THE 1st CANUT REVOLT & THE PASSAGE MERMET (2)

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The passage Mermet is an urban area located on the slopes of La Croix-Rousse, 22 rue René-Leynaud, 69001 Lyon, in the 1st arrondissement of Lyon. It has an entry by a portico (rue René Leynaud) and is a curved traboule (path) which is linked to the rue Burdeau by to a staircase leading to the hill (rue Burdeau). The street belongs to the zone classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

It has been reinvented by the street artiste Wenc.

The 80 steps of the Passage Mermet are the equivalent of a four floor Canut building. 

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The 1st Canut revolt

1831 – The first Canut Revolt

In 1831 the economic forecast was gloomy with silk orders on a downward spiral. The knock on effect saw many master weavers going out of business, thus throwing journeymen out of work with a corresponding downward pressure on wages. Revolution was already in the air with the overthrow of King Charles X the previous year during the “July Revolution” or “Second French Revolution”. Combined with extremely poor working conditions and long hours, the canuts were at breaking point come November that year. Working anywhere from 14 to 18, even up to 20 hours per day and seated in awkward positions at the looms situated in poorly lit, dingy basements with the bar constantly striking the chest of the operator and breathing in the dust generated by the machine, having tolerated these conditions for years and through gritted teeth, the workers patience was beginning to wear thin.

  • Catalyst

Like any explosive situation a catalyst is required, which came in the form of a refusal by the merchants to accept a tariff imposed across the industry by the Chief Constable of Lyon, Bouvier-Dumolart. In reality, this bourgeois manipulator was trying to avert an uprising which was implicit in the situation. The canuts had lost a minimum tariff which they had gained under the post revolutionary empire of 1804–14 and were petitioning him and the industry to return to such a measure to alleviate their difficulties in the face of the current downturn in fortunes.

  • The march

On the 25th October, thousands of canuts marched in formation from the workers’ quarters in the Croix-Rousse down to the central square of Bellecourt and the Prefecture in Lyon. Bouvier-Dumolart addressed the crowd, convincing them to return home in peace and agreed that a rate would be se though it was less than the canuts’ demands. Even so, this was seen as a victory by the canuts and thus began a night of celebrations which lead to high expectations and much praise for the Chief Constable. The merchants on the other hand, and by the set date to implement the tariff of November 2nd, refused to pay it on the grounds that it had been obtained through worker threats and a form of mass terror.

This refusal of the merchants to accept the fixed price tariff was seen as a final insult which lead directly to the revolt. Negotiations went back and forth, with the merchants and capitalists resisting the imposition of the tariff, and with mounting pressure from the canuts to have it brought in. Eventually, by November 10th, Bouvier-Dumolart had backed down from his original promise in favour of the merchants, as many had closed down their warehouses to prevent the tariff from being paid. They had, in effect, staged a lockout which completely enraged the workers. On the 21st November, and following Bouvier-Dumolart’s climb down, the canuts struck.

  •  "My friends help me sweep away this rabble"

At 7am the canuts assembled, unchallenged, in the Grande Place of the Croix Rousse. The procession of hundreds of workers then began to make their way toward the Prefecture. The First Legion of the city National Guard which met the canuts were made up primarily from merchants, clerks and other middle layers of society who assembled at the entrance to the Grande Cote to prevent the workers from advancing. A First Legion Commander, a merchant named Gentlet, waved his sword in the air and cried out “My friends help me sweep away this rabble.” But still the canuts advanced. Bayonets were fixed and still they came, this time hurling stones at the guard. Finally, as the confrontation reached a crescendo, shots rang out and several canuts fell. This forced them into a temporary retreat to the working class districts but, back they came with more support and in their thousands, walking 4 abreast behind a large banner proclaiming “Live working or die fighting.” Under the sheer weight of numbers and following fierce fighting, which included artillery fire aimed at the district of Brotteaux, they forced the guard back and occupied the main square. With the main military resistance quelled, the canuts streamed into the city.

  • The power of the working class

Bouvier Dumolart came to the balcony of the town hall to appeal for calm when shots rang out again. With a tenacious surge and show of anger and strength, the canuts took both him and the guard commander prisoner and, with the troops now in confusion and disarray, the canuts had seized control of the city. What was left of the National Guard which remained loyal to the authorities was completely surrounded in the area of the Hotel-de-Ville. The uprising spread to other parts of the city very quickly, with insurgent worker militias springing up and, with those National Guard units in the workers’ districts which were mainly comprised of weavers coming directly over to the uprising, the working class had come to power in a modern city for the first time in history.

  • A matter of control

The following day, the remainder of the National Guard retreated from Lyon under the watchful eyes and trained rifles of the canuts. The city was in their hands. During the fighting on the previous day 275 were dead (75 on the government side and 200 civilians) and 263 wounded. The canuts set to work quickly to shore up their control of the city with militias patrolling the warehouses and, after initial looting of food stores and other goods shops, they had managed to quell any further misbehaviour and brought a sense of order to the situation. It was noted that, following the initial uprising which had been lead and organised by the journeymen and supported by the master weavers, it was the former Napoleonic soldiers and veterans who dominated the military strategy across the city which so quickly brought about an organised peace. Attempts by the “authorities” to overturn the canuts’ victory were inevitable with the entry into the city on the 22nd November of troops from nearby Trévoux, in an effort to take back the workers’ quarters in Croix Rousse, but was resisted brilliantly and successfully by the workers themselves.

On the political front, a hodge-podge of activists put themselves forward as the new Provisional General Staff, basing themselves in the Hotel-de-Ville. There were Republicans, Carlists and other various conspirators and agitators who, on November 24th released the following proclamation:

  • Volunteers of the Rhone

They became known by the workers as leaders of the “Volunteers of the Rhone”. Despite the quick politicisation of the uprising, the workers, in general, did not posses any mass political organisation. The Republican Party had only one or two cells in the city and was comprised of mainly intellectuals and middle class professionals (the radical wing of the bourgeoisie) and were mainly active on the left in civic affairs as libertarians and defenders of the poor, who came forward as well spoken political advocates on behalf of the canuts on many occasions.

  • The end of the rebellion

As affairs calmed, Prefect Bouvier-Dumolart, who had been released, seized the opportunity to call together the more moderate master weavers into a “Council of Sixteen” to discuss the crisis and to call for sound governance. The traditions and acquired historical authority of the city’s now former rulers was used to mediate and pull the uprising back onto more “reasonable” territory. The perceived coup plotters of the Provisional General Staff, sensing the ground opening up in front of them, fled the Hotel-de-Ville and were arrested while the Prefect and the newly assembled Council oversaw an orderly transition of power back into the hands of the bourgeoisie. On the 29th of November the Council of Sixteen returned power back into the hands of the Prefect and by the 2nd of December, when the Minister of War Soult and the Duc d’Orleans reached the city with their armies, they found the gates open and the Canuts in holiday dress. The rebellion was over.

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Itinerary 2

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18: 2 place Chardonnet:
open, 19th century house.

Info: a square surrounded by sober buildings from the early 19th century in the Canut style with many tall windows, its centre is less shining with the monument to the great man who is a little neglected and surrounded by several chestnut trees. It is dedicated to Hilaire de Chardonnet. 

1. Who was Hilaire de Chardonnet?

 

19 : 14 rue René-Leynaud :

open, building, wide door and wide staircase, exit by door under full hanger.

Info: firstly namled rue Vieille-Monnaie, this street was opened in 1520 and it is the oldest road in the Capuchin district at the bottom of the Croix-Rousse slopes. The municipal council decided to rename this road to pay tribute to to René Leynaud.

