anarchy archives

An Online Research Center on the History and Theory of Anarchism



About Us

Contact Us

Other Links

Critics Corner


The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
Ernest Alfred Vizetelly. The Anarchists: Their Faith and Their Record. Turnbull and Spears Printers, Edingurgh, 1911.



CHAPTER 7: The French and the Spanish Terrors

(1892- 1894)

An Attack on Jerez--A Plot at Madrid--The Walsall and " Commonweal " Affairs--Repression of Anarchism in Belgium and Italy-- The Homestead Riots--The Carmaux Strike--The Explosion in the Rue des Bons Enfants, Paris--Anarchism in various Continental Countries--Attempt on Senor Canovas del Castillo--The Aigues- Mortes Affray--Attempt on M. Edouard Lockroy by C. Moore, Cabman, Poet and Anarchist--The Case of Villisse--An Anarchist Murder at Pittsburg--Pallas attempts to blow up Marshal Martinez Campos--The Fortress of Monjuich--The Explosion at the Liceo Theatre, Barcelona--Wholesale Arrests of Spanish Anarchists--Salvador Franch--Further Outrages and Executions at Barcelona--Leauthier, the Anarchist Shoemaker--His choice Dinner at Marguery's--He stabs the Servian Minister in Paris-- His Trial and his Death at Devil's Island--Ministerial Changes in France--A Bomb in the Chambers of Deputies--Auguste Vaillant and his Career--The Making of his Bomb--Unpopularity of Casimir Perier and Charles Depuy--Further Legislation against the French Anarchists--Perquisitions and Arrests--Trial of Vaillant--Attempts to secure a Reprieve--Little Sidonie--Execution of Vaillant-- Threats of Vengeance.

FRANCE was not the only scene of Anarchist exploits in 1892, for the sect figured prominently in other countries, notably Spain.

No little unrest, springing largely from agrarian causes as at the time of the so- called " Black Hand " affair, and fomented by disseminators of Anarchist ideas, was still apparent in Andalusia; and certain agitators having been consigned to the prison of Jerez de 1 Frontrera, the " sherry capital," a plot was laid to release them--a plot which ultimately resolved itself into an audacious attempt to obtain possession of the town which, in proportion to its size and by reason of its trade' was accounted one of the most affluent of southern Spain On the night of January 9, when it was thought that both the military and the civilian inhabitants Would be in bed and asleep, a band of four hundred men, armed with guns, revolvers, and in some instances with Scythes entered Jerez and attempted to burst into the prison But they were opposed by the Civil Guard, and failed in their design, whereupon they transferred their attentions to the town hall, in the vicinity of which fighting was kept up throughout the night. At daylight, however, a force of cavalry appeared on the scene, and the band was driven off, some eighty men being captured by the soldiers either during the fighting or in the pursuit. In February four of the ringleaders of this affair were executed, and many others sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Some French Anarchist, or possibly a Spanish one resident in Paris, thereupon resolved to avenge the executed and the imprisoned men by blowing up the Spanish embassy in the French capital, but a mistake was made respecting the house where the ambassador resided, and thus an explosive apparatus was deposited at the neighbouring Sagan mansion. It did comparatively little damage there, but the concierge or house- porter was unfortunately injured. This occurred at the time when Ravachol was preparing his first outrage. In April, after the Boulevard St Germain and Rue de Clichy explosions, a plot to blow up the Congreso and other buildings was discovered at Madrid. A Frenchman and a Portuguese, named respectively Jean Marie Delboche and Manuel Ferreira, being arrested in connection with this affair, were found in possession of two very powerful bombs weighing nearly six pounds apiece. The authorities thereupon laid hold of numerous Spanish Anarchists, whom they suspected of complicity with the two foreigners, but for lack of evidence several of them had to be released, including one of the leaders of the sect, a certain Felipe Munoz.

During April there were also several outrages at Barceona, and arrests again ensued in and around that city. These had a somewhat salutary effect, as at the May Day celebrations only one explosion occurred. In Galicia, however, where some strikes had broken out, notably at Ferrol, there were serious riots, in which the Anarchists, as usual, played a part.

Before then, that is in January, about the time of the attack on Jerez, we had an Anarchist affair in England, several men being arrested at Walsall in Staffordshire on charges of manufacturing bombs and engaging in a criminal conspiracy. Two of these men, Charles Battolla and Carles, were sentenced to ten years penal servitude, and another, Deakin, to five years of the same punishment. At that time there was a Revolutionary organ in London called " The Commonweal," carried on by a certain David J. Niccoll, with the assistance of a printer named Mowbray. The latter's wife dying about this time, her funeral became the pretext for an Anarchist demonstration in London, in which participated that unfortunate deluded creature Louise Michel, who was then residing on this side of the channel, as she feared further imprisonment in France. Now " The Commonweal " published Some very violent articles respecting the Walsall affair and other matters, and the outcome of these effusions was a government prosecution of Niccoll and Mowbray on the charge of inciting people to murder the Home Secretary, Mr Henry Matthews (later Lord Llandaff), Mr Justice Hawkins, and Police- Inspector Kennedy. The trial, which took place at the Central Criminal Court before Lord Chief- Justice Coleridge, resulted in being sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment Mowbray, however, was acquitted.

