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May 1839: La Guerre des Rues, II

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INSURRECTION WAS THE CLIMAX OF UNDERGROUND ACTIVITY, the goal to which all the meetings, permanences, reviews, and clandestine manufacture of cartridges were directed. But there was a tension between the selfassertive violence of a small vanguard and obedience to the popular will. To overcome this, republicans envisioned the insurgency as a moment when the people would rise as one, stirred by revolutionary rhetoric and the willingness of the avant-garde to expose themselves to the first bullets of their oppressors: expressive violence would become instrumental through the force of example. Montagnard republicans distinguished between a genuine revolution of the whole, and what they referred to as the émeute or coup de main—an isolated attempt by a small band to impose their will on the nation. The government always used these pejorative terms, of course; but nothing was worse for insurgents than to realize for themselves that no one followed them, that they were regarded with horror by the people they were attempting to liberate, that they were in fact guilty of placing their particular wills above the general will. Nothing was worse than an émeute.

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© 2002 Jill Harsin

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Harsin, J. (2002). May 1839: La Guerre des Rues, II. In: Barricades. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-38785-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4039-7005-3

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