And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

13 May

Victor Hugo,

‘The boulevards are deserted. There remain only the regiments, who bivouac at short distances apart. Coming back, I passed through the little streets of the Marais. All is quiet and gloomy. The old Rue du Temple is as black as a furnace. The lanterns there have been smashed.

The Place Royale is a camp. There are four great fires before the Town Hall, round which the soldiers chat and laugh, seated upon their knapsacks. The flames carve a black silhouette of some, and cast a glow upon the faces of the others. The green, fresh leaves of the spring trees rustle merrily above the braziers.

I had a letter to post. I took some precautions in the matter, for everything looks suspicious in the eyes of these worthy National Guards. I recollect that at the period of the riots of April, 1834, I passed by a guard-house of the National Guard with a volume of the works of the Duke de Saint-Simon. I was pointed out as a Saint-Simonian, and narrowly escaped being murdered.

Just as I was going in-doors again, a squadron of hussars, held in reserve all day in the courtyard of the Town Hall, suddenly issued forth and filed past me at a gallop, going in the direction of the Rue Saint-Antoine. As I went upstairs I heard the horses’ foot-falls retreating in the distance.

8 am: Several companies of the National Guard have come and joined the Line regiments encamped in the Place Royale.

A number of men in blouses walk about among the National Guard, observed and observing with an anxious look. An omnibus comes out upon the Rue du Pas-de-la-Mule. It is made to go back. Just now my floor-polisher, leaning upon his broom, said, “Whose side shall I be on?” He added a moment afterwards, “What a filthy government this is! I have thirty francs owing to me, and cannot get anything out of the people!”

The drums beat to arms.

I breakfast as I read the papers. M. Duflot arrives. He was yesterday at the Tuileries. It was at the Sunday reception: the king appeared fatigued, the queen was low-spirited. Then he went for a walk about Paris. He saw in the Rue du Grand-Hurleur a man who had been killed - a workman - stretched upon the ground in his Sunday clothing, his forehead pierced by a bullet. It was evening. By his side was a lighted candle. The dead man had rings on his fingers and his watch in his fob-pocket, from which issued a great bunch of trinkets.

Yesterday, at half-past three o’clock, at the first musket-shots, the king sent for Marshal Soult, and said to him, “Marshal, the waters become troubled. Some ministers must be fished up.”

An hour afterwards the marshal came to the king, and said, as he rubbed his hands, in his Southern accent, “This time, Sire, I think we shall manage the business.”

There is, in fact, a ministry this morning in the “Moniteur.”

12 midday: I go out. Firing can be heard in the Rue Saint-Louis. The men in blouses have been turned out of the Place Royale, and now only those persons who live there are allowed to enter the street The rioting is in the Rue Saint-Louis. It is feared that the insurgents will penetrate one by one to the Place Royale, and fire upon the troops from behind the pillars of the arcades.

Two hundred and twelve years, two months and two days ago to-day, Beuvron, Bussy d’Amboise, and Buquet, on the one hand, and Boutteville, Deschapelles, and Laberthe, on the other, fought to the death with swords and daggers, in broad daylight, at this same time and in this same Place Royale. [. . .]

The approaches to the Place Royale are deserted. The firing continues, very sustained, and very close at hand.

In the Rue Saint-Gilles, before the door of the house occupied in 1784 by the famous Countess Lamothe-Valois, of the Diamond Necklace affair, a Municipal Guard bars my passage.

I reach the Rue Saint-Louis by the Rue des Douze-Portes. The Rue Saint-Louis has a singular appearance. At one of the ends can be seen a company of soldiers, who block up the whole street and advance slowly, pointing their muskets. I am hemmed in by people running away in every direction. A young man has just been killed at the corner of the Rue des Douze-Portes.

It is impossible to go any farther. I return in the direction of the boulevard.

At the corner of the Rue du Harlay there is a cordon of National Guards. One of them, who wears the blue ribbon of July, stops me suddenly. “You cannot pass!” And then his voice suddenly became milder: “Really, I do not advise you to go that way, sir.” I raise my eyes; it is my floor-polisher.

I proceed farther.

I arrive in the Rue Saint-Claude. I have only gone forward a few steps when I see all the foot-passengers hurrying. A company of infantry has just appeared at the end of the street, near the church. Two old women, one of whom carries a mattress, utter exclamations of terror. I continue to make my way towards the soldiers, who bar the end of the street. Some young scamps in blouses are bolting in every direction near me. Suddenly the soldiers bring down their muskets and present them. I have only just time to jump behind a street-post, which protects, at all events, my legs. I am fired upon. No one falls in the streets. I make towards the soldiers, waving my hat, that they may not fire again. As I come close up to them they open their ranks for me, I pass, and not a word is exchanged between us.

