Published On: Wed, Jun 26th, 2019

Emile Henry, Anarchist and Terrorist

Spread the love

A terrorist is defined as a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.

Barely a day goes by without a report carried in the news of an act of terrorism somewhere in the world. This could be the events of the Irish Troubles, the catastrophic events in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, which, even today still has repercussions or the bombing of a police station in Iraq or Pakistan. Terrorists hit out at the State by striking at ordinary people in an attempt to make a political and/or religious change.

With the use of bombs, planes and motor vehicles it would be easy to think that terrorism was a modern development, but that isn’t the case. Throughout history, there have always been anarchists or revolutionaries but the man some credit with the dubious title of ‘the first terrorist of the modern era’ was Emile Henry.

Anarchist and Terrorist

Emile Henry was born in Spain on Sept. 26, 1872. His father, Fortune Henry had left his comfortable family home at the age of 16 to join the revolution in Paris in 1848.

Paris had been taken by its citizens in 1878 and was being run as a commune. This was a situation which couldn’t be allowed to continue for long, and when the French State re-took control of the city, massacring 25,000 people, Fortune Henry fled to Spain.

Fortune Henry was dead by the time Emile reached 10 years of age, poisoned by mercury absorbed from the factories in which he worked during his exile, leaving his family little choice but to return to France.

On their return to Paris, Emile’s mother begged money from her wealthy relations in order that her son would receive an education. As a good scholar, Emile was awarded a place at the Ecole Polytechnique, but he didn’t remain there for long.

Having been brought up on stories of how the French State had suppressed its people, Emile hated the bourgeoisie, denouncing them as evil. He wrote ‘The entire bourgeoisie lives from the exploitation of the unfortunate, and all of it should pay for its crimes.’

Avenging the Death of Auguste Vailliant

Emile Henry pledged to wage a personal war on the bourgeoisie. His opportunity came in February 1894 when he vowed to avenge the death of an anarchist, Auguste Valliant who had been executed for throwing a bomb into the Chamber of Deputies.

On Feb. 12, 1894, Henry walked along the Avenue de l’Opera where he entered the Café Terminus at the Gare St Lazare. The café was full of Parisians socializing and listening to music. Henry ordered drinks and a cigar. The cigar, once lit, was used to light the fuse of a bomb he had concealed under his coat. Throwing the bomb into the crowd, Henry attempted to flee the scene. One woman was killed by the bomb and 20 people injured.

Captured at the scene of his devastating handiwork, Emile Henry had only one regret – that he hadn’t killed more people.

Emile Henry, Anarchist and Terrorist

This was not the first time Henry had committed an atrocity such as this. On Nov. 8, 1892, Henry placed a bomb in the offices of the Carmaux Mining Company. The bomb was retrieved by the police and removed to the police station where it exploded killing five officers.

The Trail and Execution of Emile Henry

Following his trial in April, Emile Henry was executed by guillotine on May 21, 1894, aged 21. His final words were ‘Courage Camarades! Vive l’anarchie!’ which translates to ‘Courage Comrades. Long Live Anarchy!’

The crimes committed by Emile Henry although devastating for the people involved, almost pale into insignificance when compared to the depravities man inflicts on fellow man in the name of political and religious gain. For some, the ballot box is not seen as the way for change. Such actions have terrible consequences and rarely achieves the perpetrator’s aim.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at

Composite Start -->