NAPOLEON THE LITTLE
_LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY_
By Little, Brown, and Company
I. December 20, 1848 1
II. Mission of the Representatives 10
III. Notice of Expiration of Term 12
IV. Men Will Awaken 17
V. Biography 22
VI. Portrait 26
VII. In Continuation of the Panegyrics 35
I. The Constitution 46
II. The Senate 49
III. The Council of State and the Corps
IV. The Finances 55
V. The Liberty of the Press 57
VI. Novelties in Respect to What Is Lawful 60
VII. The Adherents 64
VIII. Meus Agitat Molem 69
IX. Omnipotence 76
X. The Two Profiles of M. Bonaparte 81
XI. Recapitulation 86
The Crime 96
The Coup d'État at Bay 98
THE OTHER CRIMES
I. Sinister Questions 150
II. Sequel of the Crimes 159
III. What 1802 Would Have Been 175
IV. The Jacquerie 180
I. 1789 189
II. Mirabeau 191
III. The Tribune 193
IV. The Orators 196
V. Influence of Oratory 201
VI. What an Orator Is 203
VII. What the Tribune Accomplished 205
VIII. Parliamentarism 208
IX. The Tribune Destroyed 211
THE ABSOLUTION: FIRST PHASE
I. The Absolution 214
II. The Diligence 215
III. Scrutiny of the Vote.--A Reminder of
IV. Who Really Voted for M. Bonaparte 229
V. Concession 232
VI. The Moral Side of the Question 234
VII. An Explanation for M. Bonaparte's Benefit 238
VIII. Axioms 244
IX. Wherein M. Bonaparte Has Deceived Himself 246
THE ABSOLUTION: SECOND PHASE: THE OATH
I. For an Oath, an Oath and a Half 251
II. Difference in Price 255
III. Oaths of Scientific and Literary Men 258
IV. Curiosities of the Business 261
V. The 5th of April, 1852 266
VI. Everywhere the Oath 272
PROGRESS CONTAINED IN THE COUP D'ÉTAT
I. The Quantum of Good Contained in Evil 275
II. The Four Institutions That Stand
Opposed to the Republic 280
III. Slow Movement of Normal Progress 282
IV. What an Assembly Would Have Done 285
V. What Providence Has Done 289
VI. What the Ministers, Army, Magistracy,
and Clergy Have Done< 291
VII. The Form of the Government of God 292
PETTINESS OF THE MASTER--ABJECTNESS OF THE SITUATION
FAITH AND AFFLICTION
NAPOLEON THE LITTLE
DECEMBER 20, 1848
On Thursday, December 20, 1848, the Constituent Assembly, being in
session, surrounded at that moment by an imposing display of troops,
heard the report of the Representative Waldeck-Rousseau, read on behalf
of the committee which had been appointed to scrutinize the votes in
the election of President of the Republic; a report in which general
attention had marked this phrase, which embodied its whole idea: "It
is the seal of its inviolable authority which the nation, by this
admirable application of the fundamental law, itself affixes on the
Constitution, to render it sacred and inviolable." Amid the profound
silence of the nine hundred representatives, of whom almost the entire
number was assembled, the President of the National Constituent
Assembly, Armaud Marrast, rose and said:--
"In the name of the French people,
"Whereas Citizen Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, born at Paris,
fulfils the conditions of eligibility prescribed by Article 44 of the
"Whereas in the ballot cast throughout the extent of the territory of
the Republic, for the election of President, he has received an
absolute majority of votes;
"By virtue of Articles 47 and 48 of the Constitution, the National
Assembly proclaims him President of the Republic from this present day
until the second Sunday in May, 1852."
There was a general movement on all the benches, and in the galleries
filled with the public; the President of the Constituent Assembly
"According to the terms of the decree, I invite the Citizen President
of the Republic to ascend the tribune, and to take the oath."
The representatives who crowded the right lobby returned to their
places and left the passage free. It was about four in the afternoon,
it was growing dark, and the immense hall of the Assembly having become
involved in gloom, the chandeliers were lowered from the ceiling, and
the messengers placed lamps on the tribune. The President made a sign,
the door on the right opened, and there was seen to enter the hall, and
rapidly ascend the tribune, a man still young, attired in black, having
on his breast the badge and riband of the Legion of Honour.
All eyes were turned towards this man. A pallid face, its bony
emaciated angles thrown into bold relief by the shaded lamps, a nose
large and long, moustaches, a curled lock of hair above a narrow
forehead, eyes small and dull, and with a timid and uneasy manner,
bearing no resemblance to the Emperor,--this man was Citizen
During the murmurs which greeted his entrance, he remained for some
instants, his right hand in the breast of his buttoned coat, erect and
motionless on the tribune, the pediment of which bore these dates:
February 22, 23, 24; and above which were inscribed these three words:
_Liberty_, _Equality_, _Fraternity_.
Before being elected President of the Republic, Charles-Louis-Napoleon
Bonaparte had been a representative of the people for several months,
and though he had rarely attended a whole sitting, he had been
frequently seen in the seat he had selected, on the upper benches of
the Left, in the fifth row in the zone commonly called the Mountain,
behind his old preceptor, Representative Vieillard. This man, then,
was no new figure in the Assembly, yet his entrance on this occasion
produced a profound sensation. It was to all, to his friends as to his
foes, the future that entered, an unknown future. Amid the immense
murmur, produced by the whispered words of all present, his name
passed from mouth to mouth, coupled with most diverse opinions. His
antagonists detailed his adventures, his _coups-de-main_, Strasburg,
Boulogne, the tame eagle, and the piece of meat in the little hat. His
friends dwelt upon his exile, his proscription, his imprisonment, an
excellent work of his on the artillery, his writings at Ham, which
were marked, to a certain degree, with the liberal, democratic, and
socialistic spirit, the maturity of the more sober age at which he had
now arrived; and to those who recalled his follies, they recalled his
General Cavaignac, who, not having been elected President, had just
resigned his power into the hands of the Assembly, with that tranquil
laconism which befits republics, was seated in his customary place at
the head of the ministerial bench, on the left of the tribune, and
observed in silence, with folded arms, this installation of the new
At length silence was restored, the President of the Assembly struck
the table before him several times with his wooden knife, and then, the
last murmurs having subsided, said:
"I will now read the form of the oath."
There was something almost religious about that moment. The Assembly
was no longer an Assembly, it was a temple. The immense significance of
the oath was rendered still more impressive by the circumstance that it
was the only oath taken throughout the whole territory of the Republic.
February had, and rightly, abolished the political oath, and the
Constitution had, as rightly, retained only the oath of the President.
This oath possessed the double character of necessity and of grandeur.
It was an oath taken by the executive, the subordinate power, to the
legislative, the superior power; it was even more than this--in
contrast to the monarchical fiction by which the people take the oath
to the man invested with power, it was the man invested with power who
took the oath to the people. The President, functionary and servant,
swore fidelity to the sovereign people. Bending before the national
majesty, manifest in the omnipotent Assembly, he received from the
Assembly the Constitution, and swore obedience to it. The
representatives were inviolable, and he was not. We repeat it: a
citizen responsible to all the citizens, he was, of the whole nation,
the only man so bound. Hence, in this oath, sole and supreme, there was
a solemnity which went to the heart. He who writes these lines was
present in his place in the Assembly, on the day this oath was taken;
he is one of those who, in the face of the civilized world called to
bear witness, received this oath in the name of the people, and who
have it still in their hands. Thus it runs:--
"In presence of God, and before the French people, represented by the
National Assembly, I swear to remain faithful to the democratic
republic, one and indivisible, and to fulfil all the duties imposed
upon me by the Constitution."
The President of the Assembly, standing, read this majestic formula;
then, before the whole Assembly, breathlessly silent and attentive,
intensely expectant, Citizen Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, raising
his right hand, said, in a firm, loud voice:
"I swear it!"
Representative Boulay (de la Meurthe), since Vice-President of the
Republic, who had known Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte from his
childhood, exclaimed: "He is an honest man, he will keep his oath."
The President of the Assembly, still standing, proceeded thus (I quote
_verbatim_ the words recorded in the _Moniteur_): "We call God and man
to witness the oath which has just been sworn. The National Assembly
receives that oath, orders it to be transcribed upon its records,
printed in the _Moniteur_, and published in the same manner as
It seemed that the ceremony was now at an end, and we imagined that
Citizen Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, thenceforth, until the second
Sunday in May, 1852, President of the Republic, would descend from the
tribune. But he did not; he felt a magnanimous impulse to bind himself
still more rigorously, if possible; to add something to the oath which
the Constitution demanded from him, in order to show how largely the
oath was free and spontaneous. He asked permission to address the
Assembly. "You have the floor," said the President of the Assembly.
There was more profound silence, and closer attention than before.
Citizen Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte unfolded a paper and read a speech. In
this speech, having announced and installed the ministry appointed by
him, he said:--
"I desire, in common with yourselves, citizen representatives, to
consolidate society upon its true basis, to establish democratic
institutions, and earnestly to seek every means calculated to relieve
the sufferings of the generous and intelligent people who have just
bestowed on me so signal a proof of their confidence."
 "Hear! Hear!"--_Moniteur_.
He then thanked his predecessor in the executive power, the same man
who, later, was able to say these noble words: "_I did not fall from
power, I descended from it_;" and he glorified him in these terms:--
"The new administration, in entering upon its duties, is bound to thank
that which preceded it for the efforts it has made to transmit the
executive power intact, and to maintain public tranquillity.
 "Murmurs of assent."--_Moniteur_.
"The conduct of the Honourable General Cavaignac has been worthy of the
manliness of his character, and of that sentiment of duty which is the
first quality requisite in the chief of the State."
 "Renewed murmurs of assent."--_Moniteur_.
The Assembly cheered these words, but that which especially struck
every mind, which was profoundly graven in every memory, which found
its echo in every honest heart, was the declaration, the wholly
spontaneous declaration, we repeat, with which he began his address.
"The suffrages of the nation, and the oath I have just taken, command
my future conduct. My duty is clearly marked. I will fulfil it as a man
"I shall regard as the enemies of the country all who seek to change,
by illegal means, that which all France has established."
When he had done speaking, the Constituent Assembly rose, and uttered
as with a single voice, the exclamation: "Long live the Republic!"
Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte descended from the tribune, went up to General
Cavaignac, and offered him his hand. The general, for a few instants,
hesitated to accept the grasp. All who had just heard the words of
Louis Bonaparte, pronounced in a tone so instinct with good faith,
blamed the general for his hesitation.
The Constitution to which Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte took oath on
December 20, 1848, "in the face of God and man," contained, among other
"Article 36. The representatives of the people are inviolable.
"Article 37. They may not be arrested on a criminal charge unless
taken in the fact, or prosecuted without the permission of the
Assembly first obtained.
"Article 68. Every act by which the President of the Republic
dissolves the National Assembly, prorogues it, or impedes the
execution of its decrees, is high treason.
"By such act, of itself, the President forfeits his office, the
citizens are bound to refuse him obedience, and the executive power
passes, of absolute right, to the National Assembly. The judges of
the Supreme Court shall thereupon immediately assemble, under
penalty of forfeiture; they shall convoke the jurors in such place
as they shall appoint, to proceed to the trial of the President and
his accomplices; and they shall themselves appoint magistrates who
shall proceed to execute the functions of the ministry."
In less than three years after this memorable day, on the 2nd of
December, 1851, at daybreak, there might be read on all the street
corners in Paris, this placard:--
"In the name of the French people, the President of the Republic:
"Article 1. The National Assembly is dissolved.
"Article 2. Universal suffrage is re-established. The law of the
31st of May is repealed.
"Article 3. The French people are convoked in their comitia.
"Article 4. A state of siege is decreed throughout the first
"Article 5. The Council of State is dissolved.
"Article 6. The Minister of the Interior is charged with the
execution of this decree.
"Done at the Palace of the Élysée, December 2, 1851.
At the same time Paris learned that fifteen of the inviolable
representatives of the people had been arrested in their homes,
during the night, by order of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte.
MISSION OF THE REPRESENTATIVES
Those who, as representatives of the people, received, in trust for the
people, the oath of the 20th of December, 1848, those, especially who,
being twice invested with the confidence of the nation, had as
representatives heard that oath sworn, and as legislators had seen it
violated, had assumed, with their writ of summons, two duties. The
first of these was, on the day when that oath should be violated, to
rise in their places, to present their breasts to the enemy, without
calculating either his numbers or his strength, to shelter with their
bodies the sovereignty of the people and as a means to combat and cast
down the usurper, to grasp every sort of weapon, from the law found in
the code, to the paving stone that one picks up in the street. The
second duty was, after having accepted the combat and all its chances
to accept proscription and all its miseries, to stand eternally erect
before the traitor, his oath in their hands, to forget their personal
sufferings, their private sorrows, their families dispersed and
maltreated, their fortunes destroyed, their affections crushed, their
bleeding hearts; to forget themselves, and to feel thenceforth but a
single wound--the wound of France to cry aloud for justice; never to
suffer themselves to be appeased, never to relent, but to be
implacable; to seize the despicable perjurer, crowned though he were,
if not with the hand of the law, at least with the pincers of truth,
and to heat red-hot in the fire of history all the letters of his oath,
and brand them on his face.
