole south
would have followed the example of Toulouse if victorious.

       *       *       *       *       *

The man of thought and energy, wanting in all these movements, appeared
in the insurrection of Narbonne. The old city, Gallic in its enthusiasm,
Roman in its tenacity, is the true centre of democracy in the department
of Aude. Nowhere during the war had a more vigorous protest been entered
against the shortcomings of Gambetta. For this very reason the National
Guards of Narbonne had not yet received their muskets, when those of
Carcassonne had long since been armed. At the news of the 18th March,
Narbonne did not hesitate, but declared for Paris. To proclaim the
Commune, an exile of the Empire, a man of strong convictions and firm
character, Digeon, was at once applied to. Digeon, as modest as
resolute, offered the direction of the movement to his comrade in exile,
Marcou, the recognised chief of the democracy in the Aude, one of the
most ardent opponents of Gambetta during the war. Marcou, a crafty
lawyer, afraid of compromising himself, and dreading the energy of
Digeon in the chief town of the department, induced him to leave for
Narbonne. Digeon arrived there on the 23rd, and first thought of
converting the municipal council to the principles of the Commune. But
on the refusal of the mayor, Raynal, to summon the council, the people,
out of all patience, invaded the Hôtel-de-Ville on the evening of the
24th, and arming themselves with the muskets detained by the
municipality, installed Digeon and his friends. He appeared on the
balcony, proclaimed the Commune of Narbonne united to that of Paris, and
immediately proceeded to take measures of defence.

The following day Raynal tried to rally the garrison, and some companies
formed before the Hôtel-de-Ville; but the people, especially the women,
worthy of their Parisian sisters, disarmed the soldiers. A captain and a
lieutenant were retained as hostages; the rest of the garrison went and
shut itself up in the St. Bernard Barracks. As Raynal still continued
stirring up resistance, the people arrested him on the 26th; and Digeon,
with the three hostages, at the head of a detachment of Federals, went
to take possession of the prefecture, placing pickets at the railway
station and telegraph office. To get arms he forced the arsenal, where,
despite their lieutenant, who commanded them to fire, the soldiers
surrendered their guns. The same day the delegates from the neighbouring
Communes arrived, and Digeon set to work to generalise the movement.

He had clearly understood that the departmental insurrections would soon
founder if not well combined, and he wanted to hold out a helping hand
to the rising of Toulouse and of Marseilles. Béziers and Cette had
already promised him their support, and he was preparing to leave for
Béziers, when, on the 28th, two companies of Turcos arrived, soon
followed by other troops sent from Montpellier, Toulouse, and Perpignan.
From this moment Digeon was obliged to stand on the defensive. He had
barricades thrown up, reinforced the posts, ordering the Federals always
to await the attacks and to aim at the officers.

We shall return to this subject later on. Paris now recalls us. The
other provincial movements were but momentary vibrations. On the 28th,
when Paris was still elated with victory, all the Communes of France
were already swept away save those of Marseilles and Narbonne.


[105] The popular quarters of Marseilles.

[106] This abdication was revealed before the court-martial by the
advocate of one of the accused. Cosnier, fearing that it might be
interpreted as an act of cowardice, blew out his brains.



The Place of the Hôtel-de-Ville was still astir when the newly elected
members of the Commune assembled in the municipal council-hall.

The ballot had returned sixteen mayors, adjuncts, and Liberals of all
shades,[107] a few Radicals,[108] and about sixty Revolutionists of all

How came these latter to be chosen? All must be told, and virile truth
at last substituted for the stale flattery of the old romantic school
styling itself "Revolutionary." There might be something more terrible
than the defeat: to misconstrue or to forget its causes.

Responsibility weighs heavily enough upon the elected, but we must not
charge it all to one side--the electors also have their share of it.

The Central Committee had told the people on Sunday, the 19th instant,
"Prepare for your communal elections." They thus had a whole week in
which to frame a mandate and select their mandatories. No doubt the
resistance of the mayors and the occupation of the military posts kept
away many of the revolutionary electors from their arrondissements, but
there still remained enough citizens to conduct the work of selection.

Never had a mandate been more indispensable, for the question at issue
was to give Paris a communal constitution acceptable to all France.
Never did Paris stand in such need of enlightened and practical men,
capable at once of negotiating and of combating.

Yet there was never less preparatory discussion. A few men only recalled
to prudence a people habitually so over-scrupulous in electoral matters,
and which had just made a revolution to get rid of their
representatives. The Committee of the twenty arrondissements issued a
manifesto very pertinent in several points, and which might have served
as an outline; the two delegates at the Home Office tried, through an
article in the _Officiel_, to impress Paris with the importance of her
vote. Not a single assembly framed the general programme of Paris; only
two or three arrondissements gave some sort of mandate.

Instead of voting for a programme, they voted for names. Those who had
demanded the Commune, made a mark at the Corderie or during the siege,
were elected without being asked for further explanations, some even
twice, like Flourens, in spite of the blunders of the 31st October. Only
seven or eight, and those not the best, of the obscure men of the
Central Committee were named, the latter, it is true, having decided
not to present itself for election. The public meetings in many
arrondissements sent up the most violent talkers, romanticists sprung up
during the siege, and lacking all knowledge of practical life. Nowhere
were the candidates put to any test. In the ardour of the struggle they
took no thought for the morrow. One might have fancied that the object
in view was a simple manifestation, not the foundation of a new order of

Twenty-four workmen only were elected, and of these a third belonged
rather to the public meetings than to the International or the
workingmen's societies. The other delegates of the people were chosen
from the small middle-class and the so-called liberal professions,
accountants, publicists--there were as many as twelve of these--doctors
and lawyers. These, save a few really studious men, whether veterans or
new-comers, were as ignorant as the workmen of the political and
administrative mechanism of the bourgeoisie, albeit full of their own
personality. The safety of the Central Committee lay in this, that it
was unadorned with great men, each one provided with a formula of his
own. The Council of the Commune, on the contrary, abounded in chapels,
groups, semi-celebrities, and hence endless competition and rivalry.

Thus the precipitation and heedlessness of the Revolutionary electors
sent up to the Hôtel-de-Ville a majority of men, most of them devoted,
but chosen without discernment, and, into the bargain, abandoned them to
their own inspirations, to their whims, without any determined mandate
to restrain and guide them in the struggle entered upon.

Time and experience would no doubt have corrected this negligence, but
time was wanting. The people never holds sway but for an hour, and woe
to them if they are not then ready, armed _cap-à-pie_. The elections of
the 26th March were irreparable.

Only about sixty of those elected were present at the first sitting. At
its opening, the Central Committee came to congratulate the Council. The
chairman by seniority, Beslay, a capitalist of a fraternising turn of
mind, made the opening speech. He very happily defined this young
revolution: "The enfranchisement of the Commune of Paris is the
enfranchisement of all the communes of the Republic. Your adversaries
have said that you have struck the Republic. It is as with the pile, to
be driven deeper into the earth. The Republic of 1793 was a soldier, who
wanted to centralise all the forces of the nation; the Republic of 1871
is a workman, who above all wants liberty to fecundate peace. The
Commune will occupy itself with all that is local, the Department with
what is regional, the Government with what is national. Let us not
overstep this limit, and the country and the Government will be happy
and proud to applaud this revolution." This was the naïve illusion of an
old man, who, nevertheless, had had the experience of a long political
life. This programme, so moderate in its form, was nothing less than the
death-knell of the great bourgeoisie, as shown during this very sitting.

There were already some jarring notes. The violent and the giddy-headed
launched out into random motions, and wanted the Commune to declare
itself omnipotent. Tirard, elected by his arrondissement, improved this
occasion to withdraw, stating that his mandate was purely municipal,
that he could not recognise the political character of the Commune, gave
in his resignation, and ironically bade farewell to the Council: "I
leave you my sincere good wishes; may you succeed in your task," &c.

The insolence of this dishonest man, who for eight days had been busy in
fomenting civil war and now threw up the mandate solicited in his
address to the electors, evoked general indignation. The more impatient
wanted to have him arrested, others to declare his mandate forfeited. He
escaped scot-free because he had said at the Versailles tribune, "When
you enter the Hôtel-de-Ville, you are not sure to return from it."

This incident no doubt induced the Council to vote the secrecy of their
sittings, their awkward pretext being that the Commune was not a
parliament. This decision produced a very bad effect, violating the
best traditions of the great Commune of 1792-93, as it gave the Council
the appearance of a conspiracy, and it was found necessary to quash it
two weeks after, when the newspapers abounded in fantastic reports, as a
natural consequence of the secret sittings. But the publicity never
consisted in anything but the insertion of curtailed reports in the
_Officiel_. The Council never admitted the public, whose presence would
have prevented many faults.

The next day the Council subdivided itself into commissions charged with
the various services. A Military Commission, and others of Finance,
Justice, Public Safety, Labour and Exchange, Provisions, Foreign
Affairs, Public Services, and Education were named. The Executive
Commission was composed of Lefrançais, Duval, Félix Pyat, Bergeret,
Tridon, Eudes, and Vaillant, of whom Duval, Bergeret, and Eudes also
belonged to the Military Commission.

It had just been voted that all decrees should be signed _The
Commune_--a vote too soon forgotten--when the delegates of the Central
Committee were announced. After waiting half an hour they were
introduced. "Citizens," said their spokesman, "the Central Committee
comes to hand over to you its revolutionary powers. We resume the
functions defined by our statutes."

This was the moment for the Council to affirm its authority. The only
representative of the population, alone responsible, it should now have
absorbed all powers, not tolerating the co-existence of a Committee
which was sure always to remember the paramount position it had held and
strive to recover it. In the previous sitting, the Council had done
justice to the Central Committee in voting that they had deserved well
of Paris and the Republic, and now taking them at their word, ought to
have declared that the rôle of the Committee had come to an end. Instead
of an authoritative decision in this sense, recriminations were resorted

A member of the Council recalled the promise of the Central Committee
to dissolve after the elections. Unless they aimed at power, there was
no necessity for the maintenance of their organisation. Varlin and
Beslay defended the existence of the Committee, which was combated by
Jourde and Rigault. The delegates, who would have yielded to a
peremptory word, held out against this weakness. "This is," they said,
"the Federation that has saved the Republic. The last word is not yet
said. To dissolve this organisation is to break your strength. The
Central Committee does not pretend to share in the government. It
remains the bond of union between you and the National Guard, the right
hand of the Revolution. We again become what we were, the great _conseil
de famille_ of the National Guard."

This simile made a marked impression. The debate was prolonged, and the
delegates of the Committee withdrew, no conclusion having been arrived

Thereupon, without preamble, like a Jack-in-the-box, Félix Pyat jumped
up and proposed the abolition of the conscription.

On the 3rd March he had stolen away from the National Assembly, as he
had on the 31st October deserted the Hôtel-de-Ville, and, a few days
after, sneaked out of prison. On the 18th March he did not stir, while
Delescluze had joined the revolution from the first day. Félix Pyat
waited for the triumph, and on the eve of the elections came to sound
the timbrel before the Committee, "which teaches modesty to the proudest
name and inspires men of genius with a feeling of inferiority." Elected
by about 12,000 votes in the tenth arrondissement, he was now forward to
take his seat at the Hôtel-de-Ville.

The hour awaited for twenty years had at last struck; he was about to
tread the boards. Amidst the crowd of dramatists, thaumaturgists,
romanticists, visionaries, and Jacobin relics, trailing since 1830 at
the heels of the social revolution, his business had been that of
appeals to regicide, to revolutionary chouannerie, of epistles,
allegories, toasts, invocations, evocations, pieces of rhetoric on the
events of the day, tinkering the old Montagnard wares, and doing them
up with a little humanitarian varnish. Under the Empire his rabid
manifestoes had been the joy of the police and of the Bonapartist
journals, excellent sops to throw to the people, who could not extract
from them a practical idea or a grain of sense. This intoxication was
more than half-feigned. The dishevelled madman of the stage behind the
scenes turned crafty, trickish, and wary to a degree. At bottom he was
only a splenetic sceptic, sincere only in his self-idolatry. He came to
the Commune his pockets crammed with decrees.

When he read his motion, it was lustily cheered by the romanticists and
passed at once. Yet still in the morning the Council had intimated
nothing of the sort, but only stated in the proclamation in which they
presented themselves to Paris: "To-day the decision on house-rents,
to-morrow that on the overdue bills, the public services re-established
and simplified, and the National Guards reorganised, these are our first
acts." And now it abruptly encroached upon national affairs. Commune in
the morning, Constituent Assembly in the evening.

If they wanted to change the revolution from a communal into a national
one, they ought to have said so, boldly set forth their whole programme,
and demonstrated to France the necessity of their attempt. But what
signified this decree, improvised at random, without a preliminary
declaration and without a sequel? This _quid pro quo_ was not even taken
up. Under pretext of avoiding parliamentarism, the matters at issue were
hurried over.

Then the Council decreed the general release of rents due between
October, 1870, and July, 1871. Versailles had offered only delays; this
was contrary to equity. The Council released rents for the good reason
that property ought to bear its share of the general sacrifices; but it
did not except a lot of industrials who had realised scandalous profits
during the siege. This was contrary to justice.

Finally, they neglected to announce themselves to the provinces, already
so forsaken by the Central Committee. A commission had certainly been
charged to draw up an address, but its work had not pleased, and another
one had been named, so that what with one commission and another, the
programme of the Commune was kept in suspense for twenty-two days, and
the Council had allowed all the insurrections of the provinces to die
out without giving them any advice or ideas.

These encroachments, this disorder, disturbed Paris with the thought
that the new power had neither very clear ideas nor consciousness of the
situation. The Liberal fraction of the Council took advantage of this
pretext to withdraw. If their convention of the 20th had been sincere,
if they had cared for the destinies of Paris, the mayor and adjuncts
elected would have courageously stood by their mandates. Like those of
the provinces, they deserted, but were still more culpable, since they
had not protested against their elections. Many had never been seen at
the Hôtel-de-Ville; others wrung their hands, lamenting, "Where are we
going?" Some shammed mortal illness: "You see I am at my last gasp."
Those who have been most abusive since, then sought for humble evasions.
Not one broke boldly.

Their resignations,[110] the double elections, left twenty-two seats
vacant on the 30th, when the Council verified the credentials. Faithful
to the best traditions of the French Republic, it admitted the Hungarian
Frankel, one of the most intelligent members of the International,
elected in the thirteenth arrondissement. Six candidates had not
received the eighth part of the votes required by the law of 1849; the
Council passed by this irregularity because the arrondissements of these
candidates, composed of reactionary quarters, were emptying themselves
from day to day.

The men of order, twice chastised, continued migrating to Versailles,
which they stocked with a new store of rancour and rhodomontades. The
town had assumed a warlike aspect; all announced that the struggle was
near at hand. Already M. Thiers had cut off Paris from France. On the
eve of the April term, the 31st March, the director of the general
post-office, Rampont, belying the word of honour he had given the
delegate of the Central Committee, Theisz, made off after having
disorganised the postal service, and M. Thiers suppressed all the goods
trains and kept back all correspondence destined for Paris.

On the 1st April he officially announced war. "The Assembly," he
telegraphed to the prefects, "is sitting at Versailles, where the
organisation of one of the finest armies that France has ever possessed
is being completed. Good citizens may then take heart and hope for the
end of a struggle which will be sad but short." A cynical boast of that
same bourgeoisie which had refused to organise armies against the
Prussians. "One of the finest armies," was as yet only the rabble of the
18th March, strengthened by five or six regiments; about 35,000 men,
with 3,000 horses, and 5,000 gendarmes or sergents-de-ville, the only
corps that had any solidity.

Paris would not believe in the existence even of this army. The popular
papers demanded a sortie, speaking of the journey to Versailles as a
promenade. The most impetuous was the _Vengeur_, in which Félix Pyat
furiously shook his cap and bells. He exhorted the Commune "to press
Versailles. Poor Versailles! it no longer remembers the 5th and 6th
October, 1789, when the women of the Commune alone sufficed to catch its
king." On the morning of Sunday the 2nd April the same member of the
Executive Commission announced to Paris: "Yesterday at Versailles the
soldiers, requested to vote by _aye_ or _no_ if they were to march on
Paris, answered No!"


[107] Ad. Adam, Meline, Rochard, Barré (1st arrondissement, Louvre);
Brelay, Loiseau-Pinson, Tirard, Chéron (2nd, Bourse); Ch. Murat (3rd,
Temple); A. Le Roy, Robinet (6th, Luxembourg); Desmarets, E. Ferry, Nast
(9th, Opéra); Marmottan, De Bouteillier (16th, Passy).

[108] Goupil (6th, Luxembourg); E. Lefévre (7th, Palais-Bourbon); A.
Ranc, U. Parent (9th, Opéra).

[109] Demay, A. Arnaud, Pindy, C. Dupont (3rd, Temple); A. Arnould,
Lefrançais, Clémence, E. Gérardin (4th, Hôtel-de-Ville); Régère, Jourde,
Tridon, Blanchet, Ledroit (5th, Panthéon); Beslay, Varlin (6th,
Luxembourg); Parizel, Urbain, Brunel (7th, Palais-Bourbon); Raoul
Rigault, Vaillant, A. Arnould, Alix (8th, Champs-Elysées); Gambon,
Félix, Pyat, H. Fortuné, Champy, Babick, Rastoul (10th, Enclos St.
Laurent); Mortier, Delescluze, Assi, Protot, Eudes, Avrial, Verdure
(11th, Popincourt); Varlin, Geresme, Theisz, Fruneau (12th, Reuilly);
Léo Meillet, Duval, Chardon, Frankel (13th, Gobelins); Billioray,
Martelet, Decamp (14th, Observatoire); V. Clément, J. Vallès, Langevin
(15th, Vaugirard); Varlin, E. Clément, Ch. Gérardin, Chalain, Malon
(17th, Batignolles); Blanqui, Theisz, Dereure, J. B. Clément, Ferré,
Vermorel, P. Grousset (18th, Montmartre); Oudet, Puget, Delescluze, J.
Miot, Ostyn, Flourens (19th, Buttes-Chaumont); Bergeret, Ranvier,
Flourens, Blanqui (20th, Menilmontant). Blanqui had been arrested in the
South of France, where he had gone for the sake of his health.

[110] See Appendix III.



That very day, the 2nd April, at one o'clock, without warning, without
summons, the Versaillese opened fire and threw their shells into Paris.

For several days their cavalry had exchanged shots with our advanced
posts at Châtillon and Putteaux. We occupied Courbevoie, that commands
the route to Versailles, which made the rurals very anxious. On the 2nd,
at ten o'clock in the morning, three brigades of the best Versailles
troops, 10,000 strong, arrived at the cross-roads of Bergères. Six or
seven hundred cavalry of the brigade Gallifet supported this movement,
while we had only three federal battalions at Courbevoie, in all five or
six hundred men, defended by a half-finished barricade on the road of
St. Germain. Their watch, however, was well kept; their vedettes had
killed the head-surgeon of the Versaillese army, whom they had mistaken
for a colonel of gendarmerie.

At mid-day the Versaillese, having cannonaded the barracks of Courbevoie
and the barricade, launched themselves to the assault. At the first
shots from our men they scampered off, abandoning on the road cannon and
officers. Vinoy was obliged to come himself and rally the runagates.
Meanwhile the 113th of the line outflanked Courbevoie on the right, and
the infantry of marines turned the left, marching through Putteaux. Too
inferior in number and fearing to be cut off from Paris, the Federals
evacuated Courbevoie, and, pursued by shells, fell back on the Avenue de
Neuilly, leaving twelve dead and some prisoners. The gendarmes had
taken five, one of whom was a child of fifteen, beating them
unmercifully, and shot them at the foot of Mont-Valérien. This
expedition concluded, the army regained its cantonment.

At the report of the cannon all Paris started. No one believed in an
attack, so completely did all, since the 28th, live in an atmosphere of
confidence. It was no doubt an anniversary, a misunderstanding at the
utmost. When the news, the ambulance-carriages, arrived; when the word
was spoken, "The siege is recommencing!" an explosion of horror shook
all the quarters. An affrighted hive, such was Paris. The barricades
were again thrown up, the call to arms beaten everywhere, and the cannon
drawn to the ramparts of the Porte-Maillot and of the Ternes. At three
o'clock 80,000 men were on their legs crying, "To Versailles!" The women
excited the battalions, and spoke of marching in the vanguard.

The Executive Commission met and placarded a proclamation: "The royalist
conspirators have attacked; despite the moderation of our attitude, they
have attacked. Our duty is to defend the great city against these
culpable aggressions." In the Commission, the generals Duval, Bergeret,
and Eudes declared for an attack. "The enthusiasm," they said, "is
irresistible, unique. What can Versailles do against 100,000 men? We
must sally out." Their colleagues resisted, especially Félix Pyat,
confronted with his rant and vapourings of the morning. His poltroonery
stood him in the stead of a life-preserver. "One does not start," said
he, "at random, without cannon, without _cadres_, and without chiefs;"
and he demanded the return of the strength of the troops. Duval, who
since the 19th March had been strongly bent upon a sortie, violently
apostrophised him: "Why, then, for three days have you shouted, 'To
Versailles?'" The most energetic opponent of the sortie was Lefrançais.
Finally, the four civil members--that is, the majority--decided that the
generals should present a detailed statement as to their forces in men,
artillery, munitions, and transports. The same evening the Commission
named Cluseret delegate at War jointly with Eudes, who, being a member
of the so-called party of action, owed this post only to the patronage
of his old cronies.

In spite of the majority of the Commission, the generals set out. They
had, besides, received no formal order to the contrary. Félix Pyat had
even concluded by saying, "After all, if you think you are ready...."
They saw Flourens always ready for a _coup-de-main_, other colleagues
equally adventurous, and, on their own authority, certain of being
followed by the National Guard. They sent to the _chefs-de-légion_ the
order to form columns. The battalions of the right bank were to
concentrate at the Place Vendôme and Place Wagram; those of the left
bank, at the Place d'Italie and Champ-de-Mars.

These movements, without staff officers to guide them, were very badly
executed. Many men marched hither and thither, grew tired. Yet at
midnight there were still about 20,000 men on the right bank of the
Seine and about 17,000 on the left.

From eight o'clock to midnight the Council was sitting. The inexorable
Félix Pyat, always pertinent, demanded the abolition of the budget of
public worship. The majority immediately satisfied him. He might just as
well have decreed the abolition of the Versaillese army. Of the sortie,
of the military preparations deafening Paris, no one breathed a word in
the Council--no one disputed the field with the generals.

The plan of the latter, which they communicated to Cluseret, was to make
a strong demonstration in the direction of Rueil, while two columns were
to march on Versailles by Meudon and the plateau of Châtillon. Bergeret,
assisted by Flourens, was to operate on the right; Eudes and Duval were
to command the columns of the centre and the left. A simple idea, and
easy of execution with experienced officers and solid heads of columns.
But most of the battalions had been without chiefs since the 18th March,
the National Guards without _cadres_, and the generals who assumed the
responsibility of leading 40,000 men had never conducted a single
battalion into the field. They neglected even the most elementary
precautions, knew not how to collect artillery, ammunition-waggons, or
ambulances, forgot to make an order of the day, and left the men for
several hours without food in a penetrating fog. Every Federal chose the
chief he liked best. Many had no cartridges, and believed the sortie to
be a simple demonstration. The Executive Commission had just placarded a
despatch from the Place Vendôme, headquarters of the National Guard:
"Soldiers of the line are all coming to us, and declare that, save the
superior officers, no one wants to fight."

At three o'clock in the morning Bergeret's column, about 10,000 men
strong and with only eight ordnance pieces, arrived at the bridge of
Neuilly. It was necessary to give the men, who had taken nothing since
the evening before, time to recover themselves. At dawn they moved in
the direction of Rueil. The battalions marched by sections in line in
the middle of the road, without scouts, and cheerfully climbed the
Plateau des Bergères, when suddenly a shell burst into their ranks,
followed by a second. Mont-Valérien had opened fire.

A terrible panic broke the battalions, amidst thousandfold cries of
"Treason!" the whole National Guard believing that we occupied
Mont-Valérien. Many members of the Commune, of the Central Committee, at
the Place Vendôme, knew the contrary, and very foolishly concealed it,
living in the hope that the fortress would not fire. It possessed, it is
true, only two or three badly appointed guns, the range of which the
Guards might have escaped by one quick movement; but, surprised when in
a state of blind confidence, they fancied themselves betrayed, and fled
on all sides. Bergeret exhausted every means to stay them. A shell cut
in two the brother of the chief of his staff, an officer of the regular
army gone over to the Commune. The greater part of the Federals
dispersed in the fields and regained Paris. The 91st only and a few
others, 1,200 men in all, remained with Bergeret, and, dividing into
small groups, reached Rueil. Shortly after, Flourens arrived by the road
of Asnières, bringing hardly a thousand men.[111] The rest had lagged
behind in Paris or on the way. Flourens, all the same, pressing forward,
arrived at the Malmaison, put Gallifet's chasseurs to flight, and the
Parisian vanguard pushed as far as Bougival.

The Versaillese, surprised by this sortie, only drew up very late,
towards ten o'clock. Ten thousand men were launched against Bougival,
and the batteries placed on the hill of La Jonchère cannonaded Rueil.
Two brigades of cavalry on the right and that of Gallifet on the left
defended the wings. The Parisian vanguard--a mere handful of
men--offered a determined resistance, in order to give Bergeret time to
operate his retreat, which commenced towards one o'clock, on Neuilly,
where they fortified the bridge-head. Some valiant men, who had
obstinately held out in Rueil, with great difficulty gained the bridge
of Asnières, whither they were pursued by the cavalry, who took some

Flourens was surprised at Rueil, and the house which he occupied with
some officers surrounded by gendarmes. While preparing to defend
himself, the officer of the detachment, Captain Desmarets, cleft his
head with so furious a blow of the sabre that the brains gushed out. The
body was thrown into a dust-cart and taken to Versailles, where the fine
ladies gathered to enjoy the spectacle. Thus ended the large-hearted
man, loved of the Revolution.

At the extreme left Duval had passed the night with six or seven
thousand men on the plateau of Châtillon. Towards seven o'clock he
formed a column of picked men, advanced to Petit-Bicêtre, dispersed the
outpost of General du Barail, and sent an officer to reconnoitre
Villecoublay, that commanded the route. The officer announced that the
roads were free, and the Federals advanced without fear. When near the
hamlet firing commenced. The men deployed as skirmishers, and Duval,
uncovered, in the middle of the road, set them the example. They held
out for several hours. A few shells would have sufficed to dislodge the
enemy; but Duval had no artillery. Even cartridges were already
wanting, and he had to send to Châtillon for more.

The bulk of the Federals who occupied the redoubt, confounded in an
inextricable disorder, already believed themselves surrounded on all
sides. The messengers of Duval on their arrival begged, menaced, but
could not obtain either reinforcements or munitions. An officer even
ordered a retreat. The unfortunate Duval, totally abandoned, was
assailed by the Derroja brigade and the whole Pellé division, 8,000 men.
He retired with his troops to the plateau of Châtillon.

Our efforts in the centre were not more fortunate. Ten thousand men had
left the Champ-de-Mars at three o'clock in the morning with Ranvier and
Avrial. General Eudes as his whole battle array had ordered the troops
to move on. At six o'clock the 61st reached the Moulineaux, defended by
gendarmes; these were soon forced to retreat to Meudon, strongly
occupied by a Versaillese brigade entrenched in the villas and provided
with mitrailleuses. The Federals had only eight pieces, while Paris
possessed hundreds, and each of these had only eight rounds. At six
o'clock, weary of shooting at walls, they retreated to Moulineaux.
Ranvier went in search of cannon, and mounted them in the fort of Issy,
thus preventing the Versaillese from taking the offensive.

We were beaten at all points, and the Communalist papers shouted
"Victory!" Led astray by staffs which did not even know the names of the
generals, the Executive Commission announced the junction of Flourens
and Duval at Courbevoie. Félix Pyat, again become bellicose, six times
cried in his _Vengeur_, "To Versailles!"[112] Despite the runaways of
the morning, the popular enthusiasm did not flag. A battalion of 300
women marched up the Champs-Elysées, the red flag at their head,
demanding to sally forth against the enemy. The journals of the evening
announced the arrival of Flourens at Versailles.

At the ramparts the sad truth was discovered. Long files of guards
re-entered by all the gates, and at six o'clock the only army outside
Paris was the guards on the plateau de Châtillon. A few shells falling
in their midst completed the disorder. Some of the men threatened Duval,
who was making desperate efforts to keep them together. He remained,
surrounded only by a handful of men, but always equally resolute. The
whole night he, usually so taciturn, did not cease repeating, "I will
not retreat."

The next day at eight o'clock the plateau and the neighbouring villages
were surrounded by the brigade Derroja and the division Pellé.
"Surrender and your lives will be spared," General Pellé had told them.
The Parisians surrendered. The Versaillese at once seized the soldiers
fighting in the ranks of the Federals and shot them. The prisoners,
between two lines of chasseurs, were sent on to Versailles, while their
officers, bare-headed, their _galons_ torn off, were put at the head of
the convoy.

At Petit-Bicêtre they met the general-in-chief, Vinoy. He commanded the
officers to be shot, but the chief of the escort reminding him of
General Pellé's promise, Vinoy said, "Is there a chief?" "Myself," said
Duval, darting from the ranks. Another advanced: "I am the chief of
Duval's staff." Then the commander of the volunteers of Montrouge placed
himself by their side. "You are awful scoundrels," said Vinoy; and,
turning to his officers, "Shoot them." Duval and his comrades disdained
to reply, cleared a ditch, and leant against a wall on which were
inscribed the words, "Duval, horticulturist." They undressed, and,
crying "Vive la Commune," died for it. A horseman tore off Duval's boots
and carried them about as a trophy,[113] and an editor of the _Figaro_
took possession of his blood-stained collar.

Thus the army of order inaugurated the civil war by the massacre of the
prisoners. It had begun on the 2nd; on the 3rd, at Chatou, General
Gallifet had three Federals shot who were surprised in an inn taking
their meal, and then he published a ferocious proclamation: "War has
been declared by the bandits of Paris. They have assassinated my
soldiers. It is a merciless war which I declare against these assassins.
I had to make an example."

The general who called the combatants of Paris "bandits" and these
assassinations "an example" was a scamp of high life, first ruined, then
kept by actresses. Famous for his brigandage in Mexico, he had in a few
years obtained a generalship of brigade by the charms of his wife,
prominent in the orgies of the Imperial court. Nothing is more edifying
in this civil war than the standard-bearers of the "honest people."

Their band in full strength hastened to the Paris Avenue at Versailles
to receive the prisoners of Châtillon. The whole Parisian emigration,
functionaries, elegants, women of the world and of the streets, all came
with the rage of hyenas to strike the Federals with closed hands, with
canes and parasols, pushing off their képis and cloaks, crying, "Down
with the assassins! To the guillotine!" Amongst these "assassins" was
the geographer Elisée Reclus, taken with Duval. In order to give them
time to glut their fury, the escort made several halts before conducting
their prisoners to the barracks of the gendarmes. They were then thrown
into the docks of Satory, and thence carried to Brest in cattle-trucks.

Picard wanted to associate all the honest people of the provinces in
this baiting. "Never," telegraphed this Falstaff of pustulous aspect,
"have baser countenances of a base demagogy met the afflicted gaze of
honest men."

Already, the evening before, after the assassinations of Mont-Valérien
and of Chatou, M. Thiers had written to his prefects, "The moral effect
is excellent." Odious repetition of those words, "Order reigns in
Warsaw," and "The chassepot has done wonders." Ah! it is well known that
it was not the French bourgeoisie, but a daughter of the people who
spoke those great words, "I have never seen French blood shed without my
hair standing on end."


[111] MacMahon, with his _coup-d'oeil_ of Reischoffen and Sedan, saw
there 17,000 men. _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 22.

[112] "To Versailles, if we don't want again to resort to balloons! To
Versailles, if we don't want to fall back upon pigeons! To Versailles,
if we don't want to be reduced to bran bread," &c., &c.--_Le Vengeur_,
3rd April.

[113] These details, related in part by the journals of the time, have
been completed by numerous comrades of Duval whom we have questioned. In
his mutilated, lying, naïvely cynical book, Vinoy dared to say: "The
insurgents threw down their arms an surrendered _at discretion_: the man
called Duval was _killed in the affray_."



The same sun that saw the scale turn against Paris looked also on the
defeat of the people of Marseilles.

The paralytic Commission still continued to dose, when, on the 26th,
Espivent beat the réveille, placed the department in a state of siege,
and issued a proclamation _à la_ Thiers. The municipal council began to
tremble, and on the 27th withdrew their delegates from the prefecture.
Gaston Crémieux and Bouchet were at once sent to the Mairie to announce
that the Commission was ready to withdraw before the council. The
council asked for time to consider.

The evening was passing away, and the Commission searching for a
loophole by which to escape from a position become untenable, when
Bouchet proposed to telegraph to Versailles that they would resign their
powers into the hands of a Republican prefect. Poor issue of a great
movement! They knew what the Republican prefects of M. Thiers were. The
Commission, jaded, discouraged, let Bouchet draw up the telegram, when
Landeck, Amouroux, and May arrived, sent, they said, by Paris. They
spoke in the name of the great town. Bouchet wanted to verify their
powers and contested their validity, which were indeed more than
contestable, whereat the members of the Commission grew indignant. The
magic name of victorious Paris resuscitated the enthusiasm of the first
hours, and Bouchet left the place. At midnight the municipal council
decided to maintain its resolution, and communicated this to the club of
the National Guard, who immediately followed their example. At half-past
one in the morning the delegates of the club informed the Commission
that their powers were at an end. The Liberal bourgeoisie, coward-like,
stole away, the Radicals backed out, and the people remained alone to
face the reaction.

This was the second phase of the movement. The most exalted of the three
delegates, Landeck, became an authority paramount to the Commission. The
cold-blooded Republicans who heard him and knew of his past dealings
with the Imperialist police, suspected a Bonapartist under the grossly
ignorant bully. He was indeed but a juggler, meant for the itinerant
stage, of grotesque vanity, and shrinking from nothing, because ignorant
of everything. The situation waxed tragic with this mountebank for a
leader. G. Crémieux, unable to find another issue, was still for the
solution of the evening before. On the 28th he wrote to the municipal
council that the Commission was ready to retire, leaving them the
responsibility of events, and urged his colleagues to release the
hostages; this only rendered him the more suspected of moderatism.
Closely watched, threatened, he lost heart at these disputes, and that
same evening left the prefecture. His secession divested the Commission
of all authority. It succeeded in discovering his retreat, made an
appeal to his devotion to the cause, and led him back to the prefecture,
there to resume his strange part of a chief at once captive and

The municipal council did not answer G. Crémieux' letter and on the 29th
the Commission renewed its proposal. The council still remained silent.
In the evening 400 delegates of the National Guard, met at the museum,
decided to federate the battalions, and appointed a commission charged
to negotiate between the Hôtel-de-Ville and the prefecture. But these
delegates represented only the revolutionary element of the battalions,
and the Hôtel-de-Ville plunged more and more into a slough of despond.

A war of proclamations now ensued between the two powers. On the 30th
the council answered the deliberations of the museum meeting by a
proclamation of the chiefs of the reactionary battalions. The Commission
launched a manifesto demanding the autonomy of the Commune and the
abolition of prefectures; immediately after, the council declared the
general secretary of the prefect the legal representative of the
Government, and invited him to retake his post. The secretary turned a
deaf ear and took refuge aboard _La Couronne_, many councillors also
betaking themselves to the frigate--gratuitous cowardice, since the most
notorious reactionists went to and fro without being in the least
interfered with. The energy of the Commission was mere show; it arrested
only two or three functionaries, the procureur Guibert, the deputy, and
for a short time the director of the customhouse, and the son of the
mayor. General Ollivier was set free as soon as it became known that he
had refused to form part of the Mixed Commissions of 1851. They even
were so facile as to leave a post close to the prefecture in the hands
of chasseurs forgotten by Espivent. The flight of the council,
therefore, appeared only the more shameful. The town continued to be
calm, gay, facetious. One day the advice-boat _Le Renard_ coming to show
its cannon at the Cannebière, the crowd thronging on the quay hooted so
much that it was obliged to slip its cable and rejoin the frigate in the
new harbour.

Therefore the Commission inferred this, that no one would dare to attack
them, and thus took no measures of defence. They might easily have armed
the heights of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, which commanded the town, and
enlisted a great number of Garibaldians, some officers of the last
campaign having offered to organise everything. The Commission thanked
them, said that the troops would not come, and that even if they did,
they would fraternise with the people. They contented themselves with
hoisting the black flag, addressing a proclamation to the soldiers, and
accumulating at the prefecture arms and cannon without projectiles of
corresponding calibre. Landeck, for his part, wanting to distinguish
himself, declared Espivent's grade forfeited, and in his place nominated
a former cavalry sergeant named Pelissier. "Until the assumption of his
functions," said the decree, "the troops will remain under the orders of
General Espivent." This gross farce dated from the 1st April. Before
the court-martial which tried him, Pelissier hit the mark. When asked,
"Of what armies were you general?" "I was general of the situation," was
his reply; and indeed he never did lead any troops. On the morning of
the 24th the workmen had returned to their work, for the National
Guards, save the guardians of the prefecture, were not paid. Men to
garrison the posts were found with difficulty, and at midnight the
prefecture had but a hundred defenders.

A _coup-de-main_ would have been easy, and some rich bourgeois wanted to
try it. The men were there and the manoeuvres agreed upon. At midnight
the Commission was to be carried off and the prefecture taken possession
of, while Espivent was to march on the town so as to get there by
daybreak. An officer was despatched to Aubagne. The general refused
under the pretext of prudence, but his retinue revealed the true motive
of the refusal. "We," they told the messenger, "have stolen away from
Marseilles like thieves; we want to re-enter it as conquerors."

Such a performance seemed rather difficult with the army of Aubagne, 600
or 700 men, without _cadres_ and without discipline. One single
regiment, the 6th Chasseurs, showed a more martial carriage. But
Espivent relied upon the sailors of _La Couronne_, the National Guards
of order, in continual relations with him, and above all, on the
well-known supineness of the Commission.

The latter tried to strengthen itself by the adjunction of delegates
from the National Guard. They voted the dissolution of the municipal
council, and the Commission convoked the electors for the 3rd April.
This measure, if taken on the 24th March, might perhaps have settled
everything, but on the 2nd April it was only a stroke in the air.

On the 3rd, at the news from Versailles, Espivent sent an order to the
chiefs of the reactionary battalions to hold themselves in readiness. In
the evening, at eleven o'clock, Garibaldian officers came to inform the
prefecture that the troops at Aubagne were moving. The Commission
recommenced its old refrain: "Let them come; we are ready to receive
them." At half-past one they decided to beat the retreat, and towards
four o'clock some men mustered at the prefecture. About a hundred
franc-tireurs established themselves at the station, where the
Commission had not even thought of placing a battery.

At five o'clock Marseilles was on the alert. Some reactionary companies
appeared at the Place du Palais de Justice and in the Cours Bonaparte;
the sailors of _La Couronne_ were drawn up before the Bourse; the first
shots were fired at the station.

Espivent's troops presented themselves at three points--the station, the
Place Castellane, and La Plaine. The franc-tireurs, notwithstanding a
fine defence, were soon surrounded and obliged to retreat. The
Versaillese shot the Federalist stationmaster under the eyes of his son,
a child of sixteen, who threw himself at the feet of the officer,
offering his life for his father's. The second stationmaster, Funel, was
able to escape with only a broken arm. The columns of La Plaine and
L'Esplanade pushed their advanced posts as far as 300 yards from the

The Commission, always in the clouds, sent an embassy to Espivent. G.
Crémieux and Pélissier set out, followed by an immense mass of men and
children, crying "Vive Paris!" At the outposts of the Place Castellane,
the seat of the staff, the chief of the 6th Chasseurs, Villeneuve, came
forward towards the delegates. "What are your intentions?" asked G.
Crémieux. "We want to re-establish order." "What! you would dare fire on
the people?" cried G. Crémieux, and commenced haranguing, when the
Versaillese threatened to order his chasseurs to march on. The delegates
then had themselves conducted to Espivent. He first spoke of putting
them under arrest, but then would allow them five minutes for the
evacuation of the prefecture. G. Crémieux on his return found the
chasseurs struggling with the crowd, who sought to disarm them. A new
current of people, preceded by a black flag, arrived, making a vigorous
push against the soldiers. A German officer of Espivent's staff arrested
Pelissier, but the Versaillese chiefs, seeing their men waver, ordered
a retreat.

The mass applauded, believing they would disband. Two infantry corps had
already refused to march, and the Place de la Prefecture was filled with
groups certain of success. Suddenly, towards ten o'clock, the chasseurs
debouched by the Rues de Rome and De l'Armény. The people shouted and
surrounded them, when many raised the butt-end of their muskets. One
officer who, urging on his company, made them cross bayonets, fell, his
head pierced by a bullet. His men charged the Federals, who took refuge
and were taken prisoners in the prefecture, whither the chasseurs
followed. The volleys of the National Guards of order and the chasseurs
from the Cours Bonaparte and from the house of the Frères Ignorantins,
keeping up a running fire, were replied to by the Federals from the
windows of the prefecture.

The fusillade had lasted two hours, and no reinforcement arrived in
support of the Federals. Inexpugnable in the prefecture, a solid square
building, they were none the less vanquished, having neither provisions
nor sufficient munition, and it would have sufficed to wait with arms
ordered till they had exhausted their cartridges. But the general of the
Sacré Coeur would not put up with such a half-triumph. This was his
first campaign; he wanted blood, and, above all, noise. Since eleven
o'clock he had had the prefecture bombarded from the top of
Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, a distance of about 500 yards. The Fort St.
Nicolas also opened its fire, but its shells, less far-seeing than those
of our Lady-de-la-Garde, dashed down upon the aristocratic houses of the
Cours Bonaparte, killing one of those heroic guards of order who fired
from behind the soldiers. At three o'clock the prefecture hoisted a flag
of truce. Espivent continued to fire. An envoy was sent to him, but he
insisted upon their surrender at discretion. At five o'clock more than
300 shells had traversed the edifice, wounding many Federals. Little by
little, the defenders, seeing that they were not supported, left the
place. The prefecture had long ceased firing when Espivent was still
bombarding it. The fright of this brute was so great that he continued
throwing shells till nightfall. At half past seven the sailors of _La
Couronne_ and _Le Magnanime_ courageously stormed the prefecture, void
of all its defenders.

They found the hostages safe and sound, as were the chasseurs taken
prisoner in the morning. Yet the Jesuitic repression was atrocious. The
men of order arrested at hazard, and dragged their victims into the
lamp-stores of the station. There an officer scrutinised the prisoners,
made a sign to one or the other of them to step out, and blew out his
brains. The following days there were rumours of summary executions in
the barracks, the forts and the prisons. The number of dead the people
lost is unknown, but it exceeded 150, besides many wounded who concealed
themselves. The Versaillese had thirty killed and fifty wounded. More
than 900 persons were thrown into the casemates of the Château d'If and
of the Fort St. Nicolas. G. Crémieux was arrested at the porter's of the
Israelite Cemetery. He voluntarily discovered himself to those who
sought him, strong in his good faith, and still believing in the judges.
The brave Etienne was also taken. Landeck, of course, had made his exit
in good time.

On the 5th Espivent entered triumphantly, acclaimed with savage frenzy
by the reactionists. But from the further ranks of the crowd cries and
hisses rose against the murderers. At the Place St. Ferréol a captain
was fired at, and the people stoned the windows of a house from which
the sailors had been cheered.

Two days after the struggle, on its return from _La Couronne_, the
municipal council recovered its voice to strike the vanquished.

The National Guard was disarmed, a fierce reaction raged, the Jesuits
again lorded it, and Espivent paraded about, receiving ovations to the
cries of "Vive Jésus! Vive le Sacré Coeur!" The club of the National
Guard was closed, Bouchet arrested, and the Radicals, insulted,
persecuted, once more saw what it costs to desert the people.

Narbonne, too, was subdued. On the 30th March the prefect and the
procureur-general issued a proclamation in which they spoke of "the
handful of factious men," presented themselves as upholders of the true
Republic, and telegraphed everywhere the failure of the provincial
movements. "Is this a reason," Digeon answered in a placard, "to lower
before force this red flag dyed in the blood of our martyrs? Let others
consent to live eternally oppressed." Whereupon he prepared for battle,
and barricaded the streets leading to the Hôtel-de-Ville. The women,
always to the fore, pulled up pavements and piled up furniture. The
authorities, afraid of a serious resistance, sent M. Marcou to his
friend Digeon. The Brutus of Carcassonne bestrode the Hôtel-de-Ville,
accompanied by two Republicans of Limoux, to offer in the name of the
procureur-general a full and complete amnesty to those who would
evacuate the edifice. They offered Digeon twenty-four hours to gain the
frontier. Digeon assembled his council, and all refused to fly. M.
Marcou hastened to inform the military authorities that they might now
act.[114] General Zentz was at once sent to Narbonne.

At three o'clock in the morning a detachment of Turcos reconnoitred the
barricades of the Rue du Pont. The Federals, anxious to fraternise,
cleared it, and were received with a volley, killing two men and
wounding three. On the 31st, at seven o'clock, Zentz in a proclamation
announced that the bombardment was about to recommence. Digeon at once
wrote to him, "I have the right to reply to such a savage menace in the
same style. I warn you that if you bombard the town, I shall have the
three prisoners who are in my power shot." Zentz for all answer arrested
the envoy, and had brandy distributed to the Turcos, the only troops who
would march. These brutes arrived at Narbonne eager to loot, and had
already pillaged three cafés. The fight was about to begin, when the
procureur-general again sent two envoys, offering amnesty to all those
who would evacuate the Hôtel-de-Ville before the opening of the fire,
but the execution of the hostages would be punished by the massacre of
all its occupants. Digeon wrote out these conditions under the dictation
of one of the envoys, read them to the Federals, and left every one free
to withdraw. At this moment the procureur-general presented himself with
the Turcos before the terrace of the garden. Digeon rushed thither. The
procureur harangued the multitude, and as he spoke of indulgence, Digeon
protested that an amnesty had just been promised. The procureur drowned
the discussion in a roll of drums, read the legal _sommation_ in front
of the Hôtel-de-Ville, and asked for the hostages, whom the soldiers who
had deserted delivered over to him.

All these parleys had profoundly enervated the defence. Besides, the
Hôtel-de-Ville could do nothing against a bombardment that would have
battered the town. Digeon had the edifice evacuated, and shut himself up
alone in the cabinet of the mayor, resolved to sell his life dearly; but
the people, in spite of his resistance, carried him off. The
Hôtel-de-Ville was empty when the Turcos arrived. They plundered in all
its corners, and officers were seen to deck themselves with stolen

Notwithstanding the formal promises of amnesty, numerous warrants of
arrest were issued. Digeon refused to fly, and wrote to the
procureur-general that he might arrest him. Such a man at Toulouse would
have saved the movement and raised the whole South.

       *       *       *       *       *

Limoges had one glimpse of hope on the fatal day of the 4th April. That
revolutionary capital of the Centre could not look on the efforts of
Paris unmoved. On the 23rd March the Société Populaire, centralised all
the democratic forces and passed a vote of thanks to the army of Paris
for its conduct on the 18th. When Versailles called for volunteers, the
Society enjoined the municipal council to prevent such an incitement to
civil war. The workingmen's societies despatched a delegate to Paris
soon after the proclamation of the Commune, there to inquire into its
principles, and to request the sending of a commissary to Limoges. The
members of the Commune replied that this was impossible for the present,
that they would consider it by and by; and never sent anybody. The
Société Populaire was thus obliged to act alone. It urged the municipal
council to hold a review of the National Guards, certain that it would
result in a demonstration against Versailles. The council composed, with
few exceptions, of timid men, tried to gain time, when the news of the
3rd April became known. On the morning of the 4th, on reading on the
walls the triumphant telegram from Versailles, the workmen revolted. A
detachment of five hundred soldiers was about to leave for Versailles;
the crowd followed them to the station, and the workmen urged them to
join the people. The soldiers, surrounded, much excited, fraternised,
surrendered their arms, many of which were taken to the Société
Populaire, and hidden there.

The rappel was at once beaten. The colonel of cuirassiers, Billet, who,
accompanied by orderlies, rode through the town, was hemmed in by the
people, and constrained to cry, "Vive la République!" At five o'clock
the whole National Guard was in arms on the Place de la Mairie. The
officers met in the Hôtel-de-Ville, where a councillor proposed to
proclaim the Commune. The mayor objected, but the cry resounded on all
sides. Captain Coissac took upon himself to go to the station in order
to stop the train ready for the departure of the troops. The other
officers consulted their companies, which answered with one unanimous
cry, "Vive Paris! A bas Versailles!" Soon after, the battalions, filing
off before the Hôtel-de-Ville, preceded by two municipal councillors in
their official costume, went to ask the general for the release of the
soldiers arrested during the course of the day. The general gave the
order to set them free, and at the same time sent word to Colonel Billet
to prepare against the insurrection. From the Place Tourny the Federals
repaired to the prefecture, occupying it in spite of the resistance of
the Conservative National Guards, and commenced throwing up some
barricades. A few soldiers arriving from the Rue des Prisons, several
citizens adjured the officers not to commence a civil war. These
hesitated, retired, when Colonel Billet, at the head of about fifty
cuirassiers, debouched on the Place de l'Eglise St. Michel, and ordered
his men to advance and draw swords. They fired their pistols, the
Federals answered, and the colonel was mortally wounded. His horse
turning about, carried its rider as far as the Place St. Pierre, the
other horses following, and the Federals thus remained masters of the
field. But lacking organisation, they disbanded in the night and left
the prefecture. The next day the company that occupied the station
seeing themselves abandoned withdrew. The arrests began, and many were
obliged to hide.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus the revolts of the great towns died out one by one like the lateral
craters of an exhausted volcano. The revolutionists of the provinces
showed themselves everywhere completely disorganised, without any
faculty to wield power. Everywhere victorious at the outset, the workmen
had only known how to pronounce for Paris. But at least they showed some
vitality, generosity, and pride. Eighty years of bourgeois domination
had not been able to transform them into a nation of mercenaries; while
the Radicals, who either combated or held aloof from them, once more
attested the decrepitude, the egotism of the middle-class, always ready
to betray the workingmen to the "upper" classes.


[114] "The general commanding the department and the procureur-general,
aware that I had for thirty years been the friend of the man who
commanded the Commune at Narbonne, came to solicit my intervention to
induce him to submit. It was arranged that if I did not succeed I should
immediately send a telegram to General Robinet, in order that the
military authorities might act in consequence. At midnight I sent the
telegram.... You do not know me; it is thanks to my personal influence
that order was maintained at Carcassonne."--_Speech of M. Marcou to the
Assembly in answer to M. de Gavardie, Sitting of the 27th January



After an armistice of seventy days, Paris again took up the struggle for
France single-handed. It was no longer the territory only which she
strove for, but the very ground-work of the nation. Victorious, her
victory would not be sterile as those of the battlefield; regenerated,
the people would set to the great work of remaking the social edifice;
vanquished, all liberty would be quenched, the bourgeoisie turn its
whips into scorpions, and a generation glide into the grave.

And Paris, so generous, so fraternal, did not shudder at the impending
civil war. She stood up for an idea that exalted her battalions. While
the bourgeois refuses to fight, saying, "I have a family," the workman
says, "I fight for my children."

For the third time since the 18th March Paris had but one soul. The
official despatches, the hireling journalists established at Versailles,
pictured her as the pandemonium of all the black-legs of Europe,
recounted the thefts, the arrests _en masse_, the endless orgies,
detailed sums and names. According to them, honest women no longer dared
venture into the streets; 1,500,000 persons oppressed by 20,000 ruffians
were offering up ardent prayers for Versailles. But the traveller
running the risk of a visit to Paris, found the streets and boulevards
tranquil, presenting their usual aspect. The pillagers had only pillaged
the guillotine, solemnly burnt before the mairie of the eleventh
arrondissement. From all quarters the same murmur of execration rose
against the assassination of the prisoners and the ignoble scenes at
Versailles. The incoherence of the first acts of the Council was hardly
noticed while the ferocity of the Versaillese was the topic of the day.
Persons coming full of indignation against Paris, seeing this calm, this
union of hearts, these wounded men crying "Vive la Commune!" these
enthusiastic battalions; there Mont-Valérien vomiting death, here men
living as brothers, in a few hours caught the Parisian malady.

This was a fever of faith, of blind devotion, and of hope--of hope above
all. What rebellion had been thus armed? It was no longer a handful of
desperate men fighting behind a few pavements, reduced to charging their
muskets with slugs or stones. The Commune of 1871, much better armed
than that of 1793, possessed at least 60,000 men, 200,000 muskets, 1,200
cannon, five forts; an enceinte covered by Montmartre, Belleville, the
Panthéon overtowering the whole city, munitions enough to last for
years, and milliards at her bidding. What else is wanted to conquer?
Some revolutionary instinct. There was not a man at the Hôtel-de-Ville
who did not boast of possessing it.

The sitting of the 3rd April during the battle was stormy. Many
inveighed against this mad sortie. Lefrançais, indignant at having been
deceived, withdrew from the Commission, which, called upon to explain,
threw all the blame upon the generals. The friends of the latter took up
their defence, demanded that news should be waited for. Soon the
disastrous tidings were brought, and they could not hesitate any longer.
For such a usurpation of authority there was but one atonement possible.
Flourens and Duval had made it voluntarily. The others ought to have
followed. Thus the dead would have been appeased, similar follies once
for all cut short, and the authority of the Commune brought home to the
most refractory.

But the men at the Hôtel-de-Ville were not of such inflexibility. Many
had fought, plotted together under the Empire, lived in the same
prisons, identified the Revolution with their friends. And besides, the
generals, were they alone guilty? So many battalions could not have
bestirred themselves all the night without the Council being informed
thereof. Though blind or deaf, they were none the less responsible. In
order to be just they ought to have decimated themselves. They felt
this, no doubt, and did not dare strike the generals.

They might at least have dismissed them. They contented themselves with
replacing them on the Executive Commission, and notified this measure
most respectfully. "The Commune was desirous to leave them all liberty
in the conduct of the military operations; it was as far from wishing to
disoblige them as from wishing to weaken their authority." And yet their
heedlessness, their incapacity, had been mortal. Their ignorance only
saved them from the suspicion of having betrayed. This indulgence was
big with promises for the future.

This future meant Cluseret. From the first days he had beset the Central
Committee, the Ministries, in quest of a generalship, his hands full of
war plans against the mayors. The Committee would have nothing to do
with him. He then clung to the Executive Commission, which on the 2nd
April, at seven o'clock in the evening, appointed him delegate at war,
with the order to enter upon his duties immediately.[115] The rappel was
being beaten at that moment for the fatal sortie. Cluseret took good
care not to take possession of his post, allowed the generals to ruin
themselves, and on the 3rd appeared before the Council to denounce their
"_gaminerie_." It was this military pamphlet-monger, with no pledge but
his decoration, won against the Socialists of 1848, who had played the
marionette in three insurrections, whom the Socialists of 1871 charged
with the defence of their Revolution.

The choice was execrable, the very idea of naming a delegate faulty. The
Council had just decided to keep on the defensive. To guard the lines,
regularise the services, provision and administer the battalions, the
best delegate would have been common sense. A commission, composed of a
few active and laborious men, would have offered all guarantees of

Moreover, the Council failed to point out what sort of defence they had
in view. The defence of the forts, of the redoubts, of the accessory
positions, required thousands of men, experienced officers, a war with
the mattock as well as the musket. The National Guard was not qualified
for such soldiership. Behind the ramparts, on the contrary, it became
invincible. It would have sufficed to blow up the forts of the south, to
fortify Montmartre, the Panthéon, and the Buttes-Chaumont, to strongly
arm the ramparts, to create a second, a third enceinte, to render Paris
inaccessible or untenable to the enemy. The Council did not indicate
either of these systems, but allowed its delegates to dabble with the
two, and finally annulled the one by the other.

If they wished by the appointment of a delegate to concentrate the
military power, why not dissolve the Central Committee? The latter
acted, spoke more boldly and much better than the Council which had
excluded it from the Hôtel-de-Ville. The Committee had installed itself
in the Rue de l'Entrepôt, behind the Customs House, near its cradle.
Thence on the 5th April it launched a fine proclamation: "Workmen, do
not deceive yourselves about the import of the combat. It is the
engagement between parasitism and labour, exploitation and production.
If you are tired of vegetating in ignorance and wallowing in misery, if
you want your children to be men enjoying the benefit of their labour,
and not mere animals trained for the workshop and the battlefield, if
you do not want your daughters, whom you are unable to educate and
overlook as you yearn to do, to become instruments of pleasure in the
arms of the aristocracy of money, if you at last want the reign of
justice, workmen, be intelligent, rise!"

The Committee certainly declared in another placard that it did not
pretend to any political power, but power in times of revolution of
itself belongs to those who define it. For eight days the Council had
not known how to interpret the Commune, and its whole baggage consisted
in two insignificant decrees. The Central Committee, on the contrary,
very distinctly set forth the character of this contest, that had become
a social one, pointed out behind the struggle for municipal liberties
that devouring sphinx the question of the proletariat.

The Council might have profited by the lesson, endorsed if necessary
that manifesto, and then, referring to the protestations of the
Committee, obliged it to dissolve itself. This was all the more easy
that the Committee, much weakened by the elections, only existed thanks
to four or five members and its eloquent mouthpiece, Moreau. But the
Council contented itself with mildly protesting at the sitting of the
5th, and as usual letting things get along as best they could.

It was already drifting from weakness to weakness; and yet, if ever it
believed in its own energy it was that day. The savagery of the
Versaillese, the assassination of the prisoners, of Flourens and Duval,
had excited the most calm. They had been there full of life three days
ago, these brave colleagues and friends. Their empty places seemed to
cry out for vengeance. Well, then, since Versailles waged a war of
cannibals, they would answer an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Besides, if the Council did not act, the people, it was said, would
perhaps revenge itself, and more terribly. They decreed that any one
accused of complicity with Versailles would be judged within forty-eight
hours, and if guilty, retained as a hostage. The execution by Versailles
of a defender of the Commune would be followed by that of a hostage--by
three said the decree, in equal or double number said the proclamation.

These different readings betrayed the troubled state of their minds. The
Council alone believed in having frightened Versailles. The bourgeois
journals certainly shouted "Abomination!" and M. Thiers, who shot
without any decrees, denounced the ferocity of the Commune. At bottom
they all laughed in their sleeves. The reactionists of any mark had long
since fled; there only remained in Paris the small fry and a few
isolated men, whom, if needs be, Versailles was ready to sacrifice.[116]
The members of the Council, in their childish impetuosity, had not seen
the real hostages staring them in the face--the bank, the civil
register, the domains and the suitors' fund. These were the tender
points by which to hold the bourgeoisie. Without risking a single man,
the Commune had only to stretch out its hand and bid Versailles
negotiate or commit suicide.

The timid delegates of the 26th March were not the men to dare this. In
allowing the Versaillese army to file off, the Central Committee had
committed a heavy fault; that of the Council was incomparably more
damaging. All serious rebels have commenced by seizing upon the sinews
of the enemy--the treasury. The Council of the Commune was the only
revolutionary Government that refused to do so. While abolishing the
budget of public worship, which was at Versailles, they bent their knees
to the budget of the bourgeoisie, which was at their mercy.

Then followed a scene of high comedy, if one could laugh at negligence
that has caused so much bloodshed. Since the 19th March the governors of
the bank lived like men condemned to death, every day expecting the
execution of their treasure. Of removing it to Versailles they could not
dream. It would have required sixty or eighty vans and an army corps. On
the 23rd, its governor, Rouland, could no longer stand it, and fled. The
sub-governor, De Ploeuc, replaced him. From his first interview with
the delegates of the Hôtel-de-Ville he had seen through their timidity,
given battle, then seemed to soften, yielded little by little, and doled
out his money franc by franc. The bank, which Versailles believed almost
empty, contained: coin, 77 millions;[117] bank-notes, 166 millions;
bills discounted, 899 millions; securities for advances made, 120
millions; bullion, 11 millions; jewels in deposit, 7 millions; public
effects and other titles in deposit, 900 millions; that is, 2 milliards
180 million francs: 800 millions in bank-notes only required the
signature of the cashier, a signature easily made. The Commune had then
three milliards in its hands, of which over a milliard realised, enough
to buy all the generals and functionaries of Versailles; as hostages,
90,000 depositors of titles, and the two milliards in circulation whose
guarantee lay in the boxes in the Rue de la Vrillière.

On the 29th March old Beslay presented himself before the tabernacle. De
Ploeuc had mustered his 430 clerks, armed with muskets without
cartridges. Beslay, led through the lines of these warriors, humbly
prayed the governor to be so kind as to supply the pay of the National
Guard. De Ploeuc answered superciliously, spoke of defending himself.
"But," said Beslay, "if, to prevent the effusion of blood, the Commune
appointed a governor." "A governor! never!" said De Ploeuc, who
understood his man; "but a delegate! If you were that delegate we might
come to an understanding." And, doing the pathetic, "Come, M. Beslay,
help me to save this. This is the fortune of your country; this is the
fortune of France."

Beslay, deeply moved, hurried off to the Executive Commission, repeated
his lesson all the better that he believed it and prided himself on his
financial lore. "The bank," he said, "is the fortune of the country:
without it, no more industry, no more commerce. If you violate it, all
its notes will be so much waste-paper."[118] This trash circulated in
the Hôtel-de-Ville, and the Proudhonists of the Council, forgetting
that their master put the suppression of the bank at the head of his
revolutionary programme, backed old Beslay. At Versailles itself, the
capitalist stronghold had no more inveterate defenders than those of the
Hôtel-de-Ville. If some one had at least proposed, "Let us at least
occupy the bank," but the Executive Commission had not the nerve to do
this, and contented itself with commissioning Beslay. De Ploeuc
received the good man with open arms, installed him in the nearest
cabinet, even persuading him to sleep at the bank, made him his hostage,
and once more breathed freely.

Thus since the first week the Assembly of the Hôtel-de-Ville showed
itself weak towards the authors of the sortie, weak towards the Central
Committee, weak towards the bank, trifling in its decrees, in the choice
of its delegate to the War Office, without a military plan, without a
programme, without general views, and indulging in desultory
discussions. The Radicals who had remained in the Council saw whither it
was drifting, and, not inclined to play the martyrs, they sent in their

O Revolution! thou dost not await the well-timed day and hour. Thou
comest suddenly, blind and fatal as the avalanche. The true soldier of
the people accepts the combat wherever hazard may place him. Blunders,
defections, compromising companions do not dishearten him. Though
certain of defeat, he struggles still; his victory looms in the future.


[115] Such is the text of the decree.

[116] M. Barthélemy St. Hilaire, M. Thiers' secretary, answered Barral
de Montaut, who spoke of the possibility of a massacre in the prisons:
"The hostages! the hostages! But we can do nothing. What should we do?
So much the worse for them."--_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 271.

[117] M. Beslay, in his book _Mes Souvenirs_, Paris, 1873, says: "The
cash in hand was forty and some odd millions." These "some odd" were no
less than 203 millions. They presented the good man fictitious
statements, with which they gulled him. In his evidence and the annexes
(_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. iii. errata, p. 488), M. de Ploeuc has
given the true statements.

[118] These were all the reasons he could ever allege, even in his book
written in Switzerland, whither M. de Ploeuc himself went to deposit him
after the fall of the Commune. Besides his life being saved, he, later
on, received a judicial ordinance to the effect that no further judicial
proceedings were to be taken against him.



The rout of the 3rd April daunted the timorous but exalted the fervent.
Battalions inert until then rose; the armament of the forts no longer
lagged. Save Issy and Vanves, rather damaged, the forts were intact. All
Paris soon heard these fine cannon of seven, which Trochu had
disdained,[119] firing so lustily and with such correct aim, that on the
evening of the 4th the Versaillese were obliged to evacuate the plateau
of Châtillon. The trenches that protected the forts were manned. Les
Moulineaux, Clamart, Le Val-Fleury resounded with the fusillade. To the
right we reoccupied Courbevoie, and the bridge of Neuilly was

Thence we continued to threaten Versailles. Vinoy received the order to
take Neuilly. On the morning of the 6th, Mont-Valérien, recently armed
with 24-pounders, opened fire on Courbevoie. After six hours of
bombardment the Federals evacuated the cross-roads and took up a
position behind the large barricade of the bridge of Neuilly. The
Versaillese cannonaded it while it was protected by the Porte-Maillot.

This Porte-Maillot, which has become legendary, had only a few cannon
exposed to the fire from above of Mont-Valérien. For forty-eight days
the Commune found men to hold this untenable post. Their courage
electrified all. The crowd went to the Arc-de-Triomphe to see them, and
the boys hardly waited for the explosion to run after the fragments of
the shells.

The Parisian intrepidity soon reappeared in the first skirmishes. The
bourgeois papers themselves regretted that so much ardour should not
have been spent on the Prussians. The panic of the 3rd April had
witnessed heroic deeds, and the Council, happily inspired, wanted to
give the defenders of the Commune a funeral worthy of them. It appealed
to the people. On the 6th, at two o'clock, an innumerable multitude
hurried up to the Beaujon Hospital, whither the dead had been
transported. Many, shot after the combat, bore on their arms the marks
left by cords. There were heart-rending scenes. Mothers and wives
bending over these bodies uttered cries of fury and vows of vengeance.
Three immense catafalques, each containing thirty-five coffins, covered
with black crape, adorned with red flags, drawn by eight horses each,
slowly rolled towards the great boulevards, preceded by trumpets and the
_Vengeurs de Paris_. Delescluze and five members of the Commune, with
their red scarfs on and bare-headed, walked as chief mourners. Behind
them followed the relations of the victims, the widows of to-day
supported by those of to-morrow. Thousands upon thousands, men, women,
and children, immortelles in their button-holes, silent, solemn, marched
to the sound of the muffled drums. At intervals subdued strains of music
burst forth like the spontaneous mutterings of sorrow too long
contained. On the great boulevards we numbered 200,000, and 100,000 pale
faces looked down upon us from the windows. The women sobbed, many
fainted. This Via Sacra of the Revolution, the scene of so many woes and
so many joys, has perhaps never witnessed such a communion of hearts.
Delescluze exclaimed in ecstasy, "What an admirable people! Will they
still say that we are a handful of malcontents?" At the Père la Chaise
he advanced to the common grave. Wrinkled, stooping, sustained only by
his indomitable faith, this dying man saluted the dead. "I will make
you no long speeches; these have already cost us too dear.... Justice
for the families of the victims; justice for the great town which, after
five months of siege, betrayed by its Government, still holds in its
hands the future of humanity.... Let us not weep for our brothers who
have fallen heroically, but let us swear to continue their work, and to
save Liberty, the Commune, the Republic!"

The following day the Versaillese cannonaded the barricade and the
Avenue of Neuilly. The inhabitants, whom they had not the humanity to
forewarn, were obliged to take refuge in their cellars. Towards
half-past four the fire of the Versaillese ceased, and the Federals were
snatching a little rest, when the soldiers debouched en masse on the
bridge. The Federals, surprised, attempted to arrest their progress,
wounding one general and killing two, one of whom, Besson, was
responsible for the surprise of Beaumont l'Argonne during the march on
Sedan. But the soldiers in overwhelming force succeeded in pushing as
far as the old park of Neuilly.

The loss of this outlet was all the more serious that Bergeret, in a
letter published in the _Officiel_, had answered for Neuilly. The
Executive Commission replaced him by the Pole Dombrowski, whom Garibaldi
had demanded for his general staff during the war in the Vosges.
Bergeret's staff protested, and their bickerings led to the arrest of
their chief by the Council, already grown suspicious. The National Guard
itself showed some distrust of the new general. The Commission had to
present him to Paris, and, misinformed, invented a legend in his favour.
Dombrowski was not long in making it good.

The same day the Federals of Neuilly beheld a young man, small of
stature, in a modest uniform, slowly inspecting the vanguards in the
thick of the fire. It was Dombrowski. Instead of the explosive glowing
French bravery, the cool and, as it were, unconscious courage of the
Slav. In a few hours the new chief had conquered all his men. The able
officer soon revealed himself. On the 9th, during the night, with two
battalions from Montmartre, Dombrowski, accompanied by Vermorel, took
the Versaillese by surprise at Asnières, drove them off, seized their
cannon, and from the ironclad railway carriages cannonaded Courbevoie
and the bridge of Neuilly from the flank. At the same time his brother
stormed the castle of Bécon, that commands the road from Asnières to
Courbevoie. Vinoy having tried to retake this post on the night of the
12th-13th, his men were shamefully repulsed, and fled to Courbevoie as
fast as their legs would carry them.

Paris was ignorant of this success, so defective was the service of the
general staff. This brilliant attack was the deed of one man, just as
the defence of the forts was the spontaneous work of the National Guard.
There was as yet no direction. Whoever cared to rush into some venture
did so; whoever wanted cannon or reinforcements went to ask for them at
the Place Vendôme, at the Central Committee, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, of
the generalissime Cluseret.

The latter had made his début with a blunder, calling out only the
unmarried men from seventeen to thirty-five, thus depriving the Commune
of its most energetic defenders, the grey-headed men, the first and last
under fire in all our insurrections. Three days after, this decree had
to be revoked. On the 5th, in his report to the Council, this profound
strategist announced that the attack of Versailles masked a movement for
occupying the forts of the right bank, at that moment in the hands of
the Prussians. Like Trochu, he blamed the cannonades of the last few
days, for squandering, as he said, the munitions. And this when Paris
abounded in powder and shell; when her young troops should have been
amused and sustained by artillery; when the Versaillese of Châtillon,
incessantly pursued by our fire, were obliged to remove every night;
when an uninterrupted cannonade alone could save Neuilly.

The Council was no wiser in its measures of defence. It decreed
compulsory service and the disarmament of the refractory; but the
perquisitions, made at random, without the assistance of the police, did
not procure a man or a hundred muskets the more. It voted life-pensions
to the widows, to the parents of the Federals killed in combat, to
their children an annuity till the age of eighteen, and adopted the
orphans. Excellent measures these, raising the spirits of the
combatants, only they assumed the Commune victorious. Was it not better,
as in the cases of Duval and Dombrowski, to give at once a few thousand
francs to those having a right to them? In fact, these unfortunate
pensioners received but fifty francs from the Commune.

These measures, incomplete, ill-managed, implied a want of study and of
reflection. The members came to the Council as to a public meeting,
without any preparation, there to proceed without any method. The
decrees of the day before were forgotten, questions only half solved.
The Council created councils of war and court-martials, and allowed the
Central Committee to regulate the procedure and the penalties; it
organised one-half of the medical service and Cluseret the other; it
suppressed the title of general, and the superior officers retained it,
the delegate at War conferring it on them. In the middle of a sitting,
Félix Pyat bounded from his chair to demand the abolition of the Vendôme
column, while Dombrowski was making desperate appeals for

He had hardly 2,500 men to hold Neuilly, Asnières, and the whole
peninsula of Gennevilliers, while the Versaillese were accumulating
their best troops against him. From the 14th to 17th April they
cannonaded the castle of Bécon, and on the morning of the 17th attacked
it with a brigade. The 250 Federals who occupied it held out for six
hours, and the survivors fell back upon Asnières, where panic entered
with them. Dombrowski, Okolowitz, and a few sturdy men hastened thither,
succeeded in re-establishing a little order and fortified the
bridge-head. Dombrowski asking for reinforcements, the War Office sent
him only a few companies. The following day our vanguard was surprised
by strong detachments, and the cannon of Courbevoie battered Asnières.
After a well-contested struggle, towards ten o'clock, several
battalions, worn out, abandoned the southern part of the village. In the
northern part the combat was desperate. Dombrowski, in spite of
telegram after telegram received only 300 men. At five o'clock in the
evening the Versaillese made a great effort, and the Federals,
exhausted, fearing for their retreat, threw themselves upon the bridge
of boats, which they crossed in disorder.

The reactionary journals made much ado about this retreat. Paris was
stirred by it. This fierce obstinacy of the combat began to open the
eyes of the optimists. Till then many persons believed it all some
dreadful misunderstanding and formed groups of conciliation. How many
thousands in Paris failed to understand the plan of M. Thiers and the
coalition till the day of the final massacre! On the 4th April some
manufacturers and tradesmen had created the _National Union of the
Syndical Chambers_, and taken for their programme, maintenance and
enfranchisement of the Republic, acknowledgment of the municipal
franchises of Paris. The same day, in the Quartier des Ecoles,
professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and students placarded a
manifesto demanding a democratic and laical Republic, an autonomous
Commune and the federation of the communes. An analogous group placarded
a letter to M. Thiers: "You believe in a riot, and you find yourself
brought face to face with precise and universal convictions. The immense
majority of Paris demands the Republic as a right superior to all
discussion. Paris has seen in the whole conduct of the Assembly the
premeditated design of re-establishing the monarchy." Some dignitaries
of the Freemason lodges appealed at once to Versailles and to the
Council: "Stop the effusion of such precious blood."

