The New International Encyclopædia/Blanc, Jean Joseph Louis

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BLANC, Jean Joseph Louis (1811-82). A French socialist and historian, born in Madrid, October 29, 1811. In 1820 he was placed in the college at Rhodez; in 1830 he went to Paris and became a clerk in an attorney's office for a short time, and in 1832 became private tutor at Arras. Here he resided for two years, contributing largely, on literary and political subjects, to the Progrès du Pas-de-Calais. He afterwards went to Paris, where he contributed to various political papers, and where in 1839 he founded the Revue du Progrès, in which he first laid down some of his socialistic theories. In this journal, too, he brought out his famous treatise on socialism, the Organisation du travail, which in 1840 appeared in a reprint. The book obtained for its author general recognition as one of the ablest of Socialist writers, as well as wide popularity among the French ouvriers, who were captivated by the brilliancy of the writing, the apparent simplicity of the scheme, and the freshness of the views advocated. The book denounces the doctrine of individualism — i.e. individual and competitive efforts in labor — and advocates the absorption of the individual in a vast ‘solidarity,’ where “each would receive according to his needs, and contribute according to his abilities.” Blanc next published (in 1841-44) a historical work, entitled Histoire de dix ans, 1830-40, aimed with deadly effect against the Orleans dynasty. Louis Philippe afterwards declared that “it acted like a battering-ram against the bulwarks of loyalty in France.” It owed its success partly to the exposure it gave of the scandalous jobbery and immorality of the Crown and its advisers, partly to that passionate ardor which changed the tranquillity of history into the vehemence of a pamphlet, and its academic pomp of style. This was followed by the first volume of a Histoire de la révolution française, in which the author's aim was to describe, from his own point of view, not only the incidents of the first Revolution, but the social history of the Eighteenth Century. In the February revolution of 1848 Blanc played an important part. His popularity with the working classes led to his being appointed a member of the Provisional Government. He was placed by the Government at the head of the great commission for discussing the problem of labor. At the same time, Marie, Minister of Public Works, began — but without Blanc's coöperation — to establish the so-called national workshops (ateliers nationaux), which were to bring about the realization of the socialistic principle, but which only proved the hazardous and impracticable character of Blanc's doctrines. The national workshops led to an attempt on the part of the Socialists to dissolve the National Assembly by force and to institute a provisional government at the Hôtel de Ville, May 15, 1848. Blanc's name was, in the minds of many, connected with this movement. A proposal was made to prosecute him, but it was negatived by the National Assembly. After the June insurrection, he was again accused and prosecuted for conspiracy, but he contrived to escape to London, where he resided until the fall of the Empire. During his exile he devoted himself to political and historical literature. In 1849 appeared his Appel aux honnêtes gens, and Catéchisme des socialistes; in 1850, Pages d'histoire de la révolution de février, and in 1851, Plus de Girondins; la république une et indivisible. He acted also as correspondent for several Parisian journals, and a collection of his letters from London was published under the title Dix années de l'histoire d'Angleterre (10 vols., Paris, 1879-81). The work which has secured him the most enduring reputation is his History of the French Revolution, in 12 volumes, written during his residence in England. It is characterized by extensive and original research, which has frequently enabled the author to reverse the common verdicts on historical personages, and to explode many of the extravagant stories of the stormy period of which it treats. On the fall of the Empire in 1870, Blanc returned to France, and in 1871 he was elected to the National Assembly, in which he pursued a policy of consistent radicalism without returning to his former Socialistic theories. He died at Cannes, December 6, 1882. Consult Fiaux, “Louis Blanc,” in Portraits politiques contemporains, Vol. II. (Paris, 1883).