Place de la Bastille – Revolutions

The Place de la Bastille is of course quite directly linked to the 1789 Revolution - the destruction of the 14th century fortress, used as a prison, which was stormed on July the 14th, 1789. I have written on the Place and the fortress several times, e.g. here and here.

The Place is now under reconstruction, meaning that cars and buses will have to take new paths and that pedestrians will be more welcome. The work is  not finished, but you can already now reach the “July Column” on foot without risking your life (which I once did), as was the case when it was still surrounded by hectic traffic.

Some of the floor slabs around the Column have figures referring to different French Revolutions (there was not only the 1789-one)…

… and different symbols, referring to the Square. The elephant actually stood here beginning in 1813, but only in plaster and in 1840 it was replaced by the “July Column”, still there – using the same circular basin as its base. (The elephant stayed in place another six years.)

Maybe this is a good reason to write a few words about these different Revolutions? 

1789 may not need any explanations. That is the Revolution we all know about, the one which overthrew the monarchy (for a while), passed the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen”, but also created the “Reign of Terror”, the guillotine… 
The 1830 one, the second French Revolution, is often referred to as the “Trois Glorieuses” (Three Glorious (days)). Yes, actually, it lasted only three days, July 27-29. Charles X, who was the youngest brother to Louis XVI, had taken a number of unpopular measures, known as the “July Ordinances”, involving the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies, the suspension of the liberty of the press… He called for new elections, but the middle-class could not vote anymore. There were some riots… and Charles X was forced to abdicate. He was replaced by Louis Philippe. The House of Orléans took over from the House of Bourbon and some new rules for the Monarchy, the “July Monarchy”, were established. The “July Column” was ordered… and Eugène Delacroix made his most well-known painting, “Liberty Leading the People”.

The “July Monarchy” lasted until 1848, when it was time for the “February Revolution”. It led to the overthrow of the King, Louis Philippe, and the creation of the Second Republic.  However, the government’s very conservative politics led later that year to the unsuccessful “June Days Uprising”, creating 5.700 victims, and in December the same year led to the election of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of Napoleon I) as elected President of the Republic. Four years later he suspended the elected assembly and established the Second French Empire and became “Emperor of the French”, Napoleon III, the last French Monarch (1852-1870). We can see the famous caricature (The Pear) of Louis Philippe by Honoré Daumier, dated already 1831. 1848 was by the way a year of upheavals all over Europe, with France beginning in February, tens of other European countries followed with demands for democracy, freedom of the press…

So, we come to the last Revolution (1968 doesn’t count?), in 1871, referred to as the “Paris Commune”. The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 had led to the capture of the Emperor Napoleon III and the creation of the Third French Republic. The armistice with Prussia led to a disarmed Army, but the “National Guard” was there to keep order. The “National Guard” was some kind of reserve force, based on “active citizens”, including all “able-bodied citizens capable of carrying weapons”. The government had left Paris for Versailles and the “National Guard” took over the control of Paris, including most of the ministries. They came in conflict with the government and the regular army. The “working class” was largely represented and many socialist ideas were defended. They tried during their short 60-day “reign” to e.g. establish the separation of Church and State, the abolition of child labour… In the beginning, the regular Army members had no wish to go against them, but … finally, after a lot of barricades, fighting… the official government forces took over. The last resisters were killed at the Père Lachaise Cemetery (see previous post).  The figures vary, but, at least 10.000, maybe 20.000 people were killed between March 18 and May 28, 1871.

Edouard Manet illustrated.  

1 comment:

Craig said...

Thank you for this post. I am going to be in Paris for 3 weeks in December and have been curious to see the progress at Place de la Bastille.