He who writes these lines is one of those who did not shrink, on the
2nd of December, from the utmost effort to accomplish the first of
these two great duties; in publishing this book he performs the second.
NOTICE OF EXPIRATION OF TERM
It is time that the human conscience should awaken.
Ever since the 2nd of December, 1851, a successful ambush, a crime,
odious, repulsive, infamous, unprecedented, considering the age in
which it was committed, has triumphed and held sway, erecting itself
into a theory, pluming itself in the sunlight, making laws, issuing
decrees, taking society, religion, and the family under its protection,
holding out its hand to the kings of Europe, who accept it, and calling
them, "my brother," or "my cousin." This crime no one disputes, not
even those who profit by it and live by it; they say simply that it was
necessary; not even he who committed it, who says merely that he, the
criminal, has been "absolved." This crime contains within itself all
crimes, treachery in the conception, perjury in the execution, murder
and assassination in the struggle, spoliation, swindling, and robbery
in the triumph; this crime draws after it as integral parts of itself,
suppression of the laws, violation of constitutional inviolabilities,
arbitrary sequestration, confiscation of property, midnight massacres,
secret military executions, commissions superseding tribunals, ten
thousand citizens banished, forty thousand citizens proscribed, sixty
thousand families ruined and despairing. These things are patent. Even
so! it is painful to say it, but there is silence concerning this
crime; it is there, men see it, touch it, and pass on to their
business; shops are opened, the stock jobbers job, Commerce, seated on
her packages, rubs her hands, and the moment is close at hand when
everybody will regard all that has taken place as a matter of course.
He who measures cloth does not hear the yard-stick in his hand speak to
him and say: "'Tis a false measure that governs." He who weighs out a
commodity does not hear his scales raise their voice and say: "'Tis a
false weight that reigns." A strange order of things surely, that has
for its base supreme disorder, the negation of all law! equilibrium
resting on iniquity!
Let us add,--what, for that matter is self-evident,--that the author of
this crime is a malefactor of the most cynical and lowest description.
At this moment, let all who wear a robe, a scarf, or a uniform; let all
those who serve this man, know, if they think themselves the agents of
a power, that they deceive themselves; they are the shipmates of a
pirate. Ever since the 2nd of December there have been no
office-holders in France, there have been only accomplices. The moment
has come when every one must take careful account of what he has done,
of what he is continuing to do. The gendarmes who arrested those whom
the man of Strasburg and Boulogne called "insurgents," arrested the
guardians of the Constitution. The judge who tried the combatants of
Paris or the provinces, placed in the dock the mainstays of the law.
The officer who confined in the hulks the "condemned men," confined the
defenders of the Republic and of the State. The general in Africa who
imprisoned at Lambassa the transported men bending beneath the sun's
fierce heat, shivering with fever, digging in the sun-baked soil a
furrow destined to be their grave, that general sequestrated, tortured,
assassinated the men of the law. All, generals, officers, gendarmes,
judges, are absolutely under forfeiture. They have before them more
than innocent men,--heroes! more than victims,--martyrs!
Let them know this, therefore, and let them hasten to act upon the
knowledge; let them, at least, break the fetters, draw the bolts, empty
the hulks, throw open the jails, since they have not still the courage
to grasp the sword. Up, consciences, awake, it is full time!
If law, right, duty, reason, common sense, equity, justice, suffice
not, let them think of the future! If remorse is mute, let
And let all those who, being landed proprietors, shake the magistrate
by the hand; who, being bankers, fête a general; who, being peasants,
salute a gendarme; let all those who do not shun the hôtel in which
dwells the minister, the house in which dwells the prefect, as he would
shun a _lazaretto_; let all those who, being simple citizens, not
functionaries, go to the balls and the banquets of Louis Bonaparte and
see not that the black flag waves over the Élysée,--let all these in
like manner know that this sort of shame is contagious; if they avoid
material complicity, they will not avoid moral complicity.
The crime of the 2nd of December bespatters them.
The present situation, that seems so calm to the unthinking, is most
threatening, be sure of that. When public morality is under eclipse, an
appalling shadow settles down upon social order.
All guarantees take wing, all supports vanish.
Thenceforth there is not in France a tribunal, nor a court, nor a
judge, to render justice and pronounce a sentence, on any subject,
against any one, in the name of any one.
Bring before the assizes a malefactor of any sort: the thief will say
to the judges: "The chief of the State robbed the Bank of twenty-five
millions;" the false witness will say to the judges: "The chief of the
State took an oath in the face of God and of man, and that oath he has
violated;" the sequestrator will say: "The chief of the State has
arrested, and detained against all law, the representatives of the
sovereign people;" the swindler will say: "The chief of the State got
his election, got power, got the Tuileries, all by swindling;" the
forger will say: "The chief of the State forged votes;" the footpad
will say: "The chief of the State stole their purses from the Princes
of Orleans;" the murderer will say: "The chief of the State shot,
sabred, bayonetted, massacred passengers in the streets;" and all
together, swindler, forger, false witness, footpad, robber, assassin,
will add: "And you judges, you have been to salute this man, to praise
him for having perjured himself, to compliment him for committing
forgery, to praise him for stealing and swindling, to thank him for
murdering! what do you want of us?"
Assuredly, this is a very serious state of things! to sleep in such a
situation, is additional ignominy.
It is time, we repeat, that this monstrous slumber of men's consciences
should end. It must not be, after that fearful scandal, the triumph of
crime, that a scandal still more fearful should be presented to
mankind: the indifference of the civilized world.
If that were to be, history would appear one day as an avenger; and
from this very hour, as the wounded lion takes refuge in the solitudes,
the just man, veiling his face in presence of this universal
degradation, would take refuge in the immensity of public contempt.
MEN WILL AWAKEN
But it is not to be; men will awaken.
The present book has for its sole aim to arouse the sleepers. France
must not even adhere to this government with the assent of lethargy; at
certain hours, in certain places, under certain shadows, to sleep is to
Let us add that at this moment, France--strange to say, but none the
less true--knows not what took place on the 2nd of December and
subsequently, or knows it imperfectly; and this is her excuse. However,
thanks to several generous and courageous publications, the facts are
beginning to creep out. This book is intended to bring some of those
facts forward, and, if it please God, to present them in their true
light. It is important that people should know who and what this M.
Bonaparte is. At the present moment, thanks to the suppression of the
platform, thanks to the suppression of the press, thanks to the
suppression of speech, of liberty, and of truth,--a suppression which
has had for one result the permitting M. Bonaparte to do everything,
but which has had at the same time the effect of nullifying all his
measures without exception, including the indescribable ballot of the
20th of December,--thanks, we say, to this stifling of all complaints
and of all light, no man, no fact wears its true aspect or bears its
true name. M. Bonaparte's crime is not a crime, it is called a
necessity; M. Bonaparte's ambuscade is not an ambuscade, it is called a
defence of public order; M. Bonaparte's robberies are not robberies,
they are called measures of state; M. Bonaparte's murders are not
murders, they are called public safety; M. Bonaparte's accomplices are
not malefactors, they are called magistrates, senators, and councillors
of state; M. Bonaparte's adversaries are not the soldiers of the law
and of right, they are called Jacquerie, demagogues, communists. In the
eyes of France, in the eyes of Europe, the 2nd of December is still
masked. This book is a hand issuing from the darkness, and tearing that
Now, we propose to scrutinize this triumph of order, to depict this
government so vigorous, so firm, so well-based, so strong, having on
its side a crowd of paltry youths, who have more ambition than boots,
dandies and beggars; sustained on the Bourse by Fould the Jew, and in
the Church by Montalembert the Catholic; esteemed by women who would
fain pass for maids, by men who want to be prefects; resting on a
coalition of prostitutions; giving fêtes; making cardinals; wearing
white neck-cloths and yellow kid gloves, like Morny, newly varnished
like Maupas, freshly brushed like Persigny,--rich, elegant, clean,
gilded, joyous, and born in a pool of blood!
Yes, men will awaken!
Yes, men will arouse from that torpor which, to such a people, is
shame; and when France does awaken, when she does open her eyes, when
she does distinguish, when she does see that which is before her and
beside her, she will recoil with a terrible shudder from the monstrous
crime which dared to espouse her in the darkness, and of which she has
shared the bed.
Then will the supreme hour strike!
The sceptics smile and insist; they say:
"Hope for nothing. This government, you say, is the shame of France. Be
it so, but this same shame is quoted on the Bourse. Hope for nothing.
You are poets and dreamers if you hope. Why, look about you: the
tribune, the press, intelligence, speech, thought, all that was
liberty, has vanished. Yesterday, these things were in motion, alive;
to-day, they are petrified. Well, people are satisfied with this
petrification, they accommodate themselves to it, make the most of it,
conduct business on it, and live as usual. Society goes on, and plenty
of worthy folk are well pleased with this state of things. Why do you
want to change it, to put an end to it? Don't deceive yourselves, it is
all solid, all firm; it is the present and the future."
We are in Russia. The Neva is frozen over. Houses are built on the ice,
and heavy chariots roll over it. It is no longer water, but rock. The
people go to and fro upon this marble which was once a river. A town is
run up, streets are marked out, shops opened; people buy, sell, eat,
drink, sleep, light fires on what once was water. You can do whatever
you please there. Fear nothing. Laugh, dance; it is more solid than
_terra firma_. Why, it rings beneath the foot, like granite. Long
live winter! Long live the ice! This will last till doomsday! And look
at the sky: is it day? is it night? what is it? A pale, misty light
steals over the snow; one would say that the sun is dying!
No, thou art not dying, O liberty! One of these days, at the moment
when thou art least expected, at the very hour when they shall have
most utterly forgotten thee, thou wilt rise!--O dazzling vision! the
star-like face will suddenly be seen issuing from the earth,
resplendent on the horizon! Over all that snow, over all that ice, over
that hard, white plain, over that water become rock, over all that
wretched winter, thou wilt cast thy arrow of gold, thy ardent and
effulgent ray! light, heat, life! And then, listen! hear you that dull
sound? hear you that crashing noise, all-pervading and formidable? 'Tis
the breaking up of the ice! 'tis the melting of the Neva! 'tis the
river resuming its course! 'tis the water, living, joyous, and
terrible, heaving up the hideous, dead ice, and crushing it.--'Twas
granite, said you; see, it splinters like glass! 'tis the breaking up
of the ice, I tell you: 'tis the truth returning, 'tis progress
recommencing, 'tis mankind resuming its march, and uprooting, carrying
off, mingling, crushing and drowning in its waves, like the wretched
furniture of a submerged hovel, not only the brand-new empire of Louis
Bonaparte, but all the structures and all the work of the eternal
antique despotism! Look on these things as they are passing. They are
vanishing for ever. You will never behold them again. That book, half
submerged, is the old code of iniquity; that sinking framework is the
throne; that other framework, floating off, is the scaffold!
And for this immense engulfment, this supreme victory of life over
death, what was needed? One glance from thee, O sun! one of thy rays, O
Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, born at Paris, on April 20, 1808, is
the son of Hortense de Beauharnais, who was married by the Emperor
to Louis-Napoleon, King of Holland. In 1831, taking part in the
insurrections in Italy, where his elder brother was killed, Louis
Bonaparte attempted to overthrow the Papacy. On the 30th of October,
1836, he attempted to overthrow Louis Philippe. He failed at Strasburg,
and, being pardoned by the King, he embarked for America, leaving his
accomplices behind him to be tried. On the 11th of November he wrote:
"The King, _in his clemency_, has ordered me taken to America;" he
declared himself "keenly affected by the King's _generosity_," adding:
"Certainly, we were all culpable towards the government in taking up
arms against it, but _the greatest culprit was myself_;" and he
concluded thus: "I was _guilty_ towards the government, and the
government has been _generous_ to me." He returned from America, and
went to Switzerland, got himself appointed captain of artillery at
Berne, and a citizen of Salenstein, in Thurgovia; equally avoiding,
amid the diplomatic complications occasioned by his presence, to call
himself a Frenchman, or to avow himself a Swiss, and contenting
himself, in order to satisfy the French government, with stating in a
letter, dated the 20th of August, 1838, that he lived "almost alone,"
in the house "where his mother died," and that it was "his firm
determination to remain quiet."
 A letter read at the Court of Assize by the advocate Parquin,
who, after reading it, exclaimed: "Among the numerous faults of
Louis-Napoleon, we may not, at least, include ingratitude."
