Heinrich Heine: French Affairs Pt. 1

Excerpt, Works of Heinrich Heine, Volume 14. Translator Charles Godfrey Leland.


There is not much which is true or accurate which will ever be published relative to the unsuccessful insurrection of the fifth and sixth of June, 1832, because both parties are deeply interested in distorting such facts as are known, and concealing those which are not. The following bulletins, written in the face of events, in the roar of party strife, and always just before the departure of the post, in order that the correspondents of the Juste-Milieu should not be the first in the field — these fleeting leaves I here give unchanged, so far as they refer to the insurrection of the fifth of June. The writer of history may perhaps use them the more conscientiously, since he may at least be sure that they were not prepared for or adapted to later interests.

And though no special contradiction is needed for many erroneous conjectures which may be found in these pages, I cannot here refrain from giving one. General Lafayette has recently declared that he was not the man who, on the Fifth of June, draped the red flag and the Jacobin cap. Our old general showed himself on that day, as I have since learned, fully worthy of himself. A discretion, which will be readily appreciated, forbids my communicating at present certain details of this, which would inspire the most incarnate Jacobin with emotion and respect for Lafayette.

And some may find in these pages, as in this whole book, many extraordinary assertions, but they never concern things, but always persons. Over the first, we must have settled opinions; as to the latter, they may change every day. Even so I, as regards the evil system in which Louis Philippe sticks as in a bog, have always said the same thing; but as regards his person, I have not always expressed myself in the same tone. At first I disliked him, because I thought him an aristocrat; later, when I was convinced of his sound citizen feeling, I spoke much better of him.

When he frightened us with the etat de siege, I was again angered, but this was allayed after the first days, when it appeared that the poor Louis Philippe only in the stupefaction of his own terror had made that mistake. And since then, the Carlists by their slanders have inspired in me a true fondness for the person of this monarch…

Paris, June 5, 1832

The funeral of General Lamarque, un convoi d’opposition, as the Philippists say, has just passed from the Madeleine to the Place de la Bastile. There were many more mourners than spectators than at the burial of Casimir Perier. The people themselves drew the hearse. A very striking sight in the procession was that of foreign patriots, whose national flags were carried in a row. I remarked among them one whose colours were black, carmine-red and gold. At one o’clock, there fell a heavy rain, which lasted half an hour or more, yet in spite of it there remained an immense crowd on the Boulevards, mostly bareheaded.

When the procession came to the Varietes Theatre, and just as it passed the Column of the Amis du Peuple, and many called “Viva la Republique!” a police sergeant attempted to interfere, but the mob fell on him, broke his sword, and a terrible tumult ensued, which was subdued with great difficulty. The sight of such a disturbance, which set several hundred thousands of men into motion, was both remarkable and significant.

It is said to have been known yesterday in the Tuileries that the Duchesse de Berry had been captured at Nantes. Should this be the case, Louis Philippe must be in a sad dilemma, since he cannot really hand over the niece of the Queen – who made such piteous appeal to him – to the tribunals, and yet must avert from himself suspicion of maintaining intimate relations with his family at Holyrood. It is positively known that Marshal Bourmont has been taken. If delivered to a military court he will die like Ney, but less famous and less lamented.

Paris, June 6, 1832

I do not know whether I mentioned in my letter of yesterday that an emeute was announced in the evening. As Lamarque’s funeral passed along the Boulevards and appeared at the Theatre des Varietes, trouble was already perceptible.

It is difficult to determine on which side lay the blame that passion broke out so terribly. The most contradictory rumours are current as regards the beginning of hostilities, the events of the night, and the whole situation of things. I will here mention only one incident which has reached me from many directions, and which has been confirmed by most credible authority.

When Lafayette, whose presence at the funeral awoke universal enthusiasm, had ended his address on the place by the Bridge of Austerlitz, where the ceremonies took place, a wreath of immortelles was placed upon his head. At the same time, a red Phrygian cap was put on an entirely red flag which had previously attracted much attention, and a pupil of the Ecole Polytechnique, raised on the shoulders by bystanders, waved his sword over the cap and cried, “Vuva la Liberte!” or as others say, “Viva la Republique!”

Then Lafayette, it is said, placed his wreath of immortelles on the red cap of freedom, as is declared by many credible people who saw it with their own eyes. It is possible that he executed this symbolic deed by compulsion or surprise, but it is also possible that a third hand was in the game which played without being remarked in the great crowd. After this manifestation, according to some, an attempt was made to carry the red flag and wreath in triumph through the city, and as the municipal guards and sergeants de ville opposed this with arms, the fight began.

This is at least certain, that when Lafayette, wearied with a four hour drive, got into a fiacre, the mob took out the horses and dragged their old and truest friend with their own hands, amid tremendous cheers, along the Boulevards. Many of the working-class had torn up young trees from the ground and ran with them like wild creatures beside the carriage, which seemed at one time to be in danger of being upset by the unmanageable crowd. It is said that two bullets struck the carriage. I can give no details relative to this singular occurrence.

Many whom I questioned as to the beginning of the hostilities declare that they broke out by the Bridge of Austerlitz, on account of the corpse of the hero; that while a portion of the “patriots” bore the coffin to the Pantheon, another portion would carry it farther to the next village. and that the sergeants de ville and municipal guards opposed such plans. So they fought with great bitterness, even as men fought as yore before the Skaic gate for the body of Petrochlus. Much blood was spilt on the Place de la Bastile. At half-past six, battle had begun at the Porta Saint-Denis, where the people built barricades.

Many posts of importance were taken, for the National Guards who defended them made but feeble resistance and gave up their arms. And so the people got many guns. I found on the Place Notre Dame des Victoires a great noise of fighting; the “patriots” had occupied three positions by the Bank. As I turned to the Boulevard, all shops were closed, and few people, among them very few woman, who are, however, generally accustomed to very boldly gratify their curiosity on such occasions; every one looked very serious. Troops of the line and cuirassiers moved hither and thither; orderlies with anxious countenances rushed about bearing orders; in the distance firing of guns and powder-smoke.

The weather was now clear, and towards evening very favorable. Matters seemed to be looking very serious for the Government when it was made known that the National Guards had declared for the insurgents. The error originated in this, that many of the patriots yesterday assumed the dress of the National Guards, and the guards were really for some time in doubt as to which party they should support.

During the night the wives probably proved to the husbands that the party should be supported which offered the best guarantee for personal safety and property, and that this was to be expected far more with Philippe than from the Republicans, who are very poor and very detrimental to trade or business. Therefore, today the National Guard is altogether against the Republicans, and the affair is decided. “C’est un coup manque,” say the people. Troops of the line are coming from every direction in Paris. On the Place de la Concorde as well as on the other side of the Tuileries and the Place de Carousel are many cannon. The bourgeois king is surrounded by bourgeois cannon — ou peut on etre mieux qu’au sein de la famille?

Now it is four o’clock and raining heavily, which is very unfavourable for the patriots, who have mostly barricaded themselves in the Quartier Saint-Martin and receive little aid. They are surrounded on all sides, and I hear at this instant the most terrific roar of cannon. I am told that two hours ago the people had great hope of victory, but now their only hope is to die heroically. And there will be many of them. As I live by the Porte Saint-Denis, I have hardly slept all night, for the discharge of arms was without cessation. The roar of the cannon has in my heart the saddest echo. It is an unfortunate event, which will have still sadder consequences.

To be continued…



Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette