Orléans monarchy, republicans, socialists and feminists
The cartoon above of Louis-Philippe blowing soap bubbles of the broken promises of the 1830 July Revolution led to its creator’s arrest and trial for ‘insulting the king’ in May 1831
On August 7 1830 Louis-Philippe issued a new Constitutional Charter. This promised freedom of the press and declared that censorship would never be reestablished. Within weeks there was an explosion of papers with political cartoons.
On November 4 1830 Charles Philipon launched a weekly newspaper, La Caricature, whose four pages of text were accompanied by two of lithographs.
Within weeks the government reacted. On December 4 1830 it restored the stamp duty tax on newspapers and re-introduced censorship. Philipon’s response in the Foam of July cartoon above showed Louis-Philippe blowing bubbles of many of the unfulfilled promises in the Charter: popular elections, mayoral elections, an end to ‘jobs for the boys’.
Philipon was acquitted for this cartoon but was arrested again. On November 14 1831 he first drew Louis-Philippe as an image transformed into a pear. He was jailed for a year in January 1832 at Sainte-Pelagie prison, where he was joined by Daumier for his cartoon, Gargantua.
The Orléans monarchy deceived those who had hoped the relatively bloodless July Revolution would lead to a constitutional monarchy and deeply angered the Republicans who had been sceptical from the outset. At the same time, industrialisation was beginning to transform small bits of France, particularly its major towns and Paris. The scene was being set for the re-emergence of French radical republicanism and its more edgy components, socialist and feminist thought and organisation.
In 1830 Louis-Philippe was presented the crown of France by the timid reformers who had been pushed into presiding over the downfall of Charles X. But they were not able to suppress the republican pressure to get rid of the monarchical system of privileges and power that was particularly strong in urban areas.
In Lyon on 9 April 1834 a demonstration protesting against new authoritarian laws inhibiting press freedom that was organised by the Society for the Rights of Man and by the Executive Committee of the local workers friendly societies led to mass rioting that appeared to be building up to an insurrection.
Barricades started to appear in Paris on 13 April 1834 and Louis Philippe’s government decided on savage repression. After an infantry captain was wounded by a shot from a window near a barricade in the Rue Transnonain every person found in the house from which the soldiers thought the shot had been fired was killed (12) or wounded (24) (with the victims including old men and women as well as children).
The ‘butchery of Rue Transnonain’ was captured,
famously, by Honoré Daumier in a print that could not be censored and became an
instant success as well as a tribute to Daumier’s art and politics.
In 1821 the songwriter and pamphleteer Pierre-Jean de Bérangerspent three months at Sainte-Pélagie for an oblique political criticism of Louis XVIII. In 1832 Honoré Daumier is placed there. With cholera appearing in the prison a revolt organised by prisoners from the secret Society of the Friends of the People (Société des amis du people) that year led to one death. Hazan (WTP) writes that ‘under the Restoration and the July monarchy… all the opposition leaders passed’ through this prison.
Hazan (IOP) explains that when another prison to accommodate debtors was built in 1826 in the Rue de Clichy in the 9th arrondissement, ‘Creditors who requested the incarceration of a debtor were required to pay thirty francs a month for the prisoner’s maintenance’.
Honoré Daumier spent six months there in 1832 for his political caricatures attacking the new king Louis-Philippe.
164 arrests of republicans were made after the riots that followed the rue Transonain massacre of April 1834. Among those jailed at Sainte-Pélagie were Arago, Victor Schoelcher, Barbès and Godefroy de Cavaignac. Barbès organised an escape by 28 of them through a tunnel in July 1835.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a political prisoner held there from 1849 to 1852. After first fleeing to Belgium he returned to marry Euphrasie Piégard while still in jail.
Auguste Blanqui was held there in 1831, 1832 and 1836 and again from 1861 to 1865 when he escaped and went into exile in Belgium until the end of the Second Empire.
Jules Guesde was held there in 1878 in the section of the prison called Pavillion des Princes, entered through 2-14 rue due Puits de l’Érmite (roughly where 3-15 rue Lacépède is today).
On 30 July 1891 Paul Lafargue lost his appeal against a year’s imprisonment for an ‘inflammatory’ speech made after the killing of 10 demonstrators by troops on a May Day march in the Northern textile town, Fourmies.
From the Concièrgerie, where he was held initially, Lafargue was finally sent to Sainte-Pélagie. This was to his great relief, since it was still a political prison. He had access to books and newspapers, and hot and cold water for washing and taking baths.
This street with an amazing history was named after a café sign of a crescent moon with gold stars that hung outside No. 12 way back in 1612.
More recently it became a major centre of left republican and socialist publications. The office of Le Charivari (1832-1893) where Honoré Daumier and other caricaturists worked was at No. 16. This was also the address of Le Siècle, whose office was used for the historic meeting on February 21 1848 that decided to resort to arms if troops were used against the banqueteers.
On September 9 1870 Henri Rochefort printed the first issue of La Marseillaise at No. 16. At about the same time Auguste Blanqui was printing La Patrie en Danger at No. 13.
Under the Commune in 1871 the street became full of daily and weekly newspapers. Henri Rochefort published Le Mot d’Ordre at No. 8. La Mère Duchêne was printed at No 10.
L’ami du Peuple (originally the title of Marat’s publication in the French Revolution) was also printed at No. 13, where people could also buy Le Cri du Peuple and La Fédération, the journal of the National Guard’s Republican Federation. Its press also printed the newspapers La Sociale and La souveraineté du Peuple. Le Père Duchêne was launched at No. 16 and then banned a week later on March 12 1871. The satirical paper Le Grelot was published at No 20.
