Source: Journal Officiel, May 18-19, 1871;
Translated: from the original for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2014.
Translator’s note; Like any good French government, the Commune had its Journal Officiel, in which were published government decrees, notices, foreign news, financial reports, death notices, and starting with the issue of April 15, minutes of the meetings of the Commune. Many of the most important revolutionary propagandists of the time participated in its publication, including Pierre Vésinier and Maxime Vuillaume, a feat all the more astounding because along with the Journal Officiel they also published their own newspapers during the same period.
After the death of the Commune, many survivors mocked the journal’s excessive parliamentarism and, given the circumstances, the discussions there are a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime. We find discussions of the delegates to be sent to attend a funeral as well as the debate on the postponing of the payment of debts due; discussions of the changing of place names and of the legitimacy of elections with insufficient participants. The minutes are frequently cut off abruptly as the Commune entered into secret sittings.
Translated here are the minutes of one of the stormiest of the Commune’s sittings. On May 17 the discussion revolved around two principle subjects: the executions of the hostages held by the Commune and a letter of the minority of the Commune, largely members of the International, protesting against the extraordinary powers granted the Committee of Public Safety. The discussion was so lengthy that its publication required two issues. The text that opens this debate is the contents of the minority’s letter.
At the sitting that was to have taken place Monday, May 15, the members belonging to the minority of the Commune had resolved to read a declaration that would doubtless have made the political misunderstandings that existed in the assembly disappear.
The absence of almost all the members of the majority did not permit the opening of the sitting.
It is thus our duty to enlighten public opinion concerning our attitude and to make known the points that separate us from the majority.
The members present: Arthur Arnould, Ostyn, Longuet, Arnold, Lefrançais, Serraillier, Jules Vallès, Courbet, Victor Clément, Jourde, Varlin.
The Paris Commune, by a special and clear vote, has abdicated its power into the hands of a dictatorship, to which it has given the name of Public Safety.
The majority of the Paris Commune declared itself irresponsible by its vote and abandoned all responsibility in our current situation to this committee.
The minority to which we belong on the contrary affirms this idea, that the Commune at the politically and socially revolutionary moment must accept all responsibilities and decline none, however worthy might be the hands into which they will be abandoned.
For our part, we, like the majority, desire the carrying out of social and political renewal, but contrary to their ideas we demand, in the name of the suffrage we represent, the right to respond for ourselves for our acts before our voters, without hiding behind a supreme dictatorship that our mandate permits us neither to accept nor recognize.
And so we will only attend the assembly on the day it constitutes itself as a court of justice to judge one of its members.
Devoted to our great communal cause for which so many citizens die each day, we retire to our too neglected arrondissements. Convinced in any case that the question of war is more important than all others, we will pass the time our municipal functions allow us among our brothers of the National Guard and we will play our part in the decisive struggle carried out in the name of the people’s rights.
Here too we will effectively act in accordance with our convictions and will avoid creating the splits in the Commune that we all condemn, persuaded that, majority or minority, despite our political divergences, we are all pursuing the same goals: political freedom and the emancipation of the workers.
Long Live the Social Republic!
Long Live the Commune!
Ch. Beslay, Jourde, Theisz, Lefran?ais, Eugène Girardin, Vermorel, Clémence, Andrieu, Seraillier, Longuet, Arthur Arnould, Victor Clément, Avrail, Ostyn, Frankel, Pindy, Arnold, J. Vallès, Tridon, Varlin, Courbet.
Presided over by Citizen Leo Meillet,
Assistant, Citizen Dr. Pillot
The sitting is opened at 2:30 p.m.
In conformity with the notice inserted in this morning’s Journal Officiel a roll call by name is proceeded to by Citizen Amouroux, one of the secretaries and a member of the Commune. Sixty six members are present.
Citizen President: There will be reading of the minutes of the sitting of May 12.
The minutes are read and adopted without observations.
Citizen President gives a reading of a letter from Citizen Sicard, resigning as member of the war commission.
The assembly gathers as a secret committee to hear a communication from Citizen Ferré, delegate for general security.
The open sitting begins again at 3:15 p.m.
