Paris Commune: 1870 Chronology

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The Paris Commune during the French Revolution was the government of Paris from 1789 until 1795. It consisted of 144 delegates elected by the 48 divisions of the city. The Paris Commune essentially refused to take orders from the central French government.

January 10 – About 100,000 people demonstrate against Bonaparte’s Second Empire after the death of Victor Noir, a republican journalist killed by the Emperor’s cousin, Pierre Bonaparte.

May 8 – A national plebiscite votes confidence in the Empire with about 84% of votes in favour. On the eve of the plebiscite members of the Paris Federation were arrested on a charge of conspiring against Napoleon III.

July 19 – After a diplomatic struggle over the Prussian attempt for the Spanish throne, Louis Bonaparte declares war on Prussia.

July 23 – Marx completes what will become known as his “First Address.”

July 26 – The “First Address” is approved and internationally distributed by the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association.

August 4-6 – Crown Prince Frederick, commanding one of the three Prussian armies invading France, defeats French Marshal MacMahon at Worth and Weissenburg, pushes him out of Alsace (NorthEastern France), surrounds Strasbourg, and drives on towards Nancy. The other two Prussian armies isolate Marshal Bazaine’s forces in Metz.

August 16-18 – French Commander Bazaine’s efforts to break his soldiers through the German lines are bloodily defeated at Mars-la-Tour and Gravelotte. The Prussians advance on Chalons.

September 1 – Battle of Sedan. MacMahon and Bonaparte, attempting to relieve Bazaine at Metz and finding the road closed, enters battle and is defeated at Sedan.

September 2 – Emperor Napoleon III and Marshal MacMahon capitulate at Sedan with over 83,000 soldiers.

September 4 – At news of Sedan, Paris workers invade the Palais Bourbon and force the Legislative Assembly to proclaim the fall of the Empire. By evening, the Third Republic is proclaimed at the Hotel de Ville (the City Hall) in Paris. The provisional Government of National Defence (GND) is established to continue the war effort to remove Germany from France.

September 5 – A series of meetings and demonstrations begin in London and other big cities, at which resolutions and petitions were passed demanding that the British Government immediately recognize the French Republic. The General Council of the First International took a direct part in the organization of this movement.

September 6 – GND issues statement: blames war on Imperial government, it now wants peace, but “not an inch of our soil, not a stone of our fortresses, will we cede.” With Prussia occupying Alsace-Lorraine, the war does not stop.

September 19 – Two German armies begin the long siege of Paris. Bismarck figures the “soft and decadent” French workers will quickly surrender. The GND sends a delegation to Tours, soon to be joined by Gambetta (who escapes from Paris in a balloon), to organize resistance in the provinces.

October 27 – French army, led by Bazaine with 140,000-180,000 men at Metz, surrenders.

October 30 – French National Guard defeated at Le Bourget.

October 31 –  Upon the receipt of news that the Government of National Defense had decided to start negotiations with the Prussians, Paris workers and revolutionary sections of the National Guard rise up in revolt, led by Blanqui. They seize the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and set up their revolutionary government — the Committee of Public Safety, headed by Blanqui. On October 31, Flourens prevents any members of the Government of National Defense from being shot, as had been demanded by one of the insurrectionists.

November 1 – Under pressure from the workers the Government of National Defense promises to resign and schedule national elections to the Commune — promises it has no intention to deliver. With the workers pacified by their ‘legal’ charade, the government violently seizes the Hôtel de Ville and re-establishes its domination over the besieged city. Paris official Blanqui is arrested for treason.

– “Timeline of The Civil War in France.” Timeline of the Paris Commune. Accessed December 6, 2014.


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