Glossary of Terms, People and Events

Glossary of Terms, People and Events

Certain terms, people and events continually appear in Proudhon’s work. Rather than footnote each occurrence, information on them is summarised here. As with many French writers he refers to revolutionary events by date (i.e., ’89 for the start of the Great French Revolution and so on). He also refers to Year I, Year II, and so on, which are from the French Revolutionary calendar that began on September 22nd, 1792, the date of the official abolition of the monarchy and the nobility.


Agiotage: This refers to stock exchange business, especially stock-jobbing (i.e., dealing in stocks and shares). It includes speculative dealing in stock exchange securities or foreign exchange. It can also mean any form of speculation on goods and prices.

Agrarian Law: Laws passed for the redistribution of property in land (loi agraire). It usually referred to the breaking up of estates into parcels of land owned and worked by individuals. In Confessions d’un Révolutionnaire, Proudhon cautions that land reform of this kind can easily become a mere populist tactic in the hands of politicians, a route to dictatorship rather than equality.

Assignats: Notes issued as paper currency in France (1789-96) by the revolutionary government and secured by confiscated lands. They were usually blamed for the hyperinflation during the revolutionary period as there was little control over how many were printed.

Collective force: This is Proudhon’s term for the way in which individuals’ combined action can produce something greater than their mere sum. This concept entails:

1.) a critique of wage labour. In What Is Property?, Proudhon points out that while the labour of one person would be incapable of single-handedly raising a granite obelisk even in two hundred days, two hundred labourers are able to raise it in a single day. As the employer pays nothing for this extra labour-power produced by collective activity and co-operation, workers are exploited by capital;

2.) a theory of “collective reason” for which the results of combined intellectual labour, no less than combined manual labour, can exceed the sum of the parts (anticipating certain theories of the social construction of knowledge – e.g., educator Paolo Freire’s);

3.) a theory of political power as deriving from cooperative action or “social power” (reminiscent of Étienne de la Boëtie’s, and anticipating those of Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault);

4.) a concept of “collective being” that radically distinguishes Proudhon’s philosophy from any liberal or neoliberal conception (where a Margaret Thatcher could say that there is no such thing as society, only individuals, Proudhon contends that it is social relations that give individuals their reality, that freedom itself is a social relationship);

5.) an explanation of the paradoxical relationship between freedom and determinism (while every being is determined by the forces that converge to constitute it, the “resultant” of these forces cannot be simply predicted from their origin – it is what postpositivist philosophers of science term an “emergent” property of the ensemble); and finally,

6.) a theory of alienation or fetishism as the mistaking of effects for causes — e.g., taking money, which only has value by the force of collective agreement, for the source of value, or taking the leader, who only has power by the force of collective obedience, for the source of power.

Commune: A commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. It can be a city of 2 million inhabitants (such as Paris); a town of 10,000; or just a 10-person hamlet. It appeared in the 12th century from Medieval Latin communia, which means a gathering of people sharing a common life (from Latin communis, things held in common).

Commutative: A commutative contract is one in which what is done, given or promised by one party is considered as equivalent to what is done, given or promised by the other. Proudhon rejects the “distributive” conception of justice (for which someone in authority – a judge, a boss, a sovereign, a God – decides what each person deserves) in favour of “commutative justice.” See synallagmatic.

Community: Proudhon usually termed the various schemes of authoritarian socialism he opposed “community” (la communauté). He had in mind radicals like Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, Louis Blanc and Pierre Leroux who thought of socialism as being organised around highly regulated (and usually hierarchical) communities.

Corporation: This was the term used in France to describe the producer organisations of Medieval times. Like a Guild in Britain, these gathered together craftsmen of the same profession and regulated it locally and nationally. They were abolished during the French Revolution as the new regime proclaimed that no intermediate body could interpose itself between the citizen and the state (the same law was used to ban trade unions and journeymen associations). The term was used by socialists in 19th century France to describe organisations of worker-run co-operatives. Proudhon (particularly after 1848) usually used it in this sense, namely a federation of co-operatives in a given industry. It should not be confused with modern corporations (i.e., stock issuing companies) which Proudhon opposed as being basically identical to state-communist associations.

Department: A department (département) is a French administrative division roughly analogous to a Scottish region, a United States county or an English district. In other words, an intermediary organisation between the commune and region, a sub-region.