Finally, a certain number of those mayors and adjuncts who had not
capitulated till the eleventh hour, like Floquet, Corbon, Bonvalet, &c.,
pompously got up the _Republican Union League for the Rights of Paris_.
Now they asked for the recognition of the Republic, the right of Paris
to govern herself, and the custody of the town exclusively confided to
the National Guard; all that the Commune had wanted--all that they had
contented against from the 19th to the 25th of March.

Other groups were forming. All agreed on two points--the consolidation
of the Republic and the recognition of the rights of Paris. Almost all
the Communal journals reproduced this programme, and the Republican
journals accepted it. The deputies of Paris were the last to speak, and
then only to fall foul of Paris. In that lachrymose and Jesuitical tone
with which he has travestied history,[120] in those long-winded
sentimental periods which serve to mask the aridity of his heart and the
pettiness of his mind, that king of gnomes, Louis Blanc, wrote in the
name of his colleagues: "Not one member of the majority has as yet
questioned the Republican principle.... As to those engaged in the
insurrection, we tell them that they ought to have shuddered at the
thought of aggravating, of prolonging the scourge of the foreign
occupation by adding thereto the scourge of civil discords."

It is this that M. Thiers repeated word for word to the first
conciliators, the delegates of the _Union Syndicale_, who applied to him
on the 8th May: "Let the insurrection disarm; the Assembly cannot
disarm. But Paris wants the Republic. The Republic exists; by my honour,
so long as I am in power, it will not succumb. But Paris wants municipal
franchises. The Chamber is preparing a law for all communes; Paris will
get neither more nor less." The delegates read a project of compromise
which spoke of a general amnesty and a suspension of arms. M. Thiers let
them read on, did not formally contest a single article, and the
delegates returned to Paris convinced that they had discovered the basis
of an arrangement.

They had hardly left when M. Thiers rushed off to the Assembly, which
had just endowed all communes with the right of electing their mayors.
M. Thiers ascended the tribune, demanding that this right should be
restricted to towns of less than 20,000 souls. They cried to him, "It is
already voted." He persisted, declaring that "in a republic the
Government must be all the better armed because order is the more
difficult to maintain;" threatened to hand in his resignation, and
forced the Assembly to annul its vote.

On the 10th, the _League of the Rights of Paris_ sounded the trumpet and
had a solemn declaration placarded: "Let the Government give up
assailing the facts accomplished on the 18th March. Let the general
re-election of the Commune be proceeded with.... If the Government of
Versailles remains deaf to these legitimate revindications, let it be
well understood that all Paris will rise to defend them."[121] The next
day the delegates of the League went to Versailles, and M. Thiers took
up his old refrain, "Let Paris disarm," and would hear neither of an
armistice nor of an amnesty. "Pardon shall be extended" said he, "to
those who will disarm, save to the assassins of Clément-Thomas and
Lecomte." This was to reserve himself the choice of a few thousands. In
short, he wanted to be replaced in his position of the 18th March with
victory into the bargain. The same day he said to the delegates of the
Masonic lodges, "Address yourselves to the Commune; what is wanted is
the submission of the insurgents, and not the resignation of legal
power." To facilitate this submission, the next day the _Officiel_ of
Versailles compared Paris to the plain of Marathon infested by a band of
"brigands and assassins." On the 13th, a deputy, Brunet, having asked
whether the Government would or would not make peace with Paris, the
Assembly adjourned this interpellation for a month.

The League, thus well whipped, went on the 14th to the Hôtel-de-Ville.
The Council, foreign to all these negotiations, left them entirely free,
and had only forbidden a meeting announced at the Bourse by
ill-disguised Tirards. It contented itself with opposing to the League
its declaration of the 10th: "You have said that if Versailles remained
deaf all Paris would rise. Versailles has remained deaf; arise." And to
make Paris the judge, the Council loyally published in its _Officiel_
the report of the conciliators.


[119] Out of 400 pieces cast by Paris during the siege, the Government
of the National Defence only accepted forty, on the pretence that the
others were imperfect.--Vinoy, _Siège de Paris_, p. 287.

[120] Sometimes even to falsification. In his account of the 9th
Thermidor, he makes Barrère say to Billaud-Varennes, "Do _not_ attack
Robespierre;" and on the strength of this expatiates on the greatness of
his hero. Now, the report of Courtois that he quotes, hoping, no doubt,
that no one would examine the accuracy of the statement, says, "Attack
_only_," and not "Do _not_ attack."

[121] It seems there was a split in the League. The Radicals, Floquet,
Corbon, &c., disapproved of this semi-commanding attitude, and boasted
of it later on before the Committee of Inquiry into the 18th March; but
during the Commune they made no public protest against this address.



For the second time the situation was distinctly marked out. If the
Council did not know how to define the Commune, was it not in the most
unmistakable manner, and before the eyes of all Paris, declared to mean
a camp of rebels by the fighting, the bombardment, the fury of the
Versaillese, and the rebuff of the conciliators? The complementary
elections of the 16th April--death, double election returns, and
resignations had given thirty-one vacant seats--revealed the effective
forces of the insurrection. The illusion of the 26th March had vanished;
the votes were now taken under fire. Also the journals of the Commune
and the delegates of the Syndical Chambers in vain summoned the electors
to the ballot-box. Out of 146,000 who had mustered in these
arrondissements at the election of the 26th March, there came now only
61,000. The arrondissements of the councillors who had deserted their
seats gave 16,000 instead of 51,000 votes.

It was now or never the moment to explain their programme to France. The
Executive Commission had on the 6th, in an address to the provinces,
protested against the calumnies of Versailles, but had confined itself
to the statement that Paris fought for all France, and had not set forth
any programme. The Republican protestations of M. Thiers, the hostility
of the extreme Left, the desultory decrees, had completely led astray
the provinces. It was necessary to set them right at once. On the 19th,
a commission charged to draw up a programme presented its work, or
rather the work of another. Sad and characteristic symbol this; the
declaration of the Commune did not emanate from the Council, its twelve
publicists notwithstanding. Of the five members charged to draw up the
project, only Delescluze contributed some passages; the technical part
was the work of a journalist, Pierre Denis.

In the _Cri du Peuple_ he had taken up and formulated as a law the whim
of _Paris a free town_, hatched in the first gush of passion of the
Vauxhall meetings. According to this legislator, Paris was to become a
Hanseatic town, crowning herself with all liberties, and from the height
of her proud fortress say to the enchained communes of France, "Imitate
me if you can; but mind, I shall do nothing for you but set an example."
This charming plan had turned the heads of several members of the
Council, and too many traces of it were visible in the declaration.

"What does Paris demand?" it said. "The recognition of the Republic.
Absolute autonomy of the Commune extended to all localities of France.
The inherent rights of the Commune are: the vote of the communal budget;
the settlement and repartition of taxes; the direction of the local
services; the organisation of its magistracy, of its internal police,
and of education; the administration of communal goods; the choice and
permanent right of control over the communal magistrates and
functionaries; the absolute guarantee of individual liberty, of the
liberty of conscience and the liberty of labour; the organisation of
urban defence and of the National Guard; the Commune alone charged with
the surveillance and assurance of the free and just exercise of the
right of meeting and of publicity.... Paris wants nothing more ... on
condition of finding in the great central administration, the delegation
of the federated communes, the realisation and practical application of
the same principle."

What were to be the powers of that central delegation, the reciprocal
obligations of the Communes? The declaration did not state these.
According to this text, every locality was to possess the right to shut
itself up within its autonomy. But what to expect of autonomy in Lower
Brittany, in nine-tenths of the French Communes, more than half of which
have not 600 inhabitants,[122] if even the Parisian declaration violated
the most elementary rights, charged the Commune with the surveillance of
the _just_ exercise of the right of meeting and of publicity, forgetting
to mention the right of association? It is notorious, it has been proved
but too well. The rural autonomous communes would be a monster with a
thousand suckers attached to the flank of the Revolution.

No! Thousands of mutes and blind are not fitted to conclude a social
pact. Weak, unorganised, bound by a thousand trammels, the people of the
country can only be saved by the towns, and the people of the towns
guided by Paris. The failure of all the provincial insurrections, even
of the large towns, had sufficiently testified this. When the
declaration said, "Unity such as has been imposed upon us until to-day
by the Empire, the monarchy and parliamentarism is only despotic,
unintelligent centralisation," it laid bare the cancer that devours
France; but when it added, "Political unity, as understood by Paris, is
the voluntary association of all local initiative," it showed that it
knew nothing whatever of the provinces.

The declaration continued, in the style of an address, sometimes to the
point: "Paris works and suffers for all France, whose intellectual,
moral, administrative, and economical regeneration she prepares by her
combats and her sufferings.... The communal revolution, commenced by the
popular initiative of the 18th March, inaugurates a new era." But in all
this there was nothing definite. Why not, taking up the formula of the
28th March, "To the commune what is communal, to the nation what is
national," define the future commune, sufficiently extended to endow it
with political life, sufficiently limited to allow its citizens easily
to combine their social action, the commune of 15,000 to 20,000 souls,
the canton-commune, and clearly set forth its rights and those of
France? They did not even speak of federating the large towns for the
conquest of their common enfranchisement. Such as it was, this
programme, obscure, incomplete, impossible in many points, could not,
spite of some generous ideas, contribute much to the enlightenment of
the provinces.

It was only a project. No doubt the Council was going to discuss it. It
was voted after the first reading. No debate, hardly an observation.
This assembly, which gave four days to the discussion on overdue
commercial bills, had not one sitting for the study of this declaration,
its programme in case of victory, its testament if it succumbed.

To make things worse, a new malady infected the Council, the germs of
which, sown for some days, were brought to full maturity by the
complementary elections. The Romanticists gave rise to the Casuists, and
both came to loggerheads on the verification of the new mandates.

On the 30th March the Council had validated six elections with a
relative majority. The reporter on the election of the 16th proposed
declaring all those candidates elected who had received an absolute
majority. The Casuists grew indignant. "This would be," said they, "the
worst blow that any Government had dealt universal suffrage." But it was
impossible to go on continually convoking the electors. Three of the
most devoted arrondissements had given no result; one of them, the
thirteenth, being deprived of its best men, then fighting at the
advanced posts. A new ballot would only set forth in bolder relief the
isolation of the Commune; and then, is the moment of the fight, when the
battalion is decimated, deprived of its chief, the opportune time for
insisting upon a regular promotion?

The discussion was very warm, for in this outlawed Hôtel-de-Ville there
sat outrageous legality-mongers. Paris was to be strangled by their
saving principles. Already, in the name of holy autonomy, which forbade
intervention with the autonomy of one's neighbour, the Executive
Commission had refused to arm the communes round Paris that asked to
march against Versailles. M. Thiers took no more efficient measure to
isolate Paris.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty-six voices against thirteen voted the conclusions of the report.
Twenty elections only were declared valid,[123] which was illogical; one
with less than 1100 votes was admitted, another with 2500 rejected. All
the elections should have been declared valid, or none at all. Four of
the new delegates were journalists, six only workmen. Eleven sent by the
public meetings came to strengthen the Romanticists. Two whose elections
had been validated by the Council refused to sit because they had not
obtained the eighth part of the votes. The author of the admirable
_Propos de Labiénus_, Rogeard, allowed himself to be deceived by a false
scruple of legality--the only weakness of this generous man, who devoted
to the Commune his pure and brilliant eloquence. His resignation
deprived the Council of a man of common sense, but once more served to
unmask the apocalyptic Félix Pyat.

       *       *       *       *       *

Since the 1st April, scenting the coming storm and professing the same
horror for blows as Panurge, Félix Pyat had attempted to leave Paris,
sent in his resignation as member of the Executive Commission to the
Council, and declared his presence at Versailles indispensable. The
Versaillese hussars making the sortie too perilous, he had condescended
to stay, but at the same time assuming two masks, one for the
Hôtel-de-Ville, the other for the public. In the Council, at the secret
sittings, he urged violent measures with the vivacity of a wild cat; in
the _Vengeur_ he held forth pontifically, shaking his grey hairs,
saying, "To the ballot-box, not to Versailles!" In his own paper he had
two faces. Did he want the suppression of the journals, he signed "Le
Vengeur;" did he want to cajole, he signed Félix Pyat. The defeat of
Asnières struck him again with fear, and anew he looked out for a
loophole. The resignation of Rogeard opened it. Under the shelter of
this pure name Félix Pyat slipped in his resignation. "The Commune has
violated the law," wrote he. "I do not want to be an accomplice." And,
to debar himself from any return to the Council he involved the dignity
of the latter. If, said he, it persisted, he would be forced, to his
great regret, to send in his resignation "_before the victory_."

He had counted on stealing away as from the Assembly of Bordeaux; but
his roguery disgusted the Council. The _Vengeur_ had just blamed the
suppression of several reactionary papers demanded many and many a time
by Félix Pyat. Vermorel denounced this duplicity. One member: "It has
been said here that resignations would be considered as treason."
Another: "A man must not leave his post when that post is one of peril
and of honour." A third formally demanded the arrest of Félix Pyat. "I
regret," said another, "that it has not been distinctly laid down that
resignation can only be tendered to the electors themselves." And
Delescluze added, "Nobody has the right to withdraw for personal rancour
or because some measure does not chime in with his ideal. Do you then
believe that every one approves what is done here? Yes; there are
members who have remained, and who will remain till the end,
notwithstanding the insults hurled at us. For myself, I am decided to
remain at my post, and if we do not see victory, we shall not be the
last to fall on the ramparts or on the steps of the Hôtel-de-Ville."

These manly words were received with prolonged cheers. No one's devotion
was more meritorious. The habits of Delescluze, grave and laborious, his
high aspirations, alienated him more than any other from many of his
colleagues, light-headed idlers, prone to personal bickerings. One day,
weary of this chaos, he wanted to resign. It sufficed to tell him that
his withdrawal would be very prejudicial to the cause of the people to
persuade him to remain, and await, not victory--as well as Félix Pyat he
knew that impossible--but the death that fecundates the future.

Félix Pyat, so lashed from all sides, not daring to snap at Delescluze,
turned round upon Vermorel, whom for all argument he called "spy;" and
as Vermorel was a member of the Commission of Public Safety, accused him
in the _Vengeur_ of putting out of the way evidence accumulated against
him at the prefecture of police. This member of the leporide species
called Vermorel "_bombic_." Such was his mode of discussion. Under the
veil of literary refinement lurked the amenities of Billingsgate. In
1848, in the _Constituante_, he called Proudhon "_swine_;" and in 1871,
in the _Commune_, he called Tridon "_dunghill_." He was the only member
of this Assembly, where there were workmen of rude professions, who
introduced ribaldry into the discussions.

Vermorel, replying in the _Cri du Peuple_, easily floored him. The
electors of Félix Pyat sent him three summations to remain at his post:
"You are a soldier; you must stay in the breach. It is we alone who have
the right to revoke you." Ferreted out by his mandatories, threatened
with arrest by the Council, this Greek chose the lesser danger, and
re-entered the Hôtel-de-Ville in mincing attitude.

Versailles was jubilant at these miserable triflings. For the first time
the public became acquainted with the interior of the Council, its
infinitesimal coteries, made up of purely personal friendships or
antipathies. Whoever belonged to such a group got thorough support,
whatever his blunders. Far more; in order to be allowed to serve the
Commune, it was necessary to belong to such a confraternity. Many
sincerely devoted men offered themselves, tried democrats, intelligent
employés, deserters from the Government, even Republican officers. They
were overweeningly met by some incapable upstarts of yesterday, whose
devotion was not to outlast the 20th May. And yet the insufficiency of
the _personnel_ and the want of talent each day became more
overwhelming. The members of the Council complained that nothing was
getting on. The Executive Commission did not know how to command, nor
its subordinate how to obey; the Council devolved power and retained it
at the same time, interfered every moment with the slightest details of
the service; conducted the government, the administration, and the
defence like the sortie of the 3rd April.


[122] Seventy-three communes have more than 20,000 inhabitants; 108 have
from 10,000 to 20,000; 309 from 5000 to 10,000; 249 from 4000 to 5000;
and 581 from 3000 to 4000. There are then only 1320 communes having more
than 3000 inhabitants, 800 at most that possess any political life.

[123] Vesinier, Cluseret, Pillot, Andrieu (1st arrondissement, Louvre);
Pothier, Serraillier, J. Durand, Johannard (2nd, Bourse); Courbet,
Rogeard (6th, Luxembourg); Sicard (7th, Palais-Bourbon); Briosne (9th,
Opéra); Philippe, Lonclas (12th, Reuilly); Longuet (16th, Passy); Dupont
(17th, Batignolles); Cluseret, Arnold (18th, Montmartre); Menotti
Garibaldi (19th, Buttes-Chaumont); Viard, Trinquet (20th Ménilmontant).



The glorious flame of Paris still hid these failings. One must have been
enkindled by it to describe it. Beside it the Communard journals, in
spite of their romanticism, show pale and dull. It is true the _mise en
scéne_ was unpretending. In the streets, in the silent boulevards, a
battalion of a hundred men setting out for the battle or returning from
it; a woman who follows, a passer-by who applauds--that is all. But it
is the drama of the Revolution, simple and gigantic as a drama of

The commander in his _vareuse_, dusty, his silver lace singed, his men
greyheads or youths, the veterans of June 1848 and the pupils of March,
the son often marching by the side of the father.[124]

This woman, who salutes or accompanies them, she is the true Parisienne.
The unclean androgyne, born in the mire of the Empire, the madonna of
the pornographers, the Dumas fils and the Feydeaux, has followed her
patrons to Versailles or works the Prussian mine at St. Denis. She, who
is now uppermost, is the Parisienne, strong, devoted, tragic, knowing
how to die as she loves. A helpmeet in labour, she will also be an
associate in the death-struggle. A formidable equality this to oppose to
the bourgeoisie. The proletarian is doubly strong--one heart and four
hands. On the 24th of March a Federal addressed these noble words to the
bourgeois battalions of the first arrondissement, making them drop
their arms: "Believe me, you cannot hold out; your wives are all in
tears, and ours do not weep."

She does not keep back her husband.[125] On the contrary, she urges him
to battle, carries him his linen and his soup, as she had before done to
his workshop. Many would not return, but took up arms. At the plateau de
Châtillon they were the last to stand the fire. The _cantinières_,
simply dressed as workwomen, not fancy costumes, fell by dozens. On the
3rd April, at Meudon, the Citoyenne Lachaise, _cantinière_ of the 66th
battalion, remained the whole day in the field of battle, tending the
wounded, alone, without a doctor.

If they return, it is to call to arms. Having formed a central committee
at the mairie of the tenth arrondissement, they issued fiery
proclamations: "We must conquer or die. You who say, 'What matters the
triumph of our cause if I must lose those I love?' know that the only
means of saving those who are dear to you is to throw yourselves into
the struggle." Their committees multiplied. They offered themselves to
the Commune, demanding arms, posts of danger, and complaining of the
cowards who swerved from their duty.[126] Madame André Léo, with her
eloquent pen, explained the meaning of the Commune, summoned the
delegate at the War Office to avail himself of the "holy fever that
burns in the hearts of the women." A young Russian lady, of noble
birth, educated, beautiful, rich, called Demitrieff, was the Théroigne
de Méricourt of this Revolution. The proletarian character of the
Commune was embodied in Louise Michel, a teacher in the seventeenth
arrondissement. Gentle and patient with the little children, who adored
her, in the cause of the people the mother became a lioness. She had
organised a corps of ambulance nurses, who tended the wounded even under
fire. There they suffered no rivals. They also went to the hospitals to
save their beloved comrades from the harsh nuns; and the eyes of the
dying brightened at the murmur of those gentle voices that spoke to them
of the Republic and of hope.

In this contest of devotion the children fought with men and women. The
Versaillese, victorious, took 660 of them, and many perished in the
battle of the streets. Thousands served during the siege. They followed
the battalions to the trenches, in the forts, especially clinging to the
cannon. Some gunners of the Porte-Maillot were boys of from thirteen to
fourteen years old. Unsheltered, in the open country, they performed
exploits of mad heroism.[127]

This Parisian flame radiated beyond the enceinte. The municipalities of
Sceaux and St. Denis united at Vincennes to protest against the
bombardment, revindicate the municipal franchises and the establishment
of the Republic. Its heat was even felt in the provinces.

They began to believe Paris was impregnable, and laughed much at the
despatches of M. Thiers, saying on the 3rd April, "This day is decisive
of the fate of the insurrection;" on the 4th, "The insurgents have
to-day suffered a decisive defeat;" on the 7th, "This day is decisive;"
on the 11th, "Irresistible means are being prepared at Versailles;" on
the 12th, "We expect the decisive moment." And despite so many decisive
successes and irresistible means, the Versaillese army was all the while
baffled at our advanced posts. Its only decisive victories were against
the houses of the enceinte and the suburbs.

The neighbourhood of the Porte-Maillot, the Avenue de la Grande Armée,
and the Ternes were continually lighting up with conflagrations.
Asnières and Levallois were filling with ruins, the inhabitants of
Neuilly starving in their cellars. The Versaillese threw against these
points alone 1500 shells a day; and yet M. Thiers wrote to his prefects,
"If a few cannon-shots are heard, it is not the act of the Government,
but of a few insurgents trying to make us believe they are fighting,
while they hardly dare show themselves."

The Commune assisted the bombarded people of Paris, but could do nothing
for those of Neuilly, caught between two fires. A cry of pity went up
from the whole press. All the journals demanded an armistice for the
evacuation of Neuilly; the Freemasons and the _Ligue des Droits de
Paris_ interposed. With much trouble, for the generals did not want an
armistice, the delegates got a suspension of arms for eight hours. The
Council appointed five of its members to receive the bombarded people;
the municipalities prepared them an asylum, and some of the women's
committees left Paris to assist them.

On the 25th, at nine o'clock in the morning, the cannon from the
Porte-Maillot to Asnières were silent. Thousands of Parisians went to
visit the ruins of the Avenue and the Porte-Maillot, a mortar of earth,
granite, and fragments of shells; stood still, deeply moved, before the
artillerists leaning on their famous pieces, and then dispersed all over
Neuilly. The little town, once so coquettish, displayed in the bright
rays of the sun its shattered houses. At the limits agreed upon were two
barriers, one of soldiers of the line, the other of Federals, separated
from each other by an interval of about twenty yards. The Versaillese,
chosen from amongst their most reliable troops, were watched by officers
with hangdog looks. The Parisians, good fellows, approached the
soldiers, speaking to them. The officers immediately ran up shouting
furiously. When a soldier gave a polite answer to two ladies, an officer
threw himself upon him, tore away his musket, and pointing the bayonet
at the Parisiennes, cried, "This is how one speaks to them." Some
persons having crossed the boundary marked out were taken prisoners.
Still five o'clock struck without any massacre having occurred. The
Avenue grew empty. Each Parisian on returning home carried his sack of
earth to the fortifications of the Porte-Maillot, which found themselves
re-established as if by magic.

In the evening the Versaillese again opened fire. It had not ceased
against the forts of the south. That same day the enemy unmasked on this
side the batteries he had been constructing for a fortnight,--the first
part of the plan of General Thiers.

He had on the 6th placed all the troops under the command of that
MacMahon, his stains of Sedan still upon him. The army at this time was
46,000 strong, for the most part the residuum of depots, incapable of
any serious action. To reinforce it and obtain soldiers, M. Thiers had
sent Jules Favre whining to Bismarck. The Prussians had set free 60,000
prisoners on harsher conditions of peace, and authorised his gossip
Thiers to augment to 130,000 men the number of soldiers round Paris,
which, according to the preliminaries of peace, were not to have
exceeded 40,000 men. On the 25th April the Versaillese army comprised
five corps, two of them, those of Douai and Clinchant, composed of the
released prisoners from Germany and a reserve commanded by Vinoy, all in
all 110,000 men. It increased to 170,000 receiving rations, of whom
130,000 were combatants. M. Thiers displayed real ability in setting it
against Paris. The soldiers were well fed, well dressed, severely
overlooked; discipline was re-established. There occurred mysterious
disappearances of officers guilty of having given utterance to their
horror at this fratricidal war. Still this was not yet the army for an
attack, the men always scampering away before a steady resistance.
Despite official brag, the generals only counted upon the artillery, to
which they owed the successes of Courbevoie and of Asnières. Paris was
only to be overcome by fire.

As during the first siege, Paris was literally hemmed in by bayonets,
but this time half-foreign, half-French. The German army, forming a
semi-circle from the Marne to St. Denis, occupying the forts of the east
and of the north; the Versaillese army, closing the circle from St.
Denis to Villeneuve St. Georges, mistress only of Mont-Valérien. The
latter could then only attack the Commune by the west and south. The
Federals had then the five forts of Ivry, Bicêtre, Montrouge, Vanves,
and Issy to defend themselves, with the trenches and the advanced posts
that united them to each other, and the principal villages, Neuilly,
Asnières, and St. Ouen.

The vulnerable point of the enceinte facing the Versaillese was on the
south-west, the salient of the Point du Jour, defended by the fort of
Issy. Sufficiently covered on the right by the park, the castle of Issy
and a trench uniting it to the Seine, commanded by our gunboats, this
fort was overtopped in front and on the left by the heights of Bellevue,
Meudon, and Châtillon. M. Thiers armed them with siege pieces which he
had sent from Toulon, Cherbourg, Douai, Lyons, and Besançon--293
ordnance pieces--and their effect was such that from the first days the
fort of Issy was shaken. General Cissey, charged with the command of
these operations, immediately commenced manoeuvring.

To crush the fort of Issy and that of Vanves, which supported it, then
to force the Point du Jour, whence the troops could deploy into Paris,
such was M. Thiers' plan. The only object of the operations from St.
Ouen to Neuilly was to prevent our attack by Courbevoie.

What forces and what plan did the Commune oppose?

The returns stated about 96,000 men and 4000 officers for the active
National Guard; for the reserve, 100,000 men and 3500 officers.[128]
Thirty-six free corps claimed to number 3450 men. All deductions made,
60,000 combatants might have been obtained had they known how to set
about it. But the weakness of the Council, the difficulty of supervision
and repression, allowed the less brave and those who did not stand in
need of pay, to shirk all control. Many contrived to limit their
services to the interior of Paris. Thus for want of order the effective
forces remained very weak, and the line from St. Ouen to Ivry was never
held by more than 15,000 or 16,000 Federals.

The cavalry existed only on paper. There were only 500 horses to drag
the guns or the waggons and to mount the officers and estafettes. The
engineer department remained in a rudimentary state, the finest decrees
notwithstanding. Of the 1200 cannon possessed by Paris, only 200 were
utilised. There were never more than 500 artillerists, while the returns
stated 2500.

Dombrowski occupied the bridge of Asnières, Levallois, and Neuilly with
4000 or 5000 men at the utmost.[129] To protect his positions he had at
Clichy and Asnières about thirty ordnance pieces and two ironclad
railway carriages, which from the 15th April to the 22nd May, even after
the entry of the Versaillese, did not cease running along the lines; at
Levallois, a dozen pieces. The ramparts of the north assisted him, and
the valiant Porte-Maillot covered him at Neuilly.

On the left bank, from Issy to Ivry, in the forts, the villages, and the
trenches, there were 10,000 to 11,000 Federals. The fort of Issy
contained on an average 600 men and 50 pieces of 7 and 12 centimetres,
of which two-thirds were inactive. The bastions 72 and 73 relieved him a
little, aided by four ironclad locomotives established on the viaduct of
the Point du Jour. Underneath, the gunboats, re-armed, fired on
Breteuil, Sèvres, Brimborion, even daring to push as far as Châtillon,
and, unsheltered, cannonaded Meudon. A few hundred tirailleurs occupied
the park and the castle of Issy, the Moulineaux, Le Val, and the
trenches which united the fort of Issy to that of Vanves. This latter,
exposed like Issy, valiantly supported its efforts with a garrison of
500 men and about 20 cannon. The bastions of the enceinte supported it
very little.

The fort of Montrouge, with 350 men and 10 to 15 ordnance pieces, had
only to support the fort of Vanves. That of Bicêtre, provided with 500
men and 20 pieces, had to fire at objects hidden from its view. Three
considerable redoubts protected it--the Hautes Bruyères, with 500 men
and 20 pieces; the Moulin Saquet, with 700 men and about 14 pieces; and
Villejuif, with 300 men and a few howitzers. At the extreme left, the
fort of Ivry and its dependencies had 500 men and about 400 pieces. The
intermediate villages, Gentilly, Cachan, and Arcueil, were occupied by
2000 to 2500 Federals.

The nominal command of the forts of the south, first confided to Eudes,
assisted by an ex-officer of Garibaldi, La Cécilia, on the 20th passed
into the hands of the Alsatian Wetzel, an officer of the army of the
Loire. From his headquarters of Issy he was to superintend the trenches
of Issy and of Vanves and the defence of the forts. In reality, their
commanders, who often changed, did just as they pleased.

The command, from Issy to Arcueil was, towards the middle of April,
entrusted to General Wroblewski, one of the best officers of the Polish
insurrection, young, an adept in military science, brave, methodical,
and shrewd, turning everybody and everything to account; an excellent
chief for young troops.[130]

All these general officers never received but one order: "Defend
yourselves." As to a general plan, there never was one. Neither Cluseret
nor Rossel held councils of war.

The men were also abandoned to themselves, being neither cared for nor
controlled. Scarcely any, if any, relieving of the troops under fire
ever took place. The whole strain fell upon the same men. Certain
battalions remained twenty, thirty days in the trenches, while others
were continually kept in reserve. If some men grew so inured to fire
that they refused to return home, others were discouraged, came to show
their clothes covered with vermin and asked for rest. The generals were
obliged to retain them, having no one to put in their places.

This carelessness soon destroyed all discipline. The brave wanted to
rely only upon themselves, and the others slunk from the service. The
officers did the same, some leaving their posts to assist the fight at a
contiguous place, others returning to the town. The court-martial
sentenced a few of them very severely. The Council quashed the
sentences, and commuted one condemnation to death to three years'

As they recoiled from rigour, from regular war discipline, they ought to
have changed their method and their tactics. But the Council was now
even less capable of showing will of its own than on the first day. It
always lamented that things were at a stand-still, but did not know how
to set them going. On the 26th, the military commission, declaring that
decrees and orders remained a dead letter, charged the municipalities,
the Central Committee, and the _chefs-de-légions_ with the
reorganisation of the National Guard. Not one of these mechanisms
functioned methodically; the Council had not even thought of organising
Paris by sections; the Central Committee intrigued; the _chefs de
légions_ were agitated; certain members of the Council and generals
dreamt of a military dictatorship. In the midst of this fatal wrestling,
the Council discussed during several sittings whether the pawn-tickets
to be given back gratuitously to their owners should amount to twenty or
thirty francs, and whether the _Officiel_ should be sold for five

Towards the end of April, no observer of any perspicacity could fail to
see that the defence had become hopeless. In Paris, active and devoted
men exhausted their strength in enervating struggles with the bureaux,
the committees, the sub-committees, and the thousand pretentious rival
administrations, often losing a whole day in order to obtain possession
of a single cannon. At the ramparts, some artillerists riddled the line
of Versailles, and, asking for nothing but bread and iron, stood to
their pieces until torn away by shells. The forts, their casemates
staved in, their embrasures destroyed, lustily answered the fire from
the heights. Brave skirmishers, unprotected, surprised the line-soldiers
in their lurking-places. All this devotion and dazzling heroism were
spent in vain, like the steam of an engine escaping through hundreds of


[124] Appendix IV.

[125] And what sublime faith in their naïveté! We heard in an omnibus
two women on their return from the trenches. The one wept; the other
said to her, "Do not distress yourself; our husbands will come back. And
then the Commune has promised to take care of us and of our children.
But no! it is impossible they should be killed in defending so good a
cause. Besides I would rather have my husband dead than in the hands of
the Versaillese."

[126] "My heart bleeds to see that only those ready to volunteer engage
in the combat. This is not, citizen delegate, a denunciation; far from
me such a thought; but I fear lest the weakness of the members of the
Commune should cause our great projects for the future to miscarry."
This heroic letter is taken from a book, _Le Fond de la Société sous la
Commune_, which contains documents found by the army in different
mairies and administrations. The work in general is an odious
caricature, of which the author himself, a Joseph Prudhomme, in the
shape of a bloodhound, is certainly the most ridiculous trait.

[127] Appendix V.

[128] Very approximate numbers. The return of the _Officiel_ of the 6th
May is very incomplete. In general, these statements were erroneous,
fictitious, especially after the administration of Meyer.

[129] The figures which I give have been carefully verified _de visu_,
first during the struggle, afterwards with generals, superior officers,
and functionaries of the War Office. General Appert has drawn up merely
fantastic returns. He has created imaginary brigades, manufactured
effective returns by counting as regular combatants all men who, at any
time, might have been told off for active service, and constantly
duplicated the items of his accounts. He has thus contrived to give more
than 20,000 men to Dombrowski, and as much as 50,000 to the three
commanders--quite ridiculous figures. His report swarms with mistakes as
to names and functions; he does not even know the names of certain
general commanders. It possesses no kind of historical value.

[130] A member of the Council discovered him, and presented him at the
War Office, where he explained his ideas: "But," it was remarked to him,
"this is word for word what Félix Pyat does not cease saying to us." "A
few days ago," answered Wroblewski, "I sent Félix Pyat a memorandum."
Rossel went to Pyat's bureau, and there found the memorandum. For
several days this trickster had been making capital of the ideas of
Wroblewski without the least allusion to their author, and astounding
the Commission by his common sense and technical knowledge.



The insufficiency and the weakness of the Executive Commission became so
shocking, that on the 20th the Council decided to replace it by the
delegates of the nine commissions, amongst whom it had distributed its
different functions. These commissions were renewed the same day. In
general they were rather neglected; and how could one man attend to the
daily sittings of the Hôtel-de-Ville, to his commission and his mairie?
For the Council had charged its members with the administration of their
respective arrondissements; and the real work of the several commissions
weighed on the delegates who had presided over them from their origin,
and for the most part were not changed on the 20th April. They continued
to act, as heretofore, almost single-handed. Before proceeding with our
narrative we will look more narrowly into their doings.

Two delegations required only good-will--those of the victualling
department and of the public or municipal services. The provisioning of
the town was carried on through the neutral zone, where M. Thiers,
however anxious to starve Paris,[131] could not prevent a regular supply
of food. All the foremen having remained at their posts, the municipal
services did not suffer. Four delegations--Finance, War, Public Safety,
Exterior--required special aptitude. The three others, Education,
Justice, Labour and Exchange, had to propound the philosophical
principles of this revolution. All the delegates save Frankel, a
workman, belonged to the small middle-class.

The Commission of Finance centered in Jourde, who, with his
inexhaustible garrulity, had eclipsed the too modest Varlin. The task
imposed was to procure every morning 675,000 francs for the payment of
the services, to feed 250,000 persons, and find the sinews of war.
Besides the 4,658,000 francs in the coffers of the Treasury, 214
millions in shares and other effects had been found in the Finance
Office; but Jourde could not or would not negotiate them, and to fill
his exchequer he had to lay hold of the revenues of all the
administrations--the telegraph and postal offices, the octrois, direct
contributions, custom house offices, markets, tobacco, registration and
stamps, municipal funds and the railway duties. The bank, little by
little, paid back the 9,400,000 francs due to the town, and even parted
with 7,290,000 francs on its own account. From the 20th March to the
30th April, twenty-six millions were thus scraped together. During the
same period the War Office alone absorbed over twenty. The Intendance
received 1,813,000 francs, all the municipalities together 1,446,000,
the Interior 103,000, Marine 29,000, Justice 5500, Commerce 50,000,
Education _one thousand_ only, Exterior 112,000, Firemen 100,000,
National Library 80,000, Commission of Barricades 44,500, L'Imprimerie
Nationale 100,000, the Association of Tailors and Shoemakers 24,882.
These proportions remained almost the same from the 1st May to the fall
of the Commune. The expenses of the second period rose to about twenty
millions. The sum total of the expenses of the Commune was about
46,300,000 francs, of which 16,696,000 were supplied by the bank, and
the rest by the various services, the octrois yielding nearly twelve

Most of these Services were under the superintendence of workmen or
former subordinate employés, and were all carried on with a fourth part
of their ordinary numerical strength. The director of the postal
department, Theisz, a chaser, found the Service quite disorganised, the
divisionary bureaux closed, the stamps hidden away or carried off, the
material, seals, the carts, &c., taken away, and the coffers empty.
Placards posted up in the hall and courts ordered the employés to
proceed to Versailles on pain of dismissal, but Theisz acted with
promptitude and energy. When the subordinate employés who had not been
forewarned came as usual to organise the mail service, he addressed
them, discussed with them, and had the doors shut. Little by little they
gave way. Some functionaries who were Socialists also lent their help,
and the direction of the various services was intrusted to the
head-clerks. The divisionary bureaux were opened, and in forty-eight
hours the collection and distribution of letters for Paris reorganised.
As to the letters destined for the provinces, clever agents threw them
into the offices of St. Denis and ten miles round, while for the
introduction of letters into Paris every latitude was given to private
initiative. A superior council was instituted, which raised the wages of
postmen, sorters, porters, caretakers of the bureaux, shortened the time
of service as supernumeraries, and decided that the ability of the
employés should be tested for the future by means of tests and

The Mint, directed by Camélinat, a bronze-mounter, one of the most
active members of the International, manufactured the postage stamps. At
the Mint, as at the general post-office, the Versaillese director and
principal employés had first parleyed, then made off. Camélinat,
supported by some friends, bravely took this place, had the works
continued, and every one contributing his professional experience,
improvements in the machinery as well as new methods were introduced.
The bank, which concealed its bullion, was obliged to furnish about
110,000 francs' worth, immediately coined into five-franc pieces. A new
coin-plate was engraved, and was about to be put into use, when the
Versaillese entered Paris.

The department of Public Assistance also depended on that of the
Finances. A man of the greatest merit, Treilhard, an old exile of 1851,
reorganised this administration, which he found entirely out of order.
Some doctors and agents of the service had abandoned the hospitals; the
director and the steward of the Petits-Ménages at Issy had fled, thus
reducing many of their pensioners to go out begging. Some employés
forced our wounded to wait before the doors of the hospital, while the
sisters of mercy tried to make them blush for their glorious wounds; but
Treilhard soon put all in order, and, for the second time since 1792,
the sick and the infirm found friends in their guardians and blessed the
Commune. This kind-hearted and intellectual man, who was assassinated by
a Versaillese officer on the 24th May at the Panthéon, has left a very
elaborate report on the suppression of bureaux of charity, which chain
the poor to the Government and to the clergy. He proposed having them
replaced by a bureau of assistance in each arrondissement, under the
direction of a communal committee.

The Telegraph-office, Registration, and Domains, cleverly directed by
the honest Fontaine; the Service of the Contributions, entirely
re-established by Faillet and Combault; the National Printing Press,
which Debock reorganised and administered with remarkable
dexterity,[133] and the other departments connected with that of
Finance, ordinarily reserved to the great bourgeoisie, were managed with
skill and economy--the maximum of the salaries, 6000 francs, was never
reached--by workmen, subordinate employés; and this is not one of their
least crimes in the eyes of the Versaillese bourgeoisie.

Compared with the Finance department, that of War was a region of
darkness and utter confusion. Officers and guards encumbered the offices
of the Ministry, some demanding munitions and victuals, others
complaining of not being relieved. They were sent back to the Place
Vendôme, maintained in the teeth of common sense, and directed by the
rather equivocal colonel, Henry Prudhomme. On the floor below, the
Central Committee, installed there by Cluseret, bustled, spent time and
breath in endless sittings, found fault with the delegate at war, amused
itself with creating new insignia, received the malcontents of the
Ministry, asked returns from the general staff, claimed to give advice
on military operations. In its turn, the Committee of Artillery, founded
on the 18th March, wrangled about the disposal of the cannon with the
War Office. The latter had the pieces of the Champ-de-Mars and the
Committee those of Montmartre. Attempts at creating a central park of
artillery,[134] or even at learning the exact number of the ordnance
pieces, were made in vain. Pieces of long range remained to the last
moment lying along the ramparts, while the forts had only pieces of
seven and twelve centimetres to answer the huge cannon of Marine, and
often the munitions sent were not of corresponding calibre. The
commissariat, assailed by adventurers of all sorts, took their stores at
haphazard. The construction of the barricades, which were to form a
second and third enceinte, instituted on the 9th April, had been left to
a crotchety fellow, sowing works broadcast without method and against
the plans of his superiors. All the other Services were conducted in the
same style, without fixed principles, without limitation of their
respective provinces, the wheels of the machine not working within one
another. In this concert without a conductor, each instrumentalist
played what he liked, confusing his own score with his neighbour's.

A firm and supple hand would soon have restored harmony. The Central
Committee, despite its assumption of lecturing the Commune, which it
said was "its daughter and must not be allowed to go astray," was now
only an assemblage of talkers devoid of all authority. It had, to a
great extent, been renewed since the establishment of the Commune, and
the much-contested elections to it--for many aspired to the title of
member--had given a majority of flighty, heedless men.[135] In its
present state this Committee derived its whole importance from the
jealousy of the Council. The Committee of Artillery, monopolised by
brawlers, would have yielded at once to the slightest pressure. The
commissariat and the other services depended entirely upon the action of
the delegate at War.

The phantom general, stretched on his sofa, hatched orders, circulars,
now melancholy, now commanding, and never stirred a finger to watch over
their execution. If some member of the Council came to rouse him, "What
are you doing? Such a place is in peril;" he answered loftily, "All my
precautions are taken; give my combinations time to be accomplished,"
and turned over again. One day he bullied the Central Committee, which
left the Ministry to go and sulk in the Rue de l'Entrepôt; a week later
he went after the same Committee, reinstating it at the War Office. Vain
to shamelessness,[136] he showed sham letters from Todleben proposing
plans of defense, and spent his time in posing to correspondents of
foreign journals. With an affectation of pride, he never put on a
uniform, which, however, at that time was the true dress of the
proletarian. It took the Council almost a month to recognise that this
pithless braggart was only a disappointed officer of the standing army,
his airs of an innovator notwithstanding.

Many hopes turned to the chief of his staff, Rossel, a young Radical,
twenty-eight years old, self-restrained, puritanic, who was sowing his
revolutionary wild oats. A captain of engineers in the army of Metz, he
had attempted to resist Bazaine, and escaped from the Prussians.
Gambetta had appointed him colonel of engineers at the camp of Nevers,
where he was still lingering on the 18th March. He was dazzled; saw in
Paris the future of France, and his own; threw up his commission and
hurried thither, where some friends placed him in the 17th Legion. He
was haughty, soon became unpopular, and was arrested on the 3rd April.
Two members of the Council, Malon and Ch. Gérardin, had him set free
and presented him to Cluseret, by whom he was accepted as chief of the
general staff. Rossel, fancying that the Central Committee was a power,
made up to it, seemed to ask it for advice, and sought out the men he
thought popular. His coldness, his technical vocabulary, his clearness
of speech, his get up as a great man, enchanted the bureaux, but those
who studied him more closely noticed his unsteady look, the infallible
sign of a perturbed spirit. By degrees the young revolutionary officer
became the fashion, and his consular bearing did not displease the
public, sickened at the flabbiness of Cluseret.

Nothing, however, justified this infatuation. Chief of the general staff
since the 5th April, he allowed all the Services to shift for
themselves; the only one in some measure organised, the _Control of
General Information_, was the work of Moreau, who every morning
furnished the War Office and the Commune with detailed, and often very
picturesque, reports on the military operations and the moral condition
of Paris.

This was about all the police the Commune had. The Commission of Public
Safety, which should have thrown light upon the most secret recesses,
emitted only a fitful glimmering.

The Central Committee had appointed Raoul Rigault, a young man of
twenty-four, much mixed up in the revolutionary movement, as civil
delegate to the prefecture of police, but under the severe direction of
Duval. Rigault well kept in hand might have made a very good subaltern,
and so long as Duval lived he did not go wrong. The unpardonable fault
of the Council was to place him at the head of a service where the
slightest mistake was more dangerous than at the advanced posts. His
friends, who, with the exception of a small number, Ferré, Regnard, and
two or three others, were as young and as giddy-headed as himself,
discharged in a boyish way the most delicate functions. The Commission
of Public Safety, which ought to have superintended Rigault, only
followed his example. There, above all, did they live as boon
companions, apparently unaware of having assumed the guardianship of,
and the responsibility for, 100,000 lives.

No wonder the mice were soon seen playing round the prefecture of
police. Papers suppressed in the morning were cried out in the evening
in the streets; the conspirators wormed themselves into all the services
without exciting the suspicion of Rigault or his companions. They never
discovered anything; it was always necessary to do it for them. They
made arrests like military marches in the daytime, with large
reinforcements of National Guards. After the decree on the hostages,
they had only managed to lay hands on four or five ecclesiastics of
mark, the Gallican Archbishop Darboy, an arrant Bonapartist; his
grand-vicar, Lagarde; the curate of the Madeleine; Deguerry, a kind of
De Morny in cassock; the Abbé Allard, the Bishop of Surat; and a few
Jesuits of nerve. Chance only delivered into their hands the president
of the Court of Appeal, Bonjean,[137] and Jecker, the famous inventor of
the expedition to Mexico.[138]

This culpable heedlessness, which the people have paid for with their
blood, was the salvation of criminals. Some National Guards had brought
to light the mysteries of the Picpus convent, discovered three
unfortunate women shut up in grated cages, strange instruments,[139]
corselets of iron, straps, racks, which smacked strangely of the
Inquisition, a treatise on abortion, and two skulls still covered with
hair. One of the prisoners, the only one whose reason had not given way,
said that she had been in this cage for ten years. The police contented
itself with sending the nuns to St. Lazare.[140] Some inhabitants of the
tenth arrondissement had discovered feminine skeletons in the caves of
the St. Laurent Church. The prefecture only made a show of inquiry that
ended in nothing.

However, in the midst of all these faults, the humanitarian idea
revealed itself, so thoroughly sound was this popular revolution. The
chief of the Bureau of Public Safety, making an appeal to the public for
the victims of the war, said, "The Commune has sent bread to ninety-two
wives of those who are killing us. The widows belong to no party. The
Republic has bread for every misery and care for all the orphans."
Admirable words these, worthy of Châlier and of Chaumette. The
prefecture, overrun by denunciations, declared that it would take no
account of the anonymous ones. "The man," said the _Officiel_, "who does
not dare to sign a denunciation serves a personal rancour and not the
public interest." The hostages were allowed to obtain from without food,
linen, books, papers, to be visited by their friends, and to receive the
reporters of foreign journals. An offer was even made M. Thiers to
exchange the hostages of greatest mark, the Archbishop, Deguerry,
Bonjean, and Lagarde, for the single Blanqui. To conduct this
negotiation the Vicar-General was sent to Versailles, after having sworn
to the Archbishop and the delegate to return to his prison in case of
non-success. But M. Thiers thought that Blanqui would give a head to the
movement, while the Ultramontanes, eagerly covetous of the episcopal
seat of Paris, took good care not to save the Gallican Darboy, whose
death would be a double profit, leaving them a rich inheritance, and
giving them at small expense a martyr. M. Thiers refused, and Lagarde
remained at Versailles.[141] The Council did not punish the Archbishop
for this want of faith, and a few days after set his sister at liberty.
Never even in the days of despair was the privilege of women forgotten.
The culpable nuns of Picpus and the other religieuses conducted to St.
Lazare were confined in a special part of the building.

The prefecture and the delegation of Justice also evinced their humanity
in ameliorating the service of the prisons. The Council in its turn,
striving to guarantee individual liberty, decreed that every arrest
should be immediately notified to the delegate of Justice, and that no
perquisition should be made without a regular warrant. National Guards,
misinformed, having arrested certain individuals reputed suspicious, the
Council declared in the _Officiel_ that every arbitrary act would be
followed by a dismissal and immediate prosecution. A battalion looking
for arms at the gas company's thought itself authorised to seize the
cash-box; the Council at once had the sum returned. The commissary of
police who arrested Gustave Chaudey, arraigned for having commanded fire
on the 22nd January, had also seized the money of the prisoner; the
Council dismissed the commissary. To prevent all abuse of power, it
ordered an inquiry into the state of the prisoners and the motives of
their detention, authorising at the same time all its members to visit
the prisoners. Rigault thereupon sent in his resignation, which was
accepted, for he was beginning to weary everybody, and Delescluze had
been obliged to rebuke him. His pranks filled the columns of the
Versaillese journals, always on the look-out for scandals. They accused
this childish police of terrorising Paris, and represented the members
of the Council, who refused to endorse the condemnations of the
court-martial, as assassins. The Figarist historians have kept up this
legend. That vile bourgeoisie, which bent its head under the 30,000
arrests of December, the _lettres de cachet_ of the Empire, and
applauded the 50,000 arrests of May, still howls about the 800 or 900
arrests made under the Commune. They never exceeded this figure in two
months of strife, and two-thirds of those arrested were only imprisoned
a few days, many only a few hours. But the provinces, only fed with news
by the Versaillese press, believed in its inventions, amplified in the
circulars of M. Thiers telegraphing to the prefects: "The insurgents
are emptying the principal houses of Paris in order to put the furniture
to sale."

To enlighten the provinces and provoke their intervention, such was the
rôle of the delegation of the Exterior, which, under an ill-chosen
title, was only second in importance to that of War. Since the 4th
April--(I shall afterwards recount these movements)--the departments had
been stirring. Save that of Marseilles, in part disarmed, the National
Guard everywhere had guns. In the centre, east, west and south, powerful
diversions might easily have been made, the stations occupied, and
thereby the reinforcements and artillery destined for Versailles

The delegation contented itself with sending some few emissaries,
without knowledge of the localities they were sent to, without tact and
without authority. It was even exploited by traitors, who pocketed its
money and handed over its instructions to Versailles. Well-known
Republicans, familiar with the habits of the provinces, offered their
services in vain. There, as elsewhere, it was necessary to be a
favourite. Finally, for the work of enlightening and rousing France to
insurrection, only a sum of 100,000 francs was allowed.

The delegation put forth only a small number of manifestoes, one a true
and eloquent résumé of the Parisian revolution, and two addresses to the
peasants, one by Madame André Leo, simple, fervent, quite within the
reach of the peasantry: "Brother, you are being deceived. Our interests
are the same. What I ask for, you wish it too. The affranchisement which
I demand is yours.... What Paris after all wants is the land for the
peasant, the instrument for the workmen." This good seed was carried
away in free balloons, which, by a cleverly-contrived mechanism, from
time to time dropped the printed papers. How many were lost, fell among

This delegation, created only for the exterior, entirely forgot the rest
of the world. Throughout all Europe the working-classes eagerly awaited
news from Paris, were in their hearts fellow-combatants of the great
town, now become their capital, multiplied their meetings, processions,
and addresses. Their papers, poor for the most part, courageously
struggled against the calumnies of the bourgeois press. The duty of the
delegation was to hold out a hand to these priceless auxiliaries: it did
nothing. Some of these papers exhausted their last means in defense of
the Commune, which allowed its defenders to succumb for want of bread.

The delegation, without experience, without resources, could not fight
against the astute cleverness of M. Thiers. It showed great zeal in
protecting foreigners, and sent the rich silver plate of the Ministry to
the Mint, but it did almost no real work.

Now we come to the delegations of vital importance. Since, by the force
of events, the Commune had become the champion of the Revolution, it
ought to have proclaimed the aspirations of the century, and, if it was
to die, leave at least their testament on its tomb. It would have
sufficed to state lucidly the ensemble of institutions demanded for
forty years by the revolutionary party.

The delegate of Justice, a lawyer, had only to make a summary of the
reforms long since demanded by all Socialists. It was the part of a
proletarian revolution to show the aristocracy of our judicial system
the despotic and antiquated doctrines of the Code Napoleon; the
sovereign people hardly ever judging themselves, but judged by a caste
issued from another authority than their own, the absurd hierarchy of
judges and tribunals, the _tabellionat_, the procureurs, 400,000
notaries, solicitors, sheriffs' officers, registrars, bailiffs,
advocates and lawyers, draining national wealth to the amount of many
hundreds of millions. It was, above all, for a revolution made in the
name of the Commune to endow the Commune with a tribunal at which the
people, restored to their rights, should judge by jury all cases, civil
and commercial, misdemeanours as well as crimes; a final tribunal,
without any appeal but for informalities, to state how solicitors,
registrars, sheriffs, may be rendered useless, and the notaries replaced
by simple registration officers. The delegate mostly limited himself to
appointing notaries, sheriffs' officers, and bailiffs, provided with a
fixed salary,--very useless appointments in a time of war, and which,
besides, had the fault of consecrating the principle of the necessity
for such officers. Scarcely anything progressive came of it. It was
decreed that, in case of arrests, the minutes were to state the motives
and the names of the witnesses to be called, while the papers, valuables
and effects of the prisoners were to be deposited at the Suitors' Fund.
Another decree ordered the directors of lunatic asylums to send the
nominal and explanatory statement concerning their patients within four
days. If the Council had thrown some light on these institutions, which
veil so many crimes, humanity would have been its debtor. However, these
decrees were never executed.

Did practical instinct make up for want of science on the part of the
delegation? Did it shed light upon the mysteries of the caves of Picpus,
the skeletons of St. Laurent? It seemed to take no notice of them, and
the reaction made merry at these supposed discoveries. The delegation
even missed the opportunity of winning over to the Commune, if only for
one day, all Republicans of France. Jecker was in their power. Rich,
brave, audacious, he had always lived certain of impunity, since
bourgeois legality inflicts no chastisement for crimes like the Mexican
expedition. The Revolution alone could smite him. Nothing was more easy
than to proceed against him. Jecker, pretending to have been the dupe of
the Empire, craved to make revelations. In a public court, before twelve
jurors chosen at hazard, in the face of the world, through him the
Mexican expedition might have been sifted, the intrigues of the clergy
unveiled, the pockets of the thieves turned out; it might have been
shown how the Empress, Miramon, and Morny had set the plot on foot, in
what cause and for what men France had lost seas of blood and hundreds
of millions. Afterwards the expiation might have been accomplished in
the open day, on the Place de la Concorde, in face of the Tuileries.
Poets, who rarely get shot, would perhaps have sighed, but the people,
the eternal victim, would have applauded, and said, "The Revolution
alone does justice." They neglected even to question Jecker.

The delegation at the Education department was bound to write one of the
finest pages of the Commune, for, after go many years of study and
experiments this question should spring forth ready armed from a truly
revolutionary brain. The delegation has not left a memoir, a sketch, an
address, a line, to bear witness for it in the future. Yet the delegate
was a doctor, a student of the German universities. He contented himself
with suppressing the crucifixes in the schoolrooms and making an appeal
to all those who had studied the question of teaching. A commission was
charged to organise primary and professional instruction, whose work
consisted in announcing the opening of a school on the 6th May. Another
commission for the education of women was named on the day the
Versaillese entered Paris.

The administrative action of the delegate was confined to impracticable
decrees and a few appointments. Two devoted and talented men, Elie
Reclus and B. Gastineau, were charged with the reorganisation of the
National Library. They forbade the lending of books, thus putting an end
to the scandalous practice by which a privileged few carved out a
private library from public collections. The federation of artists,
presided over by Courbet, elected member of the Council on the 16th
April, occupied itself with the re-opening and superintendence of the

Nothing would be known of the ideas of this revolution on education were
it not for a few circulars of the municipalities. Many had reopened the
schools abandoned by the Congregationists and the municipal teachers, or
driven away the priests who had remained. The municipality of the
twentieth arrondissement clothed and fed the children; that of the
fourth said, "To teach children to love and respect their
fellow-creatures, to inspire them with a love of justice, to teach them
that they must instruct themselves in the interests of all, such are the
principles of morality on which for the future communal education will
be based." "The teachers of the schools and infant asylums," declared
the municipality of the seventeenth arrondissement, "will for the future
exclusively employ the experimental and scientific method, that which
always starts from facts, physical, moral, intellectual." But these
vague formulas could not make amends for the want of a complete

Who, then, will speak for the people? The delegation of Labour and
Exchange. Exclusively composed of revolutionary Socialists, its purpose
was, "The study of all the reforms to be introduced into the public
services of the Commune or into the relations of the working men and
women with their employers; the revision of the commercial code and
customhouse duties; the transformation of all direct and indirect taxes,
the establishment of statistics of labour." It intended collecting from
the citizens themselves the materials for the decrees to be submitted to
the Commune.

The delegate to this department, Leo Frankel, procured the assistance of
a commission of initiative composed of workingmen. Registers for offers
and demands of work were opened in all the arrondissements. At the
request of many journeymen bakers night-work was suppressed, a measure
of hygiene as much as of morality. The delegation prepared a project for
the suppression of pawnshops, a decree concerning stoppages of wages,
and supported the decree relative to workshops abandoned by their
runaway masters.

Their plan gratuitously returned the pledged objects to the victims of
war and to the necessitous. Those who might refuse to confess this
latter title were to receive their pledges in exchange for a promise of
repayment in five years. The report terminated with these words: "It is
well understood that the suppression of the pawnshops is to be succeeded
by a social organisation giving serious guarantees of support to the
workmen thrown out of employment. The establishment of the Commune
necessitates institutions protecting the workmen from the exploitation
of capital."

The decree that abolished stoppages of salaries and wages put an end to
one of the most crying iniquities of the capitalist régime, these fines
often being inflicted on the most futile pretext by the employer
himself, who is thus at once judge and plaintiff.

The decree relative to the deserted workshops made restitution to the
mass, dispossessed since centuries, of the property of their own labour.
A commission of inquiry named by the Syndical Chambers was to draw up
the statistics and the inventory of the deserted workshops to be given
back into the hands of the workmen. Thus "the expropriators were in
their turn expropriated." The nineteenth century will not pass away
without having begun this revolution; every progress in machinery brings
it nearer. The more the exploitation of labour concentrates itself in a
few hands, the more the working multitude are massed together and
disciplined. Soon, conscious and united, the producing class will, like
the young France of 1789, have to confront but a handful of privileged
appropriators. The most inveterate revolutionary Socialist is the

No doubt this decree contained voids and stood in need of an elaborate
explanation, especially on the subject of the co-operative societies to
which the workshops were to be handed over. It was no more than the
other applicable in this hour of strife, and required a number of
supplementary decrees; but it at least gave some idea of the claims of
the working-class, and had it nothing else on its credit side, by the
mere creation of the Commission of Labour and Exchange, the revolution
of the 18th March would have done more for the workmen than all the
bourgeois Assemblies of France since the 5th May, 1789.

The delegation of Labour wanted to look carefully into the contracts of
the commissariat. It demonstrated that in the case of contracts
adjudicated to the lowest bidder, the running down of prices falls upon
wages and not on the profit of the contractor. "And the Commune is
blind enough to lend itself to such manoeuvres," said the report, "and
at this very moment, when the workingman dares death rather than submit
any longer to this exploitation." The delegate demanded that the
estimate of charges should specify the cost of labour, that the orders
should by preference be given to the workmen's corporations, and the
contracting prices fixed by arbitration between the commissariat, the
Syndical Chamber of the corporation, and the delegate of Labour.

To overlook the financial administration of all the delegations, the
Council in the month of May instituted a superior commission charged to
audit their accounts. It decreed that functionaries or contractors
guilty of peculation or theft should be punished with death.

In short, save the delegation of Labour, where they did work, the
fundamental delegations were unequal to their task. All committed the
same fault. During two months they had in their hands the archives of
the bourgeoisie since 1789. There was the Cour des Comptes (a judicial
board of accounts) to disclose the mysteries of official jobbery; the
Council of State, the dark deliberations of despotism; the Prefecture of
Police, the scandalous under-currents of social power; the Ministry of
Justice, the servility and crimes of the most oppressive of all classes.
In the Hôtel-de-Ville there lay deposited the still unexplored records
of the first Revolution, of those of 1815, 1830, 1848, and all
diplomatists of Europe dreaded the opening of the portfolios at the
Foreign Office. They might have laid bare before the eyes of the people
the intimate history of the Revolution, the Directory, the first Empire,
the monarchy of July, 1848, and of Napoleon III. They published only two
or three fascicles.[142] The delegates slept by the side of these
treasures, heedless, as it seemed, of their value.

The Radicals, seeing these lawyers, these doctors, these publicists, who
allowed Jecker to remain mute and the Cour des Comptes closed, would
not believe in such ignorance, and still affect to unriddle the enigma
with the word "Bonapartism." A stupid accusation, given the lie by a
thousand proofs. For the honour even of the delegates the bitter truth
must be told. Their ignorance was not simulated, but only too real. To a
great extent it was the offspring of past oppression.


[131] Appendix VI.

[132] Appendix VII., report by Theisz.

[133] Appendix VIII.

[134] There were five parks--the Hôtel-de-Ville, the Tuileries, the
Ecole Militaire, Montmartre, Vincennes. In all, including the artillery
of the forts and that of the open country, the Commune had more than
1100 cannon, howitzers, mortars, and mitrailleuses.

[135] The second Central Committee was composed of forty members, of
whom twelve only had formed part of the first Committee.

[136] "Do you know," said he to Delescluze, "that Versailles has offered
me a million?" "Be silent!" answered Delescluze, turning his back upon

[137] He was arrested on the 20th March in his private room in the
Palace of Justice, where he had given the procureur-general a

[138] He was recognised as he asked for his passport at the prefecture
of police.

[139] The correspondent of the _Times_ wrote in the number of 9th May:
"The superior and her nuns explained that these were orthopædic
instruments--a superficial falsehood. The mattress and straps struck me
as being easily accounted for; I have seen such things used in French
midwifery and in cases of violent delirium; but the rack and its
adjuncts are justly objects of grave suspicion, for they imply a use of
brutal force which no disease at present known would justify."

[140] The nun who filled the post of superior, a big and bold virago,
answered Rigault in an easy-going manner. "Why have you shut up these
women?" "To do their families a service; they were mad. See gentlemen,
you are young men of good families; you'll understand that sometimes one
is glad to conceal the madness of one's relations." "But do you not know
the law?" "No, we obey our superiors." "Whose books are these?" "We know
nothing about them." Thus affecting simpleness, they sold the

[141] This negotiation has in part been recounted in the _Officiel_ of
the Commune. We add further details. Soon after his arrest the
Archbishop wrote to M. Thiers begging him to stop the execution of the
prisoners, on which the lives of the hostages depended. M. Thiers did
not answer. An old friend of Blanqui's, Flotte, went to the President to
propose an exchange, and said that the Archbishop might incur peril. M.
Thiers made a decided gesture: "What does it matter to me?" Flotte again
took up the negotiation through Darboy, who named Deguerry as envoy to
Versailles. The prefecture, unwilling to give up such a hostage, the
Vicar-General Lagarde took Deguerry's place. The Archbishop furnished
him with instructions, and on the 12th April Flotte conducted Lagarde to
the station and made him swear to return if he failed in his mission.
Lagarde swore, "Even if to be shot, I shall return. Can you believe that
I could for a single moment harbour the thought of leaving Monseigneur
alone here?" At the moment when the train was about to start, Flotte
insisted again, "Do not go if you have not the intention of returning."
The priest again renewed his oath. He went off, and handed over a letter
in which the Archbishop solicited the exchange. M. Thiers, pretending to
know nothing of this one, answered the first, which a Communalist
journal had just published. His answer is one of his masterpieces of
hypocrisy and falsehood: "The facts to which you call my attention are
absolutely false, and I am really surprised that so enlightened a
prelate as you, Monseigneur.... Our soldiers have never shot prisoners
nor sought to kill the wounded. That, in the heat of the combat, they
may have turned their arms against men who assassinate their generals,
is possible; but, the combat terminated, they resume the natural
generosity of the national character. I therefore spurn, Monseigneur,
the calumny that has been told you. I affirm that our soldiers have
never shot prisoners." On the 17th Flotte received a letter in which
Lagarde informed him that his presence was still indispensable at
Versailles. Flotte complained to the Archbishop, who could not believe
in this desertion. "It is impossible," said he, "that M. Lagarde should
remain at Versailles; he will come back; he has sworn it to me myself,"
and he gave Flotte a note for Lagarde. The latter answered that M.
Thiers retained him. On the 23rd Darboy wrote to him again: "On the
reception of this letter, M. Lagarde is immediately to retrace his steps
to Paris and to re-enter Mazas. This delay compromises us gravely, and
may have the saddest results." Lagarde did not answer any more.

Blanqui, transported to the Fort du Taureau, was rigorously kept in
solitary confinement. His friends thought of delivering him, and a sum
of 50,000 francs was prepared for his release. But much more would have
been necessary, and, above all, adroit agents, for the least imprudence
would have cost the life of the prisoner. The affair was procrastinated,
and part of the funds were still in the coffers of the Committee of
Public Safety at the entry of the Versaillese.

[142] Georges Duchêne began examining the commercial transactions of the
Government of National Defence, but he published nothing.



M. Thiers was fully acquainted with the failings of the Commune, but he
also knew the weakness of his army. Besides, he piqued himself upon
playing the soldier before the Prussians. In order to appease his
colleagues, eager for the assault on Paris, he received haughtily the
conciliators, who multiplied their advances and their lame combinations.

Everybody intermeddled, from the good and visionary Considérant down to
the cynic Girardin, down to Saisset's ex-aide-de-camp Schoelcher, who
had replaced his plan of battle of the 24th March by a plan of
conciliation. These encounters became the common topics of raillery.
Since its pompous declaration, "All Paris will rise," the _Ligue des
Droits de Paris_ had been altogether sunk out of sight. It was perfectly
understood that these Radicals were in search of some decent contrivance
to back out of the peril. At the end of April their sham movements
served only as a foil to set off the courageous conduct of the

On the 21st April the Freemasons, having gone to Versailles to ask for
the armistice, complained of the municipal law recently voted by the
Assembly. "What!" M. Thiers replied, "but this is the most liberal one
we have had in France for eighty years." "We beg your pardon, and how
about the communal institutions of 1791?" "Ah! you want to return to the
follies of our fathers?" "But, after all, are you then resolved to
sacrifice Paris?" "There will be some houses riddled, some persons
killed, but the law will be enforced." The Freemasons had this hideous
answer placarded in Paris.

On the 26th they met at the Châtelet, and several proposed that they
should go and plant their banners on the ramparts. A thousand cheers
answered. M. Floquet, who, with an eye to the future, had sent in his
resignation as deputy, together with MM. Lockroy and Clémenceau,
protested against this co-operation of the small middle-class with the
people. His shrill voice was drowned in the enthusiastic cries in the
hall.[143] On the motion of Ranvier, the Freemasons went up to the
Hôtel-de-Ville, preceded by their banner, where they were met by the
Council in the Court of Honour. "If at the outset," said their
spokesman, Thirifocq, "the Freemasons did not wish to act, it was
because they wanted to have certain proof that Versailles would not hear
of conciliation. They are ready to-day to plant their banner on the
rampart. If one single ball touches it, the Freemasons will march with
the same ardour as yourselves against the common enemy." This
declaration was loudly applauded. Jules Vallès, in the name of the
Commune, tendered his red scarf, which was twisted round the banner, and
a delegation of the Council accompanied the brethren to the Masonic
temple in the Rue Cadet.

They came three days after to redeem their word. The announcement of
this intervention had given great hope to Paris. From early in the
morning an immense crowd encumbered the approaches to the Carrousel, the
rendezvous of all the lodges; and, despite a few reactionary Freemasons,
who had protested in a placard, at ten o'clock 10,000 brethren,
representing fifty-five lodges, had gathered in the Carrousel. Six
members of the Council led them to the Hôtel-de-Ville in the midst of
the crowd and a lane of battalions. A band, playing music of solemn and
ritual character, preceded the procession; then came superior officers,
the grand-masters, the members of the Council, and the brethren, with
their wide blue, green, white, red or black ribbon, according to their
grade, grouped around sixty-five banners that had never before been
displayed in public. The one carried at the head of the procession was
the white banner of Vincennes, bearing in red letters the fraternal and
revolutionary inscription, "_Love one another_." A lodge of women was
especially cheered.

The banners and a numerous delegation were introduced into the
Hôtel-de-Ville, the members of the Council waiting to receive them on
the balcony of the staircase of honour. The banners were fixed along the
steps. These standards of peace by the side of the red flag, this small
middle-class joining hands with the proletariat under the proud image of
the Republic, these cries of fraternity dazzled, brightened up even the
most downcast. Félix Pyat indulged in a rhapsody of words and rhetorical
antitheses. Old Beslay was much more eloquent in a few words broken by
true tears. A brother solicited the honour of being the first to plant
on the rampart the banner of his lodge, _La Persévérance_, founded in
1790, in the era of the great federations. A member of the Council
presented the red flag: "Let it accompany your banners; let no hand
henceforth turn us against each other." And the orator of the
delegation, Thirifocq, pointing to the banner of Vincennes: "This will
be the first to be presented before the ranks of the enemy. We will say
to them, 'Soldiers of the mother country, fraternise with us, come and
embrace us.' If we fail, we shall go and join the companies of war."

When the delegates left the Hôtel-de-Ville, a free balloon, marked with
the three symbolical points, made an ascent, here and there dropping the
manifesto of the Freemasons. The immense procession having shown the
Bastille and the boulevards its mysterious banners, frantically
applauded, arrived about two o'clock at the cross-roads of the
Champs-Elysées. The shells of Mont-Valérien obliged them to take the
bye-streets on their way to the Arc-de-Triomphe. There a delegation of
all the venerables went to plant the banners at the most dangerous
posts, from the Porte-Maillot to the Porte-Bineau. When the white flag
was hoisted on the outpost of the Porte-Maillot the Versaillese ceased

The delegates of the Freemasons and some members of the Council,
appointed by their colleagues to accompany them, advanced, headed by
their banner, into the Avenue of Neuilly. At the bridge of Courbevoie,
before the Versaillese barricade, they found an officer who conducted
them to General Montaudon, himself a Freemason. The Parisians explained
the object of their manifestation, and asked for a truce. The general
proposed that they should send a deputation to Versailles. Three
delegates were chosen, and their companions returned to the town. In the
evening silence reigned from St. Ouen to Neuilly, Dombrowski having
taken upon himself to continue the truce. For the first time for
twenty-five days the sleep of Paris was not disturbed by the report of

The next day the delegates returned. M. Thiers had hardly deigned to
receive them, had shown himself impatient, irritated, decided to grant
nothing and to admit no more deputations. The Freemasons then resolved
to march to battle with their insignia.

In the afternoon the _Alliance Républicaine des Départements_ made an
act of adhesion to the Commune. Millière, who had quite joined the
movement without being able to gain the confidence of the
Hôtel-de-Ville, exerted himself to group the provincials residing at
Paris. Who does not know what the provinces contributed in blood and
sinew to the great town? Out of 35,000 prisoners of French origin
figuring in the official reports of Versailles, there were, according to
their own statement, only 9,000 born Parisians. Each departmental group
was to strain itself to enlighten its native place, to send circulars,
proclamations, delegates. On the 30th all the groups met in the Court of
the Louvre to vote an address to the departments, and all, about 15,000
men, headed by Millière, went to the Hôtel-de-Ville "to renew their
adhesion to the patriotic work of the Commune of Paris."

The procession was still passing when a sinister rumour spread: the fort
of Issy had been evacuated.

Under cover of their batteries, the Versaillese, pushing forward, had on
the night of the 26th to the 27th surprised the Moulineaux, by which the
park of Issy may be reached. On the following day sixty pieces of
powerful calibre concentrated their shells on the fort, while others
occupied Vanves, Montrouge, the gunboats and the enceinte. Issy answered
valiantly, but our trenches, to which Wetzel ought to have attended,
were in bad condition. On the 29th the bombardment redoubled and the
projectiles ploughed the park. At eleven o'clock in the evening the
Versaillese ceased firing, and in the nocturnal stillness surprised the
Federals and occupied the trenches. On the 30th, at five o'clock in the
morning, the fort, which had received no warning of this incident, found
itself surrounded by a semi-circle of Versaillese. The commander, Mégy,
was disconcerted, sent for reinforcements, but received none. The
garrison grew alarmed, and these Federals, who had cheerfully withstood
a hailstorm of shells, took fright at a few skirmishers. Mégy held a
council, and the evacuation was decided upon. The cannon were
precipitately spiked--so badly that they were unnailed the same
evening--and the bulk of the garrison left. Some men with different
notions of duty made it a point of honour to stay at their post. In the
course of the day a Versaillese officer summoned them to surrender
within a quarter of an hour on pain of being shot. They did not even

At three o'clock Cluseret and La Cécilia arrived at Issy with a few
companies picked up in haste. They deployed as skirmishers, drove the
Versaillese from the park, and at six o'clock the Federals reoccupied
the fort. At the entrance they found a child, Dufour, near a wheelbarrow
filled with cartridges and cartouches, ready to blow himself up, and, as
he believed, the vault with him. In the evening Vermorel and Trinquet
brought other reinforcements, and we reoccupied all our positions.

