Armand Barbès prisoner at Mont-Saint-Michel (1839-1843)

Armand Barbès prisoner at Mont-Saint-Michel (1839-1843)

  • Autograph letter signed by Armand Barbès to Emmanuel Arago, lawyer, from Mont-Saint-Michel prison.

  • Portrait of Barbès in prison.

    TRAVIES DE VILLERS Charles Joseph (1804 - 1859)

  • Pipe head with the effigy of Armand Barbès.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Pipe head with the effigy of Emmanuel Arago.

    ANONYMOUS

To close

Title: Autograph letter signed by Armand Barbès to Emmanuel Arago, lawyer, from Mont-Saint-Michel prison.

Author :

Creation date : 1842

Date shown: 01 December 1842

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Departmental Archives of La Manche website

Contact copyright: © Departmental Archives of Manche

Picture reference: AD Round 2J 515

Autograph letter signed by Armand Barbès to Emmanuel Arago, lawyer, from Mont-Saint-Michel prison.

© Departmental Archives of Manche

To close

Title: Portrait of Barbès in prison.

Author : TRAVIES DE VILLERS Charles Joseph (1804 - 1859)

Creation date : 1835

Date shown: 1835

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Black chalk drawing

Storage location: Carnavalet Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Habouzit

Picture reference: 87 CAR 5646 A / Inv.n0 D2446 E.7618

Portrait of Barbès in prison.

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Habouzit

To close

Title: Pipe head with the effigy of Armand Barbès.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Carnavalet Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Ladetsite web

Picture reference: 98 CAR 0548 A / Inv, n ° 0.P.236

Pipe head with the effigy of Armand Barbès.

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Ladet

To close

Title: Pipe head with the effigy of Emmanuel Arago.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Carnavalet museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Ladetsite web

Picture reference: 98 CAR 0550 A / Inv, n ° 0.P.138

Pipe head with the effigy of Emmanuel Arago.

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Ladet

Publication date: November 2004

Historical context

Solitary confinement

Faced with the incessant attacks and repeated riots, the conservative rulers of the late 1830s wanted to put an end to the special prison regime developed by Adolphe Thiers. The "continuous isolation" of convicts in separate cells is imperative.

The July monarchy dispatched far from Paris, on the islet surrounded by walls of Mont-Saint-Michel, the most dangerous opponents: Republican leaders, holders of powder and ammunition suspected of preparing "infernal machines" or attempts to regicide and condemned to death pardoned. By placing prisoners in silence and seclusion and by breaking the toughest temperaments, will the prison succeed in controlling the revolutionary political and social threat?

Armand Barbès [1], sentenced to death in 1839 for attempted insurrection and amnestied by Louis-Philippe, was sent to Mont-Saint-Michel on July 17, 1839 with three other convicts including Martin-Bernard, who left a detailed account of his stay. Blanqui and five other insurgents joined them on February 6, 1840.

The detainees struggle from the moment they arrive against the rigors of solitary confinement, speaking to each other through window frames, chimneys and through walls and also contacting the inhabitants of the Mount. The entire opposition press condemns solitary confinement and double bars.

Image Analysis

Letter from Armand Barbès to Emmanuel Arago (December 1, 1842)

Barbès addresses this warm letter to the lawyer who, after the failed uprising of 1839, had the audacity to ensure the lost cause of his defense: Emmanuel Arago (1812-1896), son of the famous physicist and astronomer. His English writing, quite common in the nineteenth century, but original by its high regular letters very well drawn, reveals his strong personality, open, focused on others and particularly confident.

Barbès soberly evokes the sufferings of incarceration and laryngeal phthisis that he contracted in 1842 during his stay in “these abominable lodges”: cells in the attic of the north gallery of the cloister where the prisoners were to, depending on the season, endure the damp and freezing cold or the scorching heat. At most he admits his preference for the straitjacket or even the executioner (Mr. Samson) to this insidious disease which consumes his strength. His physical and moral exhaustion is expressed in this "we die in detail" (little by little, little by little), a phrase published by the newspaper The Workshop, an organ for the moral and material interests of workers of November 1841 and which had made a lot of noise: [the authorities] "gave life to Barbès, but it was to try to kill him in detail".

How far away to the prisoner the great city and "the struggle of democracy against the bourgeoisie" appear! L'infamous takes up the rallying cry launched by Voltaire against superstition, fanaticism and intolerance. Barbès evokes friends including the publicist and philosopher Pierre Leroux, follower of Saint-Simonism and friend of George Sand, like Arago and himself. He gave news of his incarcerated companions, Hubert Louis and Martin-Bernard, but did not mention Blanqui with whom he had quarreled since the riot of May 12, 1839.

This measured tone testifies to the exceptional bravery of the "Bayard of Democracy" who has just lived three and a half years of very harsh imprisonment. A revolutionary with no real project, Barbes left little political writing, but his abundant correspondence, often circulated by Republican committees, made him a very popular figure for several decades. Its aura will not fade until the end of the century, in the face of rising socialism.

On January 26, 1843, less than two months after this letter, his condition having worsened, Barbès was transferred to the central house in Nîmes.

Portrait of young Barbès

We do not have a portrait of Barbès au Mont but an earlier drawing made in black chalk by the cartoonist Traviès, during his imprisonment in Paris in 1835. He shows him with hair still long and a silhouette that deprivation does not have still thinner. The dark atmosphere of the work where only the face is lit underlines the unworthy fate of the prisoner and already gives him a melancholy aura.

Two short pipe heads

These pipe heads, whose furnaces reproduced the heads of well-known politicians at the time, were very popular in the mid-19th century. Very similar, the face of Armand Barbès, as it appears after his incarceration at the Mont, and that of Emmanuel Arago show the place of the two characters in popular fervor ... to the point that these pipe heads will be among the compromising objects after Napoleon III's coup d'état (1851)!

Interpretation

The failure of solitary confinement

The prisoners' struggles gave very bad publicity to the separation regime within the power station. Solitary confinement was abandoned at the Mont, and the government preferred to close the political quarter.

The liberal advances of the beginning of the reign had been called into question, but ten years of perilous struggles by political prisoners that nothing had succeeded in breaking contributed to the final maintenance of the political detention regimes.

The failure to set up the cellular utopia between 1839 and 1847 also resulted in the triumph of deportation solutions. From the following decade, mass deportations, in Algeria, then in Guyana and New Caledonia, replaced political imprisonment.

  • Barbès (Armand)
  • July Monarchy
  • Mont Saint Michel
  • political opponents
  • jail
  • republicans
  • Handle

Bibliography

Exhibition catalog Armand Barbès and the Revolution of 1848, Carcassonne, Museum of Fine Arts of Carcassonne-Departmental Archives of Aude, 1998.MARTIN-BERNARD, Ten years in prison at Mont-Saint-Michel and the citadel of Doullens, 1839 to 1848, Paris, 1861. Jean-Claude VIMONT, The Political Prison in France. Genesis of a specific mode of incarceration (18th-20th centuries), Paris, Anthropos, 1993.

Notes

1. Barbès, born in Guadeloupe spent part of his childhood in Carcassonne and his adolescence at the College of Sorèze (Tarn) and inherited a comfortable fortune from his father. After 1830, he became an active activist of the Society for Human Rights, which earned him several imprisonments in Paris. He founded with Blanqui the Secret Society of Families and then, in 1838, the Society of Seasons, whose most significant action was the failed insurrection of May 12, 1839.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "Armand Barbès prisoner at Mont-Saint-Michel (1839-1843)"


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