Lissagaray: History of the Paris Commune of 1871
Daring — this word sums up all the politics of the day.
(St. Justs Report to the Convention)
August 9, 1870 — In six days the Empire has lost three battles. Douai, Frossart, MacMahon have allowed themselves to be isolated, surprised, crushed. Alsace is lost, the Moselle laid bare. The dumb-founded Ministry has convoked the Chamber. Ollivier, in dread of a demonstration, denounces it 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 word from the deputies of the Left. Since the announcement of the defeat 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 y d'Hilliers. The people cry, To the frontier. Officers answer aloud, Our is not here.
In the Salle des Pas Perdus well-known Republicans, the men of the clubs, who have forced their way in, roughly challenge the Imperial deputies, speak loudly of proclaiming the Republic. The pale-faced Mamelukes [originally a militia of Egyptian slave-soldiers, here used to mean the Right.] 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 Resign!
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 honourable gentlemen seem confounded, stupefied. Are there enough of you? Is it not better to put it off till tomorrow? There are indeed only 1 00,000 men ready. Someone arrives and tells Gambetta, There are several thousand of us at the Place Bourbon. Another, the writer of this history, says, Make sure of the situation today, when it may Still. be saved. Tomorrow, 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 threatening looks. 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.  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 Byzantium 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 challenge the liars! Since the 26th they have known MacMahons 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 puts it 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 [the Hundred Days of 1815 between Napoleon Is return from exile on the island of Elba until his defeat at Waterloo] pales before this superior cowardice; for here Tartuffe [symbol of hypocrisy, from a play by Molière] is grafted upon Trimalcion. [Nero-like character in a play by Petronius] Thirteen months later, at Versailles, I hear, amidst enthusiastic applause, the Empire apostrophized, Varus [Roman general, he committed suicide after his legions had been destroyed], 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 centralization 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, in 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, vulgarize 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 desires of the eunuch. At the first sign of the impotent master they kiss the rod that smote them on 2nd December, making room for the plebiscite which rebaptizes the Empire.
Bismarck prepared the war, Napoleon Ill 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.  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. 
And what then is the lower 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, [or hijrrah, a Muslim term meaning emigration, but used for the start of a new era] 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 tomorrow. 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 wig 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 revolutionise. 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 moderates 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 lower 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. lie 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 lower 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 galvanized it into life, but only for a moment. At the bidding of the deputies to keep quiet, the lower middle class, the mother of the 10th August, docilely bent its head and let the foreigner plunge his into the very bosom of France.
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 are part of 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 labour. In vain the Empire attempts to split their forces, to seduce the working men. These see the snare, hiss the professors of Caesarian 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 demonstration at the tomb of Manin [Daniel Manin (1804-1857), an Italian nationalist leader who died an exile in France], and, despite the bludgeons of the sbirri, protest against Mentana. [village where Garibaldis troops were defeated by the French in 1867] 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 desperados 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 rumours 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 working men 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 -
The people are our brothers
And the tyrants our enemies.
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 workmen.
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 lower 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 fight from them, but even the right to enlighten themselves? By an internal Machiavellianism 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, workingmens 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 workmens 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 regime which they attacked.
Just before the war some discipline was attempted. Some tried to move the deputies of the left and met them at Crémieuxs. They found them stupefied, more afraid of a coup-d'état than of the Prussian victories. Crémieux, pressed to act, answered naively, Let us wait for a new disaster, as, for instance, the fall of Strasburg.
It was indeed necessary to wait, for without these shadows nothing could be done. The Parisian lower 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, Vtve 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 over-reached, 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 before hand. 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 Hôtel-de-Ville.
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.  Jules Favre, Jules Simon, Jules Ferry, Gambetta, Crémieux, Emmanuel Arago, Glais-Bizoin, Pelletan, Gamier-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. 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 ne w regime; 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.
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 working men. Their fraternal duty fulfilled, the French workmen gave themselves up 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 evacuating 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 Camp-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 Chatillon, 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 of September, wishing to centralize 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, employees and 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 trade unions.
These had almost suspended their work, the service of the National Guard absorbing all their activity. Some of their members again met m 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, Lafrançais, Mallon, etc. Their posters were torn down.
On the 20th, after Jules Favres application to Bismarck, the Committee held a large meeting in the Alcazar and sent a deputation to the Hôtel-de-Ville to demand war to the end 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 later 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, Ale resistance is a heroic madness; Picard, We shall defend ourselves for honours sake, but all hope is chimerical; the elegant Crémieux, The Prussians will enter Paris like a knife goes into butter;  the chief of Trochus staff, We cannot defend ourselves; we have decided not to defend ourselves;  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 store 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. All the following days the Left had only one 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  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 amid to have affected Trochu, who announced that it would perhaps be possible to hold the ramparts. Such was the maximum of his enthusiasm: to hold out — not to open the gates. As to or g these 250,000 men, uniting them with the 2403000 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 invader.
He was all for mild proceedings. His devoutness forbade him to 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 organized 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, To Berlin! believed in a success. The revolutionists only were not taken in. The capitulation of Toul and of Strasbourg was to theft a solemn warning. Flourens, chief of the 63rd battalion, but who was the real commander of Bellevine, 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 mass mobilization, sorties, municipal elections, and 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 Chatillon: 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 Châteaudun.
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, but made every effort to make Paris believe.
But at the Corderie, in the clubs, in the paper of Blanqui, in the Reveil of Delescluze, in the Combat of Félix Pyat, the plan of the men of the Hôtel-de-Ville is exposed. What is the meaning of 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 make room for those that believe in the Defence; let Paris ion of herself; let the Commune of 1792 be revived to save the city and France. Every day this resolution sinks more deeply into virile minds. On the 27th the Combat, which preached the e in high-flown phraseology whose musical rhythm struck the muses more than the nervous dialectics of Blanqui, hurls a terrific thunderbolt. Bazaine is about to surrender Metz, to treat for peace m 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. lie glorious soldier Bazaine has not ceased harassing the besieging army with brilliant sorties. The Government called down the upon 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 north-east 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 armistice.
The men of the 4th September believed they were saved, that their goal was reached. They had posted up the armistice side by side with capitulation, good and bad news, 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. Cal 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 militia. The delegates who entered the Hôtel-de-Ville brought no answer. About three o'clock, the crowd, growing impatient, rushed forward, breaking through the militia, 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: 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 tables 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, Delescluse, 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 delays the days work would have been beneficially concluded. But Dorian refused. Louis Blanc, Victor Hugo, Ledru-Rollin. Raspail, 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 office 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 announcement 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. Everybody thought we deserved to be dismissed. Not only did Trochus 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. 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 Schoelchers 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, 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 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. Trochus drums were beating on the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville. A battalion of Breton mobiles debauched in the midst of the Hôtel-de-Ville through 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 t 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 feel of the siege had been unable to discipline the revolutionary Sporty, 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 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 manifestos.
There at least was life, a lamp, not always bright, but always burning. What is the lower middle class contributing now? Where are their Jacobins, even their Cordeliers? At the Corderie I see the workers of the lower 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 in that it coexisted 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, get angry at any controversy as to the power entrusted 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, 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, belong 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 revolutionaries. Thus, out of seventy-five effective members, mayors and adjuncts, there were not ten revolutionaries.
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 Trochus patient. They allowed the insolent and incapable Ferry to be appointed to the central mairie, and C1ément-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 7,000 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. 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 artillerymen? 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, Marcea, Kleber [generals of the French Revolution] 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 Chaboud-Latour. In their pleasant intimacy they made much fun of the defence. 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 utilize 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 1/2d. as indemnity.) Collisions were to be feared every day.
The 31st 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 m 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. It was not only from the folly of the siege that they wished to save Paris, but above all from the revolutionaries. In this direction they were pushed on by the big 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; 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 in that he believed himself to be amenable only to his conscience. Strange conscience, full of trapdoors, 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 twofold — 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 Trochus 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 Pads, now apparently allowing her to swim in her own element, then 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 ation exalted Paris. She fancied herself on the eve of Jemmapes, 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 mythical armies of the provinces, and cross the river at Nogent. Ducrots 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, emptying out of 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 dons 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 stigmatize the tirailluers 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 stigmatized 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 Trochus 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. 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. 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 challenged 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 mobilization 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 poster on the 6th: Has the Government which charged itself with the national defence fulfilled its mission? No. By their procrastination, their indecision, their inertia, 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 regime means capitulation. The politics, the strategies, the administration of the Empire continued by the men of the 4th of September have been judged. Make way for the people! Make way for the Commune! This was outspoken and true. However incapable of action the Committee may have been, its idea were just and precise, and to the end of the siege it remained thee indefatigable, sagacious monitor of Paris.
The multitude who wanted illustrious names, paid no attention to these posters. Some of those who had signed it were arrested., Trochu, however, felt under attack, and the very same evening had posted on 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 Trochus declaration, Delescluze and his adjuncts should tender their resignations.
Nevertheless, without obstinately shutting ones 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. 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 their own helplessness and the common sense of the people. 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 organize 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 uprising. 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 performance.
It was got up as a farce at the same time as the capitulation. 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 m 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-Valdrien.
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, the National Guards and the mobiles, who formed the majority of the left wing and centre, had stormed the redoubt of Montretout, the part 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 advance.
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 f ire diminished, Trochu ordered a retreat. Yet there 40,000 reserves between Mont-Valdérien 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 nigh!, 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.
Paris, which had gone to sleep victorious, awoke to the sound of Trochus 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 3,000 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. 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 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 monstrous, unnatural crime. 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 2 Ist 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 to tender his resignation. But he, the apostle, insisted upon being by them, fancying thus to cheat history into the belief that he had to the last resisted capitulation. The discussion was growing heated 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 revolutionaries, 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 honour. 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 Hôtel-de-Ville.
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, 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, debauched 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 wounded.