Citizen Urbain communicates to the assembly a report by Lieutenant Butin, denouncing the rape and massacre of a female ambulance assistant while she was taking care of the wounded.
Citizen Urbain: This report is certified by Lieutenant Urbain of the 3rd Company of the 105th Battalion. I demand that either the Commune or the Committee of Public Safety decide that ten of the hostages we have in our hands be executed within 24 hours as reprisals for the murders of the nurse and of our parliamentarian who was greeted by a fusillade in contempt of the laws of men. I demand that five of these hostages be solemnly executed inside Paris before a delegation of all the battalions, and that the other five be executed at the advanced positions in front of the guardsmen who witnessed the murder.
Citizen J.-B. Clément: I support Citizen Urbain’s proposal. I have information from a relative who has returned from Versailles where he was a prisoner. Our men who are detained in Versailles are badly mistreated; they are given very little bread, they are insulted, and they are struck with rifles butts. This must end. On this subject I will address a question to Citizen Parisel, head of the scientific delegation.
Citizen Parisel: I demand the floor.
Several members: A secret committee!
The assembly meets as a secret committee.
The public sitting resumes.
Citizen Rigault, procurator of the Commune: I present the following proposal. Given its urgency the Commune decrees:
Article 1. For those accused of political crimes and misdemeanors, the jury of accusation can provisionally pronounce sentence immediately after having pronounced on the guilt of the accused.
Article 2. The sentences shall be pronounced by a majority of votes.
Article 3. These sentences shall be carried out within 24 hours.
Raoult Rigault, Urbain, L. Chalaine
In my opinion we should answer the murders by the Versaillais in the most energetic fashion by striking the guilty and not the first people we see. And yet, I must say that I'd rather allow guilty men to escape than to strike a single innocent man. Among the people we've detained there are true criminals who deserve to be considered as more than hostages. Well then, chance can very well designate the least guilty, and those who are the guiltiest might be spared. While waiting for justice to be completely established I have thought it useful to establish a tribunal charged with examining the crimes in question. What is more, I declare that I will request that the prescriptions for crimes of this kind not be taken into account. And I put on the same level both the men who are in agreement with Versailles and Bonaparte’s accomplices.
Citizen President: There is a proposal formulated by Citizen Urbain.
Citizen Urbain: If the assembly decides that the reprisals will take place within a short time...
Citizen Raoul Rigault, procurator of the Commune: The jury of accusation is assigned for the day after tomorrow.
Citizen Urbain: If we are given the means to carry out the reprisals legally, and in an appropriate and prompt fashion, then I will be satisfied.
Citizen President: Here is the Urbain proposal:
Given the urgency of the situation, the Commune decrees that ten individuals designated by the jury of accusation shall be executed as punishment for the murders committed by the Versaillais, and in particular the murder of a nurse, executed by them in contempt of all human laws.
Five of these hostages shall be executed inside Paris in the presence of the National Guard.
The other five shall be executed at the advanced positions, as close as possible to the place where the crimes were committed.
Citizen Protot: On the subject of the proposal presented by Citizen Rigault, I declare that the jury of accusation can only decide on questions of fact, that there are no punishments for the crimes that Citizen Rigault is speaking of. We must thus determine the punishment they are subject to.
Citizen Amouroux: It is my opinion that we must carry out reprisals. A month ago we announced the carrying out of a proposal that put an end to the crimes committed by the Versaillais for a certain period. But since in the end we did nothing, the Versaillais have once again started killing our people. Before what is occurring, I ask what use we are making of the law on the hostages. Should we condemn those held as such? But do the Versaillais judge our National Guardsmen? They take them and kill them on the open road. Let us act! And for each of our murdered brothers, let us answer with a triple execution. We have hostages, and among them priests; let’s strike these first, for these matter to them more than do soldiers.
Citizen Vaillant: I am, I must confess, in a difficult situation when I, incompetent in the serious question that occupies us, see the only two individuals in this assembly who are competent in this matter in complete disagreement. Would it not be good if Citizens Protot and Rigault were to come to an agreement and bring this to some kind of resolution?
Citizen Protot, delegate for justice: There is no resolution to take. The procurator of the Commune can bring before the first two sections of the jury of accusation the people to be judged.
