BIBLIOTHEQUE DE l’ARSENAL
Lieutenant General of Police, Archives of the Bastille
Morals series (extracted from the prisoners series), 10254-67 [1715-1769, but almost nothing about sodomy after 1750], available in Gallica
Prisoners series, 10522-12471 [1700-1789, but nothing about sodomy after 1768], many cartons from 1719 to 1735 available in Gallica
Both series are organized chronologically by year and more or less alphabetically within year, although more than a few dossiers contain documents from more than one year and even about more than one case. The prisoners series, unlike the morals series, is indexed, but the yearly indexes of names on dossiers (https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc12946b/cd0e112 and https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc12947k/cd0e73666) do not include the offenses, so the only way to locate relevant dossiers is to browse the digitized cartons online and the undigitized cartons onsite, on microfilm or in manuscript.
These two series include thousands of relevant documents: reports of entrapment by decoys in public spaces as well as activities in private places, letters from arresting officers Haymier and Simonnet to the Lieutenant General, denunciations, petitions from prisoners and others, and administrative correspondence with the minister of the Royal Household, whose portfolio included the department of Paris.
A document dated 21 March 1723 includes a reference (AB 10772, f 73) to the Regent’s decree against sodomites, which has eluded detection. The police deployed decoys in the Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens in April 1723, under lieutenant general d’Argenson. Many reports include conversations in which sodomites discussed their interests and adventures in order to persuade decoys to have sex with them. Police practices changed in 1747-50, under lieutenant general Berryer and inspector Framboisier, and so did police documents. The morals and prisoners series from these years include fewer reports of arrest and many depositions, condensed sexual autobiographies, by men named by other men.
21 October 1723
Arrest of Gobert
Gobert has been known for many years as an infamous sodomite and corrupter of young folks, as well as for supplying such to the duc de Brancas in the past. For five or six years he has lived on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, where he does not have a good reputation. He always has with him young folks from the neighborhood whom he lured to his place and often made sleep with him. The neighbors as well as the late Michaud, used clothes vendor, in whose house Gobert then lived, informed the late M. d’Argenson, who ordered M. Simonnet to bring him in so as to speak with him, so that he would be reprimanded as he deserved and, in case of recidivism, sent to the hospital. The late Michaud found Gobert going up the hill with two children from neighborhood families whom he wished to corrupt, as they stated at the time. Since that time, this infamous type has continued in more or less the same way. In order to hide his cards better, he bought for life a little house at the quarries that he fixed up as he liked. As he has stated, he has lived there with a young man for four years. He also said that he was a carpenter and that he put him up as a good friend. Gobert has always reserved a small room on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, in the house of a candlemaker named Gosset, in order to come there sometimes to amuse himself with his friends, especially young folks. He has also been known to M. Théru for a long time.
On this day, Monday, 21 October, in the Luxembourg gardens around 6 pm, I encountered Gobert, who was looking for a good time there in the places where all the infamous types go. Having seated myself on the grass, he placed himself next to me and showed me his penis through his shirt, while telling me the story of his adventures on the subject of sodomy, among others about a certain Cadeau who was arrested by royal order by M. Simonnet for the same reason, who went to the Mississippi, with whom he lived for a while as man and wife/woman. He missed him all the time, as one of the good looking boys of Paris. He also told me that he had had something to do with a priest he had met on the Half-Moon. A month ago he had moreover found a young man there with whom he had a good time, but he had caught something bad out of it. A week ago he had also met a man in the Luxembourg with whom he had gone to la Roquette and had a good time together, which man Gobert invited to come see him in his house at the quarries. Gobert told me that he put it in and did not like women at all, that his whole pleasure was to have something to do with attractive boys and that he had been of this inclination all his life. Then Gobert suggested to me that we go drink a mug because he did not want to do anything in the garden because they arrested people every day, and we would be safe to amuse ourselves in a tavern. After leaving the garden by the gate on the side of the rue d’Enfer, Gobert was arrested by royal order by M. Simonnet, who conducted him to prison in the Petit Châtelet around 8 pm.
Deposition by Delarue
20 January 1750
Jean Baptiste Delarue, domestic of Mlle de Beuvron, living at the Hôtel de Humières on rue de Bourbon, stated today to Mr. Framboisier, police inspector responsible for the execution of the royal order against sodomites, that he, the deponent, was debauched into infamy about three months ago by a man unknown to him whom he encountered in the evening on the Cours de la Reine. This man and he, the deponent, manualized each other. About two weeks ago he, the deponent, encountered on the Cours another man with whom he likewise manualized. He feels all the wrong he did by going to the quai de Conti today with the same intention and accosting there a man unknown to him on the same score. He regrets it very much and at last promises to correct himself of it. This is all he has to state. After it was read to him, he confirmed and signed.
The Archives of the Bastille also include the reports of police spies who frequented public spaces and recorded public chatter and the registers of men released from Bicêtre. For relevant passages from the reports, see the contextual essay on Popular Attitudes.
Commissaires de police, Y10719-16022 [1700-1791], especially the commissaires responsible for surveillance of same-sex relations in the 1780s: Pierre Louis Foucault, Y13407-10 [1780-1783] and Charles Convers Desormeaux, Y11722-33 [1783-1789]
Their papers include thousands of relevant documents: records of regular surveillance by inspectors Louis Henri Noël and Jean François Royer Desurbois, reports of special nocturnal patrols (sometimes in collaboration with the Swiss Guards in the Champs-Elysées), interrogations, denunciations, and accounts of domestic searches. Pederasts talked less freely after arrest, in these documents, than sodomites did before arrest, in the Archives of the Bastille.
