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 6: The French Terror: Ravachol


Troubles of M. Carnot's Presidency--Nihilists in France--May Day, 1891 The Affair of Fourmies--The Affray at LevaUois- Clichy--The sentences on Dardare and Decamp--The real Name and Origin of Ravachol--The Murders at La Varizelle--The Profanation of Mme. de Rochetallee's Grave--The Hermit of Chambles--He is murdered by Ravachol--Arrest and Escape of Ravachol--The Marcon Murder--Ravachol and his Friends at St Denis--The Dynamite Cartridges of Soisy- sous- Etiolles--Ravachol as an Avenger--His Acolyte " Biscuit "--The Boulevard St Germain Explosion--The Explosion at the Lobau Barracks--The Rue de Clichy Explosion-- Ravachol denounced and arrested--The Review " L'En- Dehors " and Ravachol's Apologists--Meunier, Bricou, Francis and the Very Restaurant Explosion--Trial of Ravachol and his Friends in Paris--Trial of Ravachol at Montbrison for Murder--Execution of Ravachol--Songs inspired by Ravachol's Exploits.

THE Third French Republic was in a very difficult position at this period. It had many troubles to contend with. We previously pointed out that President Grevy was compelled to resign office in December 1887 owing to charges brought against his son- in- law in connection with the sale of the decoration of the Legion of Honour. Grevy's personal honorability was never in question, but he was then eighty years of age, and had placed too much confidence in the husband of his only child. Sadi Carnot, by whom he was succeeded, was an equally honourable but much younger man, a grandson of the famous Lazare Carnot, who did so much to raise the fourteen armies with which the first Republic resisted the invasion of France, and who thereby became known as the "Organiser of victory, From first to last, Sadi Carnot's Presidency was one of stress and storm. He and his advisers had to deal first with the agitation raised by General Boulanger and his partisans--an agitation which, supported by Orleanist money and influence, threatened to sweep the republic away. Afterwards came a whole series of financial troubles, which tended to make the position of the Republic still more precarious. There was a scandal in connection with the Credit Foncier, a worse one in connection with the Comptoir d'Escompte, another in relation to some City of Paris Bonds, in which some members of the metropolitan Municipal Council were involved; but the crowning affair was the memorable collapse of the Panama Canal Company. Responsibility for all those affairs was largely imputed to the existing regime which was currently described as a reign of cor ruption. Some corruption did exist undoubtedly, and though it was far less extensive than was then asserted, there were certainly grounds for public dissatisfaction and unrest.

Such being the position, it was natural that the Revolutionary elements should assert themselves. The Socialists figured prominently in several strikes, as did also the Anarchists. Propaganda by deed, however, had not yet reached an acute stage in France when in May 1890 the police arrested several Russian Nihilists who were found making explosives at the village of Le Raincy, northeast of Paris. It seems certain that these explosives were not intended for use in France, but the men were naturally brought to trial and sent to prison. Six months later a Pole named Padlewski murdered General Seliverskoff, a former Russian Minister of Police at the Hotel de Bade on the Boulevard des Italiens, and with the connivance of some French Revolutionary Socialists contrived to escape. This affair and that of the Raincy explosives undoubtedly produced a great impression on the minds of the physical- force wing of the French Revolutionary parties, that is, on the more militant Anarchists, and suggested to many of them the advisability of passing from words to deeds.

At last May Day 1891 came round, attended by the usual celebrations and by numerous disturbances also At Lyons where processions carrying red and black flags had been organised to deposit wreaths on the graves of those who had fallen in the risings of 1831 and 1834 against Louis Philippe's government, the Revolutionists came into collision with the troops. There were cavalry charges, revolvers were fired, and several soldiers and civilians were injured. Somewhat less serious disturbances occurred at Marseilles, Toulouse and Bordeaux. At Nantes there was a dynamite explosion, which fortunately did little damage, and another took place at Charleville near the Belgian frontier. On the other hand, at Lille, Roubaix, and Douai, in the same region, the workers merely took a holiday and signed petitions for an Eight Hours Day.

