THE EBULLITIONS OF FORMER DAYS
Nothing is more extraordinary than the first breaking out of a riot.
Everything bursts forth everywhere at once. Was it foreseen?
Yes. Was it prepared? No. Whence comes it? From the pavements.
Whence falls it? From the clouds. Here insurrection assumes the
character of a plot; there of an improvisation. The first comer
seizes a current of the throng and leads it whither he wills.
A beginning full of terror, in which is mingled a sort of
formidable gayety. First come clamors, the shops are closed,
the displays of the merchants disappear; then come isolated shots;
people flee; blows from gun-stocks beat against portes cocheres,
servants can be heard laughing in the courtyards of houses and saying:
"There's going to be a row!"
A quarter of an hour had not elapsed when this is what was taking
place at twenty different spots in Paris at once.
In the Rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, twenty young men,
bearded and with long hair, entered a dram-shop and emerged
a moment later, carrying a horizontal tricolored flag covered
with crape, and having at their head three men armed, one with
a sword, one with a gun, and the third with a pike.
In the Rue des Nonaindieres, a very well-dressed bourgeois, who had
a prominent belly, a sonorous voice, a bald head, a lofty brow,
a black beard, and one of these stiff mustaches which will not
lie flat, offered cartridges publicly to passers-by.
In the Rue Saint-Pierre-Montmartre, men with bare arms carried about
a black flag, on which could be read in white letters this inscription:
"Republic or Death!" In the Rue des Jeuneurs, Rue du Cadran,
Rue Montorgueil, Rue Mandar, groups appeared waving flags on which could
be distinguished in gold letters, the word section with a number.
One of these flags was red and blue with an almost imperceptible
stripe of white between.
They pillaged a factory of small-arms on the Boulevard Saint-Martin,
and three armorers' shops, the first in the Rue Beaubourg, the second
in the Rue Michel-le-Comte, the other in the Rue du Temple.
In a few minutes, the thousand hands of the crowd had seized and
carried off two hundred and thirty guns, nearly all double-barrelled,
sixty-four swords, and eighty-three pistols. In order to provide
more arms, one man took the gun, the other the bayonet.
Opposite the Quai de la Greve, young men armed with muskets installed
themselves in the houses of some women for the purpose of firing.
One of them had a flint-lock. They rang, entered, and set about
making cartridges. One of these women relates: "I did not know
what cartridges were; it was my husband who told me."
One cluster broke into a curiosity shop
in the Rue des Vielles Haudriettes, and seized yataghans and Turkish arms.
The body of a mason who had been killed by a gun-shot lay in the Rue
de la Perle.
And then on the right bank, the left bank, on the quays,
on the boulevards, in the Latin country, in the quarter of the Halles,
panting men, artisans, students, members of sections read proclamations
and shouted: "To arms!" broke street lanterns, unharnessed carriages,
unpaved the streets, broke in the doors of houses, uprooted trees,
rummaged cellars, rolled out hogsheads, heaped up paving-stones,
rough slabs, furniture and planks, and made barricades.
They forced the bourgeois to assist them in this. They entered the
dwellings of women, they forced them to hand over the swords and guns
of their absent husbands, and they wrote on the door, with whiting:
"The arms have been delivered"; some signed "their names" to receipts
for the guns and swords and said: "Send for them to-morrow at
the Mayor's office." They disarmed isolated sentinels and National
Guardsmen in the streets on their way to the Townhall. They tore
the epaulets from officers. In the Rue du Cimitiere-Saint-Nicholas,
an officer of the National Guard, on being pursued by a crowd armed
with clubs and foils, took refuge with difficulty in a house,
whence he was only able to emerge at nightfall and in disguise.
In the Quartier Saint-Jacques, the students swarmed out of their
hotels and ascended the Rue Saint-Hyacinthe to the Cafe du Progress,
or descended to the Cafe des Sept-Billards, in the Rue des Mathurins.
There, in front of the door, young men mounted on the stone
corner-posts, distributed arms. They plundered the timber-yard
in the Rue Transnonain in order to obtain material for barricades.
On a single point the inhabitants resisted, at the corner
of the Rue Sainte-Avoye and the Rue Simon-Le-Franc, where they
destroyed the barricade with their own hands. At a single point
the insurgents yielded; they abandoned a barricade begun in the Rue
de Temple after having fired on a detachment of the National Guard,
and fled through the Rue de la Corderie. The detachment picked up
in the barricade a red flag, a package of cartridges, and three
hundred pistol-balls. The National Guardsmen tore up the flag,
and carried off its tattered remains on the points of their bayonets.
All that we are here relating slowly and successively took place
simultaneously at all points of the city in the midst of a vast tumult,
like a mass of tongues of lightning in one clap of thunder.
In less than an hour, twenty-seven barricades sprang out of the
earth in the quarter of the Halles alone. In the centre was that
famous house No. 50, which was the fortress of Jeanne and her six
hundred companions, and which, flanked on the one hand by a barricade
at Saint-Merry, and on the other by a barricade of the Rue Maubuee,
commanded three streets, the Rue des Arcis, the Rue Saint-Martin,
and the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, which it faced. The barricades
at right angles fell back, the one of the Rue Montorgueil on the
Grande-Truanderie, the other of the Rue Geoffroy-Langevin on the Rue
Sainte-Avoye. Without reckoning innumerable barricades in twenty
other quarters of Paris, in the Marais, at Mont-Sainte-Genevieve;
one in the Rue Menilmontant, where was visible a porte cochere torn
from its hinges; another near the little bridge of the Hotel-Dieu
made with an "ecossais," which had been unharnessed and overthrown,
three hundred paces from the Prefecture of Police.