During the earlier part of 1892, while Ravachol and his imitators were terrifying Paris, numerous Anarchists were arrested in Belgium, and nine men, Convicted outrages at Liege, were sent to prison, with hard labour for periods ranging from twelve months to twenty- five years. In Italy also, although the authorities tolerated a Republican Congress in Rome, they proceeded vigorously against the Anarchists and other Revolutionary extremists Amilcare Cipriani and others were arrested for belonging to a society composed of more than five members and established for the purpose of fomenting disobedience to the laws: and although ten of the prisoners were lucky enough to secure acquittal, fifty of them were sentenced to imprisonment, the terms extending from one month to one year, except in the case of Cipriani, who was consigned to durance for two years. Let us now say a word respecting America. During the autumn, there were extremely serious disturbances in connection with some strikes among the men employed at the Carnegie Works at Pittsburg and Homestead. As in Europe, Anarchist incitement augmented the bitterness of this dispute between capital and labour, which was followed by a determined attempt on the part of a man named Bergmann to shoot Mr Frick, the manager of the Carnegie establishment.

Meantime several months had elapsed in Paris since the explosion at the Very restaurant without any further outrages occurring there; but the arrests of Anarchist suspects continued, and there were numerous prosecutions and sentences. During the summer there was a very riotous strike among the pitmen of Carmaux, in the department of the Tarn--a locality less than thirty miles distant from Decazeville, the scene of the Watrin murder we previously related. Trouble had arisen at Carmaux in connection with a man named Calvignac, who was both secretary to the Miners' Union and a member of the Municipal Council, in which latter capacity he v as elected mayor of the town. The Mining Company, at the head of which was that old Bonapartist, Baron Reille, assisted by his son- in- law, the Marquis de Solages, behaved, in these circumstances, in a very high- handed manner. The idea that one of their workmen should be mayor was most distasteful to the directorate, and on the ground that Calvignac neglected his work in order to attend to municipal matters, it was arranged that the manager, a certain M. Humblot, should dismiss him.

A general strike ensued (August 1892), and after considerable rioting and numerous arrests, followed by demonstrations in Paris and elsewhere in favour of the strikers, M. Emile Loubet, who was still Prime Minister, offered to arbitrate between the men and their employers. The proposal was accepted, and an award ensued by which Calvignac was to be reinstated in the Company's employment with leave of absence to attend to his duties as mayor, while the manager, M. Humblot, whom the men disliked, was also to retain his position. As for the men on strike they were all to be taken back by the Company, excepting such as had been sentenced to imprisonment for acts of violence. That last provision was regarded as very unsatisfactory by the men, who urged--one might indeed say, demanded--that their imprisoned comrades should be amnestied. At one moment, then, it seemed as if M. Loubet's award would be cast aside, but although the Government firmly refused to grant an amnesty it commuted the sentences in a very liberal manner, and the men then soon decided to return to work.

It was this affair which led to the next Anarchist outrage in Paris, where, on November 8, a very suspicious- looking closed stew- pan was discovered at the offices of the Carmaux Mining Company in the Avenue de l'0pera The utensil was so heavy that a vehicle must have been used to convey it thither, and in all probability more than one person had taken part in preparing its contents Every precaution was used in order to remove it safely to the office of the district Commissary of Police, which was in the Rue des Bons Enfants, but there it exploded and four policemen were killed on the spot, two more being mortally wounded, whilst other members of the force and several civilians received injuries of varying gravity. So terrific was the explosion that it was com- puted there must have been a score of dynamite cartridges in the pan, a calculation which was subsequently confirmed by the admissions of the culprit, Emile Henry of whom we shall speak presently.

For a time this affair naturally revived the panic which had previously reigned in Paris; but there again came a period of calm, at least in regard to the Anarchists though the Panama scandals kept the Parisians in a more or less restless and excited state. Meanwhile, in other countries, the Anarchists continued active. In February, 1893, and again at Easter that year, some bombs were exploded in Rome; and much turmoil in which Anarchists were often concerned prevailed in Belgium throughout the spring. During May a *fresh conspiracy was discovered at Vienna, and in the same month there was a trial of Anarchists at Leipzig, where four men were sent to prison for periods varying from twelve months to eight years. In June Berne became the scene of serious riots, a number of Swiss workmen objecting to the employment of Italians in some house- building there, and the affair becoming at last a terrific affray with the police and a company of artillerymen, in such wise that a hundred people were injured before order was restored. On investigation it was found that the outbreak had been instigated by an Anarchist named Wassilieff, of Russian extraction, as his name showed, but naturalised as a Swiss citizen. This affair and another later in the year led to additional legislation against the Anarchists in Switzerland, severe penalties being enacted in respect to all crimes against public safety and both public and secret incitement to that effect.