On the 6th of August, 1840 he disembarked at Boulogne, parodying the
disembarkation at Cannes, with the _petit chapeau_ on his head,
carrying a gilt eagle on the end of a flag-staff, and a live eagle in
a cage, proclamations galore, and sixty valets, cooks, and grooms,
disguised as French soldiers with uniforms bought at the Temple, and
buttons of the 42nd Regiment of the Line, made in London. He scatters
money among the passers-by in the streets of Boulogne, sticks his hat
on the point of his sword, and himself cries, "Vive l'Empereur!" fires
a pistol shot at an officer, which hits a soldier and knocks out
three of his teeth, and finally runs away. He is taken into custody;
there are found on his person 500,000 francs, in gold and
bank-notes; the procureur-general, Franck-Carrè, says to him in
the Court of Peers: "You have been tampering with the soldiers, and
distributing money to purchase treason." The peers sentenced him to
perpetual imprisonment. He was confined at Ham. There his mind seemed
to take refuge within itself and to mature: he wrote and published some
books, instinct, notwithstanding a certain ignorance of France and of
the age, with democracy and with progress: "The Extinction of
Pauperism," "An Analysis of the Sugar Question," "Napoleonic Ideas," in
which he made the Emperor a "humanitarian." In a treatise entitled
"Historical Fragments," he wrote thus: "I am a citizen before I am a
Bonaparte." Already in 1852, in his book "Political Reveries," he had
declared himself a republican. After five years of captivity, he
escaped from the prison of Ham, disguised as a mason, and took refuge
 Court of Peers. Attempt of the 6th August, 1840, page 140,
evidence of Geoffroy, grenadier.
 Captain Col. Puygellier, who had said to him: "You are a
conspirator and a traitor."
 Court of Peers. Evidence of the witness Adam, Mayor of
February arrived; he hailed the Republic, took his seat as a
representative of the people in the Constituent Assembly, mounted the
tribune on the 21st of September, 1848, and said: "All my life shall
be devoted to strengthening the Republic;" published a manifesto which
may be summed up in two lines: liberty, progress, democracy, amnesty,
abolition of the decrees of proscription and banishment; was elected
President by 5,500,000 votes, solemnly swore allegiance to the
Constitution on the 20th of December, 1848, and on the 2nd of December,
1851, shattered that Constitution. In the interval he had destroyed
the Roman republic, and had restored in 1849 that Papacy which in 1831
he had essayed to overthrow. He had, besides, taken nobody knows how
great a share in the obscure affair of the lottery of the gold ingots.
A few weeks previous to the _coup d'état_, this bag of gold became
transparent, and there was visible within it a hand greatly resembling
his. On December 2, and the following days, he, the executive power,
assailed the legislative power, arrested the representatives, drove
out the assembly, dissolved the Council of State, expelled the high
court of justice, suppressed the laws, took 25,000,000 francs from
the bank, gorged the army with gold, swept the streets of Paris with
grape-shot, and terrorized France. Since then, he has proscribed
eighty-four representatives of the people; stolen from the Princes of
Orleans the property of their father, Louis Philippe, to whom he owed
his life; decreed despotism in fifty-eight articles, under the name of
Constitution; throttled the Republic; made the sword of France a gag
in the mouth of liberty; pawned the railways; picked the pockets of
the people; regulated the budget by ukase; transported to Africa and
Cayenne ten thousand democrats; banished to Belgium, Spain, Piedmont,
Switzerland, and England forty thousand republicans, brought grief to
every heart and the blush of shame to every brow.
Louis Bonaparte thinks that he is mounting the steps of a throne; he
does not perceive that he is mounting those of a scaffold.
Louis Bonaparte is a man of middle height, cold, pale, slow in his
movements, having the air of a person not quite awake. He has
published, as we have mentioned before, a moderately esteemed treatise
on artillery, and is thought to be acquainted with the handling of
cannon. He is a good horseman. He speaks drawlingly, with a slight
German accent. His histrionic abilities were displayed at the Eglinton
tournament. He has a heavy moustache, covering his smile, like that of
the Duke of Alva, and a lifeless eye like that of Charles IX.
Judging him apart from what he calls his "necessary acts," or his
"great deeds," he is a vulgar, commonplace personage, puerile,
theatrical, and vain. Those persons who are invited to St. Cloud, in
the summer, receive with the invitation an order to bring a morning
toilette and an evening toilette. He loves finery, display, feathers,
embroidery, tinsel and spangles, big words, and grand titles,--everything
that makes a noise and glitter, all the glassware of power. In his
capacity of cousin to the battle of Austerlitz, he dresses as a
general. He cares little about being despised; he contents himself with
the appearance of respect.
This man would tarnish the background of history; he absolutely sullies
its foreground. Europe smiled when, glancing at Haiti, she saw this
white Soulouque appear. But there is now in Europe, in every
intelligent mind, abroad as at home, a profound stupor, a feeling, as
it were, of personal insult; for the European continent, whether it
will or no, is responsible for France, and whatever abases France
Before the 2nd of December, the leaders of the Right used freely to say
of Louis Bonaparte: "_He is an idiot._" They were mistaken. To be sure
that brain of his is awry, and has gaps in it, but one can discern here
and there thoughts consecutive and concatenate. It is a book whence
pages have been torn. Louis Napoleon has a fixed idea; but a fixed idea
is not idiocy; he knows what he wants, and he goes straight to it;
through justice, through law, through reason, through honour, through
humanity, it may be, but straight on none the less.
He is not an idiot. He is a man of another age than our own. He seems
absurd and mad, because he is out of his place and time. Transport him
to Spain in the 16th century, and Philip II would recognise him; to
England, and Henry VIII would smile on him; to Italy, and Cæsar Borgia
would jump on his neck. Or even, confine yourself to setting him
outside the pale of European civilization,--place him, in 1817, at
Janina, and Ali-Tepeleni would grasp him by the hand.
There is in him something of the Middle Ages, and of the Lower Empire.
That which he does would have seemed perfectly simple and natural to
Michael Ducas, to Romanus Diogenes, to Nicephorus Botoniates, to the
Eunuch Narses, to the Vandal Stilico, to Mahomet II, to Alexander VI,
to Ezzelino of Padua, as it seems perfectly simple and natural to
himself. But he forgets, or knows not, that in the age wherein we live,
his actions will have to traverse the great streams of human morality,
set free by three centuries of literature and by the French Revolution;
and that in this medium, his actions will wear their true aspect, and
appear what they really are--hideous.
His partisans--he has some--complacently compare him with his uncle,
the first Bonaparte. They say: "The one accomplished the 18th Brumaire,
the other the 2nd of December: they are two ambitious men." The first
Bonaparte aimed to reconstruct the Empire of the West, to make Europe
his vassal, to dominate the continent by his power, and to dazzle it by
his grandeur; to take an arm-chair himself, and give footstools to the
kings; to cause history to say: "Nimrod, Cyrus, Alexander, Hannibal,
Cæsar, Charlemagne, Napoleon;" to be a master of the world. And so he
was. It was for that that he accomplished the 18th Brumaire. This
fellow would fain have horses and women, be called _Monseigneur_, and
live luxuriously. It was for this that he accomplished the 2nd of
December. Yes: they are both ambitious; the comparison is just.
Let us add, that, like the first Bonaparte, the second also aims to be
emperor. But that which somewhat impairs the force of the comparison
is, that there is perhaps, a slight difference between conquering an
empire and pilfering it.
However this may be, that which is certain and which cannot be veiled,
even by the dazzling curtain of glory and of misfortune on which are
inscribed: Arcola, Lodi, the Pyramids, Eylau, Friedland, St.
Helena--that which is certain, we repeat, is that the 18th Brumaire was
a crime, of which the 2nd of December has aggravated the stain on the
memory of Napoleon.
M. Louis Bonaparte does not object to have it whispered that he is a
socialist. He feels that this gives him a sort of vague field which
ambition may exploit. As we have already said, when he was in prison,
he passed his time in acquiring a quasi-reputation as a democrat. One
fact will describe him. When, being at Ham, he published his book "On
the Extinction of Pauperism," a book having apparently for its sole and
exclusive aim, to probe the wound of the poverty of the common people,
and to suggest the remedy, he sent the book to one of his friends with
this note, which we have ourselves seen: "Read this book on pauperism,
and tell me if you think it is calculated _to do me good_."
The great talent of M. Louis Bonaparte is silence. Before the 2nd of
December, he had a council of ministers who, being responsible,
imagined that they were of some consequence. The President presided.
Never, or scarcely ever, did he take part in their discussions. While
MM. Odillon Barrot, Passy, Tocqueville, Dufaure, or Faucher were
speaking, _he occupied himself_, says one of these ministers, _in
constructing, with intense earnestness, paper dolls, or in drawing
men's heads on the documents before him_.
To feign death, that is his art. He remains mute and motionless,
looking in the opposite direction from his object, until the hour for
action comes; then he turns his head, and leaps upon his prey. His
policy appears to you abruptly, at some unexpected turning, pistol in
hand, like a thief. Up to that point, there is the least possible
movement. For one moment, in the course of the three years that have
just passed, he was seen face to face with Changarnier, who also, on
his part, had a scheme in view. "Ibant obscuri," as Virgil says. France
observed, with a certain anxiety, these two men. What was in their
minds? Did not the one dream of Cromwell, the other of Monk? Men asked
one another these questions as they looked on the two men. In both of
them, there was the same attitude of mystery, the same policy of
immobility. Bonaparte said not a word, Changarnier made not a gesture;
this one did not stir, that one did not breathe; they seemed to be
playing the game of which should be the most statuesque.
This silence of his, Louis Bonaparte sometimes breaks; but then he does
not speak, he lies. This man lies as other men breathe. He announces an
honest intention; be on your guard: he makes an assertion, distrust
him: he takes an oath, tremble.
Machiavel made small men; Louis Bonaparte is one of them.
To announce an enormity against which the world protests, to disavow it
with indignation, to swear by all the gods, to declare himself an
honest man,--and then, at the moment when people are reassured, and
laugh at the enormity in question, to execute it. This was his course
with respect to the _coup d'état_, with respect to the decrees of
proscription, with respect to the spoliation of the Princes of
Orleans;--and so it will be with the invasion of Belgium, and of
Switzerland, and with everything else. It is his way; you may think
what you please of it; he employs it; he finds it effective; it is
his affair. He will have to settle the matter with history.
You are of his familiar circle; he hints at a project, which seems to
you, not immoral,--one does not scrutinize so closely,--but insane and
dangerous, and dangerous to himself; you raise objections; he listens,
makes no reply, sometimes gives way for a day or two, then resumes his
project, and carries out his will.
There is in his table, in his office at the Élysée, a drawer,
frequently half open. He takes thence a paper; reads it to a minister;
it is a decree. The minister assents or dissents. If he dissents, Louis
Bonaparte throws the paper back into the drawer, where there are many
other papers, the dreams of an omnipotent man, shuts the drawer, takes
out the key, and leaves the room without saying a word. The minister
bows and retires, delighted with the deference which has been paid to
his opinion. Next morning the decree is in the _Moniteur_.
Sometimes with the minister's signature.
Thanks to this _modus operandi_, he has always in his service the
unforeseen, a mighty weapon, and encountering in himself no internal
obstacle in that which is known to other men as conscience, he pursues
his design, through no matter what, no matter how, and attains his
He draws back sometimes, not before the moral effect of his acts, but
before their material effect. The decrees of expulsion of eighty-four
representatives of the people, published on January 6 in the
_Moniteur_, revolted public sentiment. Fast bound as France was,
the shudder was perceptible. The 2nd of December was not long past;
there was danger in popular excitement. Louis Bonaparte understood
this. Next day a second decree of expulsion was to have appeared,
containing eight hundred names. Louis Bonaparte had the proof brought
to him from the _Moniteur_; the list occupied fourteen columns of
the official journal. He crumpled the proof, threw it into the fire,
and the decree did not appear. The proscriptions proceeded without a
In his enterprises, he needs aids and collaborators; he needs what he
calls "men." Diogenes sought them with a lantern, he seeks them with a
banknote in his hand. And finds them. There are certain sides of human
nature which produce a particular species of persons, of whom he is the
centre, and who group around him _ex necessitate_, in obedience to
that mysterious law of gravitation which regulates the moral being no
less than the cosmic atom. To undertake "the act of the 2nd of
December,"--to execute it, and to complete it, he needed these men, and
he had them. Now he is surrounded by them; these men form his retinue,
his court, mingling their radiance with his. At certain epochs of
history, there are pleiades of great men; at other epochs, there are
pleiades of vagabonds.
But do not confound the epoch, the moment of Louis Bonaparte, with the
19th century: the toadstool sprouts at the foot of the oak, but it is
not the oak.
M. Louis Bonaparte has succeeded. He has with him henceforth money,
speculation, the Bourse, the Bank, the counting-room, the strong-box,
and all those men who pass so readily from one side to the other, when
all they have to straddle is shame. He made of M. Changarnier a dupe,
of M. Thiers a stop-gap, of M. de Montalembert an accomplice, of power
a cavern, of the budget his farm. They are coining at the Mint a medal,
called the medal of the 2nd of December, in honour of the manner in
which he keeps his oaths. The frigate _La Constitution_ has been
debaptized, and is now called _L'Élysée_. He can, when he chooses,
be crowned by M. Sibour, and exchange the couch of the Élysée for
the state bed of the Tuileries. Meanwhile, for the last seven months,
he has been displaying himself; he has harangued, triumphed, presided
at banquets, given balls, danced, reigned, turned himself about in all
directions; he has paraded himself, in all his ugliness, in a box at
the Opéra; he has had himself dubbed Prince-President; he has
distributed standards to the army, and crosses of honour to the
commissioners of police. When there was occasion to select a symbol, he
effaced himself and chose the eagle; modesty of a sparrow-hawk!
 The Archbishop of Paris.
IN CONTINUATION OF THE PANEGYRICS
He has succeeded. The result is that he has plenty of apotheoses. Of
panegyrists he has more than Trajan. One thing, however, has struck me,
which is, that among all the qualities that have been discovered in him
since the 2nd of December, among all the eulogies that have been
addressed to him, there is not one word outside of this circle:
adroitness, coolness, daring, address, an affair admirably prepared and
conducted, moment well chosen, secret well kept, measures well taken.
False keys well made--that's the whole story. When these things have
been said, all has been said, except a phrase or two about "clemency;"
and yet no one extols the magnanimity of Mandrin, who, sometimes, did
not take all the traveller's money, and of Jean l'Ecorcheur, who,
sometimes, did not kill all travellers.
In endowing M. Bonaparte with twelve millions of francs, and four
millions more for keeping up the châteaux, the Senate--endowed by M.
Bonaparte with a million--felicitated M. Bonaparte upon "having saved
society," much as a character in a comedy congratulates another on
having "saved the money-box."
For myself, I am still seeking in the glorification of M. Bonaparte by
his most ardent apologists, any praise that would not exactly befit
Cartouche or Poulailler, after a good stroke of business; and I blush
sometimes for the French language, and for the name of Napoleon, at the
terms, really over-raw, and too thinly veiled, and too appropriate to
the facts, in which the magistracy and clergy felicitate this man on
having stolen the power of the State by burglarising the Constitution,
and on having, by night, evaded his oath.
When all the burglaries and all the robberies which constitute the
success of his policy had been accomplished, he resumed his true name;
every one then saw that this man was a Monseigneur. It was M.
Fortoul,--to his honour be it said--who first made this discovery.
 The first report addressed to M. Bonaparte, and in which
M. Bonaparte is called _Monseigneur_ is signed FORTOUL.
When one measures the man and finds him so small, and then measures his
success, and finds it so enormous, it is impossible that the mind
should not experience some surprise. One asks oneself: "How did he do
it?" One dissects the adventure and the adventurer, and laying aside
the advantage he derives from his name, and certain external facts, of
which he made use in his escalade, one finds, as the basis of the man
and his exploit, but two things,--cunning and cash.
As to cunning: we have already characterised this important quality of
Louis Bonaparte; but it is desirable to dwell on the point.
On November 27, 1848, he said to his fellow-citizens in his manifesto:
"I feel it incumbent on me to make known to you my sentiments and my
principles. _There must be no equivocation between you and me. I am
not ambitious...._ Brought up in _free_ countries, in the school of
misfortune, _I shall ever remain faithful_ to the duties that shall be
imposed on me by your suffrages, and the will of the Assembly. _I shall
make it a point of honour to leave, at the end of the four years, to my
successor, power consolidated, liberty intact, and real progress
On December 31, 1849, in his first message to the Assembly, he wrote:
"It is my aspiration to be worthy of the confidence of the nation, by
maintaining the Constitution _which I have sworn to execute_." On
November 12, 1850, in his second annual message to the Assembly, he
said: "If the Constitution contains defects and dangers, you are free
to make them known to the country; I alone, _bound by my oath_, confine
myself within the strict limits which that Constitution has traced."
On September 4, in the same year, at Caen, he said: "When, in all
directions, prosperity seems reviving, he were, indeed, _a guilty man_
who should seek to check its progress by _changing that which now
exists_." Some time before, on July 25, 1849, at the inauguration of
the St. Quentin railway, he went to Ham, smote his breast at the
recollection of Boulogne, and uttered these solemn words:
"Now that, elected by universal France, I am become the legitimate head
of this great nation, I cannot pride myself on a captivity which was
occasioned by _an attack upon a regular government_.
"When one has observed the enormous evils which even the most righteous
revolutions bring in their train, one can scarcely comprehend one's
_audacity in having chosen to take upon one's self the terrible
responsibility of a change_; I do not, therefore, complain of having
_expiated_ here, by an imprisonment of six years, my _rash defiance of
the laws of my country_, and it is with joy that, in the very scene of
my sufferings, I propose to you a toast in honour of those who,
notwithstanding their convictions, are resolute to _respect the
institutions of their country_."
All the while he was saying this, he retained in the depths of his
heart, as he has since proved, after his fashion, that thought which he
had written in that same prison of Ham: "Great enterprises seldom
succeed at the first attempt."
 _Historical Fragments._
Towards the middle of November, 1851, Representative F----, a
frequenter of the Élysée, was dining with M. Bonaparte.
"What do they say in Paris, and in the Assembly?" asked the President
of the representative.
"They are still talking."
"About the _coup d'état_."
"And the Assembly believes in it?"
"A little, prince."
"I--oh, not at all."
Louis Bonaparte earnestly grasped M. F----'s hands, and said to him
"I thank you, M. F----, you, at least, do not think me a scoundrel."
This happened a fortnight before December 2. At that time, and indeed,
at that very moment, according to the admission of Maupas the
confederate, Mazas was being made ready.
Cash: that is M. Bonaparte's other source of strength.
Let us take the facts, judicially proved by the trials at Strasburg and
At Strasburg, on October 30, 1836, Colonel Vaudrey, an accomplice of M.
Bonaparte, commissioned the quartermasters of the 4th Regiment of
artillery, "to distribute among the cannoneers of each battery, two
pieces of gold."
On the 5th of August, 1840, in the steamboat he had freighted, the
_Ville d'Edimbourg_, while at sea, M. Bonaparte called about him
the sixty poor devils, his domestics, whom he had deceived into
accompanying him by telling them he was going to Hamburg on a pleasure
excursion, harangued them from the roof of one of his carriages
fastened on the deck, declared his project, tossed them their disguise
as soldiers, gave each of them a hundred francs, and then set them
drinking. A little drunkenness does not damage great enterprises. "I
saw," said the witness Hobbs, the under-steward, before the Court of
Peers, "I saw in the cabin a great quantity of money. The passengers
appeared to me to be reading printed papers; they passed all the night
drinking and eating. I did nothing else but uncork bottles, and serve
food." Next came the captain. The magistrate asked Captain Crow: "Did
you see the passengers drink?"--Crow: "To excess; I never saw anything
 Court of Peers, _Depositions of witnesses_, p. 94.
 Court of Peers, _Depositions of witnesses_, pp. 71, 81,
They landed, and were met by the custom-house officers of Vimereux. M.
Louis Bonaparte began proceedings, by offering the lieutenant of the
guard a pension of 1,200 francs. The magistrate: "Did you not offer the
commandant of the station a sum of money if he would march with
you?"--The Prince: "I caused it to be offered him, but he refused
 Court of Peers, _Cross examination of the accused_, p. 13.
They arrived at Boulogne. His aides-de-camp--he had some already--wore,
hanging from their necks, tin cases full of gold pieces. Others came
next with bags of small coins in their hands. Then they threw money
to the fishermen and the peasants, inviting them to cry: "Long live the
Emperor!"--"Three hundred loud-mouthed knaves will do the thing," had
written one of the conspirators. Louis Bonaparte approached the
42nd, quartered at Boulogne.
 Court of Peers, _Depositions of witnesses_, pp. 103, 185,
 The President: Prisoner Querelles, these children that cried
out, are not they the three hundred loud-mouthed knaves that you
asked for in your letter?--(Trial at Strasburg.)
He said to the voltigeur Georges Koehly: "_I am Napoleon_; you shall
have promotion, decorations." He said to the voltigeur Antoine Gendre:
"_I am the son of Napoleon_; we are going to the Hôtel du Nord to order
a dinner for you and me." He said to the voltigeur Jean Meyer: "_You
shall be well paid._" He said to the voltigeur Joseph Mény: "_You must
come to Paris; you shall be well paid._"
 Court of Peers, _Depositions of witnesses_, pp. 142, 143,
155, 156, 158.
An officer at his side held in his hand his hat full of five-franc
pieces, which he distributed among the lookers-on, saying: "_Shout,
Long live the Emperor!_"
The grenadier Geoffroy, in his evidence, characterises in these words
the attempt made on his mess by an officer and a sergeant who were in
the plot: "The sergeant had a bottle in his hand, and the officer a
sabre." In these few words is the whole 2nd of December.
Let us proceed:--
"Next day, June 17, the commandant, Mésonan, who I thought had gone,
entered my room, announced by my aide-de-camp. I said to him,
'Commandant, I thought you were gone!'--'No, general, I am not gone. I
have a letter to give you.'--'A letter? And from whom?'--'Read it,
"I asked him to take a seat; I took the letter, but as I was opening
it, I saw that the address was--_à M. le Commandant Mésonan_. I said to
him: 'But, my dear Commandant, this is for you, not for me.'--'Read it,
General!'--I opened the letter and read thus:--
"'My dear Commandant, it is most essential that you should
immediately see the general in question; you know he is a man of
resolution, on whom one may rely. You know also that he is a man
whom I have put down to be one day a marshal of France. _You will
offer him, from me, 100,000 francs_; and you will ask him into what
banker's or notary's hands _I shall pay 300,000 francs_ for him, in
the event of his losing his command.'
"I stopped here, overcome with indignation; I turned over the leaf, and
I saw that the letter was signed, 'LOUIS NAPOLEON.'
"I handed the letter back to the commandant, saying that it was a
ridiculous and abortive affair."
Who speaks thus? General Magnan. Where? In the open Court of Peers.
Before whom? Who is the man seated on the prisoners' bench, the man
whom Magnan covers with "scorn," the man towards whom Magnan turns his
"indignant" face? Louis Bonaparte.
Money, and with money gross debauchery: such were his means of action
in his three enterprises at Strasburg, at Boulogne, at Paris. Two
failures and a success. Magnan, who refused at Boulogne, sold himself
at Paris. If Louis Bonaparte had been defeated on the 2nd of December,
just as there were found on him, at Boulogne, the 500,000 francs he had
brought from London, so there would have been found at the Élysée, the
twenty-five millions taken from the Bank.
There has, then, been in France,--one must needs speak of these things
coolly,--in France, that land of the sword, that land of cavaliers, the
land of Hoche, of Drouot, and of Bayard--there has been a day, when a
man, surrounded by five or six political sharpers, experts in
ambuscades, and grooms of _coups d'état_, lolling in a gilded office,
his feet on the fire-dogs, a cigar in his mouth, placed a price upon
military honour, weighed it in the scales like a commodity, a thing
buyable and sellable, put down the general at a million, the private at
a louis, and said of the conscience of the French army: "That is worth
And this man is the nephew of the Emperor.
By the bye, this nephew is not proud: he accommodates himself, with
great facility, to the necessities of his adventures; adapts himself
readily and without reluctance, to every freak of destiny. Place him in
London, and let it be his interest to please the English government, he
would not hesitate, and with the very hand which now seeks to seize the
sceptre of Charlemagne, he would grasp the truncheon of a policeman. If
I were not Napoleon, I would be Vidocq.
And here thought pauses!
And such is the man by whom France is governed! governed, do I say?
possessed rather in full sovereignty!
And every day, and every moment, by his decrees, by his messages, by
his harangues, by all these unprecedented imbecilities which he parades
in the _Moniteur_, this _émigré_, so ignorant of France, gives lessons
to France! and this knave tells France that he has saved her! From
whom? from herself. Before he came, Providence did nothing but
absurdities; God waited for him to put everything in order; and at
length he came. For the last thirty-six years poor France had been
afflicted with all sorts of pernicious things: that "sonority," the
tribune; that hubbub, the press; that insolence, thought; that crying
abuse, liberty: he came, and for the tribune, he substituted the
Senate; for the press, the censorship; for thought, imbecility; for
liberty, the sabre; and by the sabre, the censorship, imbecility, and
the Senate, France is saved! Saved! bravo! and from whom, I ask again?
from herself. For what was France before, if you please? a horde of
pillagers, robbers, Jacquerie, assassins, demagogues! It was necessary
to put fetters on this abominable villain, this France, and it was M.
Bonaparte Louis who applied the fetters. Now France is in prison, on
bread and water, punished, humiliated, throttled and well guarded; be
tranquil, everybody; Sieur Bonaparte, gendarme at the Élysée, answers
for her to Europe; this miserable France is in her strait waistcoat,
and if she stirs!--
Ah! what spectacle is this? What dream is this? What nightmare is this?
On the one hand, a nation, first among nations, and on the other, a
man, last among men--and see what that man does to that nation! God
save the mark! He tramples her under foot, he laughs at her to her
face, he flouts her, he denies her, he insults her, he scoffs at her!