Unfortunately there were very serious occurrences at the little town of Fourmies near Avenues. The population there is chiefly composed of glass- workers and cotton- spinners, and a strike having broken out at a few establishments, its leaders endeavoured to induce all the workers of the district to join in it. The Sub Prefect of Avesnes, M. Isaac, had repaired to the spot, and in addition to the gendarmerie there was a force of infantry under the command of a Major Chapu. Disturbances arose, and some stones having been thrown at the soldiers eight men were arrested. Some attempts at rescue followed, and M. Isaac and Major Chapu lost their heads to such a point that the soldiers were ordered to fire on the crowd. They did so with the result that two men, women and three children were killed, and no fewer than forty persons wounded. It seems certain that the disturbance might have been quelled by the employment of much less drastic means, which naturally caused considerable indignation. It found vent, however, in words only, no outrage ensued in consequence Of this lamentable affair, great as the provocation was in the eyes of all the French Revolutionary parties.

Very different was the eventual outcome of an incident which occurred on the same day in the outskirts of Paris. Sundry groups of Anarchists existed in the working- class suburbs of the capital, notably Saint Denis, Reuilly, Levallois, and Clichy. At the last named locality, on that same May Day, 1891, a score or so of the sect held a meeting at which the corrupt bourgeois Republic was denounced in the usual fashion. That done, the party foolishly sallied forth, headed by a woman who carried a red flag, at the sight of which a zealous police agent at once rushed to inform his superior the Commissary that a gang of Anarchists was flaunting that seditious emblem the drapeau rouge in the public streets. The Commissary, a certain M. Guilhem, thereupon assembled all the available police and hastened to break up the procession. There was a somewhat serious affray, both the police and the Anarchists making use of their revolvers, though without effect; and in the end, whilst most of the processionists took to their heels, three of them were arrested and dragged to the posse- de- police. There can be no doubt that they were very roughly used--respectable eye- witnesses of the scene subsequently testified to that effect and, indeed, the prisoners had to be transferred to an infirmary for medical treatment before they could be brought to trial--but the Commissary of Police declared that he knew nothing of any ill usage, for immediately after the arrests he had--gone to wash his hands!

The original offense committed by the prisoners, that of taking part in an unauthorised procession and displaying an illegal emblem, the red flag, was not a particularly heinous one. Ever since the amnesties by which former partisans of the Commune of 1871 had been enabled to return to France, there had been several occasions, anniversaries and so forth, on which the red flag had been waved here and there in Paris. Scuffles had ensued, the flag had been seized by the police, and the offenders had been fined or sent to prison for a week or two, without any ulterior consequences. On this occasion, however, firearms had been brought into play and thus the arrested men found themselves in a more serious position. It was alleged on their behalf that the police had been the first to produce their revolvers, but the police evidence was to the contrary effect, and at the trial, which took place at the end of August (1891), M. Bulot, the Public Prosecutor, not only called upon the jury to return a verdict of guilty but asked the court to inflict exemplary punishment upon the prisoners.

The jury's verdict in regard to two of the men was such as M. Bulot desired, but it was coupled with a declaration that there were " extenuating circumstances " in the case. M. Benoit, the Presiding Judge, however, took no notice of that declaration, but inflicted the highest penalties which the law allowed. Briefly, he sentenced one prisoner, named Decamp to five years hard labour, and the other Dardare to three years of the same punishment. The third man, Leveille, had been acquitted.

In Anarchist circles the sentences inspired a feeling of angry resentment. Nevertheless, though the public prosecutor and the judge were freely cursed for their severity, and Decamp and Dardare were styled " the Clichy martyrs" several months went by before there was an attempt to " avenge " the imprisoned men. In fact the whole affair had been forgotten by the general public when all at once, on March II, 1892, an infernal machine exploded in the house where M. Benoit, the judge who had presided at the trial, was living. Four days later came an explosion at the Lobau Barracks, followed on March 27, by a third, this time at the residence of M Bulot, the public prosecutor.