With information (about site and date) from other sources (such as the registers of the watch/guard) in hand, it is possible to locate other cases in the voluminous papers of the commissaires, organized by district and year, by consulting the inventory(http://www.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/chan/chan/pdf/repertoire-Y-minutes-commissaires.pdf). The only way to locate additional cases in this unindexed collection is to browse through cartons.
Monday 5 February 1781
Arrest of Mr. de Valoux, pederast
At 11:30 am on 5 February 1781, at our residence and before us, Jean François Hugues, royal councilor and commissioner of the Châtelet of Paris, substituting for our colleague Mr. Foucault, appeared Mr. Louis Henri Noël, royal
councilor and police inspector. He told us that, in execution of the orders he carries, he arrested on rue Croix des-Petits-Champs Mr. Valoux, with whom he found another man unknown to him. He conducted these two men before us and signed.
We gave Mr. Noël a record of this appearance and report. We summoned one of the arrested men, who told us that he is named Marie Gabriel Chevalier comte de Garspern, forty-five years old, native of Guingamp, diocese of Tréguier,
former naval officer, and has lodged for the last three days with Mr. de Valoux on rue d’Argenteuil. We asked Mr. de Garspern various questions, and his replies did not seem suspect, so we had him released.
Then we summoned Mr. de Valoux, who told us that he is named Jean Louis Jacques de Valoux, thirty-four and a half years old, native of Chaseuil in Champagne, diocese of Langres, nobleman, and lives in the tabacconist and
landlord Garrant’s house on rue d’Argenteuil. We had Mr. Valoux searched, and we found nothing in his pockets. Mr. Valoux is known for transacting only nasty business in Paris, even for running a seraglio of men
jointly with Mr. de St.-Aumont. Moreover, he continually changes his name, which renders him very suspect. We left him to Mr. Noël, who took charge of him to conduct him to his destination and signed with us.
Watch/guard, Y10620-35 [1768-1791]
The unindexed registers include basic details about thirty arrests from 1768 to 1781: date, name, more or less information about identity and circumstances, and the name of the commissaire who processed the case.
11 July 1771. Jean Riga, seventeen years old, in service with masons, living at his father’s residence on place Maubert, and another man, a cook’s assistant, who did not wish to give his name or address, found in indecent postures on the boulevards and arrested.
As indicated in the margin, commissaire Delaporte consigned Riga to the Grand Châtelet.
Swiss Guards in the Champs-Elysées, O1 1589 [1777-1791], available in print form
The unindexed weekly reports of commandant Ferdinand Federici to the superintendent of royal buildings and gardens include concise entries about fifty arrests, dated 1778 to 1789, and seventeen nocturnal patrols conducted with commissaires Foucault and Desormeaux.
Maison du Roi, O1 44-128 [1700-86], 361 [1742-91], 362-436 [1701-91], 437-86 [1741-89], 487-501[1775-91]
One carton of miscellaneous papers, labeled “police,” and many cartons of unindexed dispatches, organized chronologically, in the archives of the ministry of the Royal Household include information about arrests on royal property and more general issues of order and disorder in the capital. Many volumes of dispatches include a table of addressees, so it is possible to locate letters to the Prévôt de l’hôtel and his lieutenants, the governors of the Luxembourg and Tuileries, and the Lieutenant General quickly.
Louis Auguste Le Tonnelier, baron de Breteuil, Minister of the Royal Household, to Louis Pierre Quentin de Richebourg, marquis de Champcenetz, governor of the Tuileries, and 19 November 1784 (O1 361, f. ??)
I receive frequent complaints about the large number of libertines who gather every evening in the gardens of the Tuileries and the Palais Royal. One sees young folks there who pick up others in a scandalous manner. Several have been arrested outside these gardens after having been noticed by police agents and giving themselves over to excesses of pederasty there. . . .
Agent Duparc to Monseigneur ? (O1 430, f. 304)
I have the honor to inform you that yesterday evening I handed over to the officer of the Prévôté de l’hôtel, in order to have him taken to prison, a pederast named Joseph André, domestic without a position, who was taken around 8 pm in the gardens of the Tuileries by the patrol of the Swiss Guards in trying to pick up one of them.
Prévôté de l’hôtel, O1 3705-3706 [1780s]
The extent records and registers of this tribunal include information about arrests on the grounds of the Luxembourg and Tuileries palaces and other royal properties.
All of the series above document surveillance more than punishment. The extant prison records in the Archives de la Préfecture de Police (AB 135-232, Grand Châtelet, and 338-44, Bicêtre) include entrance and exit dates but no column for offenses, so it is not easy to scan for relevant entries.
4 August 1785. Louis Jacques Carton, called the Odd One or Marie-Louise, 39, single, wigmaker’s assistant, from Abbeville in Picardy. Transferred from the Châtelet on 23 July. Thief and incorrigible pederast. Released on 30 June 1788.
The magistrates of the Châtelet and the Parlement prosecuted relatively few cases The alphabetical register of criminal cases adjudicated by the Parlement includes a column for offenses, so it is possible to compile a list of names, but the chronological index of criminal cases adjudicated by the Châtelet does not. Under DIO, below, the sixth entry is Jean Diot, executed along with Bruno Lenoir on 6 July 1750.
The Parlement’s registers of criminal cases, X2a 504-898 [1700-84], include sentences, and the Plumatif du Conseil series, X2a 1064-1154 [1700-90] includes the final interrogations of men sentenced to death. Below, Diot and Lenoir.
The archives of the criminal chamber of the Châtelet include one complete dossier, that of Jean Pierre Lecrivain, arrested on 26 March 1741, in Y10084.
Lieutenant General of Police, Prison visits [1678-1722], Collection Clairambault 984-985
These registers contain updates about men imprisoned for sodomy in the last decades of the 17th century and first decades of the 18th century.
Author: Jeffrey Merrick