At the first rumour of the evacuation, National Guards had hurried to
the Hôtel-de-Ville interpellating the Executive Commission. It denied
having given any order to evacuate the fort, and promised to punish the
traitors if there were any. In the evening it arrested Cluseret on his
arrival from the fort of Issy. Strange rumours circulated about him, and
he quitted the Ministry without leaving the slightest trace of any
useful work whatever. As to the defence of the interior, all he had done
was to bury cannon at the Trocadéro, which, he said, were to breach
Mont-Valérien. At a later period, after the fall of the Commune, he
endeavoured to throw his whole incapacity upon his colleagues, treating
them in English reviews as vain and ignorant fools, imputing villanies
to a man like Delescluze, stating that his arrest had ruined everything,
and modestly calling himself the "incarnation of the people."[144]

This panic of Issy was the origin of the Committee of Public Safety.
Already on the 28th April, at the end of the sitting, Miot, one of the
best-bearded men of 1848, had risen to demand "without phrases" the
creation of a Committee of Public Safety, having authority over all the
Commissions. Being pressed to give his reasons, he majestically replied
that he believed the Committee necessary. There was only one opinion as
to the necessity of strengthening the central control and action, for
the second Executive Commission had shown itself as impotent as the
first, each delegate going his own way and decreeing on his own account.
But what signified this word Committee of Public Safety, this parody of
the past and scarecrow of boobies? It jarred with this proletarian
revolution, this Hôtel-de-Ville, whence the original Committee of Public
Safety had torn away Chaumette, Jacques Roux and the best friends of the
people. But the Romanticists of the Council had only a smattering of the
history of the Revolution, and this high-sounding title delighted them.
They would have there and then voted it but for the energy of some
colleagues, who insisted on a discussion. "Yes," said these latter, "we
want a vigorous Commission, but give us no revolutionary pasticcio. Let
the Commune be re-formed; let it cease to be a small talkative
parliament, quashing one day, just as it suits its caprices, what it
created the day before." And they proposed an Executive Committee. The
votes were equally divided.

The affair of Issy turned the scale. On the 1st May 34 _Ayes_ against 28
_Noes_ carried the title of Committee of Public Safety. On the whole of
the project 48 voted for and 23 against. Several had voted for the
Committee notwithstanding its title, with the only object of creating a
strong power. Many explained their votes. Some alleged they were obeying
the _mandat imperatif_ of their electors. Some wanted "to make the
cowards and traitors tremble;" others simply declared, like Miot, that
"it was an indispensable measure." Félix Pyat, who had egged on Miot,
and violently supported the proposition in order to win back the esteem
of the ultras, gave this cogent reason: "Yes: considering that the words
_Salut Public_ are absolutely of the same epoch as the words French
Republic and Commune of Paris." But Tridon: "No: because I dislike
useless and ridiculous cast-off old clothes." Vermorel: "No: they are
only words, and the people have too long taken up with words." Longuet:
"Not believing any more in words of salvation than in talismans and
amulets, I vote No." Seventeen collectively declared against the
institution of a Committee, which, they said, would create a
dictatorship, and others pleaded the same motive, which was puerile
enough. The Council remained so sovereign that eight days after it
overturned the Committee.

Having protested by this vote, the opponents ought afterwards to have
made the best of the situation. Tridon had certainly said, "I see no men
to put in such a Committee;" all the more reason not to leave the place
to the Romanticists. Instead of coming to an understanding with those of
their colleagues who were desirous to concentrate the power and not
galvanise a corpse, the opponents folded their arms. "We can," they
said, "appoint no one to an institution considered by us as useless and
fatal.... We consider abstention as the only dignified, logical, and
politic attitude."

The ballot, thus stigmatised beforehand, gave a power without authority;
there were only 37 votes. Ranvier, A. Arnaud, Leo Meillet, Ch. Gérardin,
Félix Pyat were named. The alarmists might comfort themselves. The only
one of real energy, the upright and warm-hearted Ranvier, was at the
mercy of his blind kindliness.

The friends of the Commune, the brave soldiers of the trenches and of
the forts, then learnt that there was a minority at the Hôtel-de-Ville.
It put in its appearance at the very moment when Versailles unmasked its
batteries. This minority, which, with the exception of some ten members,
comprised the most enlightened and the most laborious members of the
Council, was never able to accommodate itself to the situation. These
men could never understand that the Commune was a barricade, not a
government. This was the general error, the superstitious belief in
their governmental longevity; hence, for instance, they delayed for
seven months the date for the total return of the pledges at the
pawnshops. There were perhaps as many dreamers in the minority as in the
majority. Some put forward their principles like the head of a Medusa,
and would have made no concessions even for the sake of victory. They
strained the reaction against the principle of authority to the verge of
suicide. "We," they said, "were for liberty under the Empire; in power
we will not deny it." Even in exile they have fancied that the Commune
perished through its authoritative tendencies. With a little diplomacy,
by yielding to circumstances and the weaknesses of their colleagues,
they might have detached from the majority all men of real value.[145]
Tridon had come to them uninvited, but his was a superior mind; they
ought to have made advances to the others, opposing to the mere
braggarts precise ideas, and by true energy reduced the turbulent. They
remained unrelenting, dogged, and contented themselves with forcible

Thenceforth divergences degenerated into hostilities. The council-room
was small, badly ventilated; the soon overheated atmosphere ruffled the
temper. The discussions grew bitter, and Félix Pyat turned them into
attacks. Delescluze never spoke but for union, concord. The other would
have preferred the Commune dead rather than saved by one of those he
bore a grudge to, and he hated whoever smiled at his craziness. He did
not mind discrediting the Council, aspersing its most devoted members,
so that he resented a trespass on his vanity. He could lie with perfect
effrontery, carve out some infamous calumny, slaver a colleague, then
suddenly, in emotional attitude, open his arms, exclaiming, "Let us
embrace." He now accused Vermorel of having sold his journal to the
Empire after having offered it to the Orléanists. He glided about in the
lobbies, the Commissions, a Barrère of the boards, now insinuating, now
foaming, now patriarchal. "The Commune! why it is my child! I have
watched over it for twenty years. I have nursed, I have rocked it." To
hear him, the 18th March was owing to him. He thus enlisted the naïve,
the light-headed sent to the Council by the public meetings, and,
despite his blank incapacity, shown by the man while a member of the
first executive, despite his attempts at fight, he picked up twenty-four
voices at the election of the Committee of Public Safety. The aspic
profited by it to hiss forth discord.

Disunion within the Council was fatal, the mother of defeat. It
ceased--let the people know this as well as their faults--when they
thought of the people, when they rose above these miserable personal
quarrels. They followed the funeral of Pierre Leroux, who had defended
the insurgents of June, 1848; ordered the demolition of the Bréa church,
built in memory of a justly punished traitor; of the expiatory monument,
an affront to the Revolution; were not forgetful of the political
prisoners still at the Bagnio, and ennobled the Place d'Italie with the
name of Duval. All Socialist decrees passed unanimously; for though
they differed they were all Socialists. There was but one voice in the
Council to expel two of its members guilty of some former offence,[146]
and no one even in the thick of the peril dared to utter the word


[143] Before the Commission of Inquiry at the Assembly he has assumed
the attitude of a Daniel in the lions' den. The meeting, however,
contented with hissing him, for Paris let these impotent drones buzz as
much as they liked without taking any notice of them.

[144] Appendix IX.

[145] The minority formed a nucleus of twenty-two members: Andrieu,
Arnold, A. Arnould, Avrial, Beslay, Clémence, V. Clément, Courbet,
Frankel, E. Gérardin, Jourde, Lefrançais, Longuet, Malon, Ostyn, Pindy,
Serraillier, Theisz, Tridon, Vallès, Varlin, Vermorel.

[146] Blanchet, an ex-Capucin and bankrupt, and E. Clément, who under
the Empire had offered his services to the police.



The last act of the second Executive Commission was to name Rossel
delegate at War. On the same evening (the 30th April) it sent for him.
He came at once, recited the history of famous sieges, and promised to
make Paris impregnable. No one asked him for a written plan, and there
and then, as on the stage, his nomination was signed. He forthwith wrote
to the Council, "I accept these difficult functions, but I want your
entire support in order not to succumb under the weight of these

Rossel knew these circumstances through and through. For twenty-five
days chief of the general staff, he was the best-informed man in Paris
as to all her military resources. He was familiar with the members of
the Council, of the Central Committee, the officers, the effective
forces, the character of the troops he undertook to lead.

At the outset he struck a wrong chord in his answer to the Versaillese
officer who had summoned the fort of Issy to surrender. "My dear
comrade, the first time you permit yourself to send us such an insolent
summons, I shall have your flag of truce shot. Your devoted comrade."
The cynical levity smacked of the condottiere. Certainly he who
threatened to shoot an innocent soldier, and bestowed his _dear_, his
_devoted comrade_ upon a collaborator of Gallifet, was foreign to the
great heart of Paris and her civil war.

No man understood Paris, the National Guard, less than Rossel. He
imagined that the _Père Duchesne_ was the real mouthpiece of the
workmen. Hardly raised to the Ministry, he spoke of putting the
National Guard into barracks, of cannonading the runaways; he wanted to
dismember the legions and form them into regiments, with colonels named
by himself. The Central Committee, to which the _chefs-de-légion_
belonged, protested, and the battalions complained to the Council, which
sent for Rossel. He set forth his project in a professional way in
sober, precise words, so different from the Pyatical declamations, that
the Council believed it beheld a man and was charmed. Still his project
was the breaking-up of the National Guard, and the Council no more than
the Executive Commission got a general plan of defence from him. He
certainly demanded that the municipalities should be charged with
concentration of arms, the horses, and prosecution of the refractory,
but he made no condition _sine quâ non_.

He sent in no report on the military situation. He gave orders for the
construction of a second enceinte of barricades, and of three citadels
at Montmartre, the Trocadéro, and the Panthéon, but never personally
concerned himself about their execution. He extended the command of
General Wroblewski over all troops and forts on the left bank, but three
days after restricted it again to bestow it upon La Cécilia, who had
none of the qualities necessary in a superior commander. He never gave
the generals any instructions for attack or defence. Despite certain
fits and starts, he had in reality so little energy that he named Eudes
commander of the second active reserve at the very moment when, against
formal orders, this latter left the fort of Issy, which he had commanded
since the reoccupation.

The Versaillese had recommenced firing with perfect fury. The shells,
the bombs, battered the casemates, the grapeshot paved the trenches with
iron. In the night of the 1st-2nd, the Versaillese, always proceeding by
nocturnal surprises, attacked the station of Clamart, which was taken
almost without a struggle, and the castle of Issy, which they had to
conquer foot by foot. On the morning of the 2nd the fort again found
itself in the same situation as three days before. A part of the village
of Issy was even in the hands of the soldiers. During the day the
francs-tireurs of Paris dislodged them at the point of the bayonet.
Eudes, who in vain demanded reinforcements, went to the War Office to
declare that he would not remain if Wetzel were not discharged. Wetzel
was replaced by La Cécilia, but Eudes did not return to the fort, and
left the command to the chief of his staff.

Thus since the 3rd it was evident that everything would go on as under
Cluseret, and the Central Committee grew bolder. It had been thrown more
and more into the shade, for the Commission of War kept it at a
distance. Its sittings, more and more confused and void, were little
attended--by about ten members, sometimes even by less. The enterprise
of Rossel against the legions gave it back a little authority and
daring. On the 3rd, in accord with the _chefs-de-légion_, they resolved
to ask the Council for the direction and administration of the War
Office. Rossel got wind of the affair, and had one of its members
arrested; the others in great numbers, the _chefs-de-légion_ with their
sabres at their sides, went up to the Hôtel-de-Ville, where they were
received by Félix Pyat, deeply moved by the odd conceit that they came
to lay hands on him. "Nothing is getting along at the War Office," said
they. "All the services are in disorder. The Central Committee offers
itself to direct them. The delegate will conduct the operations, the
Committee will see to the administration." Félix Pyat approved of the
idea and submitted it to the Council. The minority took umbrage at the
pretensions of the Committee, and even spoke of having them arrested.
The majority left the matter to the Committee of Public Safety, which
issued a decree admitting the co-operation of the Central Committee.
Rossel accepted the situation and announced it to the chiefs of corps.
The Commission of War continued, in spite of all this, to squabble with
the Committee.

Our men paid dearly for these small cabinet revolutions. Tired out,
badly commanded, they were negligent of their watches, and thus exposed
to every surprise. The most terrible one took place in the night of the
3rd-4th May at the redoubt of the Moulin Saquet, held by 500 men at
this moment. They were sleeping in their tents, when the Versaillese,
having seized the sentinels, entered the redoubt and butchered about
fifty Federals. The soldiers pierced the tents with their bayonets,
slashing the corpses, and then made off with five pieces and 200
prisoners. The captain of the 55th was accused of having betrayed the
watchword. The truth is not known, as--incredible fact!--the Council
never inquired into the affair.

M. Thiers announced this "elegant _coup-de-main_"[147] in a bantering
despatch to the effect that they had killed two hundred men; that "such
was the victory the Commune might announce in its bulletins." The
prisoners, taken to Versailles, were received by the elegant rabble who
killed time in the cafés of St. Germain, now become the headquarters of
high-life prostitution, or who went to the heights to see the shells
battering the walls and the Parisians. But what were these insipid
amusements by the side of a convoy of prisoners, whom they could beat,
spit upon, and revile, a thousand times renewing the agonies of Mathô?

The simply bestial ferocity of the soldiers was much less horrible.
These poor wretches firmly believed that the Federals were thieves or
Prussians, and that they tortured their prisoners. There were some who,
taken to Paris, for a long time refused all nourishment in dread of
poison. The officers propagated these horrible stories; some even
believed them.[148] The greater part, arriving from Germany in a state
of extreme irritation against Paris,[149] said publicly, "We shall give
these scoundrels no quarter," and they set the example of summary
executions. On the 25th April, at the Belle-Epine, near Ville-Juif, four
National Guards, surprised by mounted chasseurs, called upon to
surrender, laid down their arms. The soldiers were leading them when an
officer appeared, and, without further ado, discharged his revolver at
them. Two were killed; the two others, left for dead, were able to drag
themselves as far as the neighbouring trenches, where one of them
expired.[150] The fourth was transported to the ambulance. Paris,
erstwhile besieged by the Prussians, was now tracked by tigers.

These sinister forebodings of the lot reserved to the vanquished made
the Council indignant, but did not enlighten it. The disorder grew
greater with the danger. Rossel set nothing going. Pyat, whom he had
often silenced with a word, abhorred him, and never ceased undermining
his authority. "You see this man," said he to the Romanticists, "well,
he is a traitor--a Cæsarian! After the Trochu plan, the Rossel plan." On
the 8th May he had the direction of the military operations transferred
to Dombrowski, leaving only nominal functions to Rossel, who, apprised
of this that same evening, hurried to the Committee of Public Safety and
forced it to revoke the decree.[151] On the 4th Félix Pyat sent orders
to General Wroblewski without informing Rossel. The next day Rossel
complained to the Council of the Committee of Public Safety of this
mischievous interference, which embroiled everything. "Under these
circumstances I cannot be responsible," said he, and demanded the
publicity of the sittings, as he had always been received in private
audience. Instead of forcing him to communicate his plan, they amused
themselves with making him pass a sort of Freemason examination. The
antediluvian Miot asked him what were his democratic antecedents. Rossel
extricated himself very cleverly. "I will not tell you that I have
studied the question of social reforms profoundly, but I abominate this
society which has just betrayed France in so dastardly a way. I do not
know what will be the new order of Socialism. I like it on trust, and it
will anyhow be better than the old one." Everybody put him the questions
he chose personally, and not through the medium of the president. He
answered them all with sangfroid and precision, disarming all their
scruples, and carried away cheers, but nothing more.

Had he possessed the strong head he was credited with, he would long
since have fathomed the situation, understood that for this struggle
without precedent new tactics were wanted, found a field of battle for
these improvised soldiers, organised the internal defence, and awaited
Versailles from the heights of Montmartre, the Trocadéro, and
Mont-Valérien. But he dreamt of battles, was at bottom but a bookish
soldier, original only in speech and style. While always complaining of
want of discipline and of men, he allowed the best blood of Paris to be
shed in the sterile struggles without the town, in heroic challenges at
Neuilly, Vanves, and Issy.

At Issy above all. It was no longer a fort, hardly a strong position,
but a medley of earth and rubble-work battered by shells. The staved-in
casemates opened a view upon the country, the powder magazines were laid
bare, half of bastion 3 was in the moat, one could drive up to the
breach in a carriage. Ten pieces at most answered the fire of sixty
Versaillese ordnance pieces, while the fusillade of the trenches aimed
at the embrasures killed almost all our artillerists. On the 3rd the
Versaillese renewed their summons to surrender; they were answered with
the word of Cambronne. The chief of the general staff left by Eudes had
also made off, but happily the fort remained in the valiant hands of
the engineer Rist and of Julien, commander of the 14th battalion of the
eleventh arrondissement. It is to them and to the Federals who stood by
them that the honour of this prodigious defence belongs. Here are a few
notes from their military journal.

"_4th May._--We are receiving explosive balls that burst with the noise
of percussion-caps. The waggons do not come; food is scanty and the
shells of seven centimetres, our best pieces, will soon fail us. The
reinforcements promised every day do not appear. Two chiefs of
battalions have been to Rossel. He received them very badly, and said
that he had the right to shoot them for having abandoned their post.
They explained our situation. Rossel answered that a fort defends itself
with the bayonet and quoted the work of Carnot. Still he has promised
reinforcements. The Freemasons have planted their banner on our
ramparts. The Versaillese knocked it down in an instant. Our ambulances
are full; the prison and corridor that lead to it are crammed with
corpses. An ambulance omnibus arrives in the evening. We put in as many
of our wounded as possible. During its passage from the fort to Issy the
Versaillese pepper it with balls.

"_5th._--The fire of the enemy does not cease for a moment. Our
embrasures no longer exist; the pieces of the front still answer. At two
o'clock we receive ten waggons of shells of seven centimetres. Rossel
has come. He looked at the works of the Versaillese for a long time. The
_enfants-perdus_ who serve the pieces of bastion 5 are losing many men;
they remain steadfast. There are now in the dungeons two yards deep of
corpses. All our trenches, riddled by artillery, have been evacuated.
The trench of the Versaillese is sixty yards from the counterscarp. They
push on more and more. The necessary precautions are taken in case of an
attack to-night. All the flank pieces are loaded with grapeshot. We have
two mitrailleuses above the _terre-plein_ to sweep at once the moat and
the glacis.

"_6th._--The battery of Fleury regularly discharges its six rounds on
us every five minutes. A cantinière has just been brought to the
ambulance, wounded in the left side of the groin. For four days past
three women have gone into the thickest of the fire to tend the wounded.
This one is dying and bids us remember her two little children. No more
food. We eat only horse-flesh. Evening: the rampart is untenable.

"_7th._--We are receiving as many as ten shells a minute. The ramparts
are totally uncovered. All the pieces, save two or three, are
dismounted. The Versaillese works almost touch us. There are thirty more
dead. We are about to be surrounded."


[147] _La Guerre des Communeux_ by a superior officer of the Versaillese

[148] On the 12th May, at the barricade of Petit-Vanves, an officer of
engineers of the Lacretelle division, second corps, Captain Rozhem, was
taken prisoner. When brought before the commander of the trenches, "I
know what is in store for me," said he; "shoot me." The commander
shrugged his shoulders and took him to Delescluze. "Captain," said the
delegate, "promise that you will not fight against the Commune and you
are free." The officer promised, and, deeply moved, asked Delescluze for
permission to shake hands with him. This is one fact among a hundred
such. Is it necessary to add that from the 3rd April to the 23rd May the
Federals did not shoot _one single_ prisoner, officer or soldier?

[149] Appendix X.

[150] This fact was established through the minute inquiry which the
Council charged three of its members to make. Two of these, Gambon and
Langevin, are by their characters above all suspicion. They received the
declaration of the wounded man and saw one of the bodies, the two others
not having been found.

[151] It never appeared in the _Officiel_, but was announced in the
_Vengeur_; for Félix Pyat abused his functions in order to give his
journal the first news of the official decisions. This time he was a
little too quick.


    "La plus grande infamie dont l'histoire moderne ait garde la
      souvenir, s'accomplit à cette heure, Paris est bombardé."
      --Jules Favre, Jules Simon, E. Picard, Trochu, Jules Ferry,
      E. Arago, Garnier-Pages, Pelletan. _Proclamation du
      Gouvernement de la Defense Nationale à propos du bombardement

    "Nous avons écrasé tout un quartier de Paris."--_M. Thiers à
      l'Assemblée Nationale, Séance du 5 Août 1871._


We must leave this heroic atmosphere to return to the quarrels of the
Council and of the Central Committee. Why did they not hold their
sittings at the Muette or under the eyes of the public?[152] The shells
of Montretout, which had just unmasked its powerful battery, the severe
attitude of the people, would no doubt have made them unite against the
common enemy. He had commenced to batter in breach.

On the 8th May, in the morning, seventy marine pieces began to attack
the enceinte from the bastion 60 to the Point du Jour. The shells of
Clamart already reached the quay of Javelle, and the battery of Breteuil
covered the Grenelle quarter with projectiles. In a few hours half Passy
had become uninhabitable.

M. Thiers accompanied his shells with a proclamation: "Parisians, the
Government will not bombard Paris, as the men of the Commune will not
fail to tell you. It will discharge its cannon.... It knows, it would
have understood, even if you had not said so on all sides, that as soon
as the soldiers cross the enceinte you will rally round the national
flag." And he invited the Parisians to open the gates to him. What was
the action of the Council in reply to this appeal to treason?

On the 8th it entered upon a random discussion on the minutes of its
sittings[153] and the publicity of the latter, which one member of the
majority wanted to suppress altogether. The minority complained of the
Central Committee, which had encroached upon all services in spite of
the Commission of War; it had driven away Varlin from the commissariat,
entirely reorganised by him. They asked whether the Government called
itself Central Committee or Commune. Félix Pyat justified himself by
accusing Rossel. "It is not the fault of the Committee of Public Safety
if Rossel has neither the strength nor the intelligence to keep the
Central Committee within its functions." The friends of Rossel answered,
accusing Pyat of continually interfering even in purely military
questions. If the Moulin Saquet had been surprised, it was because
Wroblewski, who commanded on that side, received a formal order from
Félix Pyat to repair to Issy. "It is false," said Pyat; "I have never
given such an order." They let him thoroughly enmesh himself, and then
produced the order, written entirely in his own hand. He took hold of
it, turned it round, feigned astonishment, and was finally obliged to
confess.[154] The discussion then reverted to the Central
Committee--were they to dissolve it, arrest its members, or surrender to
it the administration of the War Office? The Council, as usual, did not
dare to decide, and, after a confused debate, abode by the resolution of
the 3rd May--the Central Committee will be held subordinate to the
Military Commission.

At this very moment strange scenes were enacted at the War Office. The
_chefs-de-légion_, who were stirring more and more against Rossel, had
that day resolved to ask him for the report of all the decisions he was
about to take with respect to the National Guard. Rossel knew of their
project. In the evening, when they arrived at the Ministry, they found
in its court an armed platoon, and beheld Rossel watching them from his
window. "You are audacious," said he; "do you know that this platoon is
here to shoot you?" They, without appearing to care much: "There is no
need of audacity; we simply come to speak to you of the organisation of
the National Guard." Rossel relaxed, went to the window, gave orders to
the platoon to re-enter. This burlesque demonstration did not miss its
effect. The _chefs-de-légion_ disputed the project on the regiments
point by point, demonstrating its impossibility. Tired of arguing,
Rossel said to them, "I am fully aware that I have no forces, but I
affirm you have not either. You have, say you? Well, give me the proof.
To-morrow, at eleven o'clock, bring me 12,000 men to the Place de la
Concorde, and I will try to do something." He wanted to make an attempt
by the Clamart station. The _chefs-de-légion_ engaged to find the men,
and spent the whole night in search of them.

While these contests went on, the fort of Issy was being evacuated.
Since the morning it had been reduced to the last extremity. Any of its
defenders who approached the guns was a dead man. In the evening the
officers assembled, and came to the conclusion that they could no longer
hold out. Thereupon the men, driven away from all sides by the shells,
massed themselves under the entrance vault, when a shell from the Moulin
de Pierre fell in their midst, killing sixteen of them. Rist, Julien,
and several others, who were stubbornly bent upon holding these ruins,
were at last obliged to yield. About seven o'clock the evacuation began.
The commander, Lisbonne, one of the members of the first Central
Committee, a man of extraordinary courage, covered the retreat amidst a
shower of bullets.

A few hours after, the Versaillese, crossing the Seine, established
themselves before Boulogne in front of the bastions of the Point du
Jour, and opened a trench three hundred yards from the enceinte. All
that night and the whole morning of the 9th the War Office and the
Committee of Public Safety knew nothing of the evacuation of the fort.

On the 9th, at mid-day, the battalions asked for by Rossel were drawn up
along the Place de la Concorde. Rossel arrived on horseback, hardly
looked at the front lines, and then addressed the _chefs-de-légion_,
"There are not enough men here for me;" and at once turning about, rode
off to the War Office, where he was informed of the evacuation of the
fort of Issy. He seized his pen, wrote, "The tricolor flag floats from
the fort of Issy, abandoned yesterday evening by the garrison," and,
without apprising the Council or the Committee of Public Safety, gave
the order to placard ten thousand copies of these two lines, while six
thousand was the number usually printed.

He next sent in his resignation: "Citizens, members of the Commune, I
feel myself incapable of any longer bearing the responsibility of a
command where every one deliberates and no one obeys. The Central
Committee of Artillery has deliberated and prescribed nothing. The
Commune has deliberated and resolved upon nothing. The Central
Committee deliberates and has not yet known how to act. During this
delay the enemy has hemmed in the fort of Issy by imprudent attacks, for
which I would punish him if I had the smallest military force at my
disposal." He then recounted in his own fashion, and very inaccurately,
the evacuation of the fort, the review on the Place de la Concorde; said
that, instead of the 12,000 men promised, there were only 7,000,[155]
and concluded: "Thus the nullity of the Committee of Artillery prevented
the organisation of the artillery; the hesitation of the Central
Committee stopped the administration; the paltry pre-occupations of the
_chefs-de-légion_ paralysed the mobilisation of the troops. My
predecessor committed the fault of struggling against this absurd
situation. I retire, and have the honour to ask you for a cell at

He thus thought to clear his military reputation; but point by point he
might have been categorically answered. Why did you accept this "absurd"
situation with which you were thoroughly conversant? Why did you make no
conditions on entering the Ministry on the 1st April, no condition to
the Council on the 2nd and 3rd May? Why did you send away at least 7,000
men this morning, when you pretend not to have "the smallest military
force" at your disposal? Why did you know nothing for fifteen hours of
the evacuation of a fort whose straits it was your duty to watch from
hour to hour? Where is your second enceinte? Why has no work been done
at Montmartre and the Panthéon?

Rossel might perhaps have addressed his reproaches to the Council, but
he committed an unpardonable fault in sending his letters to the
journals. Thus in less than two hours he had disheartened 8,000
combatants, spread panic, stigmatised the brave men of Issy, denounced
the weakness of the defence to the enemy, and that at the very moment
when the Versaillese were rejoicing over the taking of Issy.

There every one was merrymaking. M. Thiers and MacMahon harangued the
soldiers, who, singing, brought back the few pieces found in the fort.
The Assembly suspended its sittings and came into the marble court to
applaud these children of the people who thought themselves victors. M.
Thiers a month later said from the tribune, "When I see these sons of
our soil, strangers often to an education that elevates, die for you,
for us, I am profoundly touched." Touching emotion this of the hunter
before his pack. Remember this avowal and the sort of men for whom you
die, sons of the soil!

And at the Hôtel-de-Ville they were still disputing! Rigault
recriminated. The majority of the Council had named him procureur of the
Commune in spite of his culpable levity at the Prefecture. The
discussion was growing angry when Delescluze entered hastily and
exclaimed, "You discuss when it has been placarded that the tricolor
flag floats from the fort of Issy. I make an appeal to you all. I had
hoped that France would be saved by Paris and Europe by France. The
Commune is pregnant with a power of revolutionary instinct capable of
saving the country. Cast aside to-day all your animosities. We must save
the country. The Committee of Public Safety has not answered our
expectations. It has been an obstacle instead of a stimulus. With what
is it occupying itself? With individual appointments instead of general
measures. A decree signed Meillet names this citizen himself governor of
the fort of Bicêtre. We had a man there, a soldier,[156] who was thought
too severe. It is desirable that all were as severe as he. Your
Committee of Public Safety is undone, crushed beneath the weight of the
memories attached to it. I say it must disappear."

The Assembly, thus brought back to a sense of its duty, resolved into a
secret committee, thoroughly discussing the Committee of Public Safety.
What had it done for a week past? Installed the Central Committee at the
War Office, increased the disorder, sustained two disasters. Its members
lost themselves in details or else did amateur service. One deserted
the Hôtel-de-Ville to go and shut himself up in a fort; if at least it
had been that of Issy or of Vanves! Félix Pyat passed the greater part
of his time in the office of the _Vengeur_, there venting his spleen in
long-winded articles. A member of the Committee of Public Safety
endeavoured to defend it by pleading the vagueness of its attributes. He
was answered that Article 3 of the decree gave the Committee full powers
over all the Commissions. Finally, after many hours, they decided to
renew the Committee at once; to appoint a civil delegate to the War
Office; to draw up a proclamation; to meet, save in cases of emergency,
only three times a week; to establish the new Committee permanently at
the Hôtel-de-Ville, while the other members of the Council were to stay
regularly in their respective arrondissements. Delescluze was named
Delegate at War.

In the evening, at ten o'clock, there was a second meeting for the
nomination of the new Committee. The majority voted Félix Pyat, quite
exasperated at the attacks of the afternoon, to the chair. He opened the
sitting by demanding the arrest of Rossel. Cleverly grouping together
appearances which seemed proofs to the suspicious, he made Rossel the
scapegoat of the faults of the Committee, turning the anger of the
Council against him. For half an hour he disparaged the absent man, whom
he would not have dared attack to his face. "I told you, citizens, that
he was a traitor. You would not believe me. You are young; you did not,
like our paragons of the Convention, know how to mistrust military
power." This reminiscence ravished the Romanticists. They had but one
dream--to be Conventionnels. So difficult was it for this revolution of
proletarians to rid itself of bourgeois tinsel.

The ire of Pyat was not wanted to convince the Assembly. Rossel's act
was culpable in the eyes of the least prejudiced. His arrest was decreed
unanimously, less two voices, and the Commission of War received the
order to carry it out.

They next passed to the nomination of the Committee. The minority, a
little reassured by the election of Delescluze and Jourde, which seemed
to acknowledge the right of the Council to appoint the delegates,
resolved to take part in the vote, and asked for a place in the list of
the majority. This was an excellent occasion to efface all differences,
to re-establish union against Versailles. But the perfidious promptings
of Félix Pyat had induced the Romanticists to look upon their colleagues
of the minority as veritable reactionists. After his speech the sitting
was suspended; little by little the members of the minority found
themselves alone in the council-hall. They looked for their colleagues
and surprised them in a neighbouring room deliberating apart. After a
violent altercation they all returned to the Council.

A member of the minority demanded that they should put an end to these
shameful divisions. A Romanticist answered by asking for the arrest of
the factious minority, and the President, Pyat, was about to empty the
vials of his wrath, when Malon cried to him, "Silence! you are the evil
genius of this revolution. Do not continue to spread your venomous
suspicions, to stir up discords. It is your influence that is ruining
the Commune!" And Arnold, one of the founders of the Central Committee,
"It is still these fellows of 1848 who will undo the revolution."

But it was too late now to engage in the struggle, and the minority was
to expiate its doctrinairism and maladroitness. The whole list of the
majority passed; Ranvier, Arnaud, Gambon, Delescluze, and Eudes. The
nomination of Delescluze to the War Office having left a vacancy, there
was after two days a second vote, and the minority proposed Varlin. The
majority, abusing their victory, committed the impropriety of preferring
Billioray, a most worthless member.

The Council broke up at one o'clock in the morning. "Did not we do them?
and what do you think of the way I managed the business?" said Félix
Pyat to his friends on leaving the chair.[157] This honest mandatory,
altogether absorbed in the work of "doing" his colleagues, had forgotten
to verify the capture of the fort of Issy. And that same evening,
twenty-six hours after the evacuation, the Hôtel-de-Ville placarded on
the door of the mairies, "It is false that the tricolor flag floats on
the fort of Issy. The Versaillese do not and shall not occupy it." This
contradiction was as good as Trochu's apropos of Metz.

During these tempests at the Hôtel-de-Ville the Central Committee had
sent for Rossel, reproached him with the placard of the afternoon, and
the unusual number of copies printed. He defended himself acrimoniously.
"It was my duty. The greater the danger, the greater the duty to make it
known to the people." Yet he had done nothing of the kind on the
surprise of the Moulin-Saquet. After his departure the Committee
deliberated at length. Some one said, "We are lost if we get no
dictatorship." For some days this idea was uppermost in the Committee.
The latter voted quite seriously that there should be a dictator, and
that the dictator was to be Rossel. A deputation of five members gravely
went to fetch him; he came down to the Committee, pretended to reflect,
and finally said, "It is too late. I am no longer delegate. I have sent
in my resignation." Some waxing angry with him, he rebuked them and
left. In his cabinet he found the Commission of War, Delescluze, Tridon,
Avrial, Johannard, Varlin, and Arnold, who had just arrived.

Delescluze explained their mission. Rossel listened very calmly; said
that though the decree was unjust, he submitted to it. He then described
the military situation, the rivalries of all kinds that had continually
clogged him, the weakness of the Council. "It has not known," said he,
"how to utilise the Central Committee, nor how to break it at the
opportune time. Our resources are quite sufficient, and I am ready, for
my own part, to assume all responsibility, but on the condition of being
supported by a strong and homogeneous power. I could not in the face of
history take upon myself the responsibility for certain necessary
repressions without the assent and support of the Commune." He spoke at
great length in that clear and nervous style that twice in the Council
had won over his most decided adversaries. The Commission, much struck
by his arguments, withdrew to another room. Delescluze declared that he
could not make up his mind to arrest Rossel till the Council had heard
him. His colleagues were of the same opinion, and left the ex-delegate
under the guard of Avrial and Johannard, who the next morning conducted
him to the Hôtel-de-Ville. Avrial stayed with Rossel in the questor's
office, while Johannard went to apprise the Council of their arrival.

Some wanted Rossel to be heard; the greater number, distrustful of
themselves, were afraid lest his voice should again bring round the
Council, maintained that his hearing was contrary to equity, and cited
the example of Cluseret, who had been arrested without being heard, as
though one injustice could sanction another. The admission of Rossel was

Ch. Gérardin, a member of the Council, repaired to the questor's office.
"What has the Commune decided?" said Avrial. "Nothing yet," answered Ch.
Gérardin, who nevertheless had just left the sitting, and seeing
Avrial's revolver on the table, he said to Rossel, "Your guardian
fulfils his duty conscientiously." "I do not suppose," answered Rossel
hurriedly, "that this precaution concerns me. Besides, Citizen Avrial, I
give you my word of honour as a soldier that I shall not seek to

Avrial, very tired of his post as sentry, had already asked the Council
to relieve him. Receiving no answer, he thought he might leave his
prisoner under the guard of a member of the Committee of Public
Safety--for Ch. Gérardin had not yet been discharged from his
functions--and he proceeded to the Council. When he returned, Rossel and
Ch. Gérardin were gone. The ambitious young man had slunk like a weasel
out of this civil war into which he had heedlessly thrown himself.

One may divine whether Pyat was sparing of adjectives against the
fugitive. The new Committee having just been informed of the discovery
of two conspiracies, launched a desperate proclamation: "Treason had
slipped into our ranks. The abandonment of the fort of Issy announced in
an impious placard by the wretch who surrendered it, was only the first
act of the drama. A monarchical insurrection in our midst coinciding
with the surrender of one of our gates was to follow. All the threads of
the dark plot are now in our hands. Most of the culprits are arrested.
Let all eyes be open, all arms ready to strike the traitors!"

This was going off into melodrama when cold blood and precision were
wanted. And the Committee boasted strangely when it pretended to have
arrested "most of the culprits" and that it held "in its hands all the
threads of the dark plot."


[152] On the 3rd May they had voted that the public should be admitted,
and even charged two members to find a suitable hall; but the decree was
not executed, although in the Hôtel-de-Ville itself there was the
splendid St. Jean Hall, which might have been prepared in a few hours.

[153] The reports in the _Officiel_, confided to inexperienced writers,
who abridged or amplified at pleasure, again altered at the
printing-office, frequently interrupted by the formation of secret
committees, give but a very vague idea of these sittings.

[154] "Committee of Public Safety, No. 98.--Paris, 3rd May
1871.--General Wroblewski,--Please repair immediately to the fort of
Issy. It is urgent to make provision for several services, engineering,
artillery, &c. The members of the Committee of Public Safety. Félix
Pyat, Ant. Arnaud. Enclosed is a despatch from the commander of the

Before the public, ignorant of this despatch, Pyat kept up his lie. He
said in the _Vengeur_: "The only order given directly to the generals by
the Committee of Public Safety to defend Issy, which Rossel did not
defend, was addressed to General Wroblewski, intrusted with the forts of
the south. The Committee of Public Safety, in ordering him to watch over
Issy, did not displace him." In point of fact, not Wroblewski was
charged with the defence of the fort of Issy, but La Cécilia, who since
the reoccupation held the chief post on this side, and commanded Wetzel,
intrusted with the defence of the approaches of the fort.

[155] The _chefs-de-légion_ have said 10,000. The truth lies between the

[156] P. Vichard, ex-chief of the staff of the Garibaldian General

[157] Heard and reported by Lefrançais, whose veracity is above
suspicion. _Etude sur le Mouvement Communaliste par G. Lefrançais_, p.
294. Neuchâtel, 1870.



The Commune had given rise to the various trades of the plot-monger, the
betrayer of gates, the conspiracy-broker. Vulgar sharpers, Jonathan
Wilds of the gutter, whom a shadow of police would have scared away,
they had no other strength than the weakness of the prefecture and the
carelessness of the delegations. The evidence relative to them is to a
certain extent still in the keeping of the Versaillese; but they have
themselves published a good deal, often borne witness against each
other, and what with private information, what with the opportunities
offered by our exile, we shall be able to penetrate into this realm of

From the end of March they levied contributions upon all the Ministries
of Versailles, offering for a few sous to surrender some of the gates of
Paris or to kidnap the members of the Council. By degrees they were more
or less classed. The colonel of the staff, Corbin, was charged with the
organisation of the faithful National Guards still at Paris. The
commander of a reactionary battalion, Charpentier, a former drill
officer of St. Cyr, offered him his services, was accepted, and
presented a few of his cronies, Durouchoux, Demay, and Gallimard. Their
instructions were to recruit clandestine battalions, who were to occupy
the strategic points of the town on the day when the general attack
would summons all the Federals to the ramparts. A naval officer,
Domalain, offered at that moment to surprise Montmartre, the
Hôtel-de-Ville, the Place Vendôme, and the commissariat, with a few
thousand volunteers, whom he professed to have at hand. He entered into
partnership with Charpentier.

They bestirred themselves with might and main, grouped an astonishing
number of persons around official posts, and soon gave notice of 6,000
men and 150 artillerists provided with spiking machines. All these brave
ones only waited for a signal. In the meanwhile, money was of course
wanted to keep up their zeal, and Charpentier and Domalain, through the
agency of Durouchoux, indeed drew several hundred thousand francs from
the Versaillese.

Towards the end of April they found a redoubtable rival in Le Mère de
Beaufond, an ex-naval officer and governor of Cayenne _ad interim_.
Instead of drumming up for bourgeois recruits, an idea he declared
ridiculous, Beaufond proposed paralysing the resistance by means of
clever agents who should provoke defections and disorganise the
services. His plan, quite in accord with M. Thiers' notions, was
favourably looked upon at Versailles, which gave him full powers. He
took as helpmates two men of resolution, Laroque, a clerk at the bank,
and Lasnier, an ex-officer of Schoelcher's legion.

Besides these, the Ministry had still other bloodhounds--the Alsatian
Aronshonne, colonel of a free corps during the war, cashiered by his
men, who at Tours had accused him of theft; Franzini, later on
extradited by England and condemned as a swindler; Barral de Montaut,
who boldly presented himself at the War Office, and, thanks to his
aplomb, got himself named chief of the seventh legion; the Abbé Cellini,
chaplain of one knows not what fleet, patronised by Jules Simon; last,
the noble-minded conspirators, the great generals disdained by the
revolution, Lullier, Du Bisson, Ganier d'Abin. These honest Republicans
could not allow the Commune to ruin the Republic. If they accepted money
from Versailles, it was only with a view to saving Paris and the
Republican party from the men of the Hôtel-de-Ville. They wanted to
overthrow the Commune, but betray it, oh! no, by no means!

One Brière de St.-Lagier framed comprehensive reports on all these
knights, and M. Thiers' secretary, Troncin-Dumersan, condemned three
years after as swindler, travelled backwards and forwards between Paris
and Versailles, brought the money, superintended and held in his hand
all the threads of these multifarious conspiracies, the one being often
carried on behind the back of the other.

Thence continual collisions. The ragamuffins mutually denounced each
other. Brière de St.-Lagier wrote: "I beg M. le Ministre of the Interior
to have M. Le Mère de Beaufond watched. I strongly suspect him of being
a Bonapartist. The money he has received has been used to a great extent
to pay his debts." By way of compensation another report said, "I
suspect MM. Domalain, Charpentier, and Brière de St.-Lagier. They often
meet at Peter's, and instead of occupying themselves with the great
cause of the deliverance, imitate Pantagruel. They pass for

The most venturesome of these enterprisers, Beaufond, managed to enter
into relations with the general staff of Colonel Henry Prodhomme, with
the Ecole Militaire, commanded by Vinot, and with the War Office, where
the chief of the artillery, Guyet, contrived to embroil the service of
the munitions. His agents, Lasnier and Laroque, worked upon a certain
Muley, who, having circumvented the Central Committee, got himself named
chief of the seventeenth legion, and to some extent disabled it. An
officer of artillery, Captain Piguier, placed at their disposal by the
Ministry, traced the plan of the barricades, and one of the band could
write on the 8th May, "No torpedoes are laid; the army may enter to the
flourish of trumpets." Now they had recourse to direct subornation; now
acting the part of fervent Communards, they knew how to draw out
information; while the imprudence of the functionaries singularly
facilitated their task. Staff officers, chiefs of services, fond of
assuming consequential airs, discussed the most delicate matters in the
cafés of the boulevards, full of spies.[159] Cournet, who had succeeded
Rigault at the prefecture of police, despite the gravity of his
deportment, did not better the service of general safety. Lullier, twice
arrested, each time escaping, openly spoke in the cafés of sweeping away
the Commune. Troncin-Dumersan, known for twenty years as the police
agent of the Ministry of the Interior, freely promenaded on the
boulevards, passing his retainers in review. The contractors charged
with the fortification of Montmartre every day found new pretexts to
defer the opening of the works; the Bréa Church remained intact; the
undertaker of the demolition of the expiatory monument managed to put it
off till the entry of the troops. Hazard alone discovered the _brassard_
(armlet) plot, and the fidelity of Dombrowski disclosed that of Vaysset.

This commercial agent had gone to Versailles to propose to the Ministry
an operation of revictualling. Shown out, he again turned up, but this
time with the offer to bribe Dombrowski. Under the patronage of Admiral
Saisset--more crazy than ever--he got up his enterprise in the shape of
a commercial society, found shareholders, twenty thousand francs for the
incidental expenses, and entered into communication with an aide-de-camp
of Dombrowski's named Hutzinger, afterwards employed by the Versaillese
police as spy amongst the exiles in London. Vaysset told him that
Versailles would give Dombrowski a million if the general surrendered
the gates under his command. Dombrowski at once apprised the Committee
of Public Safety, and proposed to allow one or two Versaillese army
corps to enter the town and then to crush them by battalions lying in
ambush. The Committee would not risk this venture, but ordered
Dombrowski to follow up the negotiation.[160] Hutzinger accompanied
Vaysset to Versailles, saw Saisset, who offered to surrender himself as
hostage in guarantee of the execution of the promises made to
Dombrowski. The admiral was even, on a certain night, to repair secretly
to the Place Vendôme, and the Committee of Public Safety, forewarned,
was preparing to arrest him, when Barthélemy St. Hilaire dissuaded
Saisset from this new blunder.

Then M. Thiers began to abandon the hope of taking the town by surprise.
This was his hobby of the first days of May. Upon the faith of a
bailiff, who promised to get the Dauphine gate surrendered by his friend
Laporte, chief of the sixteenth legion, M. Thiers had built up a whole
plan in spite of the repugnance of MacMahon and of the army, eager for a
triumphal entry.[161] In the night of the 3d May the whole active army
and part of the reserve were set on foot, and General Thiers went to
sleep at Sévres. At midnight the troops were massed in the Bois de
Boulogne before the lower lake, their eyes fixed on the closed gates.
The latter were to be thrown open by a reactionary company which had
formed at Passy under the orders of Wéry, a lieutenant of the
thirty-eighth, acting as deputy of his former commander, Lavigne. But
the intelligent conspirators had forgotten to warn Lavigne, and the
company that was to relieve the Federals having had no order from their
superior, suspected an ambush, and refused the service. Thus the trusty
watch was not relieved. At dawn, after waiting in vain for several
hours, the troops returned to their cantonments. Two days after Laporte
was arrested and set free again, much too soon.

Beaufond, taking up the bailiff's plan, guaranteed the surrender of the
gates of Auteuil and Dauphine for the night of the 12th to the 13th May.
M. Thiers, again caught, forwarded all the gear for an escalade, and
several detachments were directed towards the Point du Jour, while the
army held itself in readiness to follow. But at the last moment the
profound combinations of the conspirators were foiled,[162] and, as on
the 3rd, the army had to turn tail. This attempt was known to the
Committee of Public Safety, who had known nothing of the first one.

Lasnier was arrested the next day. The Committee had just laid hands
upon the tricolor armlets which the National Guards of order were to
have worn on the entry of the army. The woman Legros, who made them,
neglected to pay the girls in her employ. One of them, believing that
the work was done on account of the Commune, went to ask for her wages
at the Hôtel-de-Ville. Inquiries made at the woman Legros' put them on
the traces of Beaufond and his accomplices. Beaufond and Laroque managed
to hide; Troncin-Dumersan packed off to Versailles. Charpentier thus
remained master of the field. Corbin urged him to organise his men by
tens and hundreds, and traced him out a whole plan by which to get
possession of the Hôtel-de-Ville immediately after the entry of the
troops. Charpentier, always imperturbable, diverted him day by day by
news of fresh conquests, spoke of 20,000 recruits, asked for dynamite to
blow up the houses,[163] and in true Pantagruelic style gobbled up the
considerable sums made over to him by Durouchoux.

After all, the whole gang of conspirators did not succeed in
surrendering one single gate, but they lent considerable aid in
disorganising the services. Still great care should be taken in availing
oneself of their reports, often inflated with imaginary successes to
justify the disbursement of the hundreds of thousands of francs that
they pocketed.


[158] All the unpublished reports that I quote and on which I rely have
been copied from the originals.

[159] Appendix XI.

[160] Appendix XII.

[161] "It was better to take possession of the town by main force," said
the apostolic Comte de Mun (_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 277).
"Thus right manifests itself in peremptory manner"--the right of
carnage, no doubt. "It was better that it should not be said that we had
got in by the back-door."

[162] It has been stated that a Polish officer of Dombrowski's staff,
killed afterwards during the street fight, was the agent in this
attempted treason. I have been unable, in spite of a minute search, to
discover the least proof of this imputation.

[163] See a letter from Colonel Corbin, quoted in the _Histoire des
Conspirations sous la Commune_, a work by A. J. Dalsème, arranged in the
form of a novel, but containing some documents.


    "C'est par le canon et par la politique que nous avons pris
      Paris."--_M. Thiers, Enquête sur le 18 Mars._


Who was the great conspirator against Paris? The Extreme Left.

On the 19th March, what remained to M. Thiers wherewith to govern
France? He had neither an army, nor cannon, nor the large towns. These
possessed arms, and their workmen were on the alert. If that small
middle-class which makes the provinces endorse the revolutions of the
metropolis had followed the movement, imitated their kindred of Paris,
M. Thiers could not have opposed to them a single regiment. In order to
subsist, retain the provinces, and induce them to provide the soldiers
and the cannon that were to reduce Paris, what were the resources of the
chief of the bourgeoisie? A word and a handful of men. The word was
Republic; the men, the recognised chiefs of the Republican party.

Though the dull rurals barked at the mere name of the Republic, and
refused to insert it in their proclamations, M. Thiers, more cunning,
mouthed it lustily, and distorting the votes of the Assembly,[164] gave
it out as the watchword to his underlings.[165] Since the first risings
all the provincial officials had the same refrain: "We defend the
Republic against the factions."[166]

This was certainly something; but the rural votes, the past of M.
Thiers, clashed with these Republican protestations. The former heroes
of the National Defence were no longer acceptable as securities even for
the provinces. M. Thiers was well aware of it, and invoked the purest of
the pure--the chevroned returned from exile. Their prestige was still
intact in the eyes of the provincial democrats. M. Thiers met them in
the lobbies, told them they held the fate of the Republic in their
hands, flattered their senile vanity, and inveigled them so
successfully, that, from the 23rd,[167] they served him as
bottle-holders. When the small middle-class republicans of the provinces
beheld the profound Louis Blanc, the intelligent Schoelcher, and the
most famous grumblers of the radical vanguard fly to Versailles, and
insult the Central Committee, and, on the other hand, received neither
programme nor able emissaries from Paris, they turned away, and let the
flame enkindled by the workmen die out.

The cannonading of the 3rd April roused them a little. On the 5th, the
municipal council of Lille, composed of Republican notabilities, spoke
of conciliation, and called upon M. Thiers to affirm the Republic. That
of Lyons drew up a like address; St. Omer sent delegates to Versailles;
Troyes declared that it was "heart and soul with the heroic citizens who
fought for their republican convictions." Mâcon summoned the Government
and the Assembly to put an end to this struggle by the recognition of
republican institutions. The Drôme, the Var, Vaucluse, the Ardèche, the
Loire, Savoy, the Hérault, the Gers, and the Eastern Pyrénées, twenty
departments, issued similar addresses. The workmen of Rouen declared
their adhesion to the Commune; the workmen of Havre, rebuffed by the
bourgeois Republicans, constituted an independent group. On the 16th
April, at Grenoble, 600 men, women, and children went to the station to
prevent the departure of the troops and munitions for Versailles. On the
18th, at Nîmes, the people, headed by a red flag, marched through the
town to the cry of "Vive la Commune! Vive Paris! Down with Versailles!"
On the 16th, 17th, 18th, there were disturbances at Bordeaux. Some
police agents were imprisoned, some officers ill-treated, the infantry
barracks pelted with stones, the people crying, "Vive Paris! Death to
the traitors!" The movement even spread to the agricultural classes. At
Saincoin in the Cher, at the Charité-sur-Loire, at Pouilly in the
Nièvre, the National Guards in arms carried about the red flag. Cosne
followed on the 18th, Fleury-sur-Loire on the 19th. The red flag was
permanently hoisted in the Ariège; at Foix they stopped the transport of
the cannon; at Varilhes they tried to run the munition trains off the
lines. At Périgueux, the workmen of the railway station seized the

On the 15th April five delegates from the municipal council of Lyons
presented themselves to M. Thiers. He protested his devotion to the
Republic, swore that the Assembly should not turn into a Constituent
Assembly. If he chose his functionaries outside the Republicans, it was
in order to treat all parties with consideration in the interest of the
Republic itself. He defended it against the men of the Hôtel-de-Ville,
its worst enemies, said he; the delegates might assure themselves of
this even in Paris, and he was quite ready to furnish them with
safe-conducts. Besides, if Lyons dared to stir, 30,000 men were ready to
quell it.[168] This was his typical speech. All the deputations
received the same answer, given with such an air of bonhommie and such
complaisant familiarity as quite to overwhelm the provincials.

From the presidency they proceeded to the luminaries of the Extreme
Left, Louis Blanc, Schoelcher, Adam, and other eminent democrats, who
endorsed M. Thiers' words. These gentlemen, if condescending to admit
that the cause of Paris was not altogether wrong, declared it ill-begun
and compromised by a criminal combat. When Paris once disarmed they
would see what could be done. Opportunism is not of yesterday's growth.
It was born[169] into the world on the 19th March, 1871, had Louis Blanc
& Co. for godfathers, and was baptized in the blood of 30,000 Parisians.
"With whom should they treat in Paris?" asked Louis Blanc. "Without
speaking of Bonapartist and Prussian intrigues, the people who were
there striving to seize the government were fanatics, fools, or
rogues."[170] And all the Radicals bridled up: "Should we not be at
Paris if Paris were in the right?" The majority of the delegates,
lawyers, doctors, business men, brought up in veneration of these
shining lights, hearing besides the young men speaking like the
pontiffs, went back to the provinces, and as the Left preached to them,
preached in turn that it was necessary to abandon the Commune in order
to save the Republic. A few of them had visited Paris; but seeing the
divisions of the Hôtel-de-Ville, often received by men unable to
formulate their ideas, threatened by Félix Pyat in the _Vengeur_, they
came back convinced that nothing could emerge from this disorder. When
they again passed through Versailles the deputies of the Left triumphed.
"Well, what did we tell you?" Even Martin-Bernard gave his electors the
ass's kick.

At Paris there were people who could not believe in such barefaced
treachery on the part of the Left, and still adjured them. "What are you
about at Versailles when Versailles is bombarding Paris?" said an
address of the end of April. "What figure can you cut in the midst of
these colleagues who assassinate your electors? If you persist in
remaining amongst the enemies of Paris, at least do not make yourselves
their accomplices by your silence. What! you allow M. Thiers to write to
the departments, '_The insurgents are emptying the principal houses of
Paris in order to put the furniture to sale_,' and you do not ascend the
tribune to protest! What! the whole Bonapartist and rural press may
inundate the departments with infamous articles, in which they affirm
that at Paris murder, violation, and theft reign supreme, and you are
silent! What! M. Thiers may assert that his gendarmes do not assassinate
the prisoners; you cannot ignore these atrocious executions, and you are
silent! Ascend the tribune; tell the departments the truth, which the
enemies of the Commune conceal from them. But our enemies, are they
yours also?"

A useless appeal, which the cowardice of the Left knew how to elude.
Louis Blanc, in his Tartuffe style, exclaimed, "O civil war! hideous
struggle! The cannon thunder! People are killing each other and dying;
and those in the Assembly who would willingly give their life to see
this sanguinary problem pacifically resolved are condemned to the
torture of not being able to make an act, utter a cry, speak a word."
Since the birth of the French Assemblies so ignominious a Left had never
been seen. The spectacle of the prisoners smitten, reviled, spat upon,
was unable to draw a protest from these wretched Parisian deputies. One
only, Tolain, asked for an explanation on the assassination at the
Belle-Epine. Louis Blanc, Schoelcher, Greppo, Adam, Langlois, Brisson,
&c., the Gérontes and the Scapins, sanctimoniously contemplated their
bombarded electors, and, fully aware of the facile forgetfulness of
Paris, dreamt of their future re-election.

Their calumnies succeeded in stifling the action but not the anguish of
the provinces. With heart and soul the workmen of France were with
Paris. The employés at the railway stations harangued the soldiers on
their passage, adjuring them to raise the butt-ends of their guns; the
official placards were torn during the night; the large centres sent
their addresses by the hundred; all the Republican papers demanded
peace, sought for some method of conciliation between Paris and

Paris and Versailles! The agitation becoming chronic, M. Thiers launched
forth Dufaure, the Chapelier of the modern bourgeoisie, one of the most
odious executors of its dirty work. He enjoined his procureurs to
prosecute all the writers countenancing the Commune, "that dictatorship
usurped by foreigners and ticket-of-leave men, which signalises its
reign by burglary, breaking open private houses in the dead of night and
by force of arms," and to lay hands upon "the conciliators who entreat
the Assembly to hold out its noble hand to the blood-stained hand of its
enemies." Versailles thus hoped to strike terror at the moment of the
municipal elections, which took place on the 30th April.

They were everywhere Republican. These provinces, which had risen
against Paris in June, 1848, and in the elections of 1849, did not send
a hundred volunteers in 1871, and would only fight the Assembly. At
Thiers (Puy-de-Dôme) the people occupied the Hôtel-de-Ville, hoisted the
red flag, and seized the telegraphs. There occurred disturbances at
Souppe, Nemours, Château-Landau, in the arrondissement of Fontainebleau.
At Dordives (Loiret) the Communards planted a poplar surmounted by the
red flag in front of the mairie. At Montargis they raised the red flag,
placarded the appeal of the Commune to the rural districts, and forced a
solicitor who had tried to tear down the placard to ask pardon on his
knees. At Coulommiers (Seine-et-Marne) a demonstration took place to the
cries of "Vive la République! Vive la Commune!"

Lyons rose in insurrection. Since the 24th March the tricolor lorded it
here, save at the Guillotière,[171] where the people maintained the red
one. The Council on its return to the Hôtel-de-Ville had demanded the
recognition of the rights of Paris, the election of a Constituent
Assembly, and named an officer of _francs-tireurs_, Bourras, commander
of the National Guard. While the Council multiplied its addresses and
its applications to M. Thiers, the National Guard was again stirring. It
presented a programme to the municipal council, which officially
rejected it. The rebuff met by the delegates sent to Versailles
increased the irritation. When the communal elections were announced for
the 30th April, the revolutionary element maintained that the municipal
law voted by the Assembly was null and void, because that Assembly had
not the rights of a constituent one. Two delegates from Paris summoned
the mayor, Hénon, to postpone the elections; and one of the actors in
the affray of the 28th September, Gaspard Blanc, reappeared on the
scene. The Radicals, always upon the scent of Bonapartism, have made
much ado about the presence of that personage. However, at that time he
was as yet but a madcap, and only in exile put on the Imperialist
livery. On the 27th, at the Brotteaux, in a large public meeting,
abstention from voting was decided upon. All the committees of the
Guillotière followed, and in a public sitting of the 29th resolved to
oppose the vote.

On the 30th, the day of the elections, from six o'clock in the morning
the _rappel_ was beaten at the Guillotière; armed citizens carried off
the ballot-boxes, and posted sentinels at the entrance of the hall. A
proclamation was placarded: "The city of Lyons can no longer look on
while her sister the heroic city of Paris is being strangled. The
Lyonnese revolutionists have with one accord named a Provisional
Commission. Its members are above all determined, rather than sustain
defeat, to make one heap of ruins of a town cowardly enough to allow the
assassination of Paris and the Republic." The Place de la Mairie was
thronged with an excited crowd; the mayor, Crestin, and his adjutant,
who attempted to interfere, were not listened to, and a Revolutionary
Commission installed itself in the Mairie.

Bourras sent an order to the commanders of the Guillotière to unite
their battalions. They drew up towards two o'clock in the Des Brosses
court. A great number of guards disapproved the movement, yet no one was
willing to be the soldier of Versailles. The crowd surrounded them, and
finally broke the ranks; about a hundred, led by their captain, went to
the Mairie to hoist their red field-colours. The mayor was sent for, and
the Commission called upon him to join the movement; but he refused, as
he had done on the 22nd March. Suddenly the cannon thundered.

Hénon and his council, as the month before, would have liked to
temporise; while Valentin and Crouzat dreamt of Espivent. At five
o'clock the 38th of the line debouched by the bridge of the Guillotière;
the crowd penetrated into the ranks of the soldiers, conjuring them not
to fire, and the officers were constrained to take back their men to the
barracks. During this time the Guillotière was fortifying itself. A
large barricade, extending from the store-houses of the Nouveau-Monde to
the angle of the Mairie, barred the Grande Rue; another was thrown up at
the entrance of the Rue des Trois Rois; a third on a level with the Rue
de Chabrol.

At half-past six the 38th came out of their barracks, but this time
watched by a battalion of chasseurs. Valentin, Crouzat, and the
procureur de la république marched at their head. In front of the mairie
the Riot Act was read; some shots answered it, wounding the prefect. The
cavalry swept the Des Brosses court and the Place de la Mairie, while
two pieces of cannon opened fire on the edifice. Its doors soon gave way
and the occupants abandoned it. The troops entered after having killed
the sentinel, intent upon mounting guard to the very last. It has been
said that five insurgents, taken by surprise in the interior of the
building, were killed by a Versaillese officer with shots from his

The struggle continued during part of the night in the neighbouring
streets, and the soldiers, deceived by the darkness, killed about a
hundred of their own men. The losses of the Communards were less great.
By three o'clock in the morning all was over.

At the Croix-Rousse some citizens had invaded the mairie and scattered
the voting-papers; the check of the Guillotière cut short their

The Versaillese took advantage of this victory to disarm the battalions
of the Guillotière; but the population refused, rallying round the
victors. Some monarchists had been elected during the day, but everybody
considering the elections of the 30th null and void, they were obliged
to submit to a second ballot, and not one of them was re-elected. The
movement in favour of Paris continued.

These newly-elected republican councillors might have effectively
counterbalanced the authority of Versailles; the advanced press
encouraged them. The _Tribune_ of Bordeaux had the honour first to
propose a congress of all the towns of France, for the purpose of
terminating the civil war, assuring the municipal franchises, and
consolidating the Republic. The municipal council of Lyons issued an
identical programme, inviting all the municipalities to send delegates
to Lyons. On the 4th May the delegates of the councils of the principal
towns of the Hérault met at Montpellier. The _Liberté_ of the Hérault,
in a warm appeal reproduced by fifty journals, convoked the departmental
press to a congress. A common action was about to take the place of the
incoherent agitations of the last few weeks. If the provinces understood
their own strength, the time, their wants--if they found a group of men
equal to the occasion, Versailles, taken between Paris and the
departments, would have been obliged to capitulate to Republican France.
M. Thiers, with a vivid presentment of the danger, affected the attitude
of a strong Government, and energetically forbade the congresses. "The
Government would betray the Assembly, France, civilisation," said the
_Officiel_ of the 8th May, "if it allowed the assizes of Communism and
of the rebellion to constitute themselves by the side of the regular
power issued from universal suffrage." Picard, speaking from the tribune
of the instigation of the congress, said, "Never was there a more
criminal attempt than theirs. Outside the Assembly there exists no
right." The procureurs-généraux and the prefects received the order to
prevent all meetings. Some members of the _Ligue des Droits de Paris_ on
their way to Bordeaux were arrested.

More was not needed to frighten the Radicals. The organisers of the
congress of Bordeaux held their peace; those of Lyons wrote a piteous
address to Versailles, to the effect that they had only intended
convoking an assembly of the notables. M. Thiers, having attained his
object, disdained to prosecute them, even allowed the delegates of
eighteen departments to draw up their grievances, and seriously declare
that they "made that one of the two combatants responsible who should
refuse their conditions." And yet they might feel proud. Their chief had
done less. Gambetta had retired to Spain, to St. Sébastien, and there,
mute, without a sign of sympathy for those who sacrificed themselves for
the Republic, he in a cynical _far niente_ awaited the issue of the
civil war.

Thus the small middle-class of the provinces missed a rare chance of
conquering their liberties, of again taking up their grand rôle of 1792.
It became obvious how much its blood and its intelligence had been
impoverished by a long political vassalage and the complete absence of
all municipal life. From the 19th March to the 5th April they had
forsaken the workmen, when by seconding their efforts they might have
saved and continued the Revolution. When at last they wanted to
pronounce, they found themselves alone, the toy and laughing-stock of
their enemies. Such is their history since Robespierre.

So on the 10th May M. Thiers entirely mastered the situation. Making use
of all arms, of corruption as well as of patriotism, lying in his
telegrams, making his journals lie, by turns familiar and haughty in his
interviews with the deputations, putting forward now his gendarmes, now
the deputies of the Left, he had succeeded in baffling all attempts at
conciliation. He had just signed the peace of Frankfort, and, free on
this side, rid of the provinces, he remained alone face to face with

It was time. Five weeks of siege had exhausted the patience of the
rurals; the suspicions of the first days were reviving; they fancied
that the "petit bourgeois" was procrastinating in order to spare Paris.
The _Union des Syndicats_ had just published a report of a new
interview, in which M. Thiers had seemed to relax. A deputy of the Right
rushed to the tribune accusing M. Thiers of putting off the entry into
Paris. He answered curtly, "The opening by our army of trenches only six
hundred yards from Paris does not signify that we do not want to enter
there." The following day, 12th May, the Right returned to the charge.
Was it true that M. Thiers had said to the mayor of Bordeaux, "If the
insurgents will cease hostilities the gates of Paris shall be flung wide
open during a week for all except the assassins of the generals?" Could
it be that the Government intended withdrawing some Parisians out of the
clutches of the Assembly? M. Thiers inveighed, whined. "You select the
day when I am exiled, on which my house is being pulled down. It is an
indignity. I am obliged to command terrible acts; I command them. I must
have a vote of confidence." At last, nettled out of patience, he
retorted upon the rural growls with a snarl. "I tell you that there are
among you imprudent men, who are in too great a hurry. They must have
another eight days. At the end of these eight days there will be no more
danger, and the task will be proportionate to their courage and to their

Eight days! Do you hear, members of the Commune?


[164] On the 23rd, Picard telegraphed to the procureur-general of Aix:
"The Republic was, the day before yesterday, again affirmed in a
proclamation of the Assembly." The very proclamation which the Assembly
had refused to conclude by the cry "Vive la République!"

[165] The same day--it was that of the Marseilles insurrection--Dufaure
telegraphed to the same procureur-general: "Read the name République
Française at the head of all the despatches I send you."

[166] I have in my possession about twenty proclamations of prefects or
magistrates. They are all on this point identically the same.

[167] "A great speech of the President of the Council has been applauded
by the Extreme left." The speech of the 21st March against Paris.
Dufaure to the procureur-general at Aix, 23rd March.

[168] He confessed his trickery in a speech pronounced at Bordeaux in
1875: "I was enabled with the remains of the defeated army to unite a
military force of 150,000 men, but if this force was sufficient to tear
Paris from the Commune, it could not have kept down the large towns of
France, keenly bent on the maintenance of the Republic, and coming to
ask me with distrust and irritation if it were the monarchy that we
combated for."

[169] I should say "resuscitated," if it were not doing these eunuchs
too much honour to compare them to Robespierre, who by their side
appears a hero. But how prevent one's thoughts from wandering to the
pontiff declaring inopportune the Republican outburst of June-July 1791;
inopportune the cries of Paris famished by engrossers; inopportune the
people asking for a single article in their favour in the Constitution
of 1798; inopportune the commissaries, without whom France would have
been dismembered; inopportune the great movement against the Church;
inopportune the Socialists and Jacques Roux, whom he did to death;
inopportune the popular societies closed by him, and after the
disappearance of which Paris expired; inopportune Clootz, yearning to
rally round France all the revolutionary forces of the world;
inopportune Hébert, who, nevertheless, had helped him to stifle the
Socialists; inopportune, in fine, all that was not cut out after his own
amiable pattern up to the day when he was himself declared inopportune
by the great bourgeoisie, who found it as easy as opportune to swallow
him at a mouthful as soon as he had purged, bled, muzzled for them the
revolutionary lion.

[170] Appendix XIII.

[171] The workmen's quarter in Lyons.



At the advent of the new Committee on the 10th May our military
situation had not changed within the line from St. Ouen to Neuilly,
where both sides faced each other on the same level; but it was becoming
serious from La Muette. The powerful battery of Montretout, that of
Meudon, of Mont-Valérien, covered Passy with shells and greatly injured
the ramparts. The Versaillese trenches extended from Boulogne to the
Seine. Their skirmishers were pressing upon the village of Issy, and
occupied the trenches between the fort and that of Vanves, which they
tried to cut off from Montrouge. The negligence of the defence was still
the same. The ramparts from La Muette to the fort of Vanves were hardly
armed; our gunboats supported almost alone the fire of Meudon, Clamart,
and Val-Fleury.

The first act of the new Committee was to order the demolition of M.
Thiers' house. This giddy act helped the bombarder to a palace, which
the Assembly voted him the day after. Then the Committee issued its
proclamation: "Treason had slipped into," &c.

Delescluze issued one on his own account. He dragged himself along,
panting for breath, and might well say, "If I consulted only my strength
I should have declined this function. The situation is grave; but when I
contemplate the sublime future in store for our children, even though it
should not be given us to reap what we have sown, I shall still
enthusiastically hail the revolution of the 18th March."

On entering the Ministry, he found the Central Committee also
elaborating a proclamation. "The Central Committee declares that it is
its duty not to allow this revolution of the 18th March, which it had so
well begun, to succumb. It will unsparingly break down all resistance.
It is determined to make an end of all controversies, put down the
malignants, quell rivalry, ignorance, and incapacity." This was to speak
more authoritatively than the Council, and, above all, to flatter itself

From the first night it was necessary to repair a disaster. The fort of
Vanves, upon which all the fires formerly directed against Issy were now
concentrated, had become almost untenable, and its commander had
evacuated it. Wroblewski, informed of this, took the command from La
Cécilia, who had fallen ill, and in the night of the 10th to the 11th
hurried thither at the head of the 187th and the 105th battalions of the
celebrated 11th legion, which up to the last day did not cease to supply
the defence with men. At four o'clock in the morning Wroblewski appeared
before the glacis where the Versaillese were stationed, charged them at
the point of the bayonet, put them to flight, took some prisoners, and
recovered the fort. Once more our brave Federals showed what they could
do when properly commanded.

During the day the Versaillese recommenced the bombardment. They
overwhelmed the convent Des Oiseaux and the whole village of Issy, whose
principal street was now one heap of ruins, with shells, grenades filled
with potassium picrate. On the night of the 12th to the 13th they
surprised the Lycée of Vanves, and on the 13th they attacked the
seminary of Issy. For five days Brunel exhausted himself in trying to
bring a little order into the defence of this village. Rossel had sent
for this brave member of the Council, whom the jealousy of coteries kept
at a distance, and said to him, "The situation of Issy is almost lost;
will you undertake its defence?" Brunel devoted himself, threw up
barricades, asked for artillery (there were only four pieces), and new
battalions to relieve the 2,000 men who had held out for forty-one
days.[172] They only sent him two or three hundred men. He tried to make
something of these, and fortified the seminary, which the Federals,
under a hailstorm of shells, were unable to hold. Brunel organised a
second line of defence in the houses of the village, and in the evening
repaired to the War Office, where Delescluze wanted him to assist at the
Council of War.

The first and only Council of War held under the Commune. Dombrowski,
Wroblewski, and La Cécilia were present. Dombrowski, very enthusiastic,
spoke of raising 100,000 men. Wroblewski, more practical, proposed to
concentrate all the efforts uselessly spent at Neuilly against the
trenches of the south. After a long debate no conclusion was come to.
When Brunel arrived the sitting was already raised; so he was obliged to
go and look for Delescluze at the Hôtel-de-Ville, and then he retraced
his steps to Issy. At the gate of Versailles he perceived his battalions
on the other side of the rampart. These, deaf to their chiefs, had
evacuated the village and wanted to re-enter the town. Brunel forbade
the lowering of the drawbridge, and tried to get out by the gates of
Vanves, where they refused to let him pass. He returned to the War
Office, explained the situation, asked for men, wandered about the whole
night looking for some, and at four o'clock in the morning set out with
150 Federals, but found the village entirely occupied by the
Versaillese. The officers of Issy were tried by court-martial. Brunel
gave evidence, and complained bitterly of the culpable carelessness
which had paralysed the defence. For answer he was arrested.

He spoke but too truly. The disorder of the War Office rendered all
resistance chimerical. Delescluze had brought only his devotion. Of a
weak character despite his apparent rigidity, he was at the mercy of the
general staff, still directed by Prodhomme, who, surviving all his
chiefs, had succeeded in making himself thought indispensable. The
Central Committee, emboldened by the timidity of the Council, intruded
everywhere, published decrees, ordered the payment of expenses without
submitting them to the control of the Military Commission. The members
of the Commission, men of intelligence, but belonging to the minority,
complained to the Committee of Public Safety, which replaced them by
Romanticists. The dispute went on all the same, and waxed so violent
that rumours of a rupture between the Council and the Central Committee
spread amongst the legions.

The Versaillese, on their part, still pushed on. In the night of the
13th to the 14th the fort of Vanves, which now only fired occasional
volleys, was quite extinguished, and could no more be rekindled. The
garrison, cut off on all sides, retired by the quarries of Montrouge,
and the Versaillese occupied what remained of the fort. There was again
an ovation at Versailles.