How now! He says, there is none but I! What! in this land of France
where no man's ears may be boxed with impunity, one may box the ears of
the whole people! Oh! abominable shame! Each time that M. Bonaparte
spits, every one must needs wipe his face! And this can last! And you
tell me that it will last! No! No! No! By all the blood we have in our
veins, no! this shall not last. Were it to last, it must be that there
is no God in heaven, or no longer a France on earth!
A roll of the drums; clowns, attention!
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC,
"Considering that--all the restrictive laws on the liberty of the
press having been repealed, all the laws against hand-bills and
posting-bills having been abolished, the right of public assemblage
having been fully re-established, all the unconstitutional laws,
including martial law, having been suppressed, every citizen being
empowered to say what he likes through every medium of publicity,
whether newspaper, placard, or electoral meeting, all solemn
engagements, especially the oath of the 20th of December, 1848,
having been scrupulously kept, all facts having been investigated,
all questions propounded and discussed, all candidacies publicly
defeated, without the possibility of alleging that the slightest
violence had been exercised against the meanest citizen,--in one
word, in the fullest enjoyment of liberty. "The sovereign people
being interrogated on this question:--
"'Do the French people mean to place themselves, tied neck and
heels, at the discretion of M. Louis Bonaparte?'
"Have replied YES by 7,500,000 votes. (_Interruption by the
author_:--We shall have more to say of these 7,500,000 votes.)
"THE CONSTITUTION IN MANNER FOLLOWING, THAT IS TO SAY:
"Article 1. The Constitution recognises, confirms, and guarantees
the great principles proclaimed in 1789, which are the foundation
of the public law of the French people.
"Article 2 and following. The platform and the press, which impeded
the march of progress, are superseded by the police and the
censorship, and by the secret deliberations of the Senate, the
Corps Législatif and the Council of State.
"Article last. The thing commonly called human intelligence is
"Done at the Palace of the Tuileries January 14, 1852.
"Witnessed and sealed with the great seal.
"_Keeper of the Seals and Minister of Justice._"
This Constitution, which loudly proclaims and confirms the Revolution
of 1789 in its principles and its consequences, and which merely
abolishes liberty, was evidently and happily inspired in M. Bonaparte,
by an old provincial play-bill which it is well to recall at this time:
The Grand Representation
LA DAME BLANCHE,
AN OPERA IN THREE ACTS.
Note. The _music_, which would embarrass the progress of the plot,
will be replaced by lively and piquant _dialogue_.
This lively and piquant dialogue is carried on by the Council of State,
the Corps Législatif and the Senate.
Is there a Senate then? Certainly. This "great body," this "balancing
power," this "supreme moderator," is in truth the principal glory of
the Constitution. Let us consider it for a moment.
The Senate! It is a senate. But of what Senate are you speaking? Is it
the Senate whose duty it was to deliberate on the description of sauce
with which the Emperor should eat his turbot? Is it the Senate of which
Napoleon thus spoke on April 5, 1814: "A sign was an order for the
Senate, and it always did more than was required of it?" Is it the
Senate of which Napoleon said in 1805: "The poltroons were afraid of
displeasing me?" Is it the Senate which drew from Tiberius almost
the same exclamation: "The base wretches! greater slaves than we
require them to be!" Is it the Senate which caused Charles XII to say:
"Send my boot to Stockholm."--"For what purpose, Sire?" demanded his
minister.--"To preside over the Senate," was the reply.
 Thibaudeau. _History of the Consulate and the Empire._
But let us not trifle. This year they are eighty; they will be one
hundred and fifty next year. They monopolise to themselves, in full
plenitude, fourteen articles of the Constitution, from Article 19 to
Article 33. They are "guardians of the public liberties;" their
functions are gratuitous by Article 22; consequently, they have from
fifteen to thirty thousand francs per annum. They have the peculiar
privilege of receiving their salary, and the prerogative of "not
opposing" the promulgation of the laws. They are all illustrious
personages." This is not an "abortive Senate," like that of
Napoleon the uncle; this is a genuine Senate; the marshals are members,
and the cardinals and M. Leboeuf.
 "All the illustrious persons of the country." Louis
Bonaparte's _Appeal to the people_. December 2, 1851.
 "The Senate was an abortion; and in France no one likes to
see people well paid merely for making some bad selections."
Words of Napoleon, _Memorial from St. Helena_.
"What is your position in the country?" some one asks the Senate. "We
are charged with the preservation of public liberty."--"What is your
business in this city?" Pierrot demands of Harlequin.--"My business,"
replies Harlequin, "is to curry-comb the bronze horse."
"We know what is meant by _esprit-de-corps_: this spirit will urge the
Senate by every possible means to augment its power. It will destroy
the Corps Législatif, if it can; and if occasion offers it will
compound with the Bourbons."
Who said this? The First Consul. Where? At the Tuileries, in April,
"Without title or authority, and in violation of every principle, it
has surrendered the country and consummated its ruin. It has been the
plaything of eminent intriguers; I know of no body which ought to
appear in history with greater ignominy than the Senate."
Who said this? The Emperor. Where? At St. Helena.
There is actually then a senate in the "Constitution of January 14."
But, candidly speaking, this is a mistake; for now that public hygiene
has made some progress, we are accustomed to see the public highway
better kept. After the Senate of the Empire, we thought that no more
senates would be mixed up with Constitutions.
THE COUNCIL OF STATE AND THE CORPS LÉGISLATIF
There is also a Council of State and a Corps Législatif: the former
joyous, well paid, plump, rosy, fat, and fresh, with a sharp eye, a red
ear, a voluble tongue, a sword by its side, a belly, and embroidered in
gold; the Corps Législatif, pale, meagre, sad, and embroidered in
silver. The Council of State comes and goes, enters and exits, returns,
rules, disposes, decides, settles, and decrees, and sees Louis Napoleon
face to face. The Corps Législatif, on the contrary, walks on tiptoe,
fumbles with its hat, puts its finger to its lips, smiles humbly, sits
on the corner of its chair, and speaks only when questioned. Its words
being naturally obscene, the public journals are forbidden to make the
slightest allusion to them. The Corps Législatif passes laws and votes
taxes by Article 39; and when, fancying it has occasion for some
instruction, some detail, some figures, or some explanation, it
presents itself, hat in hand, at the door of the departments to consult
the ministers, the usher receives it in the antechamber, and with a
roar of laughter, gives it a fillip on the nose. Such are the duties of
the Corps Législatif.
Let us state, however, that this melancholy position began, in June,
1852, to extort some sighs from the sorrowful personages who form a
portion of the concern. The report of the commission on the budget will
remain in the memory of men, as one of the most heart-rending
masterpieces of the plaintive style. Let us repeat those gentle
"Formerly, as you know, the necessary communications in such cases were
carried on directly between the commissioners and the ministers. It was
to the latter that they addressed themselves to obtain the documents
indispensable to the discussion of affairs; and the ministers even came
personally, with the heads of their several departments, to give verbal
explanations, frequently sufficient to preclude the necessity of
further discussion; and the resolutions formed by the commission on the
budget after they had heard them, were submitted direct to the Chamber.
"But now we can have no communication with the government except
through the medium of the Council of State, which, being the confidant
and the organ of its own ideas, has alone the right of transmitting to
the Corps Législatif the documents which, in its turn, it receives from
"In a word, for written reports, as well as for verbal communications,
the government commissioners have superseded the ministers, with whom,
however, they must have a preliminary understanding.
"With respect to the modifications which the commission might wish to
propose, whether by the adoption of amendments presented by the
deputies, or from its own examination of the budget, they must, before
you are called upon to consider them, be sent to the Council of State,
there to undergo discussion.
"There (it is impossible not to notice it) those modifications have no
interpreters, no official defenders.
"This mode of procedure appears to be derived from the Constitution
itself; and _if we speak of the matter now_, it is _solely_ to prove to
you that it must occasion _delays_ in accomplishing the task imposed
upon the commission on the budget."
 Report of the commission on the budget of the Corps
Législatif, June, 1852.
Reproach was never so mildly uttered; it is impossible to receive more
chastely and more gracefully, what M. Bonaparte, in his autocratic
style, calls "guarantees of calmness," but what Molière, with the
license of a great writer, denominates "kicks."
 Preamble of the Constitution.
 See _Les Fourberies de Scapin_.
Thus, in the shop where laws and budgets are manufactured, there is a
master of the house, the Council of State, and a servant, the Corps
Législatif. According to the terms of the "Constitution," who is it
that appoints the master of the house? M. Bonaparte. Who appoints the
servant? The nation. That is as it should be.
Let it be observed that, under the shadow of these "wise institutions,"
and thanks to the _coup d'état_, which, as is well known, has
re-established order, the finances, the public safety, and public
prosperity, the budget, by the admission of M. Gouin, shows a deficit
of 123,000,000 francs.
As for commercial activity since the _coup d'état_, as for the
prosperity of trade, as for the revival of business, in order to
appreciate them it is enough to reject words and have recourse to
figures. On this point, the following statement is official and
decisive: the discounts of the Bank of France produced during the first
half of 1852, only 589,502fr. 62c. at the central bank; while the
profits of the branch establishments have risen only to 651,108fr. 7c.
This appears from the half-yearly report of the Bank itself.
M. Bonaparte, however, does not trouble himself with taxation. Some
fine morning he wakes and yawns, rubs his eyes, takes his pen and
decrees--what? The budget. Achmet III. was once desirous of levying
taxes according to his own fancy.--"Invincible lord," said his Vizier
to him, "your subjects cannot be taxed beyond what is prescribed by the
law and the prophet."
This identical M. Bonaparte, when at Ham, wrote as follows:--
"If the sums levied each year on the inhabitants generally are
employed for unproductive purposes, such as creating _useless
places, raising sterile monuments, and maintaining in the midst of
profound peace a more expensive army than that which conquered at
Austerlitz_, taxation becomes in such case an overwhelming burden;
it exhausts the country, it takes without any return."
 _Extinction of Pauperism_, page 10.
With reference to this word budget an observation occurs to us. In
this present year 1852, the bishops and the judges of the _Cour de
Cassation_, have 50 francs per diem; the archbishops, the
councillors of state, the first presidents, and the procureurs-general,
have each 69 francs per diem; the senators, the prefects, and the
generals of division receive 83 francs each per diem; the presidents of
sections of the Council of State 222 francs per diem; the ministers 252
francs per diem; Monseigneur the Prince-President, comprising of
course, in his salary, the sum for maintenance of the royal residences,
receives per diem 44,444 francs, 44 centimes. The revolution of the 2nd
of December was made against the Twenty-five Francs!
 Court of Appeal.
THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS
We have now seen what the legislature is, what the administration, and
what the budget.
And the courts! What was formerly called the _Cour de Cassation_ is no
longer anything more than a record office of councils of war. A soldier
steps out of the guard-house and writes in the margin of the book of
the law, _I will_, or _I will not_. In all directions the corporal
gives the order, and the magistrate countersigns it. Come! tuck up your
gowns and begone, or else--Hence these abominable trials, sentences,
and condemnations. What a sorry spectacle is that troop of judges, with
hanging heads and bent backs, driven with the butt end of the musket
into baseness and iniquity!
And the liberty of the press! What shall we say of it? Is it not a
mockery merely to pronounce the words? That free press, the honour of
French intellect, a light thrown from all points at once upon all
questions, the perpetual sentinel of the nation--where is it? What has
M. Bonaparte done with it? It is where the public platform is. Twenty
newspapers extinguished in Paris, eighty in the departments,--one
hundred newspapers suppressed: that is to say, looking only to the
material side of the question, innumerable families deprived of bread;
that is to say, understand it, citizens, one hundred houses
confiscated, one hundred farms taken from their proprietors, one
hundred interest coupons stolen from the public funds. Marvellous
identity of principles: freedom suppressed is property destroyed. Let
the selfish idiots who applaud the _coup d'état_ reflect upon
Instead of a law concerning the press a decree has been laid upon it; a
_fetfa_, a _firman_, dated from the imperial stirrup: the régime of
admonition. This régime is well known. Its working is witnessed daily.
Such men were requisite to invent such a thing. Despotism has never
shown itself more grossly insolent and stupid than in this species of
censorship of the morrow, which precedes and announces the suppression,
and which administers the bastinado to a paper before killing it
entirely. The folly of such a government corrects and tempers its
atrocity. The whole of the decree concerning the press may be summed up
in one line: "I permit you to speak, but I require you to be silent."
Who reigns, in God's name? Is it Tiberius? Is it Schahabaham?
Three-fourths of the republican journalists transported or proscribed,
the remainder hunted down by mixed commissions, dispersed, wandering,
in hiding. Here and there, in four or five of the surviving journals,
in four or five which are independent but closely watched, over whose
heads is suspended the club of Maupas, some fifteen or twenty
writers, courageous, serious, pure, honest, and noble-hearted, who
write, as it were, with a chain round their necks, and a ball on their
feet; talent between two sentinels, independence gagged, honesty under
surveillance, and Veuillot exclaiming: "I am free!"
 The Prefect of Police.