Further, in June that year, there was a plot to blow up Senor Canovas del Castillo, the Spanish statesman under whom so many Anarchists had been prosecuted and imprisoned, but who was now no longer in office, having resigned the post of chief Minister in the previous autumn when Senor Sagasta had replaced him. As is well known and as we shall relate hereafter, Canovas del Castello eventually perished by the hand of an Anarchist, but on this occasion (June 30, 1893) the bomb with which it was hoped to kill him exploded in the garden of his residence at Madrid, killing one of the two men who had charge of it and severely wounding the other. They both belonged to the Anarchist fraternity.

The month of August had arrived before there was any crime connected with Anarchism in France. The very serious disturbances which broke out at Aigues- Mortes in Languedoc during that month were not brought about by Anarchist propaganda, but sprang from the bad feeling then prevailing between France and Italy, a bad feeling which was intensified by the attendance of the Prince of Naples (now King of Italy) at the German military manoeuvres near Metz. Violent disputes on that subj ect arising between the French and Italians employed at the salt works of Aigues- Mortes, several of the former were wounded with knives and stilettos, whereupon half the population of the town rose against the Italians, killing seven of them and wounding over thirty. In like manner the French and Italians working on the railway line near Toul, in the north of France quarrelled and fought with tragical consequences' and on the news of these deplorable occurrences reaching Italy, there was a general explosion in that country the inhabitants of many cities demonstrating against the French residents in their midst, whilst at Rome the embassy of the Republic had to be protected by the military. At one moment it seemed as though a positive rupture between France and Italy would ensue, but that was fortunately averted.

Now at this same period general elections were impending in France, and in connection with them there occurred an affair which may be linked with the history of Anarchism. Among the candidates in Paris was the well- known Radical politician, M. Edouard Lockroy who both before that time and afterwards held office in various Ministries. He had married the widow of Victor Hugo's son, Fran,cois- Victor, and through his connection with the great poet's family it had come to pass that he had more than once befriended a certain Charles Moore, who aspired to fame as a poet, but whose Pegasus, unfortunately, was only a cab- horse. Moore, indeed, was a Paris cabman, in which capacity, as he proudly related, he had often driven Victor Hugo to one or another part of the city. It was that circumstance, perhaps--unless it were some knowledge of a certain Thomas Moore, belonging perhaps to the Irish sept from which he himself had sprung--that inspired this Parisian cabby with a fondness for the muse, and prompted him to compose sundry little pieces of indifferent verse, called " Le Mineur," " L'Argent," and " La Patrie."

Victor Hugo had treated Moore kindly and generously, and, as we just mentioned, this Parnassian Jehu had also been befriended by M. Lockroy. Desirous of obtaining further assistance *from the latter, Moore wrote him several letters during the electoral period in 1893; but amidst the turmoil of the political campaign his applications remained unanswered. At last, on August I3, Moore repaired to M. Lockroy's Committee Rooms in the Rue de Charonne, and seeing him on a landing there fired at him twice with a revolver--fortunately without serious effect.

Having been arrested, the foolish cabman was brought to trial on December 21 that year. There is little doubt that his deed had been prompted solely by M. Lockroy's failure to respond to his applications, and that he had lost his head on finding himself treated with contempt' as he imagined, by a brother litterateur. It is true that he had occasionally appeared on the platform at public political meetings, but nobody had ever taken him seriously as a politician. At his trial, however, he made a ridiculous exhibition of himself by professing the most extreme Anarchist opinions, and whereas under other circumstances he might have escaped with comparatively light punishment, he found himself, to his amazement, sentenced to six years hard labour and prohibited from residing in Paris for a further period of ten years. A good many offenders at that time declared themselves to be Anarchists--it was the fashion of the hour in certain spheres--but we have always held that the little, bald- headed, sad- faced Charles Moore, cabman and poet, was merely an Anarchist pour rire.

At the same time he had evidently lost his mental balance, and it was as well to place him under restraint, though scarcely, perhaps, in the manner decreed by the court At that period, however, so stern were the feelings inspired by the deeds of the real Anarchists that the judges did not pause to consider whether an asylum rather than a prison would not be the proper place for certain offenders. In the autumn that year when the Russian Admiral Avellan came from Toulon to Paris, with several of his officers (those were the early days of the Franco- Russian entente), an old workman named Villisse tried to fire a revolver on the Place de l'Hotel de V'lle, where a crowd was assembled. The weapon missing fire, nobody was hurt; but Villisse, adjudged to be too old for hard labour, was sentenced to five years solitary confinement. He certainly called himself an Anarchist, but his insanity was manifest.

While those affairs were taking place in France, there had been some serious occurrences in other countries A quantity of explosives and yet another secret printing press had been discovered at Vienna; a Mr and Mrs Rees, who had become acquainted with the secrets of some Anarchist organisation, had been murdered at Pittsburg in the United States; and the last week of September had been marked at Barcelona by a deliberate attempt to assassinate Marshal Martinez Campos who commanded the forces there. The occasion selected for this attempt was a parade of the troops, during which a bomb was flung at the Marshal and his staff. Wounded by the projectile, he fell from his horse, which was killed; and thirteen other officers or troopers of his escort were also injured. as well as several civilian spectators. The crime was due, undoubtedly, to the severity with which the Marshal had treated the Barcelona Anarchists, a severity also exemplified in his dealings with the Cuban insurgents, whom, however, he failed to overcome.