Citizen Rigault, procurator of the Commune: Given the nature of the events, these means do not suffice.
Citizen Pillot, president: Let us not lose sight of what is under discussion, that is, Urbain’s proposal. The great question of the moment is that of annihilating our enemies. We are in a revolution and we must act as revolutionaries. We must establish a tribunal which judges and which has its decrees executed.
Citizen Urbain: Will the jury of accusation which we just spoke of function? If it must function then my proposal stands; if not, we would do better to vote on Rigault’s proposal.
Citizen Philippe, delegate of the 12th arrondissement: We are exposed to a terrible reactionary force. We must take energetic measures. We must let it be known that we are determined to smash all the obstacles they put up against the triumphant march of the revolution.
Citizen Urbain: If we vote on the Rigault proposal, I withdraw mine.
Citizen Vaillant: If your jury of accusation functions as it should there is no need for a special proposal. You only have to apply the Commune’s decree relating to reprisals, declaring that Citizens Rigault and Protot are charged with its execution.
Citizen Protot, delegate for justice: If I could have spoken with the procurator of the Commune I would have shown him that it would take at least two weeks to put on trial all those accused of complicity with Versailles. Those tried in absentia should already be sentenced.
Citizen Raoul Rigault, procurator of the Commune: According to the criminal code, juries are not competent to judge those tried in absentia. It is necessary that your juries be a true revolutionary tribunal.
Citizen President again reads the proposal of Citizen Raoul Rigault: I am going to put this proposal to a vote.
Citizen Protot, delegate for justice: I request the postponement of the vote until tomorrow.
Citizen Regère: Yes! Until tomorrow!
Citizen Leo Frankel: Yes! Until tomorrow!
Citizen President: It is proposed to submit the different proposals to a commission composed of Citizens Protot and Rigault.
Citizen Régère: With a third party; I propose Citizen Paschal Grousset. (Various movements)
Citizen Protot: A decree of the Commune says that a chamber composed of twelve jurors will decide on the fate of those accused of complicity with Versailles. I demand that this decree be carried out.
Citizen Urbain: I demand that my proposal be put to a vote.
Citizen Protot, delegate for justice: The notices have been given to have the detainees brought before the jury of accusation.
Citizen Urbain: In that case, I go along with the motion, but I declare that if the decree isn’t carried out, I will resubmit my motion in two days.
Citizen Amouroux, one of the secretaries, gives a reading of the following decree:
The Paris Commune
Considering that the government of Versailles openly tramples upon both the rights of humanity and of war; that it has rendered itself guilty of horrors which didn’t even sully those who invaded French soil;
Considering that the representatives of the Paris Commune have the pressing duty of defending the honor and lives of two million inhabitants who have placed the protection of their fates in their hands; that it is essential that all measures called for by the situation be immediately taken;
Considering that politicians and magistrates must reconcile public safety with the respect for freedoms:
Article 1. Any person accused of complicity with the government of Versailles shall immediately have a warrant issued and be arrested.
Article 2. A jury of accusation shall be established within 24-hours to learn of the crimes for which he is accused.
Article 3. The jury shall decide within 24 hours
Article 4. Any accused held as a result of the verdict of the jury of accusation shall be a hostage of the people of Paris.
Article 5. Any execution of a prisoner of war or supporter of the government of the Paris Commune will immediately be followed by the execution of triple that number of hostages held by virtue of Article 4, who will be designated by lot.
Article 6. Every prisoner of war shall be brought before the jury of accusation, which will decide if he will be immediately freed or held as a hostage.
Citizen President: Here is the motion that I am putting to a vote: “The Commune, referring to its decree of April 7, demands its immediate execution and passes to the motion.”
The motion is adopted.
Citizen Paschal Grousset makes the following motion: Citizens, at the opening of the sitting we noted with pleasure, but not without surprise, that several members of this assembly can be found at their benches whose names are found at the bottom of a manifesto published yesterday by certain newspapers. Their manifesto announced that they would no longer participate in our sittings. I would first like to know if their presence among us is a rejection of the harmful act of which they are guilty. I don’t accept that certain members of the Commune can fill the papers with a manifesto in which they announce a split, in which these new Girondins declare that they are withdrawing, not to the departments – which they can’t do – but to the arrondissements. ...that they should then come, without explanation, without justification, take their seats in their regular places....
