Abstract

On April 20, 1684, Louis XIV declared that any Parisian child, male or female, of the honorable poor under the age of twenty-five who mistreated his or her parents by refusing to work, by engaging in libertine activities, or by becoming a prostitute would be subject to imprisonment at either Bicêtre or La Salpêtrière hospital in newly constructed maisons de correction, or juvenile detention centers. This article argues that detention centers targeted rebellious youths from a select subsection of Paris's lower sorts, including those with trained and artisanal backgrounds, in order to reeducate and rehabilitate them. As part of eighteenth-century experiments in socialized care, the juvenile detention centers and the families that petitioned them sought to reestablish patriarchal control, both in the household and in the larger community, through rigorous physical punishment and intense vocational training.

Le 20 avril 1684 Louis XIV a déclaré que « Les enfants, soit garçons ou soit filles des artisans et des pauvres habitants de la ville et faubourgs de Paris au-dessous de 25 ans qui maltraiteront leur pères ou mères et ceux qui ne voudraient pas travailler par libertinage ou par pareille, seront enfermez dans les maisons de corrections. Les garçons dans la nouvelle maison de Bicêtre et les filles dans celle de Salpêtrière ». Ces maisons de correction ont ciblé la jeunesse rebelle du petit peuple parisien afin de les réinsérer dans la société. Elles participaient à une tentative gouvernementale de prendre en compte des services sociaux. Les maisons et les familles qui y avaient recours cherchaient à rétablir l'autorité patriarcale et dans la famille et dans la société par moyen du châtiment corporel et de la formation professionnelle rigoureuse.

On a February morning in 1729 François Martin's parents walked to Bicêtre hospital in Paris to petition for their son's admission to the maison de correction (correctional house). Aged twenty, François had learned the art of bonnet making from his father and Jean de la Plasse, a merchant who owned a small boutique. Since François was a rather lazy worker, at the completion of his three-year apprenticeship period de la Plasse did not offer François a permanent position in his workshop. Two years had passed since then. Instead of finding steady employment, François routinely went to the banks of the Seine to enjoy the company of neighborhood girls and to gamble with a group of rowdy miscreants. Because François earned no wages, his parents were still paying for his food and shelter, putting intense financial stress on the family, which included two other children. This caused severe emotional distress between François and his parents. François and his father often yelled at each other in the streets, eliciting attention from neighbors and strangers alike. Bicêtre's correctional house was his parents' last resort. They hoped that the punitive education program would cure François of his depraved ways. Two days after petitioning for their son's admission to the juvenile detention center, hospital administrators physically restrained François and forced him to enter Bicêtre. He remained there until 1732, when he was released as a rehabilitated, corrected young adult.1

François Martin was one of more than four thousand adolescents incarcerated at Parisian juvenile detention centers during the long eighteenth century. The French state, in cooperation with Parisian municipal authorities, established correctional houses for rebellious and troublesome youths who caused their families undue financial burden and emotional distress. Juvenile detention centers focused on youth rehabilitation, instead of permanent confinement, as a key strategy to improve the future condition of the entire Parisian working poor. Unlike lettres de cachets (sealed royal detention orders) that wealthy families employed to imprison unruly sons, daughters, husbands, and wives during this same period, juvenile detention centers were intended for youths from artisanal and working-poor backgrounds.2 For several years the juvenile detainees were subjected to an intensive educational and vocational program along with punitive labor. At the completion of this program, the once rebellious young adults were instilled with a clear sense of social mores and legal knowledge. Rehabilitated, these youths would serve as role models to their neighbors, families, and strangers. They would promulgate acceptable notions of obedience and subjecthood while modeling hard work and proper gender roles to their families and communities.

The admission petitions, curricula, daily activities, and punishments in these juvenile detention centers reveal much about how eighteenth-century Parisian society operated.3 In particular, gender assumptions about morality, youth, and work played large roles in adolescents' reeducation. Similarly, the juvenile detention centers and the families that petitioned them sought to reestablish patriarchal control, both in the household and in the larger community, through rigorous physical punishment and intense vocational training. Juvenile detention centers provide case studies to examine how youths were coerced into becoming active participants in the patriarchal, state-building processes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The programs and the rehabilitated children that came from them emphasized obedience, morality, and hard work among subjects.

Although detention centers existed before this period, at the turn of the eighteenth century France systematized its prison network. As a result, confinement numbers rose in prisons, hospitals, orphanages, and poorhouses. Historians have labeled this period the Great Confinement, highlighting the state's ability to round up and imprison prostitutes, beggars, blasphemers, vagrants, and the clinically insane in urban hospitals to remove them from the streets.4 But those confined were mainly the elderly, disabled, sick, and abandoned.5 Given this demographic information, over the past twenty years historians have reframed the Great Confinement as a period of experimentation in socialized care, focused on the convalescence of the sick, the vocational education of the masses, the rehabilitation of youth convicts, and the reformation of the poor.6 Juvenile detention centers were a central part of these experiments in nascent French socialized care. By inculcating youth subjects with useful craft skills, proper notions of behavior, legal knowledge, and familial, patriarchal, and political authority, juvenile detention centers aimed to curb societal problems and ensure a more prosperous and peaceful future.