2. Who was René Leynaud?

 

22 rue des Capucins :

open, crossing two buildings double door entrance and glass door for access to the courtyard.

Info: the street belongs to the zone classified World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is named after the Capuchin order, designated Capucins du Petit Forez.

3. What is the Capuchin order?

 

22 : 3 rue St Claude :

open, building built in the 19th century, special square courtyard.

Info: this street dates back to the 16th century and is named after Saint Claude.

4. Who was Saint Claude?

 

23: 5 rue Griffon:

open, beautiful courtyard building, two gates prevent access to the traboule at 7 rue Griffon.

Info: the street was opened in 1353. The Griffon was quite popular at the time of the opening of this street, there were several hostels of this name in Lyon, one of which surely left its name on the street.

5. What is a Griffon?

 

24 : 5 place Croix-Paquet:

open, simple but long facade, crossing two courtyards, a first courtyard of unexpected appearance, the second very large but abandoned, two possible exits rue de Lorette if you go up to the first and direct exit through a passage of four columns. Basic façade exit.

Info: a cross was erected on the square in 1628 by the merchant Jean Paquet, who also owned the house at the corner of the montée Saint-Sébastien and of the rue René-Laynaud. This cross replaced the Croix des Rameaux (Cross of the Palms), which had previously been cut by the Calvinists in 1562. The place was naled after this events.

6. What is Calvinism?

 

25 : 4 rue de Thou :

open, with three entrances, joins the Croix Paquet square, an imposing entrance.

Info: this street was opened to the monastery of the Feuillants, who arrived in 1619 and were driven out by the revolution. The street was named after François Auguste De Thou.

7. Who was François Auguste De Thou?

 

26 : 6, 8 petite-rue-des-feuillants :

open, eight simple entrances, in the courtyard an underground car park, a gate separates the two courtyards of 6 and 8, very beautiful entrance of traboule.

Info: this street is very old and was were the Feuillants had their monastery of Saint Charles there from 1619 to the revolution.

8. Who were the Feuillants?

 

27 : 33 rue Royale:

open, Louis XVI door, go up half a floor, take a footbridge, go down one and a half floors, exit by arched aisle and wide door.

Info: it was the most beautiful street in the neighborhood, so it became rue Royale. Many wealthy merchants began to live in the street. After the death of French King Louis XIV, the street was named rue de la Convention, then in 1848 rue de Démocratie for a short while, and rue Nationale in 1850. Only in 1870 it changed its name to rue Royale.

9. What were the two nicknames by which Louis XIV was known for?

 

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Answers:

1. Hilaire de Chardonnet (1 May 1839 – 11 March 1924) was a French engineer and industrialist from Besançon, and inventor of artificial silk.

2. René Leynaud René Leynaud (24 August 1910 - 13 June 1944) was a French journalist and poet who distinguished himself by his acts of resistance within the Combat movement in Lyon during the Second World War.

3. The Capuchin order was an autonomous branch of the first Franciscan order of religious men, begun as a reform movement in 1525 by Matteo da Bascio. The lives of its early members were defined by extreme austerity, simplicity, and poverty, and, though this has been to some extent mitigated, the order remains very strict.

4. Saint Claudius of Besançon (ca. 607 – June 6, 696 or 699 AD), was a priest, monk, abbot, and bishop. He was bishop of Besançon and monk at the abbey of Condat.

5. The Griffon is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and sometimes an eagle's talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds by the Middle Ages the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Since classical antiquity, Griffins were known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions.

6. Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.

7. François-Auguste de Thou (c. 1607 - 12 September 1642) was a French magistrate. He was beheaded at Lyon on the same day as Cinq-Mars on Richelieu's orders.

8. The Feuillants were a Catholic congregation originating in the 1570s as a reform group within the Cistercians (a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns) in its namesake Les Feuillants Abbey in France, which declared itself an independent order.

9. Louis the Great (Louis le Grand) and the Sun King (Roi Soleil).