The man who had thrown the bomb was speedily arrested--in fact he offered little or no resistance--and was found to be an Anarchist named Pallas. Conveyed to the fortress of Monjuich, where both before and since that time so many Anarchists have been confined, and which dominates Barcelona in such a manner that no rebellion in the city can ever prove successful, Pallas was there tried by court- martial. His guilt was obvious, and on October 6 he was shot in accordance with the provisions of military law. Several other men were apprehended for complicity in the affair, but this was not immediately established. Life resumed its usual course at Barcelona' though among the Anarchists who were still at large there already existed a design to avenge their so- called " martyred comrade."

On the evening of November 7 a numerous audience, including a good many people of the official world, had assembled at the Liceo Theatre in the Rambla del Centro. The auditorium of this large and well- appointed house, which has a sumptuous staircase, several finely decorated lounges, and a flower- decked terrace whither people resort between the acts on summer evenings, is built on the model of that of La Scala, and can accommodate 4000 spectators. The people of Barcelona are extremely fond of music, and on the evening we have mentioned there was to be a performance of that revolutionary opera of Rossini's, " Guglielmo Tell," the third act of which figured, curiously enough, in the programme at the Paris Opera House on the night when Orsini and his confederates attempted the lives of Napoleon III. and the Empress Eugenie.

The performance at the Liceo was in progress (the second act of the opera having begun) and the attention of the spectators was being given entirely to the vocalists when all at once two bombs were flung in rapid succession from the gallery into the stalls. Only one exploded, but twenty- three people, including nine women, were killed by it, and forty others were injured, some in a truly terrible manner. Of one family, seven in number, two were killed and five wounded. The theatre, of course, was very badly damaged. Ornaments, woodwork, metal work, plaster work rained on the terrified spectators, and in the wild stampede which followed, amid the piteous shrieks of girls and women, yet more lives were lost, and more people injured.

A very large number of arrests ensued. Everybody suspected of Anarchism was seized and carried to Monjuich by virtue of a decree issued by the Queen- Regent Christina, which suspended the Constitution in the city and gave the authorities wholesale powers of arrest. Two hundred members of an Anarchist club, where certain chemicals were said to have been found, were among the prisoners. The authorities particularly congratulated themselves on the capture of a man named Codina who was supposed to have supplied Pallas with the bombs thrown at Marshal Martinez Campos, and to have been the actual perpetrator of the outrage at the Liceo.

That last surmise was erroneous, the bombs used at the theatre having been flung by another Anarchist, named Salvador Franch, who appears to have been Subsequently denounced by a confederate, perhaps under torture or the threat of it, for Spanish " justice" is often inhuman, and there were certainly some horrible doings at Monjuich at this period. In December an important laboratory and store- place of explosives was discovered, and on the second day of the new year, 1894, Franch was at last run to earth at Saragossa. In order to avoid capture he made two desperate attempts to commit suicide, but failed, and was carried to Monjuich. The Anarchists of Barcelona replied to his arrest, and the enactment of a law whereby every author of an explosion was punishable with death, and the illegal possession of dynamite with penal servitude, by firing on the civil governor of the city who was wounded, and on the same day (January 24, 1894) exploding a dynamite cartridge near the port. Two people were killed and several wounded by this outrage. In April came six sentences to death and four to penal servitude in connection with the attempt on Marshal Martinez Campos and the explosion at the Liceo. Franch was not sentenced until July II, and his execution took place only on November 21.

We have gone thus far in order to give something like a continuous narrative of the struggle with Anarchism in Spain at this period, but we must now retrace our steps. In November 1893, about the time of the Liceo affair, two boxes were sent from Orleans to Berlin, addressed respectively to the Kaiser and his Chancellor, Count Caprivi. With them were letters stating that they contained seeds for planting.] We have unfortunately failed to ascertain whether this was a serious Anarchist attempt or merely a hoax on the part of some German- hating Frenchman, but it appears that the boxes were not delivered to the addressees, but handed over to the Berlin police. At the same period that is only six days after Franch's crime at Barcelona, whilst all Europe was still ringing with the news of the most dreadful of all the outrages that had yet occurred. Paris was the scene of yet another attempt to carry on that Propaganda by Deed to which the Anarchists of the time clung so obstinately although hitherto it had entirely failed to achieve the objects they had in view, having simply stiffened the back of Authority and rallied to its support many who had previously been disposed to favour an increase of freedom and a larger measure of popular participation in the direction of public affairs.

