The capture of Louis Auguste Blanqui, “the official father of the Commune,” is a blow to the Communards, who will seek to negotiate a hostage exchange to secure his release.
Reclus – The Paris Commune Day By Day
The Paris Commune, in which the Blanquists are numerous, too numerous, affirms that Blanqui, sick and perhaps dying, was arrested in the night deep in a department of the south, where he had taken refuge during the siege. The government of Versailles, which seized him in the aftermath of its coup of March 18, refused him a trial, even by a military tribunal, imprisoned him no one knows where, and placed him in a location that is so well kept a secret that Blanqui’s elderly sister has not been able to discover his prison or even learn if he is still alive. Thiers responded that he will give no information on this man until order is re-established.
For a government punctilious when it comes to legality, for a government that doesn’t even deign to enter into negotiations with the elected representatives of 200,000 voters, and doesn’t hesitate to resort to cannons and bayonets because it claims that Paris committed the wrong of conforming to certain legal forms rather than others, this is treating equity, and not only justice, but the law, quite cavalierly. The law had never permitted the suppression, that is, the disappearance of the accused who, the Code Civile says, “must always be presented at the first requisition of the family,” so that it can be verified that the prisoner was not murdered in prison by his enemies.
Blanqui was condemned to death by his enemies, Jules Favre, Simon and Trochu, for his participation in the events of October 31. He was judged and sentenced in absentia. The trial should be conducted again. Since that time he has been elected a member of the Commune by the people of Paris. He has never taken his seat, and we don’t even know id he has accepted. It is true that he fought all his life to have a Commune in Paris; his utopia, his dreams were suddenly realized, more as a result of M. Thier’s mischief than as a result of Blanqui’s long conspiracies. The Blanquists of the Commune would like to name him honorary president of the Commune, but Delescluze and several others have declared that if that were to happen they would hand in their resignations. Blanqui, the official father of the Commune, plays no role in the actions of his child, and it is supremely unjust that M. Thiers hold him responsible and has his fate depend on the “re-establishment of order.”
Illegality engenders illegality; one injustice produces another injustice. Citing Blanqui’s sequestration, the Blanquists of the Commune have demanded that we take hostages and that Versaillas prisoners guarantee the fate of Parisian prisoners or their friends. We have returned to the morals of the Middle Ages, to patriarchal justice – hostages and reprisals, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, imprisonment for imprisonment, murder for murder.
During the night of April 4-5 Father Deguerry, curate of the Madeleine, one of the most influential men of the Catholic party, Monsignor Darby, and two of his vicar generals along with Senator Bonjean were arrested and sent to the Conciergerie.
The road M. Thiers is entering, and upon which the Commune is hurrying to follow him, is dangerous. It was with a shiver of fright this morning that we read the decree posted on the walls: “Every execution of a prisoner of war or a supporter of the regular government of the Paris Commune will be immediately followed by the execution of triple that number of hostages.” This word “triple” particularly displeases us. If the Versaillais scalp Parisians, we ask that the Parisians in turn only scalp one Versaillais for one Parisian. If these attacks on humanity committed inside or outside the walls of Paris, it is shameful for the legal Assembly; it is shameful for the revolutionary Commune, if the latter is forced to it or not.
Source: Élie Reclus – The Paris Commune Day by Day. Included in: Abidor, M. – Communards: The Story of the Paris Commune of 1871 As Told by Those Who Fought for It (Marxists Internet Archive: 2010)
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