The incentive for creating a more standardized and extensive prison system came from the Parisian elite. In the 1670s and 1680s the Parisian nobility and merchant elite were preoccupied with what they saw as a growing number of beggars, vagrants, and unemployed men and women wandering the streets. They believed that a rise in idleness was causing moral depravity to run rampant in their city. In 1684 Louis XIV responded to the elite's petitions and codified a number of laws regarding adult vagrants and beggars, including penal imprisonment. The king declared that “all capable mendicants should seek [and hold] jobs,” whereas “all weak and disabled mendicants, without jobs, without means, and without skills [would] be housed in the hospitals of Paris.”7 The General Hospital of Paris (Hôpital Général de Paris) took on this responsibility, allocating space and resources in two of its hospitals specifically for the “suppression of mendicancy.”8 The “diseased and invalid male mendicants” were accommodated in the Maison de Saint-Jean de Bicêtre, and the “prostitutes, epileptics, syphilitic, and mentally disabled male and female invalid mendicants” were kept in La Salpêtrière. These two hospitals transformed into permanent holding facilities for “Parisian undesirables.”9 According to this royal decree, if capable Parisian beggars did not seek and gain employment, they would be subject to at least fifteen days of detainment at either Bicêtre or La Salpêtrière for their first offense; five years of labor in a ship galley for a man's second offense and banishment for a woman's second offense; and twelve years of labor in a ship galley for any man's subsequent offense.10 In 1700 Louis XIV extended this edict to include all of France, not just Paris, with the detainment centers varying according to city. Under this new extension, Louis XIV gave the merchants' provost in each town the authority to arrest and punish beggars found in the streets.

The original mendicancy declarations did not specify the age at which a mendicant could be arrested, detained, and punished for begging. But it was not just adults whom wealthy Parisian residents complained about “gambling in the street, begging, libertine behavior, and laziness.” They also complained about depraved youths “howling at all hours of the night on the street.”11 To better address the role of children, Louis XIV declared on April 20, 1684, that any Parisian child, male or female, of the honorable poor under the age of twenty-five who mistreated his or her parents by refusing to work, by engaging in libertine activities, or, in the case of girls, by being accused of prostitution would be subject to imprisonment in newly constructed correctional houses. For three to six years, depending on the inmate's previous education and behavior within the program, these children, referred to as correctionnaires (convicts), were forced to work on the most arduous projects at the hospitals. At the same time, they received a rudimentary education in reading, writing, arithmetic, the catechism, and skills necessary to particular trades.12 In this way, prisons, especially juvenile detention centers, became institutions focused on the reform of individuals in the image the detainers wanted.13 Furthermore, the program would reassert patriarchal control. Children who rejected their parents' authority were likely to be rebellious subjects. This reform program served a goal of patriarchal state building by reasserting proper familial, social, and political hierarchies.

Louis XIV's regulations also reveal that age was an important aspect for asserting authority. As twenty-five seems too old by modern standards to be a child, this age requirement calls into question how eighteenth-century French society defined the age limits of childhood. The tutelle, or legal guardianship of children, technically ended at twenty-five, which may be one of the reasons that the 1684 royal decree mentioned this as an age limit for a convict. This legal age of majority was likely less important to the general populace than was the attainment of various life stages such as marriage, parenthood, and economic independence. For example, at the end of the seventeenth century, in his Le dictionnaire universel (Universal Dictionary), the jurist Antoine Furetière defined the difference between minority and majority age as “the right of having the administration of one's goods.”14 He tied adulthood not to a specific number of years but to the life stage of economic independence. Since the detention center inmates were still economically dependent on their families, they would have been understood as children regardless of their numerical age. As children, they were still under the direct control and authority of their parents or heads of household, thus making their admittance to the correctional houses their parents' choice.

The success of juvenile detention centers relied heavily on the willingness of parents to petition the Office of the General Hospital.15 Parents' petitions illustrate that social reform was not solely a top-down process orchestrated by the state and local authorities. The poor were also stakeholders and participants. As stated in the 1684 royal decree, as well as in the houses' operating regulations, children had to be part of the “honorable poor.” Fathers and mothers had to indicate where they were employed or actively seeking employment. Additionally, the family had to be listed on the parish's poor list at least once in the past several years. Since lettres de cachet also existed during this period, establishing familial financial distress was essential. Royal detention orders allowed families to petition the king, the minister of the King's House, or the lieutenant general of the police for their child's imprisonment. Imprisonment that resulted from a royal detention order, however, required the family to pay for their child's imprisonment. As one petition to the lieutenant general of the Paris police in 1763 indicated, this cost as much as thirty pounds per month.16 Most working-poor families could not have incurred this additional expense. Juvenile detention centers did not require parents to pay for their children's imprisonment, offering the rehabilitation programs as poor relief services.17 For impoverished parents, then, juvenile detention centers provided an affordable recourse for recalcitrant youths.

In addition to establishing financial burden, families had to show that their child engaged in significant and repeated immoral behavior that put extreme stress on the family. Emotional distress and immoral behavior often varied but usually revolved around the theme of defiance. Parents, who still thought of their offspring as dependent children, tried to assert their patriarchal authority and paternal dominance over increasingly defiant young adults. In response, these young adults would often rebel against their parents' will to assert their own dominance.18 The petitions display the varied ways young adults acted out against their parents, including refusing to work, becoming habitually drunk, gambling, engaging in sexually licentious behavior, or promising to marry a person without obtaining their parents' permission.

When children rebelled, parents had a number of recourses. Parents could use the judicial system, but it was often circuitous. Furthermore, busy courts often dismissed or refused to take cases between parents and children, mostly since they were deemed family squabbles and not pressing legal cases. If they did not want to use the judicial system, parents could tell their children to leave their house, although this decision could result in more emotional distress and could further hurt the family's reputation. For many parents, juvenile detention centers seemed like the simplest solution to dealing with their unruly children. The detention centers provided a promise that their child would emerge corrected and able to have a decent future ahead.

Given this promise, each juvenile detention center received over five hundred petitions annually. These petitions reveal much about eighteenth-century parent-child relationships, as well as about family dynamics. Fathers and stepfathers were the primary filers of petitions, underscoring their role as the familial authority.19 The ideal family was a patriarchal one, with children submitting completely to their parents' and, more specifically, the father's will. Although historians have debunked the “myth [that] the children of former times were raised as near slaves by domineering, loveless fathers,” it is still generally assumed that children were among the most subservient members of early modern society.20 But the petitions illustrate how children contested patriarchal authority and instead asserted their own authority.