NOVELTIES IN RESPECT TO WHAT IS LAWFUL
The press enjoys the privilege of being censored, of being admonished,
of being suspended, of being suppressed; it has even the privilege of
being tried. Tried! By whom? By the courts. What courts? The police
courts. And what about that excellent trial by jury? Progress: it is
outstripped. The jury is far behind us, and we return to the government
judges. "Repression is more rapid and more efficacious," as Maître
Rouher says. And then 'tis so much better. Call the causes:
correctional police, sixth chamber; first cause, one Roumage, swindler;
second cause, one Lamennais, writer. This has a good effect, and
accustoms the citizens to talk without distinction of writers and
swindlers. That, certainly, is an advantage; but in a practical point
of view, with reference to "repression," is the government quite sure
of what it has done on that head? Is it quite sure that the sixth
chamber will answer better than the excellent assize court of Paris,
for instance, which had for president such abject creatures as
Partarrieu-Lafosse, and for advocates at its bar, such base wretches as
Suin, and such dull orators as Mongis? Can it reasonably expect that
the police judges will be still more base and more contemptible than
they? Will those judges, salaried as they are, work better than that
jury-squad, who had the department prosecutor for corporal, and who
pronounced their judgments and gesticulated their verdicts with the
precision of a charge in double quick time, so that the prefect of
police, Carlier, good-humouredly observed to a celebrated advocate, M.
Desm----: "_The jury! what a stupid institution! When not forced to
it they never condemn, but when forced they never acquit._" Let us
weep for that worthy jury which was made by Carlier and unmade by
This government feels that it is hideous. It wants no portrait; above
all it wants no mirror. Like the osprey it takes refuge in darkness,
and it would die if once seen. Now it wishes to endure. It does not
propose to be talked about; it does not propose to be described. It has
imposed silence on the press of France; we have seen in what manner.
But to silence the press in France was only half-success. It must also
be silenced in foreign countries. Two prosecutions were attempted in
Belgium, against the _Bulletin Français_ and against _La Nation_. They
were acquitted by an honest Belgian jury. This was annoying. What was
to be done? The Belgian journals were attacked through their pockets.
"You have subscribers in France," they were told; "but if you 'discuss'
us, you shall be kept out. If you wish to come in, make yourselves
agreeable." An attempt was made to frighten the English journals. "If
you 'discuss' us"--decidedly they do not wish to be _discussed_--"we
shall drive your correspondents out of France." The English press
roared with laughter. But this is not all. There are French writers
outside of France: they are proscribed, that is to say they are free.
Suppose those fellows should speak? Suppose those demagogues should
write? They are very capable of doing both; and we must prevent them.
But how are we to do it? To gag people at a distance is not so easy a
matter: M. Bonaparte's arm is not long enough for that. Let us try,
however; we will prosecute them in the countries where they have taken
refuge. Very good: the juries of free countries will understand that
these exiles represent justice, and that the Bonapartist government
personifies iniquity. These juries will follow the example of the
Belgian jury and acquit. The friendly governments will then be
solicited to expel these refugees, to banish these exiles. Very good:
the exiles will go elsewhere; they will always find some corner of the
earth open to them where they can speak. How then are they to be got
at? Rouher and Baroche clubbed their wits together, and between them
they hit upon this expedient: to patch up a law dealing with crimes
committed by Frenchmen in foreign countries, and to slip into it
"crimes of the press." The Council of State sanctioned this, and the
Corps Législatif did not oppose it, and it is now the law of the land.
If we speak outside of France, we shall be condemned for the offence in
France; imprisonment (in future, if caught), fines and confiscations.
Again, very good. The book I am now writing will, therefore, be tried
in France, and its author duly convicted; this I expect, and I confine
myself to apprising all those quidams calling themselves magistrates,
who, in black and red gown, shall concoct the thing that, sentence to
any fine whatever being well and duly pronounced against me, nothing
will equal my disdain for the judgment, but my contempt for the judges.
This is my defence.
Who are they that flock round the establishment? As we have said, the
gorge rises at thought of them.
Ah! these rulers of the day,--we who are now proscribed remember them
when they were representatives of the people, only twelve months ago,
running hither and thither in the lobbies of the Assembly, their heads
high, and with a show of independence, and the air and manner of men
who belonged to themselves. What magnificence! and how proud they were!
How they placed their hands on their hearts while they shouted "Vive
la Republique!" And if some "Terrorist," some "Montagnard," or some
"red republican," happened to allude from the tribune to the planned
_coup d'état_ and the projected Empire, how they vociferated at him:
"You are a calumniator!" How they shrugged their shoulders at the word
"Senate!"--"The Empire to-day" cried one, "would be blood and slime;
you slander us, we shall never be implicated in such a matter." Another
affirmed that he consented to be one of the President's ministers
solely to devote himself to the defence of the Constitution and the
laws; a third glorified the tribune as the palladium of the country; a
fourth recalled the oath of Louis Bonaparte, exclaiming: "Do you doubt
that he is an honest man?" These last--there were two of them--went
the length of voting for and signing his deposition, on the 2nd of
December, at the mayoralty of the Tenth Arrondissement; another sent
a note on the 4th of December to the writer of these lines, to
"felicitate him on having dictated the proclamation of the Left, by
which Louis Bonaparte was outlawed." And now, behold them, Senators,
Councillors of State, ministers, belaced, betagged, bedizened with
gold! Base wretches! Before you embroider your sleeves, wash your
M. Q.-B. paid a visit to M. O.-B. and said to him: "Can you conceive
the assurance of this Bonaparte? he has had the presumption to offer me
the place of Master of Requests!"--"You refused it?"--"Certainly."--The
next day, being offered the place of Councillor of State, salary
twenty-five thousand francs, our indignant Master of Requests becomes
a grateful Councillor of State. M. Q.-B. accepts.
One class of men rallied en masse: the fools! They comprise the sound
part of the Corps Législatif. It was to them that the head of the State
addressed this little flattery:--"The first test of the Constitution,
entirely of French origin, must have convinced you that we possess
the qualities of a strong and a free government. We are in earnest,
discussion is free, and the vote of taxation decisive. France possesses
a government animated by faith and by love of the right, which is based
upon the people, the source of all power; upon the army, the source of
all strength; and upon religion, the source of all justice. Accept the
assurance of my regard." These worthy dupes, we know them also; we
have seen a goodly number of them on the benches of the majority in the
Legislative Assembly. Their chiefs, skilful manipulators, had succeeded
in terrifying them,--a certain method of leading them wherever they
thought proper. These chiefs, unable any longer to employ usefully
those old bugbears, the terms "Jacobin" and "sans-culotte," decidedly
too hackneyed, had furbished up the word "demagogue." These ringleaders,
trained to all sorts of schemes and manoeuvres, exploited successfully
the word "Mountain," and agitated to good purpose that startling and
glorious souvenir. With these few letters of the alphabet formed into
syllables and suitably accented,--Demagogues, Montagnards, Partitioners,
Communists, Red Republicans,--they made wildfires dance before the eyes
of the simple. They had found the method of perverting the brains of
their colleagues, who were so ingenuous as to swallow them whole, so to
speak, with a sort of dictionary, wherein every expression made use of
by the democratic writers and orators was readily translated. For
_humanity_ read _ferocity_; for _universal good_ read _subversion_;
for _Republic_ read _Terrorism_; for _Socialism_ read _Pillage_; for
_Fraternity_, read _Massacre_; for _the Gospel_, read _Death to the
Rich_. So that, when an orator of the Left exclaimed, for instance:
"_We rush for the suppression of war, and the abolition of the death
penalty_," a crowd of poor souls on the Right distinctly understood:
"_We wish to put everything to fire and sword_;" and in a fury shook
their fists at the orator. After such speeches, in which there had been
a question only of liberty, of universal peace, of prosperity arising
from labour, of concord, and of progress, the representatives of that
category which we have designated at the head of this paragraph, were
seen to rise, pale as death; they were not sure that they were not
already guillotined, and went to look for their hats to see whether
they still had heads.
These poor frightened creatures did not haggle over their adhesion to
the 2nd of December. The expression, "Louis Napoleon has saved
society," was invented especially for them.
And those eternal prefects, those eternal mayors, those eternal
magistrates, those eternal sheriffs, those eternal complimenters of the
rising sun, or of the lighted lamp, who, on the day after success,
flock to the conqueror, to the triumpher, to the master, to his Majesty
Napoleon the Great, to his Majesty Louis XVIII, to his Majesty
Alexander I, to his Majesty Charles X, to his Majesty Louis Philippe,
to Citizen Lamartine, to Citizen Cavaignac, to Monseigneur the
Prince-President, kneeling, smiling, expansive, bearing upon salvers
the keys of their towns, and on their faces the keys of their
But imbeciles ('tis an old story) have always made a part of all
institutions, and are almost an institution of themselves; and as for
the prefects and magistrates, as for these adorers of every new régime,
insolent with, fortune and rapidity, they abound at all times. Let us
do justice to the régime of December; it can boast not only of such
partisans as these, but it has creatures and adherents peculiar to
itself; it has produced an altogether new race of notabilities.
Nations are never conscious of all the riches they possess in the
matter of knaves. Overturnings and subversions of this description
are necessary to bring them to light. Then the nations wonder at what
issues from the dust. It is splendid to contemplate. One whose shoes
and clothes and reputation were of a sort to attract all the dogs
of Europe in full cry, comes forth an ambassador. Another, who had
a glimpse of _Bicêtre_ and _La Roquette_, awakes a general, and
Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honour. Every adventurer assumes an
official costume, furnishes himself with a good pillow stuffed with
bank-notes, takes a sheet of white paper, and writes thereon: "End
of my adventures."--"You know So-and-So?"--"Yes, is he at the
galleys?"--"No, he's a minister."
 State prisons in Paris and Languedoc.
MENS AGITAT MOLEM
In the centre is the man--the man we have described; the man of Punic
faith, the fatal man, attacking the civilisation to arrive at power;
seeking, elsewhere than amongst the true people, one knows not what
ferocious popularity; cultivating the still uncivilized qualities of
the peasant and the soldier, endeavouring to succeed by appealing to
gross selfishness, to brutal passions, to newly awakened desires, to
excited appetites; something like a Prince Marat, with nearly the same
object, which in Marat was grand, and in Louis Bonaparte is little; the
man who kills, who transports, who banishes, who expels, who
proscribes, who despoils; this man with harassed gesture and glassy
eye, who walks with distracted air amid the horrible things he does,
like a sort of sinister somnambulist.
It has been said of Louis Bonaparte, whether with friendly intent or
otherwise,--for these strange beings have strange flatterers,--"He is a
dictator, he is a despot, nothing more."--He is that in our opinion,
and he is also something else.
The dictator was a magistrate. Livy and Cicero call him _praetor
maximus_; Seneca calls him _magister populi_; what he decreed was
looked upon as a fiat from above. Livy says: _pro numine observatum_.
In those times of incomplete civilisation, the rigidity of the ancient
laws not having foreseen all cases, his function was to provide for the
safety of the people; he was the product of this text: _salus populi
suprema lex esto_. He caused to be carried before him the twenty-four
axes, the emblems of his power of life and death. He was outside the
law, and above the law, but he could not touch the law. The
dictatorship was a veil, behind which the law remained intact. The
law was before the dictator and after him; and it resumed its power
over him on the cessation of his office. He was appointed for a very
short period--six months only: _semestris dictatura_, says Livy.
But as if this enormous power, even when freely conferred by the
people, ultimately weighed heavily upon him, like remorse, the dictator
generally resigned before the end of his term. Cincinnatus gave it up
at the end of eight days. The dictator was forbidden to dispose of
the public funds without the authority of the Senate, or to go out of
Italy. He could not even ride on horseback without the permission of
the people. He might be a plebeian; Marcius Rutilus, and Publius Philo
were dictators. That magistracy was created for very different objects:
to organize fêtes for saints' days; to drive a sacred nail into the
wall of the Temple of Jupiter; on one occasion to appoint the Senate.
Republican Rome had eighty-eight dictators. This intermittent
institution continued for one hundred and fifty-three years, from the
year of Rome 552, to the year 711. It began with Servilius Geminus,
and reached Cæsar, passing over Sylla. It expired with Cæsar. The
dictatorship was fitted to be repudiated by Cincinnatus, and to be
espoused by Cæsar. Cæsar was five times dictator in the course of five
years, from 706 to 711. This was a dangerous magistracy, and it ended
by devouring liberty.
 Lib. vii., cap. 31.
 De Republica. Lib. i, cap. 40.
 Ep. 108.
 Lib. iii., cap. 5.
 Lib. vi., cap. 1.
Is M. Bonaparte a dictator? We see no impropriety in answering yes.
_Praetor maximus_,--general-in-chief? the colours salute him. _Magister
populi_,--the master of the people? ask the cannons levelled on the
public squares. _Pro numine observatum_,--regarded as God? ask M.
