2 and 5 francs, government of national defense

Started by Figleaf, February 14, 2023, 07:32:41 PM

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The year 1870 was a dark one in French history. France had tried a Bourbon king, an Orléans king and a Bonaparte rerun and all three ended up out of touch with reality and with a revolution.

Napoléon III thought nothing wrong with surrendering most of the French army and was imprisoned or exiled for the remainder of his life, leaving Paris to fend for itself for the remainder of the Franco-Prussian war. Léon Gambetta promptly proclaimed the government of national defense, which promptly left Paris for Bordeaux, leaving themselves in charge of the country's mints, though.

Once again, government was in the hands of royalists (rightist) of different stripes, while the population of Paris was liberal (leftist) and republican. After two sallies that ended badly, Paris surrendered to the Prussians of Bismarck in February 1871. In the area around Paris, you can still find monuments for young civilians shot by Prussian troops for keeping up the resistance. The government fell, Prussia demanded extensive payments. Bismarck skilfully used the situation to obtain an ex-Austria unification of Germany. All the elements for the first world war were in place in France: humiliation, Alsace lost, hatred of Prussia/Germany, the army and the government frustrated, ill regarded and out for revenge.

The coins are a strange mix of royalty, republicanism and revolution. They use a republican design from 1848 which replaced the head of Louis Philippe with that of Ceres (rather than Marianne), but omitting the revolutionary slogan LIBERTE EGALITE FRATERNITE and so breath a propagandistic air of conservatism and stability.


Numista 1177.jpeg

2 francs 1871 A (Paris)
KM 817
Numista 1178

Numista 1185.jpeg

5 francs 1870 K (Bordeaux)
KM 818
Numista 1185
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


Looked the coins up in a catalog, and apparently both types were also issued with the 1870 date and the A mintmark. So did both circulate at the same time and in the same area/s?

Since you mentioned Paris, there was another tragic aspect of the war: the Commune. Parisians (at least quite a few) felt betrayed by the Franco-Prussian reparations deal. The Commune was even fought by both the French national Defense Government and the Prussian-German military. :-[

Germany then used the reparations money, by the way, to prepare for the next war. It was brought to Spandau (then "near" Berlin) where more than 1,000 boxes full of gold coins were stored [de] in a fortress. Well, that "next war" ended differently.


Good point. In general, all 1870 and 1871 coins are treated as "government of national defense". However, that government ceased to exist in early 1871. Catalogue prices seem to indicate that the two variants occur equally often.

Maybe Guillaume or numismatique.com know more. I'll ask.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


Quote from: chrisild on February 15, 2023, 12:44:05 AMSince you mentioned Paris, there was another tragic aspect of the war: the Commune.

The Commune, a tragic aspect? :o  :o A self-managed state, split from all authority (politicians, church, army...), governed by the people and workers themselves, i wouldn't call it "tragic". Yes, i know that's actually an utopia and that life there was "a little bit" different, but... that's how it was supposed to be.

Again, high society classes proved how much do they fear people to achieve real power and had to take it down by force. THAT, that was the actual tragedy! But that could be another (and a long) discuss...


Right, I should have put that differently. There are aspects of the Commune "government" that I dislike, e.g. absolutely no freedom of the press. On the other hand, more people than before (or elsewhere in France) profited from decisions that improved their lives. Would have been very interesting how all this might have developed beyond those two months, had the Commune not been "squeezed" by two regular armies. ::)


Yes, the commune was Utopian thinking, but it was in line with other radical thought, like anarchism. What made the umpteenth Parisian mini-revolt a tragedy was the bloody over-reaction of the authorities, killing at least 66 000 communards, probably many thousands more, most on the spot, without even a trial (the communards killed about 100 gendarmes and churchmen) in the last week. The episode made the trust in the government and the army sink even lower.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.