Later, under the Third Republic in 1884-1886, the L’Intransigeant, involving Rochefort and Nathalie Le Mel, was published at No 12. This initially left paper evolved rapidly towards the extreme right.
In 1910 the building at No 16 housed the editorial and business offices of l’Humanité. This was where its founder, Jean Jaurès , was about to go when he was assassinated on July 31 1914 at the Café du Croissant on the corner with rue Montmartre.
The street was originally opened on land belonging to the Abbey and then named after the 17th century 43rd abbess of the Montmartre Abbey, Marguerite de Rochechouart de Montpipeau. It only began to be built up in the 18th century was then incorporated into Paris in 1863.
The same address welcomed the founding meeting of the Second International which Engels and others called., and set the objective of the 8 hour day for all workers This was on the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, in 1889, and took place in the theatre at the address that, ominously, was called Fantaisies parisiennes.
Ben Bella was hidden by Algerian friends in the street in 1952 on his way to Switzerland.
This is one of the earliest known streets in Paris. It was named after an abbey built on the site of a Roman Villa directly to the north of the Roman city of Lutetia. Many believed the villa was the burial site of the Italian evangelist Denis who came to Paris between AD 250 and 270, and was its first Bishop and martyr. So in 630 King Dagobert (of the Franks in what is now northern France) started to build a huge basilica on the spot and called it Saint-Denis. When he died in 639 he was buried there.
From that year on until the French Revolution when the body of the guillotined Louis XVI was disposed off in a quicklime pit, all French kings were buried in the St Denis Basilica. The church was also used to crown the King’s Queen and the road from it into Paris was also always used by the royal family for their processions into Paris, and so was known as the ‘royal route’.
Today the St Denis road begins its journey to the north of Paris at the Place du Châtelet where it is crossed by the Avenue Victoria. It used to go right down to the ‘Grand-Pont’ (Big Bridge) that from the 9th century crossed the wider reach of the Seine and accessed the central island, the Ile du Cite. That bridge was washed away several times and finally replaced by the Pont au Change.
The northern end of the road is at the magnificent Porte St-Denis, a huge triumphal arch created by Louis XIV in 1672 on the site of a major fortified gateway through the (now demolished) Charles V defensive wall that protected the right bank of Paris. The photograph of the arch above was taken in the 1930s.
On June 23 1848 one of the main barricades of the workers’ insurrection against the closure of the national workshops blocked the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle from being used to move troops from West to East Paris where the movement was strongest. It was defended by engineers who worked on the Northern Railway Company, and was only taken by the government’s troops after their canon had fired 80 shots at the barricade.
The Rue St Denis continues beyond the Porte’s Arch northwards towards the Saint-Denis suburb. From this point it becomes the Rue du Faubourg St-Denis which runs as far as the Boulevard de la Chapelle.
Number 20 used to be the entrance to the Halles Centrales café and concert hall, where Blanqui spoke at several meetings in 1870.
The weekly anarchist journal Le Libertaire that had resumed publication on December 21 1944, thanks to the financial support of Georges Brassens, was able to install itself alongside the Libertarian Communist Federation in an office at No. 79 in March 1954. Series 5 of the paper finally stopped publication on July 12 1956.
Subsequently, from 1960 to 1976, No. 79 became the headquarters of the exiled Spanish anarcho-syndicalists who believed that the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo should work with the exiled government.
One of the few barricades built by the leftists who participated in the Society of Seasons uprising on Sunday May 12 1839 led by Blanqui and Barbes was at No. 90. It blocked the road at the junction with the Rue de la Grande Truanderie.
The 1839 barricade was just next door to the one built at No 92 bis in front of the St Leu church on November 19 1827. This was the first barricade in Paris since 1795 and was put up after troops were ordered to remove all signs put up in houses celebrating the liberal victory in Paris in the November 17 legislative elections. The resulting riot was put down with a cavalry charge and some gunfire in which a young Blanqui was wounded by a bullet in the neck.
At the principal barricade built across the road at No. 120 on the same day the 18th regiment fired at the defenders, killing four of its defenders.
No. 151 (or No. 153 or No. 243 where the family lived soon afterwards as is suggested in the Paris birth records) was the birthplace of Léon Blum on April 9 1872. Then, like today, it was in the heart of the Parisian textile and clothing industry. But where once it was predominantly Jewish, today the businesses in the area are largely of North African origins.
The bloody week that ended the Paris Commune took its toll at No. 199. This was where a barricade was built across the corner with what is now the Rue Réaumur saw serious fighting on May 24 1871. Another barricade at No. 237/239 that crossed to the Passage du Caire covered alleyway was defended by the Commune’s 92nd battalion.
As long ago as the Middle Ages the central Paris area around Rue Saint-Denis, Rue Grenata, the Rue aux Ours and the Rue de Saint-Martin was known as the ‘Huleu’ (screeching) quarter because of the prostitutes calling out for clients as men passed by. The women used to hire covered wooden stands, and men climbing on to the stand went ‘en bords’ (onboard). This was the origin of the now internationally recognised word ‘bordel‘ (brothel). Paris counted some 50,000 prostitutes by the mid-19th century.
For me, the southern part of the road near what used to be the huge Les Halles market still conjures up memories of that night in 1962 when I and my close school friend David walked on a cool dark summer night, with money in our pockets, determined to lose our virginities. I was quite amazed to find that more than 50 years later, despite the removal of the Halles market and the gentrification of central Paris, Tripadvisor is actually still selling the area as the place to go to see ‘Paris nightlife’.