Paris Commune: 1871 Chronology

January 22 – The Paris proletariat and the National Guards hold a revolutionary demonstration. They demand the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a Commune. By order of the Government of National Defense, the Breton Mobile Guard, which was defending the Hôtel de Ville, opens fire on the demonstrators. After massacring the unarmed workers, the government begins preparations to surrender Paris to the Germans.

January 28 – After four long months of workers struggle, Paris is surrendered to the Prussians.

Febuary 8 – Elections held in France, unknown to most of the nation’s population.

Febuary 12 – New National Assembly opens at Bordeaux; two-thirds of members are conservatives and wish the war to end.

February 16 – The Assembly elects Adolphe Thiers chief executive.

February 26 – The preliminary peace treaty between France and Germany signed at Versailles by Thiers and Jules Favre, on the one hand, and Bismarck, on the other.

March 1-3 – After months of struggle and suffering, Paris workers react angrily to the entry of German troops in the city, and the ceaseless capitulation of the government. The National Guard defects and organizes a Central Committee.

March 10 – The National Assembly passes a law on the deferred payment of overdue bills; under this law the payment of debts on obligations concluded between August 13 and November 12, 1870 could be deferred. Thus, the law leads to the bankruptcy of many petty bourgeoisie.

March 11 – National Assembly adjourns. With trouble in Paris, it establishes its government at Versailles on March 20.

March 18 – Adolphe Thiers attempts to disarm Paris and sends French troops (regular army), but, through fraternization with Paris workers, they refuse to carry out thier orders. Generals Claude Martin Lecomte and Jacques Leonard Clement Thomas are killed by their own soldiers. Many troops peacefully withdraw, some remain in Paris. Thiers outraged, the Civil War begins.

March 26 – A municipal council — the Paris Commune— is elected by the citizens of Paris.

March 28 – The Central Committee of the National Guard, resigns after it first decrees the permanent abolition of the “Morality Police”.

March 30 – The Commune abolishes conscription and the standing army; the National Guard, in which all citizens capable of bearing arms were to be enrolled, was to be the sole armed force. The Commune remitts all payments of rent for dwelling houses from October 1870 until April 1871. On the same day the foreigners elected to the Commune were confirmed in office, because “the flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic”.

April 2 – In order to suppress the Paris Commune, Thiers appeals to Bismarck for permission to supplement the Versailles Army with French prisoners of war, most of whom had been serving in the armies that surrendered at Sedan and Metz. In return for the 5 billion francs indemnity payment, Bismarck agrees. The French Army begins seige of Paris. Paris is continually bombarded and, moreover, by the very people who had stigmatized as a sacrilege the bombardment of the same city by the Prussians.

April 5 – Decree on hostages adopted by the Commune in an attempt to prevent Communards from being shot by the French Government. Under this decree, all persons found guilty of being in contact with the French Government were declared hostages. This was never carried out.

April 7 – On April 7, the French army captures the Seine crossing at Neuilly, on the western front of Paris. Reacting to French government policy of shooting captured Communards, Commune issues an “eye-for-an-eye” policy statement, threatening retaliation. The bluff is quickly called; Paris workers execute no one.

April 8 – A decree excluding from the schools all religious symbols, pictures, dogmas, prayers — in a word, “all that belongs to the sphere of the individual’s conscience” — is ordered to be excluded from the schools. The decree is gradually applied.

April 11 – In an attack on southern Paris the French army is repulsed with heavy losses by General Eudes.

April 12 – The Commune decides that the Victory Column on the Place Vendôme, which had been cast from guns captured by Napoleon after the war of 1809, should be demolished as a symbol of chauvinism and incitement to national hatred. This decree was carried out on May 16.

April 16 – Commune announces the postponement of all debt obligations for three years and abolition of interest on them.

The Commune orders a statistical tabulation of factories which had been closed down by the manufacturers, and the working out of plans for the carrying on of these factories by workers formerly employed in them, who were to be organized in co-operative societies, and also plans for the organization of these co-operatives in one great union.

April 20 – The Commune abolishes night work for bakers, and also the workers’ registration cards, which since the Second Empire had been run as a monopoly by police nominees — exploiters of the first rank; the issuing of these registration cards was transferred to the mayors of the 20 arrondissements of Paris.

April 23 – Thiers breaks off the negotiations for the exchange, proposed by Commune, of the Archbishop of Paris [Georges Darboy] and a whole number of other priests held hostages in Paris, for only one man, Blanqui, who had twice been elected to the Commune but was a prisoner in Clairvaux.

April 27 – In sight of the impending municipal elections of April 30, Thiers enacted one of his great conciliation scenes. He exclaimed from the tribune of the Assembly: “There exists no conspiracy against the republic but that of Paris, which compels us to shed French blood. I repeat it again and again…”. Out of 700,000 municipal councillors, the united Legitimists, Orleanists, and Bonapartists did not carry 8,000.

April 30 – The Commune orders the closing of the pawnshops, on the ground that they were a private exploitation of labor, and were in contradiction with the right of the workers to their instruments of labor and to credit.

May 5 – On May 5 it ordered the demolition of the Chapel of Atonement, which had been built in expiation of the execution of Louis XVI.

May 9 – Fort Issy, which is completely reduced to ruins by gunfire and constant French bombardement, is captured by the French army.

May 10 – The peace treaty concluded in February now signed, known as Treaty of Frankfurt.

May 16 – The Vendôme Column is pulled down. The Vendôme Column was erected between 1806 and 1810 in Paris in honor of the victories of Napoleonic France.

May 21-28 – Versailles troops enter Paris on May 21. The Prussians who held the northern and eastern forts allowed the Versailles troops to advance across the land north of the city, which was forbidden ground to them under the armistice — Paris workers held the flank with only weak forces. As a result of this, only a weak resistance was put up in the western half of Paris, in the luxury city; while it grew stronger and more tenacious the nearer the Versailles troops approached the eastern half, the working class city. The French army spent eight days massacring workers, shooting civilians on sight. The operation was led by Marshal MacMahon, who would later become president of France. Tens of thousands of Communards and workers are summarily executed (as many as 30,000); 38,000 others imprisoned and 7,000 are forcibly deported.

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


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