It was thus that the Anarchist Terror of 1892- 94 began in Paris, and the reader will now understand why we have given a somewhat detailed account of the Clichy affair. Everything sprang from it, the consternation into which the Parisians were plunged by repeated explosions, the loss of life, the destruction of property, the wonder of the whole world at such a succession of alarming occurrences in Paris, the enactment of drastic exceptional laws, the revival of the Post Office cabinet now, the thousands of perquisitions, the wholesale arrests and sentences, and finally the assassination of President Carnot. It was as if the militant Anarchists had only waited for a signal to carry out in a more determined manner than ever the much talked of Propaganda by Deeds and as if, that signal having been given, they would never pause in their work of murder and destruction. By whom had the signal been given, it may be asked. The answer is by a man called Ravachol, who was apprehended after the third explosion we have mentioned, but whose arrest by no means stopped the outrages which became, indeed, more and more frequent, as we shall see.

This Ravachol was an extraordinary type of criminal. France had not known his like since the time of Tropmann, who murdered the entire Kinck family towards the close of the Second Empire. It is a curious circumstance that Ravachol, like Tropmann, was half of Germanic and half of Gallic stock. His real name was Francois Auguste Kcenigstein, his father being a German who had married a Mademoiselle Ravachol, a native of Saint Chamond, a town lying in a valley between Rive- de- Gier and Saint Etienne. That region of the upper Loire is one of coal mines, iron, steel and glass works, silk and ribbon factories, a toiling industrial district, where under a dark hazy sky the towns, mostly black and grimy, spread out in unromantic valleys girdled by sombre heights. Life is generally hard there, capital and labour are constantly in antagonism, and revolutionary ideas spring naturally from the unsatisfactory social condition of the hard- working masses. It is, indeed, in such regions that the most rebellious spirits are generally found.

Ravachol--he had assumed his mother's name probably because he thought that his father's would lead people to think him a foreigner--was no mere rebel, however. He followed the calling of a journeyman dyer, such as are employed in silk and ribbon works, and he had acquired while learning it some little knowledge of chemistry, which he had afterwards carried sufficiently far to be able to compound nitro- glycerine. With a vain disposition, fond of display and eager for everything which money can procure, he found his wages altogether insufficient, and endeavoured to increase his means by coining. He put into practice, indeed, the Tucker theory of " free money," with a complete disregard, however, for the proviso that the money should not be fraudulent. But his venture was not a very lucrative one, and for the sake of small gains he often had to incur the risk of arrest. At last--it is not quite clear for what reason--he was dismissed by his employer at Saint Chamond, and the straits to which he then found himself reduced, impelled him to commit his first great crime. We doubt if he long hesitated about it, for he had much the appearance of a man destined to become a criminal. Rather slim, and only of the average height, he nevertheless possessed very powerful arms, and big knotted hands, Similar to Tropmann's, such hands indeed as will effectually strangle a chosen victim.

It was on the night of March 29, 1886 that Ravachol committed his first murders, his motive being to possess himself of the money of an old gentleman named Rivollier who with an elderly female servant, lived in the outskirts Of the village of La Varizelle near St Chamond, and was reputed to possess considerable means. Ravachol broke into the house armed with a hatchet, and surprising Rivollier in bed, killed him by splitting his skull. The servant, alarmed for her own life, fled into the road, whither Ravachol pursued her. The next minute he had killed her also. Then he went back to the house, and in his desperate search for money forced open every receptacle he perceived. It was never known how much he actually secured, but according to the subsequent statements of his mistress, a lean ill- favoured little woman named Rulhiere, whose appearance suggested hysteria, the amount was a small one.

He returned to Saint Chamond, where he told this woman of what he had done, but she refrained from denouncing him; in fact they continued living together as before. Meantime the local gendarmerie scoured the region, searching for the murderer of Rivollier and his servant, and four or five " suspicious characters " were arrested, interrogated and finally released for lack of evidence against them.