Voice: This is not a motion! (Noise, interruptions from different sides)
Citizen Paschal Grousset: This is a motion, a motion of a higher order. After having asked the minority for the reason for this conduct I request the right to present a few observations on the subject of its manifesto. The minority accuses the Commune of having abdicated its power into the hands of the Committee of Public Safety. It accuses us of evading the responsibilities that weigh upon us. And yet it knows full well that in concentrating power in the hands of five men who have its confidence to decide on the terrible necessities of the situation, the Commune in no way intended to abdicate. For our part at least, we accept full responsibility. We are united with the committee that we named, are accountable for its acts, are ready to support it to the bitter end, as long as it marches on the revolutionary road, and ready to strike and smash it if it deviates from it.
It is thus false that we abdicated.
It is even more false that the minority’s manifesto was provoked by this so-called abdication. The proof of this is that this same minority took part in the vote on the naming of the second Committee of Public Safety; that Article 3, conferring plenary powers to the Committee of Public Safety already existed at the time of the vote; that the very definition of these plenary powers had at that time been adopted on the proposal of one of the members of the minority.
We thus have the right to say that Article 3 is not the real reason for the manifesto. We thus have the right to say that the real reason is the failure suffered by the minority in the choice of members of the committee and the revocation of the military commission that issued from its ranks. If the reasons it alleges were sincere, the minority should have formulated its protest before the renewal of the Committee of Public Safety, and not after having participated in the vote, which meant recognizing the principle.
Finally, the minority declares that it wants to move from the parliamentary role to action by entirely dedicating itself to the administration of the arrondissements. Of course, they will not reproach those of us here for not being supporters of this system.
Who opposed the parliamentary tendencies that came to light in this assembly? Who has always demanded brief and rare sittings, closed to the public, without speeches – action sittings? Who, if not this minority that noisily announces its withdrawal on the pretext that it can’t act; who constantly, as much as it could, prevented us from acting?
Citizens, I conclude. If the members of the Commune who announced their withdrawal really intend to dedicate themselves to the arrondissements, I would say: all the better. That would be better than coming here and preventing courageous and resolute men from taking the measure that the situation demands and the responsibility for which they accept.
If, instead of keeping their promises, these members attempt maneuvers that might compromise the safety of the Commune they are deserting, we will seize and strike them.
As for us, we will do our duty. Until victory or death, we will remain at the combat post that the people entrusted us with.
Citizen Jules Vallès: We came here yesterday to declare to the assembly that we were ready to enter into discussions on the political differences that seem to divide us. Our sentiments are contrary to those Citizen Grousset seems to suppose we hold. I declare, for myself and my friends, that what we want in the Commune is the most perfect harmony.
Citizen P. Grousset, in reminding us that we voted the establishment of the Committee of Public Safety, forces us to say that we sacrificed our sentiments in the face of a bombarded Paris.
We saw a danger in Article 3 of the Commune’s decree. We ask that all of us together investigate whether instead of creating a weapon, you haven’t created a threat. We ask that this be calmly discussed. In a word, we want all forces to come together to ensure our salvation.
For my part, I declared that it was necessary to come to an agreement with the Central Committee and the majority, but the minority must also be respected, which is also a force. In all sincerity, we declare to you that we want harmony within the Commune and that our withdrawal to the arrondissements is not a threat.
We ask that you place on the agenda for tomorrow a discussion in which we can examine the facts and ensure the gathering of all forces to march against the enemy.
Citizen Langevin: I completely agree with the words of Citizen J. Vallès, but I protest against those of Citizen Paschal Grousset. I voted against the Committee of Public Safety, but the majority having established it, I accepted it. Nevertheless, I think I have the right to say that there is a serious danger in Article 3 of the decree, which places in its hands the nomination and removal of delegates. (Noise)
Citizen Miot: Yesterday the minority carried out an act that was clearly hostile to the majority. Why did it not give and ask for explanations before making a decision? A serious accusation was made against us: they dare to say that we renounced the exercising of the mandate that was entrusted to us. This is not the case. Isn’t absolute control reserved to the Commune in the decree that establishes the Committee of Public Safety? As author of the proposal I did all I could so that the authority of the Commune not be absorbed. Can you not revoke this Committee at your will when you come to think that its authority might be dangerous? I repeat: the minority carried out a regrettable act yesterday that the public severely judges and which it will have to account for to its voters.
