Pauline Roland and the women transported after the December 1851 coup d’etat

[I’ve been hoping to put together a collection of Pauline Roland’s writing, but I’ve had difficulties tracking down many of the more important essays. However, her letters from jail and her subsequent transportation to Africa, following Louis Napoleon’s coup, have proven to be a little easier to track down. While the martyrs of December 2 don’t feature very prominently in our own political histories, they were important figures in their own day, and Roland’s letters appeared in English in both the exile press and the feminist papers. Jeanne Deroin circulated a collection of Roland’s letters as part of an announcement of her death, and that was translated into English in The Una. What follows here is a chapter from Charles Ribeyrolles’ Les Bagnes d’Afrique, an account of the imprisonment, exile and penal transportation of radicals following the coup. It contains a slightly different selection of letters, with some overlap, as well as part of a letter from Louise Julien, another of the martyrs of the era, at whose funeral both Victor Hugo and Joseph Déjacque delivered orations. Ribeyrolles published the work, in French and in a hastily translated and incomplete English edition, from London, where he was himself an exile, having escaped transportation to Cayenne for his involvement in the uprising of French radicals on June 13, 1849. The French edition also contains an additional selection of letters from Roland, in an appendix, which I will eventually translate.]
History of the transportation of December:
The African Gaols
 By Ch. Ribeyrolles
This is a new chapter in the history of our civil wars. In Hungary, the female patriots are whipped, strangled or buried in dungeons by drunken soldiers; in Italy, the Austrian bruises, their breasts, cuts their beautiful hair, and sometimes hangs them in bunches along the roads; but France never knew those pastimes of savages, and to find so many women, departing captives, along our roads, for they galleys of Arica or the hearth of the stranger, we should be obliged to go back to the awful and bigotted butcheries of Louis XIV, to the great exile of the Cevennas!
Since a half century particulary, under the influence of the new ideas that have sprung up in the souls of all, and of new and growing liberties, the sentiments and habits of the nation had become milder, purer, more elevated: in all our strife and struggles, the woman was held sacred, as the child:—the executioner drew back even before man, and, on awaking, the Revolution had disarmed him.
Here now is the manner in which M. Bonaparte has understood, served and developed this situation and those feelings so full of promise for civilization; here is the way in which he treated women, women that even the royalist vengeances had respected and spared!
The “Prefecture de Police” is a hideous building, damp and gloomy, propped up by the “Palais de Justice” and the old Chatelet, and as a toad in a stagnant pool, bathing its two flanks in the Seine.
It is a world of dungeons, of gratings, of filthy rooms, of doors all covered with iron nails: there the looks are as crooked as the consciences, the steps are furtive or noisy, according as they chance to be those of the informer making his rounds, or the bullying jailer sure of his force. In this place of lamentations and gross insults, calumnies seem to glide along the walls like vipers; this is the Paris of crime as its theaters are the Paris of arts, its libraries, the Paris of thought.
The matron who at night opens her gambling tables; the poor beggar who tries to excite the pity of the passers-by with the rags of her children, or her own shrill complaint; the female thief that fills her muff whilst pretending to drive a bargain in the shops; the poisoner, the infanticide, the prostitute picked up in her hovel, all those are night and day thrown promiscuously to one large hall called the “depot des femmes” (the women’s depot).
On the other side is the “depot des hommes” (the men’s depot) where you will meet the burglar, the swindler, the murderer, the liberated galerian, the scum of humanity, every vice and every crime!
Well, it is in this caravansary and sink, in this hideously peopled den, swarming with vice and vermin, that after our civil wars, when right and the people have succumbed, are thrown all those whom the battle has spared, all the noble and dreaded names that remain on the tablets of the police!
Let a Revolution pass and sweep away a dynasty as in 1830 or 1848,—not a prison door will close behind the vanquished; but when it is a government that triumphs, whether crime and legality, right or force, the gaols open, the registrar’s office is crammed, and every place becomes a dungeon even to the temples!
The Prefecture of Police was never forgotten in those distributions of human victims that take place on the day of reaction, at the various prison gates of Paris. It is the general depot, the reservoir of the slaughter-house, and receives at first the prisoners that are afterwards shifted into the other gaols. But never had the old prison received such a rich cargo as in December, and, ever refined in his hatred, M. Bonaparte completed it by a group of women that he got his police to throw there, between thieves and prostitutes!
Those women, they were our daughters, our mothers, our sisters!—Oh! let not those tortures be effaced from our too generous memory: they must be remembered!
When the name, christian name, age and profession were taken down by the registrar, the police handed over their victims to the female go-between, to search them… and when this odious insult had been submitted to, when every brutality of word and hand had been committed, the distracted and shuddering women, were pushed into the common-hall in the midst of the herd of prostitutes!…. And when this last profanation had lasted long enough to make them loose their senses, they were offered privated cells:—
Here at least, said one of the prisoners who escaped by miracle, here at least we could collect ourselves in our heart, our thoughts and our courage. We saw, we heard no more…… Instead of a camp ted we each had an iron one with a mattress and sheets, the whole for 50 centimes (5d) a day, attendance included. At seven o’clock every morning, we rose at the signal of the jailor on service, and sick or well, we were obliged to put all in order in our little room.