Five years elapsed. Ravachol got another " job," lost it, then got another, lost that also, and once more found himself in great straits for money. He may, during that interval, have committed more than one crime, but according to his own account his next offense Occurred in May 1891. One of the chief aristocratic families of the region where he dwelt is that of the Counts de Rochetaillee, who take their name from a once fortified village perched on a crag between Saint Etienne and Mount Pilat. Now, in the spring of 1891 a Countess de Rochetaillee died, and was buried in the cemetery of Saint Jean de Bonnefond, between Saint Etienne and Saint Chamond. It was rumoured through all those localities that by her express request this lady had been interred wearing a considerable quantity of jewellery. Ravachol heard the story, and thinking, as many might think, that it was altogether wrong to bury valuables when there were so many people in need of money, he resolved to appropriate the jewels in question.

He set out on a dark rainy night in May, and after trudging nearly six miles under the incessant downpour he climbed over the cemetery wall and made his way to Mme. de Rochetaillee's grave, which he had reconnoitred on a previous occasion. He was provided with a few tools with the help of which, thanks to his great strength, he was able to remove two stone slabs, one weighing 260 and the other 330 lbs. Then he broke the coffin open, and proceeded to search for the jewellery, in the first instance feeling the hands and wrists of the corpse to ascertain if there were any rings or bracelets. He found none, and on feeling the neck he only discovered there a ribbon to which a small consecrated medal and wooden cross were attached. In his rageful disappointment he tore them from the ribbon, threw them away, and hurried out of the cemetery. The horrible outrage was discovered in the morning, but nobody could tell by whom it had been perpetrated.

Ravachol had to look elsewhere for the means of replenishing his purse. There is a village named Chambles at no great distance from Saint Chamond, and in its outskirts, at the time we write of, dwelt a very old man named Brunel who was known locally as the Hermit. We do not know whether he had ever taken any religious vows, but for half a century, that is from about 1840 onwards he had dwelt in a kind of cabin on the hillside above Chambles, much after the fashion of some hermit Of the middle ages. He was said to be very pious, and devout folk constantly gave him victuals, cast- off clothing and money, and asked him to remember them in his prayers. As he expended little or nothing on food and raiment it was quite possible that he might possess a little hoard. Such at least was Ravachol's surmise and he resolved to ascertain whether it was correct.

He betook himself to Chambles, and towards mid-day on June 19, 1891 he repaired to Brunel's cabin and found the old man (who according to some accounts was an octogenarian, whilst others say that he was no less than ninety-two years old) lying on a wretched pallet in a corner of the hut. Ravachol (we here follow his subsequent confession) began by telling him that he would give him twenty francs to have some masses said if he could give him change for a fifty franc note. Brunel replied that he had no change, and was about to get up, perhaps because he distrusted his visitor, when the latter sprang forward, seized him, thrust a handkerchief into his mouth, knelt on his chest, and finally strangled him. Then he searched the hut for money and found it in all sorts of places, in a cooking pot, in a little loft, in a cupboard, and under the bed. According to Ravachol's own account the total amount exceeded [[sterling]]1600, but it was at first impossible to calculate it, as gold, silver and coppercoins were indiscriminately mingled together.

The assassin took as much gold and silver as he could conveniently carry, locked up the cabin and went off to lunch at a cafe near the railway station. The landlord of this establishment afterwards testified that Ravachol (who declared he was very hungry) consumed an omelet of six eggs, some fresh water fish and a steak, and drank a quart of wine, followed by some punch. But his work was not yet finished. Returning to the hermit's hut, he shut himself inside and sorted the money he had found. There was more than he could conveniently take away' so he went home, informed his mistress of his exploit, and on the morrow, having procured a conveyance, they both drove to the vicinity of Chambles.

Then Ravachol went up to the hut again, provided this time with a valise, in which he packed all the remaining gold and silver and several other valuables which he found in the place. Rejoining his mistress, they drove off together, and it seems probable that they repaired, not to their home at Saint Chamond, but to Saint Etienne, where they had certain friends to whom we shall refer presently, and with whom was deposited a large part of the plunder. A few hours after Ravachol and La Rulhiere had quitted Chambles, a person of the locality found the hermit lying dead on his bed, with some [[sterling]]50 worth of bronze coins strewn over the floor of the hut.

Ravachol, however, had been noticed on his journeys backwards and forwards, and being suspected was arrested by the gendarmerie, as were his mistress and two men named Pierre Crozet and Claude Fachard, to whom he had disposed of some of the things stolen from the hermit's hut. While, however, Ravachol was being conducted to prison by the gendarmes it chanced that a drunken man reeled into the group, and in the confusion which ensued the murderer managed to escape. Thus only La Rulhiere, Fachard and Crozet were brought to trial, their respective sentences being terms of seven, five and one years imprisonment.

Meantime, the coat and hat which Ravachol had been wearing were found on the bank of the Rhone near Lyons, where in all probability he had deposited them before repairing to Saint Etienne to join his friends there. These were a man named Jus- Beala and a girl (Beala's mistress) called Mariette Soubert. For a short time then hid Ravachol in their dwelling. At this same period a mysterious murder occurred at Saint Etienne. In the Rue de Roanne stood a little ironmonger's shop kept by a Septuagenarian widow named Marcon, and her daughter, an old maid of six and forty. At about ten o'clock on the night of July 27, two men called at this shop, and one of them, after purchasing a shoemaker's hammer, hit the daughter over the head with it, thereby killing her. Immediately afterwards the mother, who was in a room behind the shop, was also murdered. It was subsequently claimed by the authorities that Ravachol and Jus- Beala were the culprits, and that Mariette Soubert had kept watch for them in the street. Beala and Mariette, however, were afterwards acquitted of the charge, and Ravachol denied all participation in it. We ourselves believe that he and his friends were quite innocent in this matter. The only possible motive of the two crimes was robbery, and they occurred but five weeks after the murder at Chambles, that is at a time when Ravachol was in no need of money, as Beala had handed him several thousand francs deposited in his keeping.

Before long, Beala, Mariette and Ravachol, the last of whom had assumed the name of Louis Leger, quitted Saint Etienne for Saint Denis, the northern suburb of Paris. They there found themselves in a real hotbed of Anarchism, which counted numerous partisans among the men employed at the works and factories of the neighbourhood. These men had lately been carrying on a particular form of propaganda, that is inciting young fellows to refuse military service, and soldiers to disobey their officers. A young Anarchist named Villemejeaune, who was forcibly incorporated in the ranks, protested violently against the obligation of serving, and thereby drew upon himself a sentence of twelve months imprisonment. This was the first notable incident in the Anti-Militarist campaign which is still carried on by the French Anarchists.

Both Ravachol and Jus- Beala professed Anarchist principles; and here we must say that we are in agree ment with the many writers who have pointed out that the theory of Anarchism is one which appeals to the criminal mind. Hundreds of times in the law courts of Europe during the last twenty or thirty years have criminals proclaimed themselves to be Anarchists, and although there is no doubt that they have often been absolutely ignorant of the higher theories on the subject it is quite certain that such elementary principles as self- interest and the rejection of all authority have forcibly appealed to them. Such was undoubtedly the case with respect to Ravachol.

Now among the Anarchists of Saint Denis he often heard mention made of the Clichy-Levallois case and the sentences inflicted on Decamp and Dardare; who were currently described as martyrs of the cause. Even as others wished to avenge some of the Spanish Anarchists who of recent times had come into collision with the authorities, so he conceived the idea of avenging Dardare and Decamp. With this object he engaged in a plot with a few other Anarchists to steal a number of dynamite cartridges which were known to be in the possession of a contractor named Couezy at Soisy- sous- Etiolles, south of Paris. Ravachol's principal associates in this venture were named Faugoux, Drouhet and Chalbret, and some information about the plot was also confided to a man called Chaumentin, who subsequently turned informer. A hundred and twenty cartridges were stolen, and a number of them appear to have been deposited with a carpenter named Bricou, who was also an Anarchist and in the secret. On hearing of the theft the authorities made a number of perquisitions in such suburbs as Saint Denis, Puteaux, Levallois and Asnieres where Anarchist! were known to be living, but at first nothing was dis covered. Ravachol, for safety, had for his part now removed from Saint Denis to Saint Mande just outside parts on the Eastern side.