Deputies: Deputies (députés) are elected representatives, such as Members of Parliament, National Assembly or Senate.

Doctrinaire: The Doctrinaires were a small group of French Royalists who hoped to reconcile the Monarchy with the French Revolution during the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830). As is often the case, their name was given to them in derision and by an enemy. Liberal royalists, they were in favour of a constitutional monarchy but with an extremely limited suffrage based on property restrictions. Such a system was implemented after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, with the new King presiding over a Chamber of Peers and a Chamber of deputies elected by around 100,000 wealthy Frenchmen.

Eclecticism: The philosophy of “Eclecticism” espoused by Victor Cousin (1792-1867), which held that truth was to be found not in any one school of thought but “scattered here and there in all systems” (Cousin, in George Ripley, ed. and trans., Philosophical Miscellanies [Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Co., 1838], 102), was a frequent target of Proudhon’s criticism.

Force majeure: Force majeure (“superior force”) is a common clause in contracts which essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond their control occurs.

Garnisaire: Garnisaires (literally garrisons) were (sometimes ad hoc) soldiers billeted on households to force them to pay their dues to the state.

Girondist: The Girondists were a moderate republican political faction during the French Revolution, so called because the most prominent exponents of their point of view in the Legislative Assembly and the National Convention were deputies from the Gironde. Accused of federalism by the Jacobins and repressed during the Terror.

Guaranteeism: For Proudhon, Garantisme denoted a comprehensive system of social guarantees which conferring on citizens a series of economic rights and protections based on associations of joint interest and reciprocal guarantees. In short, the economy would be regulated by the producers and their organisations. The term originally referred to a system of association advocated by utopian socialist Charles Fourier which aimed to seek protection against socio-economic risk. In Fourier’s scheme, Guaranteeism (or semi-association) was the sixth order of society, a transitional stage before eventually reaching Harmony, the final stage of human evolution.

Hôtel de Ville: Town Hall.

Increase: This is Benjamin Tucker’s usual translation of aubaine, a French word without an exact equivalent in English, which can mean something like “a stroke of good fortune” (a “bargain,” a “windfall”), but which Proudhon uses to designate all forms of unearned income, as he explains in What Is Property?: e.g., profit, interest, rent, usury. In short, this term stands for an entire theory of what Marx would call the appropriation of surplus value – that without which property itself could not exist.

Jacobin: During the Great French Revolution, a Jacobin was a member of the revolutionary Jacobin Club (1789–1794) and stood for a centralised national republic. Since then it refers to supporters of a centralised Republic, with power concentrated in the national government, at the expense of local or regional governments.

Journal des Débats: An influential conservative newspaper.

Juste-milieu: “the happy medium” or “middle way.” Politically this meant establishing middle-class rule, striking a balance between tradition and revolution and creating a regime safe from the extremes of revolution and reaction. It was the official ideology of the July Monarchy, as expressed in Louis-Philippe’s statement of January 1831: “We will attempt to remain in a juste milieu [happy medium], in an equal distance from the excesses of popular power and the abuses of royal power.”

The Luxembourg Commission: Established by a decree of the provisional government of the Second Republic on February 28, 1848, this was an official commission of inquiry into the conditions of French workers in response to the radical upheavals of that year, convened at the Palais de Luxembourg and headed by Louis Blanc. Proudhon often referred to this as the “system of Luxembourg” or “Luxembourg system,” opposing it as a form of centralised state socialism.

Manifesto of Sixty: This landmark publication of the French labour movement was published in L’Opinion Nationale on February 17th, 1864. It was written chiefly by Henri Tolain, a self-proclaimed follower of Proudhon. It called upon workers to bring about their own social liberation and to seek representation in the National Assembly by standing working class candidates in elections. Proudhon wrote The Political Capacity of the Working Classes to explore the implications of this work.

Le Moniteur: The official gazette of the French Government.

The Mountain: The radical Republicans of the Great French and 1848 Revolutions. The most radical part of the National Convention during the Great French Revolution who earned the nickname “the Mountain” (la Montagne) because its members occupied the highest rows of seats in the building. Members of this faction where often called “Montagnards.”

Le National: Le National (1830-1851) was a prominent centrist republican journal associated with Thiers and Cavaignac.

National Workshops: A French government programme created by the February Revolution of 1848 which was based on Louis Blanc’s scheme for state-funded and (initially) state-run producer co-operatives, as described in his book, L’Organisation du Travail (1839).