We can’t have any one sick here, the turnkey used to say, the Prefecture of police is not an hospital. Up with you!
At eight o’clock we received a loaf of black bread with a bowl of meat or vegetable broth, in which was soaking the ball of bran. At two o’clock came the second meal composed of lentils or beans; a pitcher of water completed the fare.
As to the cells they never opened but for the service or the watch; no communications, no air, no light, we were kept in the closest and most secret confinement until after our examination by the “instructing-judge.”
And this judge who according to the law, ought to have made them appear before him, within the third day of their confinement, this judge who knew full well the tortures of preventive imprisonment when it is prolonged and particularly for honest women and in such a place, this magistrate that pretends to the name of man, sometimes left them three weeks in their cells!
And when he called them at last, when they appeared before him in the hands of the “gendarme,” he insulted them either in their family or in their honour; he threatened or sneered according to the mood of the moment; he was now jovial, now cruel or lively, inquisitorial often and ever cowardly.
He is called Amedee Petit, this judge, as the one of the comedy, Brid’oison: little in heart and little in honour, let the name remain with him.
The prison of Saint-Lazare is a kind of Fort-1’Eveque, where the police shuts up the prostitutes who have infringed their regulations and the female thieves who have been submitted to the first examination.
The female patriots of the 2nd of December, cooped up in those sinister vehicles, called cellular-coaches, were thrown to this new den of nameless infamies and were submitted as at the Prefecture to all the indignities of the jailor’s questions.
With the name, christian name, age and profession, they required moreover here, the religion of the victims. We will soon see the motive of this.
There, in cold, damp, naked rooms, the day’s cargo was distributed by groups of three or five, and at certain hours of the day all met in a common hall, that the informers might lay their nets.
Ever faithful to its infamous policy, ever bent on degrading and lowering its victims, M. Bonaparte’s police invented against its prisoners the most cowardly and most cruel of tortures:—he sent to visit them the special physician of the ^abandoned wretches whose prison they had been doomed to share! Thus virtue and honesty, kept captives by crime were assimilated to legal debauch and vice!… But this hideous scandal of force working to sully honour was avoided, and before the energy of the resistance, even attempted violence recoiled!…
But let us turn our eyes from those brutal orgies of vice: even the sight of blood would be less painful and the mind suffers too much while unfolding such scenes!
At Saint-Lazare, the fare was the same as elsewhere; two meals a day, soup and beef such as it was, at ten in the morning and at two, potatoes and lentils with the bran ball and a quarter of a bottle of wine a head.
After the physician of nameless diseases, another man attempted to interfere, this last was the priest, a magistrate between man and God: but this new attempt failed like the former. Our Republican women, young girls or mothers of families, knew too well the meaning of those christian hypocrisies, that endeavoured to seduce their misfortune.
The sisters of charity were more lucky, and in their capacity of gaolers, they were able to open their holy traffic.
Some charged with the care of the souls, attempted to make converts; others, whose duty it was to look after the profits, organized the work, and in this last speculation they went so far as to tax one franc, all work that was sent to the prisoners, from the exterior!
Such were the interior rules of this political Salpétrière, opened to the republicans’ wives and daughters, by these banditti of December, and to make sure that no one insult would be spared them, the son of Queen Hortense, who is expert in delicate manoeuvres, sent them one of his worthies to settle their accounts with his… clemency! This was the same general de Goyon who had just made his rounds in the forts and casemates, attempting to excite repentance but who had found everywhere the lofty scorn of Republican pride.
He arrived among the captives insolent, swaggering, and rude, flanked by his eternal Tristan, colonel de Courson, his secretary-reporter.
The women were called before him and filed off under the brutal insolence of his barrack words, gestures and looks.
To some he said they smelt of powder; to others that they were united to brigands and fallen into the scum of society, to all that there would be no pardon, unless they assured the prince of their absolute submission, and addressed a heart inspired petition to him!
To provoke, to insult and torture women, what a noble part for a french soldier!
‘Till then M. de Goyon had been nothing more than a brigand like so many others; but the insulter of women deserves but one name,—Haynau-de-Goyon.
Let us listen now to a noble voice, that of genius and virtue addressing us from the tomb.
‘Tis Madame Pauline Roland, in the martyr’s den, the den of Saint-Lazare.
Saint Lazare, March the 8th, 1852.
My dearest child, and you all my good friends, long live the democratic and social Republic! I am condemned to transportation, Algeria, I believe, and as I am fully determined to ask for nothing, and to let nothing be asked for, the judgment will most probably receive its execution. Ii perchance they should not dare to transport women end mothers of families, and should my punishment be commuted into exile, we will indeavour to meet and live together in justice.
However, I say so in all sincerity, I am in no ways cast down by this blow. I hope, wherever I am, to be able to spread the word of truth and to sow the divine seed: what matters the rest.
I dare not speak of my children for my heart breaks at the thought. What will become of the dear orphans? I am going to write to the minister of war for leave to bring them with me, though, it my request is complied with, I do not know how I can manage to execute the plan. In any case I must leave my little Moses behind, for those almost tropical regions would be certain death to him. My poor Moses! it is he who wants his mother the most! My friends promise to take care of him, but who can fill my place? May the future know no more orphans and let all the terrible sufferings heaped opus, let even our death, buy that future, if it must so be.
Tell Pierre that I love and bless him from my prison for the share of light I owe him; tell him I would have been happy to have been with you all.
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Just as I finished this letter (23rd of April) four new companions arrived to us from the “Loiret”:—three mothers of families and a young girl 01 21 years of age.
How many victims! May God have pity at last!
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We still remain twenty-four at Saint Lazare, six of which are condemned to Algeria more, that is to say to the penitentiary, five to Algeria less, that is to say they will be free in their place of transportation; and one to Cayenne. We are five who have positively refused to demand any thing: Augustine Péan, Claudine, Madam Huet, Madam Jarreau (Cayenne,), and I. It appears that Maupas is furious against me: much good may it do him; in truth I fear him not, the wretch can only kill the body.
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Still I have many motives of personal preoccupation; Ido not know what will become of my poor children! my friends, dispersed as they are and hardly knowing how to live, in exile or in transportation, my friends can do nothing for them! My Moses is ill, seriously ill, I fear, and my friend S… on whom I could rely, will perhaps be compelled by the state of his own health to give up his establishment.
On the other hand, the uncertainly in which we are kept, deters me from making the energetic appeal I would have the right of making if the blow had been more violent and decisive.
Ah well! God, the protector of the widow and the orphan, will surely come to their succour!
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Pauline Roland
The report of the commissary of mercy is despatched. Clemency has opened the prison doors to four women, four women who have been overwhelmed for several months by all the humiliations of body and soul. The others remain, and the Second of December, in the garb of a policeman, comes and seizes on its victims.
Let us again listen to the martyr-poet of this cruel Odyssey, Madame Pauline Roland:
It was on the Tuesday 22nd of June 1852. As usual the few friends, faithful visitors of the dark prison, had come to see us. All were calm, almost merry. M. Bonaparte, it was said, had given his word to his uncle Jerome, that the women should not be transported. A general amnesty would restore us all to liberty on the 15th of August, or if any one was excepted, she might freely take the road of exile.
Yet we shared neither the confidence nor the joy of our friends; a fatal report had reached us.
This was the news of the death of one of the heroes of democracy. Noble hearted Barbes was said to have been killed in his prison by a gendarme.
Our afternoon was most anxious.
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As soon as the bolts had been drawn on me, I wrote to Belle-Isle to enquire into the truth of this report. I went to bed at tear and soon heard in the passages the steps of men and an unusual noise.
The idea presented itself to me that we were also going to be murdered. I arranged myself in my bed so* as to die decently, and after having extinguished my light I fell into that child like sleep that God. sends, like a balm, to the prisoner.
I had been sleeping two hours, when my door was noisily opened. Two pale nuns, each holding a taper that seemed a funeral light, were standing by my bed and ordered me to rise.—“We are starting for Africa, I said.”—“Alas, yes, poor lady!”—“Long live the Republic!” And immediately I rose.
But a cry of anguish had struck my ear. I thought it had escaped one of our companions. I ran to each but they were all firm and smiling. It was a young nun who had uttered this exclamation and most likely was punished for having done so. Men soon arrived, and the director, trying to disguise his deep emotion, went from room to room repeating those words that seemed to have been learnt by heart:—“Ladies prepare yourselves, you are going to start for Algeria; at half-past one you leave the prison. I only received the order an hour ago. Otherwise I would have informed you sooner.”
We hurry and run to and fro half clothed; we prepare our bundles, of which not one, can escape the humiliating formality of being searched. We shake hands; some write a few lines to bid a last adieu to their children and their friends, and, as we fear to be separated we divide, with sisterly equality, what little money is in the hands of a few. And during all this time men mixed up with nuns go from room to room and neither the former nor the latter seem to perceive that the most simple laws of decency are violated. A prisoner is no more a woman in a jailor’s eyes; the essential is to send forth, at the appointed time, the victims of the new council of Ten, that strikes in the dark as formerly the odious tribunal of Venice that history has pointed .out to the execrations of humanity.
One of our companions, who is only just recovering from a severe illness, is conducted and is to start with us; two women are obliged to support her and while answering the jailor’s questions, for his bookkeeping, she is permitted to remain sitting probably because they fear she would faint if she rose. One, the tallest of us, still young and remarkably handsome, (she was even long a celebrated beauty) teems to be bent by age and suffering; locks of white hair fall under her black bonnet. She seems to be the personification of endured torture, a living protest against the iniquity committed,—against transportation.
At last we are all ready, and we are for the moment shut up in the famous cage from whence we had been delivered up to the high sacrificer, de Goyon, but this time it is only for the mock formality of our liberation (levée de l’écrou) since we are only to change our place of captivity   .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
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The nuns with their superior at their head, come to settle some little accounts for the work done by their captives; but the work is so minutely criticised, so scrupulously visited, that about half the price is held back from women who have no other resources! To be just towards these Saints in God, we must say that not a word of consolation or sympathy was addressed by them to the victims, not as much as a glass of water was offered to those who, amidst all sorts of dangers, were going to take the road of exile. This, no doubt, would have been a serious infraction to that iron rule, the first article of which seems to be:—Thou shalt not love!
