Key Dates 1795-1815

Chronology from Le Maitron of key dates in French labour history

Author: Stéphane Sirot, additional material by Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis et Claude Pennetier and Steve Jefferys (italicised)


April 1-2 A workers’ insurrection repressed in Paris.

May 20, May 23 Another workers’ insurrection in Paris ending in the Army occupying the militant Saint-Antoine district. The revolt is finally over after three days of fighting. The slogan of the revolutionaries was ‘Bread and the Constitution of Year 2‘.

December Workers strikes in Paris


March 30 Gracchus Babeuf and his comrades establish the Insurrectionary Committee of the Equals. Sylvain Maréchal drafts the Manifesto of the Equals.

May 10 Babeuf, Buonarroti and 245 ‘Equals’ supporters arrested.

September 9, 10 Equals plot to win over the Grenelle soldiers for a revolution foiled. Many arrests.

October 10 30 of the Equals condemned to death by a military court.


May 27 Babeuf and others in the Conspiracy of the Equals guillotined.

November 16 Carpenters strike in Paris


September 19 110 inventors and industrialists participate in the opening ceremony of an Industrial Exhibition in the Champs de Mars organised under the 1795-1799 Directorate.


November 9 Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte stages a Coup d’État that overthrows the Directorate and opens a period of social calm with regulations highly favourable to employers. This took place on the 18 Brumaire an VIII in the revolutionary calendar.


December 24 Chambers of Commerce and Industry are created by the 1799-1804 Consulate that replaces the Directorate.


April 12 A law is passed regulating work in factories and workshops and at the same time renewing the illegality of workers’ combinations.

December 1 The workers’ passbook (livret ouvrier) is introduced. It is a kind of identify passport that allows the police and employers to know the exact situation of each worker. Any worker travelling without their passbook is declared to be a vagabond and can be treated as such.


March 21 The Civil Code (article 1781) states that in the case of a dispute about a worker’s salary the word of the master takes precedence over the worker’s statements in front of a tribunal. This article is only abolished in 1866. The Code provides for divorce, but within a marriage the wife is treated as a minor, and her property is given to her husband. On his death the property is divided equally between the children, abolishing the right of the oldest male child to inherit all the property.

December 2 Napoléon is crowned Emperor at Notre-Dame Cathedral by Pope Pius VII.


March 18 Establishment of the first industrial tribunals called Conseils de prud’hommes (Wise Men Councils) to arbitrate where there were disputes between employers and their skilled workers. The first one appeared in Lyon.


June 11 Decree passed to finalisie the 1806 Industrial Tribunal law.


February 10, 22 A decree outlining a new Penal Code was passed into law. It codified all the penal laws passed between 1791 and 1800. Its articles 291, 292, 414, 415 and 416 required all associations of 20 or more people to secure government approval for their existence and confirmed the illegality of all combinations of workers aiming to stop work or modify wages.


March 2 Hunger riots in Caen; an order is passed organising the distribution of 2 million soups.


January 3 A decree fixes the minimum age a child can go down a mine to ten.


March 31 Coalition armies enter Paris. Napoleon abdicates at Fontainebleau on April 5 in favour of his son, and then unconditionally on April 11.

May 3 Louis XVIII enters Paris.

June 4 Louis XVIII issues a Constitutional Charter providing for a parliamentary system with a house of lords nominated by the King and an elected chamber of deputies.

October Saint-Simon and his then secretary, Augustin Thierry publish De la réorganisation de la société européenne. It proposes the extension of English parliamentary rule under a constitutional monarch to every European state with a European parliament above them. It escapes the restoration censor, unlike its second edition.


February 25 Napoléon Bonaparte leaves Elba for France.

June 18 Napoléon defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

June 24 Napoléon leaves Paris.

July 8 Louis XVIII returns to Paris.

July 15 Napoléon surrenders to the English on the Bellerophon that sails for Plymouth

August 7 The Northumberland leaves for Saint-Helena with Napoléon on board. It arrives there on October 16.

November Pierre-Jean Béranger published his first book of songs, Chansons morales et autres in which he celebrated the victories of the Revolution and the Empire, attacked the ancien regime and the supremacy of the clergy.

December 7 Marshal Ney is executed in the Luxembourg Garden for having supported Napoléon during the 100 Days.

PLACES 1795-1815

Philippe (Filippo) Buonarroti

1761-1837 • Italy

Communist insurrectionary • Babeuf • Blanqui

Born in Tuscany, a direct descendant of Michaelangelo’s brother, he was enthused by the French Revolution and moved, first to Corsica, then to Paris. Nominated by Robespierre as a Commisioner responsible for newly conquered territories to the East of France, after Robespierre’s overthrow in 1794 he was imprisoned in the Plessis prison in Rue Saint-Jacques for allegedly having decided illegal to confiscate the land of a Genoan wealthy man.

Prison was where Buonarroti first met Gracchus Babeuf (1760-1797). Arguably, Babeuf was the first revolutionary socialist.

As Buonarroti’s biographer, Jean Marc Schiappa wrote, the Paris prisons at this time were “real schools of political confrontation and education”. After many political prisoners were amnestied in October 1795, Babeuf’s supporters became active in the political ferment of the Club du Panthéon in Rue Clovis.

Buonarroti sketched at about the time of the Conspiracy of Equals in the French Revolution

In 1795 Buonarroti attended meetings of the future Conspiracy of Equals at 54
rue de la Ville l’Évêque
. There, they organised what the “Conspiracy of the Equals” of 1796 (“Conspiracy” was the name given to the organisation by the government that repressed it.

Babeuf and Buonarroti aimed to agitate as openly as possible. Buonarroti was an organiser, but also wrote one of the key documents of the organisation, the remarkable Draft Economic Decree, which proposed full citizenship for both sexes a hundred and fifty years before it was achieved in France.

After a ninety-six day trial in Vendôme (the authorities were afraid that holding the trial in Paris would lead to disorder) Babeuf was guillotined, but before he died Buonarroti promised his comrade that he would tell the story of the “conspiracy”.

Buonarroti was imprisoned for six years, and then exiled, first to Geneva and then to Brussels, Grenoble (then in Savoy) and back to Geneva. He lived in considerable poverty, working as a music teacher, accompanied by his faithful partner Teresa Poggi. But he continued to try to organise, though the organisations he formed, sometimes concealed within Freemasonry, were of necessity highly secretive in form.

In 1828 he published his History of Babeuf’s Conspiracy for Equality, which circulated widely in Paris, and established a continuity between Babeuf’s ideas and a new generation of activists.

Utopian socialist and influential propagandist for Babeuf in Paris, he was a strong influence on Auguste Blanqui. He returned to Paris in August 1830, and spent his last years developing contacts with the new generation of revolutionaries.

One of his associates described him then as “a man of seventy… with a Prometheus-like energy, bidding defiance to the powers of the earth, arousing all far and near to break the chains of despotism”.

More info / Plus d’informations


Directorate, Consulate and First Empire. Key Dates

Napoléon Bonaparte gains a reputation as a successful general in the defence of the French Revolution, and then takes personal power and declares himself Emperor


Paris was also standardised under Napoléon Bonaparte. On February 4 1805 the State Council decreed that within 3 months every house in Paris would be given a street number. The numbers would be of two colours according to whether they were perpendicular or parallel to the Seine and even if they were on the right, and uneven on the left. The numbers in perpendicular streets would increase as they went away from the Seine and in parallel streets would rise with the flow of the river towards the sea.

Paid for initially by the Paris Commune in 1805 perpendicular street numbers were black on ochre, and in parallel streets red on an ochre background. House owners were then responsible for maintaining them in oil paint or in varnishing them or having them remade in tiling.


On Sunday June 18 1815 Napoléon Bonaparte was overwhelmingly defeated at the battle of Waterloo, a village just south of Brussels. By dawn on Wednesday 21 June he reached the Elysée Palace in Paris where, for the second time, he abdicated the next day.

Napoléon left France for the last time on July 15, to sail to the harbour in Torbay, England. On August 7 he was transferred to a British warship for the two-month-long journey to Britain’s remotest island colony, St Helena. The man who had shaken up Europe over the previous 15 years died there aged 51 on May 5 1821.

Rue Cambacérès / Rue de la Ville l’Évêque

Arrondissements 8

Number 26

Originally this was the principal road through the farm belonging to the Bishop of Paris, annexed to Paris in 1722, and the section called rue Cambacérès was named differently from the rest of the street in 1865.

It was another street renamed under Louis-Napoléon’s search for greater legitimacy in the eyes of both republicans, Bonapartists and freemasons.

Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès (1753-1824) was an aristocrat who supported the French Revolution and became president of the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety in 1794. In 1796 he was elected president of the Committee of 500, the lower chamber under the Directorate. In 1799 he became minister of Justice and supported Bonaparte’s coup d’état of the 18 Brumaire (1 November 1799).

Three French Consuls from 10 November 1799 to 18 May 1804, Cambacérès replaces the Republican Sieyès on January 1 1800 after which this painting of him (on the left) Bonaparte and
Charles-François Lebrun.

Cambacérès’ next promotion saw Napoléon Bonaparte name him Second Consul in 1800. He is a major editor of the March 1804 French Civil Code, known as the Code napoléonien.

President of the Senate on 18 May 1804 he presented its confirmation that Bonaparte is Emperor of the French. The same day he becomes the ‘Archi-chancellor’ of France, number two after the Emperor.

In 1806 he became the Supreme Chief of the ‘Modern French Rites’ of freemasonry and is Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France from 1806 to 1814.

At the Restoration he is stripped of his royal title of Duke of Parma, but instead calls himself Duke of Cambacérès.

Back in the days in 1795 when the whole street was still called rue de la Ville l’Évêque the young Philippe Buonarroti came to meetings at No. 54 (now 26 rue Cambacérès) of the Lycée politique, the future Conspiracy of Equals (Conjuration des Égaux) with Gracchus Babeuf. This was the home of André Amar, a former member of the French Revolution’s Committee of General Safety (Comité de sûreté générale).