The occurrence in Paris to which we have referred bore no resemblance to the appalling affair at the Liceo. It was simply an Anarchist attempt to assassinate a bourgeois --a bourgeois being persona ingrata to the Anarchist mind. The case had various curious features, some indeed of a rather amusing character in spite of the gravity of the offence. The culprit, whose name was Louis Jules Leauthier, came from that arid, barren depart ment of the Basses Alpes where the mountains of Provence Dauphine and Piedmont meet and mingle. All the young folk of such a cheerless region who have an oppor tunity to quit it do so, and betake themselves to some spot where nature is less harsh and life less dreary. It thus happened that Leauthier had made his way to Paris. Still quite young--he was in fact little more than nineteen years of age--he had very industrious habits, being willing to work both early and late at his calling as a shoemaker, and in that way earning a fair livelihood He was, moreover, entitled to receive a family legacy of nearly [[sterling]]50 on completing his twenty- first year. But his education was very defective and his mind inclined to be weak. He had read a good deal of so- called Anarchist literature, and it had left him--as much of it might leave others--in a muddled state. The glorification of Ravachol and his adepts in Anarchist periodicals and romances--for there had been lurid works of fiction such as " Les Exploits de Ravachol" and " Les Amours de Ravachol," issued in penny illustrated numbers-- had inspired Leauthier with a profound admiration for those " martyrs of the cause," but he really knew little about the principles of Anarchism. His intellect, moreover, was so limited that when he read of the hateful bourgeoisie " which consumed but did not produce," he attached to the word " consumed" a particular, limited meaning' imagining that it applied chiefly if not exclusively to people who consumed food or drink in restaurants or cafes, where he knew that customers were generally designated as cortsommateurs. It was, therefore, on a bourgeois consumer of that description that he resolved to avenge " the sublime Ravachol," of whose great deeds he had been lately reading.

On the evening of November 12, then, Leauthier betook himself--arrayed in his Sunday best--to that well- known house, Marguery's Restaurant, adjoining the Gymnase theatre on the Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, and there ordered a good dinner, selecting r!oast quail to follow the soup, and telling the sommelier to let him have, first, a half- bottle of old Macon, and afterwards a half- bottle of Moet's best Champagne. As he had an intense admiration for Ravachol and intended to avenge him, Leauthier felt it incumbent on him to imitate that martyr's habits. He was aware that Ravachol had always taken delight in the pleasures of the table and thus it was that he ordered a somewhat recherche repast, during which he glanced at the consuming bourgeois around him, with the object of selecting an appropriate victim.

He was, he considered, most suitably armed for the crime which he contemplated. He knew that these bourgeois toiled not, neither did they spin, so how could one of them be better killed than with the shoemaker's knife which he, Leauthier, used in working--yes, working for his living ! Something in his manner, however made the waiter who served him rather suspicious, and thus he had barely finished his meal and had not yet made up his mind as to whom he should assail, when the bill was brought to him. On seeing it, he fired up remarking that he had dined because he was hungry, but did not intend to pay as he possessed no money. The waiter thereupon turned to M. Marguery, who came up exclaiming: " You have no money, you say ? In that case a man does not drink Champagne."

"But the bourgeois drink Champagne!" Leauthier retorted.

"They pay for it," said M. Marguery.

"With our money!" was Leauthier's rejoinder.

However, that might be, the well- known restaurateur did not argue the point. As all who knew him will remember, he was a very worthy kind- hearted man, the last person in the world to be harsh with poor folk; and thus, though he might have sent for the police, he contented himself with putting his hand on Leauthier's shoulder and leading him to the door of the restaurant. The young shoemaker had his right hand in his pocket at that moment, and was doubtless grasping his knife.

But either M. Marguery's briskness prevented him from attempting violence, or his courage momentarily failed him, or else he did not regard the restaurateur as a sufficiently important personage for the avenging of the martyred Ravachol. In any case he simply went off.

But he had by no means renounced his design, and on the following evening he sallied forth again, this time fully determined to carry it into effect. Repairing to the Avenue de l'Opera, he ordered some dinner at the Bouillon Duval in that thoroughfare, and had barely finished it when on seeing a well- dressed customer putting On his overcoat' he sprang up and stabbed him in the chest Then he made off, but being hatless and feeling certain he would be caught, he ended by surrendering to the police' telling them that he had just had a good dinner and had stuck a boltrgeois. On being asked why he had done so, why he had stabbed a complete stranger against whom he could have no possible grievance, he replied: " Because he was well- dressed and wore a decoration ! " And on being told that his victim was M. Georgevitch, the Servian Minister to France, he retorted, " An ambassador! Well, so much the better ! "

M. Georgevitch survived his injury but remained for some time in a serious condition,] in such wise that Leauthier s trial was deferred until February 1894. M. Bulot, the Public Prosecutor, then urged the jury to give such a verdict as would entail capital punishment under the laws for the repression of Anarchism; but although Leauthier openly professed Anarchist principles he enunciated them in such a childish, incoherent fashion that the jury regarded him as mentally unhinged. Thus extenuating circumstances were declared in his favour, and a sentence to penal servitude for life ensued. He did not live long, however. Transported to the Iles du Salut (the best known of which is Devil's Island where the wrongly- convicted Captain Dreyfus spent so many unhappy years) Leauthier was there in October ('94) when an alarming revolt broke out among his fellow prisoners. One of them having been guillotined for a murder, considerable excitement arose, and an Anarchist convict who had climbed a flagstaff began to shout " Vive l'Anarchie ! "--repeatedly refusing to desist when he was ordered to do so by one of the soldiers on duty The latter at last fired on the man, who immediately fell to the ground dead. This provoked a rising of all the convicts, nearly 800 in number, and for some time the situation was desperate, the outbreak only being quelled at last by the repeated volleys of the soldiers. Many of the prisoners were thus killed or wounded, among the former being Leauthier, and also young Simon, alias Biscuit, Ravachol's former acolyte.