Troplong. He has appointed the Senate, he has instituted holidays, he
has provided for the "safety of society," he has driven a sacred nail
into the wall of the Pantheon, and he has hung upon this nail his _coup
d'état_. The only discrepancy is, that he makes and unmakes the law
according to his own fancy, he rides horseback without permission, and
as to the six months, he takes a little more time. Cæsar took five
years, he takes double; that is but fair. Julius Cæsar five, M. Louis
Bonaparte ten--the proportion is well observed.
From the dictator, let us pass to the despot. This is the other
qualification almost accepted by M. Bonaparte. Let us speak for a while
the language of the Lower Empire. It befits the subject.
The _Despotes_ came after the _Basileus_. Among other attributes, he
was general of the infantry and of the cavalry--_magister utriusque
exercitus_. It was the Emperor Alexis, surnamed the Angel, who created
the dignity of _despotes_. This officer was below the Emperor, and
above the Sebastocrator, or Augustus, and above the Cæsar.
It will be seen that this is somewhat the case with us. M. Bonaparte
is _despotes_, if we admit, which is not difficult, that Magnan is
Cæsar, and that Maupas is Augustus.
Despot and dictator, that is admitted. But all this great _éclat_, all
this triumphant power, does not prevent little incidents from happening
in Paris, like the following, which honest _badauds_, witnesses of the
fact, will tell you, musingly. Two men were walking in the street,
talking of their business or their private affairs. One of them,
referring to some knave or other, of whom he thought he had reason to
complain, exclaimed: "He is a wretch, a swindler, a rascal!" A police
agent who heard these last words, cried out: "Monsieur, you are
speaking of the President; I arrest you."
And now, will M. Bonaparte be Emperor, or will he not?
A pretty question! He is master,--he is Cadi, Mufti, Bey, Dey, Sultan,
Grand Khan, Grand Lama, Great Mogul, Great Dragon, Cousin to the Sun,
Commander of the Faithful, Shah, Czar, Sofi, and Caliph. Paris is no
longer Paris, but Bagdad; with a Giaffar who is called Persigny, and a
Scheherazade who is in danger of having her head chopped off every
morning, and who is called _Le Constitutionnel_. M. Bonaparte may
do whatever he likes with property, families, and persons. If French
citizens wish to fathom the depth of the "government" into which they
have fallen, they have only to ask themselves a few questions. Let us
see: magistrate, he tears off your gown, and sends you to prison. What
of it? Let us see: Senate, Council of State, Corps Législatif, he
seizes a shovel, and flings you all in a heap in a corner. What of it?
Landed proprietor, he confiscates your country house and your town
house, with courtyards, stables, gardens, and appurtenances. What of
it? Father, he takes your daughter; brother, he takes your sister;
citizen, he takes your wife, by right of might. What of it? Wayfarer,
your looks displease him, and he blows your brains out with a pistol,
and goes home. What of it?
All these things being done, what would be the result? Nothing.
"Monseigneur the Prince-President took his customary drive yesterday in
the Champs Élysées, in a calèche _à la Daumont_, drawn by four horses,
accompanied by a single aide-de-camp." This is what the newspapers will
He has effaced from the walls Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; and he
is right. Frenchmen, alas! you are no longer either free,--the
strait-waistcoat is upon you; or equal,--the soldier is everything; or
brothers,--for civil war is brewing under this melancholy peace of a
state of siege.
Emperor? Why not? He has a Maury who is called Sibour; he has a
Fontanes, or, if you prefer it, a _Faciuntasinos_, who is called
Fortoul; he has a Laplace who answers to the name of Leverrier,
although he did not produce the "_Mécanique Céleste_." He will easily
find Esménards and Luce de Lancivals. His Pius VII is at Rome, in the
cassock of Pius IX. His green uniform has been seen at Strasburg; his
eagle has been seen at Boulogne; his grey riding-coat, did he not wear
it at Ham? Cassock or riding-coat, 'tis all one. Madame de Staël comes
out, of his house. She wrote "Lelia." He smiles on her pending the day
when he will exile her. Do you insist on an archduchess? wait awhile
and he will get one. _Tu, felix Austria, nube._ His Murat is called
Saint-Arnaud; his Talleyrand is called Morny; his Duc d'Enghien is
What does he lack then? Nothing; a mere trifle; merely Austerlitz and
Make the best of it; he is Emperor _in petto_; one of these mornings
he will be so in the sun; nothing more is wanting than a trivial
formality, the mere consecration and crowning of his false oath at
Notre-Dame. After that we shall have fine doings. Expect an imperial
spectacle. Expect caprices, surprises, stupefying, bewildering things,
the most unexpected combinations of words, the most fearless cacophony?
Expect Prince Troplong, Duc Maupas, Duc Mimerel, Marquis Leboeuf, Baron
Baroche. Form in line, courtiers; hats off, senators; the stable-door
opens, monseigneur the horse is consul. Gild the oats of his highness
Everything will be swallowed; the public hiatus will be prodigious. All
the enormities will pass away. The old fly-catchers will disappear and
make room for the swallowers of whales.
To our minds the Empire exists from this moment, and without waiting
for the interlude of the senatus consultum and the comedy of the
plebiscite, we despatch this bulletin to Europe:--
"The treason of the 2nd of December is delivered of the Empire.
"The mother and child are indisposed."
Let us forget this man's origin and his 2nd of December, and look to
his political capacity. Shall we judge him by the eight months he has
reigned? On the one hand look at his power, and on the other at his
acts. What can he do? Everything. What has he done? Nothing. With his
unlimited power a man of genius, in eight months, would have changed
the whole face of France, of Europe, perhaps. He would not, certainly,
have effaced the crime of his starting-point, but he might have covered
it. By dint of material improvements he might have succeeded, perhaps,
in masking from the nation his moral abasement. Indeed, we must admit
that for a dictator of genius the thing was not difficult. A certain
number of social problems, elaborated during these last few years by
several powerful minds, seemed to be ripe, and might receive immediate,
practical solution, to the great profit and satisfaction of the nation.
Of this, Louis Bonaparte does not appear to have had any idea. He has
not approached, he has not had a glimpse of one of them. He has not
even found at the Élysée any old remains of the socialist meditations
of Ham. He has added several new crimes to his first one, and in this
he has been logical. With the exception of these crimes he has produced
nothing. Absolute power, no initiative! He has taken France and does
not know what to do with it. In truth, we are tempted to pity this
eunuch struggling with omnipotence.
It is true, however, that this dictator keeps in motion; let us do him
this justice; he does not remain quiet for an instant; he sees with
affright the gloom and solitude around him; people sing who are afraid
in the dark, but he keeps moving. He makes a fuss, he goes at
everything, he runs after projects; being unable to create, he decrees;
he endeavours to mask his nullity; he is perpetual motion; but, alas!
the wheel turns in empty space. Conversion of _rentes_? Of what profit
has it been to this day? Saving of eighteen millions! Very good: the
annuitants lose them, but the President and the Senate, with their two
endowments, pocket them; the benefit to France is zero. Credit Foncier?
no capital forthcoming. Railways? they are decreed, and then laid
aside. It is the same with all these things as with the working-men's
cities. Louis Bonaparte subscribes, but does not pay. As for the
budget, the budget controlled by the blind men in the Council of State,
and voted by the dumb men in the Corps Législatif, there is an abyss
beneath it. There was no possible or efficacious budget but a great
reduction in the army: two hundred thousand soldiers left at home, two
hundred millions saved. Just try to touch the army! the soldier, who
would regain his freedom, would applaud, but what would the officer
say? And in reality, it is not the soldier but the officer who is
caressed. Then Paris and Lyons must be guarded, and all the other
cities; and afterwards, when we are Emperor, a little European war must
be got up. Behold the gulf!
If from financial questions we pass to political institutions, oh!
there the neo-Bonapartists flourish abundantly, there are the
creations! Good heavens, what creations! A Constitution in the style of
Ravrio,--we have been examining it,--ornamented with palm-leaves and
swans' necks, borne to the Élysée with old easy-chairs in the carriages
of the _garde-meuble_; the Conservative Senate restitched and regilded,
the Council of State of 1806 refurbished and new-bordered with fresh
lace; the old Corps Législatif patched up, with new nails and fresh
paint, minus Lainé and plus Morny! In lieu of liberty of the press, the
bureau of public spirit; in place of individual liberty, the ministry
of police. All these "institutions," which we have passed in review,
are nothing more than the old salon furniture of the Empire. Beat it,
dust it, sweep away the cobwebs, splash it over with stains of French
blood, and you have the establishment of 1852. This bric-à-brac governs
France. These are the creations!
Where is common sense? where is reason? where is truth? Not a sound
side of contemporary intelligence that has not received a shock, not a
just conquest of the age that has not been thrown down and broken. All
sorts of extravagance become possible. All that we have seen since the
2nd of December is a gallop, through all that is absurd, of a
commonplace man broken loose.
These individuals, the malefactor and his accomplices, are in
possession of immense, incomparable, absolute, unlimited power,
sufficient, we repeat, to change the whole face of Europe. They make
use of it only for amusement. To enjoy and to enrich themselves, such
is their "socialism." They have stopped the budget on the public
highway; the coffers are open; they fill their money-bags: they have
money,--do you want some, here you are! All the salaries are doubled or
trebled; we have given the figures above. Three ministers, Turgot (for
there is a Turgot in this affair), Persigny and Maupas, have a million
each of secret funds; the Senate a million, the Council of State half a
million, the officers of the 2nd of December have a Napoleon-month,
that is to say, millions; the soldiers of the 2nd of December have
medals, that is to say, millions; M. Murat wants millions and will have
them; a minister gets married,--quick, half a million; M. Bonaparte,
_quia nominor Poleo_, has twelve millions, plus four millions,--sixteen
millions. Millions, millions! This regime is called Million. M.
Bonaparte has three hundred horses for private use, the fruit and
vegetables of the national domains, and parks and gardens formerly
royal; he is stuffed to repletion; he said the other day: "all my
carriages," as Charles V said: "all my Spains," and as Peter the Great
said: "all my Russias." The marriage of Gamache is celebrated at the
Élysée; the spits are turning day and night before the fireworks;
according to the bulletins published on the subject, the bulletins of
the new Empire, they consume there six hundred and fifty pounds of meat
every day; the Élysée will soon have one hundred and forty-nine
kitchens, like the Castle of Schönbrunn; they drink, they eat, they
laugh, they feast; banquet at all the ministers', banquet at the École
Militaire, banquet at the Hotel de Ville, banquet at the Tuileries, a
monster fête on the 10th of May, a still more monster fête on the 15th
of August; they swim in all sorts of abundance and intoxication. And
the man of the people, the poor day-labourer who is out of work, the
pauper in rags, with bare feet, to whom summer brings no bread, and
winter no wood, whose old mother lies in agony upon a rotten mattress,
whose daughter walks the streets for a livelihood, whose little
children are shivering with hunger, fever and cold, in the hovels of
Faubourg Saint-Marceau, in the cock-lofts of Rouen, and in the cellars
of Lille, does any one think of him? What is to become of him? What is
done for him? Let him die like a dog!
THE TWO PROFILES OF M. BONAPARTE
The curious part of it is that they are desirous of being respected; a
general is venerable, a minister is sacred. The Countess d'Andl----, a
young woman of Brussels, was at Paris in March, 1852, and was one day
in a salon in Faubourg Saint-Honoré when M. de P. entered. Madame
d'Andl----, as she went out, passed before him, and it happened that,
thinking probably of something else, she shrugged her shoulders. M. de
P. noticed it; the following day Madame d'Andl---- was apprised, that
henceforward, under pain of being expelled from France like a
representative of the people, she must abstain from every mark of
approbation or disapprobation when she happened to meet a minister.
Under this corporal-government, and under this countersign-constitution,
everything proceeds in military form. The French people consult the
order of the day to know how they must get up, how they must go to bed,
how they must dress, in what toilette they may go to the sitting of the
court, or to the soirée of the prefect; they are forbidden to make
mediocre verses; to wear beards; the frill and the white cravat are
laws of state. Rule, discipline, passive obedience, eyes cast down,
silence in the ranks; such is the yoke under which bows at this moment
the nation of initiative and of liberty, the great revolutionary
France. The reformer will not stop until France shall be enough of a
barrack for the generals to exclaim: "Good!" and enough of a seminary
for the bishops to say: "That will do!"
Do you like soldiers? they are to be found everywhere. The Municipal
Council of Toulouse gives in its resignation; the Prefect
Chapuis-Montlaville replaces the mayor by a colonel, the first deputy
by a colonel, and the second deputy by a colonel. Military men take
the inside of the sidewalk. "The soldiers," says Mably, "considering
themselves in the place of the citizens who formerly made the consuls,
the dictators, the censors, and the tribunes, associated with the
government of the emperors a species of military democracy." Have you a
shako on your head? then do what you please. A young man returning from
a ball, passed through Rue de Richelieu before the gate of the National
Library; the sentinel took aim at him and killed him; the journals of
the following morning said: "The young man is dead," and there it
ended. Timour Bey granted to his companions-in-arms, and to their
descendants to the seventh generation, impunity for all crimes
whatsoever, provided the delinquent had not committed a crime nine
times. The sentinel of Rue Richelieu has, therefore, eight citizens
more to kill before he can be brought before a court-martial. It is a
good thing to be a soldier, but not so good to be a citizen. At the
same time, however, this unfortunate army is dishonoured. On the 3rd of
December, they decorated the police officers who arrested its
representatives and its generals; though it is equally true that the
soldiers themselves received two louis per man. Oh, shame on every
side! money to the soldiers, and the cross to the police spies!
