To Public Opinion

On the émeutes of 14, 15, 16, and 17 June [1831]

The government had promised that the émeutes would not happen again. Citizens of all classes had manifested the opinion that émeutes demonstrated the disaffection of a considerable part of the population with authority; the mission of this authority consisted rather in preventing them than in suppressing them. We know that émeutes have become more frequent; they are not extinguished except after they have produced their effect, and the government cannot even brag of having repressed them; far from it, it has contributed to prolonging them through the brutality of its agents, and through the deployment of useless force, consequently irritating the masses because it strikes without aim and without excuse. Thus it matters that it has been proven, that after causing these gatherings to come into being by its ineffectiveness, by its absurd system, and by the acts which it brings forth every day, the government alone has prolonged the émeutes by the use of the most cruel and cowardly means of repression–the extreme measures of weakness and fear, when it senses the approach of its inevitable destiny.

Everyone knows that the watchmaker Marchal had mistreated a young peddler who offered to sell him a history of Napoleon in the Hundred Days. This man was reputed to be a spy of the deposed government; he was known as a Carlist1. The people, seeing him unpunished for his cruel actions, and witnessing his fresh violence towards the children who burned him in effigy in front of his door, thought that the government once more, as in the affair of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois2, was refusing to render justice. The people believed they had been betrayed, and this belief, which would never have been born if the present authority had not fed it every day with its actions, immediately took on a general character and produced an explosion–which proves better than all the reasoning in the world the nature of the sentiment which is agitating the masses. The people’s demonstrations were so prompt and so energetic that there was no way to be deceived. Thirty thousand individuals, not a few mere rabble-rousers of the streets, came out on the boulevards; they came there to give witness to their contempt and indignation against an authority whose actions are so grievous to public prosperity and to the honour of France. It was no longer a question, in these groups, of the brutal watchmaker, but of the griefs of the population against the men who were determined to wrest away, through the ruin of all the industries, its last scrap of bread. Such was the subject of all conversations; these conversations did not find so much approval, because everyone was, for his interlocutor, the living proof of the truth of his accusations. Is it possible, that in this rising march of general misery, the least pretext serves as a rallying point? Is there a need for instigators in order to gather such a great number of people in common sentiment? No, there is a need only for causes which have reality and generality, which agitate the masses on their own. To what, if not these causes, can one attribute the perseverance of such groups to form despite the futility of the émeute’s origin? Let all take heed, for the lives of those who bet against the émeute will be at stake. The causes that we represent, if they exist, are superior to all efforts against them, and when the hour is at hand, there is no power in the world capable of preventing their action. This is a warning. Have we not all remarked upon the progression of the people’s irritation? Have we not seen the serious attempts at resistance? the general cry of menace against the present authority? Has nobody tried before now to raise barricades? to assault the troops with paving stones? Has nobody attempted, suddenly and spontaneously, to take the guns from the armorers’ shops? This, however, is the sort of event which characterizes the previous émeute; a still more grave event has arrived: the people have called it to the line, and they have demonstrated their disaffection with the National Guard. Certainly if anything can bring about the misfortunes which the bourgeoisie dreads, it is the continuation of the role which the people are forced to play; it is the continuation of the support which the bourgeoisie gives to a government which compromises it in the view of the people, without offering them the force which alone could protect it. But it is wrong to accuse the bourgeoisie itself; it must be said, to finish enlightening those who insist upon denying light. One of the most remarkable aspects of the last émeute is the small number of National Guards who responded to the call to duty. The legions most renowned for their devotion to the ministry provided only a few men; this has been seen by all who observe with attention, or who, having many acquaintances in the National Guard, have questioned them about the part which they played in the repression of the émeute. This, however, is left ignored in Paris and in France. This is how one finishes deceiving oneself, and how one casts oneself into the abyss. Also, in its abandon, the government employed the most odious frame-ups. The prefect of police did not fear to accuse the people of pillage. This pillage never took place. This was a concerted rumor to revive the lagging zeal of the National Guard, and, at the same time, to influence the more timid electors. The people appeared only in an armorer’s shop: this will be appreciated by all as stemming from a completely different intention than pillage. It is this intention which made the men of the ministry go pale; for it was at this moment that the lack of a superior direction was shown among the troops used to put down the people; it was then that soldiers on horseback were seen pursuing citizens even into the alleyways, and chasing them down their entire length; it was then that they stabbed isolated and inoffensive citozens, in a sort of Saturnalia of cruelty.

It must be known at last that the dead and wounded were taken to the Hotel-Dieu; corpses were seen in threes, piled up in the corners of the streets and in the wine-shops; this is a matter of public notoriety, and several newspapers contain in this regard letters and articles which have yet to be refuted.

In particular, a man, fleeing before the National Guard, is arrested in the rue Mauconseil; while they are searching him, he lets out a cry and gives a last gasp; he had just received from behind a bayonet strike which pierced his stomach. A staff officer of the National Guard pretends that pistol shots were fired at him from the café in the passage du Caire; he enters the café, which contained no more than five people, most of them occupied in a game of dominoes, and among whom were two women. He accuses a young man of being the one who fired the pistol shots: when the man denies it, he stabs him with his épée and finishes by smashing the pommel across his face; after this exploit, he breaks the tables and glasses of the café.

At the Bonne-Nouvelle post, a man is arrested, and shortly afterward it is discovered that he died from the blows of a pistol butt which were struck inside the guardhouse.

It would be easy to multiply these sorts of stories; but already the newspapers have been forced by the public clamor to record facts of this nature in their columns.