It was on November I3, 1893, that Leauthier wounded M. Georgevitch. Shortly afterwards there came another change of Ministry in France. M. Loubet's Cabinet, to which we previously referred, had resigned late in 1892, being succeeded by an Administration formed by M. Ribot. This, however, retired in the ensuing month of March, and was replaced by a Ministry constituted by M. Charles Dupuy, a Conservative Republican of very authoritarian instincts, who merely because a trumpery students' riot occurred in Paris filled the city with troops, and proceeded to punish the working- class syndicates-- for offences of which they were not guilty--by closing the Bourse du Travail then virtually their headquarters. The result of Dupuy's policy was seen at the General Elections (August- September 1893) when both the Rad ical and the Socialist parties secured the return of many more candidates than on any previous occasion. Two of Dupuy's colleagues then resigning, his Administration was broken up, and replaced (December I, 1893) by a Cabinet under M. Casimir- Perier, who had previously been President of the Chamber of Deputies. ~ The moderate or conservative Republican party still being the most numerous of those into which the Chamber was divided' Casimir- Perier recruited his ministerial colleagues entirely from its ranks. Dupuy, meanwhile, took the Presidency which Casimir- Perier vacated. Such, then, was the political position at the time of the next Anarchist outrage, arid when we add that this occurred in the Chamber of Deputies the reader will understand why we have referred to the more recent ministerial changes

At the sitting of the Chamber on the afternoon of December 9, when M. Dupuy was in the presidential armchair behind the tribune, and M. Casimir- Perier and most of his colleagues were assembled on the ministerial bench a bomb was suddenly thrown from one of the public galleries by a man who had meant to hurl it into the open space between the tribune and the government seats in the hope that the Prime Minister and the President might both be injured. But, according to a further statement, which he made subsequently, a woman nudged his arm, and the bomb, striking either a pillar or else the gallery- balustrade, exploded prematurely, injuring several of the spectators, whilst a quantity of little scraps of iron and shoemakers' nails fell upon the heads of the deputies seated below. Altogether, some forty people were struck, but in most cases their injuries were very slight, often the merest scratches, the most severe of all being received by the author of the outrage himself. Escape was impossible, and he was promptly arrested. " Let the ministers and deputies know," said he, at the first question put to him, " that there is a bomb of Damocles over their heads I shall be followed by another, who will succeed better than I have done ! "

It was found that he had procured an admission ticket in the name of Dupont, but his real name was Auguste Vaillant' and he was born at Mezieres in the Ardennes in 1861 At the time of the Palais Bourbon affair he was residing at Choisy- le- Roi on the southern side of Paris. Previously' however, he had led a somewhat wandering and erratic life. An illegitimate child, he had received but a rudimentary education when, at fourteen years of age, he was cast on the world penniless. He grew up in one or another petty situation, was at one moment con nected with a co- operative society, then tried his fortunes in Algeria and afterwards betook himself to the Argentine where, according to one account, he secured a concession of 150 acres of land with which he hoped to prosper It appears, however, that he was there won Over to Anarchist ideas and, although imperfectly educated as we have mentioned, joined other French members of the sect at Buenos Ayres in carrying on a weekly journal which was entitled " La Liberte: Organe ouvrier paraissant tous les Dimanches." That may account in a measure for the difficulties in which Vaillant at last found himself, at all events he ended by returning virtually penniless to France. He had previously married, but had lost his wife, who had left him, however, a little girl named Sidonie. Since his return from abroad, moreover, he had co- habited with another woman by whom he had one or two children, but we are not quite certain whether they were alive at the time of the Palais Bourbon affair.

Vaillant had found it very difficult to secure work in Paris. Ill- luck always dogged his footsteps, and it was this which so greatly embittered him against the world in general. Apart from his liaison nothing could be urged against his general character. He did not drink--in fact he had always been practically a total abstainer and he was, moreover, a willing worker. But the only employment he had been able to secure since returning to France was a petty post as a commercial clerk at the huge salary of eighty francs a month--that is about 6s. a week, rather less than more.

There can be no doubt that Vaillant personified a feature of the social problem which is ever with us--a feature with which Governments and other organisations Would have done well to deal long before they attempted to do so. Vaillant was no worse than many another man born into the world. But turned adrift as he had been in his early youth, imperfectly educated, prepared for no calling whatever, he was almost fated to lead a life of wretchedness Now and again there occurs a case when a person similarly situated rises superior to circumstances and achieves a successful career. But such instances are exceptional, and Vaillant was simply one of the majority. Doubtless there has been progress in France, progress also in England, since the period we write of. Nowadays the young are not so entirely abandoned to their own resources as they used to be. But very much still remains to be done. Paris and London still contain plenty of " unemployables," troops of young fellows who are of little use either to themselves or to others. In the former city the weaker or more vicious minded of them gravitated in Vaillant's days towards Anarchism--they were "les Jeunes Anarchistes;" since then they have only too often become Apaches.

