A republican “duck” (1833)

A republican “duck” (1833)

  • Departure of a republican for Mont-Saint-Michel prison.


  • Jeanne, in the Sainte-Pélagie prison.

    LECLER Auguste-Toussaint

  • Jeanne, 1833.

    LECLER Auguste-Toussaint

To close

Title: Departure of a republican for Mont-Saint-Michel prison.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1833

Date shown: 1833

Dimensions: Height 47.5 - Width 30.5

Technique and other indications: woodcut. Modified copy of a letter text to the Minister and the names of the signatories, political prisoners at Mont-Saint-Michel. Louis-Auguste Mie, printer, Paris, impr. De Mie, n.d.

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Picture reference: CC 5855 / d.2 / room 272

Departure of a republican for Mont-Saint-Michel prison.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: Jeanne, in the Sainte-Pélagie prison.

Author : LECLER Auguste-Toussaint (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Rature on the chest, where there is a decoration

Storage location: Carnavalet museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Joffre

Picture reference: 2004 CAR 0819A / D 01750

Jeanne, in the Sainte-Pélagie prison.

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Joffre

To close

Title: Jeanne, 1833.

Author : LECLER Auguste-Toussaint (-)

Creation date : 1833

Date shown: 1833

Dimensions: Height 47.5 - Width 30.5

Technique and other indications: Full title: [Jeanne, in the prison of Sainte-Pélagie, with the cross of July 1830 on her chest] in Paris at Raisin editor 87, passage Choiseul.

Storage location: Carnavalet museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Pierrain

Picture reference: 2004 CAR 0798NB / PORT PC 156

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Pierrain

Publication date: January 2005

Historical context

Adolphe Thiers, in charge of prisons in 1833, as Secretary of State for Commerce and Public Works, decided to make the central prison of Mont-Saint-Michel the first fortress to receive prisoners convicted of political subversion. The prisoners remain in constant contact with Parisian journalists.

Image Analysis

A duck "

The layout of this folio-size sheet is characteristic: uncolored woodcut, particularly long title (placed after a line in large characters), and expanded text placed under the image: it is a duck ". This was the name given in the 19th century to those non-periodical loose sheets that gave sensational news about events or news items. Sold very inexpensively, they seek to seduce the reader with horrible or pathetic details, often fabricated from scratch. Their circulation developed so well, from 1830, that some publishers devoted themselves entirely to it and employed wood engravers, themselves specialists.

The river title is intersected by many semicolons, as the "ducks" are sold by town criers who rhythmically chant the title's striking elements to grab the attention of customers.

Anonymous and undated, this sheet was legally registered at the printers' deposit on October 22, 1833, by Louis-Augustin Mie, to be distributed in 1000 copies. He is not an expert on "ducks" but the printer of The gallery, a republican newspaper which publishes articles on the Mont-Saint-Michel prison, maintains correspondence with the inmates and sends them subsidies.

The image peddles a pathetic parting scene, much like “ducks”! A republican must follow two gendarmes decked out in furry caps… that the gendarmerie has not worn for two decades! Dressed in a semblance of a uniform and a helmet, he is distinguished like his wife by a curious protruding hairstyle that perhaps evokes the Phrygian cap.

The text is more allusive than precise on the treatment given to these glorious veterans of 1830. They would have left “in chains like brigands” claims the duck. This is not true, they left in cars, two Republicans and two Legitimists per trip, after dressing the first in red caps and the second in green caps!

The letter to the Minister, Thiers, is a propaganda composition, quite different from the original. Two of the prisoners, Jeanne and Hassenfratz, are designated there as Freemasons by three dots after their initials. The developments mentioned, the construction of a skylight and a gate in the visiting room, do not constitute, at this date, worrying threats. The “duck” prefers to agitate an old terror: the iron cage of Louis XI which marked the imagination of Mont-Saint-Michel. Louis-Philippe, visiting the Mont at the age of seventeen, with his brothers and their tutor, Madame de Genlis, in 1788, then had this object from the end of the Middle Ages destroyed. The text suggests that the king, who rose up against the arbitrariness of the dark centuries in his youth, is now doing the same against the Republicans.

The duck also plays on the disturbing aura of the Mont which combines its isolation, its Cyclopean architecture, the dangers of quicksand and the raging tide. Mie may well "refrain from all reflection", at the end of this text: the reader of the "duck" must have been in the grip of terror and indignation!

Portraits of Joan

This Republican taken to Mont-Saint-Michel may have been inspired by the detainee Jeanne who wishes to appear as the leader of the Republican prisoners. He had his portrait drawn by Lecler in the Parisian prison of Sainte-Pélagie, in 1833, before his departure for the Mount; he appears there in civilian clothes, wearing a phécy adorned with a cockade. On the other hand, on the lithograph intended to popularize his features, his jacket has been transformed into a military “underwear” and, claiming it, he sports the July Cross, created for the heroes of the glorious days of 1830. However, an erasure is visible on the original drawing at the location of the cross. Curious inconsistency to which the archives provide the explanation. Several prisoners claim to be “decorated in July” both on this “duck” and in their letters to Minister Thiers and to the newspaper La Tribune. But the National Awards Commission in fact recognized as a fighter of 1830 only E. C. P. Jeanne, to whom it granted a pension, for having been wounded by four shots, but not the July Cross.

Jeanne will be highly contested by the Republicans during her incarceration at the Mont because she uses fraudulent maneuvers to appropriate the money sent by the Tribune and even that of her fellow prisoners! The administration will be forced to change him to prison.


In an original but not unique way, this "duck" is making Republican propaganda using the sensational media. It targets a popular public of manual workers to which the Republican prisoners of the Mount belong.

The text is subversive but the charges are stereotypical. Not targeting a specific problem, the duck seeks rather to ensure the special regime of "politicians", during the second wave of incarceration at the Mount (October 1833). At most, he can put pressure on Thiers, who likes to invoke the "July spirit" to distinguish himself from the reactionaries.

Using "ducks" to disseminate political ideas shows, in more depth, the will of Republican journalists to create a state of opinion that becomes fact. The image contributes strongly to this because it arouses passions, the details of the facts create the myth. Hopes and fears take shape there, influencing the unconscious choices of the collective soul. On the question of the imprisonment of politicians, this is an effective way to create a hold over opinion that later writings may continue to mold.

  • Thiers (Adolphe)
  • Barbès (Armand)
  • July Monarchy
  • Mont Saint Michel
  • political opponents
  • jail
  • republicans
  • Hugo (Victor)


Jean-Claude VIMONT Political prison in France: The genesis of a specific mode of incarceration (18th-20th centuries). Paris, Anthropos, 1993

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, “A republican“ duck ”(1833)”

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