0 Christ! whose profaned image those women carry on their breast, could you have believed that in your name, banishing love and pity from their soul, they would turn to stone the heart that God gave to woman that it might be on earth as an angel of tenderness and consolation!…
And you, noble Teresa, who contemplating the tortures of Satan, let this sublime word escape you: “The unhappy wretch! he does not love!…” What do you think of your degenerate daughters?…
The brigadier or caterer of the prison, thinking better of it, declares that as the day is begun we have a right to our allowance;—food is brought by his orders, and almost against our will he crams what he can in the few baskets we possess. Hence forward we belong no more to “Saint-Lazare.” We are counted over to the armed men of the police.—The tallest and strongest amongst the knights of the “Rue de Jerusalem,”[1]had been chosen for this expedition.—Ferocious pistols peep from their pockets, intentionally half open, and—what ignominy!—we are forced to walk arm in arm with those ruffians to the terminus of the Havre railroad.
The rain falls heavily and we are almost all in slippers, without mantles and lightly clad. We ask in vain for cabs which we offer to pay for, one alone is called for our sick companion, and a cart follows with the baggage.
If it had been day-time we would have been shut up in their horrible cellular coach, but it is night, the streets are deserted, we can be dragged on foot. We only meet on the way one or two workmen who look at us with curiosity and seem to be trying to find out what is the meaning of this silent cortège that is neither a marriage nor a funeral. The coach of some rich person, returning perhaps from a “fête” at the Elysée, bespatters us at the corner of the “Chaussée d’Antin;” a little farther We stumble over a vagabond who is slewping under a door, and all this, in the midst of the jokes and insults of our ignoble cavaliers.
We entered the terminus by the baggage entry, and in the first rays’ of breaking day we saw glittering three files of bayonets; ‘tis the line, the representatives of antique chivalry, the support of French honour, who with their arms loaded come to superintend the departure of ten women, who once gone will permit France to sleep in peace! We are pushed into the waggons where the policemen also seat themselves after having been commanded in a loud voice to note down every word we say; numerous “ gendarmes” mount into the other waggons; some are to accompany us to Algeria, others only to Brest.
But what are we waiting for? After we have been thrown into the waggons we are told that we will only start at four o’clock.—What we wait for are our brothers, the transported men, two hundred and ten of whom are to start with us.
They look at ns with surprise and do not know what to make of us; the bravest take off their caps to us; but generally they turn round us with that uneasy and puzzled look that Lafontaine describes in mice when they meet Rodilard covered over with flour. Evidently our friends fear a snare, in fact the police had manoeuvred so as to inspire them with this distrust; it endeavoured to draw down the most painful insults on us.
They hoped that a brother’s hand would offer us the sponge steeped in gall and vinegar that Christ received on the Golgotha from an unknown soldier.
The freight being completed, the engineer gives the signal,—to us the signal of exile—and we start with all steam on for the sea.
Pauline Roland.
It is the “Magellan” that receives them at Havre; the “gendarme” is charged to watch them as for the men; he is brutal, gross and rude as usual. But on board both officers and men show some kindness.—We will now meet there at their place of landing.
I will not let the post leave without sending you a few lines, hut only a few lines, for the strange manner in which we are established here does not leave us a moment of solitude, nor the means of gathering our thoughts.
I am well and my courage remains unshaken, that is what is most necessary to let you know. We are at present at fort Saint-Gregoire, which is situated opposite Oran, as mount Valerian opposite Paris, but on a steeper eminence.
The officers of the “Magellan” supposed that on leaving the ship, on hoard of which we had received such a brotherly hospitality, we would he permitted to rest at the pretty village of Miserghin, and afterwards would be “internets” in some town of our own choice; they were mistaken. As soon as we had landed at Mers-el-Kebir, we were handed over to the soldiers and conducted to this fort. Here we are obliged to sleep on straw, our fare is that of the soldiers, without either wine or coffee and with black bread. Add to this that we have only one room for us all and a very small yard.
I can say nothing of the country, that I only saw from the top of the waggon that brought us to the fort at the risk of twenty times breaking our necks. The road that leads to it is cut out in the perpendicular rock and is bordered by a precipice. For a moment, our conducters, the “Zouaves,” were frightened themselves. The horses stumbled, I turned away my head and my companions uttered such a shriek of fear, that our escort permitted us to continue our ascent on foot. This scene was awful! during all the voyage I regretted not having my little girl but here I thanked God to have spared her the sight of such horrors.
Pauline Roland.
The Bon-Pasteur ( Good Shepherd ) is a religions house, a kind of convent, situated near the village of El-Biar, at a few miles from Algiers.
The special direction of this establishment is in the hands of a M. Pavie, heir and successor of bishop Dupuch, whose name is well known all through the province of Algiers. His coadjutor and principal steward is his vicar-general, abbé Sachet, who looks after the interests of the undertaking.
Here is what Madame Pauline Roland, says of this prison-monastery:
Algiers, July the 14th, Convent of the Bon-Pasteur.
