Une lettre de Charles Jeanne, insurgé de juin 1832
Charles Jeanne naît en 1800 à Paris. Si les trente premières années de son existence sont mal connues, il se distingue pendant les combats des Trois Glorieuses de Juillet 1830 (il y reçoit plusieurs blessures, ce qui lui vaut la décoration de Juillet). Il semble bien exercer un temps le métier de commissionnaire mais en tout état de cause il est sans emploi au printemps 1832. Déterminé le 5 juin 1832, à l’occasion des funérailles du général Lamarque, à manifester contre Louis-Philippe et ses ministres puis à prendre les armes, il combat inlassablement contre les forces de l’ordre. Il parvient à fuir la barricade de Saint-Merry avec quelques autres insurgés dans l’après-midi du 6, peu avant l’assaut final. Arrêté quelques semaines plus tard, il revendique pleinement sa responsabilité pendant son procès. Il est condamné à la déportation. Il séjourne successivement dans plusieurs prisons : la Conciergerie, Sainte-Pélagie, le Mont-Saint-Michel (c’est là qu’il écrit sa lettre), Bicêtre, Clairvaux, Doullens enfin. Soutenu par ses proches et en particulier par ses parents, Jeanne obtient progressivement des assouplissements dans ses conditions de détention. Il bénéficie de l’amnistie de 1837 mais il en profite peu : il meurt à Doullens le 11 juillet 1837.
En 1833 Jeanne adresse sa lettre à sa chère sœur. Nul ne sait si ses pages lui sont parvenues ou si elles ont été interceptées par les autorités pénitentiaires. Nul ne sait non plus quel chemin elles ont parcouru jusqu’à leur découverte, au 20e siècle, dans un marché aux puces. Le document, dont aucune page n’a été perdue ou détruite, est conservé actuellement dans une collection privée.
Jeanne (Charles), À cinq heures nous serons tous morts ! Sur la barricade Saint-Merry, 5-6 juin 1832, présenté et commenté par Thomas Bouchet, Paris, Vendémiaire, 2011.
The last page of the manuscript can be translated as follows: “All these attacks were constantly repulsed after a longer or shorter combat, depending on whether the attackers were more or less fierce, more or less brave. That, in two words, is the history of the barricades in those two days of June. I have only mentioned episodes which are known to me personally, deeds & gestures that I witnessed with my own eyes, words that reached my own ears. I guarantee you their truth. No doubt, much escaped me, but to see and hear everything it would be necessary, as you are aware, to occupy oneself exclusively only with that task and, God knows, I had others. Farewell, good sister, farewell; may I see you again soon. (Three lines deleted and indecipherable) Perhaps you will reward me for this work by writing to me more often? Oh! That would be kind. Ch. .Jeanne E..P..M..”
Written in December 1833 from his prison by the barricade master Charles Jeanne, this letter consists of 58 pages in fine, neat handwriting, with only a few corrections. The image we reproduce here is of the last page, numbered 57 (there are two pages numbered 31). The vast majority of the text relates to the fighting in the Saint-Merry cloister. The accuracy of the description can be questioned: Jeanne wrote the text 18 months after the event, and in it he is concerned to justify himself and to defend his reputation against attacks from some of his fellow prisoners. Nonetheless, it is a very valuable source because it allows us to get an idea of life on the barricade on an hour-by-hour basis. And it is a powerful piece of writing, with the recurrent use of punctuation (especially exclamation points) and underlining dramatizing the content, whether it be describing the building of the barricade, the hopes and fears of the insurgents and their clashes with the authorities and, for many, their deaths. Jeanne's letter is a decisive piece for understanding what happened on June 5 and 6, 1832, an event that Louis Blanc (Histoire de dix ans) as well as Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) also recounted from different perspectives. Charles Jeanne was born in Paris in 1800. If the first thirty years of his existence are not well known, he made up for this by distinguishing himself during the combats of the Three Glorious Days of July 1830 (he received several wounds there, which earned him the July decoration). He appears to have acted as a commission agent/messanger for a time, but in any case he was unemployed by the spring of 1832. On June 5, 1832, on the occasion of General Lamarque's funeral, he was determined to demonstrate against Louis-Philippe and his ministers and then took up arms, fighting tirelessly against the police. He managed to escape the barricade of Saint-Merry with a few other insurgents on the afternoon of the 6th, shortly before the army’s final assault. Arrested a few weeks later, he took full responsibility during his trial. He was condemned to deportation. He stayed successively in several prisons: La Conciergerie, Sainte-Pélagie, Mont-Saint-Michel (where he wrote this letter), Bicêtre, Clairvaux, and finally Doullens. Supported by his relatives and in particular by his parents, Jeanne gradually secured some relaxation of the conditions of his detention. He benefited from the amnesty of 1837 - but he benefited little: he died shortly after his release in the town of Doullens on July 11, 1837. In 1833 Jeanne addressed his letter to his dear sister. We do not know whether his pages reached her or whether they were intercepted by the prison authorities. Nor do we know how many hands they passed through before they were discovered in the 20th century in a flea market. But their survival gives us one of the most striking participant accounts of the insurgency of 1832. The document, of which no page has been lost or destroyed, is currently held in a private collection, but has been published with an introduction and scholarly apparatus in French. It is likely that Jeane hoped that parts or the whole of his account would be published in some form in the republican press – he contributed to newspapers in 1830 and in 1832 and it is likely he envisaged a wider audience for what was a painstaking account of events.