[Dallas filed reports almost daily throughout the period under the Commune from late March to early May 1871; this was one of the first. - Graham Law]

The Revolution in Paris (from Our Special Correspondent)

Paris, Wednesday Night [29 March]
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llow me to say that in England you are not sympathetic enough towards the new Revolution. Oppose it if you will; I believe that under present circumstances it ought to be opposed. But it represents a great idea - an idea that sooner or later will bear fruit, and triumph. It needs not to say that those who work out the present Revolution have ulterior views; they wish to see the triumph of their socialistic and economical theories. I confess to feeling a great interest in the present revolution, and some sympathy with it, because of its political bearing, which is quite independent of any socialism to be tacked on to it by way of corollary. It is quite natural that ardent Republicans should be shocked at the reactionary tendency of the rural districts, and should wish to put an end to rural domination. Also the scheme for putting an end to the rural supremacy, by federating the great free towns in a grand combination, is legitimate, and even plausible. The great objection to any such scheme is simply that now is not the time. But the Revolutionists may well reply that, if now is not the time, to-morrow may be too late; it is incumbent on them to strike, at once - now or never. That is their excuse, if not their justification. And there is this to be said for the idea, that, if it is not successful now, it is because the other French towns which have imitated Paris have not fully seized it. Paris alone cannot work out the scheme - it is essential that she should have in league with her the great towns whose statues sit, as it were, in council around her, in the Place de la Concorde. And if by chance the Government should be able to stamp out the revolution for the present, be sure that the idea which is at the root of it, will spread and fructify in the French mind, and the French towns will one day rise together to insist on their supremacy in the councils of the nation. M. Thiers insists that the Revolution has totally failed in the provinces, and is at its last gasp. It may be so; but the seed is sown, and it will ere long grow. Nothing can stay this growth - nothing retard its ripening - if the French are allowed their liberty. You may bring back a despotism here, and put down all opposition with a high hand; but is this likely? On the other hand, it is absolutely certain that if the French live under a free Government, the towns - come what may - will not submit to the domination of rural majorities. They will say, "It is we who are the life and soul of France — who make it great — who lead it in the way of progress and enlightenment; and we will not endure a form of government imposed on us by ignorant peasantry, who are incapable of thought, and are led like sheep by the priests to the voting urns."

Gustave Doré's Sister of Charity Saving a Child, Episode in the Siege of Paris 1870-1871, Musée d'art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre. [Click on the image for more information.]

But a man may have great confidence in the ultimate triumph of this movement, and yet not be at all sure of its immediate success. The friends of M. Thiers and the Assembly vaunt loudly their resources. See all the soldiers and National Guards they are collecting. In a few days - in a week - the Government will be in a position, they say, to take active steps, and to re-establish order. If it comes to a question of brute force against brute force, it is most likely that these National Guards of Paris can hold their own against any troops which the Government can bring against them. The opposing troops may be better soldiers, but they will have little heart to fight against their fellow-citizens. If the Revolution fails, it will be chiefly through want of resources able to sustain it in Paris, until the other great towns have fully apprehended the nature of the political idea which they are called on to support. The Commune is at its wit's end for money, and is reduced to all kinds of shifts. I have already informed you that the Journal Officiel has proposed that the indemnity of the war should be paid by confiscating the property of the "authors of the war" - that is, the rich proprietors, but chiefly the Imperialists. It is now proposed by members of the Commune to raise funds by seizing upon house property in Paris belonging to the Imperial family and courtiers, and selling it. This property is, or at least was, very valuable; and if it could be disposed of, would probably realise a large sum. But where are the buyers? Who will buy from the Commune, and risk the title-deeds they may convey? The Bourse was opened yesterday, and no transactions worth speaking of took place; people were afraid. If you cannot buy and sell upon the Bourse, under the eye of the Commune, such portable property as rentes, stocks, and shares, how can you expect to buy and sell in open market houses and lands? All public sales are stopped, and least of all are purchasers likely to come forward for house property represented in doubtful title deeds. And besides that the Commune is afflicted with a want of resources, it will soon have to deal with terrible discontent from the tradesmen who, in the present condition of affairs, can earn little or nothing. While all this revolutionising goes on, trade stands still. The Figaro makes a curious but rather exaggerated calculation. It says that in consequence of the insurrection 150,000 of the wealthy Parisians have left the town, and there are 200,000 foreigners who would have come here to enjoy the season and examine the evidences of the siege. Paris is therefore deprived of the presence of 350,000 persons, who would each probably have spent on an average 1,000 francs, partly in hotels and restaurants, partly in the shops. Here are 350,000,000 francs which might be spent in Paris, and which the insurgents drive away. The calculation may be exaggerated, but it is founded on fact, and is very suggestive. And how long can the Commune hold out in such poverty and discontent, if it is not supported by the provincial towns, and thus made triumphant in the country? If, as seemed likely, the provincial towns sided with it, as no doubt they will side hereafter, no power but that of the German army could have risen in France to put down the Commune. If, on the other hand, it be true, as M. Thiers declares, that the great towns of the provinces have definitively declared for the Assembly and declined revolution, which, however, is not at all certain, then Paris must very soon succumb, or else be the scene of prodigious slaughter and rapine. Citizen Varlin told the Commune at its first meeting that it was in terrible need of funds; and the need is such that we may expect soon to hear either of some gigantic effort to supply the want by foul means, if not by fair, or of some not less gigantic collapse.

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[Dallas, Eneas Sweetland]. "The Revolution in Paris," Daily News (31 March 1871): 5d-e.

Created 2 February 2024