The Paris Commune 1871
Henri Rochefort

The Executed of the Commune

Source: Henri Rochefort, La Lanterne, Présentation et notes par Roger Bellet. Jean-Jacques Pauvert, Paris, 1966;
First Published: Aventure de Ma Vie, année 1874;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2008.

The ever cruder light that fell on the horrors of the Versaillais, unveiled by my article in the New York Herald and also by my Lanterne, as wells as the witnesses whose depositions on the state of siege had been kept secret, exasperated MacMahon, whose tactic had been to present as assassins and thieves the fédérés he’d massacred.

The intrepidity shown by all those executed at Satory profoundly humiliated that executioner, and since, three years after the Bloody Week, there were still executions being held, he had the incredible audacity to write, as a kind of reply, a circular that appeared in the Moniteur de l’Armée where he fixed the ceremony for the putting to death of those condemned by war councils.

It was atrocious and ridiculous.

This Guide for the Perfect Executed was divided into several articles, all written from the point of view of “humanity,” as the preamble said. So it was through humanity that, while the condemned is at the execution post he is to have his sentence read to him in a loud and clear voice. It’s through humanity that the command of “fire!” is re-established. It’s always and ever through humanity that the executed must kneel before his executioners.

The martial attitude maintained before the rifles by the last political executed had, for three years, been one of the great problems of military justice.

To die is nothing, it’s our final hour, Sedaine ingenuously said. It’s nonetheless true that this “nothing” has the reputation of being something, and it’s a little humiliating for a firing squad to aim at a man who falls while laughing in their faces. Ferré, upright on his grave, a cigar in his mouth, was a detestable example for a population that had seen the most star-covered generals flee under Prussian shells. On the other hand, a man kneeling like the crouching Venus loses all the energy of his gaze, and the next day the odious newspapers rush to tell how “the condemned man could barely remain standing.”