The Working Classes in Revolutionary France

1830: Political Involvement after Revolt, in Les Miserables



  • 1830 / 1832

  • 1848

    Works Cited

  • The Revolution of 1830, brought a political voice to the people, the likes of which they never had. It brought the workers onto another level within society, not a higher one, but a noticed one. They were no longer underestimated by the authorities, nor were they as overlooked by society.

    In Les Miserables, the voice of the people after the Three Glorious Days of 1830 is exemplified in Saint Denis, Book V. Hugo describes that "the Faubourg Saint Antoine sullenly warmed up, was beginning to boil." Within the Faubourgs, the working class was beginning to use their voice, in the public sphere, yes, but also in the private societies of the wine-shops and salons.

    "The revolutionary fever, however, was increasing. No point of Paris or of France was exempt from it. The artery pulsated everywhere. Like those membranes wihch are born of certain inflammations and formed in the human body, the network of the secret societies began to spread over the country. From the Association of the Friends of the People, public and secret at the same time, sprang the Society of the Rights of Man . . .. The Society of the Rights of Man produced the Society of Action. "

    These secret societies allowed the workers to plan their own political action, and their own terms. Later in 1848, the secret societies would be semi-revived in the Club Movement.

    "In the backs of the salons, and during the secret society meetings "the simple existence of the government was brought in question. The men there publicly discussed whether it were the thing to fight or to remain quiet. There were back shops where all oath was administeed to working-men, that they would be in the streets at the first cry of alarm, and 'that they would fight without counting the number of the enemy.' . . . Sometimes they went upstairs into a closed room, and there scenes occurrred whichwre almost masonic.

    In the lower rooms they read subversive pamphlets. They pelted the government, says a secret report of the times . . . They never stayed more than ten minutes. Significant words were exchanged in a low voice: "The plot is ripe, the thing is complete."

    "All this fermentation was public, we might almost say tranquil. The imminent insurrection gathered its storm calmly in the face of the government. No singularity was wanting in this crisis, still subterranean, but already perceptible. Bourgeois talked quietly with working-men about the preparations. They would say: "How is the emeute coming on?" in the same tone in which they would have said: "How is your wife?."

    Hugo portrays the preparations for the 1832 insurrection as calm, though it is hard to believe, the revolts and rebellions occurred frequently in Paris during the interim of 1830-32. After 1832, Paris would not see another revolution until 1848.