Citizen Arnould: I request a correction to the minutes of the last sitting published in the Journal Officiel; it has to do with this question that is stirring us up. The Officiel has me say: “If one of the motions proposed to you is adopted, the Commune will serve only to incriminate the members of the Committee of Public Safety when it judges this convenient, and it could very well never hold another sitting.” This is as far from my thoughts as possible. What I said and mean is: “I will not fight the Billioray and Ferré amendments. I will vote for them, for they are the inevitable deduction from Article 3, establishing the Committee of Public Safety, and I will ask that the Commune, understanding the logic of its acts, cease its periodic meetings.”
In my opinion the Commune should only meet to question the Committee of Public Safety concerning its acts or to judge a member of the Commune. This is what I said. It was a formal affirmation and not an incrimination of the consequences of Article 3. I ask that this fundamental rectification be made to the Officiel.
Citizen President: Rectification shall be made to the Officiel.
Citizen Arnould: I made a formal affirmation and not an incrimination of Article 3. The Commune should assist the Committee of Public Safety, and if need be revoke it if it doesn’t carry out its mandate, but it must stop discussing. We must meet in our arrondissements, follow our battalions when they march on the enemy, and avoid sterile discussions. I do not see in this either separation or hostility.
Citizen Paschal Grousset: You should have said this instead of publicly accusing us.
Citizen Arnould: We came here last Monday to explain ourselves, but there was no sitting. (Interruptions)
Citizen Régère: The publication of the separation signed by the minority is a regrettable act. But really, if that declaration went further than our colleagues’ ideas, let them withdraw it. Their goal is the same as ours. We only differ on the means, and as soon as they return to us we should receive them fraternally so that we can all work together toward the goal we are pursuing. In any case, it was the minority that supported Citizen Lefrançais when he demanded that the broadest powers over the delegations be given to the Committee of Public Safety. (Noise)
It was the minority that wanted the latter to be able to strike the delegations. (Interruptions, noise)
A large number of voices: That isn’t correct!
Citizen Régère: Come citizens; you have returned and you will remain among us.
Citizen Courbet: But we are all here for the safety of the public.
Citizen Jules Andrieux: It was said that the minority separated from the majority because it didn’t want to accept a defeat in the election of the Committee of Public Safety. If that were correct then the minority would have been in the wrong. But this reproach is unfounded. The minority proposed its resolution because a motion was placed on the desk by the Committee of Public Safety, though everyone was in agreement that the Committee of Public Safety didn’t have to consult us but rather should act. It seemed to us that there was only one thing to do, and that was to withdraw to our arrondissements and delegations as long as we weren’t relieved. And I never participated more actively than I have since these events. I understood the economy of the proposal submitted by Citizen Miot. It was said that you would abdicate your authority as long as the Committee of Public Safety would meet. (Interruptions and prolonged noise)
Citizen Félix Pyat: I demand the reading of the minority’s manifesto.
Citizen Jules Andrieu: Please allow me to finish. We didn’t come to discuss. We came to tell you that the day when you will want a discussion we will explain everything, not to judges, but to the Commune, without either passion or splits.
Several members: The motion!
Citizen Raoul Rigault: I requested the floor for a motion. The signers of the manifesto have declared that they will only present themselves to this assembly when the Commune will have set itself up as a court of justice. And so I don’t understand either the presence of some of them among us or the discussion that is occurring at this moment. (Approbation)
Citizen Vaillant: On the question we are dealing with, I feel that I am so impartial that I can make observations that others here cannot make. I am a member of neither the majority nor the minority, since I was unable to find any group of men with whom I can march. Given what has happened, I ask that the assembly act like an assembly charged with saving Paris. We don’t need internecine quarrels. This manifesto has delivered a serious blow to the Commune by placing before the public questions that should only be brought up in secret committee. But when these members, disavowing their manifesto, return here, we shouldn’t wave it in their faces, forcing them to persevere in their error.