On the 16th May we had not a single man from the left bank to the Petit
Vanves, where about 2,000 Federals, under the command of La Cécilia and
Lisbonne, were encamped. We attempted to retake the village of Issy, but
were repulsed. Henceforth the enemy could continue his approaches and
arm the two bastions of the fort of Issy that faced the town. His fire,
counteracted for a moment by the ramparts, now showed a marked
superiority, and joined the batteries that crushed the sixteenth
arrondissement. This unfortunate quarter was now taken in enfilade from
the front and the flank by nearly a hundred ordnance pieces. It was
indeed time to think of the defence of the interior. Delescluze extended
the powers of the three generals to the quarters of the town contiguous
to their command; he disbanded the battalion of the barricades, which
had been of no utility whatever; he confided the works to the military
engineers, and made an appeal to the navvies. But all his decrees
remained so much waste paper or were crossed by others. When the
delegate offered the navvies 3 francs 50 centimes, the Committee of
Public Safety, in the same column of the _Officiel_, offered them 3
francs 75 centimes.

The Committee of Public Safety contributed to the defence by a decree
obliging all the inhabitants of Paris to provide themselves with a civil
card, whose production might be requested by any National Guard--as
impracticable and unpractised a decree as that on the refractory
recruits. The Hôtel-de-Ville awed nobody; behind its big words impotence
made itself felt. On the 12th, some battalions having surrounded the
Bank and wanting to make a search, old Beslay prevented them doing so,
and the terrible dictators of the Committee of Public Safety disavowed
their own agent. The public chaffed--a terrible thing! A last blow, and
it was all over with the authority of the Commune; and this blow came
from the minority.

The latter was exasperated at seeing its most capable members expelled
from the services--Vermorel from the Commission of Public Safety,
Longuet from the _Officiel_, Varlin from the Commissariat--and was
struck with dismay at the disorder of the War Office. It had the
unfortunate idea of denying its own responsibility, prepared a
manifesto, and brought it to the sitting of the 15th. The majority,
forewarned, with the exception of four or five members, kept away. The
minority had their absence verified, and instead of waiting for the next
sitting, sent the declaration to the papers. "The Commune," it said,
"has abdicated its power into the hands of a dictatorship, to which it
has given the name of Committee of Public Safety. The majority has
declared itself irresponsible by its vote. The minority, on the
contrary, affirms that the Commune owes it to the revolutionary movement
to accept all responsibilities. As to ourselves, we claim the right of
being alone answerable for our acts without screening ourselves behind a
supreme dictatorship. We withdraw to our arrondissements. Convinced that
the question of the war takes the lead of all other ones, we shall spend
the time left us by our municipal functions in the midst of our brothers
of the National Guard."

A great fault this, and altogether inexcusable. The minority had not the
right to cry out about a dictatorship, having voted, without making any
express reserve, for the second Committee. It had not the right to say
that the elected delegates of the people were encroaching upon its
sovereignty, for this concentration of power was quite accidental,
necessitated by the battle, and leaving the principle of the people's
sovereignty intact under ordinary circumstances. It would have been more
dignified to openly disavow the acts of the Committee, and then propose
something better themselves. It would have been logical, since "the
question of the war took the lead of all others," not to thus morally
weaken the defence by deserting the Hôtel-de-Ville. It was not with a
view to retain them in their arrondissements that the arrondissements
had sent delegates to the Council.

Several members of the minority brought the question before public
meetings, which called on them to return to their posts. Those of the
fourth arrondissement gave an explanation in the Théâtre-Lyrique, in
which they said "that their guiding principle was that the Commune was
to be only the executive agent of the public will, manifesting itself
continually, and indicating day by day what was to be done to secure the
triumph of the revolution." No doubt that principle was correct, and the
revolution can only be made safe by the direct legislation of the
people. But was this a time to legislate when the cannon ruled supreme?
And in the midst of the fire, is the "executive agent" to expect that
the soldier who does battle for him will also bring him ideas?

The Versaillese journals crowed over this manifesto. Many of those who
had signed it understood their mistake, and fifteen of them presented
themselves at the sitting of the 17th. The Council had never been so
numerous; the roll-call was answered by sixty-six members. The Council
was first taken up with a proposition prompted by a traitor. Barral de
Montaut, chief of the staff of the 7th legion, had just published that
the Versaillese of Vanves had shot an ambulancière of the Commune.
Urbain, urged by Montaut, who had managed to gain his friendship, asked
that, as reprisal, five hostages should be shot in the interior of
Paris, and five at the advanced posts. The Council passed to the order
of the day. Immediately after this incident, a member of the majority
interpellated those of the minority. He demonstrated without any
difficulty the futility of the reasons invoked in their manifesto, and,
growing warm, called his adversaries Girondists. "What! Girondists!"
answered Frankel; "one can see that you go to bed at night and get up in
the morning with the _Moniteur_ of 1793, else you would know the
difference there is between us Socialist Revolutionists and the
Girondists." The discussion became heated. Vallès, who had signed the
manifesto, said, "I have declared that we must come to an understanding
with the majority; but they must also respect the minority, which is a
force;" and he demanded that all forces should be turned against the
enemy. Citizen Miot answered severely from the profound depths of his
beard. A member of the majority spoke of conciliation; immediately Félix
Pyat, to incense their ire, asked for the reading of the manifesto. In
vain Vaillant said, with sense and justice, "When our colleagues come
back to us disavowing their programme, we must not put it under their
eyes to engage them to persevere in their faults," and a conciliatory
order of the day was beaten by that of Miot, drawn up in terms offensive
to the minority.

Suddenly a tremendous explosion interrupted the dispute. Billioray
rushed into the room with the news that the cartridge factory of the
Avenue Rapp had just blown up.

The whole east of Paris was shaken. A pyramid of flame, of molten lead,
human remains, burning timber and bullets burst forth from the
Champ-de-Mars to an enormous height, and showered down upon the
environs. Four houses fell in; more than forty persons were wounded, and
the catastrophe would have been still more terrible if the firemen of
the Commune had not torn waggons of cartridges and barrels of gunpowder
from the midst of the flames. A maddened crowd gather, and believe in a
crime; a few individuals were arrested, and an artillerist was taken to
the Ecole Militaire.

Who was the culprit? Nobody knows. Neither the Council nor the procureur
of the Commune examined the affair. Yet the Committee of Public Safety
announced in a proclamation that it held four of the culprits, and
Delescluze that the case was to be sent before the court-martial. No
more was heard about it, although it was as much the duty as the
interest of the Council to throw light upon this affair. A serious
inquest would probably have revealed a crime. The women, who usually
left the factory at seven o'clock, had been on that day dismissed at six
o'clock. It has been seen that Charpentier asked Corbin for dynamite; it
might have been very useful to the conspirators to spread panic with one
stroke at the War Office, the Ecole Militaire, the artillery park and
the huts of the Champ-de-Mars, which were always occupied by a few
Federals.[173] Paris firmly believed in a plot. The reactionists said,
"This is the revenge for the Vendôme column."

It had been pulled down the evening before with great ceremony. Its
demolition, the idea of which had become quite current during the first
siege,[174] was decreed on the 12th April.[175] This inspiration,
popular, humane, profound, showing that a war of classes was to
supersede the war of nations, aimed at the same time a blow at the
ephemeral triumph of the Prussian. The rather expensive preparations,
costing almost 15,000 francs, had been much protracted, owing to the
lukewarmness of the engineer and the continual efforts to suborn the
workmen. On the 16th May, at two o'clock, an immense crowd thronged all
the neighbouring streets, rather anxious as to the result of the
operation. The reactionists foretold all sorts of catastrophes; the
engineer, on the contrary, affirmed that there would be no shock; that
the column would break to pieces during its descent. He had sawn it
horizontally a little above the pedestal; a slanting groove was to
facilitate the fall backwards upon a vast bed of faggots, sand, and
dung, accumulated in the direction of the Rue de la Paix.

A rope attached to the summit of the column was twisted round a capstan
fixed at the entrance of the street. The place was crowded with National
Guards; the windows, the roofs were filled with curious spectators. In
default of MM. Jules Simon and Ferry, erewhile warm partisans of the
operation, M. Glais-Bizoin felicitated the new prefect of police, Ferré,
who had just taken the place of Cournet, and confided to him that for
forty years it had been his ardent desire to see the expiatory monument
demolished. The bands played the "Marseillaise," the capstan turned
about, the pulley broke, and a man was wounded. Already rumours of
treason circulated among the crowd; but a second pulley was soon
supplied. At a quarter past five an officer appeared on the balustrade
for some time, waved a tricolor flag, then fixed it on the rails. At
half-past five the capstan again turned, and a few minutes after the
extremity of the column slowly displaced itself; the shaft little by
little gave way, then, suddenly reeling to and fro, broke and fell with
a low moan. The head of Bonaparte rolled on the ground, and his
parricidal arm lay detached from the trunk. An immense acclamation, as
that of a people freed from a yoke, burst forth. The ruins were climbed
upon and saluted by enthusiastic cries, and the red flag floated from
the purified pedestal, which on that day had become the altar of the
human race.

The people wanted to divide among themselves the fragments of the
column, but were prevented by the inopportune interference of the
Council members present. A week afterwards, the Versaillese picked them
up. One of the first acts of the victorious bourgeoisie was to again
raise this enormous block, the symbol of their sovereignty. To lift up
Cæsar on his pedestal they needed a scaffolding of 30,000 corpses. Like
the mothers under the First Empire, may those of our days never look
upon this bronze without weeping.


[172] These were what General Appert calls the Brunel brigade. 7882

[173] Appendix XIV.

[174] During the first siege, the _Journal Officiel_ of the mairie of
Paris had inserted a letter from Courbet demanding the overthrow of the

[175] Thus Courbet was not as yet a member of the Council. Nevertheless
he was considered as the principal author of the fall of the column, and
condemned in the costs of its re-erection.



The Paris of the Commune has but three days more to live; let us engrave
upon our memory her luminous physiognomy.

He who has breathed in thy life that fiery fever of contemporaneous
history, who has panted on thy boulevards and wept in thy faubourgs, who
has sung to the morns of thy revolutions and a few weeks after bathed
his hands in powder behind thy barricades, he who can hear from beneath
thy stones the voices of the martyrs of sublime ideas and read in every
one of thy streets a date of human progress, even he does less justice
to thy original grandeur than the stranger, though a Philistine, who
came to glance at thee during the days of the Commune. The attraction of
rebellious Paris was so strong that men hurried thither from America to
behold this spectacle unprecedented in the world's history--the greatest
town of the European continent in the hands of the proletarians. Even
the pusillanimous were drawn towards her.

In the first days of May one of our friends arrived--one of the most
timid men of the timid provinces. His kith and kin had escorted him on
his departure, tears in their eyes, as though he were descending into
the infernal regions. He said to us, "What is true in all the rumours
bruited about?" "Well, come and search all the recesses of the den."

We set out from the Bastille. Street-arabs cry Rochefort's _Mot
d'Ordre_, the _Père Duchêne_, Jules Vallès' _Cri du Peuple_, Félix
Pyat's _Vengeur_, _La Commune_, _L'Affranchi_, _Le Pilori des
Mouchards_. The _Officiel_ is little asked for; the journalists of the
Council stifle it by their competition. The _Cri du Peuple_ has a
circulation of 100,000. It is the earliest out; it rises with
chanticleer. If we have an article by Vallès this morning, we are in
luck; but in his stead, Pierre Denis, with his autonomy _à outrance_,
makes himself too often heard. Only buy the _Père Duchêne_ once, though
its circulation is more than 60,000. Take Félix Pyat's article in the
_Vengeur_ as a fine example of literary intoxication. The bourgeoisie
has no better helpmates than these vain and ignorant claptrap-mongers.
Here is the doctrinaire journal _La Commune_, in which Millière
sometimes writes, and in which Georges Duchêne takes the young men and
the old of the Hôtel-de-Ville to task with a severity which would better
fit another character than his. Do not forget the _Mot d'Ordre_,
whatever the romanticists may say. It was one of the first to support
the Revolution of the 18th March, and darted terrible arrows at the

In the kiosques are the caricatures. Thiers, Picard, and Jules Favre
figure as the Three Graces, clasping each other's paunches. This fine
fish, the _maquereau_, with the blue-green scales, who is making up a
bed with an imperial crown, is the Marquis de Gallifet. _L'Avenir_, the
mouthpiece of the _Ligue_. _Le Siècle_, become very hostile since the
arrest of Gustave Chaudey; and _La Vérité_, the Yankee Portalis's paper,
are piled up, melancholy and intact. Many reactionist papers have been
suppressed by the prefecture, but for all that are not dead; for a lad,
without any mystery about him, offers them to us.

Read, search, find one appeal to murder, to pillage, a single cruel line
in all these Communard journals excited by the battle, and then compare
them with the Versaillese papers, demanding fusillades _en masse_ as
soon as the troops shall have vanquished Paris.

Let us follow those catafalques that are being taken up the Rue de la
Roquette, and enter with them into the Père Lachaise cemetery. All those
who die for Paris are entombed with obsequies in the great
resting-place. The Commune has claimed the honour of paying for their
funerals; its red flag blazes from the four corners of the hearse,
followed by some comrades of the battalion, while a few passers-by
always join the procession. This is a wife accompanying her dead
husband. A member of the Council follows the coffin; at the grave he
speaks not of regrets, but of hope, of vengeance. The widow presses her
children in her arms, and says to them, "Remember and cry with me, 'Vive
la République! Vive la Commune!'"[176]

On retracing our steps, we pass by the mairie of the eleventh
arrondissement. It is hung with black, the mourning of the last
Imperialist plébiscite, of which the people of Paris was innocent and
became the victim. We cross the Place de la Bastille, gay, animated by
the ginger-bread fair. Paris will yield nothing to the cannon; she has
even prolonged the annual fair for a week. The swings move to and fro,
the wheels-of-fortune turn, booth-keepers cry their sixpenny wares, the
mountebanks allure spectators, and promise half their receipts to the

We go down these great boulevards. A crowd pushes against the Napoleon
Circus, where 5,000 people are gathered, filling it from the area to the
ceiling. Small flags, each one bearing the name of a department, urge
the provincials to group themselves. This meeting has been called by
some merchants, who propose to the citizens of the departments to send
delegates to their respective deputies, in the belief that the latter
may be brought round and peace gained by explanations. A tall, thin man,
with a sad face, asks for permission to address the people, and gets
upon the platform. It is Millière, whom the crowd cheers. "Peace," said
he, "we all wish for it, citizens. But who, then, has commenced the war?
Who attacked Paris on the 18th March? M. Thiers. Who attacked her on the
2nd April? M. Thiers. Who has spoken of conciliation, multiplied
attempts at peace? Paris. Who has always repulsed them? M. Thiers.
Conciliation! M. Dufaure has said, 'Why, insurrection is less criminal.'
And that which neither the Freemasons, nor the leagues, nor the
addresses, nor the municipal councillors of the provinces could do, you
expect to get from a deputation chosen from amongst the Parisians! See,
without knowing it, you are enervating the defence. No, no more
deputations, but active correspondence with the provinces--there lies
salvation!" "This, then, is that energumen whom we are so frightened of
in the provinces!" exclaimed our friend. "Yes, and these thousands of
men of all conditions, who in common seek for peace, consult each other,
answer courteously, these are the demented people, the handful of
bandits who hold the capital."

Before the Prince Eugène Barracks we notice the 1,500 soldiers who
remained in Paris on the 18th March, and whom the Commune entertains
without asking them for any service. At the top of the Boulevard Magenta
we visit the numerous skeletons of the St. Laurent Church, arranged in
the same order they were found in, without coffins or winding-sheets.
Are not interments in churches formally prohibited? Some, however, Notre
Dame des Victoires especially, abound in skeletons. Is it not the duty
of the Commune to expose these illegal proceedings, which are perhaps

On the boulevards, from Bonne-Nouvelle to the Opéra, we find the same
Paris loitering before the shops, sitting in front of the cafés.
Carriages are rare, for the second siege has cut short the provisions
for horses. By the Rue du 4 Septembre we reach the Stock Exchange,
surmounted by the red flag, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, where
readers are sitting round the long tables. Crossing the Palais-Royal,
whose arcades are always noisy, we come to the Museum of the Louvre; the
rooms, hung with their pictures, are open to the public. The Versaillese
journals none the less say the Commune is selling the national
collections to foreigners.

We descend the Rue de Rivoli. On the right, in the Rue Castiglione, a
huge barricade obstructs the entrance of the Place Vendôme. The issue of
the Place de la Concorde is barred by the St. Florentin redoubt,
stretching to the Ministry of Marine on its right, and the garden of
the Tuileries on its left, with three rather badly directed embrasures
eight yards wide. An enormous ditch, laying bare all the arteries of
subterranean life, separates the place from the redoubt. The workmen are
giving it the finishing stroke, and cover the epaulments with gazon.
Many promenaders look on inquisitively, and more than one brow lowers. A
corridor skilfully constructed conducts us to the Place de la Concorde.
The proud profile of the Strasbourg statue stands out against the red
flags. The Communards, who are accused of ignoring France, have piously
replaced the faded crowns of the first siege by fresh spring flowers.

We now enter the zone of battle. The avenue of the Champs-Elysées
unrolls its long-deserted line, cut by the dismal bursting of the shells
from Mont-Valérien and Courbevoie. These reach as far as the Palais de
l'Industrie, whose treasures the employés of the Commune courageously
protect. In the distance rises the mighty bulk of the Arc de Triomphe.
The sight-seers of the first days have disappeared, for the Place de
l'Etoile has become almost as deadly as the rampart. The shells break
off the bas-reliefs that M. Jules Simon had caused to be iron-clad
against the Prussians. The main arch is walled up to stop the
projectiles that enfiladed it. Behind this barricade they are getting
ready to mount some pieces on the platform, which is almost as high as

By the Faubourg St. Honoré we pass along the Champs-Elysées. In the
right angle comprised between the Avenue de la Grande Armée, that of the
Ternes, the ramparts, and the Avenue Wagram there is not a house intact.
You see M. Thiers "does not bombard Paris, as the people of the Commune
will not fail to say." Some shreds of a placard hang from a
half-battered wall; it is M. Thiers' speech against King Bomba, which a
group of conciliators have been witty enough to reproduce. "You know,
gentlemen," said he to the bourgeois of 1848, "what is happening at
Palermo. You all have shaken with horror on hearing that during
forty-eight hours a large town has been bombarded. By whom? Was it by a
foreign enemy exercising the rights of war? No, gentlemen, it was by
its own Government. And why? Because that unfortunate town demanded its
rights. Well, then, for the demand of its rights it has got forty-eight
hours of bombardment!" Happy Palermo! Paris already has had forty days
of bombardment.

We have some chance of getting to the Boulevard Péreire by the left side
of the Avenue des Ternes. From there to the Porte-Maillot every spot is
beset with danger. Watching for a momentary lull, we reach the gate, or
rather the heap of ruins that mark its place. The station no longer
exists, the tunnel is filled up, the ramparts are slipping into the
moats. And yet there are human salamanders who dare to move about amidst
these ruins. Facing the gate there are three pieces commanded by Captain
La Marseillaise; on the right, Captain Rouchat with five pieces; on the
left, Captain Martin with four. Monteret, who commands this post for the
last five weeks, lives with them in this atmosphere of shells. The
Mont-Valérien, Courbevoie, and Bécon have thrown more than eight hundred
of them. Twelve pieces are served by ten men, naked to the waist, their
body and arms blackened with powder, in a stream of perspiration, often
a match in each hand. The only survivor of the first set, the sailor
Bonaventure, has twenty times seen his comrades dashed to pieces. And
yet they hold out, and these pieces, continually dismounted, are
continually renewed; their artillerists only complain of the want of
munition, for the waggons no longer dare approach. The Versaillese have
very often attempted, and may attempt, surprises. Monteret watches day
and night, and he can without boasting write to the Committee of Public
Safety that so long as he is there the Versaillese will not enter by the

Every step towards La Muette is a challenge to death. But our friend
must witness all the greatness of Paris. On the ramparts, near the gate
of La Muette, an officer is waving his képi toward the Bois de Boulogne;
the balls are whistling around him. It is Dombrowski, who is amusing
himself with inveighing against the Versaillese of the trenches. A
member of the Council who is with him succeeds in making him forego
this musketeer foolhardiness, and the general takes us to the castle,
where he has established one of his headquarters. All the rooms are
perforated by shells. Still he remains there, and makes his men remain.
It has been calculated that his aides-de-camp on an average lived eight
days. At this moment the watch of the Belvedere rushes in with appalled
countenance; a shell has traversed his post. "Stay there," says
Dombrowski to him; "if you are not destined to die there you have
nothing to fear." Such was his courage--all fatalism. He received no
reinforcements despite his despatches to the War Office; believed the
game lost, and said so but too often.

This is my only reproach, for you do not expect me to apologise for the
Commune's having allowed foreigners to die for it. Is not this the
revolution of all proletarians? Is it not for the people to at last do
justice to that great Polish race which all French governments have

Dombrowski accompanies us across Passy as far as the Seine, and shows us
the almost abandoned ramparts. The shells crush or mow down all the
approaches to the railway; the large viaduct is giving way at a hundred
places; the iron-clad locomotives have been overthrown. The Versaillese
battery of the Billancourt Isle fires point-blank at our gunboats, and
sinks one, _L'Estoc_, under our very eyes. A tug arrives in time, picks
up the crew, and ascends the Seine under the fire that follows it up to
the Jena Bridge.

A clear sky, a bright sun, peaceful silence envelop this stream, this
wreck, these scattered shells. Death appears more cruel amidst the
serenity of nature. Let us go and salute our wounded at Passy. A member
of the Council, Lefrançais, is visiting the ambulance of Dr. Demarquay,
whom he questions as to the state of the wounded. "I do not share your
opinions," answers the doctor, "and I cannot desire the triumph of your
cause; but I have never seen wounded men preserve more calm and
sangfroid during operations. I attribute this courage to the energy of
their convictions." We then visit the beds; most of the sick anxiously
inquire when they will be able to resume their service. A young fellow
of eighteen, whose right hand had just been amputated, holds out the
other, exclaiming, "I have still this one for the service of the
Commune!" An officer, mortally wounded, is told that the Commune has
just handed over his pay to his wife and children. "I had no right to
it," answers he. "These, my friend, these are the brutish drunkards who,
according to Versailles, form the army of the Commune."

We return by the Champ-de-Mars; its huts are badly manned. Other
_cadres_, a different discipline would be needed to retain the
battalions there. Before the Ecole, 1500 yards from the ramparts, and a
few steps from the War Office, a hundred ordnance pieces remain inert,
loaded with mud. Leaving on our right the War Office, that centre of
discord, let us enter the Corps Législatif, transformed into a workshop.
Fifteen hundred women are there, sewing the sand sacks that are to stop
up the breaches. A tall and handsome girl, Marthe, round her waist the
red scarf with silver fringe given her by her comrades, distributes the
work. The hours of labour are shortened by joyous songs. Every evening
the wages are paid, and the women receive the whole sum, eight centimes
a sack, while the former contractors hardly gave them two.

We now proceed along the quays, lulled in imperturbable calm. The
Academy of Sciences holds its Monday sittings. It is not the workmen who
have said, "The Republic wants no savants." M. Delaunay is in the chair.
M. Elie de Beaumont looks through the correspondence, and reads a note
from his colleague, M. J. Bertrand, who has fled to St. Germain. We
shall find the report in the _Officiel_ of the Commune.

We must not leave the left bank without visiting the military prison.
Ask the soldiers if they have met with a single menace, a single insult
in Paris; if they are not treated as comrades, subjected to no
exceptional rules, set free when willing to help their Parisian

Meanwhile evening has set in. The theatres are opening. The Lyrique
gives a grand performance for the benefit of the wounded, and the
Opéra-Comique is preparing another. The Opéra promises us a special
performance for the following Monday, when we shall hear Gossec's
revolutionary hymn. The artists of the Gaieté, abandoned by their
manager, themselves direct their theatre. The Gymnase, Châtelet,
Théâtre-Français, Ambigu-Comique, Délassements, have large audiences
every night. Let us pass to more virile spectacles, such as Paris has
not witnessed since 1793.

Ten churches open, and the Revolution mounts the pulpits. In the old
quarter of the Gravilliers, St. Nicholas des Champs is filling with the
powerful murmur of many voices. A few gas-burners hardly light up the
swarming crowd; and at the farther end, almost hidden by the shadow of
the vaults, hangs the figure of Christ draped in the popular oriflamme.
The only luminous centre is the reading-desk, facing the pulpit, hung
with red. The organ and the people chant the _Marseillaise_. The orator,
over-excited by these fantastic surroundings, launches forth into
ecstatic apostrophes, which the echo repeats like a menace. The people
discuss the events of the day, the means of defence; the members of the
Council are severely censured, and vigorous resolutions are voted to be
presented to the Hôtel-de-Ville the next day. Women sometimes ask to
speak; at the Batignolles they have a club of their own. No doubt, few
precise ideas come forth from these feverish meetings, but many find
there a provision of energy and of courage.

It is only nine o'clock, and we may still be in time for the concert of
the Tuileries. At the entrance, citoyennes, accompanied by
commissioners, are making a collection for the widows and orphans of the
Commune. The immense rooms are animated by a decent and gay throng. For
the first time respectably-dressed women are seated on the forms of the
court. Three orchestras are playing in the galleries, but the soul of
the fête is in the Salle des Maréchaux, where Mademoiselle Agar recites
from "Les Châtiments" in that same place, where, ten months before,
Bonaparte and his band were enthroned. Mozart, Meyerbeer, Rossini, the
great works of art have driven away the musical obscenities of the
Empire. From the large central window the harmonious strains vibrate to
the garden; joyous lights shine like stars on the green-sward, dance
among the trees, and colour the playing fountains. Within the arbours
the people are laughing; but the noble Champs-Elysées, dark and
desolate, seem to protest against these popular masters, whom they have
never acknowledged. Versailles, too, protests by that conflagration of
which a wan reflex lights up the Arc de Triomphe, whose sombre mass
overtowers the civil war.

At eleven o'clock, as the crowd is retiring, we hear a noise from the
side of the chapel. M. Schoelcher has just been arrested. He has been
taken to the prefecture, where, a few hours after, the procureur Rigault
sets him at liberty.

The boulevards are thronged with the people coming from the theatres. At
the Café-Peters there is a scandalous gathering of staff-officers and
prostitutes. Suddenly a detachment of National Guards appears and leads
them off. We follow them to the Hôtel-de-Ville, where Ranvier, who is on
duty there, receives them. Short shrift is made: the women to St.
Lazare, the officers, with spades and mattocks, to the trenches.

One o'clock in the morning. Paris sleeps tranquilly. Such, my friend, is
the Paris of the brigand. You have seen this Paris thinking, weeping,
combating, working, enthusiastic, fraternal, severe to vice. Her streets
free during the day, are they less safe in the silence of the night?
Since Paris has her own police crime has disappeared.[177] Each one is
left to his instincts, and where do you see debauchery victorious? These
Federals, who might draw milliards, live on ridiculous pay compared with
their usual salaries. Do you at last recognise this Paris, seven times
shot down since 1789, and always ready to rise for the salvation of
France? Where is her programme, say you? Why, seek it before you, and
not at the faltering Hôtel-de-Ville. These smoking ramparts, these
explosions of heroism, these women, these men of all professions
united, all the workmen of the earth applauding our combat, all
monarchs, all the bourgeois coalesced against us, do they not speak
loudly enough our common thought, and that all of us are fighting for
equality, the enfranchisement of labour, the advent of a social society?
Woe to France if she does not comprehend! Leave at once; recount what
Paris is. If she dies, what life remains to you? Who, save Paris, will
have strength enough to continue the Revolution? Who save Paris will
stifle the clerical monster? Go, tell the Republican provinces, "These
proletarians fight for you too, who perhaps may be the exiles of
to-morrow." As to that class, the purveyor of empires, that fancies it
can govern by periodical butcheries, go and tell them, in accents loud
enough to drown their clamours, "The blood of the people will enrich the
revolutionary field. The idea of Paris will arise from her burning
entrails and become an inexorable firebrand with the sons of the


[176] Funeral of Lieutenant Châtelet, of the 61st.

[177] See the evidence of the chief of police, M. Claude, _Énquête sur
le 18 Mars_. vol. ii. p. 106.


    "La porte de St. Cloud vient de s'abatre. Le général Douai
      s'y est précipité."--_M. Thiers aux Préfets, le 21 Mai._


The great attack approached; the Assembly drew up in battle-array. On
the 16th May it refused to recognise the Republic as the Government of
France, and voted public prayers by 417 voices out of 420. On the 17th
the army established its breach batteries against the gates of La
Muette, Auteuil, St. Cloud, Point du Jour, Issy. The batteries in the
rear continued to pound the enceinte of the Point du Jour and to
confound Passy. The pieces of the Château de Brécon ruined the
Montmartre cemetery, and reached as far as the Place St. Pierre. We had
five arrondissements under shell.

On the 18th, in the evening, the Versaillese surprised the Federals of
Cachan by approaching them with the cry of "Vive la Commune!" However,
we succeeded in preventing their movement towards the Hautes-Bruyères.
The Dominican monks who from their convent gave signals to the enemy
were arrested and taken to the Fort de Bicêtre.

_19th._--Despite the Versaillese approaches, our defence did not become
more vigorous. The bastions 72 and 73 threw a few occasional shells upon
the village and the fort of Issy. From the Point du Jour to the
Porte-Maillot we had only the cannon of the Dauphine gate to answer the
hundred Versaillese pieces and check their works in the Bois de
Boulogne. A few barricades at the Bineau and Asnières gates and the
Boulevard d'Italie, two redoubts at the Place de la Concorde and Rue
Castiglione, a moat in the Rue Royale and another at the Trocadéro; this
was all that the Council had done in seven weeks for the defence of the
interior. There were no works at the Mont-Parnasse Station, the
Panthéon, the Buttes Montmartre, where two or three pieces had been
fired off on the 14th, only to kill our own men at Laval's. At the
terrace of the Tuileries about twelve navvies sadly dug away at a
useless fosse. The Committee of Public Safety could not, they said, find
workmen, when they had 1,500 idlers at the Prince-Eugène Barracks,
100,000 sedentary guards, and millions of francs to hand. An iron will
and firm direction might still have saved everything; and we were now in
the period of coma, of immense lassitude. The competitions, quarrels,
and intrigues had relaxed all energy. The Council occupied itself with
details, with trifles. The Committee of Public Safety multiplied its
romantic proclamations, which moved nobody. The Central Committee
thought only of seizing upon a power it was unable to wield, and on the
19th announced itself administrator of the War Office. Its members had
made so sure of their sway, that one of them by a decree inserted in the
_Officiel_ ordered all the inhabitants of Paris to "present themselves
at their homes within forty-eight hours," on pain of "having their
rent-titles on the grand livre burnt." This was the pendant of the civic

Our best battalions, decimated, abandoned to themselves, were but
wrecks. Since the beginning of April we had lost 4,000 men, killed or
wounded, and 3,500 prisoners. There now remained to us 2,000 men from
Asnières to Neuilly, 4,000 perhaps from La Muette to Petit-Vanves. The
battalions designated for the posts of Passy were not there, or stayed
in the houses far from the ramparts; many of their officers had
disappeared. At the bastions 36 to 70, precisely at the point of attack,
there were not twenty artillerists; the sentinels were absent.

Was it treason? The conspirators boasted a few days after of having
dismantled these ramparts; but the terrible bombardment would suffice to
explain this dereliction. Still there was a culpable heedlessness.
Dombrowski, weary of struggling against the inertness of the War Office,
was discouraged, went too often to his quarters at the Place Vendôme,
while the Committee of Public Safety, informed of the abandonment of the
ramparts, contented itself with warning the War Office instead of
hurrying to the rescue and taking the situation in hand.

On Saturday, the 20th May, the breach batteries were unmasked; 300 naval
guns and siege-pieces blending together their detonations announced the
beginning of the end.

The same day De Beaufond, whom Lasnier's arrest had not discouraged,
sent his habitual emissary to warn the chief of the Versaillese general
staff that the gates of Montrouge, Vanves, Vaugirard, Point du Jour, and
Dauphine were entirely deserted. Orders for concentrating the troops
were immediately issued. On the 21st the Versaillese found themselves in
readiness, as on the 3rd and 12th, but this time success seemed certain;
the gate of St. Cloud was dashed to pieces.

For several days some members of the Council had pointed out this breach
to the chief of the general staff, Henry Prodhomme. He answered à la
Cluseret that his measures were taken; that he was even going to throw
up a terrible iron-clad barricade before this gate; but he did not stir.
On the Sunday morning, Lefrançais, traversing the moat on the ruins of
the drawbridge, at about fifteen yards distance, ran up against the
Versaillese trenches. Struck by the imminence of the peril, he sent
Delescluze a note, which was lost.

At half-past two, under the shade of the Tuileries, a monster concert
was being given for the benefit of the widows and orphans of the
Commune. Thousands of people had come; the bright spring dresses of the
women lit up the green alleys; people eagerly inhaled the fresh air sent
forth from the great trees. Two hundred yards off, on the Place de la
Concorde, the Versaillese shells burst, uttering their discordant note
amidst the joyous sounds of the bands and the invigorating breath of

At the end of the concert a staff officer ascended the platform of the
conductor of the orchestra. "Citizens," said he, "M. Thiers promised to
enter Paris yesterday. M. Thiers has not entered; he will not enter. I
invite you to come here next Sunday, to the same place, to our second
concert for the benefit of the widows and orphans."

At that very hour, at that very minute, almost within gunshot, the
vanguard of the Versaillese was making its entry into Paris.

The expected signal had at last been given from the St. Cloud gate, but
did not come from the licensed conspirators. An amateur spy, Ducatel,
was crossing these quarters, when he saw everything, gates and ramparts,
quite deserted. He thereupon climbed the bastion 64, waving a white
handkerchief, and cried to the soldiers of the trenches, "You can enter;
there is no one here." A naval officer came forward, interrogated
Ducatel, crossed over the ruins of the drawbridge, and was able to
assure himself that the bastions and neighbouring houses were entirely
abandoned. Returning immediately to the trenches, the officer
telegraphed the news to the nearest generals. The breach batteries
ceased firing, and the soldiers of the trenches near penetrated by small
platoons into the enceinte. M. Thiers, MacMahon, and Admiral Pothuan,
who were just then at Mont-Valérien, telegraphed to Versailles to have
all the divisions put in motion.

Dombrowski, absent from his headquarters of La Muette for several hours,
arrived at four o'clock. A commander met him, and informed him of the
entry of the Versaillese. Dombrowski let the officer terminate his
report, then, turning to one of his aides-de-camp, with that coolness
that he exaggerated in critical circumstances, said, "Send to the
Ministry of Marine for a battery of seven cannon; warn such and such
battalions. I shall take the command myself." He also addressed a
despatch to the Committee of Public Safety and the War Office, and sent
the battalion of volunteers to occupy the gate of Auteuil.

At five o'clock, National Guards, without képis, without arms, uttered a
cry of alarm in the streets of Passy; some officers unsheathing their
swords tried to stop them; the Federals left their houses, some loading
their guns, others maintaining that it was a false alarm. The commander
of the volunteers picked up and led off as many men as he could get to
follow him.

These volunteers were troops inured to fire. Near the railway station
they saw the red-coats, and received them with a volley. A Versaillese
officer on horseback, who hurried up trying to urge on his men with
drawn sabre, fell beneath our balls, and his soldiers retreated. The
Federals established themselves solidly on the viaduct and at the
opening of the Murat Boulevard, while, at the same time, the quay
abreast of the Jena Bridge was being barricaded.

Dombrowski's despatch had reached the Committee of Public Safety.
Billioray, on duty at this moment, at once proceeded to the Council. The
Assembly was just putting Cluseret on his trial, and Vermorel was
speaking. The ex-delegate, seated on a chair, listened to the orator
with that vain nonchalance which the naïve took for talent. Billioray,
very pale, entered, and for a moment sat down; then, as Vermorel went
on, cried to him, "Conclude! conclude! I have to make a communication of
the greatest importance to the Assembly; I demand a secret sitting."

Vermorel: "Let citizen Billioray speak."

Billioray rose and read a paper that trembled slightly in his hand.
"Dombrowski to War and Committee of Public Safety. The Versaillese have
entered by the Porte de St. Cloud. I take measures to drive them back.
If you can send me reinforcements, I answer for everything."[178]

There was first a silence of anguish, soon broken by interpellations.
"Some battalions have marched off," answered Billioray; "the Committee
of Public Safety watches."

The discussion was again taken up, and naturally cut short. The Council
acquitted Cluseret; the ridiculous impeachment brought forward by Miot,
made up only of gossip, neglected the only incriminating fact--the
inactivity of Cluseret during his delegation. They then formed into
groups and commented on the despatch. The confidence of Dombrowski, the
assurance of Billioray, proved quite sufficient to the romanticists.
What with faith in the general, the solidity of the ramparts, the
immortality of the cause; what with the responsibility of the Committee
of Public Safety, the question at issue was slurred over; let every one
go about in search of information, and in case of need betake himself to
his own arrondissement.

The time was wasted in small-talk; there were neither motion nor debate;
eight o'clock struck, and the president raised the sitting. The last
sitting of the Council! And there was no one to demand a permanent
committee; no one to call on his colleague to wait here for news, to
summon the Committee of Public Safety to the bar of the Council. There
was no one to insist that at this critical moment of uncertainty, when
perhaps it might be necessary to improvise a plan of defence at a
moment's notice or take a great resolution in case of disaster, the post
of the guardians of Paris was in the centre, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, and
not in their respective arrondissements.

Thus the Council of the Commune disappeared from history and the
Hôtel-de-Ville at the moment of supreme danger, when the Versaillese
penetrated into Paris.

The same prostration reigned at the War Office, where they had received
the news at five o'clock. The Central Committee went to Delescluze, who
seemed very calm, and said, what many indeed believed, that the fight in
the streets would be favourable to the Commune. The commander of the
section of the Point du Jour having just come to report that nothing
serious had happened, the delegate accepted his statements without
corroboration. The chief of the general staff did not even think it
worth while to go and make a personal recognisance, and towards eight
o'clock he had this incredible despatch placarded: "The observatory of
the Arc de Triomphe denies the entry of the Versaillese; at least, it
sees nothing that looks like it. The commander (Renaud) of the section
has just left my cabinet, and declares that there has only been a panic,
and that the gate of Auteuil has not been forced; that if a few
Versaillese have entered, they have been repulsed. I have sent for
eleven battalions of reinforcements, by as many officers of the general
staff, who are not to leave them till they have led them to the posts
which they are to occupy."

At the same hour M. Thiers telegraphed to his prefects, "The gate of St.
Cloud has fallen under the fire of our cannon. General Douai has dashed
into the town." A two-fold lie. The gate of St. Cloud had been wide open
for three days without the Versaillese daring to pass it, and General
Douai had crept in very modestly, man by man, introduced by treason.

At night the Ministry seemed to wake up a little. Officers flocked
thither asking for orders. The general staff would not allow the tocsin
to be sounded, on the pretext that the population must not be alarmed.
Some members of the Council pored over the plan of Paris at last,
studying those strategical points that had been forgotten for six weeks.
When it was necessary at once to find an idea, a method, and give
precise instructions, the delegate shut himself in his cabinet in order
to frame a proclamation.

While in the midst of Paris, confident in her trustees, a few men,
without soldiers, without information, prepared the first resistance,
the Versaillese continued to slip in through the breaches of the
ramparts. Wave on wave their flood grew silent, veiled by the dusk. By
degrees they massed themselves between the railway line and the
fortifications. At eight o'clock they were numerous enough to divide
into two columns, one of which, turning to the left, crowned the
bastions 66 and 67, while the other filed off to the right on the route
to Versailles. The first lodged itself in the centre of Passy, occupying
the St. Périne asylum, the church, and the place of Auteuil; the other,
having swept away the rudimentary barricade constructed on the quay at
the top of the Rue Guillon, towards one o'clock in the morning, by the
Rue Raynouard, scaled the Trocadéro, neither fortified nor manned on
this side, and at once took possession of it.

At the Hôtel-de-Ville the members of the Committee of Public Safety had
at last assembled. Billioray alone had vanished not to appear again.
They knew nothing of the number and position of the troops, but knew
that under the cover of night the enemy had entered Passy. Staff
officers sent to the Muette to reconnoitre came back with the most
reassuring news. Thereupon, at eleven o'clock, a member of the Council,
Assi, entered the Rue Beethoven, where the lights had been put out. Soon
his horse refused to advance; it had slipped down in large pools of
blood, and National Guards seemed to lie asleep along the walls.
Suddenly men sprang forward. They were the Versaillese waiting in
ambush; these sleepers were murdered Federals.

The Versaillese were slaughtering within the walls of Paris, and Paris
knew it not. The night was clear, starlit, mild, fragrant; the theatres
were crowded, the boulevards sparkling with life and gaiety, the bright
cafés swarming with visitors, and the cannon were everywhere hushed--a
silence unknown for three weeks. If "the finest army that France ever
had" were to push straight on by the quays and boulevards, entirely free
of barricades, with one bound, without firing a shot, it would crush the
Commune of Paris.

The volunteers held out on the railway line till midnight; then,
exhausted, left without any reinforcements, they fell back upon La
Muette. General Clinchant followed them, occupied the Auteuil gate,
passed by that of Passy, and marched on the headquarters of Dombrowski.
Fifty volunteers for some time still kept up a skirmish in the château,
but outflanked on the east, about to be closed in from the Trocadéro, at
half-past one in the morning they beat a retreat on the Champs-Elysées.

On the left bank General Cissey had the whole evening massed his forces
at about 200 yards from the enceinte. At midnight his sappers crossed
the moat, scaled the ramparts, without even falling in with a sentinel,
and opened the gates of Sèvres and Versailles.

At three o'clock in the morning the Versaillese inundated Paris through
the five gaping wounds of the gates of Passy, Auteuil, St. Cloud,
Sèvres, and Versailles. The greater part of the fifteenth arrondissement
was occupied, the Muette taken; taken all Passy and the heights of the
Trocadéro, taken too the powder-magazine of the Rue Beethoven, immense
catacombs running underneath the sixteenth arrondissement, crammed with
3,000 barrels of powder, millions of cartridges, thousands of shells. At
five o'clock the first Versaillese shell fell upon the Légion d'Honneur.
As on the morning of the 2nd December, Paris was asleep.


[178] The original of this document has been lost, but we have been able
to re-establish the text with the evidence of Dombrowski's brother and
of a great number of members of the Council present at this sitting.


    "Les généraux qui ont conduit l'entree à Paris sont de grands
      hommes de guerre."--_M. Thiers à l'Assemblée Nationale, 22
      Mai 1871._


At two o'clock Dombrowski arrived at the Hôtel-de-Ville, pale, dejected,
his chest bruised with stones ploughed up by shot. He told the Committee
of Public Safety of the entry of the Versaillese, the surprise of Passy,
his useless efforts to rally the men. As he was pressed for news, as
they appeared astonished at such a rapid invasion, so little did the
Committee know of the military situation, Dombrowski, who misunderstood
them, exclaimed, "What! the Committee of Public Safety takes me for a
traitor! My life belongs to the Commune." His gesture, his voice,
testified to his bitter despair.

The morn was warm and bright, as the day before. The call to arms, the
tocsin, set three or four thousand men on foot, who hurried towards the
Tuileries, the Hôtel-de-Ville, and the War Office; but hundreds of
others at that moment had abandoned their posts, left Passy, and emptied
the fifteenth arrondissement. The Federals of Petit-Vanves came back to
Paris at five o'clock, and seeing the Trocadéro occupied by the
Versaillese, refused to hold out. On the left bank, at the St. Clothilde
Square, some officers attempted to stay them, but were repulsed by the
guards. "It is now a war of barricades," said they; "every one to his
quarter." At the Légion d'Honneur they forced their way; the
proclamation of Delescluze had released them.

Thus began that fatal proclamation placarded on all the walls:--

"Enough of militarism! No more staff-officers with their
gold-embroidered uniforms! Make way for the people, for the combatants
with naked arms! The hour of the revolutionary war has struck! The
people know nothing of learned manoeuvres. But when they have a gun in
their hands, pavement under their feet, they fear not all the
strategists of the monarchical school!"

When the Minister of War thus stigmatises all discipline, who will
henceforth obey? When he repudiates all method, who will listen to
reason? Thus we shall see hundreds of men refusing to quit the pavement
of their street, paying no heed to the neighboring quarter in agonies,
remaining motionless up to the last hour waiting for the army to come
and overwhelm them.

At five o'clock in the morning the official retreat began. The chief of
the general staff, Henri Prodhomme, had the War Office precipitately
evacuated, without carrying off or destroying the papers. The next day
they fell into the hands of the Versaillese, and furnished the
courts-martial with thousands of victims.

On leaving the Ministry, Delescluze met Brunel, who, set at liberty only
the evening before, had at once rallied his legion, and now came to
offer his services, for he was one of those men of convictions too
strong to be shaken by the most cruel injustice. Delescluze gave him the
order to defend the Place de la Concorde. Brunel repaired thither, and
disposed 150 tirailleurs, three pieces of 4 cm., one of 12, two of 7 on
the terrace of the Tuileries and by the bank of the river. He provided
the St. Florentin redoubt with a mitrailleuse and a piece of 4; that of
the Rue Royale, at the entrance of the Place de la Concorde, with two
pieces of 12.

In front of Brunel, at the Place Beauvan, some men of the 8th legion
made vain efforts to stop the fugitives from Passy and Auteuil, and then
betook themselves to put the quarter in a fit state of defence.
Barricades were thrown up in the Faubourg St. Honoré as far as the
English Embassy, in the Rue de Suresne and Ville-Levêque; obstacles were
heaped up at the Place St. Augustin, the opening of the Boulevard
Haussmann, and in front of the Boulevard Malesherbes, when the
Versaillese presented themselves.

Early in the morning they had begun their onward march. At half-past
five Douai, Clinchant, and Ladmirault, passing along the ramparts,
debouched on the Avenue de la Grande Armée. The artillerists of the
Porte-Maillot, turning round, beheld in their rear the Versaillese,
their neighbours for some ten hours. Not a sentinel had denounced them.
Monteret filed off his men by the Ternes; then, alone with a child,
charged one of the cannon of the Porte-Maillot, fired his last round at
the enemy, and succeeded in escaping by the Batignolles.

The column Douai remounted the Avenue as far as the barricade in front
of the Arc de Triomphe, which they took without a struggle, the Federals
hardly having time to carry off the cannon that were to have surmounted
the Arc de Triomphe. The soldiers marched up the quay, and ventured on
the silent Place de la Concorde; suddenly the terrace of the Tuileries
lighted up; the Versaillese, received with a point-blank volley, fled as
far as the Palais de l'Industrie, leaving many dead.

On the left the soldiers occupied the abandoned Elysée, and by the Rues
Morny and Abbatucci debouched on the Place St. Augustin, where the
barricades, hardly begun, could not resist, and towards half-past seven
the Versaillese installed themselves at the Pepinière Barracks. The
Federals formed a second line in the rear, closing the Boulevard
Malesherbes at the top of the Rue Boissy d'Anglas.

On the left of Douai, Clinchant and Ladmirault continued their movement
along the ramparts. The important works at the gates of Bineau,
Courcelles, Asnières, and Clichy, directed against the fortifications,
became useless, and the Ternes were occupied without striking a blow. At
the same time one of the Clinchant divisions passed by the outer
ramparts. The Federal battalions on duty at Neuilly, Levallois-Perret,
and St. Ouen were assailed with balls from the rear--(this was the
first intimation they got of the entry of the Versaillese)--and many
Federals were taken prisoners. Others succeeded in returning to Paris by
the gates of Bineau, Asnières, and Clichy, spreading panic and rumours
of treason in the seventeenth arrondissement.

The rappel had been beaten all night in the Batignolles, and had called
out the sedentary guards and the youths. A battalion of engineers rushed
forward to encounter Clinchant's skirmishers, and began firing in front
of the Parc Monceaux and the Place Wagram, when the National Guards,
deceived by their red trousers, opened a deadly fire upon them. They
retreated and laid bare the Parc, which the Versaillese occupied, and
then pushed on to the Batignolles. There they were stopped by barricades
rising on all sides; on the left, from the Place Clichy to the Rue
Lévis; in the centre, in the Rues Lebouteux, La Condamine, and Des
Dames; on the right, La Fourche, the rival position of the Place Clichy,
had been fortified, and soon the Batignolles formed a serious outwork
for Montmartre, our principal fortress.

The latter, for seventeen hours,[179] had looked silently on the entry
of the troops of Versailles. In the morning the columns of Douai and
Ladmirault, their artillery and their waggons, had met each other, and
become entangled on the Place du Trocadéro. A few shells from
Montmartre[180] would have changed this confusion into a rout, and the
least check met with by the troops on their entry would have been for
Paris a second 18th March; but the cannon of the Buttes remained mute.

Monstrous negligence, which alone would suffice to condemn the Council,
the War Office, and the delegates of Montmartre. Eighty-five cannon and
about twenty mitrailleuses were lying there, dirty, pell-mell, and no
one during these eight weeks had even thought of cleaning them.
Projectiles of 7 cm. abounded, but there were no cartridges. At the
Moulin de la Galette three pieces of 24 cm. alone were supplied with
carriages, but there were neither parapets, blindages, nor even
platforms. At nine o'clock in the morning they had not yet fired; after
the first discharge the recoil overthrew the carriages, and much time
was required to set them up again. These three pieces themselves had
very little munition. Of fortifications or earthworks there were none;
merely a few barricades at the foot of the external boulevards had been
begun. At nine o'clock La Cécilia sent to Montmartre, and found the
defence in this disgraceful state. He immediately addressed despatches
to the Hôtel-de-Ville, conjuring the members of the Council to come
themselves, or at least to send reinforcements of men and munitions.

A similar thing occurred at the same time on the left bank at the Ecole
Militaire. Face to face with its park of artillery, the Versaillese
since one o'clock in the morning were manoeuvring on the Trocadéro
without a single cannon shot being fired at them. What, then, was the
governor of the Ecole about?

At daybreak the Langourian brigade attacked the huts of the
Champ-de-Mars. The Federals defended themselves several hours, and were
only dislodged by the shells of the Trocadéro, which enkindled a
conflagration.[181] They then fell back upon the Ecole, and for a long
time checking the effort of the troops, gave the seventeenth
arrondissement time to rise. The quay as far as the Légion d'Honneur,
the Rues de Lille, De l'Université, and the Boulevard St. Germain up to
the Rue Solferino were being barricaded. Half-a-dozen of the armlet
conspirators, led by Durouchoux and Vrignault, were coming down the Rue
du Bac at great speed, when a member of the Council, Sicard, arrested
them before the Petit St. Thomas. A bullet struck Durouchoux; his
acolytes carried him away, and took advantage of the occasion not to
appear again. The Rue de Beaune, Verneuil, and St. Pères were put in a
state of defence, and a barricade was thrown up in the Rue de Sèvres at
the Abbaye-au-Bois.

On the right Cissey's soldiers descended the Rue de Vaugirard without
hindrance as far as the Avenue du Maine; another column filed off along
the railway, and at half-past six reached the Mont-Parnasse station.
This position, of supreme importance, had been utterly neglected; about
twenty men defended it, and they were soon short of cartridges, and
obliged to retreat to the Rue de Rennes, where, under the fire of the
troops, they constructed a barricade at the top of the Rue du Vieux
Colombier. On his extreme right Cissey occupied the Vanves gate and
lined the whole railway of the west.

Paris rose to the roar of the cannon and read the proclamation of
Delescluze. The shops were at once shut up again, the boulevards
remained empty, and Paris, the old insurgent, resumed her combative
physiognomy. Estafets dashed through the streets, and remainders of
battalions came to the Hôtel-de-Ville, where the Central Committee, the
Committee of Artillery, and all the military services were concentrated.

At nine o'clock twenty members of the Council had assembled. A miracle!
There was Félix Pyat, who had cried "To arms!" in his paper that very
morning. He had put on his patriarchal air. "Well, my friends, our last
hour has come. Oh, for myself what matters it! My hair is grey, my
career run out. What more glorious end could I hope for than that of the
barricade. But when I see around me so many in the prime of youth, I
tremble for the future of the Revolution!" Then he demanded that the
names of the members present should be entered, in order to mark out
distinctly those true to their duty. He signed his name, and, with tears
in his eyes, the old comedian trotted off to a hiding-place, surpassing
by his last cowardice all his former villainies.

A sterile meeting this, spent in discussing the news of the day; no
impulsion given, no system of defence propounded. The Federals were left
to their own inspirations--left to look after themselves. During the
whole past night neither Dombrowski, nor the War Office, nor the
Hôtel-de-Ville had thought of the battalions outside the town.
Henceforth each corps had nothing to expect but from its own initiative,
from the resources it might be able to create and the intelligence of
its chiefs.

In default of direction proclamations abounded.

"Let good citizen rise! To the barricades! The enemy is within our
walls. No hesitation. Forward, for the Commune and for liberty. To

"Let Paris bristle up with barricades, and from behind these improvised
ramparts still hurl at her enemies her cry of war, of pride, of
defiance, but also of victory; for Paris with her barricades is

Great words; nothing but words.

_Mid-day._--General Cissey had turned the Ecole Militaire, and thereby
forced its last defenders. The soldiers invaded the Esplanade des
Invalides and entered the Rue Grenelle St. Germain, when L'Ecole
d'Etat-major exploded and put them to flight. Two of our cannon
enfiladed the Rue de l'Université; four gunboats, anchored under the
Pont-Royal, opened fire on the Trocadéro. In the centre, in the eighth
arrondissement, the Versaillese skirmished. At the Batignolles they did
not advance, but their shells harassed the Rue Lévis. We also lost many
men in the Rue Cardinet, where children were fighting furiously.

Malon and Jaclard, who directed this part of the defence, had since
morning in vain applied to Montmartre for reinforcements; so towards one
o'clock they themselves went in search of them. Not one of the
staff-officers could give them the slightest information. The Federals
were wandering about the streets or chatting in small groups. Malon
wanted to take them back with him, but they refused, reserving
themselves, they said, for the defence of their own quarter. The cannon
of the Buttes were mute, being short of cartridges; the Hôtel-de-Ville
had sent only words.

Still there were two generals on the heights, Cluseret and La Cécilia,
the ex-delegate melancholily airing his somnolent incapacity, while La
Cécilia, unknown in this quarter, at once found himself powerless.

_Two o'clock._--The Hôtel-de-Ville had again assumed its grand aspect of
March. On the right the Committee of Public Safety and on the left the
War Office were overrun. The Central Committee was multiplying its
orders and exclaiming against the incapacity of the members of the
Council, though itself incapable of setting forth a single precise idea.
The Committee of Artillery, more beset than ever, could not yet make out
its cannon, did not know to whom to give them, and often refused pieces
for the most important positions.

The delegates of the Congress of Lyons, conducted by MM. Jules Amigues
and J. Larroque, came to offer their intervention, but they had no
mandate, and did not even know whether M. Thiers would admit them. They
were received rather coldly. Besides, many at the Hôtel-de-Ville
believed in victory, and almost rejoiced at the entry of the
Versaillese; for indeed Paris seemed to be rising.

The barricades increased quickly. That of the Rue de Rivoli, which was
to protect the Hôtel-de-Ville, was erected at the entrance of the St.
Jacques Square, at the corner of the Rue St. Denis. Fifty workmen did
the mason-work, while swarms of children brought wheelbarrows full of
earth from the square. This work, several yards deep, six yards high,
with fosses, embrasures, an outwork, as solid as the Florentin redoubt,
which had taken weeks to raise, was finished in a few hours--an example
this of what an intelligent effort at the right time might have done for
the defence of Paris. In the ninth arrondissement, the Rues Auber, De la
Chaussée d'Antin, De Châteaudun, the cross-roads of the Faubourg
Montmartre, Notre Dame de Lorette, De la Trinité, and the Rue des
Martyrs were being unpaved. The large approaches, La Chapelle, Buttes
Chaumont, Belleville, Ménilmontant, the Rue de la Roquette, the
Bastille, the Boulevards Voltaire and Richard Lenoir, the Place du
Château d'Eau, the large boulevards especially from the Porte St. Denis;
and on the left bank the whole length of the Boulevard St. Michel, the
Panthéon, the Rue St. Jacques, the Gobelins, and the principal avenues
of the thirteenth arrondissement were being barricaded. A great many of
these works of defence were never finished.

While Paris was preparing for the last struggle, Versailles was wild
with joy. The Assembly had met at an early hour, and M. Thiers would not
leave to any of his Ministers the glory of announcing the first
butcheries in Paris. His appearance on the tribune was hailed by
ferocious cheers. "The cause of justice, order, humanity, and
civilisation has triumphed," screamed the little man. "The generals who
have conducted the entry into Paris are great men of war. The expiation
will be complete. It will take place in the name of the law, by the law,
with the law." The Chamber understanding this promise of carnage, rose
to a man, and by a unanimous vote, Right, Left, Centre, Clericals,
Republicans, Monarchists, swore that "the Versaillese army and the chief
of the executive power had merited well of the country."[182]

The sitting was at once raised, the deputies rushing off to the Lanterne
de Diogène, Châtillon, and Mont-Valérien, to all the heights whence they
could, as from an immense Colosseum, observe the butchery of Paris
without incurring the least danger. The population of idlers accompanied
them, and on this route of Versailles deputies, courtesans, women of the
world, journalists, functionaries stung by the same craving, sometimes
crammed into the same carriage, displayed before the Prussians and
France the spectacle of a saturnalia of the bourgeoisie.

After eight o'clock the army ceased to advance, save in the eighth
arrondissement, where the barricade before the English Embassy was
turned by the gardens. Our line of the Faubourg St. Germain resisted
from the Seine to the Mont-Parnasse Station, which we were cannonading.

With nightfall the fusillade slackened, but the cannonade still went on.
A red light glared in the Tuileries; the Ministry of Finance was
burning. It had during the whole day received part of the Versaillese
shells, destined for the terrace of the Tuileries, and the papers piled
up in its upper storeys had taken fire. The firemen of the Commune had
at first extinguished this conflagration, interfering with the defence
of the St. Florentin redoubt, but it had soon lit up again, and become

Then began those nights of horror, where, amidst the roaring of the
cannon, by the glimmer of burning houses, men sought each other in pools
of blood. The Paris of the revolt had at length been roused. Her
battalions descended towards the Hôtel-de-Ville headed by bands and the
red flag. Small in number, a battalion perhaps two hundred strong, but
resolute, these Federals marched on in silence; there were seen also,
muskets on their shoulders, those men, devoted to the Social Revolution,
whom personal jealousy had kept at a distance. But in this hour none
thought of such recriminations. Because of the incapacity of the chiefs
ought the soldiers to desert their flag? The Paris of 1871 represented
against Versailles the Social Revolution and the new destinies of the
nation; one must be against or for her despite the faults committed.
Cowards only abstained. All the true revolutionists rose, even those who
had no illusions as to the issue of the struggle, eager to defy death in
the service of their immortal cause.

_Ten o'clock._--We proceeded to the Hôtel-de-Ville. An irritated group
of Federals had just arrested Dombrowski. The general, without any
command since morning, had repaired with his officers to the outposts of
St. Ouen, and believing his rôle terminated, wanted in the night to ride
through the Prussian ranks and gain the frontier. A commander, who was
afterwards shot as a traitor, had incited his men against the general
under the pretext that he was betraying them. Led before the Committee
of Public Safety, Dombrowski indignantly exclaimed, "They say I have
betrayed!" The members of the Committee welcomed him affectionately, and
the incident had no further consequences.

Messengers arrived at the War Office from all the points of the battle.
A great number of guards and officers issued orders and despatches in
the midst of a continual bustle. The inner courts were full of waggons
and carriages, the horses all ready harnessed; munitions were being
taken out or brought in, and not the least sign of discouragement, or
even of anxiety, was visible, but everywhere an almost gay activity.

The streets and boulevards, with the exception of the invaded quarters,
had been lighted as usual. At the entrance of the Faubourg Montmartre
the light ceased abruptly, giving it the appearance of an enormous black
hole. This obscurity was guarded by Federal sentinels, uttering every
now and then their cry, "Passez au large!" Beyond this only a menacing
silence. These shadows moving about in the night seemed to assume
gigantic forms; one fancied oneself haunted by a sinister dream; the
bravest were appalled.

There were nights more noisy, more glaring, more grandiose, when the
conflagrations and the cannonade enveloped Paris, but none of more
lugubrious impress. A night of meditation this, the vigil of battle. We
sought each other in the gloom, spoke low, giving and taking comfort. At
the cross-roads we consulted each other in order to examine our
positions, and then to work! Now for the spade and the pavements! Let
the earth be heaped up where the shells may flatten themselves against
it; let the mattresses thrown from the windows shelter the combatants.
Henceforth there is to be no more rest; let the stones cemented with
hate press against each other like the shoulders of men arrayed for the
battlefield. The enemy has taken us by surprise, defenceless. May he
to-morrow encounter a Saragossa or a Moscow!

Every passer-by was requisitioned. "Come, citizen, lend a hand for the
Republic!" At the Bastille and in the interior boulevards one met crowds
of workers, some digging the earth, others carrying the paving-stones;
children using spades and mattocks as big as themselves. The women
encouraged the men; the delicate hand of the young girl raised the heavy
pickaxe that fell with a sharp sound, emitting fiery sparks. It took an
hour to seriously break through the soil. What matter! they will spend
their night at it. On the Tuesday evening, at the intersection of the
Square St. Jacques and the Boulevard Sebastopol, many _dames de la
halle_ worked for a long time, filling earth sacks and wicker

And these were no longer the traditional redoubts two storeys high. Save
four or five in the Rue St. Honoré and the Rue de Rivoli, the barricades
of May consisted of a few paving-stones hardly a man's height; behind
these sometimes a cannon or a mitrailleuse; and in the midst, wedged in
by two paving-stones, the red flag, the colour of vengeance. Behind
these shreds of ramparts thirty men held regiments in check.

If this general effort had been directed by the least thought of
combination, if Montmartre and the Panthéon had crossed their fires, the
Versaillese army would have melted away in Paris; but the Federals,
without directions, without military knowledge, saw no further than just
their own quarter, or even their own streets; so that instead of 200
strategical solidary barricades, easy to defend with 7,000 or 8,000 men,
hundreds were scattered about which it was impossible to arm
sufficiently. The general mistake was a belief that they would be
attacked from the front; while the Versaillese, thanks to their
numbers, everywhere executed flank movements.

In the evening the Versaillese line extended from the station of the
Batignolles to the extremity of the Railway of the West on the left
bank, passing by the St. Lazare Station, the Pépinière Barracks, the
English Embassy, the Palais de l'Industrie, the Corps Législatif, the
Rue de Bourgogne, the Boulevard des Invalides, and the Mont-Parnasse
Station. To face the invader there were but embryo barricades. If with
one effort he were to break through this line still so weak, he would
surprise the centre quite disarmed. But these 130,000 men did not dare
to. Soldiers and chiefs were afraid of Paris. They fancied the streets
would open, the houses fall upon them; as witness the fable of the
torpedoes, of the mines under the sewers, invented later on to justify
their indecision.[184] On the Monday evening, masters of several
arrondissements, they still trembled, fearful of some terrible surprise.
They needed all the tranquility of the night to recover from their
conquest, and convince themselves that the Committee of Defence, despite
their boasting, had neither foreseen nor prepared anything.


[179] "Seventeen hours were required to get in 130,000 men and our
numerous artillery."--_M. Thiers, Enquête sur le 18 Mars._

[180] "From this unexpected obstruction there resulted a confusion that
lasted till after the passage of the troops, and might have had serious
consequences. If the insurgents had then opened fire upon the Trocadéro,
from the batteries of Montmartre, their shells would have harassed us a
great deal. But the cannon of Montmartre still kept silent. It was only
a little after nine o'clock that they commenced firing; the passage was
then already cleared."--_Vinoy, La Commune_, p. 130.

[181] The first conflagration of the days of May, and the Versaillese
have admitted that they themselves kindled it.--_Vinoy, L'Armistice et
la Commune_, p. 809.

[182] No deputy protested either on this day or after, or declared he
had abstained from voting, neither those of the extreme Left nor those
of the extreme Right. They are then, all of them equally answerable for
this vote.

[183] "At the Place Blanche," wrote G. Maroteau in the _Salut Public_ of
the next day, "there was a barricade perfectly constructed and defended
by a battalion of women, about 120. At the moment when I arrived, a dark
form detached itself from the recess of a courtyard. It was a young girl
with a Phrygian cap on her head, a chassepot in her hand, a
cartridge-box by her side. 'Stand, citizen! no one passes here!' I
stopped astonished, showed my safe-conduct, and the citoyenne allowed me
to go to the foot of the barricade."

[184] Appendix XV.



The defenders of the barricades slept on their paving-stones. The
hostile outposts were on the watch. At the Batignolles the Versaillese
reconnaissance carried off a sentinel. The Federal cried out with all
his might, "Vive la Commune!" and his comrades, thus warned, were able
to put themselves on their guard. He was shot there and then. In like
manner fell D'Assas and Barra.

At two o'clock La Cécilia, accompanied by the members of the Council,
Lefrançais, Vermorel, and Johannard, and the journalists Alphonse
Humbert and G. Maroteau, brought up a reinforcement of 100 men to the
Batignolles. To Malon's reproaches for having left the quarter without
succour the whole day, the General answered, "I am not obeyed."

_Three o'clock._--To the barricades! The Commune is not dead! The fresh
morning air bathes the fatigued faces and revives hope. The enemy's
cannonade along the whole line salutes the break of day. The
artillerists of the Commune, from Mont-Parnasse to the Buttes
Montmartre, which seem awaking, answered as well as they could.

Ladmirault, almost motionless the day before, now launched his men along
the fortifications, taking all the gates from Neuilly to St. Ouen in the
rear. On his right, Clinchant attacked by the same movement all the
barricades of the Batignolles. The Rue Cardinet yielded first, then the
Rues Noblet, Truffaut, La Condamine, and the lower Avenue of Clichy.
Suddenly the gate of St. Ouen opened, and the Versaillese poured into
Paris; it was the Montaudon division, which since evening had been
operating in the exterior. The Prussians had surrendered the neutral
zone, and so, with the help of Bismarck, Clinchant and Ladmirault were
able to take the Buttes by the two flanks.

Nearly surrounded in the mairie of the seventeenth arrondissement, Malon
ordered the retreat on Montmartre, whither a detachment of twenty-five
women, come to offer their services under the conduct of the citoyennes
Dimitrieff and Louise Michel, were also sent.

Clinchant, pursuing his route, was arrested by the barricade of the
Place Clichy. To reduce these badly disposed paving-stones, behind which
hardly fifty men were fighting, required the combined effort of the
Versaillese of the Rue de St. Pétersbourg and their tirailleurs of the
Collége Chaptal. The Federals, having no more shells, charged with
stones and bitumen; their powder exhausted, they fell back upon the Rue
des Carrières, and Ladmirault, master of the St. Ouen Avenue, turned
their barricade by the Montmartre Cemetery. About twenty guards refused
to surrender, and were at once shot by the Versaillese.

In the rear, the quarter Des Epinettes still held out for a time; at
last all resistance ceased, and about nine o'clock the entire
Batignolles belonged to the army.

The Hôtel-de-Ville knew nothing yet of the progress of the troops when
Vermorel rushed thither in search of munitions for Montmartre. As he was
setting out at the head of the waggons he met Ferré, and, with the smile
familiar to him, said, "Well, Ferré, the members of the minority fight."
"The members of the majority will do their duty," answered Ferré.
Generous emulation of these men, who were both devoted to the people,
and who were to die so nobly.

Vermorel could not take his waggons as far as Montmartre, the
Versaillese already investing the heights. Masters of the Batignolles,
they had but to stretch out their hand to seize upon Montmartre. The
Buttes seemed dead; panic had during the night hurried on its underhand
work; the battalions, one after the other, had grown smaller, vanished.
Individuals seen later on in the ranks of the army had stirred
defections, spread false news, and every moment arrested civil and
military chiefs, under the pretext that they were betraying. Only about
a hundred men lined the north side of the hill; a few barricades had
been commenced in the night, but without spirit; the women alone had
shown any ardour.

Cluseret had, according to his usual habit, gone off in a vapour.
Despite his despatches and the promises of the Hôtel-de-Ville, La
Cécilia had received neither reinforcements nor munitions. At nine
o'clock, no longer hearing the cannon of the Buttes, he hurried up, and
found the cannoniers gone. The runaways from the Batignolles arriving at
ten o'clock only brought in panic. The Versaillese might have presented
themselves; there were not 200 combatants there to receive them.

MacMahon, however, only dared attempt the assault with his best troops,
so redoubtable was this position, so great the renown of Montmartre. Two
entire army corps assailed it by the Rues Lepic, Mercadet, and the
Chaussée Clignancourt. From time to time some shots were fired from a
few houses; forthwith frightened columns came to a stand-still and began
regular sieges. These 20,000 men, who completely surrounded Montmartre,
helped by the artillery established on the terre-plein of the enceinte,
took three hours to climb these positions, defended without method by a
few dozen tirailleurs.

At eleven o'clock the cemetery was taken, and shortly after the troops
reached the Château-Rouge. In the environs there were some fusillades,
but the few obstinate men who still fought were soon killed, or withdrew
discouraged at their isolation. The Versaillese, scrambling up to the
Buttes by all the acclivities that lead to them, at mid-day installed
themselves at the Moulin de la Galette, descended by the Place St.
Pierre to the mairie, and occupied the whole of the eighteenth
arrondissement without any resistance.

Thus without a battle, without an assault, without even a protestation
of despair, was this impregnable fortress abandoned, from which a few
hundred resolute men might have kept the whole Versaillese army in
check, and constrained the Assembly to come to terms.

Hardly arrived at Montmartre, the Versaillese staff offered a holocaust
to the manes of Lecomte and Clément-Thomas. Forty-two men, three women,
and four children were conducted to No. 6 in the Rue des Rosiers and
forced to kneel bare-headed before the wall, at the foot of which the
generals had been executed on the 18th March; then they were killed. A
woman, who held her child in her arms, refused to kneel down, and cried
to her companions, "Show these wretches that you know how to die

On the following day these massacres continued. Each batch of prisoners
halted some time before this wall, marked with bullets, and were then
despatched on the slope of the Buttes that overlooks the St. Denis

The Batignolles and Montmartre witnessed the first wholesale massacres.
Every individual wearing a uniform or regulation boots was shot, as a
matter of course, without questions put, without explanations given.
Thus the Versaillese had been assassinating since the morning in the
Square des Batignolles, Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, and at the gate of
Clichy. The Parc Monceaux was their principal slaughter-house in the
seventeenth arrondissement. At Montmartre the centres of massacre were
the Buttes, the Elysée, of which every step was strewn with corpses, and
the exterior boulevards.

A few steps from Montmartre the catastrophe was not known. At the Place
Blanche the women's barricade held out for several hours against
Clinchant's soldiers; they then retreated towards the Pigalle barricade,
which fell at about two o'clock. Its chief was led before a Versaillese
chief of battalion. "Who are you?" asked the officer. "Lévêque, mason,
member of the Central Committee." The Versaillese discharged his
revolver in his face; the soldiers finished him.

On the other bank of the Seine our resistance was more successful. The
Versaillese had been able since morning to occupy the Babylone Barracks
and L'Abbaye-au-Bois, but Varlin stopped them at the cross-roads of the
Croix-Rouge. This cross-road will remain celebrated in the defence of
Paris. All the streets that open into it had been powerfully barricaded,
and this stronghold was only abandoned when fire and shells had reduced
it to a heap of ruins. On the banks of the river, the Rues de
l'Université, St. Dominique, St. Germain, and De Grenelle, the 67th,
135th, 138th, and 147th battalions, supported by the _enfants perdus_
and _les tirailleurs_, resisted obstinately. In the Rue de Rennes and on
the contiguous boulevards the Versaillese exhausted their strength. In
the Rue Vavin, where Lisbonne conducted the defence, the resistance was
prodigious; for two days this advanced sentinel kept back the invasion
from the Luxembourg.

We were less secure on our extreme left. The Versaillese had early in
the day invested the Mont-Parnasse Cemetery, which we held with a
handful of men. Near the restaurant Richefeu, the Federals, allowing the
enemy to approach, unmasked their mitrailleuses; but in vain, for the
Versaillese were numerous enough to surround the few defenders of the
cemetery on all sides, and soon stormed it. From there, passing by the
ramparts of the fourteenth arrondissement, they arrived at the Place St.
Pierre. The fortifications of the Avenue d'Italie and of the Route de
Châtillon, long since carefully prepared, but always against the
ramparts, were taken in the rear by the Chaussée du Maine, and the whole
defence of the cross-roads of the Quatre-Chemins was concentrated round
the church. From the top of the steeple about a dozen Federals of
Montrouge supported the barricade that barred two-thirds of the Chaussée
du Maine, held by thirty men for several hours. At last, their
cartridges exhausted, the tricolor flag was hoisted at the mairie, at
the same hour that it floated above the Buttes Montmartre. Henceforth
the route to the Place d'Enfer was open, and the Versaillese arrived
there after having undergone the fire from the Observatoire, where some
Federals had made a stand.

