Paris in the early days of the war: August 1, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)

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Saturday, August 1, 1914. After dinner last evening I happened to be near the Café du Croissant near the Bourse and in the heart of the newspaper quarter of Paris. Suddenly an excited crowd collected. “Jaurès has been assassinated!” shouted a waiter. The French deputy and anti-war agitator was sitting with his friends at a table near an open window in the café. A young Frenchman named Raoul Villain, son of a clerk of the Civil Court of Rheims, pushed a revolver through the window and shot Jaurès through the head. He died a few moments later. The murder of the socialist leader would in ordinary times have so aroused party hatred that almost civil war would have broken out in Paris. But to-night, under the tremendous patriotic pressure of the German emperor’s impending onslaught upon France, the whole nation is united as one man. As M. Arthur Meyer, editor of the Gaulois, remarked: “France is now herself again! Not since a hundred years has the world seen ‘France Debout!'”

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At four o’clock this afternoon I was standing on the Place de la Bourse when the mobilization notices were posted. Paris seemed electrified. All cabs were immediately taken. I walked to the Place de l’Opéra and Rue de la Paix to note the effect of the mobilization call upon the people. Crowds of young men, with French flags, promenaded the streets, shouting “Vive La France!” Bevies of young sewing-girls, midinettes, collected at the open windows and on the balconies of the Rue de la Paix, cheering, waving their handkerchiefs at the youthful patriots, and throwing down upon them handfuls of flowers and garlands that had decked the fronts of the shops. The crowd was not particularly noisy or boisterous. No cries of “On to Berlin!” or “Down with the Germans!” were heard. The shouts that predominated were simply: “Vive La France!” “Vive l’Armée!” and “Vive l’Angleterre!” One or two British flags were also borne along beside the French tricolor.

~ ~ ~ Charles Inman Barnard, from his book Paris War Days: the Diary of an American (Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1914).

(see the next post in this series: August 2– Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment