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3 - Guards, spies and commissaires: policing the capital

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

David Andress
Affiliation:
University of Portsmouth
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Summary

The tragic incomprehensions that formed the political landscape of Paris would be reflected again in responses to the confused journée of 28 February. Before returning to that we need to gain a clearer view of the operations of those charged with public order, an arena within which the Fayettist quest for political order was played out. The multiple demands of the Section de la Place-Vendôme on 22 February give a sense of the alarm that frequently arose in the population at the threat of disorder. The unauthorised wearing of Guard uniforms was a particular concern, considering both the revolutionaries' highly-tuned sense of visual identity and the licence such an imposture gave to go armed. Nor was it entirely an empty fear – on 18 January a man who worked on the fish boats was arrested wearing the full uniform and equipment of a grenadier, and passed nearly a month in prison before being released with a warning. On 5 February a journeyman locksmith dressed as a gunner was arrested, for that fact as well as for ‘having spread invective against the National Assembly’. He spent eleven days in prison. The next day a man threatened a deputy with a sabre, which was confiscated. He was allowed to keep the chasseur uniform he was wearing, however, so he may have been just an enraged patriot.

Whatever the reason for such impostures (and it is likely that the secondhand clothing trade had something to do with it) there was also a very real undercurrent of popular hostility to the National Guard itself.

Type
Chapter
Information
Massacre at the Champ de Mars
Popular Dissent and Political Culture in the French Revolution
, pp. 61 - 84
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2000

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