Behind these lines thus forced other defences were thrown up, thanks to
the care of Wroblewski. The day before, the general, receiving the order
to evacuate the forts, had answered, "Is it treachery or a
misunderstanding? I will not evacuate." Montmartre taken, the general
went to Delescluze, urging him to transfer the defence to the left bank.
The Seine, the forts, the Panthéon, the Bièvre, formed, in his opinion,
a safe citadel, with the open fields for a retreat; a very just
conception this with regular troops, but one cannot at will displace the
heart of an insurrection, and the Federals were more and more bent on
remaining in their own quarters.

Wroblewski returned to his headquarters, assembled the commanders of the
forts, prescribed all the dispositions to be taken for their defence,
and came back to resume the command of the left bank, given him by
earlier decrees. But on sending orders to the Panthéon, he was answered
that Lisbonne commanded there. Wroblewski, undeterred, placed the
section left to him in a state of defence. He installed a battery of
eight pieces and two batteries of four on the Butte-aux-Cailles, a
dominant position between the Panthéon and the forts; he fortified the
Boulevards d'Italie, De l'Hôpital, and De la Gare. His headquarters were
established at the Mairie des Gobelins, and his reserve at the Place
d'Italie, Place Jeanne d'Arc, and at Bercy.

At the other extremities of Paris the fourteenth and twentieth
arrondissements also prepared their defence. The brave Passedouet had
replaced Du Bisson, who still dared to present himself as
_chef-de-légion_ of La Villette. They barricaded the Grande Rue de la
Chapelle behind the Strasbourg Railway, the Rues d'Aubervilliers, De
Flandre, and the canal, so as to form five lines of defence, protected
on the flank by the boulevards and the fortifications. Cannon were
placed in the Rue Riquet at the gasworks, while rampart pieces were
carried by the men on to the Buttes Chaumont and others to the Rue de
Puebla. A battery of six was mounted on the height of the Père Lachaise,
covering Paris with its rumbling reports.

A mute and desolate Paris. As on the day before, the shops remained
closed, and the streets, bleached by the sun, looked empty and menacing.
Estafets riding at full speed, pieces of artillery shifted from their
places, combatants on the march, alone broke this solitude. Cries of
"Open the shutters!" "Draw up the blinds!" alone interrupted this
silence. Two journals, _Le Tribun du Peuple_ and _Le Salut Public_, were
published, notwithstanding the Versaillese shells that were falling into
the printing-office of the Rue Aboukir.

A few men at the Hôtel-de-Ville did their best to attend to details. One
decree authorised the chiefs of barricades to requisition the necessary
implements and victuals; another condemned every house from which
Federals were shot at to be burned. In the afternoon the Committee of
Public Safety issued an appeal to the soldiers:--

"The people of Paris will never believe that you could raise your arms
against them. When they face you your hands will recoil from an act that
would be a veritable fratricide.

"Like us, you too are proletarians. That which you did on the 18th March
you will do again. Come to us, brothers, come to us; our arms are open
to receive you."

The Central Committee at the same time placarded a similar appeal--a
puerile but generous illusion; and on this point the people of Paris
entirely agreed with their mandatories. In spite of the frenzy of the
Assembly, the fusillade of the wounded, the treatment inflicted upon the
prisoners for six weeks, the workingmen did not admit that children of
the people could rend the entrails of that Paris who combated for them.

At three o'clock M. Bonvalet and other members of the _Ligue des Droits
de Paris_ presented themselves at the Hôtel-de-Ville, where some members
of the Council and of the Committee of Public Safety received them. They
bewailed this struggle, proposed to interfere, as they had so
successfully done during the siege, and to carry to M. Thiers the
expression of their sorrow; further, they placed themselves at the
disposition of the Hôtel-de-Ville. "Well, then," they were answered,
"shoulder a gun and go to the barricades!" Before this direct appeal
the League fell back upon the Central Committee, which had the weakness
to listen to them.

There was no question of negotiating in the midst of the battle. The
Versaillese, following up their success at Montmartre, were at this
moment pushing towards the Boulevard Ornano and the Northern Railway
station. At two o'clock the barricades of the Chaussée Clignancourt were
abandoned, and in the Rue Myrrha, by the side of Vermorel, Dombrowski
fell mortally wounded. In the morning Delescluze had told him to try his
best in the neighbourhood of Montmartre; and, without hope, without
soldiers, suspected since the entry of the Versaillese, all Dombrowski
could do was to die. He expired two hours afterwards at the Lariboisière
Hospital. His body was taken to the Hôtel-de-Ville, the men of the
barricades presenting arms as he was carried by. His glorious death had
disarmed suspicion.

Clinchant, thenceforth free on his left, proceeded to the ninth
arrondissement. A column marched down the Rues Fontaine, St. Georges,
and Notre Dame de Lorette, and made a halt at the cross-roads; while
another cannonaded the Rollin Collége before penetrating into the Rue
Trudaine, where it was held in check until the evening.

More in the centre, at the Boulevard Haussmann, Douai pressed close upon
the barricade of the Printemps shop, and with gunshots dislodged the
Federals who occupied the Trinité Church. Five pieces established under
the porch of the church were then directed at the very important
barricade that barred the Chaussée d'Antin at the entrance of the
boulevard. A detachment penetrated into the Rues Châteaudun and
Lafayette, but at the cross-roads of the Faubourg Montmartre a
barricade, a yard high at the utmost, defended by twenty-five men,
arrested them until night.

Douai's right was still powerless against the Rue Royale. There for two
days Brunel sustained a struggle only equalled by that of the
Butte-aux-Cailles, of the Bastille, and the Château d'Eau. His main
barricade, transversely crossing the street, was overlooked by the
neighbouring houses, from which the Versaillese decimated the Federals;
and Brunel, impressed with the importance of the post confided to him,
ordered these murderous houses to be burned down. A Federal obeying him
was struck by a ball in the eye, and came back dying to Brunel's side,
saying, "I am paying with my life for the order you have given me. Vive
la Commune!" All the houses comprised between No. 13 and the Faubourg
St. Honoré were caught in the flames, and the Versaillese, appalled, ran
away, some passing over to the Federals. One of them put on the Parisian
uniform and became Brunel's orderly.

On the right the Boulevard Malesherbes, on the left the terrace of the
Tuileries, which Bergeret occupied since the day before, seconded
Brunel's efforts. The Boulevard Malesherbes, furrowed by shells, was
like a field ploughed up by gigantic shares. The fire of eighty pieces
of artillery at the Quay d'Orsay, Passy, the Champ-de-Mars, the Barrière
de l'Etoile converged on the terrace of the Tuileries and the barricade
St. Florentine. About a dozen Federal pieces bore up against this
shower. The Place de la Concorde, taken between these cross-fires, was
strewn with fragments of fountains and lamp-posts. The statue of Lille
was beheaded, that of Strasbourg pitted by the grapeshot.

On the left bank the Versaillese made their way from house to house. The
inhabitants of the quarter lent their assistance, and from behind their
closed blinds fired on the Federals, who, indignant, forced and set fire
to the treacherous houses. The Versaillese shells had already begun the
conflagration, and the rest of the quarter was soon in flames. The
troops continued to gain ground, occupied the Ministry of War, the
telegraph office, and reached the Bellechasse Barracks and the Rue de
l'Université. The barricades of the quay and the Rue du Bac were
battered down by the shells; the Federal battalions, which for two days
had held out at the Légion d'Honneur, had no longer any retreat but the
quays. At five o'clock they evacuated this unclean place after having
set it on fire.

At six o'clock the barricade of the Chaussée d'Antin was lost to us;
the enemy advancing by the side streets had occupied the Nouvel Opéra,
entirely dismantled, and from the top of the roofs the marine-fusileers
commanded the barricade. Instead of imitating them, of also occupying
the houses, the Federals, there as everywhere else, obstinately kept
behind the barricade.

At eight o'clock the barricade of the Rue Neuve des Capucines, at the
entrance of the Boulevard, gave way under the fire of the pieces of 4
cm. established in the Rue Caumartin. The Versaillese approached the
Place Vendôme.

At all points the army had made decided progress. The Versaillese line,
starting from the Northern Railway station, following the Rues
Rochechouart, Cadet, Drouot, whose mairie was taken, the Boulevard des
Italiens, stretched to the Place Vendôme and the Place de la Concorde,
passed along the Rue du Bac, the Abbaye-au-Bois, and the Boulevard
d'Enfer, ending at the bastion 81. The Place de la Concorde and the Rue
Royale, surrounded on their flanks, stood out like a promontory in the
midst of a tempest. Ladmirault faced La Villette; on his right Clinchant
occupied the ninth arrondissement; Douai presented himself at the Place
Vendôme; Vinoy supported Cissy operating on the left bank. At this hour
hardly one-half of Paris was still held by the Federals.

The rest was given over to massacre. They were still fighting at one end
of a street when the conquered part was already being sacked. Woe to him
who possessed arms or a uniform! Woe to him who betrayed dismay! Woe to
him who was denounced by a political or personal enemy! He was dragged
away. Each corps had its regular executioner, the provost; but to speed
the business there were supplementary provosts in the streets. The
victims were led there--shot. The blind fury of the soldiers encouraged
by the men of order served their hatred and liquidated their debts.
Theft followed massacre. The shops of the tradesmen who had supplied the
Commune, or whom their rival shopkeepers accused, were given over to
pillage; the soldiers smashed their furniture and carried off the
objects of value. Jewels, wine, liqueurs, provisions, linen, perfumery,
disappeared into their knapsacks.

When M. Thiers was apprised of the fall of Montmartre, he believed the
battle over, and telegraphed to the prefects. For six weeks he had not
ceased to announce that, the ramparts taken, the insurgents would fly;
but Paris, contrary to the habits of the men of Sedan and Metz and of
the National Defence, contested street by street, house by house, and
rather than surrender, burned them.

A blinding glare arose at nightfall. The Tuileries were burning, so also
the Légion d'Honneur, the Conseil d'Etat, and the Cour des Comptes.
Formidable detonations were heard from the palace of the kings, whose
walls were falling, its vast cupolas giving way. Flames, now slow, now
rapid as darts, flashed from a hundred windows; the red tide of the
Seine reflected the monuments, thus redoubling the conflagration. Fanned
by an eastern wind, the blazing flames rose up against Versailles, and
cried to the conqueror of Paris that he will no longer find his place
there, and that these monarchical monuments will not again shelter a
monarchy. The Rue du Bac, the Rue du Lille, La Croix-Rouge, dashed
luminous columns into the air; the Rue Royale to St. Sulplice seemed a
wall of fire divided by the Seine. Eddies of smoke clouded all the west
of Paris, and the spiral flames shooting forth from these furnaces
emitted showers of sparks that fell upon the neighbouring quarters.

_Eleven o'clock._--We go to the Hôtel-de-Ville. Sentinels on far
advanced posts made it secure against any surprise; at long intervals a
gaslight flickered in the obscurity; at several barricades there were
torches, and even bivouac fires. That of the St. Jacques Square,
opposite the Boulevard Sebastopol, made of large trees, whose branches
swung to and fro in the wind, muttered and fluttered in the redoubtable

The façade of the Hôtel-de-Ville was reddened by distant flames; the
statues, which the reflection seemed to move, stirred in their niches.
The interior courts were filled with crowds and tumult. Artillery
ammunition waggons, carts, omnibuses, crammed with munitions, rolled off
with a great noise under the vaults. The fêtes of Baron Haussmann awoke
no such sonorous echoes. Life and death, agony and laughter, jostled
each other on these staircases, on every storey, illumined by the same
dazzling light of the gas.

The lower lobbies were encumbered by National Guards rolled up in their
blankets. The wounded lay groaning on their reddened mattresses; blood
was trickling from the litters placed along the walls. A commander was
brought in who no longer presented a human aspect; a ball had passed
through his cheek, carried away the lips, broken the teeth. Incapable of
articulating a sound, this brave fellow still waved a red flag, and
summoned those who were resting to replace him in the combat.

In the notorious chamber of Valentine Haussmann the corpse of Dombrowski
was laid out upon a bed of blue satin. A single taper threw its lurid
light on the heroic soldier. His face, white as snow, was calm, the nose
fine, the mouth delicate, the small fair beard standing out pointed. Two
aides-de-camp seated in the darkened corners watched silently, another
hurriedly sketched the last traits of his general.

The double marble staircase was filled with people coming and going,
whom the sentinels could hardly keep away from the delegate's cabinet.
Delescluze signed orders, mute and wan as a spectre. The anguish of
those later days had absorbed his last vital powers; his voice was only
a death-rattle; the eye and the heart alone lived still in this moribund

Two or three officers calmly prepared the orders, stamped and sent the
despatches; many officers and guards surrounded the table. No speeches,
a little conversation, among the various groups. If hope had waned,
resolution had not grown less.

Who are these officers who have laid aside their uniforms, these members
of the Council, these functionaries who have shaved their beards? What
are they doing here amongst these brave men? Ranvier, meeting two of his
colleagues thus disguised, who during the siege had been among the most
beplumed, apostrophised them, threatening to shoot them if they did not
at once return to their arrondissements.

A great example would not have been useless. From hour to hour all
discipline foundered. At that same moment the Central Committee, which
believed itself invested with power by the abdication of the Council,
launched a manifesto, in which it made conditions: "Dissolution of the
Assembly and of the Commune; the army to leave Paris; the Government to
be provisionally confided to the delegates of the large towns, who will
have a Constituent Assembly elected; mutual amnesty." The ultimatum of a
conqueror. This dream was placarded on a few walls, and threw new
disorder into the resistance.

From time to time some greater clamour arose from the square. A spy was
shot against the barricade of the Victoria Avenue. Some were audacious
enough to penetrate into the most intimate councils.[186] That evening,
at the Hôtel-de-Ville, Bergeret had received the verbal authorisation to
fire the Tuileries, when an individual pretending to be sent by him
asked for this order in writing. He was still speaking when Bergeret
returned. "Who sent you?" said he to the personage. "Bergeret." "When
did you see him?" "Just here, a moment ago."

During this evening, Raoul Rigault, taking orders from himself only, and
without consulting any of his colleagues, repaired to the prison of Ste.
Pélagie, and signified to Chaudey that he was to die. Chaudey protested,
said he was a Republican, and swore that he had not given the order to
fire on the 22nd January. However, he had been at that time the only
authority in the Hôtel-de-Ville. His protestations were of no avail
against Rigault's resolution. Led into the exercise-ground of Ste.
Pélagie, Chaudey was shot, as were also three gendarmes taken prisoners
on the 18th March. During the first siege he had said to some partisans
of the Commune, "The strongest will shoot the others." He died perhaps
for those words.


[185] Appendix XVI.

[186] Appendix XVII.


    "Nos vaillants soldats se conduisent de manière à inspirer la
      plus haute estime, la plus grande admiration à
      l'étranger."--_Discours de M. Thiers, à l'Assemblée
      Nationale le 24 Mai 1871._


The defenders of the barricades, already without reinforcements and
munitions, were now left even without food, and altogether thrown on the
resources of the neighbourhood. Many, quite worn out, went in search of
some nourishment; their comrades, not seeing them return, grew
desperate, while the chiefs of the barricades strained themselves to
keep them back.

At nine o'clock Brunel received the order to evacuate the Rue Royale. He
went to the Tuileries to tell Bergeret that he could still hold out, but
at midnight the Committee of Public Safety again sent him a formal order
to retreat. Forced to abandon the post he had so well defended for two
days, the brave commander first removed his wounded and then his cannon
by the Rue St. Florentin. The Federals followed; when at the top of the
Rue Castiglione, they were assailed by shots.

It was the Versaillese, who, masters of the Rue de la Paix and the Rue
Neuve des Capucines, had invaded the Place Vendôme, entirely deserted,
and by the Hôtel-du-Rhin turned the barricade of the Rue Castiglione.
Brunel's Federals, abandoning the Rue de Rivoli, forced the rails of the
garden, went up the quays, and regained the Hôtel-de-Ville. The enemy
did not dare to pursue them, and only at daybreak occupied the Ministry
of Marine, long since abandoned.

The rest of the night the cannon were silent. The Hôtel-de-Ville had
lost its animation. The Federals slept in the square; in the bureaux the
members of the committees and the officers snatched a few moments of
repose. At three o'clock a staff officer arrived from Notre Dame,
occupied by a detachment of Federals. He came to tell the Committee of
Public Safety that the Hôtel-Dieu harboured eight hundred sick, who
might suffer from the proximity of the struggle, and the Committee
commanded the evacuation of the cathedral in order to save these
unfortunate people.

And now the sun rose, eclipsing the glare of the conflagrations; the day
dawned radiant, but with no ray of hope for the Commune. Paris had no
longer a right wing; her centre was broken; to assume the offensive was
impossible. The prolongation of her resistance could now only serve to
bear witness to her faith.

Early in the morning the Versaillese moved on all points. They pushed
towards the Louvre, the Palais-Royal, the Bank, the Comptoir d'Escompte,
the Montholon Square, the Boulevard Ornano, and the line of the Northern
Railway. From four o'clock they cannonaded the Palais-Royal, round which
desperate battles were being fought. By seven o'clock they were at the
Bank and at the Bourse; thence they descended to St. Eustache, where
they met an obstinate resistance. Many children fought with the men; and
when the Federals were outflanked and massacred, these children had the
honour not to be excepted.

On the left bank the troops with difficulty marched up the quays and all
that part of the sixth arrondissement bordering upon the Seine. In the
centre, the barricade of the Croix-Rouge had been evacuated during the
night, like that of the Rue de Rennes, which thirty men had held for two
days. The Versaillese were then able to enter the Rues d'Assas and
Notre-dame-des-Champs. On the extreme right they reached the Val de
Grace, and advanced against the Panthéon.

At eight o'clock about fifteen members of the Council assembled at the
Hôtel-de-Ville and decided to evacuate it. Two only protested. The third
arrondissement, intersected by narrow and well-barricaded streets,
sheltered the flank of the Hôtel-de-Ville, which defied every attack
from the front and by the quays. Under such conditions of defence to
fall back was to fly, to strip the Commune of the little prestige still
remaining to it; but no more than the days before were they able to
collect two sound ideas. They feared everything, because ignorant of
everything. Already the commander of the Palais Royal had received the
order to evacuate that edifice, after having set it on fire. He had
protested, and declared he could still hold out, but the order was
repeated. Such was the state of bewilderment, that a member proposed a
retreat on Belleville. They might as well abandon the Château d'Eau and
the Bastille at once. As usual, the time was spent in small-talk. The
governor of the Hôtel-de-Ville went backwards and forwards impatient.

Suddenly the flames burst forth from the summit of the belfry; an hour
after the Hôtel-de-Ville was but one glow. The old edifice, witness of
so many perjuries, where the people have so often installed powers that
have afterwards shot them down, now cracked and fell with its true
master. With the noise of the crumbling pavilions, of the toppling
vaults and chimneys, of the dull detonations and the loud explosions,
mingled the sharp reports of the cannon from the large barricade St.
Jacques, that swept the Rue de Rivoli.

The War Office and all the services moved off to the mairie of the
eleventh arrondissement. Delescluze had protested against the desertion
of the Hôtel-de-Ville, and predicted that this retreat would discourage
many combatants.

The next day they left the Imprimerie Nationale, where the _Officiel_ of
the Commune appeared on the 24th for the last time. Like an _Officiel_
that respects itself, it was a day behind time; it contained the
proclamations of the day before and a few details of the battle, but
not beyond the Tuesday morning.

This flight from the Hôtel-de-Ville, cutting the defence in two,
increased the difficulty of the communications. The staff officers who
had not disappeared reached the new headquarters with great trouble;
they were stopped at every barricade and constrained to carry
paving-stones. On producing their despatches pleading urgency, they were
answered, "To-day there are no more epaulettes." The anger they had
inspired for a long time broke out this very morning. In the Rue
Sedaine, near the Place Voltaire, a young officer of the general staff,
the Count de Beaufort, was recognised by the guards of the 166th
battalion, whom he had threatened some days before at the War Office.
Arrested for having tried to violate the orders of the post, Beaufort,
losing his temper, had flung out a menace to purge the battalion. Now,
the day before, near the Madeleine, the battalion had lost sixty men,
and believed in a revenge on the part of Beaufort. This officer was
arrested and conducted before a court-martial, which installed itself in
a shop of the Boulevard Voltaire. Beaufort produced such certificates
that the accusation was abandoned. Nevertheless, the judges decided that
he was to serve in the battalion as a simple guard. Some of those
present objected and named him captain. He came out triumphant. The
crowd, ignorant of his explanation, grumbled on seeing him free. A guard
rushed at him, and Beaufort was imprudent enough to draw out his
revolver. He was immediately seized and thrown back into the shop. The
chief of the general staff did not dare to come to the rescue of his
officer. Delescluze hurried up, asked for a respite, said that Beaufort
should be judged; but the crowd would hear of nothing, and it was
necessary to yield in order to prevent a terrible affray. Beaufort,
conducted to the open space situated behind the mairie, was shot.

Close by this outburst of fury, at the Père Lachaise, Dombrowski was
receiving the last honours. His corpse had been transported thither in
the night, and during the passage to the Bastille a touching scene had
taken place. The Federals of these barricades had stopped the cortège
and placed the corpse at the foot of the July column; some men, torches
in their hands, formed into a circle, and all the Federals, one after
the other, came to place a last kiss on the brow of the general, while
the drums beat a salute. The body, enveloped in a red flag, was then put
into the coffin. Vermorel, the general's brother, his aides-de-camp, and
about 200 guards were standing up bareheaded. "There is he," cried
Vermorel, "who was accused of treachery! One of the first, he has given
his life for the Commune. And we, what are we doing here instead of
imitating him?" He went on stigmatising cowardice and panics. His
speech, usually intricate, now flowed from him, heated by passion, like
molten metal. "Let us swear to leave here only to seek death!" This was
his last word; he was to keep it. The cannon a few steps off had at
intervals covered his voice; few of the men present but shed tears.

Happy those who may have such funerals! Happy those buried during the
battle saluted by their cannon, wept over by their friends.

At that same moment the Versaillese agent who had flattered himself he
could corrupt Dombrowski was being shot. Towards mid-day the
Versaillese, vigorously pushing their attack on the left bank, had
stormed the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Institute, the Mint, which its
director, Camélinat, left only at the last minute. On the point of being
shut up in the Ile Notre Dame, Ferré had given the order to evacuate the
Prefecture of Police and to destroy it. The 450 prisoners arrested for
slight offences were, however, first set at liberty; one only, Vaysset,
was retained and shot on the Pont-Neuf before the statue of Henry IV.
Just before his death he uttered these strange words, "You will answer
for my death to the Comte de Fabrice."[187]

The Versaillese, neglecting the Prefecture, entered the Rue Tarranes and
the contiguous streets. They were held in check for two hours at the
barricade of the Place de l'Abbaye, which the inhabitants of the
quarter helped to outflank. Eighteen Federals were shot. More to the
right the troops penetrated into the Place St. Sulpice, where they
occupied the mairie of the sixth arrondissement; thence they entered the
Rue St. Sulpice on one side, and on the other penetrated by the Rue de
Vaugirard into the garden of the Luxembourg. After two days of struggle
the brave Federals of the Rue Vavin fell back, and on their retreat blew
up the powder-magazine of the Luxembourg garden. The commotion for a
moment suspended the combat. The Palace of the Luxembourg was not
defended. Some soldiers crossed the garden, broke down the rails facing
the Rue Soufflot, traversed the boulevard, and surprised the first
barricade in that street.

Three barricades were raised before the Panthéon; the first at the
entrance of the Rue Soufflot--it had just been taken; the second in the
centre; the third extending from the mairie of the fifth arrondissement
to the Ecole de Droit. Varlin and Lisbonne, hardly escaped from the
Croix-Rouge, had hastened up again to face the enemy. Unfortunately the
Federals would listen to no chief, remained on the defensive, and,
instead of attacking the handful of soldiers exposed at the entrance of
the Rue Soufflot, gave the reinforcements time to arrive.

The bulk of the Versaillese reached the Boulevard St. Michel by the Rues
Racine and De l'Ecole de Médecine, which women had defended. The St.
Michel Bridge ceased firing for want of munitions, so that the soldiers
were able to pass over the boulevard in a body, and got as far as the
Place Maubert, while at the same time on the right they remounted the
Rue Mouffetard. At four o'clock the height Ste. Geneviève, well-nigh
abandoned, was invaded by all its slopes and its few defenders
dispersed. Thus the Panthéon, like Montmartre, fell almost without a
struggle. As at Montmartre, too, the massacres commenced immediately.
Forty prisoners were shot one after the other in the Rue St. Jacques,
under the eyes and by the orders of a colonel.

Rigault was killed in this neighbourhood. The soldiers seeing a Federal
officer knocking at the door of a house in the Rue Gay-Lussac fired
without hitting him. The door opened and Rigault went in. The soldiers
followed at full speed, rushed into the house, seized the landlord, who
proved his identity, and hastened to deliver up Rigault. The soldiers
were dragging him to the Luxembourg, when, in the Rue Royal-Collard, a
Versaillese staff colonel met the escort, and asked the name of the
prisoner. Rigault bravely answered, "Vive la Commune! Down with
assassins!" He was immediately thrown against a wall and shot. May this
courageous end be counted to him!

When the fall of the Panthéon, so valiantly defended in June, 1848,
became known in the mairie of the eleventh arrondissement, they at once
cried out against traitors; but what then had the Council and the
Committee of Public Safety done for the defence of this capital post? At
the mairie, as at the Hôtel-de-Ville, they were deliberating.

At two o'clock the members of the Council, of the Central Committee,
superior officers, and the chiefs of the services were assembled in the
library. Delescluze spoke first, amidst a profound silence, for the
least whisper would have covered his dying voice. He said all was not
lost; that they must make a great effort, and hold out to the last.
Cheers interrupted him. He called upon each one to state his opinion. "I
propose," said he, "that the members of the Commune, engirded with their
scarfs, shall make a review of all the battalions that can be assembled
on the Boulevard Voltaire. We shall then at their head proceed to the
points to be conquered."

The idea appeared grand, and transported those present. Never since the
sitting when he had said that certain delegates of the people would know
how to die at their post, had Delescluze so profoundly moved all hearts.
The distant fusillade, the cannon of the Père Lachaise, the confused
clamours of the battalions surrounding the mairie, blended with, and at
times drowned his voice. Behold, in the midst of this defeat, this old
man upright, his eyes luminous, his right hand raised defying despair,
these armed men fresh from the battle suspending their breath to listen
to this voice which seemed to ascend from the tomb. There was no scene
more solemn in the thousand tragedies of that day.

There was a superabundance of most vigorous resolutions. Open on the
table lay a large case of dynamite; an imprudent gesture might explode
the Mairie. They spoke of cutting off the bridges, of upheaving the
sewers. What was the use of this tall talking? Very different munitions
were needed now. Where is the engineer-in-chief who had said that at his
bidding an abyss would open and swallow up the enemy? He is gone. Gone
too the chief of the general staff. Since the execution of Beaufort, he
has felt an ill wind blowing for his epaulettes. More motions were made,
and motions will still be made to the end. The Central Committee
condescended to declare that it would subordinate itself to the
Committee of Public Safety. It seemed settled at last that the chief of
the 11th legion was to group all the Federals who had taken refuge in
the eleventh arrondissement; perhaps he might succeed in forming the
columns of which Delescluze had spoken.

The Delegate at War then visited the defences. Solid preparations were
being made at the Bastille. In the Rue St. Antoine, at the entrance of
the place, a barricade provided with three pieces of artillery was being
finished; another at the entrance of the faubourg covered the Rues de
Charenton and De la Rouqette; but here, as everywhere else, the flanks
were not guarded. Cartridges, shells, were piled up along the houses,
exposed to all projectiles. The approaches to the eleventh
arrondissement were hastily armed, and at the intersection of the
Boulevards Voltaire and Richard-Lenoir a barricade was being thrown up
with casks, pavements, and large bales of paper. This work, inaccessible
from the front, was also to be turned. Before it, at the entrance of the
Boulevards Voltaire, Place du Château d'Eau, a wall of pavement two
yards high was raised. Behind this mortal rampart, assisted by two
pieces of cannon, the Federals for twenty-four hours stopped all the
Versaillese columns debouching on the Place du Château d'Eau. On the
right, the bottom of the Rues Oberkampf, D'Angoulême, of the Faubourg du
Temple, the Rue Fontaine-au-Roi, and the Avenue des Amandiers were
already on the defensive. Higher up, in the tenth arrondissement,
Brunel, arrived that same morning from the Rue Royale, was again to the
fore, like Lisbonne, like Varlin, eager for new perils. A large
barricade cut off the intersection of the Boulevards Magenta and
Strasbourg; the Rue du Château d'Eau was barred, and the works of the
Porte St. Martin and St. Denis, at which they had worked day and night,
were filling with combatants.

Towards ten o'clock the Versaillese had been able to gain possession of
the Northern Railway station by turning the Rue Stephenson and the
barricades of the Rue de Dunkerque; but the Strasbourg Railway, the
second line of defence of La Villette, withstood their shock, and our
artillery harassed them greatly. On the Buttes Chaumont, Ranvier, who
directed the defence of these quarters, had established three howitzers
of 12 cm., two pieces of 7 near the Temple de la Sybille, and two pieces
of 7 on the lower hill, while five cannon enfiladed the Rue Puebla and
protected the Rotonde. At the Carrières d'Amérique there were two
batteries of three pieces; the pieces of the Père Lachaise fired
incessantly at the invaded quarters, seconded by cannon of large calibre
at the bastion 24.

The ninth arrondissement filled with fusillades. We lost much ground in
the Faubourg Poissonnière. Despite their success in the Halles, the
Versaillese were not able to get into the third arrondissement,
sheltered by the long arm of the Boulevard Sébastopol, and we commanded
the Rue Turbigo by the Prince Eugène Barracks. The second
arrondissement, almost totally occupied, still held out on the banks of
the Seine; from the Pont-Neuf the barricades of the Avenue Victoria and
Quai de Gèvres resisted till night. Our gunboats having been abandoned,
the enemy seized and re-armed them.

The only success of our defence was at the Butte aux Cailles, where,
under the impulsion of Wroblewski, it changed into the offensive.
During the night the Versaillese had examined our positions, and at
daybreak they mounted to the assault. The Federals did not wait for
them, and rushed forward to meet them. Four times the Versaillese were
repulsed, four times they returned; four times they retreated, and the
soldiers, discouraged, no longer obeyed their officers.

Thus La Villette and the Butte aux Cailles, the two extremities of our
defence, kept their ground; but what gaps all along the line! Of Paris,
all theirs on Sunday, the Federals now only possessed the eleventh,
twelfth, nineteenth, and twentieth arrondissements, and a part only of
the third, fifth, and thirteenth.

On that day the massacres took that furious flight which in a few hours
left St. Bartholomew's Day far behind. Till then only the Federals or
the people denounced had been killed; now the soldiers knew neither
friend nor foe. When the Versaillese fixed his eye upon you, you must
die; when he searched a house, nothing escaped him. "These are no longer
soldiers accomplishing a duty," said a conservative journal, _La
France_. And indeed these were hyenas, thirsting for blood and pillage.
In some places it sufficed to have a watch to be shot. The corpses were
searched,[188] and the correspondents of foreign newspapers called those
thefts the last perquisition. And the same day M. Thiers had the
effrontery to tell the Assembly: "Our valiant soldiers conduct
themselves in such a manner as to inspire foreign countries with the
highest esteem and admiration."

Then, too, was invented that legend of the petroleuses, which, born of
fear and propagated by the press, cost hundreds of unfortunate women
their lives. The rumour was spread that furies were throwing burning
petroleum into the cellars. Every woman badly dressed, or carrying a
milk-can, a pail, an empty bottle, was pointed out as a petroleuse, her
clothes torn to tatters, she was pushed against the nearest wall, and
killed with revolver-shots. The monstrously idiotical side of the legend
is that the petroleuses were supposed to operate in the quarters
occupied by the army.

The fugitives from the invaded quarters brought the news of these
massacres to the Mairie of the eleventh arrondissement. There, within
smaller compass and more menacing, reigned the same confusion as at the
Hôtel-de-Ville. The narrow courts were full of waggons, cartridges, and
powder; every step of the principal staircase was occupied by women
sewing sacks for the barricades. In the Salle des Mariages, whither
Ferré had removed the office of Public Safety, the delegate, assisted by
two secretaries, gave orders, signed free passes, questioned the people
brought to him with the greatest calm, and pronounced his decisions in a
polite, soft, and low voice. Farther on, in the rooms occupied by the
War Office, some officers and chiefs of services received and expedited
despatches; some of them, as at the Hôtel-de-Ville, doing their duty
with perfect sangfroid. At this hour certain men revealed extraordinary
strength of character, especially among the secondary actors of the
movement. They felt that all was lost, that they were about to die,
perhaps even at the hands of their own people, for the fever of
suspicion had reached its utmost degree of paroxysm; yet they remained
in the furnace, their hearts calm, their minds lucid. Never had a
Government, with the exception of that of the National Defence, more
resources, more intelligence, more heroism at its disposal than the
Council of the Commune; never was there one so inferior to its electors.

At half-past seven a great noise was heard before the prison of La
Roquette, where the day before the three hundred hostages, detained
until then at Mazas, had been transported. Amidst a crowd of guards,
exasperated at the massacres, stood a delegate of the Public Safety
Commission, who said, "Since they shoot our men, six hostages shall be
executed. Who will form the platoon?" "I! I!" was cried from all sides.
One advanced and said, "I avenge my father;" another, "I avenge my
brother." "As for me," said a guard, "they have shot my wife." Each one
brought forward his right to vengeance. Thirty men were chosen and
entered the prison.

The delegate looked over the jail register, pointed out the Archbishop
Darboy, the President Bonjean, the banker Jecker, the Jesuits Allard,
Clerc, and Ducoudray; at the last moment Jecker was replaced by the Curé

They were taken to the exercise-ground. Darboy stammered out, "I am not
the enemy of the Commune. I have done all I could. I have written twice
to Versailles." He recovered a little when he saw death was inevitable.
Bonjean could not keep on his legs. "Who condemns us?" said he. "The
justice of the people." "Oh, this is not the right one," replied the
president. One of the priests threw himself against the sentry-box and
uncovered his breast. They were led further on, and, turning a corner,
met the firing-party. Some men apostrophised them; the delegate at once
ordered silence. The hostages placed themselves against the wall, and
the officer of the platoon said to them, "It is not we whom you must
accuse of your death, but the Versaillese, who are shooting the
prisoners." He then gave the signal and the guns were fired. The
hostages fell back in one line, at an equal distance from each other.
Darboy alone remained standing, wounded in the head, one hand raised. A
second volley laid him by the side of the others.[189]

The blind justice of revolutions punishes in the first-comers the
accumulated crimes of their caste.

At eight o'clock the Versaillese closed in upon the barricade of the
Porte St. Martin. Their shells had long since set the theatre on fire,
and the Federals, pressed by this conflagration, were obliged to fall

That night the Versaillese bivouacked in front of the Strasbourg
Railway, the Rue St. Denis, the Hôtel-de-Ville (occupied towards nine
o'clock by Vinoy's troops), the Ecole Polytechnique, the Madelonnettes,
and the Monsouris Park. They presented a kind of fan, of which the fixed
point was formed by the Pont-au-Change, the right side by the
thirteenth arrondissement, the left by the streets of the Faubourg St.
Martin and the Rue de Flandre, the arc by the fortifications. The fan
was about to close at Belleville, which formed the centre.

Paris continued to burn furiously. The Porte St. Martin, the St.
Eustache Church, the Rue Royale, the Rue de Rivoli, the Tuileries, the
Palais-Royal, the Hôtel-de-Ville, the Théâtre-Lyrique, the left bank
from the Légion d'Honneur up to the Palais de Justice and the Prefecture
de Police, stood out bright red in the darkness of night. The caprices
of the fire displayed a blazing architecture of arches, cupolas,
spectral edifices. Great volumes of smoke, clouds of sparks flying into
the air, attested formidable explosions; every minute stars lit up and
died out again in the horizon. These were the cannon of the fort of
Bicêtre, of the Père Lachaise, and the Buttes Chaumont, which fired on
the invaded quarters. The Versaillese batteries answered from the
Panthéon, the Trocadéro, and Montmartre. Now the reports followed each
other at regular intervals; now there was a continuous thunder along the
whole line. They aimed at random, blindly, madly. The shells often
exploded in the midst of their career; the whole town was enveloped in a
whirl of flame and smoke.

What men this handful of combatants, who, without chiefs, without hope,
without retreat, disputed their last pavements as though they implied
victory! The hypocritical reaction has charged them with the crime of
incendiarism, as if in war fire were not a legitimate arm; as if the
Versaillese shells had not set fire to at least as many edifices as
those of the Federals; as if the private speculation of certain men of
order had not its share in the ruins.[190] And that same bourgeois who
spoke of "burning everything"[191] before the Prussians, calls this
people scoundrels because they preferred to bury themselves in the
ruins rather than abandon their faith, their property, their families,
to a coalition of despots a thousand times more cruel and more lasting
than the foreigner.

At eleven o'clock two officers entered Delescluze's room and informed
him of the execution of the hostages. He listened to the recital without
ceasing to write, and then only asked, "How did they die?" When the
officers were gone, Delescluze turned to the friend who was working with
him, and, hiding his face in his hands, "What a war!" cried he, "what a
war!" But he knew revolutions too well to lose himself in bootless
reflections, and, mastering his emotion, he exclaimed, "We shall know
how to die!"

During the whole night despatches succeeded each other without
intermission, all demanding cannon and men under the threat of
abandoning such or such a position. But where to find cannon? And men
began to be as rare as the bronze.


[187] One of the commanders of the German troops.

[188] Appendix XVIII.

[189] At half-past eight o'clock in the Mairie of the eleventh
arrondissement the delegate Genton made this recital, which we heard,
and reproduce verbatim.

[190] Appendix XIX.

[191] "Burn everything! I have heard these words from the most wise, the
most virtuous men."--_Jules Favre, Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p.
42. "Rather Moscow than Sedan," wrote during the first siege one of
these wise and virtuous men--M. Jules Simon.



A few thousand men could not indefinitely hold a line of battle several
miles long. When night had set in, many Federals abandoned their
barricades in order to snatch a little rest. The Versaillese, who were
on the look-out, took possession of their defences, and the glimmering
of dawn saw the tricolor where on the eve had floated the red flag.

In the darkness the Federals evacuated the greater part of the tenth
arrondissement, whose artillery pieces were transported to the Château
d'Eau. Brunel and the brave _pupilles de la Commune_ still stood their
ground in the Rue Magnan and on the Quay Jemappes, the troops holding
the top of the Boulevard Magenta.

On the left bank, the Versaillese erected batteries at the Place
d'Enfer, the Luxembourg, and the bastion 81. More than fifty cannon and
mitrailleuses were levelled at the Butte aux Cailles; for, despairing of
taking it by assault, Cissey wished to crush it with his artillery.
Wroblewski, on his side, did not remain inactive. Besides the 175th and
176th battalions, he had under his command the legendary 101st, which
was to the troops of the Commune what the 32nd brigade had been to the
army of Italy. Since the 3rd April the 101st had not rested. Day and
night, their guns hot, they had roamed about the trenches, the
villages, the fields; the Versaillese of Neuilly, of Asnières, ten times
fled before them. They had taken three cannon from them, which, like
faithful mastiffs, followed them everywhere. All citizens of the
thirteenth arrondissement and the Mouffetard quarter, undisciplined,
undisciplinable, wild, rough, their clothes and flag torn, obeying only
one order, that to march forward, mutineering when inactive, when hardly
out of fire rendering it necessary to plunge them into it again.
Sérizier commanded, or rather accompanied them; for indeed their rage
was their only commander. While at the front they attempted surprises,
seized outposts, kept the soldiers in alarm. Wroblewski, uncovered on
his right since the taking of the Panthéon, secured his communications
with the Seine by a barricade on the Bridge of Austerlitz, and furnished
the Place Jeanne d'Arc with cannon, in order to check the troops who
might venture along the railway station.

That day M. Thiers dared to telegraph to the provinces that Marshal
MacMahon had just, for the last time, summoned the Federals to
surrender. This was an odious lie added to so many others. Like
Cavaignac in 1848, M. Thiers, on the contrary, wanted to prolong the
battle. He knew that his shells were setting Paris on fire, that the
massacre of the prisoners, of the wounded, would fatally entail that of
the hostages. But what cared he for the fate of a few priests and a few
gendarmes? What cared the bourgeoisie if it triumphed amidst ruins--if
on these ruins it could write, "Paris waged war with the privileged;
Paris is no more!"

The Hôtel-de-Ville and the Panthéon in the power of the troops, their
whole efforts concentrated upon the Château d'Eau, the Bastille, and the
Butte aux Cailles. At four o'clock Clinchant resumed his march towards
the Château d'Eau. One column, setting out from the Rue Paradis, went up
the Rues du Château d'Eau and De Bondy; another advanced against the
barricade of the Boulevards Magenta and Strasbourg; while a third from
the Rue des Jeuneurs pushed on between the boulevards and the Rue
Turbigo. The corps Douay on the right supported this movement, and
endeavoured to remount the third arrondissement by the Rues Charlot and
De Saintonge. Vinoy advanced towards the Bastille by the small streets
that abut upon the Rue St. Antoine, the quays of the right and of the
left banks. Cissey, with more modest strategy, cannonaded the Butte aux
Cailles, before which his men had so often turned tail.

Painful scenes were enacted in the forts. Wroblewski, whose left wing
was covered by them, relied for their preservation upon the energy of
the member of the Council who had assumed the functions of delegate. The
evening before the commander of Montrouge had abandoned that fort and
had retreated to Bicêtre with his garrison. The fort of Bicêtre did not
hold out much longer. The battalions declared that they wanted to return
to the town in order to defend their quarters, and the delegate, in
spite of his threats, was unable to retain them; so, after having spiked
their guns, the whole garrison returned to Paris. The Versaillese
occupied the two evacuated forts, and there at once erected batteries
against the fort of Ivry and the Butte aux Cailles.

The general attack on the Butte did not begin till mid-day. The
Versaillese followed the ramparts as far as the Avenue d'Italie and the
Route de Choisy, with the view of making sure of the Place d'Italie,
which they attacked from the side of the Gobelins. The Avenues d'Italie
and De Choisy were defended by powerful barricades which they could not
dream of forcing; but that of the Boulevard St. Marcel, protected on one
side by the conflagration of the Gobelins, could be turned by the
numerous gardens intersecting this quarter, and the Versaillese
succeeded in doing this. They first took possession of the Rue des
Cordillières St. Marcel, where twenty Federals who refused to surrender
were massacred, and then entered the gardens. For three hours a long and
obstinate fusillade enveloped the Butte aux Cailles, battered down by
the Versaillese cannon, six times as numerous as Wroblewski's.

The garrison of Ivry arrived towards one o'clock. On leaving the fort
they had set fire to a mine which sprung two bastions. Soon after the
Versaillese penetrated into the abandoned fort, and then there was no
struggle, as M. Thiers tried to make it appear in one of those bulletins
in which he very cleverly intermingled truth and falsehood.

Towards ten o'clock on the right bank the Versaillese reached the
barricade of the Faubourg St. Denis, near the St. Lazare prison,
outflanked and shot seventeen Federals.[193] Thence they went to occupy
the St. Laurent barricade at the junction of the Boulevard Sébastopol,
erected batteries against the Château d'Eau, and by the Rue des
Récollets gained the Quay Valmy. On the night, their debouching on the
Boulevard St. Martin was retarded by the Rue de Lanery, against which
they fired from the Ambigu-Comique Théatre. In the third arrondissement
they were stopped in the Rue Meslay, Rue Nazareth, Rue du Vert-Bois, Rue
Charlot, Rue de Saintonge. The second arrondissement, invaded from all
sides, was still disputing its Rue Montorgueuil Nearer the Seine, Vinoy
succeeded in entering the Grenier d'Abondance by circuitous streets, and
in order to dislodge him the Federals set fire to this building, which
overlooks the Bastille.

_Three o'clock._--The Versaillese invaded the thirteenth arrondissement
more and more. Their shells falling upon the prison of the Avenue
d'Italie, the Federals evacuated it, at the same time taking out the
prisoners, amongst whom were the Dominicans of Arcueil, who had been
brought back to Paris with the garrison of Bicêtre. The sight of these
men, doubly odious, exasperated the combatants, whose guns, so to say,
spontaneously went off, and a dozen of the apostles of the Inquisition
fell under the bullets at the moment they were running away by the
Avenue. All the other prisoners were respected.

Since the morning Wroblewski had received the order to fall back upon
the eleventh arrondissement. He persisted in holding out, and had
shifted the centre of his resistance a little further to the rear, to
the Place Jeanne d'Arc. But the Versaillese, masters of the Avenue des
Gobelins, made their junction with the columns of the Avenues d'Italie
and Choisy in the thirteenth arrondissement. One of their detachments
continuing to file along the rampart, reached the embankment of the
Orleans Railway, and the red-coats were already showing themselves on
the Boulevard St. Marcel. Wroblewski, almost hemmed in on all sides, was
at last forced to consent to a retreat. Moreover, the subaltern chiefs
had, like their general, received the order to fall back; and so,
protected by the fire of the Austerlitz Bridge, the able defender of the
Butte aux Cailles passed the Seine in good order with his cannon and a
thousand men. A certain number of Federals, who obstinately remained
behind in the thirteenth arrondissement, were surrounded and taken

The Versaillese did not dare to disturb Wroblewski's retreat, although
they held part of the Boulevard St. Marcel, the Orleans Station, and
their gunboats were ascending the Seine. The latter were delayed for a
moment at the entrance of the St. Martin's Canal, but putting on full
steam, they overcame the obstacle, and in the evening lent assistance in
the attack on the eleventh arrondissement.

The whole left bank now belonged to the enemy; the Bastille and the
Château d'Eau became the centre of the combat.

In the Boulevard Voltaire might now be seen all the true-hearted men who
had not perished, or whose presence was not indispensable in their
quarters. One of the most active was Vermorel, who during the whole
struggle showed a courage composed at once of fire and coolness. On
horseback, his red scarf tied round him, he rode from barricade to
barricade, encouraging the men, fetching and bringing reinforcements. At
the Mairie another meeting was held towards twelve o'clock. Twenty-two
members of the Council were present; about ten more were defending
their arrondissements, the others had disappeared. Arnold explained that
the evening before, the secretary of Mr. Washburne, the ambassador of
the United States, had come to offer the mediation of the Germans. The
Commune, he said, had now only to send commissaries to Vincennes in
order to regulate the conditions of an armistice. The secretary,
introduced to the meeting, renewed this declaration, and the discussion
began. Delescluze showed great reluctance to accept this plan. What
motive induced the foreigner to intervene? To put an end to the
conflagration and preserve their guarantee, he was answered. But their
guarantee was the Versaillese Government, whose triumph was no longer
doubtful at this moment. Others gravely asserted that the inveterate
defence of Paris had inspired the Prussian with admiration. No one asked
whether this insensate proposition did not hide some snare; if the
pretended secretary were not a simple spy. They clung like drowning men
to this last chance of salvation. Arnold even set forth the basis of an
armistice similar to that of the Central Committee. Four of the members
present, and amongst them Delescluze, were charged to accompany the
American secretary to Vincennes.

At three o'clock they reached the gate of Vincennes, but the commissary
of police refused to let them pass. They showed their scarfs, their
cards of members of the Council. The commissary insisted upon a
safe-conduct from the Commission of Public Safety. While the discussion
was going on some Federals came up. "Where are you going?" said they.
"To Vincennes." "Why?" "On a mission." A painful controversy ensued. The
Federals thought the members of the Council wanted to abscond, and they
were even about to ill-use them, when some one recognised Delescluze.
His name saved the others; but the commissary still insisted upon a

One of the delegates run off to the Mairie of the eleventh
arrondissement to procure it, but, even on Ferré's order, the guards
refused to lower the drawbridge. Delescluze addressed them, said that
the common weal of all was at stake; but prayers and threats proved
alike unable to overcome the idea of a defection. Delescluze came back
shivering all over. For one moment he had been suspected of cowardice;
this was to him a death-blow.

Before the mairie he found a crowd shouting at some flags, surmounted by
eagles, which had just, they said, been taken from the Versaillese.
Wounded were being brought from the Bastille. Mademoiselle Dimitrieff,
wounded herself, supported Frankel, wounded at the barricade of the
Faubourg St. Antoine. Wroblewski just arriving from the Butte aux
Cailles, Delescluze offered him the command-in-chief. "Have you a few
thousand resolute men?" asked Wroblewski. "A few hundred at most,"
answered the delegate. Wroblewski could not accept any responsibility of
command under such unequal conditions, and continued to fight as a
simple soldier. He was the only general of the Commune who had showed
the qualities of a chef-de-corps. He always asked to have those
battalions sent him which everybody else declined, undertaking to
utilise them.

The attack was coming nearer and nearer the Château d'Eau. This place,
constructed with the object of checking the faubourgs, and opening into
eight large avenues, had not been really fortified. The Versaillese,
masters of the Folies-Dramatiques Théatre and of the Rue du Château
d'Eau, attacked it by turning the Prince Eugène Barracks. House by house
they tore the Rue Magnan from the _pupilles de la Commune_. Brunel,
after facing the enemy for four days, fell wounded in the thigh. The
_pupilles_ carried him away on a litter across the Place du Château
d'Eau amidst a shower of bullets.

From the Rue Magnan the Versaillese soon reached the barracks, and the
Federals, too few in number to defend this vast monument, had to
evacuate it.

The fall of this position uncovered the Rue Turbigo, thus enabling the
Versaillese to occupy the whole upper part of the third arrondissement,
and to surround the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. After a rather
long struggle the Federals abandoned the barricade of the Conservatoire,
leaving behind them a loaded mitrailleuse. A woman also remained. As
soon as the soldiers were within range she discharged the mitrailleuse
at them.

The barricades of the Boulevards Voltaire and Dejazet's Théâtre had
henceforth to sustain the whole fire of the Prince Eugène Barracks, the
Boulevard Magenta, the Boulevard St. Martin, the Rue du Temple, and the
Rue Turbigo. Behind their fragile shelter the Federals gallantly
received this avalanche. How many men have been called heroes who never
showed a hundredth part of this simple courage, without any stage
effects, without a history, which shone forth during these days in a
thousand places in Paris! At the Château d'Eau a young girl of nineteen,
rosy and charming, with black, curling hair, dressed as a marine
fusileer, fought desperately a whole day. At the same place a lieutenant
was killed in front of the barricade; a child of fifteen, Dauteuille,
went to pick up the képi of the dead man in the thick of the bullets,
and brought it back amidst the cheers of his companions.

For in the battle of the streets, as in the open field, the children
proved themselves as brave as the men. At a barricade of the Faubourg du
Temple the most indefatigable gunner was a child. The barricade taken,
all its defenders were shot, and the child's turn also came. He asked
for three minutes' respite; "so that he could take his mother, who lived
opposite, his silver watch, _in order that she might at least not lose
everything_." The officer, involuntarily moved, let him go, not thinking
to see him again; but three minutes after the child cried, "Here I am!"
jumped on to the pavement, and nimbly leant against the wall near the
corpses of his comrades. Paris will never die as long as she brings
forth such people.

The Place du Château d'Eau was ravaged as by a cyclone. The walls
crumbled beneath the shells and bombs; enormous blocks were thrown up;
the lions of the fountains perforated or overthrown, the basin
surmounting it shattered. Fire burst out from twenty houses. The trees
were leafless, and their broken branches hung like limbs all but parted
from the main body. The gardens, turned up, sent forth clouds of dust.
The invisible hand of death alighted upon each stone.

At a quarter to seven, near the Mairie of the eleventh arrondissement,
we saw Delescluze, Jourde, and about a hundred Federals marching in the
direction of the Château d'Eau. Delescluze wore his ordinary dress,
black hat, coat, and trousers, his red scarf, little conspicuous as was
his wont, tied round his waist. Without arms, he lent on a cane.
Apprehensive of some panic at the Château d'Eau, we followed the
delegate. Some of us stopped at the St. Ambroise Church to get arms. We
then met a merchant from Alsace, who, exasperated at those who had
betrayed his country, had been fighting for five days, and had just been
severely wounded; farther on, Lisbonne, who, like Brunel, having too
often defied death, had at last fallen at the Château d'Eau; he was
being brought back almost dead; and finally, Vermorel, wounded by the
side of Lisbonne, whom Theisz and Jaclard were carrying off on a litter,
leaving behind him large drops of blood. We thus remained a little
behind Delescluze. At about eighty yards from the barricade the guards
who accompanied him kept back, for the projectiles obscured the entrance
of the boulevard.

Delescluze still walked forward. Behold the scene; we have witnessed it;
let it be engraved in the annals of history. The sun was setting. The
old exile, unmindful whether he was followed, still advanced at the same
pace, the only living being on the road. Arrived at the barricade, he
bent off to the left and mounted upon the paving-stones. For the last
time his austere face, framed in his white beard, appeared to us turned
towards death. Suddenly Delescluze disappeared. He had fallen as if
thunderstricken on the Place du Château d'Eau.

Some men tried to raise him. Three out of four fell dead. The only thing
to be thought of now was the barricade, the rallying of its few
defenders. A member of the Council, Johannard, almost in the middle of
the boulevard, raising his gun, and weeping with rage, cried to those
who hesitated, "No! you are not worthy of defending the Commune!" Night
set in. We returned heart-broken, leaving, abandoned to the outrages of
an adversary without respect for death, the body of our friend.

He had forewarned no one, not even his most intimate friends. Silent,
having for confidant only his severe conscience, Delescluze walked to
the barricade as the old Montagnards went to the scaffold. An eventful
life had exhausted his strength; he had but a breath left, and he gave
it. The Versaillese have stolen his body, but his memory will remain
enshrined in the heart of the people as long as France shall be the
mother-country of the Revolution. He lived only for Justice. That was
his talent, his science, the pole-star of his life. He proclaimed her,
confessed her, through thirty years of exile, prisons, insult,
disdaining the persecutions that crushed him. A Jacobin, he fell with
the men of the people to defend her. It was his recompense to die for
her, his hands free, in the open daylight, at his own time, not
afflicted by the sight of the executioner.

Compare the conduct of the Minister of War of the Commune with the
cowardice of the Bonapartist Minister and generals escaping death by
surrendering their swords.

The whole evening the Versaillese attacked the entrance of the Boulevard
Voltaire, protected by the conflagration of the two corner houses. On
the side of the Bastille they did not get beyond the Place Royale, but
they were breaking into the twelfth arrondissement. Under the shelter of
the wall of the quay, they had in the course of the day penetrated
beneath the Austerlitz Bridge; in the evening, protected by their
gunboats and the batteries of the Jardin des Plantes, they pushed as far
as Mazas.

Our right wing held out better. The Versaillese had not been able to
proceed further than the Eastern Railway line. From afar they attacked
the Rue d'Aubervilliers, aided by the fire of the Rotonde. Ranvier
vigorously cannonaded Montmartre, when a despatch from the Committee of
Public Safety informed him that the red flag was floating from the
Moulin de la Galette. Ranvier, unable to believe this, refused to cease

In the evening the Versaillese formed in front of the Federals a broken
line, commencing from the Eastern Railway, passing the Château d'Eau and
the Bastille, and ending at the Lyons Railway. There remained to the
Commune but two arrondissements intact, the nineteenth and twentieth,
and about half of the eleventh and twelfth.

The Paris of Versailles no longer presented a civilised aspect. Fear,
hate, and fiendish brutishness smothered all feelings of humanity. It
was a universal "furious madness," said the Siècle of the 26th. "One no
longer distinguishes the just from the unjust, the innocent from the
guilty. The life of citizens weighs no more than a hair. For a cry, for
a word, one is arrested, shot." The ventilators of the cellars were
blocked up by order of the army, which wanted to give credit to the
legend of the petroleuses. The National Guards of order crept out from
their lurking-places, proud of their armlets, offering their services to
the officers, ransacking the houses, revindicating the honour of
presiding at the fusillades. In the tenth arrondissement the former
mayor, Dubail, assisted by the commander of the 109th battalion, led the
soldiers to hunt those who had formerly been under his administration.
Thanks to the _brassardiers_, the tide of prisoners swelled so that it
became necessary to centralise the carnage. The victims were pushed into
the mairies, the barracks, the public edifices, where prevotal courts
were organised, and shot in troops. When the fusillade proved
insufficient the mitrailleuse mowed them down. All did not die at once,
and in the night there arose from these bleeding heaps ghastly cries of

The shades of night brought back the spectacle of the conflagrations.
Where the rays of the sun had only shown sombre clouds, pyramids of fire
now appeared. The Grenier d'Abondance illuminated the Seine far beyond
the fortifications. The column of the Bastille, entirely perforated by
the shells, which had set its covering of crowns and flags on fire,
blazed like a gigantic torch. The Boulevard Voltaire was burning on the
side of the Château d'Eau.

The death of Delescluze had been so simple and so rapid, that even at
the Mairie of the eleventh arrondissement it was doubted. Towards
midnight some members of the Council agreed to evacuate the Mairie.
What! always fly before powder and shot! Is the Bastille taken? Does not
the Boulevard Voltaire still hold out? The whole strategy of the
Committee of Public Safety, its whole plan of battle, was to retreat. At
two o'clock in the morning, when a member of the Commune was wanted to
support the barricade of the Château d'Eau, only Gambon was found,
asleep in a corner. An officer awoke him and begged his pardon. The
worthy Republican answered, "It is as well it should be I as another; I
have lived," and he departed. But the balls already swept the Boulevard
Voltaire up to the St. Ambroise Church. The barricade was deserted.


[192] Armlet conspirators.

[193] Summoned several times to surrender, the Federals answered, "Vive
la Commune!" They were thrown against the wall of the prison and fell
with the same cry, one of them still clasping the red flag of the
barricade. Before such faith the Versaillese officer felt a little
ashamed. He turned to the people who had hurried up from the
neighbouring houses, and several times repeated by way of excuse, "It is
their fault! Why did they not surrender!" As though all Federals were
not regularly and mercilessly massacred by them.


    "Le commandant Ségoyer a été pris par les scélérats qui
      défendaient la Bastille, et, sans respect des lois de la
      guerre, a été immédiatement fusillé"--_M. Thiers aux
      Préfets, le 27 Mai._


The soldiers continuing their nocturnal surprises, got hold of the
deserted barricades of the Rue d'Aubervilliers and the Boulevard de la
Chapelle. On the side of the Bastille they occupied the barricade of the
Rue St. Antoine at the corner of the Rue Castex, the station of the
Lyons Railway, and the Mazas prison; in the third, all the abandoned
defences of the market and of the Square du Temple. They reached the
first houses of the Boulevard Voltaire, and established themselves at
the Magasins Réunis.

In the darkness of the night a Versaillese officer was surprised by our
outposts of the Bastille and shot; "without respecting the laws of war,"
said M. Thiers the next day. As though during the four days that he had
been mercilessly shooting thousands of prisoners, old men, women, and
children, M. Thiers obeyed any other law than that of the savages.

The attack recommenced at daybreak. At La Villette the Versaillese,
crossing the Rue d'Aubervilliers, turned and occupied the abandoned
gasworks; in the centre, they got as far as the Cirque Napoleon; on the
right, in the twelfth arrondissement, they invaded the bastions nearest
the river without a struggle. One detachment went up the embankment of
the Vincennes Railway and occupied the station, while another took
possession of the Boulevard Mazas, the Avenue Lacuée, and penetrated
into the Faubourg St. Antoine. The Bastille was thus close pressed on
its right flank, while the troops of the Place Royale attacked it on the
left by the Boulevard Beaumarchais.

The sun did not shine forth. This five days' cannonade had drawn on the
rainfall that usually accompanies great battles. The fusillade had lost
its sharp, quick voice, but rolled on in muffled tones. The men,
harassed, wet to the skin, hardly distinguished through the misty veil
the point whence the attack came. The shells of a Versaillese battery
established at the Orleans Railway station disturbed the entrance of the
Faubourg St. Antoine. At seven o'clock the presence of soldiers at the
top of the faubourg was announced. The Federals hurried thither with
their cannon. If they do not hold out, the Bastille will be turned.

They did hold out. The Rue d'Aligre and the Avenue Lacuée vied with each
other in devotion. Intrenched in the houses, the Federals fell, but
neither yielded nor retreated; and, thanks to their self-sacrifice, the
Bastille for six hours still disputed its shattered barricades and
ruined houses. Each stone had its legend in this estuary of the
Revolution. Here encased in the wall is a bullet launched in 1789
against the fortress. Leaning against the same wall the sons of the
combatants of June fought for the same pavement as their fathers. Here
the conservatives of 1848 gave vent to their rage; but what was their
fury compared with that of 1871? The house at the corner of the Rue de
la Roquette, the angle of the Rue de Charenton, disappeared like the
scenery of a theatre, and amidst these ruins, under these burning beams,
some men fired their cannon, twenty times raised up the red flag, as
often overthrown by the Versaillese balls. Powerless as it well knew to
triumph over an entire army, the old glorious place will at least
succumb honourably.

How many were there at mid-day? Hundreds, since at night hundreds of
corpses lay around the chief barricade. In the Rue Crozatier they were
dead; they were dead too in the Rue d'Aligre, killed in the struggle or
after the combat. And how they died! In the Rue Crozatier an artillerist
of the army, gone over to the people on the 18th March, was surrounded.
"We are going to shoot you," cried the soldiers. He, shrugging his
shoulders, answered, "We can only die once!" Farther on an old man was
struggling; the officer by a refinement of cruelty wanted to shoot him
upon a heap of filth. "I fought bravely," said the old man; "I have the
right not to die in the mire."

Indeed they died well everywhere. That same day Millière, arrested on
the left bank of the Seine, was taken to Cissey's staff. This
Imperialist general, ruined by the vilest debauchery, and who terminated
his Ministerial career by treachery,[194] had made of his headquarters
at the Luxembourg one of the slaughter-houses of the left bank.
Millière's rôle during the Commune had been one of mere conciliation,
and his polemic in the journals entirely one of doctrine, and of a most
elevated character; but the hatred of the officers for every Socialist,
the hatred of Jules Favre, lay in wait for him. The assassin, the
staff-captain Garcin,[195] has recounted his crime, head erect.[196]
Before history we must let him speak.

"Millière was brought in when we were breakfasting with the general at
the restaurant De Tournon, near the Luxembourg. We heard a great noise,
and went out. I was told, 'It is Millière.' I took care that the crowd
did not take justice into its own hands. He did not come into the
Luxembourg; he was stopped at the gate. I addressed myself to him, and
said, 'You are Millière?' 'Yes, but you know that I am a deputy.' 'That
may be, but I think you have lost your character of deputy. Besides,
there is a deputy amongst us, M. de Quinsonnas, who will recognise you.'

"I then said to Millière that the general's orders were that he was to
be shot. He said to me, 'Why?'

"I answered him, 'I only know your name. I have read articles by you
that have revolted me' (probably the articles on Jules Favre). 'You are
a viper, that one crushes under one's feet. You detest society.' He
stopped, saying, with a significant air, 'Oh, yes! I indeed hate this
society.' 'Well, it will remove you from its bosom; you are going to be
shot.' 'This is summary justice, barbarity, cruelty.' 'And all the
cruelty you have committed, do you take that for nothing? At any rate,
since you say you are Millière, there is nothing else to be done.'

"The general had ordered that he was to be shot at the Panthéon, on his
knees, to ask pardon of society for all the ill he had done. He refused
to be shot kneeling. I said to him, 'It is the order; you will be shot
on your knees, and not otherwise.' He played a little comedy, opening
his coat, and baring his breast before the firing party. I said to him,
'You are acting; you want them to say how you died; die quietly, that
will be the best.' 'I am free in my own interest and for the sake of my
Cause to do as I like.' 'So be it; kneel down.' Then he said to me, 'I
will only do so if you force me down by two men.' I had him forced on
his knees, and then his execution was proceeded with. He cried, 'Vive
l'humanité!' He was about to cry something else when he fell dead."[197]

An officer ascended the steps, approached the corpse, and discharged his
chassepot into the left temple. Millière's head rebounded, and, falling
back, burst open, black with powder, seemed to look at the frontispiece
of the monument.

"Vive l'humanité!" The word implies two causes. "I care as much for the
liberty of other people as for that of France," said a Federal to a
reactionist.[198] In 1871, as in 1793, Paris combats for all the

The Bastille succumbed about two o'clock. La Villette still struggled
on. In the morning the barricade at the corner of the boulevard and of
the Rue de Flandre had been surrendered by its commander. The Federals
concentrated in the rear along the line of the canal, and barricaded the
Rue de Crimée. The Rotonde, destined to support the principal shock, was
reinforced by a barricade on the quay of the Loire. The 269th, which for
two days had withstood the enemy, recommenced the struggle behind the
new positions. This line from La Villette being of great extent, Ranvier
and Passedouet went to fetch reinforcements in the twentieth
arrondissement, where the remnants of all the battalions took refuge.

They crowded round the Mairie, that distributed lodgings and orders for
food. Near the church the waggons and horses were noisily put up. The
headquarters and different services were established in the Rue Haxo at
the Cité Vincennes, a series of constructions intersected by gardens.

The very numerous barricades in the inextricable streets of Ménilmontant
were almost all turned against the boulevard. The strategical route,
which on this point overlooks the Père Lachaise, the Buttes Chaumont,
and the exterior boulevard, was not even guarded.

From the heights of the ramparts the Prussians were discernible in arms.
According to the terms of a convention previously concluded between
Versailles and the Prince of Saxony, the German army since Monday
invested Paris on the north and east. It had cut off the Railway of the
North, manned the canal line from St. Denis, posted sentinels from St.
Denis to Charenton, erected barricades on all the routes. From five
o'clock in the evening of Thursday 5,000 Bavarians marched down from
Fontenay, Nogent, and Charenton, forming an impenetrable cordon from the
Marne to Montreuil; and during the evening another corps of 5,000 men
occupied Vincennes, with eighty artillery pieces. At nine o'clock he
invested the fort and disarmed the Federals, who wanted to return to
Paris. He did still better--trapped the game for Versailles. Already
during the siege the Prussians had given an indirect support to the
Versaillese army; their cynical collusion with the French conservatives
showed itself undisguised during the eight days of May. Of all M.
Thiers' crimes, one of the most odious will certainly be his introducing
the conquerors of France into our civil discords, and begging their help
in order to crush Paris.

Towards mid-day fire broke out in the west part of the docks of La
Villette, an immense warehouse of petroleum, essences, and combustible
matters, set alight by the shells from both sides. This conflagration
forced us to leave the barricades of the Rues de Flandre and Riquet. The
Versaillese, attempting to traverse the canal in boats, were stopped by
the barricades of the Rue de Crimée and the Rotonde.

Vinoy continued to ascend the twelfth arrondissement after having left
the few thousand men necessary for the perquisitions and executions at
the Bastille. The barricade of the Rue de Reuilly, at the corner of the
Faubourg St. Antoine, held out a few hours against the soldiers who
cannonaded it from the Boulevard Mazas. At the same time the
Versaillese, marching along the Boulevard Mazas and the Rue Picpus,
moved towards the Place du Trône, which they tried to outflank by the
ramparts. The artillery prepared and covered their slightest movement.
Generally they charged the pieces at the corner of the roads they wanted
to reduce, advanced them, fired, and drew them back again under shelter.
The Federals could only reach this invisible enemy from the heights; but
it was impossible to centralise the artillery of the Commune, for each
barricade wanted to possess its gun without caring where it carried.

There was no longer authority of any kind. At the headquarters a
pell-mell of bewildered officers. The march of the enemy was only known
by the arrival of the survivors of the battalions. Such was the
confusion, that in this place, mortal to traitors, there might be seen,
in a general's uniform, Du Bisson, turned out of La Villette. The few
members of the Council to be met with in the twentieth arrondissement
wandered about at hazard, absolutely ignored; but they had not foregone
deliberating. On the Friday there were twelve of them in the Rue Haxo,
when the Central Committee arrived and claimed the dictatorship. It was
given them, in spite of some who protested, Varlin being added to their
number. The Committee of Public Safety was no longer heard of.

The only one of its members who played any part was Ranvier, splendidly
energetic in the combats. During these days he was the soul of La
Villette and Belleville, urging on the men, watching over everything. On
the 26th he issued a proclamation: "Citizens of the twentieth
arrondissement! if we succumb you know what fate is in store for you. To
arms! Be vigilant, above all in the night. I ask you to execute our
orders faithfully. Lend your support to the nineteenth arrondissement;
help it to repulse the enemy. There lies your safety. Do not wait for
Belleville itself to be attacked. Forward then. Vive la République!"

But very few read or obeyed. The shells from Montmartre, which from the
day before crushed Belleville and Ménilmontant, the cries, the sight of
the wounded, dragging themselves from house to house in search of
succour, the too evident signs of the approaching end, precipitated the
ordinary phenomena of defeat. The people became fierce and suspicious.
Any individual without a uniform ran the risk of being shot if he had
not a well-known name to recommend him. The news that came from all
points of Paris augmented the anguish and despair. It was known that the
soldiers gave no quarter; that they despatched the wounded, killing even
doctors;[199] that every individual taken in a National Guard's uniform,
shod with regulation boots, or whose clothes showed traces of stripes
recently unstitched, was shot in the street or in the yard of his house;
that the combatants who surrendered, under the promise of having their
lives spared, were massacred; that thousands of men, women, children,
and aged people were taken to Versailles bareheaded, and often killed on
the way; that it sufficed to be related to a combatant, or to offer him
a refuge in order to share his fate; the numberless executions of
so-called petroleuses were recounted.

About six o'clock forty-eight gendarmes, ecclesiastics, and civilians
marched up the Rue Haxo between a detachment of Federals. At first they
were supposed to be prisoners recently taken, and defiled in the midst
of perfect silence. But the rumour spread that they were the hostages of
La Roquette, and that they were being led to death. The crowd grew
larger, followed, apostrophised, but did not strike them. At half-past
six the cortège reached the Cité Vincennes; the gates closed upon them,
and the crowd dispersed in the neighbouring grounds.

The escort tumultuously pushed the hostages against a kind of trench at
the foot of a wall. The chassepots were being levelled, when a member of
the Council said, "What are you doing? There is a powder-magazine here;
you will blow us up." He thus hoped to delay the execution. Others,
quite distracted, went from group to group, attempting to discuss, to
appease the wrath. They were repulsed, menaced, and their notoriety
hardly sufficed to save them from death.

The chassepots went off on all sides; by degrees the hostages fell.
Outside the crowd applauded. And yet for two days the soldiers taken
prisoners passed through Belleville without exciting a murmur; but these
gendarmes, these spies, these priests, who for fully twenty years had
trampled upon Paris, represented the Empire, the bourgeoisie, the
massacres under their most hateful forms.

That same morning Jecker, the accomplice of Morny, had been shot. The
Council had not known how to punish him; the justice of the people
alighted upon him. A platoon of four Federals went to fetch him at La
Roquette. He appeared to resign himself quietly, and even chatted on the
way. "You are mistaken," said he, "if you think I did a good piece of
business. Those people cheated me." He was executed in the open grounds
adjoining the Père Lachaise from the side of Charonne.

During this day the troops did not execute any great movements. The
corps Douay and Clinchant were stationed on the Boulevard
Richard-Lenoir. The double barricade in the rear of Bataclan stopped the
invasion of the Boulevard Voltaire; a Versaillese general was killed in
the Rue St. Sébastian; the Place du Trône still held out by means of the
Philippe-Auguste barricade. The Rotonde and docks of La Villette also
prolonged their resistance. Towards the close of the day the
conflagration spread to the part of the docks nearest the Mairie.

In the evening, the army hedged in the defence between the
fortifications and a curved line which from the slaughter-houses of La
Villette extended to the gate of Vincennes, passing by the St. Martin
Canal, the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, and the Rue du Faubourg St.
Antoine--Ladmirault and Vinoy occupying the two extremities, Douay and
Clinchant the centre.

The night of the Friday to Saturday was sombre and feverish in
Ménilmontant and Belleville, ravaged by the shells. At the turning of
each street the sentinels demanded the watchword (Bouchotte-Belleville),
and often even that did not suffice, and one had to prove being sent
upon an errand. Every chief of a barricade claimed the right to stop
your passage. The remainder of the battalions continued arriving in
disorder, and encumbered all the houses. The majority finding no
shelter, rested in the open air, amidst the shells, always saluted with
cries of "Vive la Commune!"

In the Grande Rue de Belleville some National Guards carried coffins on
their crossed muskets, some men preceding them with torches, the drums
beating. These combatants, who amidst the shells silently interred their
comrades, appeared in touching grandeur. They were themselves at the
gates of death.