Vaillant's ill luck and misery made him an Anarchist. His nature was dreamy and sensitive. He brooded over his bitter want, and, as his counsel put it at his trial, became exasperated. If he could not live, well, he would die, but not before he had had his fling at some of the representatives of that social system to which he ascribed his position. So this man set about making a bomb, and as he only disposed of a paltry twenty francs a week with which to keep himself and others, he made that bomb by slow degrees, expending a few sous on it week by week, buying chemicals in very small quantities preparing a glass tube for sulphuric acid, utilising scraps or iron, and nails such as are found in boot heels, by way of " shrapnel." Altogether, his engine of destruction- which destroyed nothing, its bark indeed was far worse than its bite--cost him only a few francs.

His desire, as we previously indicated, was to strike M. Casimir- Perier, the Prime Minister, and M. Dupuy, the President of the Chamber; and it is as well perhaps to explain here his reasons for that desire. Clever, brilliant, full of good intentions, Casimir- Perier, was at the same time distinctly an authoritarian, with a disposition akin to that of his famous and imperious grandfather. A sincere Republican, but one of strictly limited views, and in no sense a democrat, he also happened to be one of the very richest men in France. Much of his wealth was derived from the great Anzin mines of which he had long been an administrateur, and in all disputes between capital and labour, employer and employed, he invariably took the former side. Scarcely had he become Prime Minister than he was virulently attacked for his connection with the Anzin Company, but retorted proudly enough that he had retired from his position a considerable time previously, that is on being elected President of the Chamber. It happened, however, that Anzin had long been chosen by the extremist press as an example of the manner in which capitalists " exploited " the workers; and thus Casimir- Perier was still reviled for being even a shareholder in the enterprise. Such names as " the Man with the Forty Millions " and " the Vampire of Anzin " were currently bestowed on him in Anarchist and Socialist journals. To Vaillant all that was incitement. Again, the same journals never ceased thundering against M. Charles Dupuy, whose disposition was as authoritarian, and who, moreover, had already coquetted with the Royalists, and evinced distinct clericalist tendencies. Thus one can understand whyVaillant, in his embittered state of mind, hoped to strike the President of the Chamber as well as the President of the Council. At the same time it may well be questioned whether the bomb he had prepared could have killed anybody.

Casimir- perier gave a speedy reply to Vaillant's deed. Whilst amazement reigned in Paris and the Palais Bourbon was strictly guarded for fear of some fresh attempt, the Prime Minister shut himself up with his colleagues to prepare fresh laws against the Anarchists. Forty- eight hours later four bills were submitted to the Chamber, one making Anarchists criminals at common law, another modifying the regulations with respect to explosives, a third aimed at the Anarchist press, and a fourth, requesting a credit of [[sterling]]32,deg.deg.deg., to increase the Paris police force. The deputies whose heads had been scratched by Vaillant's boot nails promptly adopted those measures, seven- eighths of the Chamber voting in their favour. It was years since any such huge majorities had been known at the Palais Bourbon.

But M. Raynal, the Minister of the Interior, was also busy in another way. Orders were issued to the postal authorities to seize all suspicious correspondence, there being special instructions to keep a vigilant eye on letters to or from England and Switzerland. Thus the " Cabinet noir" of the Empire was revived. But that was by no means everything. Long lists of Anarchists and of their friends or acquaintances who might be inclined to assist or harbour them, were prepared, and then 2000 permission warrants and IOO warrants of arrest were issued, and put into execution on New Year's Day. The number of actual arrests amounted, however, to only sixty- four, among those who were apprehended being MM. Elie and Paul Reclus, nephews of the distinguished geographer mentioned in the earlier part of this book. In regard to the many perquisitions, although a considerable quantity of Anarchist literature was seized, there was no discovery of any important documents, such as the Government had hoped to secure--documents establishing the exist ence of a great Anarchist organization, for that was the idea which prevailed in official quarters, and it was useless to point out that no such organisation was in being When you did so, when you urged that the Anarchists were a party of individualists who assembled only in little groups, who acted simply on personal inspiration, independently of one another, though influenced more or less by example, the sage gentlemen of the Ministry of the Interior and the Prefecture of Police smiled and replied: " We know better." As a matter of fact they knew nothing. They were deplorably ignorant, and ridiculously obstinate in their ignorance.

Meantime the judicial authorities were bent on hastening the trial of Vaillant; and Maitre Ajalbert, the advocate selected for his defence, having failed to secure a reasonable delay threw up his brief, which was thereupon accepted by another member of the Paris bar, Maitre Fernand Labori. Some years later M. Labori made himself famous all the world over by his defence of Emile Zola. It was, however, his defence of Vaillant which first brought him to the front in Paris. At the trial on January IO extraordinary precautions were taken to prevent any Anarchist attempt on the Palais de Justice. M. Labori pleaded very eloquently for the prisoner, whom he described as an exaspere de la misere, a view which, as the reader will have perceived, we also have adopted, and which was largely borne out by a statement which Vaillant himself read to the jury: the callousness of society and the misery of the destitute being the chief points which he urged in his defence. But his deed had been directed against the representatives of the nation, and the jury was in a measure under the influence of all the recent steps which had been taken by the Government, and which pointed to the existence of some great Anarchist plot, which it was necessary to nip in the bud. Thus, after half an hour's deliberation, a verdict of guilty was returned without any mention of extenuating circumstances. Sentence of death necessarily ensued.