The Rue Saint-Louis is deserted. It has the appearance which it presents at four o’clock in the morning in summer: shops shut, windows shut, no one about, broad daylight. In the Rue du Roi-Doré the neighbours chat at their doorways. Two horses, unharnessed from some cart, of which a barricade has been made, pass up the Rue Saint-Jean-Saint-François, followed by a bewildered carter. A large body of National Guards and troops of the Line appear to be in ambush at the end of the Rue Saint-Anastase. I make inquiries. About half an hour ago seven or eight young workmen came there, dragging muskets, which they hardly knew how to load. They were youths of fourteen or fifteen years of age. They silently prepared their arms in the midst of the people of the neighbourhood and the passers-by, who looked on as they did so, then they broke into a house where there were only an old woman and a little child. There they sustained a siege of a few moments. The firing in my direction was aimed at some of them who were running away up the Rue Saint-Claude.

All the shops are closed, except the wine-shop where the insurgents drank, and where the National Guard are drinking.

3 pm: I have just explored the boulevards. They are covered with people and soldiers. Platoon-firing is heard in the Rue Saint-Martin. Before the windows of Fieschi I saw a lieutenant-general, in full uniform, pass by, surrounded by officers and followed by a squadron of very fine dragoons, sabre in hand. There is a sort of camp at the Chateau d’Eau; the actresses of the Ambigu are on the balcony of their greenroom, looking on. No theatre on the boulevards will give a performance this evening.

All signs of disorder have disappeared in the Rue Saint-Louis. The rioting is concentrated in the great central markets. A National Guard said to me just now, “There are in the barricades over there more than four thousand of them.” I said nothing in reply to the worthy fellow. In moments like this all eyes are overflowing vessels.

[. . .] A man has just been killed in the Rue de la Perle. In the Rue des Trois-Pavillons I see some little girls playing at battledore and shuttlecock. In the Rue de l’Echarpe there is a laundryman in a fright, who says he has seen cannon go by. He counted eight.

8 pm: The Marais remains tolerably quiet. I am informed that there are cannon in the Place de la Bastille. I proceed there, but cannot make out anything; the twilight is too deep. Several regiments stand in silent readiness, infantry and cavalry. A crowd assembles at the sight of the wagons from which supplies are distributed to the men. The soldiers make ready to bivouac. The unloading of the wood for the night-fires is heard.

12 midnight: Complete battalions go the rounds upon the boulevards. The bivouacs are lighted up in all directions, and throw reflections as of a conflagration on the fronts of the houses. A man dressed as a woman has just passed rapidly by me, with a white hat and a very thick black veil, which completely hides his face. As the church clocks were striking twelve, I distinctly heard, amid the silence of the city, two very long and sustained reports of platoon-firing.

I listen as a long file of carts, making a heavy iron clatter, pass in the direction of the Rue du Temple. Are these cannon?’

Insurrection in Paris


Henry Crabb Robinson,

‘My birthday. To-day I complete my ninetieth year. When people hear of my age, they affect to doubt my veracity, and call me a wonder. It is unusual, I believe, for persons of this age to retain possession of their faculties, or so much of them as I do. The Germans have an uncomplimentary saying : “Weeds don’t spoil.” ’

Weeds don’t spoil


Alexander Hamilton Stephens,
lawyer and politician

‘General Upton called early. I was so hoarse I could hardly talk. He informed me that he had removed all guards, that I was on my parole. I told him I should not violate it. He was very courteous and agreeable; told me my destination was Washington. [. . .] He gave me choice of route: by Dalton and the lines of railroads northwest and north, or by sea from Savannah. I selected the sea route [. . .]

From my window, just before night, I took a bird’s-eye survey of the ruins of this place. I saw where the Trout House stood, where Douglas spoke in 1860 - I thought of the scenes of that day, and my deep forebodings of all these troubles; and how sorely oppressed I was at heart, not much less so than now, in their full realization with myself among the victims. How strange it seems to me that I should thus suffer, I who did everything in the power of man to prevent them. I could but rest my eye for a time upon the ruins of the Atlanta Hotel, while the mind was crowded with associations brought to life in gazing upon it. There, on the fourth Sept., 1848, I was near losing my life for resenting the charge of being a traitor to the South: and now I am here, a prisoner under charge, I suppose, of being a traitor to the Union. In all, I have done nothing but what I thought was right. The result, be it what it may, I shall endeavour to meet with resignation.’

Deprived of my liberty


Michael Macdonagh,

‘There is a scarcity of bread in parts of the East End of London where German bakers have been rooted out by the process of their shops being pillaged and wrecked. I am told that other premises were attacked by the mobs because of incorrect assumptions as to the nationality of the names over the doors. For instance, a publican named “Strachan” - an old Scottish name - was taken to be a German and had his windows smashed.’

The drama of London in WWI


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