These challenges to patriarchal control broke down along gendered lines. Underscoring the gender stereotypes of early modern France, boys were much more likely than girls to be admitted for idleness. Since young men were essential members of the family economy, parents relied on their sons' labor, either within their household, in their family business, or by providing to the family income through wage labor. When young men refused to work, it strained the family's resources. Fathers and widows usually reported boys to the Office of the General Hospital of Paris for “refusing to work” in favor of leisurely activities like “throwing rocks in the street” or “gambling on the edge of the Seine.”21

One such young man was Jean Baptiste Emmanuel de Marchy, a twenty-four-year-old Parisian who lived on the Pont Notre Dame with his parents and siblings. On April 4, 1725, his father petitioned for his son's admittance to Bicêtre on the basis of his son's refusal to work. Jean Baptiste's mother, who had provided her family with considerable wage labor, had died the previous December, leaving her family in economic peril. Even though Jean Baptiste still lived at home, his father explained, his son was unwilling to help with domestic duties and refused to find a steady job. Instead, Jean Baptiste was more interested in carrying on an affair with a female wine seller down the street. The following week Jean Baptiste was admitted to Bicêtre. He stayed there until July 1728, supposedly rehabilitated in just under three years. Poor parents saw the General Hospital of Paris as a place to receive poor relief, an institution to educate their children for free, and a center for disorderly and disobedient sons who exhausted the family coffer.

Girls' misbehavior would certainly have strained the family's resources as well, but families rarely reported their daughters for issues of idleness. Instead, parents advocated for the admittance of daughters they believed were sexually licentious. Parish priests almost always alerted parents to their daughters' behavior. Since many of these girls either were being treated for venereal disease or had just given birth to illegitimate children they had not previously declared, priests were quick to label them prostitutes. Connecting economic disparity with a proclivity to sin, the priests assumed that these girls were prostitutes instead of simply engaging in premarital sex.22 Families, though, were more circumspect in their daughters' classifications. Most parents did not accuse their daughters of prostitution but rather expressed a concern that their daughters' reputation, and therefore their marriage prospects, might be harmed if they continued to engage in sexual and supposedly unfeminine behavior, including gambling and drunkenness.23

Prostitution, however, did factor into some female petitions. Occasionally, families reported their daughters out of concern that they might become prostitutes. Rather than explicitly calling their daughters prostitutes, families expressed worry that they might be drawn by other prostitutes into a life of crime and debauchery. For example, in 1731 Antoinette Giraud's mother and stepfather petitioned for her admission to La Salpêtrière because she “routinely cavort[ed] with many different men at odd hours of the night and during the day.” Her parents' petition used veiled language to suggest that she was a prostitute. The office admitted her almost immediately, claiming that her parish priest had also indicated that she was a suspected “debauched girl,” or prostitute.24 Similarly, in 1735 Laurent Villet, a mason and father of five children in the Saint-Eustache parish, petitioned the office for his daughter's admission to La Salpêtrière to “shield her” from the “debauched behavior” of other girls in the neighborhood who might convince her to become a prostitute. His daughter, Jeanne, was admitted to La Salpêtrière because she was “in danger of losing her piety.”25 The correctional houses offered a haven of sorts for future prostitutes to “save themselves from disorder.”26 In fact, by the end of the eighteenth century La Salpêtrière was considered the main prostitute hospital, or prison, in Paris.27 As these petitions illuminate, though, not all labeled prostitutes would have actually engaged in sex work. Instead, this classification of La Salpêtrière as a prostitute hospital reveals the gendered and classist assumptions regarding female sexuality.

The majority of petitions the Office of the General Hospital of Paris received made strong arguments that children were damaging their family's economic solvency and social reputation. Families routinely confessed how much money their children had cost them through gambling, bad business transactions, or broken apprenticeship contracts. They also demonstrated how the immoral behavior of their daughters affected their social standing either through their marriage prospects or through their family's general reputation. Although parents had to admit that they were unable to control their children, thereby proving that their patriarchal authority was compromised, the juvenile detention centers were a way to reestablish control. By breaking a recalcitrant child's will, detention centers would submit the child to proper, patriarchal hierarchies. The child would emerge an obedient subject to his or her family, father, community, and king.

Despite the many compelling petitions, only a fraction of the five hundred children were admitted, with typical enrollment each year at around fifty new inmates per facility.28 Boys and girls were at least sixteen years old on admission, with boys on average nineteen and girls seventeen. The office was extremely selective, choosing inmates from specific artisanal backgrounds. Bicêtre's records display the majority of young men had familial ties to shoemakers, belt makers, clock makers, masons, bakers, papermakers, and leather workers, often with the inmates' father, stepfather, older brother, or uncle working in one of these professions.29 Only girls whose fathers or mothers had a specific artisanal background, such as lace making, baking, shoe repair, tailoring, or leather tanning, were admitted to the correctional houses.30 Furthermore, about half of these children, both boys and girls, had previously been educated at a charity school or at various Parisian hospitals. Many of their parents (or their former schoolmaster or schoolmistress) reported them for failing to complete their apprenticeships or for not gaining employment. By limiting admission to children who had previously received an education, the schoolmasters and vocational educators would not have to start from scratch. They could simply revisit and refine students' skills. Additionally, the juvenile detention center shared vocational educators with the Trinity Hospital, limiting the types of crafts that the detention centers could teach.

Admission appears to have taken place on a rolling basis, with administrators approving and rejecting petitions daily. Most petitions were processed quickly, with only a few days between when a request was filed and when the child was incarcerated. Although no trial occurred, the operating regulations indicate that an approved petition for admission was akin to a legal sentence. As was the case with François Martin, the centers would sometimes send administrators and other staff to help physically restrain and bring in the rebellious child. Somewhat surprisingly, compared to modern penitentiaries and convicts, this was one of the only times the child would have been shackled or restrained. Neither Bicêtre nor La Salpêtrière had gates that fortified the facility from the outside world. Inmates were also not shackled inside the prison.31 Other means were used to control, monitor, and subjugate these youths to administrative authority.