Perardel, a former officer of the cavalry, was knocked out by blows of a pistol and wounded by the bayonets of National Guards unworthy of their name. He demands to know the names of the cowards who attacked him while shouting, “March! March!”; he would have liked to teach them in his turn how an old soldier decorated by Napoleon marches.

We have seen the precise declarations of Carré, Dalbard, and Bravard, lawyers, all National Guards, who denounced acts of brutality the like of which the gendarmes of the deposed king were never accused of.

Brismontier reported the murder committed by cavalrymen of the 5th legion, Pécourt’s company, of Fleuret, a lower officer of the National Guard, who was trying to avoid the gatherings on the boulevards.

Napoléon Tachoux, lawyer, was wounded by several blows from a saber, as a mocking response from the captain to whom he addressed his complaints.

All of these plaintiffs are members of the National Guard; such is the success in arming citizens against each other. There is no longer any recognition; these are blows struck in blindness, which attest to the absence of all uniform direction. Those who speak out so often against anarchy may brag of having offered the spitting image thereof. But, as happens in great disturbances, personal character or valor of the individual is the only protection; the cowards who stab an inoffensive and timid man recoil before a strong and steadfast one.

The printer of a newspaper is found in the rue Poissonnière by a staff officer of the National Guard, who is leading a company of dragoons: “Dragoons!” cries the officer, “stab this man for me!” The indignant citizen seizes the horse’s bridle and invites the officer to give him his address; “for,” he adds, “that is how a man proves that he has a heart, and that he is no mere cowardly assassin.” The officer, disconcerted, seeing that the dragoons did not attack him, exchanged his impertinent apostrophe for officious posturing. “I am not listening to your posturing or your attempts to menace me any longer,” responded the citizen; “here is my address, and I will await your response tomorrow.” The next day, M. Hingray receives a message full of excuses in the name of M. Charles Laffitte, son of M. Eugène Laffitte. And that is how they all are! excuses for the individual, killings for the masses.

Four young men, pursued by groups bent on seizing them, take refuge in the house of Mme Cherion, rue Saint-Denis, no. 170; this lady had the young men go up to the first floor; suddenly, National Guards burst in on the orders of a sergeant, and captured the young men in the asylum which humanity had offered them… it was nine o’clock at night! The National Guards did not hesitate to violate thus the home of a citizen! In this, they have shown themselves to be worse than the gendarmes of Charles X, who at least stop at the door at such an hour.

These facts suffice to prove the degree of brutality and confusion at which the agents of a vacillating ministry have arrived. But what is not well-enough known is that the people, satisfied to have protested with their Marseillaise and their cries in the gatherings of 14 and 15 June, did not seem disposed to protest further; it was on the 16th that, when they had seen that the émeute was nearly finished, men who had shown themselves to be trembling and irresolute took up all their courage, and through the natural irritation which their measures–at once useless and bloody–succeeded in maintaining and augmenting, prolonged the agitations–in order, no doubt, to exploit them, with their songs of triumph to their profit in the elections. It was then that the rumor was passed around that a great number of shops had been pillaged. They were not in the ranks of the people in July, those who dared to publish this infamy; they never saw them, poor and without bread, guard the bank where so many treaures were shut up, without even the thought of taking away an écu; we must repeat for them the declaration of the commissionary of police who restored order in the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois: the crowd surrounding the door, menacing and and already having overcome all obstacles; “Come in,” they said to him, “there is gold inside.” And the people fled.

And now, for some interest of the Court and its coteries, they are slandering this generous people! these men whose ferocity surpasses that of Delavan and Mangin! and it is for one individual, it is in the interest of a minister who, on the 27 of July, closed his door to the students stabbed by the gendarmes in front of his house! Isn’t it true that cowards have always been the most ferocious?

Let them learn at least that the use of methods like theirs has always signalled–and above all in France in the past forty years–the last efforts of a dying power; whether you rejoice or lament at the émeutes is not the important point; what merits grave consideration is that émeutes are a fact plainly superior to power, for they renew themselves despite all its promises; what must be known is that they become more frequent, that the individuals who participate in them are more numerous, that their resistance is more obstinate. Now, let one of those events arise which are never lacking, and which cause to erupt, with more energy, the antipathy of the nation against an absurd system which it has condemned; whether the Holy Alliance menaces us a bit more shamelessly, or whether carlism rears its head with a bit more audacity; and the army, uncertain in its obedience, and the National Guard, reduced to a few hundred men dutiful to all regimes, will give free rein to the popular flood. They will hide in the bowels of the earth, these men who slander the populace and commit crimes to accuse it. They should at least respect its virtues, if they do not know how to have pity on its misery.

But no, those who, in the strongest of the previous gatherings, had already lost their heads and did not know how to give orders anymore–when the émeute became less menacing, we have seen these ridiculous parodists of great scenes which they never understood, talking of making, through the power of the juste milieu, a new 13 Vendémiaire, and parading through a shocked Paris the cannons destined to fire upon this too-patient people.

Here is their courage! here, one might also say, is their blindness!

It is time that public opinion, to which we appeal here, completes its detachment from this ministry a thousand times deplorable, and abandons it to its inevitable fate.

(Published by the Society of the Friends of the People.) Printed by A. Parbier, rue des Marais S.-G. n. 7.

1 Carlism was a legitimist movement that supported the Bourbon claim to the Spanish throne.
2 In February 1831 émeutes broke out in Paris when legitimists organized a commemoration of the Duc de Berri–a member of the House of Bourbon whose 1820 assassination became a rallying point for ultraroyalists–at the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. This article disputes the reports that the church and later the archbishopric were sacked by the émeutiers.

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