In the night the barricades of the Rue d'Allemagne were abandoned. A
thousand men at the utmost had for two days kept in check Ladmirault's
25,000 soldiers. Almost all these brave men were sedentary guards and

The humid glimmer of the Saturday morning discovered a sinister
prospect. The fog was dense and penetrating, the soil steeped in
moisture. Clouds of white smoke rose slowly above the rain; it was the
fusillade. The Federals shivered under their drenched cloaks.

Since daybreak barricades of the strategic route, the gates of Montreuil
and Bagnolet, were occupied by the troops, who without resistance
invaded Charonne. At seven o'clock they established themselves in the
Place du Trône, whose defences had been abandoned. At the entrance of
the Boulevard Voltaire the Versaillese erected a battery of six pieces
against the Mairie of the eleventh arrondissement. Henceforth certain of
victory, the officers wanted to triumph noisily. This barricade, against
which they fired during the whole day of the 27th, had but two pieces of
the most irregular projection. Many a Versaillese shell strayed to the
legs of the statue of Voltaire, who, with his sardonic smile, seemed to
remind his bourgeois descendants of the "beau tapage" he had promised

At La Villette the soldiers deviated from the line on all sides, passed
by the fortifications and attacked the Rues Puebla and De Crimée. Their
left, still engaged in the upper part of the tenth arrondissement,
endeavoured to gain possession of all its streets leading to the
Boulevard de la Villette. Their batteries of the Rue de Flandre, of the
ramparts, and the Rotonde united their fire to that of Montmartre, and
whelmed the Buttes Chaumont with shells. The barricade of the Rue Puebla
yielded towards ten o'clock. A sailor who had remained alone, hidden
behind the paving-stones, awaited the Versaillese, discharged his
revolver at them, and then, hatchet in hand, dashed into the midst of
their ranks. The enemy deployed in all the adjacent streets up to the
Rue Ménadier, steadily held by our tirailleurs. At the Place des Fêtes
two of our pieces enfiladed the Rue de Crimée and protected our right

At eleven o'clock nine or ten members of the Council met in the Rue
Haxo. One of them, Jules Allix, whom his colleagues had been obliged to
shut up as mad during the Commune, came up radiant. According to him,
all was for the best; the quarters of the centre were dismantled; they
had only to descend thither. Others thought that by surrendering
themselves to the Prussians, who would deliver them up to Versailles,
they might put an end to the massacres. One or two members demonstrated
the absurdity of this hope, and that besides the Federals would allow no
one to leave Paris. They were not listened to. A solemn note was being
drawn up, when Ranvier, who wandered about in all corners picking up men
one by one for the defence of the Buttes Chaumont, broke in upon their
deliberations, exclaiming, "Why do you not go and fight instead of
discussing!" They dispersed in different directions, and this was the
last meeting of these men of everlasting deliberations.

At this moment the Versaillese occupied the bastion 16. At mid-day the
rumour spread that the troops were issuing by the Rue de Paris and the
ramparts. A crowd of men and women, driven from their houses by the
shells, beset the gate of Romainville, asking with loud cries to be
allowed to flee into the neighbouring fields. At one o'clock the
drawbridge was lowered in order to give passage to some Freemasons who
had been to the German authorities to ask them whether they would allow
free passage to the fugitives. The crowd dashed out and dispersed in the
houses of the Village des Lilas. Some women and children attempting to
push on further and to cross the barricade thrown up in the middle of
the road, the sergeant of gendarmerie of Romainville threw himself upon
them, crying to the Prussians, "Fire! come, fire on this _canaille_!" A
Prussian soldier fired, wounding a woman.

Meanwhile the drawbridge had been raised. About four o'clock Colonel
Parent, on horseback, and preceded by a trumpet, dared on his own
authority to go and ask the Prussian troops for permission to pass.
Useless degradation. The officer answered that he had no orders, and
that he would refer to St. Denis.

The same day the member of the Council, Arnold, who still believed in an
American intervention, went to take a letter for Mr. Washburne to the
German outposts. He was conducted from one officer to another, received
rather rudely, and sent back with the promise that his letter would be
forwarded to the ambassador.

Near two o'clock several Versaillese battalions, having swept the
strategic route, reached the Rue de Crimée by the Rue des Lilas and the
open grounds of the fortifications, but were stopped in the Rue de
Bellevue. From the Place du Marché three cannon joined their fire to
that of the Place des Fêtes in order to protect the Buttes Chaumont.
These pieces were the whole day served by only five artillerists, their
arms bare, without witnesses, needing neither chief nor orders. At five
o'clock the cannon of the Buttes were silent, having no more munitions,
and their gunners rejoined the skirmishers of the Rues Ménadier,
Fessart, and Des Annelets.

At five o'clock Ferré brought up to the Rue Haxo the line soldiers of
the Prince Eugène Barracks, removed since Wednesday to the prison of La
Petite Roquette, which had just been evacuated, as also the Grande
Roquette. The crowd looked at them, not uttering a single threat, for
they felt no hatred to the soldiers, who belong, like themselves, to the
people. They were quartered in Belleville church. Their arrival caused a
fatal diversion. The people ran up to see them pass, and the Place des
Fêtes was dismantled. The Versaillese came up, occupied it, and the last
defenders of the Buttes fell back on the Faubourg du Temple and the Rue
de Paris.

While our front was yielding we were attacked from the rear. Since four
o'clock in the afternoon the Versaillese had been laying siege to the
Père Lachaise, which enclosed no more than 200 Federals, resolute, but
without discipline or foresight. The officers had been unable to make
them embattle the walls. Five thousand Versaillese approached the
enceinte from all sides, while the artillery of the bastion furrowed the
interior. The pieces of the Commune had scarcely any munition since the
afternoon. At six o'clock the Versaillese, not daring, in spite of their
numbers, to escalade the enceinte, cannonaded the large gate of the
cemetery, which soon gave way, notwithstanding the barricade propping
it. Then began a desperate struggle. Sheltered behind the tombs, the
Federals disputed their refuge foot by foot; they closed in with the
enemy in frightful hand-to-hand scuffles; in the vaults they fought with
side-arms. The foes rolled and died in the same grave. The darkness that
set in early did not end the despair.

On the Saturday evening there only remained to the Federals part of the
eleventh and twentieth arrondissements. The Versaillese camped in the
Place des Fêtes, Rue Fessart, Rue Pradier up to Rue Rebeval, where, as
on the boulevard, they were detained. The quadrilateral comprised
between the Rue de Faubourg du Temple, the Rue Folie Méricourt, the Rue
de la Roquette and the exterior boulevard was in part occupied by the
Federals. Douay and Clinchant awaited on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir
the moment when Vinoy and Ladmirault would have carried the heights, and
thus forced the Federals against the guns.

What a night for the few combatants of the last hours! It rained in
torrents. The conflagration of La Villette lit up this gloom with its
blinding glare. The shells continued to pound Belleville; they even
reached as far as Bagnolet and wounded some Prussian soldiers.

The wounded arrived in large numbers at the Mairie of the twentieth
arrondissement. There were neither doctors, nor medicines, nor
mattresses, nor blankets, and the unhappy people expired without
succour. Some spies, surprised in the dress of National Guards, were
there and then shot in the court. The _Vengeurs de Flourens_ arrived,
headed by their captain, a fine, handsome young fellow, reeling in his
saddle. The cantinière, delirious, a handkerchief tied round her
bleeding brow, swore, called the men together with the cry of a wounded
lioness. From between the convulsive hands the guns went off at random.
The noise of the waggons, the threats, the lamentations, the fusillades,
the whizzing of the shells, mingled in a maddening tumult, and who in
those frightful hours did not feel his reason giving way? Every moment
brought with it a new disaster. One guard rushed up and said, "The
barricade Pradier is abandoned!;" another, "We want men in the Rue
Rebeval;" a third, "They are flying in the Rue des Près." To hear these
death-knells there were but a few members of the Council present, among
whom were Trinquet, Ferré, Varlin, and Ranvier. Desperate of their
powerlessness, broken down by these eight days, without sleep and
without hope, the strongest were lost in grief.

From four o'clock Vinoy and Ladmirault launched their troops along the
ramparts on the defenceless strategic route, and soon effected a
junction at the Romainville gate. Towards five o'clock the troops
occupied the barricade of the Rue Rebeval in the Boulevard de la
Villette, and by the Rue Vincent and the Passage du Renard attacked the
barricades of the Rue de Paris from behind. The Mairie of the twentieth
arrondissement was not taken till eight o'clock. The barricade of the
Rue de Paris at the corner of the boulevard was defended by the
commander of the 191st and five or six guards, who held out till their
munitions were exhausted.

A column set out from the Boulevard Philippe-Auguste, penetrated into
the Roquette towards nine o'clock, and released the hostages who were
there. Masters of the Père Lachaise from the day before, the Versaillese
might at least from nine o'clock in the evening have penetrated into the
abandoned prison. This delay of twelve hours sufficiently shows their
contempt for the lives of the hostages. Four of the latter--among whom
was the Bishop Surat--who had made their escape in the afternoon of
Saturday, had been retaken at the neighbouring barricades and shot
before the Petite Roquette.

At nine o'clock the resistance was reduced to the small square formed by
the Rues du Faubourg du Temple, Des Trois Bornes, Des Trois Couronnes,
and the Boulevard de Belleville. Two or three streets of the twentieth
arrondissement still struggled on, among others the Rue Ramponeau. A
small phalanx of fifty men, led by Varlin, Ferré, and Gambon, their red
scarfs round their waists, their chassepots slung across their
shoulders, marched down the Rue des Champs, and from the twentieth
arrondissement debouched on the boulevard. A gigantic Garibaldian
carried an immense red flag in front of them. They entered the eleventh
arrondissement. Varlin and his colleagues were going to defend the
barricade of the Rue du Faubourg du Temple and of the Rue Fontaine au
Roi. From the front it was inaccessible; the Versaillese, masters of the
St. Louis Hospital, succeeded in turning it by the Rues St. Maur and

At ten o'clock the Federals had almost no cannon left, and two-thirds of
the army hemmed them in. What mattered it? In the Rue du Faubourg du
Temple, Rue Oberkampf, Rue St. Maur, Rue Parmentier, they still wanted
to fight. There were barricades not to be turned and houses without
exits. The Versaillese artillery cannonade them till the Federals had
used up their munitions. Their last cartridge spent, whelmed by shells,
they threw themselves upon the muskets bristling around them.

By degrees the fusillade was lulled, all was silent. About ten o'clock
the last Federal cannon was discharged in the Rue de Paris, which the
Versaillese had taken. The piece, charged with double shot, with a
terrible crash exhaled the last sigh of the Commune of Paris.

The last barricade of the days of May was in the Rue Ramponeau. For a
quarter of an hour a single Federal defended it. Thrice he broke the
staff of the Versaillese flag hoisted on the barricade of the Rue de
Paris. As a reward for his courage, this last soldier of the Commune
succeeded in escaping.

At eleven o'clock all was over. The Place de la Concorde had held out
two days, the Butte aux Cailles two, La Villette three, the Boulevard
Voltaire two days and a half. Of the seventy-nine members of the
Council filling functions on the 21st of May, one, Delescluze, had died
on the barricades; two, J. Durand and R. Rigault, had been shot; two,
Brunel and Vermorel (who died some days after at Versailles),[200] were
wounded severely; three, Oudet, Protot, Frankel, slightly. The
Versaillese had lost few men. We had 3,000 killed or wounded. The losses
of the army in June, 1848, and the resistance of the insurgents had been
relatively more serious. But the insurgents of June had only to face
30,000 men; those of May combated against 130,000 soldiers. The struggle
of June lasted only three days; that of the Federals eight weeks. On the
eve of June the revolutionary army was intact; on the 21st May it was
decimated. The most valiant defenders had fallen at the advanced posts.
What might not these 15,000 men, uselessly sacrificed outside the town,
have done within Paris? What might not the brave men of Neuilly,
Asnières, Issy, Vanves, Cachan, have done at the Panthéon and

The occupation of the fort of Vincennes took place on Monday the 29th.
This fort, disarmed in conformity with the stipulations of the treaty of
peace, had been unable to take any part in the strife. Its garrison
consisted of 350 men and twenty-four officers, commanded by the
_chef-de-légion_ Faltot, a veteran of the wars of Poland and of
Garibaldi, one of the most active men on the 18th March. He was offered
a perfectly secure asylum, but answered that honour forbade his
deserting his companions in arms.

On the Saturday a Versaillese staff colonel came to negotiate a
capitulation. Faltot demanded passports in blank, not for himself, but
for some of his officers of foreign nationality, and on the refusal of
the Versaillese, Faltot committed the fault of applying to the Germans.
But MacMahon, in prevision of a siege, had solicited the assistance of
the Prince of Saxony, and the German was on the look-out on behalf of
his brother officer.[201] During the negotiations General Vinoy had
managed to hold communication with the place, where a few disreputable
individuals offered to reduce the intractable Federals. Among the latter
was Merlet, garde-général of engineering and artillery,
ex-non-commissioned officer, able, energetic, and quite resolved to blow
up the place rather than surrender it. The powder-magazine contained
1,000 kilogrammes of powder and 400,000 cartridges.

On Sunday, at eight o'clock in the morning, a shot sounded in Merlet's
chamber. His room was entered, and he was found lying on the ground, his
head pierced by the ball of a revolver. The disorder of the room
attested a struggle; and a captain of the 99th, released later on by the
Versaillese, B----, admitted that he had dispersed the elements of the
electric pile by means of which Merlet intended to spring the fort.

On Monday towards mid-day the Versaillese colonel renewed the proposal
for a surrender. For twenty-four hours the struggle had been over in
Paris. The officers deliberated; it was agreed that the gates should be
opened, and at three o'clock the Versaillese entered. The garrison,
having laid down their arms, had drawn up at the end of the court. Nine
officers were incarcerated apart.

In the night, in the fosses, a hundred yards from the spot where the
Duke of Enghien had fallen, these nine officers formed in a line before
a firing-party. One of them, Colonel Delorme, turned to the Versaillese
in command with the words, "Feel my pulse; see if I am afraid."


[194] Minister of War from 1871, he was in 1876, notwithstanding the
desperate efforts of MacMahon, expelled from the Ministry, partly
because of irregularities discovered in his budget, partly for having
let his mistress, a German, take the plan of one of the new forts round
Paris, which was transmitted to Berlin.

[195] Since promoted to a higher grade.

[196] _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 239.

[197] See Appendix XX.

[198] Heard and reported by the author of the book _Le Fond de la
Société sous la Commune_. The author wittily adds, "What the devil was
this imbecile solicitous about?"

[199] Appendix XXI.

[200] The Versaillese calumniators, pursuing him even to his last hour,
spread abroad that he had confessed to a Jesuit, and had disavowed his
writings "in presence of the gendarmes and nuns."

[201] "Marshal MacMahon to General Vinoy, 29th May, 10.5 morning.--On
our propositions to enter the fort, Prince of Saxony has given the order
to enlarge the blockade, in order to leave the French authorities free
to act as they think fit. He has promised to preserve the
blockade."--_Vinoy, L'Armistice et la Commune_, p. 430.


    "Nous sommes d'honnêtes gens; c'est par les lois ordinaires
      que justice sera faite. Nous n'aurons recours qu'à la
      loi."--_M. Thiers à l'Assemblée Nationale, 22 Mai 1871._

    "Honest, honest Iago!"--_Shakespere._


Order reigned in Paris. Everywhere ruins, death, sinister crepitations.
The officers walked provokingly about clashing their sabres; the
non-commissioned officers imitated their arrogance. The soldiers
bivouacked in all the large roads. Some, stupefied by fatigue and
carnage, slept on the pavement; others prepared their soup by the side
of the corpses, singing the songs of their native homes.

The tricolor flag hung from all the windows in order to prevent
house-searches. Guns, cartridge-boxes, uniforms, were piled up in the
gutters of the popular quarters. Before the doors sat women leaning
their heads upon their hands, looking fixedly before them, waiting for a
son or a husband who was never to return.

In the rich quarters the joy knew no bounds. The runaways of the two
sieges, the demonstrators of the Place Vendôme, many emigrants of
Versailles, had again taken possession of the boulevards. Since the
Thursday this kid-glove populace followed the prisoners, acclaiming the
gendarmes who conducted the convoys,[202] applauding at the sight of
the blood-covered vans.[203] The civilians strove to outdo the military
in levity. Such a one, who had ventured no further than the Café du
Helder, recounted the taking of the Château d'Eau, bragged of having
shot his dozen prisoners. Elegant and joyous women, as in a pleasure
trip, betook themselves to the corpses, and, to enjoy the sight of the
valorous dead, with the ends of sunshades raised their last coverings.

"Inhabitants of Paris," said MacMahon on the 28th at mid-day, "Paris is
delivered! To-day the struggle is over. Order, labour, security are
about to revive."

"Paris delivered" was parcelled into four commands under the orders of
General Vinoy, Ladmirault, Cissey, Douay, and once more placed under the
régime of the state of siege raised by the Commune. There was no longer
any government at Paris than the army which massacred Paris. The
passers-by were constrained to demolish the barricades, and any sign of
impatience brought with it an arrest, any imprecation death. It was
placarded that any one in the possession of arms would immediately be
sent before a court-martial; that any house from which shots were fired
would be given over to summary execution. All public places were closed
at eleven o'clock. Henceforth officers in uniform alone could circulate
freely. Mounted patrols thronged the streets. Entrance into the town
became difficult, to leave it impossible. The tradespeople not being
allowed to go backwards and forwards, victuals were on the point of

"The struggle over," the army transformed itself into a vast platoon of
executioners. On the Sunday more than 5,000 prisoners taken in the
neighbourhood of the Père Lachaise were led to the prison of La
Roquette. A chief of battalion standing at the entrance surveyed the
prisoners and said, "To the right," or "To the left." Those to the left
were to be shot. Their pockets emptied, they were drawn up along a wall
and then slaughtered. Opposite the wall two or three priests bending
over their breviaries mumbled the prayers for the dying.

From the Sunday to the Monday morning in La Roquette alone more than
1,900 persons were thus murdered.[204] Blood flowed in large pools in
the gutters of the prison. The same slaughter took place at the Ecole
Militaire and the Parc Monceaux.

These were the butcheries without phrases. At other places the prisoners
were conducted before the prevotal courts, with which Paris swarmed
since the Monday. These had not sprung up at hazard, and, as has been
believed in the midst of the fury of the struggle. It was proved before
the courts-martial that the number and seats of these prevotal courts,
with their respective jurisdictions, had been appointed at Versailles
before the entry of the troops.[205] One of the most celebrated was that
of the Châtelet Théâtre, where Colonel Vabre officiated. Thousands of
prisoners who were led there were first of all penned in upon the stage
and in the auditorium, under the guns of the soldiers placed in the
boxes; then, little by little, like sheep driven to the door of the
slaughter-house, from wing to wing they were pushed to the saloon,
where, round a large table, officers of the army and the honest National
Guard were seated,[206] their sabre between their legs, a cigar in their
mouth. The examination lasted a quarter of a minute. "Did you take arms?
Did you serve the Commune? Show your hands." If the resolute attitude of
a prisoner betrayed a combatant, if his face was unpleasant, without
asking for his name, his profession, without entering any note upon any
register, he was _classed_. "You?" was said to the next one, and so on
to the end of the file, without excepting the women, children, and old
men. When by a caprice a prisoner was spared, he was said to be
_ordinary_, and reserved for Versailles. No one was liberated.

The _classed_ ones were at once delivered to the executioners, who led
them into the nearest garden or court. From the Châtelet, for instance,
they were taken to the Lebau Barracks.[207] There the doors were no
sooner closed than the gendarmes fired, without even grouping their
victims before a platoon. Some, only wounded, ran along by the walls,
the gendarmes chasing and shooting at them till they fell dead. Moreau
of the Central Committee perished in one of these gangs. Surprised on
the Thursday evening in the Rue de Rivoli, he was conducted to the
Châtelet, and shot the next day. Those condemned in the prevotal court
of the Luxembourg were conducted into the garden and placed against a
terrace. There were so many victims, that the soldiers, tired out, were
obliged to rest their guns actually against the sufferers. The wall of
the terrace was covered with brains; the executioners waded through
pools of blood.

The massacre was thus carried on, methodically organised, at the Caserne
Dupleix, the Lycée Bonaparte, the Northern and Eastern Railway Stations,
the Jardin des Plantes, in many mairies and barracks, at the same time
as in the abattoirs. Large open vans came to fetch the corpses, and went
to empty them in the square or any open space in the neighbourhood.

The victims died simply, without fanfaronade.[208] Many crossed their
arms before the muskets, and themselves commanded the fire. Women and
children followed their husbands and their fathers, crying to the
soldiers, "Shoot us with them!" And they were shot. Women, till then
strangers to the struggle, were seen to come down into the streets,
exasperated by these butcheries, strike the officers, and then throw
themselves against a wall waiting for death.[209]

In June, 1848, Cavaignac had promised pardon, and he massacred. M.
Thiers had sworn by the law, and he gave the army carte-blanche. The
officers returned from Germany might now glut to their hearts' content
their wrath against that Paris which had insulted them by not
capitulating; the Bonapartists revenge on the Republicans the old
hatreds of the Empire; the boys just fresh from St. Cyr serve their
apprenticeship of insolence upon the _pékins_. A general (Cissey most
probably) gave the order to shoot M. Cernuschi, whose crime consisted in
having offered 100,000 francs for the anti-plebiscitary campaign of
1870.[210] Any individual of some popular notoriety was sure to die. Dr.
Tony Moilin, who had played no part during the Commune, but had been
implicated in several political trials during the Empire, was in a few
moments judged and condemned to death; "not," his judges condescended to
tell him, "that he had committed any act that merited death, but because
he was a chief of the Socialist party, one of those men of whom a
prudent and wise Government must rid itself when it finds a legitimate
occasion."[211] The Radicals of the Chamber, whose hatred of the Commune
had been most clearly demonstrated, did not dare to set foot in Paris
for fear of being included in the massacres.

The army, having neither police nor precise information, killed at
random. Any passer-by calling a man by a revolutionary name caused him
to be shot by soldiers eager to get the premium. At Grenelle they shot a
pseudo-Billioray,[212] notwithstanding his despairing protests; at the
Place Vendôme they shot a pseudo-Brunel in the apartments of Madame
Fould. The _Gaulois_ published the recital by a military surgeon who
_knew_ Vallès, and was present at his execution;[213] an eye-witness
declared he had seen Lefrançais shot on the Thursday in the Rue de la
Banque. The real Billioray was tried in the month of August; Brunel,
Vallès, and Lefrançais succeeded in escaping from France. Members and
functionaries of the Commune were thus shot, and often several times
over, in the persons of individuals who resembled them more or less.

Varlin, alas! was not to escape. On Sunday, the 28th May, he was
recognised in the Rue Lafayette, and led, or rather dragged, to the foot
of the Buttes Montmartre before the commanding general. The Versaillese
sent him to be shot in the Rue des Rosiers. For an hour, a mortal hour,
Varlin was dragged through the streets of Montmartre, his hands tied
behind his back, under a shower of blows and insults. His young,
thoughtful head, that had never harboured other thoughts than of
fraternity, slashed open by the sabres, was soon but one mass of blood,
of mangled flesh, the eye protruding from the orbit. On reaching the Rue
des Rosiers, he no longer walked; he was carried. They set him down to
shoot him. The wretches dismembered his corpse with blows of the
butt-ends of their muskets.

The Mount of Martyrs has no more glorious one than Varlin. May he too be
enshrined in the great heart of the working-class! Varlin's whole life
was an example. He had quite alone, by the mere force of his will,
educated himself, giving to study the rare hours left him in the evening
after the workshop; learning not with the view to push into the
bourgeoisie, as many others, but to instruct and enfranchise the people.
He was the heart and soul of the workingmen's associations at the end of
the Empire. Indefatigable, modest, speaking little, always at the right
moment, and then enlightening a confused discussion with a word, he had
preserved that revolutionary instinct which is often blunted in educated
workmen. One of the first on the 18th March, labouring during the whole
Commune, he was at the barricades to the last. His death is all to the
honour of the workmen. It is to Varlin and to Delescluze that this
history should be dedicated, if there were room in the frontispiece for
any other name than that of Paris.

The Versaillese journalists spat on his corpse; said that some hundreds
of thousands of francs had been found on him.[214] Returned to Paris
behind the army, they followed it like jackals. Those of the
demi-monde, above all, were mad with a sanguinary hysteria. The
coalition of the 21st March was re-made. All uttered one howl against
the vanquished workmen. Far from moderating the massacre, they
encouraged it, published the names, the hiding-places of those who were
to be killed, unflagging in inventions calculated to keep up the furious
terror of the bourgeoisie. After every fusillade they cried encore.

I quote at hazard, and could quote pages: "We must make a Communard
hunt" (_Bien Public_). "Not one of the malefactors in whose hands Paris
has been for two months will be considered as a political man. They will
be treated like the brigands they are, like the most frightful monsters
ever seen in the history of humanity. Many journals speak of re-erecting
the scaffold destroyed by them, in order not even to do them the honour
of shooting them" (_Moniteur Universel_). "Come, honest people, an
effort to make an end of this democratic and international vermin"
(_Figaro_). "These men, who have killed for the sake of killing and
stealing, are taken, and we should answer, Mercy! These hideous women,
who stabbed the breast of dying officers, are taken, and we should cry,
Mercy!" (_Patrie_).[215]

To encourage the hangmen, if that were necessary, the press threw them

"What an admirable attitude is that of our officers and soldiers!" said
the _Figaro_. "It is only to the French soldier that it is given to
recover so quickly and so well." "What an honour!" cried the _Journal
des Debats_. "Our army has avenged its disasters by an inestimable

Thus the army wreaked on Paris revenge for its defeats. Paris was an
enemy like Prussia, and all the less to be spared that the army had its
prestige to reconquer. To complete the similitude, after the victory
there was a triumph. The Romans never adjudged it after civil struggles.
M. Thiers was not ashamed, under the eye of the foreigner, before still
smoking Paris, to parade his troops in a grand review. Who then will
dare to blame the Federals for having resisted the army of Versailles as
they would have the Prussians?

And when did foreigners show such fury?[216] Death even seemed to whet
their rancour. On Sunday, the 28th, near the Mairie of the eleventh
arrondissement, about fifty prisoners had just been shot. Urged not by
an unworthy curiosity, but by the earnest desire to know the truth, we
went, at the risk of being recognised, as far as the corpses lying on
the pavement. A woman lay there, her skirts turned up; from her
ripped-up body protruded the entrails, which a marine-fusileer amused
himself by dividing with the end of his bayonet. The officers, a few
steps off, let him do this. The victors, in order to dishonor these
corpses, had placed inscriptions on their breasts, "assassin," "thief,"
"drunkard," and stuck the necks of bottles into the mouths of some of

How to justify this savagery? The official reports only mention very few
deaths among the Versaillese--877 during the whole time of the
operations, from the 3rd April up to the 28th May.[217] The Versaillese
fury had then no excuse for these reprisals. When a handful of
exasperated men, to avenge thousands of their brothers, shoot
sixty-three of their most inveterate enemies[218] out of nearly 300 whom
they had in their hands, the hypocritical reaction veils its face and
protests in the name of justice. What, then, will this justice say when
those shall be judged who methodically, without any anxiety as to the
issue of the combat, and, above all, the battle over, shot 20,000
persons, of whom three-fourths had not taken part in the fight? Still
some flashes of humanity were shown by the soldiers, and some were seen
coming back from the executions their heads bowed down; but the officers
never slackened for one second in their ferocity. Even after the Sunday
they still slaughtered the prisoners, shouted "Bravo!" at the
executions. The courage of the victims they called insolence.[219] Let
them be responsible before Paris, France, the new generation, for these
deeds of infamy.

At last the smell of the carnage began to choke even the most frantic.
The pest, if not pity, was coming. Myriads of flesh-flies flew up from
the putrefied corpses. The streets were full of dead birds. The _Avenir
Libéral_, singing the praises of MacMahon's proclamations, applied the
words of Flèchier: "He hides himself, but his glory finds him out." The
glory of the Turenne of 1871 betrayed him even up to the Seine.[220] In
certain streets the corpses encumbered the pathway, looking at the
passers-by from out of their dead eyes. In the Faubourg St. Antoine they
were to be seen everywhere in heaps, half white with chloride of lime.
At the Polytechnic School they occupied a space of 100 yards long and
three deep. At Passy, which was not one of the great centres of
execution, there were 1,100 near the Trocadéro. These, covered over by a
thin shroud of earth, also showed their ghastly profiles. "Who does not
recollect," said the _Temps_, "even though he had seen it but one
moment, the square, no, the charnel of the Tour St. Jacques? From the
midst of this moist soil, recently turned up by the spade, here and
there look out heads, arms, feet, and hands. The profiles of corpses,
dressed in the uniform of National Guards, were seen impressed against
the ground. It was hideous. A decayed, sickening odour arose from this
garden, and occasionally at some places it became fetid." The rain and
heat having precipitated the putrefaction, the swollen bodies
reappeared. The glory of MacMahon displayed itself too well. The
journals were taking fright. "These wretches," said one of them, "who
have done us so much harm during their lives, must not be allowed to do
so still after their death." And those that had instigated the massacre
cried "Enough!"

"Let us not kill any more," said the _Paris Journal_ of the 2nd June,
"even the assassins, even the incendiaries. Let us not kill any more. It
is not their pardon we ask for, but a respite." "Enough executions,
enough blood, enough victims," said the _Nationale_ of the 1st June. And
the _Opinion Nationale_ of the same day: "A serious examination of the
accused is imperative. One would like to see only the really guilty

The executions abated, and the sweeping off began. Carriages of all
kinds, vans, omnibuses, came to pick up the corpses and traversed the
town. Since the great pests of London and Marseilles, such cart-loads of
human flesh had not been seen. These exhumations proved that a great
number of people had been buried alive. Imperfectly shot, and thrown
with the heaps of dead into the common grave, they had eaten earth, and
showed the contortions of their violent agony. Certain corpses were
taken up in pieces. It was necessary to shut them as soon as possible
into closed waggons, and to take them with the utmost speed to the
cemeteries, where immense graves of lime swallowed up these putrid

The cemeteries of Paris absorbed all they could. The victims, placed
side by side, without any other covering than their clothes, filled
enormous ditches at the Père Lachaise, Montmartre, Mont-Parnasse, where
the people in pious remembrance will annually come as pilgrims. Others,
more unfortunate, were carried out of the town. At Charonne, Bagnolet,
Bicêtre, &c., the trenches dug during the first siege were utilised.
"There nothing is to be feared of the cadaverous emanations," said _La
Liberté_ "an impure blood will water the soil of the labourer,
fecundating it. The deceased delegate at war will be able to pass a
review of his faithful followers at the hour of midnight; the watchword
will be _Incendiarism and assassination_." Women by the side of the
lugubrious trench endeavoured to recognise these remains. The police
waited that their grief should betray them, in order to arrest those
"females of insurgents."

The burying of such a large number of corpses soon became too difficult,
and they were burnt in the casemates of the fortifications; but for want
of draught the combustion was incomplete, and the bodies were reduced to
a pulp. At the Buttes Chaumont the corpses, piled up in enormous heaps,
inundated with petroleum, were burnt in the open air.

The wholesale massacres lasted up to the first days of June,[221] and
the summary executions up to the middle of that month. For a long time
mysterious dramas were enacted in the Bois de Boulogne.[222] Never will
the exact number of the victims of the Bloody Week be known. The chief
of military justice admitted 17,000 shot;[223] the municipal council of
Paris paid the expenses of burial of 17,000 corpses; but a great number
were killed out of Paris or burnt. There is no exaggeration in saying
20,000 at least.

Many battlefields have numbered more dead, but these at least had fallen
in the fury of the combat. The century has not witnessed such a
slaughtering after the battle; there is nothing to equal it in the
history of our civil struggles. St. Bartholomew's Day, June, 1848, the
2nd December, would form but an episode of the massacres of May. Even
the great executioners of Rome and modern times pale before the Duke of
Magenta. The hecatombs of the Asiatic victors, the fêtes of Dahomey
alone could give some idea of this butchery of proletarians.

Such was the repression "by the laws, with the laws." And during these
atrocities of incomparably worse than Bulgarian type, the bourgeoisie,
raising to heaven its bloody hands, undertook to incite the whole world
against this people, who, after two months of domination and the
massacre of thousands of their own, had shed the blood of sixty-three

All social powers covered the death-rattle of the victims by their
applause. The priests, those great consecrators of assassination,
celebrated the victory in a solemn service, at which the entire Assembly
assisted. The reign of the _Gesu_ was about to commence.


[202] In the Boulevard des Italiens women kissed the boots of the
mounted officers who escorted the convoys. A journalist, Francisque
Sarcey, wrote: "With what serene joy the eye rested on the loyal faces
of those brave gendarmes, who marched with a sprightly step by the sides
of the hideous column, forming a martial and severe framework!"

[203] Appendix XXII.

[204] Appendix XXIII.

[205] Appendix XXIV.

[206] Later on all the names will be known. Let us cite from amongst a
hundred. At the Mairie of the fifth arrondissement, the colonel of the
National Guard, Galle; at the seventh, M. Gabriel Ossude and M. Blamont;
at the Collége Bonaparte, M. de Soulanges, chief of the 69th battalion;
at the Mairie of the ninth arrondissement, M. Charpentier; at L'Elysée,
M. de St. Geniez, chief of the 3rd battalion; at the Luxembourg, MM.
Gosselin, Parfait, Daniel; at the Mairie of the thirteenth
arrondissement, MM. D'Avril, chief of the 4th battalion, Lascol, chief
of the 17th Thierce; at the Châtelet, Vabre in a few hours achieved an
atrocious celebrity.

[207] Appendix XXV.

[208] Appendix XXVI.

[209] Appendix XXVII.

[210] Appendix XXVIII.

[211] Appendix XXIX.

[212] Appendix XXX.

[213] Appendix XXXI.

[214] The journal _L'Ariégeois_ has published the text of the report
addressed to the colonel of the 67th of the line by Lieutenant Sicre, a
native of the department of Ariège, who had taken part in the arrest of
Varlin, and commanded the firing-party. We extract the following
passage:--"Amongst the objects found on him were a pocket-book bearing
his name, a purse containing 284 francs 15 centimes, a penknife, a
silver watch, and a card of the man Tridon."

[215] Some foreign journals uttered the same cry. The _Naval and
Military Gazette_ of the 27th May said, "We are deliberately of opinion
that hanging is too good a death for such villains to die, and if
medical science could be advanced by operating upon the living body of
the malefactors who have crucified their country, we at least should
find no fault with the experiment."

[216] At a wineshop of the Place Voltaire we met some quite young
soldiers on the Sunday morning. They were marine-fusileers of the 1871
class. Their complexion was sallow, their movements heavy, their eyes
dull. "And there are many dead?" said we. "Ah!" answered one of them in
a stupefied tone, "we have the order to make no prisoners; it is the
general who told us" (they could not tell us the name of their general).
"If they had not lighted these fires they would not have been served
thus; but as they set on fire, we must kill" (textual). Then he went on
talking to his comrade. "This morning there" (and he pointed to the
barricade of the Mairie), "one came up in a blouse. We led him off. 'You
are not going to shoot me?' said he. 'Oh, I should think not!' We made
him pass in front of us, and then, pan, pan; and didn't he kick about

[217] Sixty-three officers killed and 430 wounded, 794 soldiers dead and
6024 wounded--in all, 877 dead and 6454 wounded. _Rapport du Maréchal

[218] This is the exact number of the hostages executed: four at Ste.
Pélagie, six at the Roquette, forty-eight at the Rue Haxo, four at the
Petite Roquette, and the banker Jecker.

[219] The Count de Mun said (_Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 276),
"When they were shot, they all died with a kind of insolence which
cannot be attributed to a moral sentiment" (the sentiment of the
executioner, Monsieur de Mun, no doubt), "and can only be attributed to
the resolution to come to an end by death rather than live by working."
It is true that MacMahon had said (p. 28), "They seemed to think they
were defending a sacred cause, the independence of Paris. In their
intentions some of them may have been of good faith." Who is more
odious, he who believes he is killing an "insolent," or he who knows
that he is killing a martyr?

[220] "On the Seine may be seen a long trail of blood following the
course of the water and passing under the second arch from the side of
the Tuileries. This trail never stopped."--_La Liberté of the 31st May._

[221] Appendix XXXII.

[222] Appendix XXXIII.

[223] This is the figure given by General Appert in the _Enquête sur le
18 Mars_. MacMahon has said, "When men surrender their arms they must
not be shot; that was admitted. Unhappily, on certain points, the
instructions I had given were forgotten. I can, however, affirm that the
number of executions has been very restricted." Admire the logic of this
reasoning. No doubt a list has been kept of all, oblivious as to the
victims of the prevotal courts; the "loyal soldier" ignores them

Some days after the battle the _Nationale_, a Liberal-conservative paper
said, "In official circles it is estimated that 20,000 is the number of
Federals killed, shot, or dead in consequence of wounds received during
the days of May. We should not have dared to give this figure, which
seems to us considerable, if we had not got this information from
officers who have declared that this estimate is very probably


    "La cause de la justice, de l'ordre, de l'humanité, de la
      civilisation, a triomphé."--_M. Thiers à l'Assemblée
      Nationale, 22 Mai 1871._


Happy the dead! They had not to mount the Calvary of the prisoners.

From the wholesale fusillades one may guess the number of arrests. It
was a furious razzia; men, women, children, Parisians, provincials,
foreigners, a crowd of people of all sexes and all ages, of all parties
and all conditions. All the lodgers of a house, all the inhabitants of a
street, were carried off in a body. A suspicion, a word, a doubtful
attitude were sufficient to cause one to be seized by the soldiers. From
the 21st to the 30th May they thus picked up 40,000 persons.

These prisoners were formed into long chains, sometimes free, sometimes,
as in June, 1848, bound by cords so as to form only one body. Whoever
refused to walk on was pricked with the bayonet, and, if he resisted,
shot on the spot, sometimes attached to a horse's tail.[224] In front of
the churches of the rich quarters the captives were forced to kneel
down, bareheaded, amidst an infamous mob of lackeys, fashionables, and
prostitutes, crying, "Death! death! Do not go any further; shoot them
here!" At the Champs-Elysées they wanted to break the files to taste

The prisoners were sent on to Versailles. Gallifet awaited them at La
Muette. In the town he escorted the chains, halting under the windows
of the aristocratic clubs in order to earn plaudits and hurrahs. At the
gates of Paris he levied his tithe, walked past the ranks, and, with his
look of a famished wolf, "You seem intelligent," said he to some one;
"step out of the ranks." "You have a watch," said he to another; "you
must have been a functionary of the Commune," and he placed him apart.
On the 26th, in one single convoy, he chose eighty-three men and three
women, made them draw up along the talus of the fortifications and had
them shot.[225] Then he said to their comrades, "My name is Gallifet.
Your journals in Paris had sullied me enough. I take my revenge." On
Sunday, the 28th, he said, "Let those who have white hairs step out from
the ranks." One hundred and eleven captives advanced. "You," continued
Gallifet, "you have seen June, 1848; you are more culpable than the
others," and he had their corpses thrown over into the fortifications.

This purgation over, the convoys entered upon the route to Versailles,
pressed between two files of cavalry. It looked like the population of a
city dragged away by fierce hordes. Lads, grey-bearded men, soldiers,
dandies, all and every condition; the most delicate and the most rude
confounded in the same vortex. Many women, some with manacles on their
hands; such a one with her baby, who pressed its mother's neck with its
frightened little hands; another, her arm broken, her chemisette stained
with blood; another depressed, clinging to the arm of her more vigorous
neighbour; another in a statuesque attitude, defying pain and insults;
always that woman of the people, who, after having carried the bread to
the trenches and given consolation to the dying, hopeless--

  "Découragée de mettre au jour des malheureux,"

longed for liberating death.

Their attitude, which inspired foreign journals with admiration,[226]
exasperated the Versaillese ferocity. "In seeing the convoys of
insurgent women," said the _Figaro_, "one feels in spite of oneself a
kind of pity; but one is reassured by thinking that all the brothels of
the capital have been thrown open by the National Guards, who patronised
them, and that the majority of these ladies were inhabitants of these

Panting, covered with filth, idiotic with fatigue, hunger, and thirst,
burnt by the sun, the convoys dragged themselves along for hours in the
overheated dust of the roads, harassed by the cries, the blows from the
mounted chasseurs. The Prussians had not thus cruelly treated these
soldiers when, prisoners themselves some months before, they had been
led away from Sedan or Metz. The captives who fell were sometimes shot,
sometimes they were only thrown into the carts that followed.

At the entry into Versailles the crowd awaited them, always the _élite_
of French society, deputies, functionaries, priests, officers, women of
all sorts. The fury of the 4th April and the preceding convoys were as
much surpassed as the sea swells at the equinoctial tide. The Avenues de
Paris and De St. Cloud were lined by savages, who followed the convoys
with vociferations, blows, covered them with filth and broken pieces of
bottle. "One sees," said the Liberal-Conservative newspaper, the
_Siècle_, of the 30th May, "women, not prostitutes, but elegant ladies,
insult the prisoners on their passage, and even strike them with their
sunshades." Woe to whoever did not insult the vanquished! Woe to him who
allowed a movement of commiseration to escape him! He was at once
seized, led to the post,[227] or else simply forced into the convoy.
Frightful retrogradation of human nature, all the more hideous that it
contrasted with the elegance of the costume! Prussian officers came from
St. Denis once more to see what governing classes they had had to oppose

The first convoys were promenaded about as a spectacle in the streets of
Versailles; others were stationed for hours at the torrid Place d'Armes,
a few steps from the large trees, whose shade was refused them. The
prisoners were then distributed in four depots, the cellars of the
Grandes-Ecuries, the Orangerie of the castle, the docks of Satory, and
the manèges of the Ecole de St. Cyr. Into these damp, nauseous cellars,
where light and air only penetrated by some narrow openings, men,
children, of whom some were not more than ten years old, were crowded
without straw during the first days. When they did get some, it was soon
reduced to mere dung. No water to wash with; no means of changing their
rags, as the relations who brought linen were brutally sent back. Twice
a day, in a trough, they got a yellowish liquid, a porridge. The
gendarmes sold tobacco at exorbitant prices, and confiscated it in order
to sell it over again. There were no doctors. Gangrene attacked the
wounded; ophthalmia broke out; deliriousness became chronic. In the
night were heard the shrieks of the fever-stricken and the mad.
Opposite, the gendarmes remained impassive, their guns loaded.

Even these horrors were outdone by the Fosse-aux-Lions, a vault without
air, absolutely dark, the antechamber of the tomb, under the large red
marble staircase of the terrace. Whoever was noted as dangerous, or
whoever had simply displeased the corporal, was thrown into it. The most
robust could only bear up against it a few days. On leaving it, giddy,
the mind a blank, dazzled by the broad daylight, they swooned. Happy he
who met the look of his wife. The wives of the captives pressed against
the outer rails of the Orangerie, striving to distinguish some one
amidst the dimly seen herd. They tore their hair, implored the
gendarmes, who thrust them back, struck them, called them infamous

The hell of open daylight was the docks of the plateau of Satory, a vast
parallelogram enclosed by walls. The soil is clayey, and the least rain
soaks it. The first arrivals were placed within the buildings, which
could contain about thirteen hundred persons, the others remained
outside, bareheaded, for their hats had been knocked off at Paris or at
Versailles. The gendarmes were on duty, being more reliable, more
hardened than the soldiers.

On the Thursday evening at eight o'clock a convoy, composed chiefly of
women, arrived at the dock. "Many of us," one of them has reported to
me, the wife of a _chef-de-légion_, "had died on the way; we had had
nothing since morning.

"It was still daylight. We saw a great multitude of prisoners. The women
were apart in a hut at the entrance. We joined them.

"We were told that there was a pond, and, dying of thirst, we rushed
thither. The first who drank uttered a loud cry, vomited. 'Oh, the
wretches! they make us drink the blood of our own people.' For since
evening the wounded went there to bathe their wounds; but thirst
tormented us so cruelly, that some had the courage to rinse out their
mouths with this bloody water.

"The hut was already full, and we were made to lie on the earth in
groups of about 200. An officer came and said to us, 'Vile creatures!
listen to the order I give. Gendarmes, the first who moves, fire on

"At ten o'clock we heard reports quite near. We jumped up. 'Lie down,
wretches!' cried the gendarmes, taking aim at us. It was some prisoners
being shot a few steps from us. We thought the balls would pass through
our heads. The gendarmes who had just been shooting came to relieve our
guardians. We remained the whole night watched by men heated with
carnage. They grumbled at those who writhed with terror and cold. 'Do
not be impatient; your turn is coming.' At daybreak we saw the dead. The
gendarmes said to each other, 'Oh! isn't this a jolly vintage?'

"In the evening the prisoners heard a sound of spades and hammers in the
wall of the south. The fusillades, the menaces had maddened them. They
awaited death from all sides and in every shape; they thought that this
time they were going to be blown up. Holes opened and mitrailleuses
appeared, some of which were discharged."[228]

On Friday evening a storm of several hours broke out above the camp. The
prisoners were forced, on pain of being shot, to lie down all night in
the mud. About twenty died of cold.

The camp of Satory soon became the Longchamp of Versailles high life.
Captain Aubrey did the honors with the ladies, the deputies, the
literary men, showing them his subjects grovelling in the mud, devouring
a few biscuits, taking tumblers of water from the pond into which the
gendarmes stood on no ceremony in easing themselves. Some, going mad,
dashed their heads against the walls; others howled, tearing their
beards and hair. A fetid cloud arose from this living mass of rags and
horrors. "There are," said the _Indépendence Française_, "several
thousands of people poisoned with dirt and vermin spreading infection a
kilomètre around. Cannon are levelled at these wretches penned up like
wild beasts. The inhabitants of Paris are afraid of the epidemic
resulting from the burying of the insurgents killed in the town. Those
whom the _Officiel___ of Paris called the rurals are much more afraid of
the epidemic resulting from the presence of the live insurgents at

Those are the honest people of Versailles, who had just caused the
triumph of "the cause of justice, order, humanity, and civilisation."
How good and humane, despite the bombardment and the sufferings of the
siege, those _brigands_ of Paris had been, above all by the side of
these _honest people_! Who ever ill-treated a prisoner in the Paris of
the Commune? What woman perished or was insulted? What obscure corner of
the Parisian prisons had hidden a single one of the thousand tortures
which displayed themselves in broad daylight at Versailles?

From the 24th May to the first days of June the convoys did not cease
flowing into those depths. The arrests went on in large hauls by day and
night. The sergents-de-ville accompanied the soldiers, and, under the
pretext of perquisitions, forced the locks, appropriating objects of
value. Several officers were in the sequel condemned for the
embezzlement of objects seized.[229] They arrested not only the persons
compromised in the late affairs, those who were denounced by their
uniforms, or documents found in the mairies and at the War Office, but
whoever was known for his republican opinions. They arrested, too, the
purveyors of the Commune, and even the musicians, who had never crossed
the ramparts. The ambulance attendants shared the same fate. And yet
during the siege a delegate of the Commune, having inspected the
ambulances of the press, had said to the personnel, "I am aware that
most of you are the friends of the Government of Versailles, but I hope
you may live long enough to recognise your mistake. I do not trouble
myself to know whether the lancets at the service of the wounded are
royalist or republican. I see that you do your task worthily. I thank
you for it. I shall report it to the Commune."

Some poor wretches had taken refuge in the Catacombs. They were hunted
by torchlight. The police agents, assisted by dogs, fired at every
suspicious shadow. Battues were organised in the forests near Paris. The
police watched all the stations, all the ports of France. Passports had
to be renewed and viséd at Versailles. The masters of boats were under
supervision. On the 26th Jules Favre had solemnly asked the foreign
powers for the extradition of the fugitives, under the pretext that the
battle of the streets was not a political act.

Extradition flourished at Paris. Fear closed all doors. No shelter was
there for the fugitives. Few friends were left--no comrades. Everywhere
pitiless refusals or denunciations. Doctors renewed the infamies of
1834, and delivered up the wounded.[230] Every cowardly instinct rose to
the surface, and Paris disclosed sloughs of infamy whose existence she
had not suspected even under the Empire. The honest people, masters of
the streets, had their rivals, their creditors, arrested as Communards,
and formed committees of inquiry in their arrondissements. The Commune
had rejected the denunciators; the police of order received them with
open arms. The denunciations rose to the fabulous height of
399,823,[231] of which a twentieth at most were signed.

A very considerable part of these denunciations issued from the press.
For several weeks it did not cease stirring the rage and panic of the
bourgeoisie. M. Thiers, re-editing one of the absurdities of June, 1848,
in a bulletin spoke of "poisonous liquids collected in order to poison
the soldiers." All the inventions of that time were again taken up,
appropriated to the hour, and horribly amplified; chambers in the
sewers with wires all prepared, 8,000 petroleuses enrolled, houses
marked with a stamp for burning, pumps, injectors, eggs filled with
petroleum, poisoned balls, roasted gendarmes, hanged sailors, violated
women, prostitutes requisitioned, endless thefts--all was printed, and
the gulls believed all. Some journals had the speciality of false orders
for arson;[232] false autographs, of which the originals could never be
produced, but which were to be admitted as positive evidence by the
courts-martial and honest historians. When it fancied the fury of the
bourgeoisie was flagging, the press fanned it again, each journal
outbidding the other in villainy. "Paris, we know," said the _Bien
Public_, "asks for nothing better than to go to sleep again; though we
should trouble her, we will awaken her." And on the 8th June the
_Figaro_ still drew up plans of carnage.[233] The revolutionary writer
who will take the pains to collect in a volume extracts from the
reactionary press of May and June, 1871, from the Parliamentary
inquiries, the bourgeois pamphlets, and histories of the Commune--a
mixture as monstrous as that of the witches' cauldron--will do more for
the edification and the future justice of the people than a whole band
of mouthing agitators.

There were, to French honour, some traits of generosity, and even
heroism, amidst this epidemic of cowardice. Vermorel, wounded, was
taken in by the wife of a concierge, who succeeded for a few hours in
passing him off for her son. The mother of a Versaillese soldier gave
several members of the Council of the Commune an asylum. A great number
of insurgents were saved by unknown people; and yet it was during the
first days a matter of death, afterwards of transportation, to shelter
the vanquished. The women once again showed their great heart.

The average of arrests kept up in June and July to a hundred a day. At
Belleville, Ménilmontant, in the thirteenth arrondissement, in certain
streets, there were only old women left. The Versaillese, in their lying
returns, have admitted 38,568 prisoners,[234] amongst whom were 1,058
women and 651 children, of whom forty-seven were thirteen years of age,
twenty-one twelve, four ten, and one seven,[235] as though they had by
some secret method counted the herds whom they fed at the troughs. The
number of those arrested very probably reached 50,000 men.

The errors were numberless. Some women of that beau monde who went with
dilated nostrils to contemplate the corpses of the Federals were
included in the razzias, and led off to Satory, where, their clothes in
rags, devoured by vermin, they figured very well as the imaginary
petroleuses of their journals.

Thousands of individuals were obliged to hide; thousands gained the
frontier. An idea of the general losses may be gathered from the fact
that at the complementary elections of July there were 100,000 less
electors than in February.[236] Parisian industry was crushed by it.
Most of the workmen who gave this branch of manufacture its artistic
cachet perished, were arrested, or emigrated in masses. In the month of
October the municipal council proved in an official report that certain
industries were obliged to refuse orders for want of hands.

The savageness of the searches, the number of the arrests, joined to the
despair of the defeat, tore from this town--bled to the last drop of
blood--some supreme convulsions. At Belleville, at Montmartre, in the
thirteenth arrondissement, shots were fired from houses. At the Café du
Helder, in the Rue de Rennes, the Rue de la Paix, Place de la Madeleine,
soldiers and officers fell, struck by invisible hands; near the
Pépinière Barracks a general was shot at. The Versaillese journals
wondered, with naïve impudence, that popular fury was not calmed, and
could not understand "what reason, even the most futile, of hatred one
could have for soldiers who had the most inoffensive look in the world"
(_La Cloche_).

The Left followed to the very end the line it had traced out for itself
on the 19th March. Having prevented the provinces from coming to the
rescue of Paris and voted its thanks to the army, it also joined its
maledictions to those of the rurals. Louis Blanc, who in 1877 was to
defend the red flag, wrote to the _Figaro_ to stigmatise the vanquished,
to bow down before their judges, and declare "the public indignation
legitimate."[237] This Extreme Left, which five years after grew
enthusiastic for the amnesty, would not hear the death-groans of the
20,000 shot, nor even, though but a hundred yards from them, the shrieks
from the Orangerie. In June, 1848, the sombre imprecation of Lammennais
fell upon the massacres, and Pierre Leroux defended the insurgents. The
great philosophers of the Rural Assembly, Catholic or Positivist, were
all one against the workingmen. Gambetta, delighted at being rid of the
Socialists, hurried back from St. Sébastien, and in a solemn speech at
Bordeaux declared that the Government which had been able to crush Paris
"had even by that proved itself legitimate."

There were some men of courage in the provinces. The _Droits de l'Homme_
of Montpellier, the _Emancipation_ of Toulouse, the _National du
Loiret_, and several advanced journals recounted the assassinations of
the conquerors. Most of these journals were prosecuted and suppressed.
Some movements took place; a commencement of riots at Pamiers (Ariège)
and at Voiron (Isère). At Lyons the army was confined in its barracks,
and the prefect, Valentin, had the town closed in order to arrest the
fugitives of Paris. There were arrests at Bordeaux.

At Brussels Victor Hugo protested against the declaration of the Belgian
government, which promised to deliver up the fugitives. Louis Blanc and
Schoelcher wrote him a letter full of blame, and his house was stoned
by a fashionable mob. Bebel in the German Parliament and Whalley in the
House of Commons denounced the Versaillese fury. Garcia Lopez said from
the tribune of the Cortes, "We admire this great revolution, which no
one can appreciate justly to-day."

The workingmen of foreign countries solemnised the obsequies of their
brothers of Paris. At London, Brussels, Zurich, Geneva, Leipzig, and
Berlin, monster meetings proclaimed themselves in accord with the
Commune, devoted the slaughterers to universal execration, and declared
accomplices of these crimes the Governments which had not made any
remonstrances. All the Socialist journals glorified the struggle of the
vanquished. The great voice of the International recounted their effort
in an eloquent address,[238] and confided their memory to the workmen of
the whole world.

On the triumphal entry of Moltke at the head of the victorious Prussian
army into Berlin, the workmen received them with hurrahs for the
Commune, and at several places the people were charged by the cavalry.


[224] Appendix XXXIV.

[225] This fact and the following one are not only attested by the
prisoners, but by the journals of order and the correspondents of the
conservative foreign newspapers speaking as eye-witnesses. Appendix

[226] "I observed a slender figure walking alone, in the costume of the
National Guard, with long fair hair floating over the shoulders, a
bright blue eye, and a handsome, bold young face, that seemed to know
neither shame nor fear. When the spectators detected at a glance that
this seeming young National Guardsman was a woman, their indignation
found vent in strong language; but the only response of the victim was
to glare right and left with heightened colour and flashing eyes. If the
French nation were composed only of Frenchwomen, what a terrible nation
it would be!"--_The Times, 29th May, 1871._

[227] They treated in this manner M. Ratisbonne, he who in the _Debats_
had just written, "What an inestimable victory!"

[228] These facts are borne witness to by several conservative journals,
among others the _Siècle_. We cite this paper in preference to the
Figarist journals, which might be suspected of having amplified the
glory of the army. "The day before yesterday there has been (at Satory)
an attempt at revolt. The soldiers began by aiming at the most mutinous;
but as this procedure did not seem sufficiently expeditious,
mitrailleuses were advanced, which fired into the crowd. Order was
re-established, but at what a price!" (Versailles, 27th May). "Towards
four o'clock in the morning a new rising took place amongst the
prisoners of Satory. There were several volleys of mitrailleuses, and,
as you may suppose, the number of dead and wounded must have been rather
considerable." (Versailles, May 28).

[229] Among others, one Thierce, lieutenant-colonel, who had presided at
the executions in the thirteenth arrondissement.

[230] At the Beaujon Hospital there was a wounded Federal whom all the
staff wanted to save. Only one person refused, the doctor Delbeau,
head-surgeon and professor in the faculty of medicine. He sent up the
soldiers of the neighbouring post and had the poor fellow taken away. Be
it said to the honour of the students that they forced him some months
after to suspend his lectures.

[231] The numbers of the registers where the denunciations were
inscribed enabled the proof of this statistic of infamy, published by
the spy journals of the time, to be ascertained.

[232] One of these orders, which commanded Millière to set fire to the
left bank, was signed Billioray, who had fled on the 21st, and
Dombrowski, already dead at this time.

equal the crime. These are the means by which this result will be
arrived at. The members of the Commune, the chiefs of the insurrection,
the members of the committees, courts-martial and revolutionary
tribunals, the foreign generals and officers, the deserters, the
assassins of Montmartre, La Roquette, and Mazas, the _pétroleurs_ and
the _petroleuses_, the ticket-of-leave men, are to be shot. Martial law
must be applied in all its rigour to the journalists who have placed the
torch and the chassepot in the hands of fanatic imbeciles. A part of
these measures have already been put into practice. Our soldiers have
simplified the work of the courts-martial of Versailles by shooting on
the spot; but it must not be overlooked that a great many culprits have
escaped chastisement."--_Le Figaro of the 8th June._

[234] Report of the General Appert, table i. pp. 215, 262.

[235] Report of the Captain Guichard, _Enquête sur le 18 Mars_, vol.
iii. p. 313.

[236] The _Journal des Débats_ estimated that "the losses by the party
of the insurrection in dead and prisoners reached the figure of 100,000

[237] In the _Figaro_ of the 8th June--the same number which contained
the plan of massacre--might be read, "We have received the following
letter from M. Louis Blanc:--

"'To Monsieur Philippe Gille.

"'SIR,--I read in an article signed by you that the honest Republican
party has the right to expect a protestation from me against the
abominations of which Paris has been the theatre and the victim. This
observation surprises me.

"'What honest man could, without lacking self-respect, believe himself
obliged to warn the public that incendiarism, pillage, and assassination
horrify him? I esteem myself enough to judge that, on my part, a
declaration is perfectly useless.

"'When, too, public indignation is so legitimate and so great, are you
aware, sir, that in the tribunals the silence of the assistants is
obligatory; so true is it that the duty of everybody is to remain silent
when the judge is about to speak. Receive, sir, the assurance of my


[238] The Civil War in France. Address of the Council of the
International Working-Men's Association.


    "La conciliation, c'est l'ange qui plane après
      l'orage."--_Dufaure à l'Assemblée Nationale, 26 Avril


The human lakes of Versailles and Satory were soon overflowing. From the
first days of June the prisoners were filed off to the seaports and
crowded into cattle-waggons, the awnings of which, hermetically closed,
let in no breath of air. In a corner was a heap of biscuits; but
themselves thrown upon this heap, the prisoners had soon reduced it to
mere crumbs. For twenty-four hours, and sometimes thirty-two hours, they
remained without anything to drink. They fought in this throng for a
little air, a little room. Some, maddened, flung themselves upon their
comrades.[239] One day at La Ferté-Bernard cries were uttered in a
waggon. The chief of the escort stopped the convoy; the
sergents-de-ville discharged their revolvers through the awning. Silence
ensued, and the rolling coffins set out again at full speed.

From the month of June to the month of September 28,000 prisoners were
thus thrown into the harbours, the forts and the oceanic isles, from
Cherbourg to the Gironde. Twenty-five pontoons took in 20,000, the forts
and isles 8,087.

On the pontoons tortures were inflicted by regulation. The traditions
of June and of December were religiously observed with the victims of
1871. The prisoners, penned in cages made of wooden planks and iron
bars, received only a dim light through the nailed down port-holes.
Ventilation there was none. From the first hours the exhalations were
unbearable. The sentinels walked up and down in this menagerie with the
order to fire at the slightest alarm. Cannon charged with grapeshot
overlooked the batteries. There were neither hammocks nor blankets, and
for all food some biscuits, bread, and haricots, but no wine or tobacco.
The inhabitants of Brest and Cherbourg having sent some provisions and
little luxuries, the officers sent them back.

This cruelty relaxed somewhat after a time. The prisoners received a
hammock for every two, some shirts, some blouses, and now and then some
wine. They were allowed to wash, to come on to the deck to snatch a
little fresh air. The sailors showed some humanity, but the
marine-fusileers were always the same bandits as in the days of May, and
the crew was often obliged to tear the prisoners from them.

The régime of the pontoons varied according to the officers. At Brest
the second officer, commander of the _Ville de Lyon_, forbade the
insulting of the prisoners; while the master-at-arms of the _Breslau_
treated them like convicts. At Cherbourg one of the lieutenants of the
_Tage_, Clémenceau, was ferocious. The commander of the _Bayard_ turned
his vessel into a diminutive Orangerie. This ship had witnessed the most
abominable acts perhaps that have sullied the history of the French
navy. Absolute silence was the rule on board. As soon as any one spoke
in the cages, the sentry menaced and several times shot. For a
complaint, or mere forgetfulness of a rule, the prisoners were tied to
the bars of their cages by the ankles and wrists.[240]

The dungeons on shore were as terrible as the pontoons. At Quélern as
many as forty prisoners were shut up in the same casemate. The lower
ones were deadly. The cesspools emptied into them, and in the morning
the fæcal matter covered the floor some two inches deep. By the side of
these were salubrious disengaged lodgments, but they would not remove
the prisoners thither. One day M. Jules Simon came, thought that his
former electors were looking but poorly, and decided that recourse must
be taken to severity. Elisée Reclus had opened a school, and tried to
raise out of their ignorance a hundred and fifty-one prisoners who could
neither read nor write. The Minister of Public Education had the classes
stopped, and had the small library, which the prisoners had got together
by making the greatest sacrifices, closed.

The prisoners of the forts, like those of the pontoons, were fed on
biscuits and bacon; later on, soup and broth were added on Sundays;
knives and forks were forbidden; it cost several days' struggle to get
spoons. The profit of the sutler, which, according to the list of
charges, ought to be limited to a tenth, reached as much as five hundred
per cent.

At the Fort Boyard men and women were packed into the same enclosure,
separated only by a screen. The women were forced to perform their
ablutions under the eyes of the sentinels. Sometimes their husbands were
in the neighbouring compartment. "We noticed," wrote a prisoner, "a
young and beautiful woman, twenty years old, who fainted every time she
was forced to undress."[241]

According to much evidence which we have received, the most cruel prison
was that of St. Marcouf. The prisoners remained there for over six
months, deprived of air, light, and tobacco, forbidden to speak, having
for their only nourishment the crumbs of brown biscuits and rancid fat.
All were attacked with scurvy.

This continual severity got the better of the most robust constitutions;
there were in consequence 2,000 sick in the hospitals. The official
reports admit 1,179 dead out of 33,665 civil prisoners. This figure is
evidently below the truth. During the first days at Versailles a certain
number of individuals were killed, and others died without being
counted. There were no statistics before the transfer to the pontoons.
There is no exaggeration in saying that 2,000 prisoners died while in
the hands of the Versaillese. A great number perished afterwards of
anæmia, and of maladies contracted during their captivity.

Some idea of the tortures of the pontoons and the forts, far from the
surveillance of public opinion, may be gathered from those that were
openly displayed at Versailles,[242] under the eyes of the Government,
the Chamber, and the Radicals. Colonel Gaillard, chief of military
justice, had said to the soldiers who guarded the prisoners of the
Chantiers, "As soon as you see any one move, raising their arms, fire;
it is I who give you the order."

At the Grenier d'Abondance of the Western Railway there were eight
hundred women. For weeks and weeks they slept on straw, were unable to
change their linen. At the slightest noise, a quarrel, the guards threw
themselves upon them, struck them, more especially on the breasts.
Charles Mercereau, a former Cent-Garde, the governor of this sink, had
those that displeased him tied down and then beat them with his cane. He
led about over his dominions the ladies of Versailles, covetous of
petroleuses, and before them said to his victims, "Come, hussies, cast
down your eyes." And indeed that was the least our Federal women could
do before these honest persons.

Prostitutes, carried off in the razzias, and carefully kept there in
order to spy upon the other prisoners, publicly abandoned themselves to
the guardians. The protests of the women of the Commune were punished by
blows with cords. With a refinement of infamy, the Versaillese wished to
bow down these valiant women to the level of the others. All the
prisoners were subjected to inspection.

Dignity and outraged nature revenged themselves by terrible crises.
"Where is my father? Where my husband? and my son? What! alone, quite
alone, and all these cowards against me! I, the mother, the laborious
wife, subjected to the whip, insult, and sullied by these unclean hands
for having defended liberty!" Many went mad. All passed through their
hours of madness. Those who were pregnant miscarried or brought forth
still-born children.

The priests were no more wanting in the prisons than at the fusillades.
The chaplain of Richemont said to the prisoners, "I know that I am here
in a forest of Bondy,[243] but my duty," &c. On the day of St. Magdalene
the Bishop of Algiers, making a delicate allusion to the saint of the
day, said to them, "That they were all Magdalenes, but not repentant;
that Magdalene had neither burned nor assassinated;" and uttering other
evangelical amenities.

The children were shut up in a part of the women's prison, and were just
as brutally treated. A corporal, the secretary of Mercereau, kicked open
the stomach of a boy; another received the bastinado, and lingered for a
long time at the infirmary. The son of Ranvier, twelve years old, was
cruelly beaten for refusing to betray the hiding-place of his father.

All these unfortunate prisoners of the pontoons, the forts, and the
houses of correction were for several months devoured by vermin before
their cases were inquired into. The Versaillese Moloch held more victims
than he could digest. After the first days of June he disgorged 1,090
persons reclaimed by the reactionists. But how to draw up indictments
against 36,000 prisoners? It was all very well for Dufaure to let loose
all the police agents of the Empire into the prisons; in the month of
August only 4,000 prisoners had been interrogated.

Still it was necessary to satiate the rage of the bourgeoisie, which
wanted a sensational trial. A few celebrities who had escaped the
massacre had been taken, some members of the Council of the Commune, of
the Central Committee, Rossel, Rochefort, &c. M. Thiers and Dufaure got
up a grand performance.

This trial was to be the model one, to serve as a type for the
jurisprudence of the courts-martial, for the prisoners were to be judged
by the same soldiers who had conquered them. The old procureur and his
president applied all their pettifogging cunning to lowering the debate.
They refused the character of political men to the accused, and reduced
the insurrection to an ordinary crime, thus securing to themselves the
right of cutting short effective defences, and the advantage of
condemnations to the bagnio and to death, which the hypocritical
bourgeoisie pretends to have abolished in political cases.[244] The
third court-martial was carefully selected. The commissary chosen was
Gaveau, a low energumen, who had shown signs of mental alienation, and
had struck the prisoners in the streets of Versailles; the president,
Merlin, a colonel of engineers, one of the capitulards of Bazaine's
army; the rest an assortment of trusty Bonapartists. Sedan and Metz were
going to judge Paris.

The ceremony commenced on the 7th August, in a large hall containing two
thousand seats. Personages of rank reclined in the red velvet
arm-chairs; deputies occupied three hundred seats; the remainder
belonged to the bourgeois of note, to "honest" families, to the
aristocracy of prostitution, and to the howling press. These talking
journalists, these brilliant dresses, these smiling faces, these toyings
with fans, these gay bouquets, these opera-glasses pointed in all
directions, reminded one of the most elegant first-night performances.
The staff officers, in full uniform, smartly conducted the ladies to
their seats, not forgetting to make the indispensable bow.

All this scum boiled over when the prisoners appeared. There were
seventeen: Ferré, Assi, Jourde, Paschal Grousset, Régère, Billioray,
Courbet, Urbain, Victor Clément, Trinquet, Champy, Rastoul, Verdure,
Decamps, Parent, members of the Council of the Commune; Ferrat and
Lullier, members of the Central Committee.

Gaveau read the accusation act. This revolution was born of two plots,
that of the revolutionary party and that of the International; Paris had
risen on the 18th March, in answer to the appeal of a few scoundrels;
the Central Committee had ordered the execution of Lecomte and
Clément-Thomas; the manifestation of the Place Vendôme was an unarmed
manifestation; the head-surgeon of the army had been assassinated while
making a supreme appeal to conciliation; the Commune had committed
thefts of all kinds; the implements of the nuns of Picpus were
transformed into instruments of orthopedy; the explosion of the Rapp
magazines was the work of the Commune; desirous of kindling violent
hatred of the enemy in the hearts of the Federals, Ferré had presided at
the execution of the hostages of La Roquette, set fire to the Ministry
of Finance, as was proved by the facsimile of an order written in his
hand, "_Burn Finances!_" Each one of the members of the Council of the
Commune had to answer for facts relating to his particular functions,
and collectively for all the decrees issued. This indictment, worthy of
a low police agent, communicated beforehand to M. Thiers, indeed made of
the cause a simple affair of robbery and arson.

It took up a whole sitting. The next day, Ferré, interrogated the first,
refused to answer, and laid his conclusions upon the table. "The
conclusions of the incendiary Ferré are of no moment!" cried Gaveau, and
the witnesses against him were called. Fourteen out of twenty-four
belonged to the police; the others were priests or Government employés.
An expert in handwriting, celebrated at the law-courts for his blunders,
affirmed that the order "_Burn Finances_" was certainly in Ferré's hand.
In vain the accused demanded that the signature of this order should be
compared with his, which figured very often in the jail register; that
at least the original should be produced, and not the facsimile. Gaveau
exclaimed indignantly, "Why, this is want of confidence!"

Thus set to rights from the outset as to the plot and the character of
their judges, the accused might have declined every debate; they
committed the fault of accepting it. If even they had proudly
revindicated their political character! But it was not so; some even
denied it. Almost all, confining themselves to their personal defence,
abandoned the Revolution of the 18th March, whose mandate they had
solicited or accepted. Their preoccupation for their own safety betrayed
itself by sad defections. But from the very dock of the accused the
voice of the people thus denied arose avengingly. A workman of that
brave Parisian race, the first in labour, study, and combat, a member of
the Council of the Commune, intelligent and convinced, modest in the
Council, one of the foremost in the struggle, the shoemaker Trinquet,
revindicated the honour of having fulfilled his mandate to the end. "I
was," said he, "sent to the Commune by my co-citizens; I have paid with
my person; I have been to the barricades, and I regret not having died
there; I should not to-day assist at this sad spectacle of colleagues
who, after having taken their share in the action, will no longer bear
their part of the responsibility. I am an insurgent; I do not deny it."

The examinations were drawn out with fastidious slowness during
seventeen sittings. Always the same public of soldiers, bourgeois,
courtesans, hissing the accused; the same witnesses, priests, police
agents, and functionaries; the same fury in the accusation, the same
cynicism in the tribunal, the same howling of the press. The massacres
had not glutted this. It yelled at the accused, demanded their death,
and every day dragged them through the mire of its reports.[245]
Foreign correspondents were revolted. The _Standard_, a great reviler of
the Commune, said, "Anything more scandalous than the tone of the
demi-monde press during this trial it is impossible to imagine." Some of
the accused having asked for the protection of the president, Merlin
took up the defence of the journals.

Then came the prosecutor's address to the court. Gaveau, to remain true
to his instructions, was to demonstrate that Paris had fought for six
weeks in order to enable a few individuals to steal the remainder of the
public chests, to burn some houses, and to shoot a few gendarmes. This
epauletted limb of the law overthrew as a soldier all the arguments he
built up as a magistrate. "The Commune," he said, "had acted as a
Government," and five minutes after he refused the members of the
Council of the Commune the character of political men. Passing in review
the different accused, he said of Ferré, "I should be wasting my time
and yours by discussing the numerous charges weighing upon him;" of
Jourde, "The figures he has given you are quite imaginary. I shall not
trespass upon your time by discussing them." During the battle in the
streets Jourde had received the order of the Committee of Public Safety
to remit a thousand francs to every member of the Council. About thirty
only had received this sum. Gaveau said, "They divided millions amongst
each other;" and a man of his sort must have believed this. What
sovereign has ever abandoned power without carrying off millions? He
lengthily accused Grousset of having stolen paper in order to print his
journal; another of having lived with a mistress. A coarse _lansquenet_,
incapable of understanding that the more he lowered the men the greater
he made this Revolution, so vital despite all defections and

The audience emphasised this accusation with frantic applause. At the
conclusion there were calls as in a theatre. Merlin gave Ferré's
advocate permission to speak, but Ferré declared he wished to defend
himself, and commenced reading:--

After the conclusion of the treaty of peace consequent upon the shameful
capitulation of Paris, the Republic was in danger, the men who had
succeeded the Empire fallen in the midst of mire and blood"----

_Merlin._ Fallen in the midst of mire and blood! Here I must stop you.
Was not your Government in the same situation?

_Ferré._ "Clung to power, and, though overwhelmed by public contempt,
they prepared in the dark a coup-d'état; they persisted in refusing
Paris the election of her municipal council"----

_Gaveau._ This is not true.

_Merlin._ What you are saying, Ferré, is false. Continue, but at the
third time I shall stop you.