Once they entered the juvenile detention center, these children became inmates, sentenced to several years of physical labor and vocational training. Whereas Parisian charity schools strove to provide students “with the tools necessary to gain their lives,” the detention centers intended to “correct the children's behavior.”32 Extreme corporal punishment, along with education, would break the convicts' rebellious spirits and bring them back into the fold of French authority and hierarchy. In their published regulations of 1700, Bicêtre and La Salpêtrière masters insisted that “the correction of vices [was] one of the principal objectives” of correctional houses and could “be achieved through . . . not only imprisonment, but also through intense work as punishment and penitence.”33 In keeping with early modern understandings of youth and childhood as a formative period for development, the regulations indicate that, by correcting these issues during childhood, youths could form a lifelong commitment to good morality and loyal subjecthood.

The first year of imprisonment for boys and girls was designed to be particularly brutal, focusing on strenuous labor to punish the inmates for their misdeeds, as well as to establish their subjugation to the masters' authority.34 The pain inflicted on inmates from intense labor was meant to mirror parents' authority-building practices that often occurred through physical means like beating. Acting as servants to Bicêtre and La Salpêtrière masters and mistresses, convicts were responsible for the “roughest projects” within the hospitals.35 Since the term travail (work) carried heavy “overtones of pain and fatigue,” this type of work had a moral dimension as “penitence for sin.”36 Much like how the Catholic Church encouraged parishioners and the clergy to atone for their sins through ritualistic fasting, charitable works, self-flagellation, and prayer, child convicts had to repent for their sins by becoming “accustomed from the earliest age to a life of labor.”37

The labor imposed on the inmates was to be “proportional to the quality and gravity of the [inmates'] faults,” as well as to their gender.38 For boys, there was a delineation between male inmates who had failed to find suitable apprenticeships or work and those who had squandered their resources. Those deemed idle or lazy were pushed into more grotesque forms of punishment, such as aiding the surgeons, doctors, and schoolmasters in moving invalid, dying, or dead hospital patients; cleaning bedpans and medical facilities; and helping clean the mess hall after dinner. Those who had refused to participate in their apprenticeships or were released from their contracts were typically given more technical and physical assignments, such as helping masons and bricklayers with construction projects that required them to cart heavy stones and mortar. They were also responsible for cleaning chimney flues, climbing the steeple to repair the clock, or preparing and delivering food.39

These projects, though less grotesque, were often much more dangerous. In fact, during a meeting in 1761 the Office of the General Hospital of Paris noted that sometime in the early 1700s, while attempting to repair the clock atop Bicêtre's tower, two boys fell to their deaths. Expressing dismay at the boys' deaths, some of the administrators wondered if this task was too dangerous to assign to convicts. However, underlining the punitive nature of both the task and the program itself, the administrators resolved to reserve clock repair for those boys who were particularly unruly, making the task into an exercise in both fear and agility.40 It was through work that the imprisoned adolescents would be punished and, ultimately, corrected.

Girls at La Salpêtrière were also expected to perform physical labor, but on a different scale. Just as there were two levels of punitive physical labor at Bicêtre, La Salpêtrière had two tiers of assignment, which depended on a convict's status as a mother. Those girls who had given birth to illegitimate children were tasked with more physical labor than those who were not mothers. Much like idle boys, mother convicts were required to help with the more odious tasks, such as aiding ill hospital patients, helping move them when necessary for surgical procedures or for funerary services, cleaning bedpans, attending to surgical facilities, and helping feed the invalid residents. The mothers were also required to scrub the hospital's floors on a weekly basis, helping “avoid pestilence” among the residents.41 The intensity of punishment for mother convicts highlights the fact that their sexual misdeeds were perceived as much more serious than those of girls who had not produced illegitimate children. But their positions as caregivers to hospital patients also echo the early modern gendered assumption of mothers as natural nurturers. Because they had given birth, even to an illegitimate child, these girls were perceived as capable of motherly care. This was a point not lost on administrators, who routinely commented on mother convicts' suitability for certain tasks, especially those that involved caring for a new mother or dealing with the emotions stemming from a recent death.

Nonmothers were provided with a technical punitive program, designed to train them in different vocations, so that once released they might gain employment and avoid prostitution. In keeping with traditional and acceptable forms of female labor, nonmothers worked in food preparation and delivery, almsgiving, and, most notably, textile work. Regardless of sex and status, convicts were tasked with difficult and tiresome chores as punishment. This highlighted their inferior and subservient positions in relation to the masters, mistresses, and the rest of society.

Not only was the inmates' work severe and physically demanding, but their living conditions were also harsh. Much of the inmates' lives was meant to mirror ascetic monasticism. Without worldly comforts, the inmates were forced into introspection and penance. The ascetic lifestyle was expressed in the inmates' physical surroundings, dress, and even nutrition. According to architectural plans of Bicêtre and La Salpêtrière, inmates were housed in small chambers in the basement or on the ground floor of each institution.42 Isolated from the rest of the hospital, these chambers were often at the end of a hallway. Even though this meant that the inmates were closer to the kitchen, and near a constant heat source, it also meant that they would have been closer to fires and the smoke from them.43 Also, at La Salpêtrière the ground floor often flooded during the winter. Consequently, many girls contracted respiratory illnesses caused by the mold.44 Their chambers would have been furnished only with the bare essentials: a few bedpans and the maximum number of cots that would fit into the room, sometimes with two to three inmates sharing a cot. In keeping with the lack of physical constraints in these prisons, these chambers were not locked, gated, or otherwise secured.