At the barricade of the Rue des Menetriers, a well-dressed man
distributed money to the workmen. At the barricade of the Rue Grenetat,
a horseman made his appearance and handed to the one who seemed
to be the commander of the barricade what had the appearance
of a roll of silver. "Here," said he, "this is to pay expenses,
wine, et caetera." A light-haired young man, without a cravat,
went from barricade to barricade, carrying pass-words. Another,
with a naked sword, a blue police cap on his head, placed sentinels.
In the interior, beyond the barricades, the wine-shops and porters'
lodges were converted into guard-houses. Otherwise the riot
was conducted after the most scientific military tactics.
The narrow, uneven, sinuous streets, full of angles and turns,
were admirably chosen; the neighborhood of the Halles, in particular,
a network of streets more intricate than a forest. The Society
of the Friends of the People had, it was said, undertaken to direct
the insurrection in the Quartier Sainte-Avoye. A man killed in the Rue
du Ponceau who was searched had on his person a plan of Paris.
That which had really undertaken the direction of the uprising
was a sort of strange impetuosity which was in the air.
The insurrection had abruptly built barricades with one hand,
and with the other seized nearly all the posts of the garrison.
In less than three hours, like a train of powder catching fire,
the insurgents had invaded and occupied, on the right bank,
the Arsenal, the Mayoralty of the Place Royale, the whole
of the Marais, the Popincourt arms manufactory, la Galiote,
the Chateau-d'Eau, and all the streets near the Halles; on the left bank,
the barracks of the Veterans, Sainte-Pelagie, the Place Maubert,
the powder magazine of the Deux-Moulins, and all the barriers.
At five o'clock in the evening, they were masters of the Bastille,
of the Lingerie, of the Blancs-Manteaux; their scouts had reached the
Place des Victoires, and menaced the Bank, the Petits-Peres barracks,
and the Post-Office. A third of Paris was in the hands of the rioters.
The conflict had been begun on a gigantic scale at all points;
and, as a result of the disarming domiciliary visits, and armorers'
shops hastily invaded, was, that the combat which had begun with
the throwing of stones was continued with gun-shots.
About six o'clock in the evening, the Passage du Saumon became
the field of battle. The uprising was at one end, the troops were
at the other. They fired from one gate to the other. An observer,
a dreamer, the author of this book, who had gone to get a near view
of this volcano, found himself in the passage between the two fires.
All that he had to protect him from the bullets was the swell of
the two half-columns which separate the shops; he remained in this
delicate situation for nearly half an hour.
Meanwhile the call to arms was beaten, the National Guard armed
in haste, the legions emerged from the Mayoralities, the regiments
from their barracks. Opposite the passage de l'Ancre a drummer
received a blow from a dagger. Another, in the Rue du Cygne,
was assailed by thirty young men who broke his instrument, and took
away his sword. Another was killed in the Rue Grenier-Saint-Lazare.
In the Rue-Michelle-Comte, three officers fell dead one after
the other. Many of the Municipal Guards, on being wounded,
in the Rue des Lombards, retreated.
In front of the Cour-Batave, a detachment of National Guards found
a red flag bearing the following inscription: Republican revolution,
No. 127. Was this a revolution, in fact?
The insurrection had made of the centre of Paris a sort
of inextricable, tortuous, colossal citadel.
There was the hearth; there, evidently, was the question.
All the rest was nothing but skirmishes. The proof that all would
be decided there lay in the fact that there was no fighting going
on there as yet.
In some regiments, the soldiers were uncertain, which added to
the fearful uncertainty of the crisis. They recalled the popular
ovation which had greeted the neutrality of the 53d of the Line
in July, 1830. Two intrepid men, tried in great wars, the Marshal
Lobau and General Bugeaud, were in command, Bugeaud under Lobau.
Enormous patrols, composed of battalions of the Line, enclosed in
entire companies of the National Guard, and preceded by a commissary
of police wearing his scarf of office, went to reconnoitre the streets
in rebellion. The insurgents, on their side, placed videttes
at the corners of all open spaces, and audaciously sent their
patrols outside the barricades. Each side was watching the other.
The Government, with an army in its hand, hesitated; the night
was almost upon them, and the Saint-Merry tocsin began to make
itself heard. The Minister of War at that time, Marshal Soult,
who had seen Austerlitz, regarded this with a gloomy air.
These old sailors, accustomed to correct manoeuvres and having
as resource and guide only tactics, that compass of battles,
are utterly disconcerted in the presence of that immense foam
which is called public wrath.
The National Guards of the suburbs rushed up in haste and disorder.
A battalion of the 12th Light came at a run from Saint-Denis,
the 14th of the Line arrived from Courbevoie, the batteries of
the Military School had taken up their position on the Carrousel;
cannons were descending from Vincennes.
Solitude was formed around the Tuileries. Louis Philippe was