Phalanstery: A phalanstery (phalanstère) was a self-contained structure which housed a co-operative community. It was developed in the early 1800s by Charles Fourier and based on the idea of a phalanx, this self-contained community was to consist of 1,600 people living under one-roof and working together for mutual benefit. A member’s quality of life would vary with their work, talent and amount invested (“capital”). Everyone would be expected to work while a spirit of competition would exist in the shape of emulation. The term comes from the Latin phalang- (phalanx) and French -stère (as in monastère, or monastery).

Prefect: A prefect (préfet) represents the national government at the local level, i.e., the state’s representative in a department or region. Prefects are appointed by a decree of the government, serve at its discretion and can be replaced by it.

Prefecture: A prefect’s office, department, or area of control is called a prefecture, in short the area over which a civil servant has authority.

La Presse: La Presse was conservative newspaper.

The Prince: A term used by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract. The Prince referred to the government, considered to be an intermediate body set up between the subjects and the Sovereign charged with the execution of the laws and the maintenance of liberty, both civil and political. While the members of this could be called magistrates or kings (i.e., the actual governors charged with enforcing the general will), the body as a whole was referred to by the term Prince.

Raison d’État: A French expression that can sometimes be translated as “the national interest” or “reasons of State.” It refers to the reasons used to justify or rationalise acting in ways which override all other considerations of a legal or ethical kind. It was first used when Secretary of State Cardinal Richelieu justified France’s intervention in the Thirty Years’ War, despite its Catholicism, on the Protestant side in 1635 to block the increasing power of the Holy Roman Empire.

Salariat: A term Proudhon used frequently. It refers to a class of workers who are paid wages by employers (i.e., wage labour). This term was translated, at times, by Benjamin Tucker as “wages” and “wage-receiver” while John Beverly Robinson translated it as “the wage system.” This should not, however, be confused with payment by labour (distribution by deed, not need), as subsequent anarchists like Peter Kropotkin used the term “wage system” to describe. A more accurate translation would be “wage labour” or “wage worker” (depending on the context) as the etymology of the word a combination of salaire (salary, from Latin salarium) plus -ariat (as in prolétariat).

The Sonderbund: The Sonderbund (German for “separate alliance”) was created in 1845 as a league of seven Conservative cantons in Switzerland after the Radical Party gained support in the majority of cantons and took measures against the Catholic Church. This provoked the Sonderbund civil war of 1847, after which the new constitution ended the almost-complete independence of the cantons and transformed Switzerland into a federal state.

Synallagmatic: A synallagmatic contract is a bilateral or reciprocal one in which both parties provide consideration and have mutual rights and obligations. Its name is derived from the Ancient Greek synallagma, meaning mutual agreement. In On Justice, Proudhon flatly states: “Justice is synallagmatic.” See commutative.

Third Estate: In traditional French political parlance, the “Third Estate” refers to the bourgeoisie who had triumphed over the aristocracy (the “First Estate”) and clergy (the “Second Estate”) in the French Revolution.

Tribune: This was a title shared by 10 elected officials in the Roman Republic. Tribunes had the power to convene the Plebeian Council, to act as its president as well as summoning the Senate and laying proposals before it. In other words, it refers to someone who voices the demands of the people (which is why some modern politicians have been called "tribunes of the people”).

Unitarists/Unitary: Unitarists (unitaires) was the term Proudhon used to describe those who were those aiming to create a regime that was centralised, indivisible and constituted into a homogeneous unit (unitaire).

Workers’ Company: Proudhon’s preferred term for a worker-managed association (or co-operative). These associations would be collectively run by their members, with all positions democratically elected. This would, he argued, end the exploitation and oppression of capitalism.


François-Noël BABEUF (1760-1797) known as Gracchus Babeuf, was a French political agitator and journalist during the Great French Revolution. He was executed for his role in the Conspiracy of the Equals. This aimed an armed uprising of the masses against the bourgeois regime of the Directory to establish a revolutionary dictatorship as a transitional stage to “pure democracy” and “egalitarian communism.”

Claude Frédéric BASTIAT (1801-50) was a French classical liberal and political economist. One of the most prominent advocates of laissez-faire capitalism of Proudhon’s time. His main works were Economic Harmonies and Economic Sophisms.