We arrived at Algiers on the night of the 12th, after two days of a most trying passage, during which we remained on deck night and day, lying on sails and with nothing to cover us but a miserable blanket. It is now three weeks since we have slept in a bed or had what may be called a meal. It is really astonishing that ten poor women who started ill from Paris have been able to go through all the physical and moral tortures to which we have been condemned.
I am happy to say, however, that both on board of the “Magellan” or on board of the “Euphrate” that has brought us from Oran to Algiers, all those who belong to the navy showed themselves full of care and respect. But nowhere were we expected, nothing was prepared to receive us, and we were per force condemned to the hard fare of the sailors. On hoard of the “Euphrate” an exceptional favour would, have been made me, I was offered an officer’s room, but I declined the offer as I was unwilling to enjoy a privilege that my companions could not share.
On landing at Algiers we were conducted to the Convent of the Bon-Pasteur. Our fare here is the same as elsewhere, as far as the black bread and the other food goes, but in all other respects our situation is harder by far than it had yet been. You may judge. We are here with five other females belonging to the Var, the Hérault and the Gers: together, fifteen women all in the same room, and our fifteen pallets take up so much place that there is hardly enough left for a long table on which we take our meals in common. Add to this, to have a complete idea of our residence, a yard about twice the size of our room, without a single tree, or any other shelter where we might escape from the ardent rays of a scorching sun.
I do not know if this is what M. Guizot understood when he asked that imprisonment should be added to transportation, but truly such an abode is intolerable: it is a real hell.
Adieu. Let me hear from you; above all tell me all about my dear children. Since I left France, three weeks ago, I have heard nothing of them.
Pauline Roland.
Those material wants, however, only wore out the body, and the religious system, ever able in the practices of torture, organized against their victims a whole series of moral persecutions.
If the father confessor called them to the holy tribunal; the nuns traced their steps under pretence of reconciling them; my lord bishop let fall from his sanctified lips a hope of pardon for all repentant and contrite hearts!
The prisoners worked, the profit was for the community;—the holy jailors thus filled their purse, receiving on one hand the sum paid for each prisoner by government, and on the other the price of their labour.—Holy practices, long known to those pious souls, who are so detached from the interests of this world!
The consciences to recall and souls to save were the great affairs of the nuns, and on this ground they built a whole system of intrigue, of annoyance, of hypocrisy, such as can only be found in a convent! Woe to the strong minded woman who remained firm in her faith, her life became an unceasing persecution, though always disguised under the forms of christian kindness and charity.
When every effort had failed, those last received an order of internement and were thrown to the most distant villages.
Read this letter from Madam Roland, dated from her place of interment:
Setif, September the 15th.
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You have no idea of the hatred of those people for your poor friend, you would not credit it: its absurdity is even greater than its violence, However, they have at least the quality of frankness, for I was told:
— “As you are a most dangerous character, uniting in your person the attractions of the other Madam Roland, and the fury of Theroigne de Mencourt, we will send you to Setif; in that hole you will not be able to act.”
— “But Sir, by my labour I must earn my livelihood and support my three children.”
— “You are going to a place where you will find nothing to do, hut Government will look out for that.”
And this magnificent Algerian government allows me one franc a day that I have the insolence of refusing. At Setif, merely to live, and depriving yourself of almost everything, the least you can lay out is three francs a day.
To diminish my board I sew and cook for the hotel at which I stop.—But my children……
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Pauline Roland.
As to the regulations, the discipline and the police formalities, they were the same for the women as for the men. If they left they received their “feuille de route” (route of the road), when they arrived their first visit should be for the “gendarme” and every day they were obliged to prove their presence by giving their signature. Thus, for them, work was impossible, and the were submitted to servitude, misery, and isolation..—Such was the fate of the transported females who left the monastery-gaol “unsubmitted!”
They were not spared the persecution of the petitions for pardon and the same promises and the same threats were employed that had been practised with the men in the forts and the camps.
As to me I can say like Jesus: “the foxes have their holes but I know not where to rest my head.” Where will I he in a week? God knows. The Algerian government have sent to the commander of Setif, I do not know how many circulars in which we are required to ask for our pardon under penalty, if we refuse, of being sent to prison and condemned to hard labour. I was alone when those curious documents were communicated to me. I returned the most determined refusal. I await the result, not without uneasiness, but without fear.
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Pauline Roland.
She had not long to wait, the noble women, and her torturers, exasperated by the calm energy of her refusals, gave way to their most violent passions: she was transported to Bone.
Those are the terms in which she gives an account of this last stage of her pilgrimage,—of this new shame for the Randon government.
Constantine, October the 14th, 1852.
I received at Setif, where I had been “internée,” for the last five weeks, on the 10th of September last, the latter that you had had the kindness of addressing me on the 14th of last August. This letter, by what might seem a kind of presentiment had first been sent to Bone.
I now write you from Constantine where I am again a prisoner. I left Setif on the 9th, by the order of the Governor of the province. This order bears that I am to be immediately conducted to the Casbahof Bone and detained prisoner there. Here, where I am to remain four days, it is expressly forbidden to let me communicate with any one except my guardians.
I will now give you the reason of this measure that is not an exceptional one, but is common to many of my transported brothers.
About fifteen days ago, we were informed by a circular from the governor-general, that those who desired to return to France, or wished for the right of definitively residing in one particular place, or any other favour, were, before forty-eight hours, to address a petition personally to his highness the president of the Republic.—The model was given and if you were permitted to make any slight literary modifications, that was the utmost that was allowed you. I have never made, nor will ever make any such demand; my conscience forbids it. My refusal was made known and by return of post the order was received to send me to Bone.
I abstain from all reflexions but if you are still the journalist, whose courage was never questioned, if you are the enemy of arbitrary power, I ask you to carry to the knowledge of the public this act that has been repeated all over Algeria. This does not only concern the liberty of a mother, whose orphans God will not abandon; the question is not to save from the miseries of a prison the frame of a poor old woman who feels in her the strength to submit to anything rather than commit an act of cowardice, the question is a higher one:—the defence of sacred principles!
It is then in the name of justice and liberty that I address you those lines, giving you leave at the same time to do with them as you will think fit.
Pauline Roland.
We end here (see chapter of notes) our quotations from the correspondence of Pauline Roland: her tormentors exhausted this noble character without being able to make it bend, and when they saw her near her end they sent her back to France. Madame Pauline Roland died at Lyons on her way from Africa:—the clemency of the prince had liberated a corpse!…
As to the other female martyrs, their sufferings were everywhere the same; and how many still remain on the land of Africa?
Madame Pauline Roland is dead, but, amongst others, what is become of the following victims:—Madame Clouart, Rosalie Gobert, Eugenie Guillemot, Augustine Pean, Fine Rabeil, Elizabeth Paries, Anne Sanglas, Marie Reviel, Claudine Hibruit, Armantine Huet?…
This last named one, Madame Huet, is she not there away in some den of internement and in the hands of the blackguard proconsuls?
For the last two years she has been dragged from gaol to gaol, from suffering to suffering: Prefecture of Police, prison of Saint-Lazare, cellular coaches, escorts of gendarmse, the sea the penitentiary and the dungeon, she has gone through all and suffered everything without bending either her soul or her knees before the villains who torture women, and like Madame Pauline Roland, she has seen every stage of her mount Calvary.
Unable to reduce her to submission, that is to make her sign a petition, what did the torturers imagine?—After having separated the wife from her husband, transported like herself, they sent the latter by force back to France in spite of his protestations: they amnestied M. Huet and kept his wife captive in the desert! What a touching show of justice that thus reaches two persons with the same blow and makes of mock mercy a new torture for a noble hearted man.
Madame Huet will most likely obtain her pardon like Pauline Roland.—When they will have finished killing her.
Let us stop here the history of this persecution of women, a dismal episode that would be a stain in the annals of Cafer-land.
When Germanicus, in former times, was poisoned by Pison, valet of Tiberius and compeer of Sejean, Agripina, his wife, filled Rome with her complaints and her lamentations and as the fallen legions appeared to rouse at her voice, the man of Capri exiled her.
Later he had her murdered in her place of internement; for he could not sleep in his grottoes refreshed by human blood, while such a high and stern virtue remained close to his throne. Tiberius was afraid of great souls!
Like this bald and rotten old man, Louis Bonaparte fears free intelligence, stout hearts and reflective minds. Caligula of ideas, he would with joy cut off every head that thinks?
It is for this that Madame Roland died, slowly murdered by his Pisons of Africa and crucified, as she says herself, in the person of her dear little children!
In this weak and delicate frame, worn out by age and by labour, was a soul ardent for good, a religious heart breathing high inspirations, all the noble instincts of conscience and its justice—she was an enemy! M. Bonaparte stoops from the height of his dictature, carries away this woman and gets her thrown into his gaols!
By and bye he will take Belgium and the frontier of the Rhine!
A hundred other women, wives, daughters or mothers, are dragged along the roads, imprisoned and packed out for Africa:—those too were enemies. Were there not proud souls amongst them? were there not holy devotedness, heroic sacrifice and pity for misfortune?…
Virtue, as well as thought, frightens M. Bonaparte: Eponinus for him is no better than Sabinus, and it is for this that the Second of December, in its glory, spreads desolation through so many homes:—To exile! with the women, like the bourgeois and working men!
By and bye he will pass the snow-clad Alps and have his Austerlitz……after Africa!
What meanness, what degradation even in his cruelty!
Oh certes, in the midst of our mighty struggles, woman has more than once had to suffer as well as man, and from Brunehaut up to the duchess of Berry mangled and quartered, the one in her body the other in her honour, we find but too many such victims in our history. But this was the result of bloody games, between rival ambitions; those tragedies were only acted in royal houses or in those high spheres where the quarrels of lofty pride are fought out. The daughters of the people were not mixed up in those storms, and if Joan of Arc was brought to the stake, it was that, greater than a dynasty, the virgin of Vauxcouleurs had counted a hundred victories!
Now it is a spinner from Rouen or Lyons, a house-wife of the Ardèche, a woodcutter’s wife of the Nievre or the Allier that M. Bonaparte drags from their hearths, for a quarrel about a political constitution, and that he throws to the land of exile like so many Clytemnesters:—the wife of a wine merchant is his Marshal d’Ancre, a writer, Madam Roland, is his Mary of Scotland.