Without these confines, one of the ways that masters and mistresses kept track of the prisoners was by clothing. As a matter of hygiene, all hospital residents were provided with new white and gray garments when they entered the facility. Prisoners were given black uniforms, much like those worn by the masters and mistresses, indicating that these convicts were thought of as staff members in the service of the masters. Boys received a pair of trousers, a loose shirt, shoes, a bonnet, and a sleeping gown. Girls received a dress, an overshirt, shoes, a bonnet, and a sleeping gown. Their original clothing was laundered and, if deemed acceptable by the masters or mistresses, kept for them until they completed the program. If not, they would be provided with new, appropriate attire on their release. Inmates often complained that their clothing was uncomfortable and failed to keep them warm in the winter.45 However, the masters insisted that the attire was part of their physical punishment. Although far from the hair shirts that ascetic monks and nuns donned in the early modern period, these garments would still have been uncomfortable. The point was not to provide comfort to the inmates but to allow for work and easy identification.46

Corporal punishment went beyond intense physical labor, unpleasant living conditions, and uncomfortable clothing; it also included a severe diet. Despite working long hours, typically from five in the morning until six or seven at night, depending on the season, inmates were fed only twice during the day. In the morning they were given bread and a small amount of soup, usually a vegetable broth or gruel. At supper inmates were again given soup and, depending on the availability, another piece of bread. Inmates were served their meals last. During times of famine, such as during the 1730s and 1740s, if there was not enough food to go around, they would not eat. The food they consumed was not much different from the meals that the hospital patients received,47 but, given that the inmates were engaging in hard labor, it would have been insufficient. Enforced fasting was also a way to have the convicts reflect on their moral deficiencies. Ascetic nuns and monks regularly employed a “never-sated physical hunger” to “mirror and recapitulate in bodily agony . . . Christ's suffering on the cross.”48 Fasting and hunger, then, were acts of repentance for the convicts. Additionally, unable to choose when, how, or what they ate, convicts would have recognized the immense power administrators had over their well-being and livelihood. Uncomfortable attire, spartan living conditions, intense physical labor, and diet restrictions underscore how correctional houses used corporal suffering to correct and encourage proper behavior. The Office of the General Hospital of Paris noted in 1761 that, considering the great amount of physical pain and penitence after the first year, convicts would be unlikely to resist the authority of their masters and eventually their families, Parisian municipal authorities, the church, and society at large.49

During the first year of imprisonment, the only reprieve from labor the inmates received was catechism lessons. Teaching convicts the catechism, Catholic tenets, and prayers further subjugated the youths to the authority of their masters and mistresses, as well as to the church. Male and female inmates were taught the catechism before their first meal and at supper. They also attended daily mass. A priest was employed at Bicêtre and La Salpêtrière to teach the catechism each morning and night, requiring the boys and girls to memorize the prayers. Each month convicts were quizzed on their newly acquired knowledge. Those who had made insufficient progress in memorizing these requirements had to attend additional sessions with the priest every morning, meaning that they had to wake up half an hour earlier than their fellow prisoners. These convicts also had to attend a supplemental mass on Wednesdays and perform janitorial duties in the church. Although work and religious devotion were more typically associated with Protestantism than with Catholicism, the detention centers insisted on the performance of labor as penitence for sin and preparation for the salvation of the soul.

Religious education was an important aspect at both Bicêtre and La Salpêtrière, but there was a particular importance assigned to piety at the latter. In addition to attending mass and learning the catechism, girls were expected to perform “exercises of piety every day.” Girls focused on the “utility of piety” to life and to the “continuation of good morals” in society.50 On top of “paying penitence for her [previous] sins,” a girl was expected to model Christian virtue not only to other inmates but also to other hospital residents with whom they interacted.51 Much as in convents, female convicts were required to practice hours of silence in the evening, where they could pray and reflect on their sins. Similarly, they were required to recite the catechism and other prayers instructed to them at different times of the day, often while performing different tasks, such as cleaning and textile work. Although boys also had to recite the catechism, they were not required to undergo hours of silence devoted to prayer or reflection. This emphasis on female Christian virtue highlights that the correctional house at La Salpêtrière intended to correct immoral female behavior, especially that of prostitutes.

Inmates' experiences after the first year, although still marked by vigorous labor, focused more on the pedagogical and vocational program. The educational regulations borrow heavily from those at the Trinity Hospital and different charity schools throughout France, especially those in Lyon. As there was no perceived need to educate these children in Latin, inmates were taught to read and write in the vernacular. Since these were youths who had rebelled against the social mores espoused by the monarchy, the church, their families, and municipal authorities, it is no surprise that reading and writing lessons emphasized subordination to the king. For example, a typical sentence students would practice writing was, “Je suis un sujet de Sa Majesté, le Roi” (I am a subject of His Majesty, the king).52 This sentence emphasizes the subservience of the French people to the monarch, asserting that the inmate's role was as a subject, a position answerable to and dependent on the ultimate patriarchal authority, the king. Inmates were inculcated to identify first and foremost as subjects.

In addition, inmates were educated in legality and illegality, lessons meant to emphasize their roles as obedient subjects. The correctional houses' regulations indicated that the majority of convicts' reading material incorporated lessons about “appropriate behavior” and Parisian laws.53 In contrast to Parisian charity and hospital schoolchildren's reading selections, which mainly comprised “stories about the monarch's power or the glory of the church,” inmates were taught about the dangers of drunkenness, idleness, laziness, begging, vagrancy, theft, and prostitution.54 Women in particular were reminded about the strict laws against prostitution that could result in their banishment from the city. The authorities hoped that these young adults, once educated in the laws of the city, the region, and the overall French kingdom, could act as a type of informal, moral police force, helping eradicate vagrancy, mendicancy, and debauchery from inside the poor.