I spoke of the minority. But note this well, citizens: there was an act that provided if not the excuse, then at least the explanation for the error committed by several members of this assembly, and that was the change in the military commission. And so there is only one thing to do now: let the minority tear up its program and let the majority tell it: “Let’s unite our efforts for the salvation of all. Be with us, for if you are against us we will smash you.”
Citizen Billioray: I will answer Citizen Vaillant by saying that we changed the military commission because that commission, charged with arresting Rossel, allowed him to escape. We couldn’t keep men in place who didn’t obey the orders of the Commune. If the members who signed the manifesto withdraw their signatures and tear up their declaration I think that the discussion on this question should be closed.
Citizen Amouroux: As concerns the manifesto, I will say that the members who signed it did great harm to the majority by seeking to make them look like parliamentarians. (Noise)
I declare that it was the majority that was the first to demand that there be only two sittings per week. The proof is that it was Citizens Delescluze, Vésinier, and Amouroux who made this proposal: Considering that all efforts should be focused on the war and the organization of the defense, the Commune decrees:
Article 1. All members of the Commune shall be at the head of their arrondissements and legions.
Article 2. The war commission will centralize all reports and will make them known at the sittings of the Commune.
Article 3. The sittings of the commune will take place on Sundays and Mondays at exactly 1:00 p.m.
Article 4. The Commune can be convoked on an emergent basis upon the request of five members.
This proposal is dated May 5.
You cannot grant yourselves the monopoly of everything in your arrondissements and legions, because we revolutionaries are the ones who demanded it. You did everything, you attempted everything to become the majority, and when you saw that it escaped you abdicated through a manifesto in your papers.
We too ask to be in our arrondissements and on the ramparts, and it’s for this reason that we named a Committee of Public Safety, so as to avoid sterile discussions. But far from abdicating, we asked for two sittings weekly to examine the conduct of the Committee and to reverse its decisions at its first error.
Citizen Frankel: I feel that I am in the same situation as my friend Vaillant. I don’t belong to any fraction of the Commune, and yet I signed the conclusions of the manifesto and will defend it before you and my voters.
The Committee of Public Safety smashed the war commission because it included men who had voted against it. It surrounds itself with more or less capable men, as long as they go along with it. If the manifesto was published, it is your fault; we came here and you weren’t here.
As long as you haven’t relieved me, I will remain in my delegation and I will continue to concern myself with the interests of the workers, which I've done until now. I will send the decisions taken in accordance with the labor commission of the Committee of Public Safety. But I declare to you that I will only come here under the conditions indicated in the manifesto.
Citizen Urbain, the President: The minority should accept the actions of the Committee of Public Safety and not put stumbling blocks before it. In acting in this way it fails to do its duty. What is the minority going to do in its arrondissements? You only have one duty to fulfill, and that is that of withdrawing your manifesto and remaining here to watch over the safety of the revolution.
Citizen Viard: In order to summarize and terminate the question, I request that the minority not only disavow its manifesto, but that it no longer put the Committee of Public Safety in question. It’s doubtless because it is afraid that the minority acts as it does, but for my part I declare that the Committee of Public Safety cannot harm me and that it doesn’t want to do so. In any case, don’t we have the right to control it, and can’t we strip it of power if need be? What we need more than anything is not only our devotion to the people’s interests and our abnegation, but also our political unity.
Citizen President: I will now give a reading of a first motion, signed by Vaillant:
“The so-called declaration of the minority not having been directly produced in the Commune, and the presence of several members of that minority at today’s sitting de facto annulling the declaration made by a portion of the assembly, the Commune passes to the motion.”
This motion is not taken under consideration.
Here then is a second motion, signed by Miot:
“Considering that the Committee of Public Safety is responsible for its acts, that it is at every moment at the orders and disposal of the Commune, whose sovereignty has never been nor could be contested, the majority of the Commune declares:
1. That it is ready to forget the conduct of those members of the minority who will withdraw their signature from the manifesto.
2. That it condemns the latter and passes to the motion.”
Citizen Courbet: I request to make a motion. It is impossible for me to remain at the head of the town hall of my arrondissement. I am unable to obtain information from the delegation for war, especially since my municipal council has resigned.