The same evening the government closed all the clubs and issued numerous warrants. Eighty-three persons, most of them innocent, were melted. 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; whereas the revolutionaries 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, offered the supreme command to the military men 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. Someone 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. Paris had surrendered.
The next day the Government of the Defence published the basis of the negotiations — a fortnights armistice, the immediate convocation of an Assembly, the occupation of the forts, the disarmaments 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 the end, 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 Bourbakis, 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 began 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 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 Gambettas 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. lie 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 fist of the Four Committees. The clubs and working mens 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 working-mens societies, mute and disorganized during the siege, again taking up their programme, said, We must also have working men 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 m the name of a new world by the party of the disinherited. France is about to reconstitute herself; working men 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 working men to political power; overthrow of the oligarchical Government and of industrial feudalism. Besides a few names familiar to the public, Blanqui, Gambon, Garibaldi, Felix Pyat, Ranvier, Tridon, Longuet, Lefrançais, Vallès, these Socialist candidates were known only in the working mens centres — mechanics, shoemakers, ironfounders, tailors, carpenters, cooks, cabinetmakers, carvers. Their proclamations 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; Delmcluze 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. 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 Combat.
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 had 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 reactionaries, 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 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 slew 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 over France, to bring about this great conservative machination, which from the first hour to the last explosion, the revolutionaries 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 reactionaries hid in their lairs. 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 and 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 very tainted relics, 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 orders, vigorous measures, the sending of commissioners, and promised their absolute co-operation. The scoundrels answered, We are face to face, 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. 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 five-pence the pay of the working men employed in the fortifications, and appointed Cluseret general without troops of an army to be created..
The Republican committees of Les Brotteaux, of La Guillotière, of La Croix-Rousse, 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 working men of the fortifications, led by Saigne, supported this step by a demonstration. They filled the Place des Terreaux, and what with the 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 prefect.
The bourgeois battalions soon arrived at the Place des Terreaux; shortly after those of La Croix-Rousse and of La Guillotière emerged. Great misfortune might have resulted from the first shot. They parleyed. -Me 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 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 centres 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 debut 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 fervour. An Assembly fortified by all the republican aspirations, vigorously led, sitting in a populous town, would have increased the national energy a hundred-fold, 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 Gambettas 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 election. Lacking the energy to grapple with the real difficulties of the situation, Gambetta fancied he might shift them by the expedient clap-trap 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. Crémieux had called the Bonapartists republicans going astray. Gambetta believed, or pretended to believe, in the patriotism of the reactionaries. A few pontifical zouaves who offered themselves, the abject submission of the Bonapartist generals, the wheedling of a few bishops, 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 employees 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 intact.
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 petty bourgeoisie and proletariat might have given the cadres.
Gambetta saw here only obstacles, 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 entrusted. 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. 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, reported 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 honourable 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 driven through between the Bavarians at Orléans and the Prussians at Châteaudun; if — and this was an easy matter with its numerical superiority it would have beaten 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 reactionary, 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 encamped before Blois, with at least 40,000 men, and the next day he was to have left for Orléans.
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 call off his movement.
A general of some ability, of some good faith, would, on the contrary, have precipitated everything. Since the army before Metz, now disengage, would swoop down upon the centre of France, there was not a day to lose to get ahead of 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 3rd November. D'Aurelles then had 70,000 men established from Mer to Marchenoir. He might have aired before events overtook him. That very day a whole brigade of Prussian cavalry had been obliged to abandon Mantes and to retreat before bands of franc-tieurs; French forces were observed to be marching from Courville in the direction of Chartres. D'Aurelles did not stir, and the Delegation remained as paralysed as he. M. le Ministre, wrote on the 4th November the Delegate at War, M. de Freycinet, 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, rumours 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 today 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 kilometres, and in the evening again spoke of making a halt. All his forces together ed 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. Three days after the battle Gambetta came to the headquarters and approved of D'Aurelles 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 sound, manoeuvrable armies for France, and find the necessary time for this, 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 W-supplied contingents, only advanced on compulsions Gambetta on his arrival had said in his proclamation We will make young leaders, 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. The accomplice of Bazaine, Bourbaki, 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; he not only allowed them to refuse, but even released a curé who in the pulpit had set a price on the Generals 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. 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 reactionaries, 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 3 Ist October. The Marseilles revolutionaries, 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 reactionaries. 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 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. When the prefect of Bordeaux, an ultra-moderate Liberal, asked 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 laid and conducted from the be by the only serious political tacticians ~ France possesses — by the Jesuits, masters of the clergy. The arrival of M. Thiers provided the apparent leader.
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 naively 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 3 Ist October. When he arrived at Tours in the firs 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 existence at the service of the Delegation, he had but one object, to baffle the defence.
It could not have had a more redoubtable enemy. lie 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 lions share due to the Prussians, and took no more notice of them than they had crossed 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 o 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 noted reactionaries. 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. 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 revolutionaries who came to tell it the lengths things were going to 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 pig-tailed 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. lie republicans tried to speak of an honourable 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. Me 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.