Highlighting their roles as future workers, inmates were also taught the basics of mathematics, the handling of currency, and appropriate borrowing practices. However, the operating regulations indicate that, unlike at charity schools, where students had quasi apprenticeships in their last two years of education, the masters and mistresses left the mathematics involved in sales, measurements, pricing, and weights for the convicts' future apprenticeship positions. Also unlike at charity schools, the inmates were not formally taught bookkeeping, suggesting that the office saw these inmates less as potential masters or business owners than as wage laborers and journeymen.

Although the traditional education curriculum differed little between males and females, much like at Parisian hospital-orphanage schools, skill acquisition varied greatly according to gender.55 In a report on the progress of these juvenile detention centers in 1761, the office noted that “girls [were] taught skills appropriate to their sex,” such as lace making, tailoring, cloth dying, laundering, and other textile work. On occasion, girls were trained in shopkeeping and in retail as well. But only those skills deemed feminine could be taught to women. Boys' trade skills focused on manual labor, including masonry, blacksmithing, woodwork, baking, clock making, and sculpting.56 Most of the jobs boys trained in were for industries that constantly required many workers, such as construction. The objective in providing inmates, both boys and girls, with vocational training was to ensure that they had all the available tools to gain employment once they left the correctional houses. Vocational education was not simply a punishment; it was also a way to invest in convicts' futures by providing useful skills.

Compared to charity and hospital-orphanage schools, though, skill was not as highly regimented at the detention centers. This was partly because many of these convicts had already completed some of their apprenticeships before they were admitted to the centers, so they were familiar with the basics required in particular trades. Thanks to their punitive physical labor, many had also learned particular skills in the first year of imprisonment if they had not learned them previously.

This made the hiring of vocational educators rather simple for the Office of the General Hospital of Paris, allowing sharing of vocational teachers with the General Hospital's Manufacturing House and the Trinity Hospital. Master guildsmen came to the detention centers on a weekly basis to teach the inmates. Bicêtre employed between four and ten masters, depending on enrollment. These masters taught a variety of skills, but the overwhelming majority were masons who taught the basics of construction. La Salpêtrière usually employed three to five masters, both male and female, who taught lace making, tailoring, and textile work. But, as part of a program to reform the organization of the General Hospital in 1734, the office suggested that workers at the Manufacturing House, most of whom were former hospital schoolchildren or orphans, come to Bicêtre or La Salpêtrière to teach vocational skills instead of the master craftsmen.57 This way the office kept the masters at the Manufacturing House, where they were in charge of a larger number of hospital schoolchildren and apprentices while still providing vocational training to the convicts. Although the office discussed sending the inmates directly to the Manufacturing House to learn alongside the hospital schoolchildren, the office determined that this was too dangerous. The convicts, though in their final years of imprisonment, were still considered “too immoral [to] mingle with the general poor population.”58

This connotation of convicts as dangerous permeated Parisian society and hampered their abilities to gain employment after completing the program. Although there was not an obligatory term, convicts usually remained for just under three years at an institution. The shortest term appears to have been fourteen months, and the longest sixty-two months—just over five years. Convicts were not allowed to complete the program until administrators had determined that inmates were capable both of “admitting their [previous] faults” and of proving that they had “learned from this program.”59 Recognizing the difficulty some convicts faced in finding employment, the office noted in 1734 that since the convicts had been “formally condemned” for their previous actions, it might be difficult for them to find apprenticeships or jobs once they completed their rehabilitation program.60 To combat any discrimination that they might face when searching for apprenticeships and jobs, the office decided to make a formal announcement to the Parisian community, especially to guild masters. The office declared that the children who completed this program “had been formally condemned for previous actions” but that they were now “good, corrected” poor men and women who had “the necessary skills to provide employment.”61 By releasing this announcement, the office hoped that employers would be less wary of hiring or apprenticing these children. Meeting notes further indicate that the office considered providing incentives to masters who hired and apprenticed convicts, such as free supplies or an additional pension, but it is unclear whether these incentives were implemented.62

The formal announcement and perhaps the implementation of incentives seemed to be successful, as the office boasted in 1761 that the correctional facilities had “a high success rate in finding their [former] children work positions.”63 This suggests at least some level of support in finding the corrected children employment. Since merchants often sought temporary workmen and workwomen at Parisian hospitals, especially Trinity and the General Hospital, it is possible that merchants also visited Bicêtre or La Salpêtrière to find suitable candidates for temporary positions. Unfortunately, the records are not complete enough to lend themselves to a quantitative analysis of this supposed success rate.

What we can tell is that the Parisian detention centers were considered successful because these institutions spread to other French cities through royal decrees. In 1724 Louis XV declared that, to “fully eradicate mendicancy,” 156 hospitals throughout the kingdom were to “reform [themselves] so that [they] had the necessary capabilities to house and care for the ill, the mad, and abandoned children,” as well as “imprison mendicants” and “nourish their children.”64 Among the cities named were Beauvais, Chalôns, Chaumont, Compiègne, Dieppe, Lyon, Montpellier, Paris, Reims, Rouen, Toulouse, Vernon, and Villefranche. Although this 1724 reform declaration did not specifically name correctional houses as essential, it is clear from the reports of provincial administrators that these institutions were created. For example, Lyon established a juvenile detention center within the General Charity Hospital. In 1739 the rectors and administrators of the General Charity Hospital in Lyon wrote to Louis XV and the office to express their difficulties in instituting the 1724 mendicancy reforms, requesting further monetary assistance and administrative guidance, including “further instructions on how to deal with mendicants.”65 Although most of this letter expressed frustration over the “growing number of mendicants from the provinces, flooding the hospitals daily,” it also indicates that the Lyonnais rectors and administrators had established detention centers to “correct the vices of mendicants, especially children.”66 Similarly, indications of correctional houses can be found in notes from administrators in both Rouen and Reims, with institutions targeting select children for “the correction of vices.”67

