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Ferdinand Flocon

Ferdinand Flocon, Born in Paris on November 1, 1800, Flocon was the son of an employee in the Chappe telegraph service. In the decades before 1848, he survived as a talented stenographer and parliamentary reporter for liberal newspapers, as a novelist and translator, and as an editor of le Courrier français, le Constitutionnel, la Tribune and, from 1843, la Réforme. He also was active as a "carbonaro" in the 1820s and in the republican secret societies under the July Monarchy.

A committed republican and democrat, Flocon was described by a contemporary as "never without Robespi erre's Declaration of the Rights of Man in his pocket and in his brain." His journalism in la Réforme also testifies to his Jacobin-style concern for "the social question." He supported the "organization of labor" and the "right to work", and the paper carried articles by Proudhon, Bakunin, Pecqueur, Engels and Marx. Though no socialist, he was personally close to Marx, who regarded him as "cordial and sincere . . . one of the most honest men I have known."

Despite c ounseling caution to workers and students in February 1848, Flocon was a popular choice for the Provisional Government and closely allied with Ledru-Rollin in urging the implementation of republican and social welfare measures. However, the moderates in the government had only belatedly accepted Flocon's presence in February and, not having a portfolio, his views were regularly pushed aside. Elected for the department of the Seine in April 1848, the executive commission of the national assembly appo inted him minister of agriculture and commerce, where his concerns centered on the democratizing of industrial conciliation boards and proposals for establishing "agricultural colonies."

Flocon viewed the June rising as an unjustifiable attack on popular sovereignty, which was ultimately likely to benefit only a potential dictator such as Louis Napoleon. He consequently supported Cavaignac's repression of the insurgents, including the proclamation of a state of siege in Paris and the depor tation of the insurgents, but the general dropped him from his ministry after June. For his old friend Marx, and Marxist historians since, Flocon's decisions in June were the epitome of petit-bourgeois betrayal of the workers. For the next year, Flocon was consistently on the left in the assembly, calling for the end of indirect taxes, opposing Louis Napoleon's foreign policy, and, at the last sitting of the assembly on May 26, 1849, unsuccessfully moving for a complete amnesty for the June insurg ents. However, he was not re-elected to the assembly in May 1849 and moved to Strasbourg to edit a bilingual newspaper, le Démocrate du Rhin. He was an unsuccessful candidate in a by-election in the Hérault to replace Ledru-Rollin, in exile since the failed rising of June 13, 1849.

He spend the years between the coup d'état of December 1851 and his death in March 1866 in Switzerland as a bookseller and democratic activist in Geneva and Lausann e and, following pressure from France, under house arrest in Zurich. For Flocon, these were years of abject poverty and failing eyesight, embittered by his remorse for having supported Cavaignac unconditionally in June 1848.
Peter McPhee


Cré'mieux, Albert, La Révolution de février: Etude critique sur les journées des 21, 22, 23 et 24 février 1848. (Paris, 1912).

McPhee,Peter, "Th e crisis of Radical Republicanism in the French Revolution of 1848," Historical Studies XVI (April 1974), 71-88.

Perrier, A., "Ferdinand Flocon," in Dictionnaire de biographie française,. Paris, Letouzey & Ané, 1979 , XIV, 77-78.

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