Several newspapers, however, recognising that there were special circumstances in the case, were in favour of clemency; while others vigorously upheld the verdict and sentence. For instance, " Le Journal des Debats " declared that a reprieve would be an insult to the jury. No organ of the press, however, was more zealous in its demand for the prisoner's execution than " L'Evenement," whose political director, M. Edmond Magnier, a Republican Senator of the Var, wrote some trenchant articles calling on the Government to remain firm and show no indulgence. Curiously enough, at that very time, Magnier himself was amenable to the criminal law for having sold his parliamentary influence to Baron de Renach in connection with the Panama Canal Company, and, indeed, a little later he was cast down from his position and sent to prison for his venal practices.

On the other hand " Le Figaro," although a Conseservative organ, advised a reprieve, and even started a subscription in favour of Vaillant's daughter Sidonie, thereby raising a few hundred pounds for the child's benefit. This led, however, to some unseemly contentions respecting the girl's future upbringing. A number of people thrust themselves forward, offering to adopt her, and while some of the offers were undoubtedly sincere and prompted by the best of motives, others were plainly inspired by a mere desire for self- adverti- sent Vaillant himself ultimately brought the disputes to an end by appointing the Anarchist writer, Sebastian Faure, as his daughter's guardian.

The girl, who was about ten years old, addressed a touching letter to Mme. Carnot, wife of the President of the Republic, begging for her good offices in her father's favour; and it was so simple, so naive an epistle, that although Sidonie may well have been helped to compose it there can be no doubt that it was largely her own work Some fifty Radical and Socialist deputies and about the same number of senators also solicited a reprieve, and M. Labori urged his client s case at a personal interview with President Carnot. The latter was inclined to clemency, but his ministers, headed by Casimir- perier, and the President of the Chamber, Charles Dupuy, were altogether opposed to lenient courses, and thus the decision went forth that the law must take its course.

It was, we feel, a regrettable decision. Naturally we cannot be sure that had a reprieve been granted the course of subsequent events would have been different from what it proved to be; but it is virtually certain that from the hour of Vaillant's execution President Carnot was a doomed man. In the government of States, in the administration of the interests of the general community, there are doubtless occasions when an unflinching policy must be pursued without regard to the consequences which may befall individuals But one may well question whether Vaillant's case was such an occasion, and whether the exercise of leniency towards him might not have spared France several further outrages, culminating in the assassination of the President, and leading to a dark period of reactionary policy, when the Dreyfus case became the pretext for years of turmoil, amidst which the very existence of the Republic was threatened. The only persons who profited by Vaillant's execution were those who urged it the most strongly:-- Charles Dupuy, whom it restored before long to ministerial power and Casimir- Perier, who, for a brief space, stepped intodeg. Carnot's shoes after the latter's assassination.

It was on the morning of Monday February 5, 1894, that Vaillant suffered the penalty of the law on the Place de la Roquette. When the prisoner was awakened at seven o' clock he expressed himself quite ready to die. He refused everything that was offered him, being unwilling either to smoke or to drink. He also declined the ministrations of the chaplain, Abbe Valadier. It was exactly twelve minutes past seven when he emerged from the prison, carrying his bearded head high, and walking with a firm step. His shirt was cut low and unbuttoned, allowing a view of his somewhat ruddy chest. When he was half way between the prison and the guillotine he shouted in a powerful voice: " Death to middle- class society, and long live Anarchism ! " Then, still unassisted, he went swiftly towards the instrument; and within two minutes had ceased to live.

His remains were conveyed to what is called the coin des supplicies in the cemetery of Ivry, south of Paris, whither many people repaired during the next few days. It did not satisfy the Anarchists to allow people to guess the sentiments with which they regarded the execution. They hastened to declare them urbi et orbit Only twenty- four hours had elapsed when the cemetery- keepers discovered on Vaillant's grave a little pyramid inscribed: Labor improbus omnia vincit, as well as a card bearing the words: " Glory to thee, I am only a child, but I will avenge thee " And on the morrow the spot was decorated with a large palm branch (evidently brought during the night), whilst on a larger card than the first one, the following threatening lines were written in a bold hand:

Puisqu'ils ont fait boire a la terre,

A l'heure du soleil naissant,

Rosee auguste et salutaire,

Les saintes gouttes de ton sang,

Sous les feuilles de cette palme,

Que t'offre le Droit outrage

Tu peux dormir d'un sommeil calme,

O Martyr, tu seras venge!

That this was no vain menace was shown by the occurrences of the next few months.

This page has been accessed times since September 19, 2001.


[Home]               [Search]               [About Us]               [Contact Us]               [Other Links]               [Critics Corner]