The Objects

14th May 1815

une_parade resized.jpeg
Source: 'Une Parade': Private collection; 'S.M. l'Empereur passant en revue les Fédérés des Faubourgs de Paris', Napoleon Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library

Napoleon Reviews the Fédérés

Contributed by: Michael Sibalis

On Sunday, 14 May 1815, in the Place du Carousel outside the Tuileries Palace, Napoleon reviewed twelve thousand men from Paris’s working-class districts who had banded together as a volunteer militia of fédérés (federates). In their address to Napoleon, they hailed him as “the representative of the nation, [and] the defender of the Fatherland,” adding that “you consecrate forever the rights of the people; you will reign by the Constitution and the laws. We come to offer our arms, our courage and our blood for the safety of the capital”.

The semi-official print of the review (the black and white print below left) depicted these fédérés as respectable workingmen, but this contemporary caricature of the scene lampooned them as the dregs of society. The contrasting images highlight a social, political and ideological contradiction at the heart of the 100 Days. On returning from Elba, Napoleon sought to win over the masses by reclaiming the heritage of the French Revolution. The enthusiastic response he elicited alarmed many, including Napoleon himself, who refused to arm the fédérés. As Antoine-Claire Thibaudeau explained in his memoirs, “they were considered a revolutionary army, and terrified the upper classes and the monarchical government. It was said that they reeked of the Republic”.