Armand Sigismond Auguste BARBÈS (1809-70) was a French revolutionary who formed a republican secret society, the Société des Saisons, with Louis-Auguste Blanqui in 1838. The failure of a coup d’état in 1839 led to an estrangement with Blanqui which had a deeply divisive effect on the extreme left during the revolution of 1848.

Camille Hyacinthe Odilon BARROT (1791-1873) was a French politician and Prime Minister of France between 20 December 1848 and 31 October 1849. He was dismissed when Louis Napoleon replaced his legislative advisers with a personal cabinet.

Louis Jean Joseph Charles BLANC (1811-1882) was a French politician, historian and reformist state socialist. Most famous for his work L’Organisation du travail (“The Organisation of Labour”) which advocated state-funded and (initially) state-run producer co-operatives which would compete capitalism away and then abolish competition. In the Revolution of 1848 Louis Blanc became a member of the provisional government and it was on his motion that the government undertook “to guarantee the existence of the workers by work” and the national workshops. He was appointed to preside over the government labour commission (Commission du Gouvernement pour les travailleurs) established at the Palais de Luxembourg to inquire into and report on the labour question.

Jérôme-Adolphe BLANQUI (1798-1854), brother of Louis Auguste Blanqui, was a leading French economist and disciple of Jean-Baptiste Say. Though he advocated government action for the protection of the working class, he remained a liberal in the tradition of Adam Smith and Say. He was appointed to review Proudhon’s first memoir on property that had been submitted to the Academy of Besançon. Though it opposed Proudhon’s views, the review shielded him from prosecution and Proudhon responded to it in his second memoir on property.

Louis Auguste BLANQUI (1805–1881) was a noted French socialist revolutionary. He organised numerous conspiracies to overthrow the regime and thought that the revolution had to be carried out by a small group. This would establish a temporary dictatorship which would create the new social order after which power would be handed to the people. Blanqui’s uncompromising politics and regular insurrections ensured that he spent half his life in prison.

Louis-Napoléon BONAPARTE (1808-1873) was the first President of the French Republic and the last monarch of France. Nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, he was elected President of the Second Republic in December 1848. He organised a coup on 2nd December 1851 and disbanded the National Assembly. This was overwhelming approved in a plebiscite and exactly one year later another plebiscite confirmed the creation of the Second Empire and his ascension to the throne as Napoleon III. He ruled as Emperor of the French until September 1870, when he was captured in the Franco-Prussian War.

Étienne CABET (1788-1856) was a French philosopher and utopian socialist, founder of the Icarian movement. Influenced by Robert Owen, in 1840 he wrote the Travels in Icaria which depicted a utopia in which an elected government controlled all economic activity and supervised social affairs (Icaria is the name of this fictional utopian country). He led a group of emigrants to found such a society in the United States.

Louis-Eugène CAVAIGNAC (1802-57) was a French general who was given full powers by the National Assembly to crush the June Days revolt provoked by the closing of the National Workshops. This made him France’s de facto head of state and dictator. After crushing the rebel workers, killing some 1,500 of them, he laid down his dictatorial powers but continued to preside over the Executive Committee until the election of a regular president of the republic. He was expected to win the Presidential election of 10th December 1848, but lost massively to Louis-Napoleon.

Michel CHEVALIER (1806-1879), Professor of Political Economy at the Collège de France, was initially a Saint-Simonian, but later became an enthusiast of free trade and a frequent contributor to the conservative Journal des Débats.

Victor Prosper CONSIDÉRANT (1808-1893) was a French utopian Socialist and disciple of Fourier. He edited the journals Le Phalanstère, La Phalange, and La Démocratie Pacifique. He defined the notion of the “right to work” which was so important to French socialists in the 1848 Revolutions.

Pierre-Charles-François DUPIN (1784-1873) was a French mathematician and economist who gradually turned to politics. Charles X gave him the title of baron in 1824 but he sided with the Liberals and took his seat in the Left of the Chamber. Under the July Monarchy, he sat with the Centre before siding with the Right in the Second Republic. He rallied to the Second Empire and was appointed senator by Napoleon III.

Frédéric-Alfred-Pierre, comte de FALLOUX (1811–86) was a French politician and author, famous for having given his name to two laws on education which favoured private Catholic teaching. The Loi Falloux (15 March 1850) organised primary and secondary education and it provided that the clergy and members of ecclesiastical orders could be teachers without the need for qualifications. Primary schools were put under the management of the priests (curés).

Léonard Joseph Léon FAUCHER (1803-54) was a French politician and economist. He helped to organise the Bordeaux association for free-trade propaganda. After the revolution of 1848 he entered the Constituent Assembly where he opposed many social reforms (the limiting the hours of work, the creation of the national relief works in Paris, the abolition of the death penalty, amongst others). Under the presidency of Louis Napoleon he became minister of public works, and then minister of the interior. He was compelled to resign office in May 1849 but by 1851 he was again minister of the interior, until Napoleon declared his intention of restoring universal suffrage.

François Marie Charles FOURIER (1772-1837) was one of the leading Utopian socialists of the early nineteenth century. He advocated highly regulated co-operative communities called Phalanstères (his descriptions of these included detailed timetables which included the times members would rise and go to bed). Unusually for his time, he was an advocate of women’s equality. Proudhon admitted to being captivated by ideas for a short period before writing What is Property?

Antoine Eugene GENOUD (1792-1849) was a French priest and publicist. His political program was based on combining heredity Royalty with universal suffrage.

Émile de GIRARDIN (1802-81) was a journalist, publicist and politician. He was editor of the conservative newspaper La Presse in 1848 and sometimes showed progressive attitudes (he generally supported the radical Jacobins in the National Assembly). At first he supported the Second Republic, but after the rising of June 1848 he declared his support for Louis Napoleon as President, only to become one of his most violent opponents.

François Pierre Guillaume GUIZOT (1787-1874) was a dominant figure in French politics prior to the Revolution of 1848. He was one of the leaders of the liberal opposition to the government of Charles X. After 1830, he took service with the “citizen king” Louis-Philippe, eventually becoming Prime Minister in 1847. He opposed expansion of the franchise, unswervingly restricting suffrage to a mere 200,000 wealthy men. His banning of political meetings in January 1848 was the catalyst for the February Revolution which saw the establishment of the Second Republic. He is known for saying “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head’” and considered that “The spirit of revolution, the spirit of insurrection, is a spirit radically opposed to liberty.”

King JOHN (1166-1216) was King of England and reigned from 1199 to 1216. He gained the epithet “Lack-land” (Sans-Terre) because, as his father’s youngest son, he did not inherit land out of his family’s holdings, and because, as King, he lost significant territory to the King of France. He acquiesced under pressure from the barons to the Magna Carta which limited the power of the Monarch.

Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de LAMARTINE (1790-1869) was a French writer, poet and politician. He was briefly in charge of government during the February Revolution of 1848 and was Minister of Foreign Affairs until 11 May. He was then a member of the Executive Commission, the political body which served as France’s joint Head of State. He worked to abolish slavery and the death penalty and supported the right to work and the National Workshops. He was an unsuccessful Presidential candidate in the 10 December 1848 elections, subsequently retiring from politics.

John LAW (1671-1729) was a Scottish economist who believed that money was only a means of exchange that did not constitute wealth in itself and that national wealth depended on trade. He originally sought to create a land bank that would issue notes to borrowers against the security provided by land. While in exile in France, he meet the Regant Phillippe, Duc D’Orléans and was provided with a royal edict in 1716 to establish a bank in France; this became a publicly chartered company, the Banque Royale.  It collapsed in 1720 after speculating on swamp land in Louisiana, bringing the French economy down with it.

Alexandre Auguste LEDRU-ROLLIN (1807–74) was a French Republican politician who was minister of the interior in the Provisional Government of 1848. During the crisis of May 15 he sided with the party of order against the working class, although he stood as a socialist candidate during that year’s Presidential election. He opposed President Louis Napoleon and went into exile in London.

Pierre LEROUX (1797-1871) was a French philosopher and follower of Saint-Simon who, in an 1834 essay entitled “Individualism and Socialism,” introduced the term “socialism” into French political discourse. The son of an artisan, he helped found Le Globe, the official organ of the Saint-Simonian community of which he was a prominent member. After the outbreak of the revolution of 1848 he was elected to the Constituent Assembly, and in 1849 to the Legislative Assembly.

LOUIS-PHILIPPE I (1773-1850) became King of the French after the July Revolution of 1830. The elected Chamber of Deputies proclaimed Louis-Philippe as the new French king, displacing the senior branch of the House of Bourbon. He ruled until 1848 in what was known as the July Monarchy. He was termed the Citizen King and was overthrown by the February Revolution.