_Ferré._ "The honest and sincere journals were suppressed, the best
patriots condemned to death"----

_Gaveau._ The prisoner cannot go on reading this. I shall ask for the
application of the law.

_Ferré._ "The Royalists were preparing for the partition of France. At
last, in the night of the 18th March, they believed themselves ready,
and attempted to disarm the National Guard, and the wholesale arrest of

_Merlin._ Come, sit down. I allow your advocate to speak.

The advocate of Ferré demanded that his client might be allowed to read
the last sentences of his declaration, and Merlin gave way.

_Ferré._ "A member of the Commune, I am in the hands of its victors.
They want my head; they may take it. I will never save my life by
cowardice. Free I have lived, so I will die. I add but one word. Fortune
is capricious; I confide to the future the care of my memory and my

_Merlin._ The memory of an assassin!

_Gaveau._ It is to the bagnio that such manifestoes should be sent.

_Merlin._ All this does not answer to the acts for which you are here.

_Ferré._ This means that I accept the fate that is in store for me.

During this duel between Merlin and Ferré the hall had remained silent.
Ferocious hisses burst forth when Ferré concluded. The president was
obliged to raise the sitting, and the judges were going out when a
barrister demanded that notice should be taken for the defence that the
president had called Ferré "assassin."

The hisses of the audience answered. The advocate indignantly turned to
the tribunal, to the seats of the press, to the public. Cries of rage
arose from all corners of the hall, drowning his voice for several
minutes. Merlin, who was radiant, at last obtained silence, and answered
cavalierly, "I acknowledge that I made use of the expression of which
the advocate spoke. The court takes notice of your conclusions."

The day before, as a barrister remarked to him, "We are all answerable,
not to the public opinion of to-day, but to history, which will judge
us;" Merlin had cynically answered, "History! At that epoch we shall no
longer be here!" The French bourgeoisie had found its Jeffries.

Early the next day the hall was crowded. The curiosity of the public,
the anxiety of the judges, were extreme. Gaveau, in order to accuse his
adversaries of all crimes at once, had for two days talked politics,
history, socialism. It would have sufficed to answer each one of his
arguments, in order to give the cause that political character which he
denied it, if one of the prisoners were at last to rouse up, and, less
careful of his person than of the Commune, follow up the accusation step
by step, oppose to the grotesque theories of conspiracy the eternal
provocation of the privileged classes; describe Paris offering herself
to the Government of National Defence, betrayed by it, then attacked by
Versailles, abandoned; the proletarians reorganising all the services of
this great city, and in a state of war, surrounded by treason, governing
for two months without police spies and without executions, remaining
poor in sight of the milliards of the bank; if he were to confront the
sixty-three hostages with the 20,000 assassinated, unveil the pontoons,
the jails, swarming with 40,000 unfortunate beings; take the world to
witness in the name of truth, of justice, of the future, and make of the
accused Commune the accuser.

The president might have interrupted him, the cries of the public
drowned his revindication, the court after the first words declared him
outlawed. Such a man, reduced to silence, would, like Danton gagged,
find a gesture, a cry, which should pierce the walls and hurl his
anathema at the head of the tribunal.

The vanquished missed this revenge. Instead of presenting a collective
defence or of maintaining a silence which would have saved their
dignity, the accused intrusted themselves to the barristers. Each one of
these gentlemen stretched a point to save his client even at the expense
of his brother lawyers. One barrister was also the _Figaro's_ and the
confidant of the Empress; another, one of the demonstrators of the Place
Vendôme, begged the court not to confound his cause with that of the
scoundrel's near him. There were scandalous pleadings. This debasement
disarmed neither the tribunal nor the public. Every moment Gaveau
bounded out of his arm-chair. "You are an insolent fellow," said he to a
lawyer. "If there is anything absurd here, it is you." The audience
applauded, ever ready to pounce upon the prisoners. On the 31st August
its fury rose to such a pitch that Merlin threatened to have the court

On the 2nd September the court feigned to deliberate the whole day. At
nine o'clock in the evening it returned to the sitting, and Merlin read
the judgment. Ferré and Lullier were condemned to death; Trinquet and
Urbain to hard labour for life; Assi, Billioray, Champy, Régère,
Grousset, Verdure, Ferrat to transportation in a fortress; Courbet to
six months' and Victor Clément to three months' imprisonment. Decamps
and Parent were acquitted. The audience retired much disappointed at
having got only two condemnations to death.

As a fact, this judicial performance had proved nothing. Could the
Revolution of the 18th March be appreciated from the conduct of
secondary actors, and Delescluze, Varlin, Vermorel, Tridon, Moreau, and
many others, by the attitude of Lullier, Decamps, Victor Clément, or
Billioray? And even if the bearing of Ferré and Trinquet had not proved
that there had been men in the Council of the Commune, what then did the
defection of the majority show if not that this movement was the work of
all, not of a few great minds; that in this crisis the people only had
been great, they only revolutionary; that the Revolution was to be found
in the people, not in the Government of the Commune?

The bourgeoisie, on the contrary, had displayed all its hideousness. The
audience, the tribunal, had been on the same level. Some witnesses had
manifestly perjured themselves. During the debates, in the lobbies, in
the cafés, all the ragamuffins who had endeavoured to dupe the Commune
impudently ascribed to themselves the success of the army. The _Figaro_,
having opened a subscription for Ducatel, had picked up 100,000 francs
and an order of the Légion d'Honneur for him. Allured by this success,
all the conspirators demanded their alms and their order. The partisans
of Beaufond-Lasnier, those of Charpentier-Domalain, fell out, recounted
their prowess, each and all swearing that he had betrayed better than
his rivals.

While society was being avenged at Versailles, the Court of Assizes of
Paris avenged the honour of Jules Favre. Immediately after the Commune,
the Minister for Foreign Affairs had had M. Laluyé arrested, who was
guilty of having communicated to Millière the documents published in the
_Vengeur_. The honest Minister, not having succeeded in getting his
enemy shot as a Communard, summoned him before the assizes for libel.
Here the former member of the Government of National Defence, the former
Minister of Foreign Affairs, the deputy of Paris, publicly confessed
that he had committed forgeries, but he pleaded having done so to secure
his children a fortune. This touching avowal melted the _patres
familias_ of the jury, and Laluyé was condemned to imprisonment for one
year. Some months after he died at Ste. Pélagie. Jules Favre was
terribly lucky. In less than six months the fusillade and the dungeon
had delivered him of two redoubtable enemies.[246]

While the third court-martial was quarrelling with the lawyers, the
fourth hurried through its business without phrases. On the 16th August,
almost immediately after its opening, it had already pronounced two
sentences of death. If the one court had its Jeffries, the other had its
Trestaillon in Colonel Boisdenemetz, a kind of wild boar, a drunkard,
seeing all red, a wit at times, and correspondent of the _Figaro_. On
the 4th September some women were brought before him, accused of setting
fire to the Légion d'Honneur. This was the trial of the petroleuses. The
eight thousand enrolled furies who had been announced by the journals of
order were reduced to the number of five. The cross-examination proved
that the so-called petroleuses were only admirably kind-hearted
ambulance nurses. One of them, Rétiffe, said, "I should have looked
after a soldier of Versailles as well as a National Guard." "Why,"
another was asked, "did you remain when all the battalion ran away?"
"There were wounded and dying," answered she simply. The witnesses for
the prosecution themselves declared that they had not seen any of them
kindle fire; but their fate was decided beforehand. Between two sittings
Boisdenemetz cried in a café, "Death to all these trulls!"

Three barristers out of five had deserted the bar. "Where are they?"
said the president. "They have asked to be allowed to absent themselves
to go to the country," answered the commissary. The court charged
soldiers with the defence of these poor women. One of them, the
Quartermaster Bordelais, made this fine speech: "I defer to the wisdom
of the tribunal."

His client, Suétens, was condemned to death, as were also Rétiffe and
Marchais, "for having attempted to change the form of the Government;"
the two others to transportation and confinement. One of the condemned,
turning to the officer who read the sentence, cried to him in a
heart-rending voice, "And who will feed my child?"

Thy child! See, he is here!

Some days after, before this same Boisdenemetz, fifteen children of
Paris appeared; the eldest was sixteen years old, the youngest, so small
that he could hardly be seen in the dock of prisoners, was eleven. They
wore blue blouses and military képis.

"Druet," said the soldier, "what did your father do?"

"He was a mechanic."

"Why did you not work like him?"

"Because there was no work for me."

"Bouverat, why did you join the _Pupilles de la Commune_?"

"To get something to eat."

"You have been arrested for vagrancy?"

"Yes, twice; the second time for stealing a pair of stockings."

"Cagnoncle, you were _Enfant de la Commune_?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why did you leave your family?"

"Because they had no bread."

"Did you discharge many shots?"

"About fifty."

"Lescot, why did you leave your mother?"

"Because she could not keep me."

"How many children were there of you?"


"You have been wounded?"

"Yes, by a ball in the head."

"Leberg, you have been with a master, and you were surprised taking the
cash-box. How much did you take?"

"Ten sous."

"Did not that money burn your hands?"

And you, red-handed man! these words, do they not burn your lips?
Sinister fools! who do not understand that before these children, thrown
into the streets without education, without hope, through the necessity
you have made for them, the culprit is you, lace-bedecked soldier, you,
the public minister of a society in which children twelve years old,
capable and willing to work, are forced to steal in order to get a pair
of stockings, and have no other alternative than to fall beneath bullets
or die of hunger!


[239] These details are extracted from very numerous notes furnished not
only by the prisoners, among others by Elisée Reclus, but by persons
entire strangers to the Commune, municipal councillors of seaport towns,
foreign journalists, &c.

[240] General Appert's report is not only silent with regard to these
ignominious proceedings, but lies with a placidity that is frightful. He
says, for instance, "The prisoners of the pontoons were treated like the
sailors, with this difference, that they did no work and got frequent
distributions of wine." Of the cages, the vermin, the blows, not a word.
In the same manner he recounts, in the style of a pretentious
quartermaster, the history of the Commune and of the last struggles. It
would be doing him too much honour to point out how his absurd
statements contradict each other. And yet it is from these official lies
that all bourgeois historians have till to-day compiled their histories.

[241] Letter addressed to the _Liberté_ of Brussels.

[242] Besides the 27,837 prisoners officially recognised at the
pontoons, 8472 others were admitted as being dispersed at Satory,
L'Orangerie, Les Chautiers, the houses of justice and correction of
Rouen-Clermont and St. Cyr. On the 15th of October there were still 3500
in the prisons of Versailles.

[243] The former resort of all sorts of criminals.

[244] The great political hecatombs have taken place in France since the
decree of the Provisional Government of 1848.

[245] Here is a sample, and not one of the most emphatic, "We must make
no mistake," said _La Liberté_; "we must, above all, not stand on
niceties; this is certainly a band of scoundrels, assassins, thieves,
and incendiaries whom we have before our eyes. To argue from their
situation of accused in order to exact for them the respect and benefit
of the law which supposes them innocent would be a want of faith. No,
no! a thousand times no! These are not ordinary accused; they were
taken, some in the very act, and the others have so surely signed their
culpability by authentic and solemn acts that it suffices to establish
their identity in order to cry with the full and sonorous voice of
conviction, 'Yes, yes! they are guilty!'

"The detained witnesses are, for the most part, sinister bandits, with
atrocious faces, repulsive types, especially the youngest, and whom one
would not like to meet even in broad daylight at the corner of a wood."

[246] Family and morality were triumphing along the whole line. Some
days after the fall of the Commune, the first president of the Court of
Cassation, the official go-between of the amours of Napoleon III.,
solemnly reoccupied, before all the courts united, his seat, whence the
hypocritical prudery of the men of the 4th September had expelled him.


    "A Versailles, tous les moyens ont été employés pour assurer
      l'instruction la plus sérieuse, la plus attentive, la plus
      complète de tous les procès qui ont été juges.... Je tiens
      donc que les jugements qui ont été rendus ne sont pas
      seulement en droit, d'après toutes nos lois, inattaquables,
      mais que, pour la conscience la plus scrupuleuse, ils sont
      des jugements qui ont dit la vérité.--('Très bien! très
      bien!')"--_Le Garde des Sceaux Dufaure, Discours contre
      l'Amnistie, Séance du 18 Mai 1876._

    "Les conseils de guerre ont jugé, je l'admets, pour le
      mieux."--_Allain-Targé, député Gambettiste, Séance du 19
      Mai 1876._


Twenty-six courts-martial, twenty-six judicial mitrailleuses, were at
work at Versailles, Mont-Valérien, Paris, Vincennes, St. Cloud, Sèvres,
St. Germain, Rambouillet, as far as Chartres. In the composition of
these tribunals not only all semblance of justice, but even all military
rules had been despised. The Assembly had not even troubled itself to
define their prerogatives. And these officers, hot from the struggle,
and for whom every resistance, even the most legitimate, is a crime, had
been let loose upon their overwhelmed enemies without any other
jurisprudence than their fancy, without any other rein than their
humanity, without any other instruction than their commission. With such
janissaries and a penal code comprising everything in its elastic
obscurity, there was no need for exceptional laws in order to attaint
all Paris. Soon one saw the most extravagant theories invented and
propagated in these judicial dens. Thus, being at the place of the crime
constituted legal complicity; with these magistrates this was a dogma.

Instead of removing the courts-martial into the ports, the prisoners
were forced to again undergo the painful journey from the sea to
Versailles. Some, like Elisée Reclus, had thus to pass through fourteen
prisons. From the pontoons they were conducted to the railway station on
foot, their hands manacled; but at Brest, when they passed through the
streets showing their chains, the passers-by uncovered before them.

With the exception of a few prisoners of note, whose trials I shall
briefly recount, the bulk of the prisoners were thrust before the
tribunals after an examination which did not even always make sure of
their identity. Too poor to get a defender, these unfortunate people,
without guides, without witnesses for the defence--those whom they
called did not dare to come for fear of being arrested--only appeared
and disappeared before the tribunal. The accusation, the examination,
the sentence were shuffled through in a few minutes. "You fought at
Issy, at Neuilly? Sentenced to transportation." "What! for life? And my
wife, my children?" To another: "You served in the battalions of the
Commune?" "And who would have fed my family when the workshop and
factory were closed?" Again sentenced to transportation. "And you?
Guilty of an illegal arrest. To the bagnio." On the 14th October, in
less than two months, the first and second courts had pronounced more
than six hundred sentences.

Would that I could recount the martyrology of the thousands who defiled
thus in sombre lines, National Guards, women, children, old men,
ambulance attendants, doctors, functionaries, of this decimated town! It
is you whom I should honour, you above all, you, the nameless, to whom I
should give the first place, as you took it in the work at the
barricades, where you obscurely did your duty. The true drama of the
courts-martial was not in those solemn sittings in which the accused,
the tribunal, the barristers prepared for public performance, but in
those halls which only saw the unhappy ones, ignored by the whole world,
face to face with a tribunal as inexorable as the chassepot. How many of
these humble defenders of the Commune held up their heads more proudly
than the chiefs, and whose heroism no one will tell! When the insolence,
the insults, the grotesque arguments of the conspicuous judges are
known, it may be guessed with what ignominy the unknown accused were
overwhelmed in the shade of these new prevotal courts. Who will avenge
these hecatombs of unknown men, executed in silence, like the last
combatants of the Père Lachaise in the darkness of the night?

The journals have left no trace of their trials; but, in default of the
names of the victims, I can scatter those of some judges to the four
winds of history.

Formerly, in the days of honour of the French army, in 1795, after
Quiberon, it was necessary to threaten the officers of the Republic with
death in order to form the courts-martial that were to judge the
Vendéens. And yet those vanquished had, under the cannon, with English
arms, attacked their country in the rear, while the coalesced Powers
struck her in front. In 1871 the accomplices of Bazaine solicited the
honour of judging the vanquished of that Paris which had been the
bulwark of national honour. Through long months 1,509 officers of this
degraded army, that has not an hour too much for its rehabilitation and
for study, 14 generals, 266 colonels and lieutenant-colonels, and 284
commanders, were dubbed judges and commissaries. How select amongst this
pick of bestiality? When I mention a few presidents at hazard--Merlin,
Boisdenemetz, Jobey, Delaporte, Dulac, Barthel, Donnat, Aubert--I shall
be wronging a hundred others.

Merlin and Boisdenemetz are known. Colonel Delaporte was of the Gallifet
species. Old, used up, valetudinarian, he only revived after a sentence
of death. It is he who pronounced the greatest number, aided by the
clerk of the court, Duplan, who prepared the sentences beforehand, and
afterwards committed the most impudent forgeries in the minutes. Jobey
had, it was said, lost a son in the struggle with the Commune, and now
he avenged himself. His small wrinkled eye watched for the anguish in
the face of the unfortunate he condemned. Every appeal to good sense was
to him an insult.

"He would have been happy," said he, "to stew the lawyers together with
the culprits."

And yet how few lawyers did their duty! Many had declared that one could
not decently assist such prisoners. Others wanted to be requisitioned.
With four or five exceptions,[247] these unworthy defenders banqueted
with the officers. Barristers and commissaries communicated to each
other their means of attack or defence; the officers announced the
verdicts beforehand. The advocate Riché boasted of having drawn up the
accusation act against Rossel. The advocates officially designated did
not answer the call.

These ignorant judges, making a parade of violence, insulting the
prisoners, witnesses, and lawyers, were worthily seconded by the
commissaries. One of them, Grimal, sold to the demi-monde journals the
papers of the celebrated prisoners.[248] Gaveau, a savage simpleton,
without a shadow of talent, died some months after in a madhouse.
Bourboulon, eager for display, aimed at oratorical effects. Barthélemy,
a beer-drinker, fair and fat, made puns while asking for the heads of
the accused. Charrière, at fifty years of age still captain, a kind of
wild-cat, an imbecile, and a pretentious liar, said that he had "made a
vow of cruelty to Cæsar." Jouesne, notorious in the army for his
stupidity, made up for it by his stubborn animosity. Not much was needed
in such courts. The most implacable, on the whole, were the third,
fourth, and sixth courts, and the thirteenth at St. Cloud, which
publicly boasted of acquitting nobody.

So much for the judges and the justice which the bourgeoisie gave those
proletarians they had not shot down. I should like to be able to follow
up step by step their swash-buckling jurisprudence, take the trials one
by one, show the laws violated, the most elementary rules of procedure
despised, the documents falsified, the evidence distorted, the prisoners
condemned to hard labour and to death without what would have been the
ghost of a proof with a serious jury; the cynicism of the prevotal
courts of the Restoration and of the Mixed Commissions of December
ingrafted on the brutality of the soldier who revenges his caste. Such a
work would require long technical labour.[249] I shall only indicate the
principal lines. Besides, are not these judgments already judged?

In 1871 the Versaillese Government demanded of Switzerland the
extradition of the governor of the Ecole Militaire, in 1876 that of the
delegate Frankel from Hungary, both condemned to death for assassination
and incendiarism. They were at once arrested. Liberal Switzerland and
rural Hungary, considering the acts of the Commune as common crimes,
were ready to deliver up the prisoners if Versailles furnished the legal
proof required by treaties of extradition that they had committed the
acts for which they had been condemned. The Versaillese Government only
produced the sentences of the courts-martial, and could not add the
least "trace of proof or any precise evidence establishing
culpability."[250] The prisoners had to be released.

On the 8th September Rossel appeared before the third court. His defence
consisted in saying that he had served the Commune in the hope that the
insurrection would recommence the war against the Prussians. Merlin
treated the prisoner with the greatest consideration, who in turn
testified the most profound respect for the army. But an example was
needed for romantic soldiers, and Rossel was condemned to death.

On the 21st Rochefort was sentenced to transportation in a fortress. The
Bonapartists of the court especially had their eye on the author of the
_Lanterne_. Merlin had defended Pierre Bonaparte. Gaveau accused the
prisoner of having outraged the person of the Emperor. Trochu, whom
Rochefort had called as a witness for the defence, answered the man who
during the siege had for him sacrificed his popularity, by an insulting

Revolutionary journalism had the honour of counting some victims in its
ranks. Young Maroteau, for two articles--two only--in the _Salut Public_
was condemned to death; Alphonse Humbert, for three or four articles in
the _Père Duchesne_, to hard labour for life.

Other journalists were condemned to transportation. What was their
crime? Having defended the Commune. Yet the Commune had contented itself
with suppressing the journals that defended Versailles. In point of
fact, the courts-martial were charged to exterminate the revolutionary

Fear of the future rendered them implacable. After the numberless
assassinations in the Rue des Rosiers, they too wanted to offer a
holocaust to the manes of Lecomte and Clément-Thomas. The real
executioners were not to be found. The explosion of fury which cost the
two generals their lives had been spontaneous, sudden as that which in
1789 killed Flesselles, Foulon, and Berthier. The actors of the drama
were legion, and with it all traces of them were lost. The military
judges selected the accused at random, as their colleagues had on the
Buttes Montmartre shot the first-comers.

"Simon Mayer," said the report, "tried to the last moment to defend the
prisoners, and Kazdansky did his best to oppose the carrying out of the
threats of death. The crowd insulted him and tore off his gold lace."
Herpin-Lacroix had made desperate efforts; Lagrange, who had refused to
form the firing-party, felt so secure in his innocence that he had come
to give himself up to the judges of his own free will. The report made
the principal accused of him, along with Simon Mayer, Kazdansky,
Herpin-Lacroix, and a sergeant of the line, Verdagnier, who on the 18th
March had raised the butt-end of his gun.

The trial was conducted by Colonel Aubert, a sneering melodramatic
bigot. Despite his efforts and those of the commissary, not the
slightest proof could be brought forward against the prisoners. Even the
officers of the army, companions of General Lecomte, gave evidence in
their favour. "Simon Mayer did all that was possible to save us," said
the Commander Poussargue. This officer had heard a voice cry, "Do not
kill even traitors without judgment; form a court-martial;" textually
the words of Herpin-Lacroix. Of all the accused, he only recognised
Mayer. Another officer gave similar evidence. Verdagnier proved that at
the time of the executions he had been at the huts of Courcelles. The
accusation denied all, but without being able to produce a single
witness. Ribemont proved that he had withstood the assailants in the
room of the Rue des Rosiers. Masselot had against him nothing but the
evidence of some hostile women, pretending that he had boasted of having
shot at the generals. Captain Beugnot, aide-de-camp of the Minister, and
present at the execution, affirmed, on the contrary, that the generals
had been surrounded by the soldiers; M. de Maillefu, that the front of
the platoon was composed of nine soldiers, whose regiments he named.

There were not even false official witnesses, as in the trial of the
members of the Commune; and yet the accusation, far from letting them
escape its clutches, was most implacable with regard to these very men
who had risked their lives to save the generals. The commissary
threatened to arrest a witness who warmly gave evidence in favour of a
prisoner. After several sittings they discovered that they were judging
one individual for another. The president ordered the press to hush up
the incident. Each sitting, each new evidence, cleared the prisoners
and made a condemnation more impossible. Yet on the 18th November
Verdagnier, Mayer, Herpin-Lacroix, Masselot, Leblond, and Aldenhoff were
condemned to death; the others to penalties varying from hard labour to
imprisonment. One of those condemned to death, Leblond, was only fifteen
and a half years old.

This satisfaction given the army, the courts, as good courtiers, avenged
the offences against M. Thiers. The functionary Fontaine, charged by the
Commune with the demolition of the hotel of him who had demolished
hundreds of houses, appeared before the fifth court-martial, which did
its utmost to make him appear a thief. Every one knew that M. Thiers'
furniture and silver plate had been sent to the Garde-Meuble, the
objects of art to the museums, the books to the public libraries, the
linen to the ambulances, and that after the entry of the troops the
little man had regained possession of most of these objects. Some having
perished in the conflagration of the Tuileries, the report accused
Fontaine of having abstracted them, although only two valueless medals
had been found in his house. To this accusation, from which he believed
himself secured by a long life of probity and honour, Fontaine could
only reply with tears. The Figarists laughed at it a good deal, and he
was condemned to twenty years' hard labor.

On the 28th November the Assembly recommenced its fusillade. M. Thiers,
cleverly throwing upon the representatives the right of commuting the
penalties, had a Commission of Pardons named by the Chamber. It was
composed of fifteen members, purveyors of the Mixed Commission of 1852,
great proprietors, inveterate Royalists.[251] One of them, the Marquis
de Quinsonnas, had during the battle in the streets superintended the
executions at the Luxembourg. The president, Martel, was an old satyr,
who sold his pardons to pretty solicitresses.

The first cases which they took up were those of Rossel and Ferré. The
Liberal press pleaded warmly for the young officer. In his restless
mind, without unsound political opinions, who had so cavalierly turned
his back upon the Commune, the bourgeoisie soon recognised one of her
prodigal children. He had besides made an _amende honorable_. The press
published his memoirs, in which he reviled the Commune and the Federals.
Day by day they recounted the life of the prisoner, his sublime
colloquies with a Protestant clergyman, his heart-rending interviews
with his family. Of Ferré not a word, except to say he was "hideous."
His mother had died mad; his brother was shut up as mad in the dungeons
of Versailles; his father was a prisoner in the citadel of Fouras; his
sister, a young girl of nineteen, silent, resigned, stoical, spent her
days and nights in order to earn the twenty francs that she every week
sent her brother. She had refused the aid of her friends, unwilling to
share with any one the honour of accomplishing her pious duty. Indeed,
one can imagine nothing more "hideous!"

For twelve weeks death remained suspended above the heads of the
condemned. At last, on the 28th November, at six o'clock in the morning,
they were told that they must die. Ferré jumped out of bed without
showing the slightest emotion, declined the visit of the chaplain, wrote
to ask the military tribunals for the release of his father, and to his
sister that she should have him buried so that his friends would be able
to find him again. Rossel, rather surprised at first, afterwards
conversed with his clergyman. He wrote a letter demanding that his death
should not be avenged--a very useless precaution--and addressed a few
thanks to Jesus Christ. For comrade in death they had a sergeant of the
45th line, Bourgeois, who had gone over to the Commune, and who showed
the same calm as Ferré. Rossel was indignant when they put on the
handcuffs; Ferré and Bourgeois disdained to protest.

The day was hardly dawning; it was bitterly cold. Before the Butte of
Satory 5,000 men under arms surrounded three white stakes, each one
guarded by twelve executioners. Colonel Merlin commanded, thus uniting
the three functions of conqueror, judge, and hangman. Some curious
lookers-on, officers and journalists, composed the whole public.

At seven o'clock the carts of the condemned appeared; the drums beat a
salute, the trumpets sounded. The prisoners descended, escorted by
gendarmes. Rossel, on passing before a group of officers, saluted them.
The brave Bourgeois, looking on at the whole drama with an indifferent
air, leant against the middle stake. Ferré came last, dressed in black
and smoking a cigar, not a muscle of his face moving. With a firm and
even step he walked up and leant against the third stake.

Rossel, attended by his lawyer and his clergyman, asked to be allowed to
command the fire. Merlin refused. Rossel wished to shake hands with him,
in order to do homage to his sentence. This was refused. During these
negotiations Ferré and Bourgeois remained motionless, silent. In order
to put a stop to Rossel's effusions an officer was obliged to tell him
that he was prolonging the torture of the two others. At last they
blindfolded him. Ferré pushed back the bandage, and, fixing his
eyeglass, looked the soldiers straight in the face.

The sentence read, the adjutants lowered their sabres, the guns were
discharged. Rossel and Bourgeois fell back. Ferré remained standing; he
was only hit in the side. He was again fired at and fell. A soldier
placing his chassepot at his ear blew out his brains.

On a gesture of Merlin a flourish of trumpets burst forth, and,
emulating the customs of the cannibals, the troops defiled in triumph
before the corpses. What cries of horror the bourgeoisie would have
uttered if before the executed hostages the Federals had paraded to the
sound of music!

The bodies of Rossel and Ferré were claimed by their families; that of
Bourgeois disappeared in the common grave of the St. Louis Cemetery. The
people will not disassociate his memory from that of Ferré, for they
both died with the same courage for the cause they had served with the
same devotion.

The Liberal press reserved its tears for Rossel. Some courageous
provincial papers did honour to all the victims, and devoted to the
hatred of France the Commission of Pardons--"the Commission of
Assassins," as a deputy, Ordinaire junior, said in the Assembly.
Prosecuted before juries, all these journals were acquitted.

Two days after the execution of Satory, the Commission of Pardons
ordered Gaston Crémieux to be killed. Six months had elapsed since his
condemnation, and this long delay seemed to make the murder impossible.
But the rural Commission wanted to avenge his famous speech of Bordeaux.
On the 30th November, at seven o'clock in the morning, Gaston Crémieux
was led to the Prado, a large plain bordering the sea. He said to his
guardians, "I will show how a Republican should die." He was placed
against the same stake where a month before the soldier Paquis had been
shot for going over to the insurrection.

Gaston Crémieux wished to have his eyes unbandaged and to command the
fire. They consented. Then addressing himself to the soldiers, "Aim at
the chest; do not touch my head. Fire! Vive la Répub...." The last word
was cut short by death. As at Satory, the dance of the soldiers round
the corpse followed.

The death of this young enthusiast made a deep impression in the town.
Registers placed at the door of his house filled in a few hours with
thousands of signatures. The revolutionists of Marseilles will not
forget his children.

The same day the sixth court avenged the death of Chaudey. This had been
ordered and superintended by Raoul Rigault alone. The men who formed the
platoon were abroad. Préau de Védel, the principal accused, then
imprisoned in Ste. Pélagie for a common offence, had only held the
lantern. But the jurisprudence of the officers attributed to simple
agents the same responsibility as to the chiefs. Préau de Védel was
condemned to death.

On the 4th December, in the hall of the third court, a kind of phantom,
pale-faced and sympathetic, appeared. It was Lisbonne, who for six
months had dragged about his wounds of the Château d'Eau. The same
before the court-martial as during the Commune and at Buzenval, this
bravest of the brave gloried in having fought, and only denied the
accusations of pillage. Other judges would have been proud to spare such
an enemy; the Versaillese condemned him to death.

Some days after, this same court-martial heard a woman's voice. "I will
not defend myself; I will not be defended," cried Louise Michel. "I
belong entirely to the social revolution, and I declare that I accept
the responsibility of all my acts. I accept it entirely and without
reserve. You accuse me of having participated in the execution of the
generals. To this I answer, yes. If I had been at Montmartre, when they
wished to fire on the people, I should not have hesitated to order fire
myself on those who gave such commands. As to the conflagrations of
Paris, yes, I did participate in them. I wanted to oppose a barrier of
flames to the invaders of Versailles. I have no accomplices; I acted on
my own account."

The Commissary Dailly demanded the penalty of death.

_Louise Michel._ What I ask of you, you who style yourselves a
court-martial, who proclaim yourselves my judges, who do not hide
yourselves like the Commission of Pardons, is the field of Satory, where
our brothers have already fallen. I must be cut off from society; you
have been told to do so. Well, the Commissary of the Republic is right.
Since it seems that every heart which beats for liberty has only right
to a little lead, I too demand my part. If you let me live, I shall not
cease to cry vengeance, and I shall denounce to the vengeance of my
brothers the assassins of the Commission of Pardons.

_The President._ I cannot allow you to go on.

_Louise Michel._ I have done. If you are not cowards, kill me.

They had not the courage to kill her at one blow. She was condemned to
transportation to a fortress.

Louise Michel did not stand alone in her courageous attitude. Many
others, amongst whom must be mentioned Lemel and Augustine Chiffon,
showed the Versaillese what terrible women these Parisians are, even
vanquished, even in chains.

The affair of the executions of La Roquette came on at the beginning of
1872. There, as in the Clément-Thomas and Chaudey trials, they had none
of the real actors except Genton, who had carried the order. Almost all
the witnesses, former hostages, gave evidence with the rage natural to
people who have trembled. The accusation, refusing to believe in an
outburst of fury, had built up a ridiculous scaffolding of a
court-martial discussing and ordering the death of the prisoners. It
asserted that one of the accused had commanded the fire, and he was
about to be condemned, in spite of the solemn protests of Genton, when
the real chief of the firing-party, who had just been discovered dying
in a prison, was brought in. Genton was condemned to death. His advocate
had odiously slandered him, then fled, and the court refused to allow
him a second defender.

The most important affair which followed was that of the Dominicans of
Arcueil. No execution had been less premeditated. These monks had fallen
in crossing the Avenue d'Italie, shot down by the men of the 101st. The
report accused Sérizier, who at that moment was not even in the Avenue.
The only witness called against him said, "I do not affirm anything
myself; I have heard it said." But we know what close bonds unite army
and clergy. Sérizier was condemned to death, as was also one of his
lieutenants, Bouin, against whom not a single witness could be brought
forward. The court took advantage of the occasion to pronounce sentences
of death against Wroblewski, who at that time had been at the
Butte-aux-Cailles, and against Frankel, who had been fighting at the

On the 12th March the affair of the Rue Haxo came on before the sixth
court, still presided over by Delaporte. The executioners of the
hostages had been no more discoverable than those of the Rue des
Rosiers. The indictment fell back upon the director of the prison,
François, who for a long time had disputed the surrender of his
prisoners, and upon twenty-two persons denounced by gossip contradicted
at the trial. Not one of the witnesses recognised the accused. Delaporte
multiplied his menaces with such a cynicism that the Commissary Rustaud,
who had, however, given proofs of his animosity in the preceding trials,
could not refrain from exclaiming, "But do you want to condemn them
all?" He was the next day replaced by the idiot Charrière. In spite of
all this, the indictment frittered away from hour to hour before the
disavowals of the witnesses. Still not one of the prisoners escaped.
Seven were condemned to death, nine to hard labour, and the others to

The Commission of Pardons awaited, chassepot in hand, the prey given up to
them by the courts-martial. On the 22d of February, 1872, it shot three of
the so-called murderers of Clément-Thomas and Lecomte, even those whose
innocence had most clearly come out in the trial--Herpin-Lacroix,
Lagrange, and Verdagnier. Upright at the stake of the 28th November, they
cried "Vive la Commune!" and died, their faces radiant. On the 19th March
Préau de Védel was executed. On the 30th April it was Genton's turn. The
wounds which he had received in May had reopened, and he dragged himself
to the Butte on his crutches. Arrived at the stake, he threw them from
him, cried "Vive la Commune!" and fell under the fire. On the 25th May the
three stakes were again occupied by Sérizier, Bouin, and Boudin, the
latter condemned as chief of the platoon which in front of the Tuileries
had executed a Versaillese who attempted to prevent the erection of the
barricades of the Rue Richelieu. They said to the soldiers of the platoon,
"We are children of the people, and you are too. We shall show you that
the children of Paris know how to die." And they, also, fell, crying "Vive
la Commune!"

These men who went to the grave so courageously, who with a gesture
defied the musket, who, dying, cried that their cause died not, these
ringing voices, these steadfast looks, disconcerted the soldiers
profoundly. The muskets trembled, and almost within point-blank range
they rarely killed at the first discharge. So at the next execution, the
6th July, the Commander Colin, who presided at these fusillades, ordered
the eyes of the victims bandaged. There were two of them--Baudoin,
accused of setting fire to the St. Eloi Church, and of killing an
individual who had fired at the Federals; and Rouilhac, an insurgent who
had shot at a bourgeois who was potting Federals. Both pushed back the
sergeants who came to blindfold them. Colin gave the order to tie them
to the stake. Three times Baudoin tore asunder the cords; Rouilhac
struggled desperately. The priest who came to assist the soldiers
received some blows in the chest. At last, overwhelmed, they cried, "We
die for the good cause." They were mangled by the balls. After the march
past, an officer of a psychological turn of mind, moving with the tip of
his boot the brains that trickled down, remarked to a colleague, "It is
with this that they thought."

In June, 1872, all the celebrated cases being disposed of, military
justice avenged the death of a Federal, Captain Beaufort. There is but
one explanation for this strange fact, which is that Beaufort belonged
to the Versaillese. We have received important evidence on this
head.[252] At all events, if Delescluze or Varlin had been shot by the
Federals, Versailles would not have avenged their death.

Three of those accused out of four were present, Deschamps, Denivelle,
and Madame Lachaise, the celebrated cantinière of the 66th. She had
followed Beaufort before the council held at the Boulevard Voltaire,
and, having heard explanations, had done her best to protect him. The
indictment none the less made of her the principal instigator of his
death. On the written evidence of a witness who was not to be found, and
who had never been confronted with her, the commissary accused Madame
Lachaise of having profaned Beaufort's corpse. At this abominable
accusation this noble woman burst into tears. She, as well as Denivelle
and Deschamps, were condemned to death.

The obscene imagination of soldiers with Algerian habits taxed itself to
pollute the accused. Colonel Dulac, judging an intimate friend of
Rigault's, pretended that their friendship had been of an infamous
character. Despite the indignant protests of the prisoner, the wretched
officer persisted.

The bourgeois press, far from stigmatising, applauded. Without truce,
without lassitude, since the opening of the courts-martial it
accompanied all the trials with the same chorus of imprecations and the
same slanders. Some persons having protested against these executions so
long after the battle, Francisque Sarcey wrote, "The axe ought to be
riveted to the hand of the executioner."

Till then the Commission of Pardons had only killed three at a time. On
the 24th of July it slaughtered four--François, the director of La
Roquette, Aubry, Dalivoust, and De St. Omer, condemned for the affair of
the Rue Haxo. De St. Omer was more than suspected, and in the prison his
comrades kept aloof from him. Before the muskets they cried "Vive la
Commune!" He answered, "Down with it!"

On the 18th September, Lolive (accused of having participated in the
execution of the Archbishop), Denivelle, and Deschamps were executed.
These last cried, "Long live the Universal and Social Republic! Down
with the cowards!" On the 22nd January, 1873, nineteen months after the
battle in the streets, the Commission of Pardons tied three more victims
to its stakes--Philippe, member of the Council of the Commune, guilty of
having energetically defended Bercy; Benot, who set fire to the
Tuileries; and Decamps, condemned for the conflagration of the Rue de
Lille, although they had not been able to bring forward any evidence
whatever against him. "I die innocent," cried he. "Down with Thiers!"
Philippe and Benot: "Long live the Social Republic! Vive la Commune!"
They fell, not having belied the courage of the soldiers of the
Revolution of the 18th March.

This was the last execution at Satory. The blood of twenty-five victims
had reddened the stakes of the Commission of Pardons. In 1875 it had a
young soldier shot at Vincennes, accused of the death of the detective
Vizentini, thrown into the Seine by hundreds of hands at the
manifestation of the Bastille.[253]

The movements of the provinces were judged by courts-martial or assize
courts, according to the department being or not being in a state of
siege. Everywhere the issue of the Parisian struggle had been waited
for. Immediately after the defeat of Paris the reaction ran riot.
Espivent's courts-martial initiated these trials. He had his Gaveau in
Commander Villeneuve, one of the bombarders of the 4th April, his
Merlin, and his Boisdenemetz in the colonels Thomassin and Douat. On the
12th June Gaston Crémieux, Etienne, Pélissier, Roux, Bouchet, and all
those who could be connected with the movement of the 23rd March
appeared before the soldiers. The pretentious blockheadedness of
Villeneuve served as type of the military prosecutor's addresses with
which France was inundated. Crémieux, Etienne, Pélissier, and Roux were
condemned to death. This was not enough for the jesuitical bourgeois
reaction. Espivent had declared through the Court of Cassation that the
department of the Bouches-du-Rhône was in a state of siege since the 9th
August, 1870, in virtue of a decree by the Empress, which had neither
been published in the bulletin of laws, nor been sanctioned by the
Senate, nor even promulgated. Provided with this arm, he persecuted all
marked out by the hand of the Congregation. The municipal councillor,
David Bosc, ex-delegate to the Commission, a millionaire shipowner,
accused of having stolen a silver watch from a police agent, was only
acquitted by a small majority of voices. The next day the
colonel-president was replaced by the lieutenant-colonel of the 4th
Chasseurs, Donnat, half-mad with absinthe-drinking. A workingman, aged
seventy-five, was condemned to ten years' hard labour and twenty years'
deprivation of civil and political rights for having on the 4th
September arrested for half an hour a police agent who had sent him to
Cayenne in 1852. A crazy old woman, purveyor of the Jesuits, arrested
for a few moments on the 4th September, accused the former commander of
the Civil Guard of her arrest. Her accusation was contradicted by
herself and quite overthrown by alibis and numberless proofs. The
ex-commander was condemned to five years' of prison and ten years'
privation of civil rights. One of the soldier-judges, coming out after
committing this crime, said, "One must have very profound political
convictions to condemn in similar affairs." With these cynical
collaborators Espivent could satisfy all his hatred. He asked the courts
of Versailles to deliver up to him the member of the Council of the
Commune, Amourox, delegate for a time at Marseilles. "I am prosecuting
him for tampering with soldiers," wrote Espivent, "a crime punished by
death; and I am persuaded that this punishment will be applied to him."

The court-martial of Lyons was not very inferior. Forty-four persons
were prosecuted for the movement of the 22nd March, and thirty-two
condemned to penalties varying from transportation to imprisonment. The
insurrection of the 30th April furnished seventy prisoners, taken at
hazard at Lyons, as was the custom at Versailles. The mayor of the
Guillotière, Crestin, called as witness, did not recognise amongst them
any of those he had seen on that day in his mairie. Presidents of the
courts, the Colonels Marion and Rébillot.

At Limoges, Dubois and Roubeyrol, democrats esteemed by the whole town,
were condemned in default to death, as the principal actors in the
movement of the 4th April; two were condemned to twenty years'
imprisonment for having boasted of knowing who had shot at Colonel
Billet. Another got ten years for having distributed munitions.

The verdicts of the jury varied. That of the Basses-Pyrénées on the 8th
August acquitted Duportal and the four or five persons accused of the
movement of Toulouse. The same acquittal took place at Rhodez, where
Digeon and the accused of Narbonne appeared after a preliminary
imprisonment of eight months. A sympathetic public filled the hall and
the approaches of the tribunal and cheered the accused at their
departure. The energetic attitude of Digeon once more showed the strong
cast of his character.

The jury of Riom condemned for the affairs of St. Etienne twenty-one
prisoners, among whom was Amouroux, who had only sent two delegates. A
young workingman, Caton, distinguished himself by his intelligence and

The jury of Orléans was severe upon the accused of Montargis, all of
whom they condemned to prison, and atrocious to those of Cosnes and
Newry-sur-Loire, where there had been no resistance. There were
twenty-three altogether, of whom three were women. Their whole crime had
been carrying about a red flag and crying "Vive Paris! Down with
Versailles!" Malardier, a former representative of the people, who only
arrived on the eve of the manifestation, and who had taken no part in
it, was condemned to fifteen years' imprisonment. None of the accused
was spared. The proprietors of the Loiret avenged the fright of their
fellow-proprietors of the Nièvre.

The movements of Coulommiers, Nîmes, Dordives, and Voiron gave rise to
some convictions.

In the month of June, 1872, the greater part of the work of repression
was done. Of the 36,309[254] prisoners, men, women, and children,
without counting the 5,000 military prisoners, to whom the Versaillese
have confessed, 1,179, said they, had died in their prisons; 22,326 had
been liberated after long winter months in the pontoons, the forts, and
the prisons; 10,488 brought before the courts-martial, who had
condemned 8,525 of them. The persecutions did not cease. On the advent
of MacMahon, the 24th May, 1873, there set in a recrudescence. On the
1st January, 1875, the general résumé of Versaillese justice gave 10,137
condemnations pronounced in presence of the accused, and 3,313 in
default. The sentences passed were distributed thus:--

  Condemnations to death         270 of whom   8 women.
  Hard labour                    410   "      29  "
  Transportation in a fortress  3989   "      20  "
  Simple transportation         3507   "      16 women and 1
  Detention                     1269   "       8 women.
  Confinement                     64   "      10    "
  Hard labour at public works     29
  Imprisonment from three
    months and upwards           432
  Imprisonment from three
    months to one year          1622   "      50 women and 1
  Imprisonment for more than
    one year                    1344   "      15 women and 4
  Banishment                     322
  Surveillance of the police     117   "       1 woman.
  Fines                            9
  Children under sixteen sent
    to houses of correction                               56
                             --------        ---          --
                Total         13,440 of whom 157 were women and
                                                 62 children.

This résumé contained neither the sentences pronounced by the
courts-martial beyond the jurisdiction of Versailles nor those of the
courts of assizes. We must therefore add 15 condemnations to death, 22
to hard labour, 28 to transportation in a fortress, 29 to simple
transportation, 74 to detention, 13 to confinement, and a certain number
to imprisonment. The total figure of the condemned of Paris and the
provinces exceeds 13,700, among whom were 170 women and 62 children.

Three-fourths of the 10,000 condemned while present--7,418 out of
10,137--were simple guards or non-commissioned officers, 1,942 subaltern
officers. There were only 225 superior officers, 29 members of the
Council of the Commune, 49 of the Central Committee. Despite their
savage jurisprudence, the inquiries, and the false witnesses, the
courts-martial had been unable to bring forward against nine-tenths of
the condemned--9,285--any other crime than the bearing of arms or the
exercise of public functions. Of the 766 condemned for so-called common
crimes, 276 were for simple arrests, 171 for the battle in the streets,
132 for crimes classed as "others" by the report, all evidently for acts
of war.[255] Notwithstanding the great number of ticket-of-leave men
designedly included in these prosecutions, nearly three-fourths of the
condemned--7,119--had no judiciary antecedents; 524 had incurred
condemnation for misdemeanor against public order (political or simple
police cases); 2,381 for crimes or misdemeanours, which the report took
care not to specify. Finally, this insurrection, provoked and conducted
by the foreigner according to the bourgeois press, furnished in all but
396 prisoners of foreign origin.

This is the balance-sheet of 1874. The following years added new
condemnations. The number of the courts was reduced, but their
institution was maintained and the prosecutions are going on. Even now,
six years after the defeat, the arrests and convictions have not ceased.


[247] Let us cite Dupont de Bussac, and above all Léon Bigot, who
defended Maroteau, Lisbonne, and a great number of obscure prisoners.
For a year he gave them his time, his labour, his money, publishing
memoirs, exhausting himself in applications. He died in harness,
falling, struck by apoplexy, even at the bar. The friends of the Commune
will not forget this noble devotion.

[248] He was condemned in 1876 to five years' imprisonment for

[249] In the law-schools is there no one to undertake it? What finer
cause to begin with for a young man? What noble occasion to efface the
great wrongs of the schools during the Commune, to bring nearer the
proletarian this part of our youth, which is drifting further from them
every day?

[250] "To this demand of the communication of judicial evidence," said
the tribunal of Buda-Pesth in its judgment, "the French Government has
answered by purely and simply transmitting the sentence of the
court-martial. In this sentence there exists no trace of proof, nor any
precise evidence establishing culpability. Considering that this verdict
is totally destitute of evidence and legal proofs, and that it indicates
no means of procuring them, this tribunal exonerates Frankel from the
charges brought against him."

[251] Here are their names, which truly belong to the history of the
people:--Martel, president; Piou, vice-president; the Count Octave de
Bastard, Félix Voisin, secretaries; Batbie, the Count de Maillé, the
Count Duchâtel, Peltereau-Villeneuve, François Sacaze, Tailhaud, the
Marquis de Quinsonnas, Bigot, Merveilleux-Duvignan, Paris, Corne.

[252] Appendix XXXVII.

[253] According to reactionary journals this agent had been first bound
to a board, an odious invention, which nothing that came out during the
trial could justify. Vizentini, seized in a spontaneous outburst of
fury, and thrown immediately into the Seine, might even have been saved,
if a board to which he clung had not in tipping over struck him on the

[254] Report of General Appert.

[255] Thus the seizures made during the house-searches, in virtue of
regular mandates, were classed among the acts of theft with violence,
pillage, &c., as though these acts had had any personal motive. Now it
is necessary to point out that no one gave evidence of theft against the
prisoners before the courts-martial; no one could say that the
conflagrations had been taken advantage of for pillage.


    "Les déportés sont plus heureux que nos soldats, car nos
      soldats ont des factions à faire ... tandis que le déporté
      vit au milieu des fleurs de son jardin."--_Discours de
      l'Amiral Fourichon, Ministre de la Marine, contre
      l'Amnistie, Séance du 17 Mai 1876._

    "Ce sont surtout les républicains qui ne doivent pas vouloir
      l'amnistie."--_Victor Lefranc, Séance du 18 Mai 1876._


Two days' journey from France there is a colony eager for hands, rich
enough to enrich thousands of families. After every victory over
Parisian workmen the bourgeoisie has always preferred throwing its
victims to the antipodes to fecundating Algeria with them. The Republic
of 1848 had Nouka-Hiva; the Versaillese Assembly, New Caledonia. It is
to this rock, six thousand leagues from their native land, that it
decided to transport those condemned for life. "The Council of the
Government," said the reporter on the law, "gives the transported a
family and a home." The mitrailleuse was more honest.

Those condemned to transportation were huddled together into four
depots, Fort Boyard, St. Martin de Ré, Oléron, and Quélern, where for
long months they languished between despair and hope, which never
abandon political victims. One day, when they believed themselves almost
forgotten, a brutal call resounded. To the surgery! A doctor looked at
them, questioned them, did not listen to their answers, and said, "Fit
for departure!"[256] And then farewell family, country, society, human
life, _en route_ for the sepulchre of the antipodes. And happy he who
was condemned to transportation only. He could for a last time press a
friendly hand, see tears in kindly eyes, give a last kiss. But the
galley-slave of the Commune will only see the taskmaster. At the call of
the whistle he must undress, be searched, then have the livery of the
voyage thrown him, and, without a farewell, ascend the floating bagnio.

The transport ship was a moving pontoon. Large cages built on the
gun-deck shut in the prisoners. In the night these became centres of
infection. In the daytime, the uncaged people had but one-half hour to
come up on the deck and breathe a little fresh air. Around the cages the
jailers stood grumbling, punishing with the blackhole the slightest
infringement of the rules. Some unhappy beings made the whole voyage at
the bottom of the hold, sometimes almost naked, for having refused to
comply with a caprice. The women, like the men, were sent to the
blackhole; the nuns who watched them were worse than the jailers. For
five months they had to live in this promiscuous fashion in the cage, in
the filth of their neighbours, fed upon biscuits often musty, on bacon,
on almost salt water; now burnt by the tropics, now frozen by the cold
of the South, or by the spray dashing over the gun-deck. And what
spectres arrived! When the _Orne_ dropped anchor off Melbourne there
were 360 sick of scurvy out of 588 prisoners.[257] They inspired even
the rough colonials of Australia with pity. The inhabitants of Melbourne
came to succour them, collecting in a few hours 40,000 francs. The
commander of the _Orne_ refused to transmit the sum to the prisoners,
even in the shape of clothes, tools, and simple necessaries.

The _Danaë_ was the first ship that set sail, on the 3rd May, 1872; the
_Guerrière_, _Garonne_, _Var_, _Sibylle_, _Orne_, _Calvados_,
_Virginie_, &c., followed. By the 1st July, 1875, 3,859 prisoners had
landed in New Caledonia.[258]

This Caledonian sepulchre has three circles: the peninsula Ducos, not
far from Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, for those condemned to
transportation in a fortress--805 men and 6 women; the Ile des Pins,
thirty miles south-east of the principal island, for those condemned to
simple transportation--2,795 men and 13 women; and, quite in the
background, worse than death, the bagnio of the Ile Nou, for 240

The peninsula Ducos, a narrow neck of land commanded by cannon, with its
mouth guarded by soldiers, without a watercourse, without verdure, is
traversed by arid hills and swampy valleys. For all shelter the
condemned found a few dilapidated hovels; for all furniture, a saucepan
and a hammock. The Ile des Pins, a tableland, its centre perfectly
desolate, is bounded by fertile plains, but in the hands of the Marist
monks, who exploit the labour of the natives. Nothing was prepared for
the reception of the condemned. The first who arrived wandered about in
the woods; only very long after did they receive bad tents and hammocks.
The natives, incited by the missionaries, fled from them, or sold them
provisions at enormous prices.

The administration was to have provided the indispensable clothing. None
of the prescribed rules was observed. The képis and boots were soon worn
out, and the immense majority of the condemned having no means whatever,
had to bear the sun and the rainy season bare-headed and bare-footed.
They had neither tobacco nor soap; there was no brandy to mix with the
brackish water.

The prisoners did not lose heart at this beginning. Laborious, active,
with that universal aptitude of the Parisian workman, they felt
themselves equal to overcoming the first difficulties. The reporter on
the law had extolled the thousand revenues of New Caledonia--fisheries,
cattle-breeding, the working of mines--and represented this compulsory
emigration as the founding of a new French Empire in the Pacific. The
condemned hoped to make themselves a home in this far-off land. These
proletarians were free of the false dignity affected by the proscribed
bourgeois; far from refusing work, they sought for it. In the Ile des
Pins there were an hospital, an aqueduct, administrative warehouses to
be finished, a large road to be constructed; 2,000 condemned presented
themselves; 800 only were employed, and their wages never exceeded 85
centimes a day. Some of those rebuffed by the Administration then
demanded concessions of territory; they were granted a few yards of
land,[259] and at exorbitant prices some seeds and tools. With the
greatest efforts they could hardly make the soil yield a few vegetables.
The others, who possessed nothing, applied to private industry, offering
their services to the tradespeople of Noumea. But the colony, stifled
by the military régime, hampered by bureaucratic officials, and of very
limited resources besides, could only furnish work to about 500 at the
most. Moreover, many of them who had undertaken farming were obliged to
give it up very soon and return to the Ile des Pins.

This was the golden age of the transportation. Towards the middle of
1873 a despatch of the Minister of Marine reached Noumea. The
Versaillese Government suspended all administrative credits in support
of the state works. "If one admitted," said he, "the right to labour of
the convict, one would soon see the renewal of the scandalous example of
the national workshops of 1848." Perfectly logical this. Versailles owes
no means of labour to those it has deprived of their liberty to labour.
So the workshops were closed. The woods of the Ile des Pins offered
valuable supplies to the cabinetmakers, and some of the condemned
manufactured furniture much in request at Noumea. They were ordered to
discontinue. And on the 13th December the Minister of Marine dared to
pronounce from the tribune that the majority of the condemned refused
every kind of work.[260]

At the very moment that the Administration thus curtailed the life of
the transported, it summoned their wives to the Ministry of Marine,
where the most charming picture of New Caledonia was exhibited to them.
They were to find there, on their arrival, a house, a piece of land,
seeds, and tools. Most of them, suspecting some snare, refused to set
out unless invited by their husbands. Sixty-nine, however, were
inveigled, and embarked on board the _Fénélon_, with women sent forth by
the Public Assistance Office as helpmates for the colonials. These
unfortunate wives of the convicts, on landing, found only the despair
and misery of their husbands. The Government refused to send them back

Thus there are thousands of men accustomed to work, to activity of mind,
penned up, idle and miserable, some in the narrow peninsula, others in
the Ile des Pins, without clothes, ill-fed, under orders executed by
brutes,[261] revolver in hand, hardly in connection with the world, save
for a few rare letters, and these are even delayed for three weeks at
Noumea. In the beginning endless reveries, then discouragement and
sombre despair; cases of madness occurred, at last death. The first one
set free was the teacher Verdure, member of the Council of the Commune.
The commissary of the court-martial had accused him of but one crime.
"He was a philanthropic Utopist." He wanted to open a school in the
peninsula; permission was refused him. Useless, far from his wife and
daughter, he languished and died. One morning in 1873 the jailers and
the priests saw in the winding pathway that leads to the cemetery a
coffin covered with flowers carried by some of the condemned. Behind
them walked 800 friends in a deep silence. "The coffin," one of them has
told us, "was lowered into the grave. A friend spoke a few words of
farewell; each one threw in his little red flower, cried, 'Vive la
République! Vive la Commune!' and all was over." In November, in the Ile
des Pins, Albert Grandier, one of the staff of the _Rappel_, died. His
heart had remained in France, with a sister whom he adored. Every day he
went to the sea-shore to wait for her; so he became mad. The
Administration refused to admit him into an asylum. He escaped from the
friends who guarded him, and one morning was found dead of cold in the
swamps, not far from the road that leads to the sea.[262]

These at least have the consolation of suffering with their equals. But
the convicts chained in the sink of the scoundrels! "I know but one
bagnio," replied the republican Minister, Victor Lefranc, to a mother
begging for her son. And there is indeed but one bagnio, where heroes
like Trinquet and Lisbonne, men all compact of devotion and probity like
Fontaine, Roques, the mayor of Puteaux (so many names press forward that
I am ashamed to mention a few), journalists of high character like
Brissac and Humbert, some whose sole crime was to have carried out a
warrant of arrest, have been chained for five years to assassins and
thieves, enduring their insults, and bound at night to the same
camp-bed. The Versaillese want more than the body; they must attaint the
rebellious mind, surround it with an atmosphere of stench and vice, in
order to make it fail and founder. The "felons" of the Commune,
assimilated to criminals, subjected to the same labour, to the same rule
of the stick and whip, are beset by the special hatred of the jailers,
who incite the convicts against them. From time to time a letter
escapes, and even reaches us. Thus writes a member of the Council of the
Commune, a man of thirty-three, at one time in robust health:--

      "ST. LOUIS.

      "... The work of the camp is considered the most severe. It
      includes the digging up of stones, earthworks, &c. It is
      only interrupted on the Sunday morning for the religious
      service. For nourishment we have coffee without sugar at
      five o'clock in the morning, 700 grammes of bread, and 100
      grammes of beans; in the evening a small piece of beef; and,
      finally, 69 centilitres of wine a week. When I am able to
      buy a quarter of a pound of bread, my health leaves less to
      be desired. Already several of ours are no more. Many are
      attacked with anæmia. Fifteen out of sixty in St. Louis are
      at the hospital. All this would be nothing if there were not
      that commingling with men of infamous passions. There are
      fifty of us in one compartment. As to the employments,
      shops, and offices, the Communards are excluded from these."

Another writes:

      "ILE NOU, _15th February_.

      "I isolate myself as much as I can, but there are hours when
      I must be in the bagnio on pain of death. There are hours
      when I must defend my rations from the voracity of my
      companions, when I must submit to the familiarity of a Mano
      or of a Lathauer.[263] This is horrible, and I blush with
      shame when I think that I have become almost insensible to
      all this infamy. These wretches are cowards, and are not the
      least of our tormentors. It is enough to drive one mad, and
      I believe that many amongst us will become so. Berezowski,
      this unfortunate man,[264] who has suffered so much for
      eight years, is almost demented, and it is painful to look
      upon him. It is terrible, and I dare not think of this. How
      many months, years, are we still to pass in this bagnio? I
      tremble at the thought. Despite all, believe that I shall
      not allow myself to be crushed; my conscience is tranquil,
      and I am strong. My health alone could betray me and be
      vanquished, but of myself I am sure, and shall never

A third:--

      "I have suffered much; the bagnio of Toulon, the chains, the
      convicts' dress, and, what is still worse, the ignoble
      contact of the criminals--all this I have had to bear with.
      I have, it is true, one consolation for so much
      suffering--my tranquil conscience, the love of my old
      parents, and the esteem of men such as you.... How many
      times have I been discouraged! What despair, what doubts
      have seized me! I believed in mankind, and all my illusions
      have been lost one by one; a great change has come over me,
      and I have almost failed to resist so many disillusions."

Yet another:--

      "I do not deceive myself; these years are entirely lost for
      me; not only is my health undermined, but I feel myself
      getting lower every day. This life is really too hard to
      bear, without books (save those of the Mame library), in
      this filthy bagnio, exposed to all insults, to all blows;
      shut up in grated caves; in the workshops treated as beasts;
      insulted by our jailers and our comrades of the chain, we
      must submit to it all without a murmur, the slightest
      infringement entailing terrible punishments--the cell,
      quarter ration of bread, irons, thumbscrews, the lash. It is
      ignominious, and I shudder at the thought of it. Many of our
      comrades are in double chains in the correction platoon,
      subjected to the hardest labour, dying of hunger, driven on
      with blows of a cane, often with revolver-shots, unable to
      communicate with us, who cannot even pass them a mouthful of
      bread. It is terrible, and I am afraid all this will not end
      very soon. But protestations will be made; we shall not be
      abandoned; it would be horrible if we were left here. I am
      unable to work, so I am right in saying that these years are
      completely lost, and this drives me to despair; yet I was
      willing to learn; but what is to be done without books and
      without a guide? We are almost without news. Still we know
      that the Republic is affirming itself from day to day; our
      hope is there, but I dare not believe it; we have had so
      many deceptions."

How many live to-day? It is not known. Maroteau left in March, 1875. The
Commission of Pardons had aggravated his sentence; commuted Satory to
the Ile Nou. At twenty-five years of age he died in the bagnio for two
articles, when the jackals of the Versaillese press, whose every line
has demanded and obtained carnage, sway our Paris. To the last moment
his courage did not forsake him. "It is not a great affair to die," said
he to the friends who surrounded his deathbed; "but I should have
preferred the stake of Satory to this filthy pallet. My friends, think
of me! What will become of my mother?"

Hear this knell tolled by one of the convicts:--

      "ILE NOU (LIMEKILN WORKS), _18th April_.

      "I cannot help saying that many friends are dying, and that
      this month five have succumbed."

      "_15th May._

      "Old Audant, one of the transported of the 2nd December, has
      been for ever released from his chain. He was sickly, old
      (fifty-nine), and our labour had overcome him. One day,
      tired out, attacked by acute bronchitis, he was unable to
      get up; still he was obliged to recommence his work. Two
      days after he asked for the visit of the doctor. He got the
      dungeon. Five days after he died in the hospital; and a few
      days later on, another, Gobert, followed him to the tomb."

      "CANALA, _25th December_.

      "... Add to that the death of old and good friends. After
      Maroteau, Morten, Mars, Lecolle, whom we buried a month

They die, but none have faltered. The political convicts are men; they
succeed in remaining in the pitch without being defiled. It is the
general inspector Raboul who has allowed this avowal to escape him. What
is the Christian martyr's vaunted heroism of an hour in comparison with
these men, who each day, in the indefatigable, merciless clutches of the
jailers, maintain unbent their revolutionary faith and their dignity?

And do we even know all their sufferings? Chance alone has raised a
corner of the veil. On the 19th March, 1874, Rochefort, Jourde, Paschal
Grousset, and three others, condemned to transportation, succeeded in
escaping on board an Australian ship.[265] They landed safely in
Australia, and the information they brought with them has thrown a
little light upon the den. It was then we learnt that the convicts of
the Commune had suffered additional tortures; that the torture of the
thumbscrews, which mutilated the hands, is still in use at the bagnio;
that four convicts had been shot in the Ile des Pins for a simple
assault, which would have been punished by a few months' imprisonment by
ordinary tribunals; that the severity and insults of the jailers seemed
intended to cause a rising, which would permit of all those condemned to
transportation being sent to the bagnio. The convicts had to pay dearly
for these revelations. The Versaillese Government immediately sent out
the Rear-Admiral Ribourt, and the torture-screw was turned more tightly
than ever. Those who had obtained permission to sojourn in the principal
island were again shut up in the peninsula Ducos or the Ile des Pins;
fishing was interdicted; every sealed letter confiscated; the right to
fetch wood in the forest for cooking food suppressed. The jailers
redoubled their brutality, fired at the convicts who went beyond bounds,
or who had not returned to their huts at the regulation hour. Some
merchants of Noumea, accused of having facilitated the escape of
Rochefort and his friends, were expelled from the isle.

Ribourt had brought the dismissal of the governor, La Richerie, former
governor of Cayenne, who by dint of rapine had made a great fortune in
New Caledonia. Of course it was not for his dishonesty, but for the
escape of the 19th March that he was punished. The provisional
government was confided to Colonel Alleyron, who had become famous by
the massacres of May. Alleyron decreed that every prisoner was to give
the State half-a-day's labour, on pain of receiving only the strictly
indispensable food, 700 grammes of bread, 1 centilitre of oil, and 60
grammes of dried vegetables. As the prisoners protested, he began by
applying the decree to fifty-seven persons, of whom four were women.

For the women were subjected to the same rigorous treatment as the men,
and they had courageously revindicated the right of sharing the common
lot of all. Louise Michel and Lemel, whom they had wanted to separate
from their comrades, declared that they would kill themselves if the law
were violated. Insulted by the jailers, abused sometimes in the order
of the day of the commander of the peninsula, scarcely provided with
dresses, more than once they had been obliged to put on men's clothes.

The arrival at the beginning of 1876 of the new governor, De Pritzbuer,
terminated the short but brilliant career of Alleyron. Pritzbuer, a
renegade of Protestantism turned arrant Jesuit, and sent to New
Caledonia through the Jesuitical tendencies of the Ministry, found ways
and means with his mawkish airs to even aggravate the misery of the
convicts. He was guided in this task by Colonel Charrière, general
director of the New Caledonian Penitentiary, who declared the criminals
of the bagnio much more honourable than the political convicts.
Pritzbuer renewed the order of his predecessor, adding that those of the
convicts who in one year should not have been able to create for
themselves sufficient resources would no longer receive full rations;
and, finally, that the Administration intended exonerating itself at the
end of a certain time of all expenses with regard to the convicts. An
agent was appointed to act as intermediary between them and the traders
of Noumea. But all the decrees in the world cannot extend the commerce
or industry of a country without natural resources. It had been said,
been proved a hundred times, that New Caledonia has no employment for
these thousands of men, who would prosper in a vital and flourishing
colony. Those few who could be employed have proved their intelligence,
and have carried off several medals or been honourably mentioned at the
exhibition of Noumea. The less favoured--hundreds of them--suffer under
the blow of the decree of 1875. In reality, the immense majority of
those condemned to transportation are now subjected to hard labour. The
regulations put into force since the escape of Rochefort have never been
mitigated. The wives, the mothers of the convicts, are only allowed to
communicate with them at rare intervals, and under the eye of the
jailers. More than one has been expelled from the colony.

Despite so many efforts to break them, the honour of the majority of the
prisoners has not yielded; far more, it is an example to others.
Although the courts-martial have mixed up with the condemned of the
Commune a bad element, totally foreign to this revolution, common
misdemeanours are very rare. Their condemnation for political
misdemeanour, the contact with the best workmen, has even re-made the
conscience of many men with but sorry antecedents. The majority of the
condemned are punished only for infringements of the rules or for
attempts to escape; attempts almost always condemned to failure
beforehand. How fly without money and without confederates? There have
been but fifteen successful escapes. Towards the middle of March, 1875,
twenty prisoners of the Ile des Pins, amongst whom were the member of
the Council of the Commune, Rastoul, fled in a bark which they had
secretly constructed. Their fate has never been known, but a few days
after their flight the wreck of a craft was found amongst the reefs. In
November, 1876, Trinquet and some of his comrades managed to abscond in
a steamboat. They were pursued, overtaken. Two threw themselves into the
sea to escape their pursuers. One died; the other, Trinquet, was
restored to life and the bagnio.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before such abysses of misery the exiles must not speak of their
sufferings, but they may say in a word that they have not sullied the
honour of the Cause. Thousands of workmen, with their families, thrown
helpless, without resources, into a strange country, speaking a foreign
language, employées, professors, still more forlorn, have succeeded by
dint of energy in gaining a livelihood. The workmen of the Commune of
Paris have won an honourable place in the workshops of foreign
countries. They have even, especially in Belgium, rendered prosperous
industries till then languishing; they have imparted to certain
manufactures the secret of Parisian taste. The proscription of the
Communards, like that of the Protestants formerly, has thrown across the
frontiers a part of the national wealth. The exiles of the so-called
liberal professions, often more unfortunate than the workmen, have not
shown less courage. Some fill posts of confidence; one perhaps condemned
to death as an incendiary or to hard labour for pillage, is a teacher in
a large college or examines the candidates for Government schools.
Despite the difficulty at the commencement, sickness, slackness of work,
not one exile has given way, and not a single condemnation before the
police court has occurred. Not a single woman has fallen. Yet it is the
women who bear the greater share of the common misery. Amongst these
thousands of exiles there have been discovered but two or three spies;
and there was only one, Landeck, to get up a journal of denunciations
more vile than the _Figaro_. Justice was soon done, for no proscription
has been more careful of its dignity. One ex-member of the Council of
the Commune had to defend himself before the refugees for having
received money from the deputies of the Extreme Left. Never was the
commemorative meeting of the 18th March better attended than that of
1876 during the debate on the amnesty, for one and all would have
blushed to hide their colours at such a moment. No doubt, like any other
proscription, that of 1871 has its groups and its animosities, but all
these opinions disappear behind the red flag escorting the coffin of a
comrade. No doubt there have been virulent manifestoes, which, however,
only affect their authors. Finally, these exiles have not forgotten
their brothers of New Caledonia, and they have opened a permanent
subscription for them, which has its centre in London. Poor help, no
doubt; but this mite from the exiles goes and says to the unfortunate
convict of the Commune, "Courage, brother! thy comrades do not forget
thee; they honour thee." It is the hand of the wounded held out to the

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty-five thousand men, women, and children killed during the battle
or after; three thousand at least dead in the prisons, the pontoons, the
forts, or in consequence of maladies contracted during their captivity;
thirteen thousand seven hundred condemned, most of them for life;
seventy thousand women, children, and old men deprived of their natural
supporters or thrown out of France; one hundred and eleven thousand
victims at least;--that is the balance-sheet of the bourgeois vengeance
for the solitary insurrection of the 18th March.

What a lesson of revolutionary vigour given to the workingmen! The
governing classes shoot in the lump without taking the trouble to select
the hostages. Their vengeance lasts not an hour; neither years nor
victims appease it; they make of it an administrative function,
methodical and continuous.

For four years the Rural Assembly allowed the courts-martial to work,
and the Liberal element, which so many elections had sent up in great
force, at once followed the track of the Rurals. One or two motions for
amnesty were burked by the previous question. In the month of January,
1876, when the Rural Assembly broke up, it had removed a few convicts
from one part of New Caledonia to another, shortened a few terms of
imprisonment, and given full pardon to six hundred persons, condemned to
the lightest penalties. The Caledonian reservoir remained intact.

But at the general elections the people did not forget the vanquished.
In all the large towns _Amnesty_ was the watchword; it was inscribed at
the head of all the democratic programmes; at all the public meetings
the question was put to the candidates. The Radicals, tears in their
eyes and their hands on their fraternal hearts, pledged themselves to
ask for a free and complete amnesty; even the Liberals promised "to wipe
out the last traces of our civil discords," as the bourgeoisie is wont
to say when it condescends to have the paving-stones cleaned which
itself has reddened with blood.

The elections of February, 1876, were Republican. The famous Gambettist
layers had come to the surface. A crowd of lawyers, Liberal landlords,
had carried away the provinces in the name of liberty, reforms,
appeasement. The Minister of the reaction, Buffet, was beaten along the
whole line, even in Rural corners. The Radical papers declared the
democratic Republic once for all founded; and one of these in its
enthusiasm cried, "May we be cursed if we do not close the era of

The hopes for amnesty became now a certainty. No doubt this was the boon
by which the reparative Chamber would signalise its joyous advent. A
convoy of convicts was about to set sail for New Caledonia. Victor Hugo
summoned the President, MacMahon, to adjourn the departure until the
discussion and the certainly favourable decision of the two Chambers. A
petition, hurriedly organised, in a few days had over a hundred thousand
signatures. Soon the question of the amnesty effaced all others, and the
Ministry insisted upon an immediate discussion.

Five propositions had been laid on the table. One only demanded the full
and complete amnesty. The others excepted the crimes qualified as common
crimes, and amongst which were classed newspaper articles. The Chamber
appointed a commission to draw up a report. Seven commissioners out of
ten declared against all the propositions.

The new layers were manifesting themselves. It was always this same
middle-class, bare of ideas and courage, hard to the people, timid
before Cæsar, pettifogging and jesuitical. The workmen already shot down
in June, 1848, by an Assembly of Republicans were to see in 1876 a
Republican Assembly rivet the chain forged by the Rurals.

The motion for a full and complete amnesty was supported by those same
Radicals who had combated the Commune or abetted M. Thiers. They were
now the democratic lions of a Paris without a Socialist press, without
popular tribunes, without a history of the Commune, watched by the
courts-martial, always on the look-out for more victims, bereft of all
revolutionary electors. In this town which he had helped to bleed, there
were arrondissements which disputed the honour of electing Louis Blanc.
The deputy of Montmartre was the same man who, on the 18th March, had
congratulated Lecomte on the capture of the cannon, M. Clémenceau.

He made a jejune, garbled, timid exposé of the immediate causes of the
18th March, but took good care not to touch upon the veritable causes.
Other Radicals, in order to make the vanquished more interesting, strove
to lower them. "You are absolutely mistaken as to the character of this
revolution," said M. Lockroy very grandly. "You see in it a social
revolution, where there has really been only a fit of hysterics and an
attack of fever." M. Floquet, nominated in the most revolutionary
arrondissement, the one in which Delescluze had fallen, called the
movement "detestable." M. Marcou wisely declared that the Commune was
"an anachronism."