Metropolitan juvenile detention centers also served as inspirations for penal colonies. In 1763 the crown proposed the establishment of the Ile de la Désirade off the coast of Guadeloupe. According to the proposal, convicts would be taken from Parisian hospitals, especially Bicêtre, and sent to a new penal colony. Under the command of soldiers, the inmates would “work the land, clearing the brush, trees, and other objects” while building “permanent lodging facilities” for the military and eventually “for colonial subjects.” Convicts sentenced indefinitely to a life of hard labor could be transferred back to France only after they could prove to the governors and intendants of Guadeloupe that “their behavior had changed.” Threatening youths with such a drastic change in environment and lifestyle and with the intense labor that accompanied that change would surely “correct the behavior of young [French] subjects in the cities.”68

Désirade existed for only two years as a children's penal colony. Afterward the island was a leper colony until the mid-1950s. Plans for other penal colonies continued to exist under each new government in the nineteenth century, culminating with an 1850 law that established correctional colonies. Citing the Ile de la Désirade as well as the success of juvenile detention centers under the ancien régime, the National Assembly's Commission on Public Assistance declared that “those minors of both sexes who had been detained for crimes or by the request of their fathers in penitentiaries where [they were] provided with a moral, religious, and professional education, and who were unable, by the nature of their behavior, to be remitted to their parents were to be sent to a penitentiary colony.” There delinquent children would endure “severe discipline through agricultural work” for a “minimum of six months and a maximum of two years.”69 Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century detention centers provided the blueprints for the later nineteenth-century penal reforms. This 1850 law and the penitentiary colonies were the result of nearly two centuries' worth of experimentation with how to best “correct” rebellious children's behavior.

As a part of these larger experiments in socialized care and reform, juvenile detention centers served a particular section of Paris's population: recalcitrant youths of the working poor. Sponsored by the French state and the Parisian community, correctional houses hinged on the participation of poor parents in petitions for their children's admission to the institutions. Counter to Michel Foucault's vision of the Great Confinement, correctional houses illustrate how Parisian authorities during this period worked to eliminate vagrancy and depraved behavior not solely through the confinement of ill-bodied adults but also through rehabilitation of able-bodied adolescents. The French state and Parisian authorities actively encouraged the redemption and rehabilitation of healthy young adults, both boys and girls, while also attempting to erase undesirables from Parisian streets. Emphasizing proper gender roles and behavior, the labor-intensive rehabilitation program was both a punishment and a strategic tool to subjugate these rebellious youths to the authority of the French crown, the Catholic Church, municipal authorities, and their own families. For the programs' supporters, corrected children would create an ideal patriarchal future where subjects understood their various political, social, economic, and gendered roles. Juvenile detention centers existed only because of a perceived breakdown in patriarchal control in the household, as well as in the larger Parisian community. But juvenile detention centers promised to reestablish patriarchal authority at every level, in the household, on the street, in the market, in the Church, and for the French state.

Acknowledgments

The author thanks the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin for the support to write and workshop this article. Personal thanks are also due to Julie Hardwick, Bianca Premo, Alison Frazier, Dawn-L Gossard, Jim Gossard, Chris Babits, and the anonymous reviewers of French Historical Studies, whose suggestions were indispensable.

Notes

1.

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (hereafter BN), Joly de Fleury 1309.

2.

For information on familial lettres de cachets, see Farge and Foucault, Le désordre des familles.

3.

Despite the recent emphasis on rehabilitative care in the historiography of the Great Confinement, early modern juvenile detention centers are seldom studied. These gaps in historiography are due in part to a dearth of readily available source material on early modern institutions. Their archives remain scattered and housed within larger boxes of hospital administration and penitentiary records. These boxes and their contents are often miscataloged, left off inventories, or mislabeled, making the sources rather difficult to find. This article draws heavily on records housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in the Joly de Fleury collection and at the Archives de l'Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris in Bicêtre and La Salpêtrière liasses, as well as penitentiary records housed at the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenale in the Archives de la Bastille collection. For nineteenth-century juvenile detention centers, see Gaillac, Les maisons de correction; Williams, Police of Paris; and Parturier, L'assistance à Paris.

4.

See Foucault, Surveiller et punir.

5.

Collins, State in Early Modern France, 190; Norberg, Rich and Poor in Grenoble, 180.

6.

Collins, State in Early Modern France; Hufton, Poor of Eighteenth-Century France; Diefendorf, From Penitence to Charity; Fairchilds, Poverty and Charity in Aix-en-Provence; Gutton, La société et les pauvres; Jones, Charity and Bienfaisance; Norberg, Rich and Poor in Grenoble; Schwartz, Policing the Poor in Eighteenth-Century France; Crowston, “L'apprentissage hors des corporations.”

7.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1309, fol. 8, “Mémoire sur les mendiants, vagabonds, et gens sans avec métier.”

8.

Schwartz, Policing the Poor in Eighteenth-Century France, 18.

9.

“Mémoire sur les mendiants.” Hospitals were much more than medical centers during the early modern period. In addition to providing medical care, they served as poorhouses, orphanages, schools, community centers, and eventually prisons. For more information on the design, layout, and hospital system, see Schwartz, Policing the Poor in Eighteenth-Century France.

10.

“Mémoire sur les mendiants.”

11.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1309, fol. 6, “Reglemens que le Roy veut être executés dans l'Hôpital Général de Paris pour la correction des enfants de famille et pour la punition des femmes débauchées qui y seront renfermez.”

12.

“Reglemens que le Roy.”

13.

Foucault, Surveiller et punir, 322.

14.

Furetière, Le dictionnaire universel, s.v. “minorité,” “majorité.”

15.