He was of a very boastful disposition--indeed although he seems to have had no connection with Gascony his manners and language often suggested that he came from that province--and he had repeatedly told his friends that he intended to avenge Decamp and Dardare. On being asked if he had designs against Guilhem, the police commissary who had arrested them, he had replied that he intended to strike people of much higher position than that official. His intended victims, indeed, were the public prosecutor and the judge who had presided at the Clichy- Levallois trial. The better to accomplish his design he had secured the services of a sly and impudent youth of eighteen, named Simon, a typical Parisian gavroche, one who might have stepped out of one of the novels of Eugene Sue, Emile Gaboriau or Fortune du Boisgobey. Had Simon lived nowadays he would undoubtedly have been an " Apache " with a lurid nickname. The one in which he rejoiced, however, was quite mild, being simply " Biscuit."

In the first instance Ravachol employed him to reconnoitre the house on the Boulevard Saint Germain, where M. Benoit, the judge, occupied a flat. Then, on March II, 1892, Ravachol, having arrayed himself in a frock coat and a silk hat and slipped a couple of revolvers into his pockets, repaired in person to the Boulevard Saint Germain, travelling thither in a tramcar, and having with him an explosive apparatus which he had prepared at Saint Mande. He deposited it on the second floor landing of the house, and then slipped away in a nonchalant fashion. Scarcely had he departed, however, than there was a serious explosion, the damage which it did afterwards costing [[sterling]]1600 to repair. Fortunately nobody was injured, though M. Benoit's little grandson had a very narrow escape.

The affair caused a considerable sensation, which became yet greater when on the night preceding the anniversary of the rising of the Paris Commune, March 18, there came a second explosion, this occurring at the Lobau Barracks, behind the Hotel- de- Ville. It was not due to Ravachol, however, but to an Anarchist carpenter named Meunier, a friend of the man called Bricou, with whom some of the cartridges stolen from Soisy- sous- Etiolles had been deposited. No loss of life was caused by the explosion at the barracks, but numerous fruitless perquisitions and arrests ensued; and the Government, of which M. Loubet (afterwards President of the Republic) was Premier, holding, moreover, the office of Minister of the Interior, at once submitted to the Chambers a bill providing that all persons responsible for such outrages should be liable to capital punishment.

That measure failed to intimidate either Ravachol or Meunier. On March 27 the former repaired to a house in the Rue de Clichy where M. Bulot, the public prosecutor in the case of Decamp and Dardare, occupied a flat. The miscreant carried a small valise containing an explosive apparatus, a more powerful one than on the previous occasion as the result of the explosion showed, for the stone walls of the house were badly cracked and the staircase absolutely wrecked, the damage of one kind and another representing no less than [[sterling]]6000. At the same time six persons were more or less severely injured.

Well satisfied with his work, Ravachol betook himself to the Boulevard Magenta and lunched at an establishment there--half wine- shop, half restaurant--kept by a M. Very, who had married a Mlle. Lherot, her brother serving in the place as waiter. We have already said that Ravachol was very vain and pretentious, and thus it came to pass that after his lunch at M. Very's restaurant he indulged, in the presence of Lherot the waiter, in some extremely boastful remarks respecting the Boulevard Saint Germain and Rue de Clichy crimes. These remarks prompted Lherot to denounce him, and he was arrested, as were his friends Jus- Beala, Mariette, Simon alias " Biscuit," and Chaumentin, the last named, who was a sleek, smug, hypocritical individual, afterwards giving evidence against the others in order to save himself.

The Anarchist press of Paris and the provinces did not hesitate to extol Ravachol's deeds. In the capital this press had been reinforced of recent years by journals entitling themselves " Le Pere Peinard," " Le Riflard," " Le Pot a Colle," and " La Revolte," which last was edited by Jean Grave. Further, Sebastien Faure produced an Almanach Anarchiste," and there was in particular a review entitled " L'En- Dehors" established by an individual named Galland who assumed the ridiculous appellation of " Zo d'Axa." He was the son of a well- to- do engineer and had prepared himself for Anarchism by leading for several years a life of perfectly Free Love. In that connection we may mention that while serving in the army, this gay Lothario had carried off his captain's wife and deserted. Several other affaires de femmes had ensued, but in the midst of them all, the irresistible " Zo" had still found time to edit an ultra- Catholic journal, until at last, going to the other extreme, he had founded the review we have just mentioned.

So long as it merely advocated Anarchism in a platonic sort of way the authorities did not interfere with it. They reserved their severity for such organs as " Le Pere Peinard" founded and edited by Emile Pouget, an excounter- jumper who was frequently brought before the courts Among Zo d'Axa's contributors and friends was a certain Tabaraut of whom we confess we know nothing. But others were Malato, the well- known Anarchist writer, Octave Mirbeau, and Bernard Lazare. The last two names will perhaps surprise the reader.

M. Octave Mirbeau, a man with a handsome private fortune, is known nowadays as the author of some very powerful novels. M. Bernard Lazare leapt into celebrity by being one of the very first to champion the cause of Captain Dreyfus. Indeed, it was the representations of M. Bernard Lazare that first induced Emile Zola to inquire into the Dreyfus case. Going back, however, to the time of which we are writing, we find M. Lazare described as " a most convinced and most ardent Anarchist.'' We do not know exactly what he said or thought of Ravachol and his explosives; but M. Octave Mirbeau wrote on the subject in a highly appreciative strain, as is shown in the work from which we have just quoted. We will admit that he was not then acquainted with Ravachol's antecedents, and that when subsequent explosions occurred he declared them to be " stupid " and likely to ruin the Anarchist cause. But his apology for Ravachol, the author of the Boulevard St Germain and Rue de Clichy explosions, is difficult to explain away. The attitude of the " En- Dehors " review was at this period of such a nature that the authorities ended by prosecuting it, and M. Galland, otherwise Zo d'Axa, was sent to prison, where for a period of two years he was unable either to carry on his Anarchist propaganda or to pursue the career of a disciple of Don Juan.

On the very eve of the day appointed for the trial of Ravachol and the others at the Paris Assizes a terrific explosion occurred at the restaurant by whose waiter, Lherot, Ravachol had been denounced. This was the work of Meunier, who had previously caused the explosion at the Lobau barracks, and he had for his accomplices first, the man Bricou with whom many of the cartridges stolen at Soisy- sous- Etiolles had been deposited; secondly, Bricou's mistress, Marie Delange, a common- looking wench, who had previously served in a wineshop; and, thirdly, an Anarchist named Francis. The latter's share in the affair was comparatively slight, for he merely lent Meunier a suit of clothes. These, however, Meunier procured for the purpose of disguising himself, which he did at Bricou's residence, carefully "making up " his face and embellishing it with a thick false beard. Some dynamite cartridges were placed in a wooden box, pierced with holes for a fuse or wick, and with this box deposited in a bag, Meunier set out for M. Very 's restaurant. Before entering it, however, he went into a urinal and there lighted his wick. Then, going to the restaurant, he called for a petit verre of rum--price three sous--drank it off, left his bag near the door, and hurriedly departed.

It was twenty- five minutes past nine o'clock in the evening when the explosion occurred. Its results were terrible. Very, the landlord, was killed; so was one of his customers named Hamonod; and several other persons were injured, some of them very grievously. Meunier escaped to London, whither Francis also fled. The former was not found and extradited until the summer of 1894, being tried in Paris about a month after the assassination of President Carnot. He then endeavoured to set up an alibi, which was very unconvincing, but as there were certain gaps in the evidence against him he saved his head and was sentenced to hard labour for life. Bricou received a sentence of twenty years, whilst Francis, against whom it could not be proved that he had knowingly lent Meunier clothes for a felonious purpose, was acquitted.

Let us now return to Ravachol, whose trial began in the midst of the panic caused by the explosion at Very's restaurant. Everybody suspected of Anarchism on whom the police could lay hands was now being arrested, and many foreign members of the sect were summarily expelled from France. The jury at the Assizes, however, was leniently inclined. M. Quesnay de Beaurepaire, who appeared as public prosecutor, did not press the charges against Chaumentin, who freely gave evidence against his fellow- prisoners. Two of the latter, however, Jus- Beala and Mariette Soubert, were, like himself, acquitted' only Ravachol and young Simon being found guilty Moreover, the verdict specified that there were " extenuating circumstances" in their favour, and thus sen- fences of hard labour for life ensued.

During the investigation of the Paris crimes, however, the authorities had carefully inquired into Ravachol's antecedents, and he was finally sent before the Assize Court at Montbrison to answer for the murders which we recounted earlier in this chapter. Pending the new proceedings he was kept for a couple of months in a kind of cage, in which he was constantly under surveillance, and when he appeared in court he looked livid, emaciated, quite shrunken. His friends Beala and Mariette were arraigned with him, but were only convicted of having harboured him after the murder of the Hermit of Chambles. Among the witnesses brought forward by the authorities was Ravachol's former mistress, La Rulhiere, at the sight of whom he shed tears, whilst she for her part declared that she still loved him and had accused him wrongly before the investigating magistrate. Ravachol, however, confessed some of his crimes, notably the Chambles murder, and was therefore condemned to death. " Vive l'Anarchie ! " he retorted when sentence had been pronounced on him.

He refused to appeal to the Cour de Cassation or to solicit a reprieve of the President of the Republic, and was executed at Montbrison on the morning of July IO, 1892 The prison chaplain accompanied him on his way to the guillotine, and exhorted him to repent; but Ravachol savagely rejoined: " Take away your crucifix ! If you show it to me I shall spit upon it ! " And thereupon he began to sing a verse of an Anarchist song, running:

Pour etre heureux, nom de Dieu

Il faut pendre les proprietaires

Pour etre heureux, nom de Dieu

Il faut couper les cures en deux !

As in the case of M. Watrin, the engineer murdered at Decazeville, there soon appeared a complainte on the subject of Ravachol's crimes and fate. It concluded in this sarcastic fashion:

Mes enfants, elle est bien triste

La morale d'c't'histoire- la.

En quelques mots la voile:

C'est qu'lorsqu'on est anarchiste

Faut pas s'vanter d'ses hauts fan's

Devant des garcons d'troquets !

As we are quoting la Muse anarchiste we may perhaps give one or two more examples. There was at that time a ditty called " La Ravachole," the first verse of which ran, if we remember rightly, as follows:

Dans la grand'ville de Paris,

Il y a des bourgeois bien nourris;

Il y a aussi des misereux

Qui ont le ventre bien creux.

Ceux- la ont les dents longues--

Vive done le son, vive le son,

Ceux- la ont les dents longues,

Vive le son de l'explosion !


Dansons la Ravachole,

Vive le son, vive le son,

Dansons la Ravachole

Vive le son de l'explosion !

Ah, ca ire, ca ire, ca ire,

Tous les bourgeois gout'ront d'la bombe !

Ah, ca ire, ca ire, ca ire,

Tous les bourgeois on les sautera ! Further, there was a song specially addressed to the explosive by the means of which the Anarchists hoped to revolutionize society; and this was its lively refrain:

Danse, dynamite,

Danse, dense vise,

Dansons et chansons:

Dynamitons, dynamitons !

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


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