Thomas Robert MALTHUS (1766-1834) was a Reverend who wrote on political economy. He is best known for An Essay on the Principle of Population which blamed poverty on overpopulation rather than an unjust social system. Much hated in working class circles as his arguments were invoked against social change and even moderate welfare reforms.

Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de MONTESQUIEU (1689-1755) was a French political thinker of the Era of the Enlightenment. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers within a state. He also argued for a “confederate republic” to ensure the ideal scale of government required for political liberty (i.e., security against abuse of power).

Robert OWEN (1771-1858) was a Welsh utopian socialist who was originally a successful businessman and philanthropist. In his textile factory in New Lanark, Scotland, he used his profits to improve the lives of his employees by introducing shorter working hours, schools for children and renovated housing. From that, he became one of the founders of socialism and the co-operative movement. He aimed to abolish capitalism by means of model communities and set one up called New Harmony in Indiana, USA.

Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU (1712-78) was an extremely influential social theorist whose ideas on democracy predominated in radical circles before, during and after the Great French Revolution of 1789. Key works are The Social Contract and Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men. The influence of Rousseau can be seen in Proudhon’s work, both from the terminology used and by the fact that he returned to criticise Rousseau time and time again.

Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de SAINT-SIMON (1760-1825), usually referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon, was one of the leading Utopian socialists of the early nineteenth century. He advocated a form of state capitalism, wherein industrial chiefs would control society as the men who are fitted to organise society for productive labour are entitled to rule it. Class conflict is not present in his work.

Jean-Baptiste SAY (1767-1832) was a businessman and the leading French laissez-faire economist of his time. He expounded classical liberal views in favour of free competition and free trade and in 1831 he was made professor of political economy at the College de France. He originated Say’s law, which is often quoted as “supply creates its own demand.”

Charles Maurice de TALLEYRAND-PÉRIGORD (1754-1838) was a French diplomat who worked with the regime of Louis XVI, through the French Revolution and then under Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe. During the French Revolution, Talleyrand supported the revolutionary cause, then he was instrumental in the 1799 coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, and soon after he was made Foreign Minister by Napoleon. After Napoleon, he was one of the key agents of the restoration of the House of Bourbon. After 1830, he became ambassador to Britain where he strove to reinforce the legitimacy of Louis-Philippe’s regime. Said of himself: “Regimes may fall and fail, but I do not.”

Louis-Adolphe THIERS (1797–1877) was a French politician. In his early days, he was well known in Liberal society and was one of the animators of the 1830 revolution. One of the Radical supporters of Louis-Philippe, he become his prime minister. Elected in 1848 to the Constituent Assembly, Thiers was a leader of the right-wing liberals and bitterly opposed the socialists. He suppressed the Paris Commune of 1871.


14th July 1789: The day when the Bastille, a medieval fortress and prison in Paris, was stormed. It represented royal authority in the centre of Paris and its fall was the turning point of the French Revolution. It subsequently became an icon of the French Republic and is a public holiday in France. It is usually called Bastille Day in English.

10th August 1792: When tens of thousands besieged the Tuileries palace in Paris. This insurrection, which had the backing of the insurrectionary Paris Commune and its sections, forced the royal family to shelter with the Legislative Assembly. It was the effective end of the French Monarchy. Its formal end came six weeks later, as one of the first acts of business of the new Convention.

The Eighteenth of Brumaire: Date of the Napoleonic coup d’état of 9th November 1799. according to the revolutionary French Republican calendar this date was 18 Brumaire, Year VIII of the Republic.

July Revolution: In 1830 Charles X’s attempt to enforce repressive ordinances touched off a mass rebellion (July 27–30). It marked the shift from one constitutional monarchy, the Bourbon Restoration, to another, the July Monarchy with the ascent of Charles’ cousin Louis-Philippe, the Duc d’Orléan, on August 9th. It involved a limited substitution of the principle of popular sovereignty for hereditary right. Supporters of the Bourbon line were called “Legitimists,” and supporters of Louis-Philippe “Orleanists.”