Several voices: That’s not a motion!
Citizen Courbet: Being responsible for my administration, I can no longer remain in this situation.
Several voices: That’s not the question!
Citizen Serrailler: I signed the manifesto while reserving to myself the right to come to the sitting. There is only one thing we can be attacked for, and that’s the publicity that was given it. We came Sunday and Monday to participate in the sitting and there was no one. (Various calls) So we then wrote the manifesto and I will not renounce it. Doing so would be a culpable act. (The motion! Cloture!)
Citizen Langevin: I request the floor to speak against cloture. I have something personal that I want to speak about.
Citizens Victor Clément and J.-B. Clément request the floor to speak against cloture.
Several members: To a vote! To a vote!
Citizen President: I put cloture to a vote.
Cloture is put to a vote and pronounced.
Citizen Langevin: Citizen Urbain said that the minority had supported Lefrançais’s proposal, which conferred the Committee of Public Safety with plenary powers over the commissions and delegations. I am proud to have voted with the minority in many circumstances, but I reject Citizen Urbain’s assertion. I voted against the Committee of Public Safety’s motion, which gave it plenary powers.
Citizen Urbain, president: I maintain my assertion.
Citizen J.-B. Clément: I don’t accept despotism, and I protest against the cloture vote. Conspiracies were spoken of and I want to defend myself. (Interruptions) We are told to run to our neglected municipalities; many among those of the minority have never gone to their town halls.
Citizen Dereure: That’s true!
Citizen President: Cloture was voted and I must sustain it.
Citizen Ostyn: You didn’t sustain it when you let people speak.
Citizen J.-B. Clément: I ask to respond as well.
Citizen Régère: I request that we vote on the motion of Citizen Vaillant. This motion, all of whose terms I don’t accept – since I believe Citizen Vaillant has gone beyond his ideas – nevertheless gives satisfaction to the majority and the main interests of the Commune, because it states that the minority, by resuming its seats here, tacitly disavows its regrettable manifesto.
Citizen President: I gave readings of the two motions put forth by Citizens Miot and Vaillant. I am going to put them to a vote.
Citizen Victor Clément: I will not vote. Given that I don’t recognize a majority’s right to commit a minority, I don’t recognize our right to commit our colleagues.
Citizen Pyat: You declared that the Commune had abdicated.
Citizen Victor Clément: Will Citizen Pyat permit me to speak only of the motion? I think that if there is someone who has never stirred up passions in a debate, it is I.
Citizen J. Miot pronounces a few words that don’t reach us.
Citizen Victor Clément: I will answer Citizen Miot by saying that if he wants to descend to the realm of intentions we'll never finish. For my part, I would never insult a member of the Commune by believing that outside his acts he has evil intentions. It’s your right to condemn our manifesto, but what I call for is an act of justice. We can’t vote the motion because that would mean committing colleagues who are not here.
Citizen Arnould: In response to an interruption, I will say that if I wasn’t at my town hall it’s because I had an important delegation that took up my time.
Citizen Dereure: You had no need to say that the municipal administrations were neglected.
Citizen President: I put to a vote the two motions that have been proposed.
The motion proposed by Citizen Vaillant is voted on and rejected. The motion proposed by Citizen Miot is then put to a vote and adopted.
Citizen Billioray (returning): The cartridge depot on the Rue Rapp has just exploded and it’s still burning. This is treason and yet you talk! They've arrested the traitor who set the fire. (Movement)
Citizen President: I will no longer cede the floor on the question of the manifesto.
Citizen Vaillant: I ask the members who are in charge of the municipalities to please listen to me. The Commune gave me a delegation in which I often find myself in conflict with certain municipalities, while with others everything is for the best. Education doesn’t function as it should. Today I will speak to you about the Jesuits. They are intervening everywhere and in every way. The enthusiastic municipalities were done with them in two days; in others they weren’t able to be driven out. It is urgent that two months after March 18 we should see no more of these people. It would be good if the municipalities were to be a bit more zealous...
Citizen Régère: Be precise!