And what could avail all those holy weaknesses, those obscure tears, those frail devotions, which are called Women, what could they avail against the armies of this man, his cannons, his pride and his crimes?—In his palace guarded by the “Swiss” of his late butchery, having overthrown everything,—the tribune, the press, the assembly, parties and laws—master everywhere in fact, by his pretorians, his spies and his judges, what had he to fear from a few working women, scattered in the most humble homes of France, and who to mourn alone, shrank into the shade of their desolate hearths?
How cowardly in his fears, or refined in his hatred must he be, this Caesar, who draws his sword against the spindle, takes the needle captive and sets on all the forces of his police against a few republican women!
Alas! ‘tis the wild madness of crime, that everything frightens! ‘tis the ravings of the assassin that the voices of his own dreams terrify:—conscience, hidden tears, domestic love, sad looks, mute woe, everything accuses him, everything maddens him:—he has so much blood on his hands!….
But it was in his nature, in his tradition, and Bonaparte third of the name—since the Austrian embryo is reckoned—Louis-Bonaparte does not derogate by those infamies. Did not the founder of the dynasty, the great emperor of the legend, did not Napoleon I, pursue and hunt Madame de Stael all over Europe? In the midst of his victories, when the earth trembled under the weight of his armies, when kings bent, like mere lordlings, at the threat of his sword, was not this Frederick Barberousse, this piratical Charlemagne, frightened by a pen? Did he not so far honour human thought, as to strike at it even in the person of a woman and to have her spied, like a rival power after having exiled her?….
But this one does things on a larger scale. He generalises his hatred; he extends it to the humblest females of the most obscure villages; he enters everywhere like the plague—in the house of the “bourgeois,” the work-yard, and the thatch-roofed cot—and in his eyes a carder or a laundress, is as dangerous at least as the mother of the Gracchi.
True to his blood, the Corsican has even improved!
And what in truth was this exile of Madam de Stael, counting her fortune by millions, surrounded by friends and living at Coppet amidst the splendour of the Alpes or travelling through Europe escorted by her glory?
To-day, it is at the Prefecture de police, this depot-den where all the scandals of licentious nights are gathered,—it is at Saint-Lazare the Bastille of prostitutes and female thieves, that Bonaparte throws our women! Instead of the lake of Geneva and its vast horizons, they have barred, grated and narrow cells,—their Benjamin Constant is a rough and insolent guardian—and the ball of bran is their feast?
Listen to another voice, that of Madam Louise Julien,[2]from the den of the Prefecture de Police:
I have passed twenty one days in this hole, cell number 1, called the trial cell. It is a model construction, a new system and a most strange one, nearly equal to the iron cages of his eminence, M. de la Ballue:
Imagine a room, about seven or eight feet square, dark, silent, crushed under several stories and the window of which, shut by a secret lock, only receives air by a little pane of glass that slides up and down. Outside, the day is darkened by a thick iron trellis-work, and blinds whose bars are so close together that to catch a glimpse of heaven would be impossible; add to this a stifling heat produced by a huge stove that oppressed me to suffocation.
It is in this grave-like cell that lame and sick, I remained, as I said already, twenty one days, my only crime was to have sang the Republic, and there I was left, and from hour to hour I was obliged to put my mouth to the trellis-work to breathe a little vital air and avoid dying! During all this time of martyrdom I did not see a judge, but how many hideous scenes!…
I shiver even now when I remember all the outrages I had to repel, and that sometimes went even to violence…. I have seen, with my own eyes, fine handsome young girls, that some serious fault had brought to this sink, but who still might be reclaimed, I have seen them submit trembling and pale with indignation, to the insults, of the coarse guardians, and of the director himself, an old man who has been turned away since because he was too free.
What a hell!
Aye a hell; where every vice swarms, where beastiality flourishes, where Lucifer and his turnkeys are kings!
And how long did those women, but yesterday snatched from the family hearth, how long did they suffer captivity in this den of filthy brutes?—One, two, three months, either at the Prefecture of police or at Saint-Lazarre, that is to say years of suffering, ages of torture!
But when every delicacy of the woman has been wounded, when all their sufferings have been outraged, will the tormentors stop at last?—No! the torture has hardly begun! All who remain firm in their proud and indomitable contempt and refuse thepardon of the pirates, are handed over to the soldiers, and those Christian martyrs to social principles, are dragged towards the sea and thrown to distant exile!
After so many convoys of men the Ocean receives its female cargo and bears it to the Mediterranean, the old Roman sea, whose waters, even in the days of Sylla, never received a like hecatomb.
Such is the will of the new Caesar-Augustus who mounts the throne on the shoulders of his pretorians, and amidst the benisons of his priests, who, deliver up the weak, the children and the women, for the honour of kissing the master’s hand!
The church, looks to the sportule, as well as the soldiers:—
The times are nigh!
What becomes on the land of Africa of the unrepenting transported?—They have barely escaped from the brutalities of the gendarme, the rough fatigues of the sea and their floating prison, when they fall into the hands of the nuns of El- Biar, the convent disciplinarians.
