- Established during the Revolution
of 1848, the Mobile Guard consisted of lower working class men
policing their own provinces. The Mobile Guard was intended to
take the revolutionaries off the streets and use their "revolutionary
tendencies" for the regime's benefit. In doing so, the workers
who joined the Mobile Guard proved their adeptness at political
and social organization but did so by repressing the rebellions
they once helped stir up.
- The Creation of the
foundering of all organized forces only left one means of safety:
to draw from the masses themselves the elements of order and
discipline; to contain, direct, and govern the people with the
people. . . . Audacious to the point of temerity, impulsive,
flirting with destruction, running to rebellion as to a recreation,
deprived of work, wandering through the streets hunger-stricken,
the children of Paris were a new element of turmoil. To assemble
them, group them, clothe them, give them shelter and bread, all
the while transforming them into an intelligent and devoted force
was to accomplish an act at once political and humanitarian."
Page's assessment of the Provisional Government's motives for
the Mobile Guard
- The quote above is an excellent
example of how the government and the upper class viewed the
lower working class, as children who could not organize themselves,who
are "impulsive" and run "to rebellion as to a
recreation." It was for this reason that the Mobile Guard
was created: to try and take rebellion out of the revolutionary
- However, during the Revolution of
1848, beginning in February, the government noticed that "the people of Paris spontaneously
assumed responsibility for the maintenance and order in the city." It
troubled the government that the revolutionary crowd saw to the
protection of property and, more importantly, would "also intervene in their own
official debates" (Traugott, 35).
Mobile Guard tried to solve three of the Provincial Governments
- By employing as many as
25,000 jobless Parisians, it hoped to solve the economic crisis.
- It wanted to neutralize
the most volatile of the street population, who were still excited
from the February victory.
- Finally, transforming
the workers into a reliable army would help them in war abroad.
- A Mobile Guard
Post at the Time of its formation, taken from
- Traugott page
The Guard "soon became the strong right arm of the Provisional Government,
assigned on at least a weekly basis to quell disorders in Paris
and its outskirts" (Traugott, 40).
Doubts of Mobile Guard
Although the Guard was a competent
form of government force, doubts about their loyalty continued
to arise. The Provisional Government focused on recruiting members
from the youthful revolutionaries who fought at the February
barricades. The men who once manned the barricades were now being
trained how to repress the popular insurrections that they played
a part in. For the Guardsmen were "a rather broadly based
fighting force that, both among industrial and nonindustrial
sectors, was essentially indistinguishable from the insurgents
themselves. This led many to doubt the loyalty of the members
of the Mobile Guard.
However, the Mobile Guard never
showed true reasons to be considered untrustworthy. Throughout
the Revolutionary months of 1848, "in every one of its innumerable
confrontations with workers, it had remained unswervingly loyal
to the regime in power" (Traugott, ).
- One member of the "regular"
army commented on the enthusiasm of the Mobile Guardsmen during
the June Days of the Revolution:
"I noticed that the
soldiers of the line were the least eager of our troops. Memories
of February appeared to have weaken and paralyze them. . .. Without
any doubt the keenest were those very Mobile Guardsmen whose
fidelity we had questioned so seriously." (Traugott,
As Daniel Stern described
in his book, Histoire de la Revolution de 1848, the Guardsmen
appeared to enjoy the battles and combat them with excitment:
"The sound of the
gunshots, the whistling of the bullets seemed to them a new game
which brought them joy. The smoke, the smell of powder excited
them. They charged at a run, climbed over crumbling paving stones,
clung to every scrap of cover with marvelous agility . . . If
the Mobile Guard had passed over to the insurrection, as was
feared, it is virtually certain that victory would have passed
with it." (391)
After the Revolution, and
the insurrection in June, the Mobile Guardsmen was praised for
its performance throughout the Revolution of 1848, and especially
during the June Days. The workers displayed that they were not
simple children, used to rebellion as recreation. But they were
capable of military intelligence and loyalty to the authorities
that employed them: the regime.