February Revolution: The monarchy collapsed on the 24th February 1848 leading to the creation of the Provisional Government in Paris which included state socialist Louis Blanc and worker Albert (the nom de guerre of Alexandre Martin). It immediately issued decrees guaranteeing the means of subsistence of the worker by labour, labour for all citizens, the right of association, and the creation of national workshops. The 25th saw groups of workers return to the Hôtel de Ville carrying the red flag. An attempt to make this the flag of the new republic failed. Also referred to by Proudhon as 24th February.

17th March 1848: Date of a republican march of 150-200,000 calling for the withdrawal of the remaining regular troops from Paris and postponement of the planned elections for the National Guard and Constituent Assembly to allow more time for campaigning. While some radical republicans may have been planning to use this march as the base for an insurrection to purge the Provisional Government of conservatives, nothing came of it. It did gain some concessions from the government as well as frightening the bourgeoisie into seeking action against the working class threat.

16th April 1848: Date of a workers march from the Champ de Mars to the Hôtel de Ville in Paris which, it was claimed by reactionaries, was planning to seize the town hall and proclaim a communist government. It was met by the mobilisation of 50,000 National Guards.

15th May 1848: Date of workers march of between 10 and 20 thousand demanding intervention in Poland and the creation of a Ministry of Labour and Progress. When a delegation of 25 demonstrators was allowed in to petition the Constituent Assembly, thousands flooded into the galleries and the assembly hall. A call was then raised to take the Hôtel de Ville. This ‘insurrection’ was used by the government as the pretext it needed to curtail working class activities, freedoms and organisations.

23rd June 1848: Date of French workers’ revolt after the closure of the National Workshops created by the Second Republic to give work to the unemployed. The revolt was crushed by the 26th June by General Louis Eugène Cavaignac, with 1,500 killed and 15,000 political prisoners subsequently deported to Algeria. Cavaignac was then named head of the executive power. This marked the end of the hopes of a “Democratic and Social Republic” and the victory of the bourgeoisie over the working class.

10th December 1848: Date of the first, and last, Presidential election of the Second Republic. The 1848 election saw the surprise victory of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte with 74% of the vote (Louis-Eugène Cavaignac was considered certain to win). His victory was due to the votes of the rural population.

29th January 1849: The election of Louis- Napoléon as President was seen as a victory for conservative principles and the make up of his first government reinforced this. Republican officials were purged at all levels and a campaign against the National Assembly was conducted. This climaxed on the 29th of January, 1848, when the assembly voted for its own dissolution and so a new general election.

13th May 1848: The date of the elections held after the dissolution of the National Assembly. The Conservatives used the campaign to stress a message that the social order was established by God as wealth was the reward for ability and hard work. The left got nearly 35% of the votes cast, with the Assembly having around 75 moderate Republicans, 500 Conservatives and 180 radical republicans and socialists.

13th June 1849: th to protest the Roman expedition but it was dispersed by troops. Some resistance was organised by the more resolute parts of the Mountain at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers but this failed to gain support. The government used this to declare a state of siege, ban the clubs and further shackle the press. The jails were filled with radical Republicans and socialists.

31st May 1850: When the complementary elections to the National Assembly in March and April 1850 resulted in an unexpected victory for the left, the alarmed conservative majority passed an electoral law to restrict universal male suffrage. To register to vote, proof of three years’ domicile from the record of direct taxes for the canton or commune had to be provided. This disenfranchised around three million working class men (for example, 62% of the electorate in Paris and 51% in the Nord).

24th November 1851: The date when the National Assembly approved the direct election of the President (rather than election by the assembly). This followed on from Louis- Napoléon’s year long campaign to change the Constitution so he could stand for re-election for President. When the vote on 17th November failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority, his plans for a coup d’état were finalised.

2nd December 1851: The date of coup d’état staged by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. He dissolved the Chamber which he claimed was taking the power he held by virtue of being the directly elected President, re-established universal suffrage, had all the party leaders arrested, and summoned a new assembly to prolong his term of office for ten years. The limited resistance was crushed by a state of siege. A plebiscite on December 20th overwhelmingly ratified the coup d’état while another, a year later, similarly ratified the creation of the Second Empire. The plebiscites confirming Louis-Napoléon in power disillusioned Proudhon considerably and his faith in the people fell to its lowest level. This is reflected in his subsequent concerns that a centralised democracy made the people susceptible to supporting demagogues like Louis- Napoléon.


Like what you are reading?  Get a notification whenever we post a new article to

Anarchist Writers via Facebook or Twitter

where you can also like and comment on our articles