A convent is a holy asylum is it not? A sanctuary * from, whence prayer, like an eternal parfume, ascends to heaven;—where everything is meekness, charity, divine raptures? Yes, they pray, they sing, they psalmodize” in those prison-tabernacles, but they spy, they torture, they provoke with affected sweetness:—‘Tis a woman that governs under the hand of a priest!
The black bread, the captives food, never falls into their cell, without some pious sentence or a verse of the gospel:—they starve you with unction.
The labour is never paid them (at the lowest price) without a text from scripture or the lives of the Saints:—you are pillaged lovingly! they discount your work with canticles:—The holy women do not belong to this world!
But those are only slight miseries: ‘tis the persecutions of the soul, the conscience-hunt, that are the real scourges of those holy houses. The nuns excel in those practices: they weigh on you, night and day, at all hours: like venomous tarantulas they bite and tear your very heart and make every wound bleed: ‘tis as if you were tortured by wasps -—God has his vampires!
Thus tortured, the transported women had, perhaps, more to suffer than amongst the ruffians of the gaols. Stupefied by suffering, a few gave in either through religion! or in the hope of pardon, and the rest declared to be intractable, like Madam Roland, were parked in the villages between hunger and the watch of the police.
All are not yet dead, but they cannot bear out long, for the sufferings of exile and its nostalgia so terrible for man, are more fearful by far, for the sensitive and delicate nature of woman!
We are writing history, a history that already has it; tombs and yet we hesitate! and yet we doubt…. How can it be that this hideous scandal of women tortured, tortured with every refinement of cruelty, could, be given to our country without exciting the curses of public opinion and rousing the wrath of France!
Our country is, we know it, accustomed to violence, to surprises, to hard battles, to the smell of gun powder and of blood; if it hates tortures it has always a kind of feverish love of war, and our history tells of but too many of those savage games; but it is under the fire of smoking cannons that the struggle takes place, and those who lull, the corpses of the day, are men!
Here the scene changes: what the carts of the police carry away, those who are given up to the brutal grasp of the “gendarme,” are women; those who are administratively exiled are mothers of families, like Madam Greppo, Madam Voisin, Madam Jeanne Deroin, and how many others! Those who are transported and parked in the solitudes of Africa, those who die there in the slow agonies of the convent or the Desert, are your daughters, “bourgeois” and working men!… thine France!—And see, O my country, in your towns, along your roads and in your villages, why are so many doors closed? why so many abandoned cottages and deserted workyards?… Because the men have been sent to Cayenne, to Bone or to exile, and that, wanting bread, the women have killed themselves, have become mad or beg along the roads?…
Oh this cynical war against unarmed weakness, will prove the most hideous stain of this government of December, of which it may be said that in two years it has fatigued crime. And again, to imprison, to banish, to behead rival ambitions that hold the sword in hand, this is the usual case between parties; but in this age of civilization, to hunt down the guardians of the hearth, to throw women to the arenas!… this monstrosity defies hell itself!…
And what grieves us, what frightens us, is that every one remained mute in this France so full of high and noble instincts! in chivalrous and liberal minded France! It is that this last chain of captives went by unnoticed like the other caravans of exile; and that in our history, there will be one shameful leaf bearing this title: Transported women!
That, justice in its meanness, did not stop the convoy, this does not surprise us:—it is a prostitute, the prostitute of every government.
That religion did not not shut its temples the before murderer,—’tis nothing strange:—religion has long been nothing but a commerce, and the Athanasius have long been no more! But that public opinion, that the great soul of France, should not have risen to protest against this scandal, if not by violence, at least by curses and tears!—again we say it this grieves, this frightens us!…
And see how by contrasts the abyss is lighted!
On the second of December two women were in Paris ,—one, the mother of a family who had honoured her already long life by on obstinate, intelligent, elevated labour, that furnished for her children’s wants,—the other, a roving adventuress, haunting palaces, parks and the chase, gathering pleasure everywhere and counting her nights by feasts!
The first, during the “Coup d’Etat,” raises the wounded, consoles the bereaved, warns the suspected, seeks refuges for the proscribed: she is thrown to Saint-Lazare;—the other runs through streams of blood, like Tarquin’s daughter, and superb, and beaming with smiles, goes to congratulate the assassin in his den: she is received as Cleopatra by Anthony, and her seat is marked in the great orgies!…
The first in her prison, works for her poor little abandoned children, for her companions less inured than herself to hardship, for all who suffer around her or in exile; she consoles, she elevates souls: she is transported to Africa!—the other, queen of the revels, drinks in the bowl of the dictator, intrigues, excites to vengeance, and, wily courtesan, inspires violent desires: she is made empress!
Exhausted, worn out, the first returns to Prance, only to die, without even the last adieu of her children!—the other, like the Eudoxies of the lower empire, displays her beauty on the throne and only awaits a pope to crown her!
Will crime be much longer king in our land of France? O People! does audacious vice dazzle thee so that you dare not raise your head before the masters?
Remember Madame Roland and her companions?—they are thy daughters, thy mothers, thy sisters.

[1]The street in which is the Prefecture of Police.
[2]See chapter of notes.