The Office of the General Hospital of Paris (Bureau de l'Hôpital Générale de Paris) was in charge of the administration of five Parisian hospitals, charity schools, and poor relief services, including the correctional houses. According to the 1665 royal edict that established the General Hospital of Paris, the office would be considered a municipal entity. As such, the directors and staff would be municipal appointees. Given the charitable focus, most of these administrators were clergy members, mostly hailing from the lower nobility and merchant elite. The office comprised between fifteen and thirty members during the eighteenth century. Since the records do not always indicate who the individual members were at a given time, I refer to the office in this article.

16.

Paris, Archives de la Bastille, 11990, fol. 226 (1763), as quoted in Farge and Foucault, Le désordre des familles, 200.

17.

Not surprisingly, many families who were economically solvent (especially members of the lesser nobility) attempted to imprison their unruly children in juvenile detention centers instead of using royal detention orders. The Office of the General Hospital rejected such petitions and indicated that these families had to petition the lieutenant general for a detention order.

18.

Paris, Archives de la Bastille, 11990, fol. 226 (1763), as quoted in Farge and Foucault, Le désordre des familles, 200.

19.

Single mothers and widows accounted for about a quarter of all petitions, but the vast majority (about 74 percent) of these petitions came from fathers or stepfathers, both widowed and married. In instances in which both parents were alive, both filed the request.

20.

Ozment, When Fathers Ruled, 171.

21.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1309, “Liste des garçons arretez . . .”

22.

In the eighteenth century women who hailed from the working class, especially the textile industry, and had multiple sexual partners were always at risk of being labeled filles du monde, or prostitutes. A young, single female struggling to find full-time employment and make ends meet was often accused of selling sex, making her “body common to all.” Unlike the well-known femmes galantes, or “kept” women, of the nineteenth century, prostitutes in this period were thought to be poor women who had no other way to earn cash. For more information on the types of prostitutes and the assumptions surrounding female sexuality, see Kushner, Erotic Exchanges, 4.

23.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1309, “Liste des filles qui habitent aux maisons de correction . . .”

24.

“Liste des filles.”

25.

“Liste des filles.”

26.

Harsin, Policing Prostitution, 67.

27.

Harsin, Policing Prostitution, 63.

28.

“Liste des garçons arretez.”

29.

“Liste des garçons arretez.”

30.

“Liste des garçons arretez.”

31.

Somewhat curiously, the records do not indicate that convicts escaped or ran away.

32.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1249, fol. 42, “Règlemens de la Très Saint-Trinité . . .”; BN, Joly de Fleury 1309, “Règlemens que le roi veut être exécuté . . .”

33.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1230, “Essay de reglement pour la Maison de Force,” fol. 73.

34.

“Règlemens que le roi.”

35.

“Essay de Reglement,” fol. 71.

36.

Fairchilds, Poverty and Charity in Aix-en-Provence, 32; Gutton “A l'aube du XVIIe siècle,” 93.

37.

Fairchilds, Poverty and Charity in Aix-en-Provence, 31.

38.

“Essay de reglement,” fol. 73.

39.

Paris, Archives de l'Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpital Général, Liasse 3, “Extrait du Registre des Délibérations du Bureau de L'Hôpital-Général du mercredi 7 janvier 1761.”

40.

“Extrait du Registre . . . 7 janvier 1761.”

41.

“Extrait du Registre . . . 7 janvier 1761.”

42.

Detailed architectural plans of nearly every early modern Parisian hospital are available in the Bureau des Pauvres de l'Hôpital Général liasses at the Archives de l'Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris.

43.

A good example of how prevalent fires were in the early modern period is the case of Paris's Hôtel-Dieu. During the late eighteenth century seventeen fires in twenty years caused massive damage to the facility. These fires and the associated water damage destroyed many of the hospital's records.

44.

“Liste des filles.”

45.

Paris, Archives de l'Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpital Général, Liasse 3, “Extrait du Registre des Délibérations du Bureau de L'Hôpital-Général du mercredi 7 decembre 1760.”

46.

“Essay de reglement.”

47.

Williams, Police of Paris, 319. See also Robin-Romero, Les orphelins de Paris.

48.

Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast, chap. 2.

49.

“Extrait du Registre . . . 7 janvier 1761.”

50.

“Extrait du Registre . . . 7 janvier 1761.”

51.

“Extrait du Registre . . . 7 janvier 1761.”

52.

“Règlemens que le roi.”

53.

“Règlemens que le roi.”

54.

Démia, Reglemens pour les écoles de la Ville et Diocese de Lyon, 4; “Règlemens que le roi.”

55.

For a discussion of vocational education at the Trinity Hospital and other informal versions of vocational training, see Crowston, “L'apprentissage hors des corporations”; and Crowston, “From School to Workshop.”

56.

“Extrait du Registre . . . 7 janvier 1761.”

57.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1233, “Déliberations chez Mr. Le Premier Président au sujet de la Manufactures de l'hôpital, 1734.”

58.

“Déliberations chez Mr. Le Premier.”

59.

“Essay de Reglement,” fol. 73.

60.

“Déliberations chez Mr. Le Premier.”

61.

“Déliberations chez Mr. Le Premier.”

62.

“Déliberations chez Mr. Le Premier.”

63.

“Extrait du Registre . . . 7 janvier 1761.”

64.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1308, “Etat Général des hopitaux du Royaume . . .”

65.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1308, fol. 48, “Envoi à d'Agnesseau d'un mémoire des administrateurs de l'Hôpital de la Charité de Lyon au sujet des difficultés d'exécution de la declaration de 1724 . . .”

66.

“Envoi à d'Agnesseau d'un mémoire.”

67.

BN, Joly de Fleury 1308, “Instruction concernant les mendians . . .”

68.

BN, Nouvelles acquisitions françaises 9328, “Extrait de la Colonie Penitentiare La Désirade jeunes gens de mauvaise conduite.”

69.

Gaillac, Les maisons de correction, 100.

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