Paris Commune 1871

The Coins of the Commune

Source: Maxime Vuillaume, Mes Cahiers Rouges. Paris, La Découverte, 2011;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor.

May. I don’t know what led me to the quay.

I go upstairs to see my friend Camélinat who has settled in at the mint and is preparing to strike the Commune’s new coin.

“So then, how’s our 100 sou coin coming?”

Camélinat tells me of the difficulties he’s encountering having the Bank of France deliver the silver ingots. It’s not till after promise after promise that M. de Ploeuc agreed to give them 2,000,000 francs in silver to be minted in lots of 100,000 francs.

“But couldn’t the Commune simply send a battalion?”

Camélinat raises his arms to heaven.

And after a silence:

“In any case, I finally have my ingots. One of these days I'll bring you my new coin.”

This day never came. The 100 sous coins were only struck on May 20. The next day the Versaillais entered Paris.

Wednesday morning, in the middle of the battle, when shots were already being fired in the neighborhoods, two wagons filled with exactly 153,000 francs worth of coins left through the gate on Rue Guénégaud.

After a thousand detours, stopped every second by the barricades it had to cross, the two wagons reached Place Voltaire, the town hall of the eleventh arrondissement, to which the Commune had moved.

Long after the defeat a witness told me of the fantastic scene. The fighters of the final hour receiving their pay in the new coins of the Commune, already marked with death

The wagons had been sheltered in the inner courtyard of the town hall. The men dug their hands into the baskets, overflowing with coins that had just left the mint.