In 1814, when the allied forces were approaching Paris, heavy batteries were planted in Pere la Chaise, commanding the plain which extends to Vincennes. The walls had loop-holes, and the scholars of Alfort occupied it and defended it against three Russian attacks. The last was successful, and the Russians were masters of the field. The city of Paris capitulated that very evening, and the Russian troops encamped among the tombs.
[Illustration: PARIS FROM MONTMARTRE.]
[Illustration: COLUMN OF JULY 8—PLACE JUILLET.]
In coming back from Pere la Chaise, I saw the Column of July, erected in memory of the victims of the July of the great revolution. Upon this spot the old Bastille stood, and the column indicates it.
The public prisons of Paris are nine in number: for persons upon whom a verdict has not been pronounced, and against whom an indictment lies; for debt; for political offenses; for persons sentenced to death or the hulks; for criminals of a young age; for females; and for offenders in the army.
In the penal prisons, the inmates are allowed books and the privilege of writing, but are all obliged to labor, each, if he wishes, choosing the trade in which he is fitted best to succeed. The men receive a pound and a half of bread per day, and the women a fraction less.
The prison La Force is in the Rue du Roi de Sicile. The buildings of which it is composed were once the hotel of the duke de La Force—hence the name. It was converted into a prison in 1780. A new prison for prostitutes was erected about the same time, and was called La Petite Force. In 1830 the two prisons were united, and put under one management, and the whole prison is given up to males committed for trial. The prisoners are divided into separate classes; the old offenders into one ward, the young and comparatively innocent into another; the old men into one apartment, and the boys into another. The prisoners sleep in large and well ventilated chambers, and the boys have each a small apartment which contains a single bed. The prisoners have the privilege of working if they wish, but they are not obliged to do so, inasmuch as they are not yet convicted of crime. There is a department for the sick, a bathing-room, a parlor, and an advocate’s room, where the prisoners can hold conversations with their legal defenders. The number of prisoners is very great—ten thousand being under the annual average confined in the prisons.
St. Lazare is a prison for women under indictment and those who have been sentenced to a term less than one year. One department of the prison, which is entirely separated from the rest, is devoted to prostitutes, and another distinct department is devoted to girls under sixteen years of age. Each department has its own infirmary, and a new plan has been adopted to stimulate the inmates to industry. They are allowed two-thirds pay for all the work they will perform in the prison. Every kind of manufacture is carried on in the prison—the preparation of cashmere yarn, hooks and eyes, etc. etc. The number confined in this prison in a year, is over ten thousand. The service of the prison is carried on by the sisters of charity.