Citizen Vaillant: ...and make them completely disappear within forty-eight hours. Here is what I propose: “On the proposal of the delegation for education the Commune decides: Given the many warnings given to the arrondissement municipalities to substitute secular education for religious education;
Within forty-eight hours a list shall be compiled of all the schools still held by the congregations. This list shall be published every day in the Officiel, including the names of the members of the Commune delegated to the municipal government of the arrondissement where the orders of the Commune on the subject of the establishment of strictly secular education have not been executed.”
Citizen Vaillant’s proposal, put to a vote, is adopted.
Citizen Ostyn: I request that I be allowed to place on the desk the list of the religious communities that exist within Paris.
Citizen Mortier: I have an important question to address. A police superintendent came to our arrondissement to evacuate and close the church. This operation was carried out in such a way that it caused a riot in the neighborhood. Why weren’t we notified in advance?
Citizen Courbet: In the presence of serious acts that are occurring at various points General Safety had to take exceptional measure and execute them without delay. It believes it has done its duty. (Yes!)
Citizen Gambon: At a time like this we should exclusively concern ourselves with the war and all the questions that go with it. (Agreement)
Citizen Urbain, president: Citizen Vésinier proposes the following decrees:
1. Titles of nobility, coats of arms, liveries, noble privileges and honorific distinctions are abolished. Pensions, rents, prerogatives, and all that go along with these are suppressed.
2. Increases of all kinds are abolished, and the rents, pensions, and privileges that flow from them are suppressed.
3. The Legion of Honor and all honorific orders are abolished. A subsequent decree will determine which legionnaire pensions should be maintained; the rest shall be suppressed.
“The law of May 8, 1816 is annulled. The decree of March 21, 1803 promulgated the 31st of that month is once again in effect.
All recognized children are legitimate and will enjoy all the rights of legitimate children.
All so-called natural children who are not recognized are recognized by the Commune as legitimate.
All male citizens aged eighteen and female citizens aged sixteen who declare before a municipal magistrate that they want to unite in the ties of marriage shall be united, on the condition that they also declare that they are not married and that they have neither father nor mother nor relatives up to the degree that in the eyes of the law is a hindrance to marriage.
They are dispensed from any other legal formality.
Their children, if they have any, will be recognized as legitimate on their simple declaration.”
And another proposal of Citizen Durand’s:
I propose to the Commune that it decree that in the future no move can take place until a customs officer or some other agent of the Commune has checked the packaging.
Citizen J.-B. Clément’s proposal is put to a vote and urgently adopted.
Citizen President: Here is a proposal made by Citizen Miot:
“I ask the commission of justice if it is ready to make its report on my proposal relating to the reform of the prisons.”
Upon the request of Citizen Ledroit a reading is given of the following proposal, made by the council of the Fifth Legion:
“Considering that every honest citizen has the right to fight for his country’s freedom in whatever camp chance has placed him,
Article 1. Any citizen who will have taken part in the defense of communal freedoms and the republic will have the right to a pension of 300 francs, the first quarterly amount of which will be paid three months after the day when total victory is carried off by the defenders of the republic over the Versaillais royalists.
Article 2. Any soldier from the Versaillais army, whatever corps he might belong to, who lines up under the banner of the Commune and the republic will have the right to the same pension.
Article 3. Any citizen from the provinces who takes up arms to defend the republic and the communal institutions will also have a right to the same pension.
Article 4. Any officer or non-commissioned officer of the Versailles army who comes to defend the flag of freedom will have right to a pension in proportion to his rank.”
Citizen Billioray: I request that I be allowed to read you a dispatch that I just received on the subject of the explosion that just occurred on the Avenue Rapp. (Movement of lively interest)
A reading of the dispatch is made.
Citizen President: In the face of all that is happening we should show less hesitation in voting for the repressive measures that are proposed to us. (Yes)
A member: I ask that a war contribution be voted against the shopkeepers who left Paris to escape service in the National Guard. (Supported)
Citizen President: This proposal will be discussed at a later time. Citizens, I inform you that our next sitting will be the day after tomorrow.
Citizen Léo Frankel: Given the events that are currently taking place I declare that I will participate in the sittings.
Citizen President: The minutes will state that Citizen Léo Frankel has withdrawn his signature from the manifesto.
The sitting is adjourned at 7:00 p.m.