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Clément Duval

Clément Duval (1850 – 1935) was a famous French anarchist and criminal. His ideas concerning individual reclamation were greatly influential in shaping illegalism.

Duval served as a member of the fifth infantry battalion in the Franco-Prussian War, where he was wounded by a mortar and contracted smallpox. As a result, he spent 4 of the next 10 years in a hospital. Unable to work, Duval turned to theft.

Subsequent to his spending a year in prison for the theft of eighty francs, Duval joined the anarchists of The Panther of Batignolles.

On October 25th of 1886, Duval broke into the mansion of a Parisian socialite and stole 15,000 francs before accidentally setting the house on fire. He was caught only 2 weeks later after trying to fence the stolen goods, stabbing a policeman named Rossignol several times during his arrest. The policeman survived his wounds. His trial drew crowds of supporters and ended in chaos when Duval was dragged from the court crying "Long live anarchy!" He was condemned to death, but his sentence was later commuted to hard labor on Devil's Island, French Guiana.

In the anarchist paper Révolte, Duval famously declared that, "Theft exists only through the exploitation of man by man... when Society refuses you the right to exist, you must take it... the policeman arrested me in the name of the Law, I struck him in the name of Liberty".

Duval spent the next 14 years in prison, attempting escape over 20 times. In April 1901, he succeeded and fled to New York City, where he lived until the age of 85. His memoirs were published in 1929.

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