No one even in the Extreme Left dared courageously to tell the country
the truth. "Yes, they were right to cling to their arms, these
Parisians, who remembered June and December; yes, they were right to
maintain that the monarchists were plotting for a revolution; yes, they
were right to struggle to the death against the advent of the priest."
No one dared to speak of the massacres, to call the Government to
account for the bloodshed. They were even less outspoken than the
Enquête Parlementaire. It is evident from this weak and superficial
discussion that they only wanted to redeem their word given to their

To advocates who stooped so low the answer was easy enough. As M. Thiers
and Jules Favre had done on the 21st March, 1871, the Minister Dufaure
pertinently set forth the true question at issue. "No, gentlemen," said
he, "this was not a communal movement; this was in its ideas, its
thoughts, and even in its acts, the most Radical revolution which has
ever been undertaken in the world." And the reporter of the Commission:
"There have been hours in our contemporary history when amnesty may have
been a necessity, but the insurrection of the 18th March cannot from any
point of view be compared with our civil wars. I see a formidable
insurrection, a criminal insurrection, an insurrection against all
society. No, nothing obliges us to give back to the condemned of the
Commune the rights of citizens." The immense majority applauded Dufaure,
singing the praises of the courts-martial, and not a Radical had the
courage to protest, to defy the Minister to produce a single document, a
single regular judgment. It would be easy to retort to this Extreme
Left: "Silence, pharisees, who allow the people to be massacred and then
come supplicating for them; mute or hostile during the battle,
grandiloquent after their defeat." Admiral Fourichon denied that the
convicts of the Commune are put on the same footing as the others;
denied their ill-treatment; said the convicts lived in a very garden of
flowers. Some intransigents having stated that "The torture has been
re-established," this delicious answer was vouchsafed them, "It is we
whom you put to the torture."

On the 18th May, 1876, 396 noes against 50 ayes rejected the full and
complete amnesty. Gambetta did not vote. The next day they discussed one
proposition of amnesty, which excluded those condemned for acts
qualified as common crimes by the courts-martial. The Commission again
rejected this motion, saying that it must be left to the mercy of the
Government, which had promised a considerable number of pardons. The
Radicals discussed a little to save appearances. M. Floquet said, "It is
not on a question of generosity and mercy that we should ever doubt of
the intentions of the Government;" and the proposition was thrown over.

Two days after, in the Senate, Victor Hugo asked for the amnesty in a
speech in which he drew a comparison between the defenders of the
Commune and the men of the 2nd December. His proposition was not even

Two months after, MacMahon completed this hypocritical comedy by writing
to the Minister-at-War, "Henceforth no more prosecutions are to take
place unless commanded by the unanimous sentiment of honest people." The
honest officers understood. The condemnations continued. Some persons
condemned by default, who had ventured to return to France on the
strength of the hopes of the first days, had been captured; the
sentences against them were confirmed. The organisers of workingmen's
groups were mercilessly struck when their connection with the Commune
could be established.[266] In November, 1876, the courts-martial
pronounced sentences of death.[267]

This merciless tenacity alarmed public opinion to such an extent that
the Radicals were again obliged to bestir themselves a little. Towards
the end of 1876 they demanded that the Chamber should put a stop to the
prosecutions, or at least limit them. An illusory law was voted; the
Senate threw it out; our Liberals reckoned upon that.

The mercy of MacMahon was on a par with the rest. The day after the
rejection of the motion for an amnesty, Dufaure had installed a
consulting Commission of Pardons, composed of functionaries and
reactionists carefully culled by himself. The penitentiary
establishments in France then contained 1,600 persons condemned for
participation in the Commune, and the number of the transports rose to
about 4,400. The new Commission continued the system of the former one,
commuted some penalties, granted pardons of a few weeks or a few months,
even liberated two or three condemned who were dead. A year after its
institution it had recalled from New Caledonia a hundred at the utmost
of the least interesting of the prisoners.

Thus the Liberal Chamber continued the vengeance of the Rural Assembly;
thus the bourgeois Republic appeared to the workingmen as hostile to
their rights, more implacable perhaps than the Monarchists, justifying
the remark of one of M. Thiers' Ministers, "It is above all the
Republicans who must be adverse to the amnesty." Once again there was
justified the instinct of the people on the 18th March, when they
perceived in the conservative republic held out to them by M. Thiers an
anonymous oppression worse than the Imperialist yoke.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the present time, six years after the massacres, near fifteen
thousand men, women, and children are maintained in New Caledonia or in

What hope remains? None. The bourgeoisie has been too much frightened.
The cries for amnesty, the blazoned-forth elections, will not disquiet
the conservative republicans or monarchists. All the apparent
concessions will only be so many snares. The most valiant, the most
devoted, will die in the bagnio, in the Peninsula Ducos, in the Ile des

It belongs to the workmen to do their duty so far as it is possible

The Irish, after the Fenian insurrection, opened hundreds of public
subscriptions for the benefit of the victims. Near £1,200 were devoted
to their defence before the tribunals. The three men hanged at
Manchester received on the morning of their death the formal promise
that their families should want for nothing. This promise was kept. The
parents of the one, the wife of the other, were provided for, the
children were educated, dowered. In Ireland alone the donations, for the
families exceeded £5,000. When the partial amnesty was granted, all
Irish people rushed forward to help the amnestied. The single journal,
the _Irishman_, in a few weeks received £1,000, for the most part in
penny and sixpenny subscriptions. In one single donation the Irish of
America sent them £4,000, and the poorest of the poor Irish, the
emigrants of New Zealand, over £240. And this was not the outburst of
one day. In 1874 the Political Prisoners' Family Fund still received
£425. The total of the subscriptions exceed £10,000. Finally, in 1876, a
few Fenians chartered a vessel and carried off some of their comrades
still retained in Australia.

In France all the subscriptions for the families of the condemned of the
Commune have not exceeded £8,000. The Irish victims numbered only a few
hundreds; those of Versailles must be counted by thousands.

Nothing has been done for the transported "convicts." The Greppos, Louis
Blancs & Co., who, without mandate, without any surveillance, have
arrogated to themselves the right of centralising the subscriptions, of
distributing them at pleasure, have thus formed themselves a retinue out
of the families of those whom they had betrayed. They have refused to
transmit anything to the convicts, that is to say, to the most
necessitous, who, six thousand leagues from France, pine away without
resources and with no possibility of work.

Do you understand, workingmen, you who are free? You now know what the
whole situation is and what the men are. Remember the vanquished not for
a day, but at all hours. Women, you whose devotion sustains and elevates
their courage, let the agony of the prisoners haunt you like an
everlasting nightmare. Let all workshops every week put something aside
from their wages. Let the subscriptions no longer be sent to the
Versaillese committee, but made over to loyal hands. Let the Socialist
party attest its principles of international solidarity and its power by
saving those who have fallen for it.


[256] "We all recollect one of our comrades, Corcelles, who had
contracted pulmonary phthisis of the gravest form. He could scarcely
keep himself on his legs when crawling before the Commission. To the
President's usual question he answered by a pitiful smile only, and
while one of the younger members of the Commission, moved probably to
pity at the sight of the walking corpse, bent himself towards the ear of
the old surgeon, doubtless with the view of begging a respite, the
latter retorted, loud enough to be heard by the patient and several
other prisoners, 'Bah! the sharks will want something to eat.' And the
sharks did have something to eat; less than three weeks after we were
out at sea our friend Corcelles was dead, and we committed his remains
to the last common reservoir." We must give the name of this friend of
sharks; his name is Dr. Chanal. "Out of the four thousand condemned who
passed in file before him, ten cases of exemption are not known. And
perhaps the motives which dictated this may be better judged when the
following facts are known. M. Edmond Adam, deputy of the Seine, having
come to the Ile de Ré in order to visit M. H. Rochefort, who was shut up
there, had a young woman present herself at his hotel, who proposed to
him, for the modest sum of 1000 francs, to procure from the
chief-surgeon a respite for his friend on his departure. She had but one
word to say, remarked she, and the old man was under her
orders."--_Account by two escaped prisoners from New Caledonia, Paschal
Grousset and Jourde, published by the Times, 27th June 1874._

[257] The Australian and English journals having revealed these
sufferings, the Versaillese Government answered in its journal: "The
news of the convict ship the _Orne_, transmitted through the English
press, is inexact in all points. Far from counting 420 cases of scurvy,
this vessel had hardly 360 cases."

[258] Report of the Commission of Pardons, presented in January 1876, by
MM. Martel and F. Voisin.

[259] In the Ile des Pins, 900 condemned received between them all 500
hectares (about 100 acres). "We have been mistaken as to the resources
offered by the Ile des Pins," philosophically remarked the Minister of
Marine in 1876. "I said so three years ago," answered M. Georges Périn.

[260] "Admiral Ribourt, in his Inquiry, declares that during the year
1873 the engineering department had paid the condemned in the peninsula
110,525 francs. We must then leave off saying that the convicts won't
work."--_Speech of M. Georges Périn in favour of an amnesty, Sitting of
the 17th May 1876._

[261] An overlooker of the first class had been condemned for an attempt
to murder; another, decorated with the cross of the Légion d'Honneur,
sentenced to seven years' hard labour for attempting to murder his wife.
Many of them were every day condemned for drunkenness.

[262] Details taken from the very correct and by no means exaggerated
relation which Paschal Grousset and Jourde published in the _Times_
after their escape. It has since been republished as a pamphlet.

[263] Two notorious murderers.

[264] The Pole condemned for having in Paris shot at the Czar.

[265] One of them has given a complete account of their escape, together
with some interesting details on New Caledonia: "Un Voyage de
Circumnavigation," by A. Baillère.

[266] On the 22nd December 1876, Baron, ex-delegate of the accountants
of Paris to the Workmen's Congress, was summoned before the third
court-martial, which accused him of having been one of the secretaries
of the delegation of war during the Commune. Baron was condemned to
transportation in a fortress. During the examination the president said,
"The Court will take notice that the accused still has the same
sentiments as those which animated him in 1871, for in 1876 we have seen
that he took part in the Workmen's Congress."

[267] Appendix XXXVIII.

[268] Even in the month of April 1877 another ship, having 506 condemned
to transportation, has been despatched from France to New Caledonia.


I.--(Page 29.)

The Central Committee found in the bureau of the War-Office, and the
_Officiel_ of the Commune published on the 25th April, the following
letter from the supreme commander of the artillery of the army to
General Suzanne:--

  "PARIS, _12th December 1870_.

"My dear Suzanne--I have not found among the young auxiliaries your
protégé Hetzel, but only a M. Hessel. Is it he who is meant? "Tell me
frankly what you desire, and I will do it. I will attach him to my
staff, where he will be bored, having nothing to do, or else I will send
him to Mont Valérien, where he will run less risk than at Paris (this
for the parents), and where he will have the air of firing the cannons
into the air, according to Noël's method.

"Unbutton--your mouth, of course.--Yours,


The Noël mentioned at that time commanded Mont Valérien.

II.--(Page 83.)

_The rôle of the Central Committee during the day of the 18th March._

"I would remind you that the members of the Committee had separated at
about half-past three in the morning of the 17th to the 18th. Before
raising the sitting it had been decided that the meeting of the
following day should take place at eleven o'clock in the evening, at a
school requisitioned for the purpose in the Rue Basfroi.

"Despite the lateness of the hour, nothing had transpired as to the
movements which the Government had decided upon, and the Committee
having only just constituted itself for the examination of its powers
and the distribution of the commissions, had received no information
which might have led it to suppose the imminence of the peril. Its
military commission had not yet begun to work; it had taken possession
of the documents, notes, and minutes of the former one, and that was

"You know how Paris woke up on the morning of the 18th. The members of
the Committee heard of the events of the night through public rumours
and the official placards. For my own part, aroused at about eight
o'clock, I hurried on my clothes, and repaired to the Rue Basfroi,
crossing the Place de la Bastille, occupied by the Guard of Paris. I had
hardly entered the Rue de la Roquette when I saw that the people were
beginning to organise the defence. A barricade was being commenced at
the corner of the Rue Neuve de Lappe. A little higher up I was refused
passage, in spite of the declaration which I made of my quality of
member of the Central Committee. I was obliged to go up the Rue de
Charonne, the faubourg, and come back in the direction of the Rue St.
Bernard. No work was going on as yet in the Rue du Faubourg St. Antoine,
but the excitement there was great. At last, towards half-past ten
o'clock, I reached the Rue Basfroi, which was barricaded at both
outlets, with the exception of an opening reserved for the cannon drawn
up in the open grounds of this street, which were taken away one by one
to the different barricades in course of erection.

"I succeeded, not without difficulty, in getting into a schoolroom,
where some of my colleagues were gathered. Citizens Assi, Prudhomme,
Rousseau, Gouhier, Lavalette, Geresme, Bouit, and Fougeret were there.
Just as I entered, a staff sublieutenant, arrested in the Rue St. Maur,
was being led in. He was examined. Next a gendarme was brought, but the
only papers found in his possession were placards transmitted to one of
the mairies. X. looked after this business, and had organised a sort of
prison in the courtyard. I also saw defiling about fifteen individuals,
military and civil, arrested by the people. In the meantime I learnt
that Bergeret had been sent to take the command of Montmartre, where he
had been named _chef-de-légion_ the day before. Varlin, who came
immediately after me, had set out again in order to organise the defence
of the Batignolles. Arnold also put in his appearance for a moment, and
then went to place himself at the head of his battalion. The Committee
had added Citizens Audoyneau, Ferrat and Billioray to its numbers.

"At mid-day the course events would take was still waited for, and
nothing was decided upon. I begged some of my colleagues to leave X. to
his useless interrogations, and to come and to deliberate in another
room, the one we occupied having by degrees been invaded by persons
strangers to the Committee. As soon as we were installed, we asked for
some citizens willing to serve as our general staff, and to inform us as
to the situation in the different quarters. A great number presented
themselves. We sent them in all directions, to tell our colleagues to
hurry on as much as possible the construction of the barricades, to
muster the National Guard, to take the command of it, and to specify the
points whither we were to forward our communications.

"Of our messengers only four returned. He whom we had sent to the
twentieth arrondissement informed us that the rallying point was in the
Rue de Paris and at Menilmontant, in front of the new mairie. Varlin had
great trouble in grouping the National Guards of the Batignolles. One
staff had mustered forces at the Place du Trône, and had repaired to the
Neuilly Barracks, but the soldiers had closed the gates, and assumed a
menacing attitude. Brunel, together with Lisbonne, was preparing to
threaten the barracks of the Château d'Eau.

"Other accounts apprised us that the orders of the Committee were being
waited for. Duval had established himself at the Panthéon, and waited.
Faltot sent us a note in these words: 'I have five or six battalions in
the Rue de Sèvres; what am I to do?' Pindy had taken possession of the
Mairie of the third arrondissement, and was mustering the battalions
devoted to the Committee. As soon as we had got this intelligence some
dispositions for the attack were taken.

"While these resolutions were being discussed Lullier had come to place
himself at the disposal of the Committee. The Committee had given him no
formal order, and confined itself to telling him that all forces
available for the taking of the Hôtel-de-Ville were being mustered.

"In order to assure the transmission of the orders, each one of the
members then present--others had come up, but I could not say
who--undertook to carry them to a designated point. So at three o'clock
the Committee broke up, leaving Assi and two other members as a
permanent sub-committee at the Rue Basfroi."--Extract from an account
addressed to the author by a member of the Central Committee.

III.--(Page 160.)

Here is a letter from one of them, later a most violent enemy of this
Revolution, M. Meline, general secretary of the Ministry of Justice,
written on the 30th March, to the president of the Council of the

  "VILLE DE PARIS (_First Arrondissement, Mairie of the Louvre_).

"Citizen President--I no longer possess sufficient physical strength
after prolonged fatigues to combat in the midst of our Assembly, which
is destined to discuss so many grave questions. I beg you then to accept
my resignation, and my sincere hopes that the Assembly may consolidate
the Republic.--Receive, Citizen President, the expression of my
fraternal sentiments,

  "_30th March 1871._"

IV.--(Page 207.)

Here is a letter addressed to the Delegate at War:--

"Citizen--Excuse my addressing you these lines, and be so kind as to
take into consideration the request which I address to you.

"I have three sons in the ranks of the National Guard--the eldest in the
197th battalion, the second in the 126th, and the third in the 97th. As
to myself, I am in the 177th.

"However, there yet remains to me one son, who is the youngest. He will
soon be sixteen years old, and desires with all his heart to be enrolled
in no matter what battalion; for he has sworn to his brothers and to me
that he will take arms to sustain our young Republic against the hangmen
of Versailles.

"We have all agreed, and we have sworn an oath to revenge him who should
fall under the fratricidal balls of our enemies.

"Citizen, take then the last of my sons. I offer him with all my heart
to the Republican fatherland. Do with him as you wish, place him in a
battalion of your choice, and you will make me a thousand times
happy.--Accept, citizen, my fraternal salutation,

  "_Guard of the 177th Battalion_.

  _12th May 1871_."

V.--(Page 209.)

Instances of their courage abound in the journals of the time. One
quotation taken at hazard from _La Commune_ of the 12th April:--

"On Thursday, the 6th, at the moment when the 26th battalion of St. Ouen
defended the barricade of the cross-roads, a child, V. Thiebault,
fourteen years old, ran up amidst the balls in order to give the
defenders something to drink. The shells having forced the Federals to
fall back, they were about to sacrifice the victuals of the battalion,
when the child, in spite of the shells, sprang towards a barrel of wine,
which he staved in, crying, 'At any rate they shall not drink our wine.'
At the same instant, seizing the rifle of a Federal who had just fallen,
he charged it, took aim, and killed an officer of gendarmes. Then
perceiving a waggon with two horses harnessed to it, whose driver had
just been wounded, he mounted the horses and saved the waggon.--Eugène
Léon Vanvière, thirteen and a half years old, contrived to save the guns
at the outpost of the Porte-Maillot, in spite of his wound."

VI.--(Page 217.)

The prefect of police, Valentin, sent the following circular to the
commissaries of the different railway stations:--

  "VERSAILLES, _25th April 1871_.

"The chief of the executive power has just decided that, dating from
to-day, all victualling trains and all supplies of provisions directed
to Paris shall be stopped.

"I beg you to take all measures you may deem needful for the execution
of this decree at once. You are to examine with the most vigilant
attention all the railway trains, all the carriages destined for Paris,
and you will send back to the purveyors all the provisions you may

"You will for this purpose concert with ... &c.

"The delegate to the functions of prefect of police.


VII.--(Page 219.)

"... Accompanied by Frankel and one of my brothers, I proceeded to the
General Post-Office, which was still occupied by the National Guards of
order. I was immediately received by M. Rampont, surrounded by the Board
of Administration. M. Rampont at first declared that he did not
recognise the authority of the Central Committee, which had appointed
me; but I think this was a merely formal precaution, for he began to
parley immediately. I told him that the Government of the 4th September,
which had named him, was also born of a revolutionary movement, and that
notwithstanding this he had accepted his post. During this discussion he
told us that he was a Mutualist-Socialist, a partisan of Proudhon's
ideas, and consequently hostile to Communistic ideas, which had just
triumphed with the Revolution of the 18th March. I answered that the
Revolution of the 18th March was not the triumph of a Socialist school,
but the prelude of a social transformation fettered by no particular
school, and that I myself belonged to the mutualist school. After a long
conversation, in which he declared himself ready to acknowledge the
authority of the Commune, which was to be named in two or three days, he
proposed to me to submit the following undertaking to the Central
Committee. Till the day when the Commune should have decided, he engaged
to remain at the head of the Post-Office; he accepted the control of two
delegates of the Committee. I communicated this proposal to Vaillant and
A. Arnaud (who had made over to me my nomination), in order that they
might inform the Committee. I waited in vain for an answer.

"The Commune met. The second day, perhaps, I broached the question of
the Post-Office. It was to be comprised in the order of the day, but
always in the confused way which one finds in the order of these
debates, when, on the 30th March, a workman came to apprise Pindy that
the administration of the Post-Office was deserting. The Commune
immediately voted my nomination, and gave me the order to have the
office occupied. Chardon set out at the head of a battalion, accompanied
by Vermorel and myself. It was seven or eight o'clock in the evening.
The work was done, and only a small number of employés remained. Some
gave us a sympathetic welcome, others seemed indifferent. Chardon left a
guard, and I spent the night alone in the office.

"The next day, at three o'clock in the morning, I walked through the
rooms and courts where the employés were arriving for the first
delivery. A manuscript placard, posted in all the rooms and courts,
ordered the employés to abandon their services, and repair to
Versailles, under pain of dismissal. I tore down these placards and
exhorted the men to remain true to their posts. There was at first some
indecision, then a few made up their minds to rally round me.

"At eight o'clock other employés came; at nine o'clock still more. They
formed groups in the large court, talked, discussed, some beat a
retreat, and their example was about to be followed.

"I had the doors closed, and militarily occupied by guards; and I went
from group to group, discussing, menacing. At last I gave the order to
each one to return to his respective bureau. Thereupon a precious
auxiliary came up, Citizen A----, an employé at the Post-Office, a
Socialist, for whom I had a letter from a friend. There was a momentary
hesitation. The father of a family, much respected, sure of an early
promotion, he was about to risk an advantageous place. But his
hesitation lasted only a few seconds. He promised me his assistance, and
he gave it me faithfully up to the last day. He brought me into relation
with Citizen B----, who soon became my second. Both of them furnished me
with information of the greatest utility concerning this department, of
which I did not know the most simple details.

"All the chiefs of bureaux had abandoned their posts; so, too, had the
second head-clerks, save one, who immediately had himself put on the
sick-list. A---- and B---- got together some friends, head-clerks, who
for a long time had done all the work of the chiefs of the bureaux.
Citizen C---- was placed at the head of the postal service for Paris.

"All the divisional bureaux, save two, had been closed and abandoned.
The stock had been carried off, the cash-box emptied, as was proved by
the minutes drawn up by a commissary of the Commune, with the assistance
of several well-known people of the quarter, amongst whom was M. Brelay,
since named deputy of Paris. Postage stamps were wanting. The carts had
set off for Versailles.

"A., B., and some others of an indefatigable zeal, had the divisional
bureaux opened by locksmiths in the presence of the commissaries of the
quarter, and installed well-meaning citizens, whose apprenticeship they
superintended. But there was a stoppage of two days in the delivery of
letters, which gave rise to public grumbling, and I was obliged to
explain the facts in a placard. At the end of forty-eight hours A. and
B. had reorganised the collection and delivery of letters.

"All the citizens whose services had been accepted as auxiliaries
received provisionally, till their capacities could be judged of, a
salary of five francs a day.

"By chance we found some postage-stamps of ten centimes at the bottom of
a chest. Camélinat, appointed the director of the Mint, sent for the
plates and the stock, and forthwith began manufacturing stamps.

"During the first days bundles of letters from Paris destined for the
provinces were taken in by the receiving officer of Sceaux, who no doubt
was without precise instructions; then the blockade was completed. The
sending of letters to the provinces became the object of a daily
struggle. Secret agents went to throw them into the boxes of the offices
for ten miles round. The letters of Paris for Paris alone were stamped
with date-marks. Those sent to the provinces by our smugglers only had
the postage-stamp, which did not permit of their being distinguished
from the others. When Versailles found out the manoeuvre, it changed
the dotting of the stamps. We were quits at Paris by sending off the
letters of importance without prepayment, and procuring stamps from the
bureaux of Versailles.

"If the bureaux for the letters to be sent out of Paris could still
work, those for the collection of the letters from abroad were at a
stand-still. The letters from the provinces accumulated at Versailles.
Some men of business set up agencies, where, for a very high fee, the
letters which they went to fetch at Versailles might be obtained. These
people exploited the population, but we could not supersede them, and we
were obliged to shut our eyes. We contented ourselves with reducing the
profits somewhat, by deducting from each letter the postage of Paris for
Paris, without their being able on that account to raise the sum fixed
by their advertisements.

"The efforts of Versailles to disorganise the reconstituted postal
services were several times baffled, thanks to the vigilance of our two
inspectors. However, we could not prevent the success of all their
attempts at subornation.

"From the first days of April we instituted a council at the
post-office, composed of the delegate, his secretary, the general
secretary, all the heads of services, two inspectors, and two head
postmen. The postmen, _gardiens de bureaux_, and sorters had their wages
raised, very little, alas! for our receipts, considerably reduced, did
not allow us to be very liberal.

"We decided upon the suppression, if not absolute, at least partial, of
the time for serving as supernumerary, which was reduced to the strictly
necessary time. The aptness of the workmen had henceforth to be proved
by tests and examinations, as also the quantity and quality of their
labour."--Extract from an account addressed to the author by Theisz.

VIII.--(Page 220.)

The limits of this Appendix oblige me to make a résumé of the extremely
interesting accounts by Faillet and Louis Debock on the direct taxes and
the National Printing Office:--

"In the evening of the 24th March Faillet and Combault (of the
International) presented themselves at the administration of the direct
taxes. On the written declaration that he yielded to menaces, the
director handed them over the keys. Citizen X., who was thoroughly
acquainted with the administrative movement, placed himself very
promptly at their disposal.

"The original register and other materials for the collection of taxes
had disappeared. It was decided that the taxes should be gathered
according to the list of 1869. The _personnel_ of the forty
collectorships, the valuers, the employés, to make up the list, had
fled. The collectors were replaced by forty citizens, some workingmen
belonging to the International, the others clerks of commercial houses
or government offices. Some of the old officials who had not withdrawn
were retained, but under the superintendence of a safe man. The presence
of Citizen X. decided a great number of employés to come and work under
the new directors.

"The service of the direct taxes was composed--for the _interior_, of a
director, a general administrator, a general secretary, two
sub-secretaries, one chief of the bureaux of taxes and lists, a head
accountant, five other accountants, and two inspectors of the collecting
offices; for the _exterior_, of forty tax-gatherers, each one assisted
by two or three clerks, a bearer of summonses, and an agent with his
accountants at the bonded warehouse for wine.

"Once or twice a week the director made a round in all the collector's
offices, which the inspectors visited every day. Each tax-gatherer
brought the cashier of the direction the receipts of the day before. The
cashier every evening laid the returns before the administration, and
made over to the Central Pay-Office of the Finance Department all that
was not needed for the general expenses of the service.

"The service ceased on the Saturday evening, 25th May. A hundred clerks,
not thinking their whole duty to the Commune done, formed a corps of
scouts, whose post was established in the presbytery of the Temple des

"On the 18th March, at five o'clock in the evening, Pindy and Louis
Debock presented themselves with a battalion at the National
Printing-Office, and established themselves there. The director Hauréau
came down, tried to negotiate, and then went up again to his apartments.
During the evening Debock went to ask him for the list of workmen.
Hauréau took advantage of the occasion to protest his republicanism,
said he was a former editor of the _National_, a friend of Marrast,
Arago, &c., and that the movement of the 18th March had no _raison
d'être_ whatever. A few days were allowed him for removing.

"The whole _personnel_ was maintained, with the exception of the
director, the sub-director, the overseer, and the chief of the works,
Félix Derenémesnil, who was cordially detested for his brutality and
injustice. These spread abroad that the Central Committee had no money,
and that the workmen would not be paid. Debock answered by an order of
the day placarded in the workshops, guaranteeing the wages in the name
of the Central Committee.

"At the end of March, on the injunction of Versailles, all the employés
and heads of the services, with very few exceptions, abandoned the
printing-office after having received their salaries. The new director
took advantage of this to have the new foremen of the workshops
appointed by the workmen themselves. The places of managers of the
printing-press were put up for competition. As the administration of the
Rue Pagevin threw obstacles into the way of placarding the decrees and
proclamations, Debock advised the workmen bill-stickers to associate
themselves. They did so; their wages increased by 25 per cent., and the
printing-office saved 200 francs a day.

"The bulk of the salaries was greatly reduced; that of the lower clerks
and workmen increased. On the 18th March a fortnight's salary was due to
the workingmen and women, and a week's to the employés. The Commune
discharged these arrears. Versailles, victorious, refused to pay the few
days' wages due to the workmen. Yet the Versailles administration found
the stock intact and in perfect order.

"The budget of monthly expenses before the 18th March rose to 120,000
francs, of which 23,000 were absorbed by the salaries of the
functionaries, employés, &c. After this date the expenses did not reach
20,000 francs a week, the expenses of placarding included.

"After the Commune the Union Républicaine announced in the journals that
it had saved the Archives and the National Printing-Office from the
flames. This was a lie, as proved by the order sent on the 24th May to
the Archives at the request of Debock.

      "_Order.--The Archives not to be burnt.--The Colonel
      commanding the Hôtel-de-Ville, Pindy._

"As to the printing-office, it was occupied by Debock up to the invasion
of the quarter. In the night of the 24th he sent to ask the Committee of
Public Safety for the documents, papers, and articles necessary for the
composition of the _Journal Officiel_. The next day, having received no
answer, and the Versaillese pressing forward, he repaired to Belleville,
where the three proclamations or placards which appeared on the
following days were printed by his order."

IX.--(Page 241.)

"Certainly the Communal principle must have been very strong in itself
to have held sixty days against such fools."--_Behind the Scenes at the
Commune_, _"Fraser's Magazine,"_ December, 1872.

"To conquer was so easy and simple, that it needed the double dose of
vanity and ignorance with which the feeble brains of the majority of the
Commune were stuffed to baulk the people of its victory."--_The Paris
Commune of 1871, "Fraser's Magazine,"_ March, 1873.

"He (Delescluze) had only once dared to attack me to my face, but it
resulted in so much discomfiture to himself, and he came out of the
affair so crestfallen, that for the future he confined himself to
plotting against us behind my back, while to my face he was as civil as
possible."--_Behind the Scenes at the Commune, "Fraser's Magazine,"_
December, 1872.

X.--(Page 250.)

At the trial of the members of the Commune, the advocate of Assi read a
letter which the prisoners in Germany had sent his client:--

"Citizen Assi--So you no longer think, with the Central Committee of the
crapulous, that we are tired of your farces and evolutions without an
aim and without limits.... Woe to you, sink of the people! All possible
reverses will accumulate upon you, and give you, as the whole result of
your acts deprived of common-sense and capacity, the hatred of the
prisoners confined in Germany, and the severe punishment which the
admired representatives of all France will mercilessly inflict upon you.
Once over the frontier, the last of the prisoners will go and plunge
into the heart of the guilty the poniard which is to give back security
to the legal government. Be prepared for the sentence which all the
prisoners in Germany have in store for you.... Death to the insurgents!
Death to the infernal Committee! Tremble, brigands!

"Seen and approved by all the prisoners of Magdebourg, Erfurt, Coblentz,
Mayence, Berlin," &c.

The signatures follow.

XI.--(Page 267.)

One of Laroque's reports concluded thus:

"I send you the names of the friends of order and of the agents who have
rendered the greatest service. Jules Masse, P. Verdier, Sigismond,
Galle, Tarjest, Honobede, Toussaint, Arthur Sellion, Jullia Francisque
Baltead, E. Philips, Salowhicht, Maniel, Dolsand (42d battalion),
Rollin, Verox (seminarist), D'Anthome, Sommé, Cremonaty, Tascher de la
Pagerie, Josephine Legros, Jupiter (police agent), the manager of the
Café de Suéde, the proprietor of the Café de Madrid, Lucia, Hermance,
Amélie, little Celestine of the Café des Princes, Camille and Laura
(Café Peters), Madame du Valdy (Faubourg St. Germain), Leynhass

XII.--(Page 268.)

This is what had passed between the Committee of Public Safety and

"The latter came to us one evening and informed us that through the
instrumentality of one of his officers (Hutzinger), Versailles had made
overtures to him, and asked him to appoint a rendezvous. He demanded of
us whether something could not be got out of this for the Commune. We
resolved to let him try the interview on condition that he should tell
us all that passed. That evening we charged somebody to follow and
arrest him if he yielded. From this time Dombrowski was closely
watched--it is thanks to this surveillance that he was not carried off
by the Versaillese who made use of a woman to allure him to the
neighbourhood of the Luxembourg--and I declare we learnt nothing that
was of a nature to weaken our confidence in him.

"He came the next day, and told us that a million was offered him on
condition that he would betray one of the gates. He gave us the names of
those he had seen; amongst others, there was a confectioner of the Place
de la Bourse, the address of the suborners (8 Rue de la Michaudière) and
announced another rendezvous for the next day.... He explained to us how
he would entice a few thousand Versaillese into Paris to make them
prisoners. Pyat and I opposed this attempt. He did not insist, but
demanded that the next day 20,000 men and some howitzers should be
provided for him. He had decided on attracting the Versaillese troops by
a surprise within reach of the fortifications.... Of the 20,000 men,
3,000 or 4,000 only could be mustered, and instead of 500 artillerists,
there came only fifty."--_Extract from an account addressed to the
author by a member of the Committee of Public Safety._

XIII.--(Page 274.)

Here is an extract from the report addressed to the Municipal Council of
Toulouse by the delegates sent to Versailles to M. Thiers and the
deputies of the Extreme Left to inquire into the situation:--

"We went then for information to the members of the Extreme Left; Martin
Bernard, the companion and friend of Barbès, Louis Blanc, Schoelcher,

"M. Louis Blanc gave us the most precise information. It is useless,
said he to us, to again attempt conciliation; there is too much
animosity on both sides. Besides, with whom could one treat in Paris?
These different and hostile forces dispute for power.

"First there is the _Commune_, the result of an election at which only a
small number of electors took part, composed chiefly of unknown men, of
doubtful capacities, and some times even of doubtful honour.

"In the second place, a _Committee of Public Safety_ named by the
Commune, but soon coming to a violent rupture with it because it wanted
to direct dictatorially.

"In the third place, the _Central Committee_, formed during the siege,
and principally composed of agents of the International, solely occupied
with cosmopolitan interests, and caring very little for Parisian or
French interests; it is this Central Committee which disposes of the
cannon and the munitions, in one word, of almost all the material

"To all this must be added the Bonapartist and Prussian influences,
whose more or less apparent action it is easy to trace in all three

"The Parisian insurrection," continued M. Louis Blanc, "is legitimate in
its motives and in its first aim--the revindication of the municipal
franchise of Paris. But the intervention of the Central Committee and
the pretension manifested of governing all the other Communes of the
Republic, have quite altered its character. Finally, the insurrection in
the presence of the Prussian army, ready to enter Paris if the Commune
is victorious, is altogether condemnable, and must be condemned by every
true Republican. This is why the mayors of Paris, the Left of the
Assembly, and the Extreme Left, have not hesitated to protest against an
insurrection which the presence of the Prussian army and other
circumstances might render criminal.

"M. Martin Bernard held the same language, and spoke almost in the same
terms. 'If Barbès still lived,' cried he, 'his heart would have been
rent, and he too would have condemned this fatal insurrection.'

"All the other persons whom we have been able to see--MM. Henri Martin,
Barthélemy St. Hilaire, Humbert, Victor Lefranc, &c., have spoken to us
in the same way, and this unanimity could not but make a deep impression
upon us."

XIV.--(Page 290.)

This is the textual copy of a report addressed to the Versaillese
general staff:--

"The _mot d'ordre_ has been tampered with on the 17th, 18th, and 19th.

"We had that of Versailles (General Douai's corps).

"There has been an explosion at the Rapp powder magazine, as I have
already reported to you. There were some dead, and many wounded.

"A commissary of police of the Commission of Safety has made about forty
arrests. Those made on account of the explosion are estimated to be
about 125.

"Sergeant Toussaint (3rd battery, 2nd squadron) has been arrested by the
Commune. It is said that this brave officer is shot.

"The sick, according to our information, had been taken away either the
day before or on the morning of the day of the catastrophe to the Hôtel
des Invalides. The workwomen, and not the men, were sent home earlier
that day.

"The official of the Audit Office of the Hospital du Gros-Caillou, M.
Bernard, has behaved very well.

"I recommend to the good-will of M. le Ministre, MM. Janvier, Bertalon
(?), Mauduit, Morelli, and Sigismond, men enjoying an excellent

"They desire the cross or an important collectorship.

"Signal services have been rendered by Madame Brosset, and by
Mademoiselle Gigaud. It is at the latter's house that I hid for eight
days when Rigault's people were searching for me.

"This woman is very devoted; she lives in the Quartier du Gros Caillou,
Rue Dominique St. Germain. She is the daughter of an ex-officer. She
would be glad to have a tobacconist's shop."--_Report of Commander
Jerriait, Ex-Chief of Squadron._

XV.--(Page 325.)

This fact was categorically deposed to by M. E. Belgrand, Director of
the Service of Public Roads, before the Commission of Inquiry into the
18th March (vol. iii., p. 352-353).

"The insurgents attempted nothing with the sewers. In short, I may
affirm that from the 18th March up to the entry of the troops into Paris
there was no attempt at all as to the sewers; that no chambers had been
established there; that no incendiary, or explosive matters had been
introduced, nor wires destined to set fire to mines or to incendiary

XVI.--(Page 329.)

The _Bien Public_, M. Thiers' organ, directed by Vrignault, published in
its number of the 23rd June, 1871:--

"All Paris has preserved the souvenir of that terrible cannonade
directed from Montmartre during the last three days of the civil war
against the Buttes Chaumont, Belleville, and the Père Lachaise. Here are
some very correct details of what was happening then at the summit of
the Butte, behind the batteries at No. 6 Rue des Rosiers.

"There had been installed in this house, so sadly celebrated, a
provostship, presided over by a captain of Chasseurs. As the inhabitants
of the quarter rivalled each other in zeal in denouncing the insurgents,
the arrests were numerous. As the prisoners arrived they were

"They were forced to kneel down, bare-headed, in silence, before the
wall at the foot of which the unfortunate Generals Lecomte and
Clément-Thomas had been assassinated. They remained thus a few hours,
till others came to take their place. Soon, to lessen what might be
cruel in this _amende honorable_, the prisoners were allowed to sit down
in the shade, but always opposite the wall, the aspect of which prepared
them for death, and shortly after the principal culprits amongst them
were shot.

"They were taken a few steps from there to the slope of the hill, at the
spot where during the siege a battery overlooked the St. Denis route. It
is there too that Varlin was conducted, whom they had great trouble in
protecting from the violence of the crowd. Varlin had confessed his
name, and made no efforts to escape the fate that awaited him; he died

  V. B."

XVII.--(Page 338.)

The day before, at five o'clock, at the moment when the baggage of the
War Office arrived at the Hôtel-de-Ville, in the Avenue Victoria, two
guards, carrying a chest, were assailed with a hatchet, by an individual
dressed in a blouse and wearing a cap. One of the Federals fell dead.
The assassin, immediately seized hold of, cried, 'You are done for! you
are done for! Give me back my hatchet and I shall recommence.' On this
madman the commissary of police of the Hôtel-de-Ville found papers and
the _livret_, proving that he had served in the _sergents-de-ville_.

During the evening of Tuesday, an individual, wearing the uniform of an
officer of a free corps, came to ask for orders at the Hôtel-de-Ville. A
commandant of the same corps entered the hall and saw this officer, and
not recognising him, asked his name. The latter grew confused: 'But no,
you are not one of my men,' said the commandant. The individual was
arrested, and found to be the bearer of Versaillese instructions and

Treason assumed all shapes. The same morning at Belleville, Place des
Fêtes, Ranvier and Frankel heard a drummer reading the Federal Guards
the order not to leave their arrondissements. Ranvier, interrogating the
drummer, learned that the order emanated from General du Bisson.

XVIII.--(Page 348.)

"Colonel Gaillard, chief of the military prisons, interrogated by the
_Commission d'Enquête_ as to the objects of value found on the
insurgents, answered: 'I can give you no information on this head. There
were valuables which have not been sent to Versailles. A few days ago I
saw a minister of Denmark. He came to inquire what had become of a sum
of 100,000 francs seized on one of his compatriots who had been shot
near the Hôtel-de-Ville. His minister told me he had been unable to
obtain any information. Many things happened in Paris of which we know
nothing.'"--_Enquête sur le 18 Mars, Colonel Gaillard_, v. 2, p. 246.

XIX.--(Page 351.)

Shall we ever know of all the spurious speculators, the commercial men
with no resources left, the men at the brink of bankruptcy, who made use
of the conflagrations in order to quit scores? How many cried 'Death!'
who had themselves just set the petroleum on fire.

On the 10th March, 1877, the assize court of the Seine sentenced to ten
years' hard labour a ruined Bonapartist, Prieur de la Comble, found
guilty of having set fire to his house, with the object of getting a
heavy premium from the companies where he was insured. He had prepared
his crime with the greatest _sang froid_, painted the walls, saturated
the hangings with petroleum, made sure of nine different centres of
fire. His father, a former mayor of the first arrondissement, had
failed to the amount of 1,800,000 francs, and at the end of the Empire
there had been proceedings of bankruptcy instituted against him. Now, on
the 24th May, 1871, the house of the accused in the Rue du Louvre, that
of his father in the Rue de Rivoli, that of the assignee of the failure
in the Boulevard Sebastopol, were consumed, and owing to these triple
conflagrations the account-books and vouchers disappeared. This fact was
only mentioned before the assize court, and the president confined
himself to saying that it was odd. He took good care not to interrogate
Prieur; and one knows that the presidents of assize courts are not
usually chary of sifting the antecedents of the accused.

The motive of this extraordinary reticence is that no blame was to be
thrown upon the army and the courts-martial, which had shot or condemned
some _petroleuses_ for the burning of these very houses set on fire by
Prieur de la Comble.

XX.--(Page 368.)

"... A picket of soldiers debouched from the Rue de Vaugirard on our
left. They marched in two ranks. In the midst of them was Millière.

"He was dressed exactly as I had seen him some months before at Bordeaux
on the tribune of the Assembly and in the Republican Circle--black
trousers, dark-blue overcoat, tight and buttoned up, a high black hat.

"The picket stopped before the door of the Luxembourg. One of the
soldiers, who held his rifle by the end of the barrel, cried, 'It is I
who took him! it is I who am entitled to shoot him!' There were about a
hundred persons there of both sexes and of all ages. Many cried, 'Death
to him! shoot him!'

"A National Guard, wearing a tricolor armlet, seized hold of Millière by
the wrist, led him into the corner on the right, and placed him against
the wall, then he retired.... Millière uncovered himself, placed his hat
on the pedestal of the column, crossed his arms on his breast, and calm
and cool looked at the troops. He waited.

"Round us the soldiers were being questioned. 'Who is it?' one of them
was asked, and I heard him answer, 'It is Mayer.'

"A priest came out of the Luxembourg; he wore a straight-cut cassock and
a high hat. Advancing towards Millière, he spoke a few words to him and
pointed to heaven.

"Without ostentation, but with a very firm and calm attitude, Millière
appeared to thank him, and shook his head in sign of refusal. The priest

"Two officers came out from the palace and addressed themselves to the
prisoner. One of them, whom the first seemed to guide, spoke to him for
a minute or two. We heard the sound of voices without understanding the
words exchanged, then I heard this command: 'To the Panthéon!'

"The picket re-formed round Millière, who put on his hat, and the
cortège remounted the Rue de Vaugirard in the direction of the Panthéon.

"We reached the rails at the same time as the picket. The door opened
and shut upon them. Placing my feet on the stone balustrade, I passed my
two arms round the top of the bars; my head overlooked them, for these
railings are low. By my side a soldier, the sentry of the interior,
answered some prostitutes who were questioning him; his elbow, leaning
against the rails, touched mine.

"The picket of the troop had stopped and almost leant against the closed
door. Millière was led between the two columns of the centre. Arrived at
the spot where he was to die, and after having ascended the last step of
the stairs, he exchanged a few words with the officer. Searching in the
pocket of his overcoat, which he had just unbuttoned, he took out an
object, which I believed to be a letter, and handed it over to him, as
also a watch and a locket. The officer took them, then seized hold of
Millière and placed him in such a manner that he should be shot from
behind. The latter turned round with a brusque movement, and, his arms
crossed, faced the troop. This is the only movement of indignation or of
anger that I saw him make.

"Some more words were exchanged; Millière seemed to be refusing to obey
an order. The officer came down. The instant after, a soldier seized him
who was to be shot by the shoulder and forced him to bend his knee upon
the flagstone.

"Half the rifles of the platoon only were levelled at him; the others
remained in the arms of the soldiers. During this time, believing his
last moment come, Millière three times uttered the cry, 'Vive la

"The officer approaching the picket of the troop, ordered the rifles,
which had been too hurriedly lowered, to be raised again, and then he
pointed out with his sword how the order to fire would be given.

"'Vive le peuple! Vive l'humanité,' cried Millière.

"The soldier on sentry, whose elbow touched my arm, answered the last
words by these: 'On va t'en foutre de l'humanité!' I had hardly heard
them when Millière fell as if thunderstricken.

"A military man, whom I believe to have been a non-commissioned officer,
went up the steps, approached the corpse, lowered his rifle, and fired
point-blank near the left temple. The explosion was so violent that the
head of Millière bounded, and appeared as if twisted back. The rain for
three-quarters of an hour had beaten against his face; the cloud of
powder fixed itself there.

"Lying on his side, his hands joined, his clothes open and thrown into
disorder by the fall, his head blackened, as if burst open, seeming to
look at the frontispiece of the monument, his corpse was something
terrible...."--_The death of Millière recounted by M. Louis Mie,
Conseiller-Général of the Dordogne, Municipal Counciller of Périgueux,
deputy of Bordeaux to the Chamber._

       *       *       *       *       *

Madame Millière having instituted judiciary proceedings against
Staff-Captain Garcin, the murderer of her husband, the trial was cut
short by the following letter:--

  "VERSAILLES, _30th June 1873_.

"Captain Garcin of the General Staff attached to the 2d corps, has
during the second siege of Paris only executed the orders given him by
his superiors. He can thus in no way be made responsible for deeds which
were the result of these orders. The responsibility rests exclusively
upon those who have given the orders.

  "The Minister at War,

XXI.--(Page 371.)

To the number of the innocent victims of our civil discords we have the
sorrow to add the name of a young man, twenty-seven years old, M.
Faneau, a doctor of medicine.

"Dr. Faneau had worked from the beginning of the war in the
International ambulances. During the whole siege of Paris he did not
cease tending the wounded with zealous devotion.

"After the revolution of the 18th March he remained in Paris, and
resumed his service in the ambulances.

"On the 25th May he was on duty at the Grand Seminaire de St. Sulpice,
where the Federals had established an ambulance.

"When the army had taken possession of the cross-roads of the Croix
Rouge, it advanced as far as the Place.

"A company of line soldiers came up to the door of the seminary, where
floated the flag of Geneva.

"The officer who commanded asked to speak to the chief of the ambulance.
Dr. Faneau, who filled this function, presented himself.

"'Are there any Federals here?' the officer asked him.

"'I have only wounded,' answered M. Faneau, 'they are Federals, but they
have been in my ambulance for several days.'

"At the moment when he was concluding these words, a shot was fired from
one of the windows of the first storey, and struck a soldier.

"This shot was discharged by one of the wounded Federals, who had
dragged himself from his bed to the window.[270]

"Immediately the officer, exasperated, threw himself upon Dr. Faneau,
crying to him, 'You lie, you have set a snare for us; you are the friend
of these rascals; you are going to be shot.'

"Dr. Faneau understood that it would be in vain to attempt to justify
himself; also, he offered no resistance to the firing-party.

"Some minutes after the unfortunate young man fell, struck by ten

"We knew Dr. Faneau, and we can affirm that, far from sympathising with
the members of the Commune, he deplored their fatal errors, and waited
with impatience for the re-establishment of order."--_Le Siècle._

XXII.--(Page 383.)

In the _National_ of the 29th May appeared the following:--

  "PARIS, _28th May 1871_.

"Sir,--Last Friday, at the time when corpses were being picked up in the
Boulevard St. Michel, some individuals of nineteen to twenty-five years
old, dressed as well-to-do people, were seated with gay women inside,
and at the doors of certain cafés of this boulevard, indulging with
these in scandalous merrymaking.--Accept, Monsieur le rédacteur, &c.,


The facts mentioned above were repeated every day.

The _Journal de Paris_, a Versaillese journal suppressed by the Commune,

"The manner in which the population of Paris manifested its satisfaction
yesterday was rather more than frivolous, and we fear it will grow worse
as time progresses. Paris has now a fête-day appearance, which is sadly
out of place; and unless we are to be called the Parisians of the
decline, this sort of thing must come to an end." Then he quoted the
passage from Tacitus: "Yet on the morrow of that horrible struggle, even
before it was completely over, Rome, degraded and corrupt, began once
more to wallow in the voluptuous slough which was destroying its body
and polluting its soul--_alibi proelia et vulnera, alibi balnea
popinaeque_--'here fights and wounds, there baths and restaurants.'"

XXIII.--(Page 384.)

The Versaillese journals confessed to 1600 prisoners buried in the Père
Lachaise. The _Opinion Nationale_ of the 10th June said:--

"We do not wish to leave the Père Lachaise without saluting with a look
of Christian compassion these deep trenches, where lie entombed
pell-mell the insurgents taken under arms, and those who would not

"They have expiated their criminal folly by an act of summary justice.
May God pity and have mercy upon them!

"Let us rectify, in passing, the exaggerated rumours which have been
spread on the subject of the executions at the Père Lachaise and in the

"It appears from certain information--we might almost venture to say
official statements--that there have only been buried in that cemetery,
_shot_ or killed fighting, _sixteen hundred men in all_."

But the following account of the executions of La Roquette has been
given me by an eye-witness, who barely escaped death:--

"I had returned to my house on the Saturday evening. Sunday morning, on
crossing the Boulevard du Prince Eugène, I was taken in a razzia. We
were conducted to La Roquette. A chief of battalion was standing at the
entrance. He surveyed us; then, with a nod of the head, said, 'To the
right,' or 'To the left.' I was sent to the left. 'Your affair is
settled,' the soldiers said to us; 'you are going to be shot,
_canailles!_' We were ordered to throw away our matches if we had any
about us, and then the signal was given to march on.

"I was the last of the file, and by the side of the sergeant who
conducted us. He looked at me. 'Who are you?' he asked me. 'A professor.
I was taken this morning as I came out of my house.' No doubt my accent,
the elegance of my clothes, struck him, for he added, 'Have you any
papers?' 'Yes.' 'Come!' and he took me back before the chief of
battalion. 'Commander,' said he, 'there is a mistake. This young man
has his papers.' 'All right,' answered the officer, without looking at
me, 'to the right.'

"The sergeant led me off. As we went along, he explained to me that the
prisoners taken to the left were shot. We had already got to a door on
the right, when a soldier ran after us: 'Sergeant, the commandant says
you are to take back this man to the left.'

"Fatigue, despair at the defeat, the enervation caused by so much
anguish, deprived me of all strength to dispute my life. 'Well, shoot
me,' said I to the sergeant, 'for you it will be but a crime the more!
only return these papers to my family,' and I turned to the left.

"I already perceived a long file of men drawn up against a wall, others
lying on the ground. Opposite them three priests read in their
breviaries the prayers of the dying. A few steps more and I was dead,
when suddenly I was seized hold of by the arm. It was my sergeant. He
took me back by force to the officer. 'Commandant,' said he, 'we cannot
shoot this man. He has his papers!' 'Let me see,' said the officer. I
handed over my pocket-book, which contained a card as employé at the
Ministry of Commerce during the first siege. 'To the right,' said the

"There were soon more than 3,000 prisoners on the right. All Sunday and
part of the night detonations resounded by the side of us. On Monday
morning a platoon came in. 'Fifty men,' said the sergeant. We thought we
were going to be shot by parties, and no one stirred. The soldiers took
the first fifty they came across. I was of the number. We were taken to
the famous left side.

"On a space which seemed to us endless we saw heaps of corpses. 'Pick up
all this rubbish,' said the sergeants to us, 'and put them into these
carts.' We raised up these corpses covered with blood and mud. The
soldiers made frightful jokes; 'See what grimaces they cut,' and with
their heels crushed some face. It seemed to me that some were still
living. We told the soldiers so, but they answered, 'Come, come! get
on!' Certainly some died under the earth. We put 1,907 corpses into
these carts."

The _Liberté_ of the 4th June said:--

"The governor of La Roquette during the Commune, and his acolytes, were
shot on the very scene of their exploits.

"For the other National Guards arrested in this neighbourhood, and whose
number exceeded 4,000, a provisional court-martial was installed in the
Roquette itself. A commissary of police and police agents of safety were
charged with the first examination. Those appointed to be shot were
sent into the interior; they were killed from behind while they were
walking along, and their bodies were thrown on to the nearest heap. All
these monsters had the faces of bandits; the exceptions were to be

XXIV.--(Page 384.)

"At the time of the trial of the members of the Council of the Commune
before the third court-martial sitting at Versailles, a certain M.
Gabriel Ossude came to give evidence as witness against Jourde, in whose
arrest he was concerned, he said, in his quality of provost of the
seventh arrondissement, and as Colonel Merlin, president of the court,
seemed astonished that such a function should have devolved upon a
civilian, M. Ossude entered into very precise explanations, which I
remember perfectly.

"He declared that towards the end of the Commune the prevotal courts had
been instituted by the Government of Versailles in view of the early
entry of the troops into Paris; that the number and the seats of the
exceptional tribunals had been arranged beforehand, as well as the
topographical limits of their jurisdictions; that he (M. Gabriel Ossude)
had received his nomination from the hands of M. Thiers, although he
held no rank in the army, but as captain of the seventeenth battalion of
the National Guard."--_Letter of Ulysse Parent, Rappel, March 19, 1877._

XXV.--(Page 385.)

"Near the Ecole Militaire the scene is at this moment very affecting;
prisoners are continually being led there, and their trial is
_terminated_ beforehand. It consists only in detonations."--_Siècle,
28th May._

"The courts-martial functioned in Paris with unheard-of activity at
several special points. At the Lobau Barracks, at the Ecole Militaire,
the fusillade is permanently heard. It is the settling of accounts with
those wretches who openly took part in the struggle."--_Liberté, 30th

"Since morning (Sunday, 28th May) a strong cordon is being formed round
the theatre (Châtelet), where a court-martial is permanently
established. From time to time one sees a band of fifteen to twenty
individuals coming out, composed of National Guards, civilians, _women
and children fifteen to sixteen years old_.

"These individuals are condemned to death. They march two and two,
escorted by a platoon of chasseurs, who lead and bring up the
procession. This cortège goes up the Quai de Gèvres and enters the
Republican Barracks in the Place Lobau. A minute after one hears from
within the fire of platoons and successive musketry discharges; it is
the sentence of the court-martial which has just been executed.

"The detachment of chasseurs returns to the Châtelet to fetch other
prisoners. The crowd seems deeply impressed on hearing the noise of the
fusillades."--_Journal des Débats, 30th May, 1871._

XXVI.--(Page 385.)

A journal of the Belgian bourgeoisie, the _Etoile_, one of the most
violent against the Commune, allowed this avowal to escape it:--

"The majority have met death like the Arabs after battle, with
indifference, with contempt, without hatred, without anger, without
insult to their executioners.

"All the soldiers who took part in these executions, and whom I have
questioned, have been unanimous in their accounts.

"One of them said to me, 'We shot about forty of these _canailles_ at
Passy. They all died like soldiers. Some crossed their arms, and stood
head erect. Others opened their tunics and cried to us 'Fire! we are not
afraid of death.'

"Not one of those whom we have shot trembled. I especially remember an
artillerist, who by himself did us more harm than a whole battalion. He
was alone serving a piece of cannon. During three-quarters of an hour he
peppered us with grape shot, and he killed and wounded not a few of my
comrades. At last he was overwhelmed. We had turned his barricade.

"I still see him. He was a strongly-built man. He was bathed in
perspiration from the service he had done during three-quarters of an
hour. 'Your turn now,' said he to us. 'I have merited shooting, but I
shall die game.'

"Another soldier of General Clinchant's corps told me how his company
had led to the ramparts eighty-four insurgents taken bearing arms.

"They all placed themselves in a line, he said to me, as if they were
going to exercise. Not one faltered. One of them who had a handsome
face, wore trousers in fine cloth tucked into his boots, and a Zouave's
belt round his waist, said to us calmly, 'Try to aim at my chest; be
careful not to touch my head.' We all fired, but the poor fellow had
half of his head carried away."

A functionary of Versailles made me the following recital:--

"During the day, Sunday, I made an excursion to Paris. I went by the
Théâtre du Châtelet towards the smoking ruins of the Hôtel-de-Ville,
when I was surrounded and carried along by the stream of a crowd which
was following a convoy of prisoners.

"I found among them the same men whom I had seen in the battalions of
the siege of Paris. Almost all seemed to me to be working-men.

"Their faces betrayed neither despair nor despondency nor emotion. They
walked on with a firm, resolute step, and they seemed to me so
indifferent to their fate that I thought they expected to be released. I
was entirely mistaken. These men had been taken in the morning at
Menilmontant, and knew whither they were being led. Arrived at the Lobau
Barracks, the cavalry officers who preceded the escort had a semi-circle
formed, and prevented the curious from advancing."

XXVII.--(Page 385.)

One of the most ignoble barkers of Versailles, Francisque Sarcey, wrote
in the _Gaulois_ of the 13th June:--

"Men who are quite cool, of whose judgment and word I cannot doubt, have
spoken to me with an astonishment mingled with horror of the scenes they
had seen, seen with their own eyes, and which rendered me rather

"Young women, pretty of face, and dressed in silk dresses, came down
into the street, and a revolver in their hands, fired at random, and
then said with proud mien, elevated voice, eyes full of hatred, 'Shoot
me at once!' One of them, who had been taken in a house whence they had
fired from the windows, was about to be bound in order to be taken to
Versailles and judged there.

"'Come,' said she, 'save me the trouble of the journey!' And placing
herself against a wall, her arms spread open, her breast bare, she
seemed to solicit--to provoke death.

"All those who have been seen executed thus summarily by furious
soldiers have died, insults on their tongues, with a laugh of contempt,
like martyrs, who in sacrificing themselves accomplish a great duty."

XXVIII.--(Page 386.)

At the time of an action entered against M. Raspail, _fils_, in 1876,
for his pamphlet in favour of an amnesty, the following letter,
addressed to him by M. Hervey de Saisy, senator, was read in court:--

"I cannot, for motives of discretion bearing on divers persons, repeat
in this letter the recital which I made you _vivâ voce_ on the occasion
of which you remind me. However, I wish to answer your courteous appeal
by repeating here the words which served as a reason for the iniquitous
order by which the life of M. Cernuschi was menaced, during the day on
which the troops took possession of the prison of Ste. Pélagie and the
Jardin des Plantes.

"These are the words pronounced by the general of division who gave the
order of summary execution. Learning that Cernuschi had repaired to the
prison, at the door of which I saw his carriage, he said to some one,
whom I cannot mention, 'Ah! it is Cernuschi, the man of the 100,000
francs of the plébiscite. Return to the prison, and let him be shot
within five minutes.'

"Five minutes represented the time that would be required by the bearer
of the order in going to the prison from the Cèdre du Jussieu, whence
the general watched the phases of the combat.

"At first I did not understand this strange phrase, but some moments
after I remembered that it was the expression of a political vengeance
which was about to be exercised against M. Cernuschi for having offered
100,000 francs for the propaganda which the Opposition was to make
during the final plébiscite of the Empire.

"Profoundly indignant at what I had just heard, I was fortunate enough
to bring about a fortuitous incident to which the already condemned
victim owed his salvation.

"Such are the details I am able to furnish you with.


XXIX.--(Page 386.)

"Some journals of Paris," wrote the _Echo de la Dordogne_, on the 19th
June, 1871, "have repeated that Tony Moilin had been condemned and shot
for having been taken arms in hand on the 27th May. This report is

"One single fact was Tony Moilin reproached with: that of having on the
18th March taken possession of the mairie of his arrondissement, and
having thus had a share in giving the signal for the insurrection. He
was shown a kind of dismissal given by him on that day to M. Hérisson,
the mayor whom he had replaced. No witness was heard.

"Moilin admitted the fact; then he added that he had exercised the
function of mayor during hardly two days; that at the end of this time,
little in accord with the men of the Commune, he had voluntarily ceased
to appear at the mairie, where he had been immediately replaced.

"The court-martial asked Moilin to account for his time and his acts
since the day of the entry of the army of Versailles into Paris. He
answered that, known for a long time, especially through the Blois trial
and by his writings, as one of the chiefs of the Socialist party, having
to answer for taking possession of the mairie of the eighth
arrondissement on the 18th March, fearing a too summary justice and the
fury of the first moments, he had sought and found shelter at a
friend's, and that, from the Monday morning till the Saturday night; ...
that on the Saturday evening, the 27th March, this friend had asked his
guest to leave his retreat, and that on leaving this inhospitable house,
discouraged, not seeking any longer to defend his liberty, nor even his
life, he had returned to his home, where, on the denunciation of his
porter and his neighbours, he had been almost directly afterwards
arrested and taken before the court-martial at the Luxembourg.

"To this recital was confined the defence of Tony Moilin, who was
immediately condemned to death. The court-martial _condescended to tell
him that the fact of the mairie, the only one he could be reproached
with, had in itself not much importance, and did not merit death, but
that he was one of the chiefs of the Socialist party, dangerous through
his talents, his character, and his influence over the masses; one of
those men, in short, of whom a prudent and wise Government must rid
itself when it finds a legitimate occasion to do so_.

"Tony Moilin could only be satisfied with the urbanity (_sic_) of the
members of the court. Without any difficulty a respite of twelve hours
was granted him in order that he might make his testament, write a few
words of farewell to his father, and finally give his name to the woman
who had, during the Blois trial and since, shown him the greatest
devotion. These duties fulfilled, on the 28th May, in the morning, Tony
Moilin was led into the garden a few steps from the palace and shot. His
body, which his widow claimed, the surrender of which had been at first
promised, was refused her."

XXX.--(Page 386.)

This assassination also stands to the debit account of Garcin. Let us
again allow him to speak.

"Billioray at first attempted to deny his identity. He wanted to rush
upon a soldier; he was a man of athletic strength.... He defended
himself, he foamed with rage. There was hardly time to interrogate him.
He began some tale about money, whose place of concealment he could
indicate. He spoke of 150,000 francs; then he interrupted himself, in
order to say to me, 'I see you are going to have me shot. It is useless
for me to say any more.' I said to him, 'You persist?' 'Yes.' He was
shot."--_Enquéte sur le 18 Mars_, vol. ii. p. 234.

XXXI--(Page 386.)

"The event took place on Thursday, 25th May, at a few minutes past six
in the evening, in the small Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois.
Vallès was coming out of the Théâtre du Châtelet, led off by the
firing-party charged to shoot him. He wore a black coat, and light
trousers of a yellowish shade. He wore no hat; and his beard, which he
had shaved but lately, was very short, and already getting grey.

"On entering the lane where the ominous sentence was to be carried out,
the sentiment of self-preservation gave him back the energy which seemed
to have abandoned him. He wanted to fly; but, held back by the soldiers,
he got into a horrible fury, crying 'Murder!' writhing, seizing his
executioners by the throat, biting them, offering, in one word, a
desperate resistance.

"The soldiers were beginning to be embarrassed and a little moved at
this horrible struggle, when one of them passing behind gave him such a
furious blow in the loins with the butt-end of his gun that the
unfortunate man fell with a low groan.

"No doubt the spinal column was broken. They then fired some shots with
their revolvers straight into his body, and pierced him with bayonet
thrusts. As he was still breathing, one of the executioners approached
and discharged his chassepot into his ear. Part of the skull burst open;
his body was abandoned in the gutter till some one came to pick it up.

"It is then that the spectators of this scene approached, and despite
the wounds that disfigured him, were able to establish his
identity."--_Account by a Military Surgeon published in the Gaulois._

XXXII.--(Page 392.)

The _Radical_ of the 30th May, 1872, published the following letter from
an employé at St. Thomas d'Acquin, who during the Commune had rendered
the Versaillese the service of preventing the firing of the cannons of 8
cm. breechloaders:--

"_To Monsieur le Comte Daru, President of the Committee of Inquiry into
the Insurrection of the 18th March, Versailles._

"Monsieur le President,--I have just read in a book, which is entitled
_Enquête Parlementaire sur l'Insurrection du 18 Mars_, under the head,
_Evidence of witnesses_, the following evidence by the Staff-Captain

"'All those who were arrested under arms were shot during the first
moments, that is to say, during the combat. But when we were masters of
the left bank there were no more executions.'

"In the report of Marshal MacMahon on the operations of the army of
Versailles against insurgent Paris, I find the following declaration:--

"'In the evening of the 25th May the whole left bank was in our power,
as also the bridges of the Seine.'

"The evidence of Captain Garcin is unfortunately contrary to the truth.
Four days after the 25th May my son and fourteen other unhappy victims
were killed at the Dupleix Barracks, situated on the left bank, near the
Ecole Militaire.

"On the 31st August I addressed the Minister of Justice a complaint on
this subject, of which I send you a correct copy. After having related
the facts with regard to my son, I demanded that the law should search
for and punish the culprits.

"Up to the present time the law has remained deaf to my claims,
notwithstanding the publicity I have given this complaint, in order to
prove the disappearance of my child.

"If it were true, as Captain Garcin declares, that orders had been given
by the general commander-in-chief of the troops of the left bank to put
an end to these executions after the evening of the 25th May; if again
it were true that Marshal MacMahon had by his despatch of the 28th May
given the order to suspend all executions, as the Colonel presiding over
the court-martial at the trial of the members of the Commune
declared--the officer of the gendarmerie, named Roncol, who ordered the
massacres at the Dupleix Barracks, and his accomplices should have been
prosecuted for having, in contempt of the orders of the chief of the
army, had unfortunate people killed who had taken no part in the

"Thus, horrible fact, in the morning of the 29th May, while I was giving
up the cannon at St. Thomas d'Acquin, which my son and I had sworn on
our honour to preserve for the state, and for which we had risked our
lives, my son was being massacred at the end of a stable by those who
ought to have protected him.

"In consequence of these facts, which I have just made public, I beg
Monsieur le Président to be so obliging as to have the evidence of
Captain Garcin rectified, which is on this point of the executions
entirely contrary to truth.--I have the honour, Monsieur le Président,

  (Signed)  "G. LAUDET."

"The correct copy of this was addressed in a registered letter of the
28th March, 1872, under the number 158, to M. le Comte Daru, who has
acknowledged the receipt of it.

  "G. LAUDET."
  "PARIS, _23rd May 1872_."

XXXIII.--(Page 393.)

"It is in the Bois de Boulogne that those condemned to death by the
court-martial will for the future be executed. Whenever the number of
the condemned shall exceed ten men the execution platoons will be
replaced by a mitrailleuse."--_Paris Journal, 9th June._

"All circulation is forbidden in the Bois de Boulogne.

"One is forbidden to enter there, unless accompanied by a platoon of
soldiers, and still more forbidden to come out again."--_Paris Journal,
15th June._

XXXIV.--(Page 395.)

"One man, a swarthy, burly fellow, with a shock head of black hair, sat
down at the corner of the Rue de la Paix and declined to go any further,
shaking his fist at the people and grinding his teeth. After several
attempts at coercive measures, one of the soldiers lost all patience,
and drove his bayonet twice into his body, telling him to get up and
walk on like the rest. As might have been expected, this method was not
successful, and so he was seized and placed on a horse, from which he
speedily threw himself, and was then tied to its tail, and dragged along
the ground after the manner of Brunhilda. He soon became faint from loss
of blood, and having thus been reduced to a quiescent state, was bundled
into an ambulance waggon, and carried off amid the shouts and
execrations of the populace."--_Times, May 31st._

"Another prisoner, who had also refused to march, was dragged by the
hands and hair of the head along the road."--_Times, May 30th._

"Near the Parc Monceaux a husband and wife were seized, and ordered to
march forward towards the Place Vendôme, a distance of a mile and a
half. They were both of them invalids and unable to walk so far. The
woman sat down on the kerbstone, and declined to move a step in spite of
her husband's entreaties that she would try. She persisted in her
refusal, and they both knelt down together, begging the gendarmes who
accompanied them to shoot them at once if shot they were to be. Twenty
revolvers were fired, but they still breathed, and it was only at the
second discharge that they finally sank down dead. The gendarmes then
rode away, leaving the bodies as they had fallen."--_Times, May 29th._

XXXV.--(Page 396.)

The conservative paper, the _Tricolore_, said on the 31st May:--

"Sunday morning, the 24th, out of more than _two thousand_ Federals, one
hundred and eleven of them have been shot in the ditches of Passy, and
that under circumstances which show that the victory [the conclusion of
this nonsensical phrase must be given in the original] _était entrée
dans toute la maturité de la situation_.

"'Let those who have white hairs step out from the ranks!' said General
Gallifet, who presided at the execution, and the number of grey-headed
Federals amounted to one hundred and eleven!

"For these the aggravating circumstance was having been contemporaries
of June, 1848.

"There is here a new _retro-syncopante_ theory which might take us a
long way back."

The _Liberté_ of Brussels published the following declaration, signed by
eve-witnesses, of the facts which had occurred at La Muette on the 26th
May, 1871:--

"On the 26th of last May we formed part of the column of prisoners who
had left the Boulevard Malesherbes at eight o'clock in the morning in
the direction of Versailles. We stopped at the Château of La Muette,
where General Gallifet, after having dismounted from his horse, passed
into our ranks, and then making a choice, he pointed out to the troops
eighty-three men and three women. They were taken away along the talus
of the fortifications and shot before us. After this exploit the General
said to us: '_My name is Gallifet. Your journals in Paris have sullied
me enough. I take my revenge._'

"Thence we were directed to Versailles, where during the journey we were
again obliged to assist at frightful executions of two women and three
men, who, falling down exhausted and being unable to keep up with the
column, were killed with bayonet-thrusts by the _sergents de ville_
forming our escort."

The names followed, with the professions and addresses of the signers,
to the number of eleven.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The column of prisoners halted in the Avenue Uhrich and was drawn up
four or five deep on the footway facing to the road. General the Marquis
de Gallifet and his staff, who had preceded us there, dismounted, and
commenced an inspection from the left of the line and near where I was.
Walking down slowly, and eyeing the ranks as if at an inspection, the
General stopped here and there, tapping a man on the shoulder or
beckoning him out of the rear-ranks. In most cases, without further
parley, the individual thus selected was marched out into the centre of
the road, where a small supplementary column was thus soon formed....
They evidently knew too well that their last hour had come, and it was
fearfully interesting to see their different demeanours. One, already
wounded, his shirt soaked with blood, sat down in the road and howled
with anguish; ... others wept in silence; two soldiers, presumed
deserters, pale but collected, appealed to all the other prisoners as to
whether they had ever seen them amongst their ranks; some smiled
defiantly.... It was an awful thing to see one man thus picking out a
batch of his fellow-creatures to be put to a violent death in a few
minutes without further trial.... A few paces from where I stood, a
mounted officer pointed out to General Gallifet a man and woman for some
particular offence. The woman, rushing out of the ranks, threw herself
on her knees and with outstretched arms implored mercy, and protested
her innocence in passionate terms. The General waited for a pause, and
then, with most impassable face and unmoved demeanour, said: 'Madame, I
have visited every theatre in Paris; your acting will have no effect on
me' (ce n'est pas la peine de jouer la comédie).... I followed the
General closely down the line, still a prisoner, but honoured with a
special escort of two chasseurs-à-cheval, and endeavoured to arrive at
what guided him in his selections. The result of my observations was
that it was not a good thing on that day to be noticeably taller,
dirtier, cleaner, older, or uglier than one's neighbour. One individual
in particular struck me as probably owing his speedy release from the
ills of this world to his having a broken nose on what might have been
otherwise an ordinary face, and being unable from his height to conceal
it. Over a hundred being thus chosen, a firing party told off, and the
column resumed its marching, leaving them behind. In a few minutes
afterwards, a dropping fire in our rear commenced and continued for over
a quarter of an hour. It was the execution of these summarily convicted
wretches."--_The Daily News, June 8, 1871._

"Yesterday (Sunday, 28th), about one o'clock, General Gallifet appeared
at the head of a column of 6,000 prisoners.... Upon their haggard
countenances and in their downcast eyes there was no ray of hope to be
seen. They were evidently prepared for the worst fate, and dragged
listlessly along, as though it were not worth while to walk to
Versailles to be shot when an immediate execution might save them the
trouble. M. de Gallifet seemed to be of the same opinion, and a little
beyond the Arc-de-Triomphe he halted the column, selected eighty-two,
and had them shot there and then. A little after this a band of twenty
Pompiers were marched into the Parc Monceaux and executed."--_The Times,
May 31, 1871._

XXXVI.--(Page 438.)

Here is a copy of a letter addressed to the Versaillese general staff,
and probably still in its possession, and bearing the number 28 ibis:--

"_To the Chief of the General Staff._

"General--I have been mistaken for a M. de Beaufond, and this annoys me
all the more, that negligences committed by him are imputed to me.

"I have certainly not wasted my time during this period of fifteen days.
I have organised quite a legion of combatants. Their order is to run
away on the approach of the troops, and thus to throw the ranks of the
Federals into disorder.

"The means indicated by the Committee of A---- seems to be practicable. I
will make use of it. With only one