 These three colonels are MM. Cailhassou, Dubarry and
Jesuitism and corporalism, this is the sum total of the regime. The
whole political theory of M. Bonaparte is composed of two
hypocrisies--a military hypocrisy towards the army, a catholic
hypocrisy towards the clergy. When it is not _Fracasse_ it is _Basile_.
Sometimes it is both together. In this manner he succeeded wonderfully
in duping at the same time Montalembert, who does not believe in
France, and Saint-Arnaud who does not believe in God.
Does the Dictator smell of incense? Does he smell of tobacco? Smell
and see. He smells of both tobacco and incense. Oh, France! what a
government is this! The spurs pass by beneath the cassock. The _coup
d'état_ goes to mass, thrashes the civilians, reads its breviary,
embraces Catin, tells its beads, empties the wine pots, and takes the
sacrament. The _coup d'état_ asserts, what is doubtful, that we have
gone back to the time of the _Jacqueries_; but this much is certain,
that it takes us back to the time of the Crusades. Cæsar goes crusading
for the Pope. _Diex el volt._ The Élysée has the faith, and the thirst
also, of the Templar.
To enjoy and to live well, we repeat, and to consume the budget; to
believe nothing, to make the most of everything; to compromise at once
two sacred things, military honour and religious faith; to stain the
altar with blood and the standard with holy water; to make the soldier
ridiculous, and the priest a little ferocious; to mix up with that
great political fraud which he calls his power, the Church and the
nation, the conscience of the Catholic and the conscience of the
patriot. This is the system of Bonaparte the Little.
All his acts, from the most monstrous to the most puerile, from that
which is hideous to that which is laughable, are stamped with this
twofold scheme. For instance, national solemnities bore him. The 24th
of February and the 4th of May: these are disagreeable or dangerous
reminders, which obstinately return at fixed periods. An anniversary is
an intruder; let us suppress anniversaries. So be it. We will keep but
one birthday, our own. Excellent. But with one fête only how are two
parties to be satisfied--the soldier party and the priest party? The
soldier party is Voltairian. Where Canrobert smiles, Riancey makes a
wry face. What's to be done? You shall see. Your great jugglers are not
embarrassed by such a trifle. The _Moniteur one fine morning declares
that there will be henceforth but one national fête, the 15th of
August. Hereupon a semi-official commentary: the two masks of the
Dictator begin to speak. "The 15th of August," says the _Ratapoil
mouth, "Saint Napoleon's day!" "The 15th of August," says the
_Tartuffe mouth, "the fête of the Holy Virgin!" On one side the
Second-of-December puffs out its cheeks, magnifies its voice, draws its
long sabre and exclaims: "_Sacre-bleu, grumblers! Let us celebrate the
birthday of Napoleon the Great!" On the other, it casts down its eyes,
makes the sign of the cross, and mumbles: "My very dear brethren, let
us adore the sacred heart of Mary!"
The present government is a hand stained with blood, which dips a
finger in the holy water.
But we are asked: "Are you going a little too far? are you not unjust?
Grant him something. Has he not to a certain extent 'made Socialism?'"
and the Credit Foncier, the railroads, and the lowering of the interest
are brought upon the carpet.
We have already estimated these measures at their proper value; but,
while we admit that this is "Socialism," you would be simpletons to
ascribe the credit to M. Bonaparte. It is not he who has made
socialism, but time.
A man is swimming against a rapid current; he struggles with unheard-of
efforts, he buffets the waves with hand and head, and shoulder, and
knee. You say: "He will succeed in going up." A moment after, you look,
and he has gone farther down. He is much farther down the river than he
was when he started. Without knowing, or even suspecting it, he loses
ground at every effort he makes; he fancies that he is ascending the
stream, and he is constantly descending it. He thinks he is advancing,
but he is falling hack. Falling credit, as you say, lowering of
interest, as you say; M. Bonaparte has already made several of those
decrees which you choose to qualify as socialistic, and he will make
more. M. Changarnier, had he triumphed instead of M. Bonaparte, would
have done as much. Henry V, should he return to-morrow, would do the
same. The Emperor of Austria does it in Galicia, and the Emperor
Nicholas in Lithuania. But after all, what does this prove? that the
torrent which is called Revolution is stronger than the swimmer who is
But even this socialism of M. Bonaparte, what is it? This, socialism? I
deny it. Hatred of the middle class it may be, but not socialism. Look
at the socialist department _par excellence_, the Department of
Agriculture and of Commerce,--he has abolished it. What has he given
you as compensation? the Ministry of Police! The other socialist
department is the Department of Public Instruction, and that is in
danger: one of these days it will be suppressed. The starting-point of
socialism is education, gratuitous and obligatory teaching, knowledge.
To take the children and make men of them, to take the men and make
citizens of them--intelligent, honest, useful, and happy citizens.
Intellectual and moral progress first, and material progress after. The
two first, irresistibly and of themselves, bring on the last. What does
M. Bonaparte do? He persecutes and stifles instruction everywhere.
There is one pariah in our France of the present day, and that is the
Have you ever reflected on what a schoolmaster really is--on that
magistracy in which the tyrants of old took shelter, like criminals in
the temple, a certain refuge? Have you ever thought of what that man is
who teaches children? You enter the workshop of a wheelwright; he is
making wheels and shafts; you say, "this is a useful man;" you enter a
weaver's, who is making cloth; you say, "this is a valuable man;" you
enter the blacksmith's shop; he is making pick-axes, hammers, and
ploughshares; you say, "this is a necessary man;" you salute these men,
these skilful labourers. You enter the house of a schoolmaster,--salute
him more profoundly; do you know what he is doing? he is manufacturing
He is the wheelwright, the weaver, and the blacksmith of the work, in
which he is aiding God,--the future.
Well! to-day, thanks to the reigning clerical party, as the
schoolmaster must not be allowed to work for this future, as this
future is to consist of darkness and degradation, not of intelligence
and light,--do you wish to know in what manner this humble and great
magistrate, the schoolmaster, is made to do his work? The schoolmaster
serves mass, sings in the choir, rings the vesper bell, arranges the
seats, renews the flowers before the sacred heart, furbishes the altar
candlesticks, dusts the tabernacle, folds the copes and the chasubles,
counts and keeps in order the linen of the sacristy, puts oil in the
lamps, beats the cushion of the confessional, sweeps out the church,
and sometimes the rectory; the remainder of his time, on condition that
he does not pronounce either of those three words of the devil,
Country, Republic, Liberty, he may employ, if he thinks proper, in
teaching little children to say their A, B, C.
M. Bonaparte strikes at instruction at the same moment above and below:
below, to please the priests, above, to please the bishops. At the same
time that he is trying to close the village school, he mutilates the
Collège de France. He overturns with one blow the professors' chairs of
Quinet and of Michelet. One fine morning, he declares, by decree, Greek
and Latin to be under suspicion, and, so far as he can, forbids all
intercourse with the ancient poets and historians of Athens and of
Rome, scenting in Æschylus and in Tacitus a vague odour of demagogy.
With a stroke of the pen, for instance, he exempts all medical men from
literary qualification, which causes Doctor Serres to say: "_We are
dispensed, by decree, from knowing how to read and write._"
New taxes, sumptuary taxes, vestiary taxes; _nemo audeat comedere
praeter duo fercula cum potagio_; tax on the living, tax on the
dead, tax on successions, tax on carriages, tax on paper. "Bravo!"
shouts the beadle party, "fewer books; tax upon dogs, the collars will
pay; tax upon senators, the armorial bearings will pay."--"All this
will make me popular!" says M. Bonaparte, rubbing his hands. "He is the
socialist Emperor," vociferate the trusty partisans of the faubourgs.
"He is the Catholic Emperor," murmur the devout in the sacristies. How
happy he would be if he could pass in the latter for Constantine, and
in the former for Babeuf! Watchwords are repeated, adhesion is
declared, enthusiasm spreads from one to another, the École Militaire
draws his cypher with bayonets and pistol-barrels, Abbé Gaume and
Cardinal Gousset applaud, his bust is crowned with flowers in the
market, Nanterre dedicates rosebushes to him, social order is certainly
saved, property, family, and religion breathe again, and the police
erect a statue to him.
Fie! that may do for the uncle.
Of marble! _Tu es Pietri et super hanc pietram aedificabo effigiem
 We read in the Bonapartist correspondence:--"The committee
appointed by the clerks of the prefecture of police, considers
that bronze is not worthy to represent the image of the Prince;
it will therefore be executed in marble; and it will be placed on
a marble pedestal. The following inscription will be cut in the
costly and superb stone: 'Souvenir of the oath of fidelity to the
Prince-President, taken by the clerks of the prefecture of
police, the 29th of May, 1862, before M. Pietri, Prefect of
"The subscriptions of the clerks, whose zeal it was necessary to
moderate, will be apportioned as follows:--Chief of division
10fr., chief of a bureau 6fr., clerks at a salary of 1,800fr.,
3fr.; at 1,500fr., 2fr. 50c.; and finally, at 1,200fr., 2fr. It
is calculated that this subscription will amount to upwards of
That which he attacks, that which he persecutes, that which they all
persecute with him, upon which they pounce, which they wish to crush,
to burn, to suppress, to destroy, to annihilate, is it this poor
obscure man who is called primary instructor? Is it this sheet of paper
that is called a journal? Is it this bundle of sheets which is called a
book? Is it this machine of wood and iron which is called a press? No,
it is thou, thought, it is thou, human reason, it is thou, nineteenth
century, it is thou, Providence, it is thou, God!
We who combat them are "the eternal enemies of order." We are--for they
can as yet find nothing but this worn-out word--we are demagogues.
In the language of the Duke of Alva, to believe in the sacredness of
the human conscience, to resist the Inquisition, to brave the state for
one's faith, to draw the sword for one's country, to defend one's
worship, one's city, one's home, one's house, one's family, and one's
God, was called _vagabondism_; in the language of Louis Bonaparte, to
struggle for freedom, for justice, for the right, to fight in the cause
of progress, of civilisation, of France, of mankind, to wish for the
abolition of war, and of the penalty of death, to take _au sérieux_ the
fraternity of men, to believe in a plighted oath, to take up arms for
the constitution of one's country, to defend the laws,--this is called
The man is a demagogue in the nineteenth century, who in the sixteenth
would have been a vagabond.
This much being granted, that the dictionary of the Academy no longer
exists, that it is night at noonday, that a cat is no longer called
cat, and that Baroche is no longer called a knave; that justice is a
chimera, that history is a dream, that the Prince of Orange was a
vagabond, and the Duke of Alva a just man; that Louis Bonaparte is
identical with Napoleon the Great, that they who have violated the
Constitution are saviours, and that they who defended it are
brigands,--in a word that human probity is dead: very good! in that
case I admire this government It works well. It is a model of its
species. It compresses, it represses, it oppresses, it imprisons, it
exiles, it shoots down with grape-shot, it exterminates, and it even
"pardons!" It exercises authority with cannon-balls, and clemency with
the flat of the sabre.
"At your pleasure," repeat some worthy incorrigibles of the former
party of order, "be indignant, rail, stigmatize, disavow,--'tis all the
same to us; long live stability! All these things put together
constitute, after all, a stable government."
Stable! We have already expressed ourselves on the subject of this
Stability! I admire such stability. If it rained newspapers in France
for two days only, on the morning of the third nobody would know what
had become of M. Louis Bonaparte.
No matter; this man is a burden upon the whole age, he disfigures the
nineteenth century, and there will be in this century, perhaps, two or
three years upon which it will be recognised, by some shameful mark or
other, that Louis Bonaparte sat down upon them.
This person, we grieve to say it, is now the question that occupies all
At certain epochs in history, the whole human race, from all points of
the earth, fix their eyes upon some mysterious spot whence it seems
that universal destiny is about to issue. There have been hours when
the world has looked towards the Vatican: Gregory VII and Leo X
occupied the pontifical throne; other hours, when it has contemplated
the Louvre; Philip Augustus, Louis IX, François I, and Henri IV were
there; the Escorial, Saint-Just: Charles V dreamed there; Windsor:
Elizabeth the Great reigned there; Versailles: Louis XIV shone there
surrounded by stars; the Kremlin: one caught a glimpse there of Peter
the Great; Potsdam: Frederick II was closeted there with Voltaire. At
present, history, bow thy head, the whole universe is looking at the
That species of bastard door, guarded by two sentry-boxes painted on
canvas, at the extremity of Faubourg Saint-Honoré, that is the spot
towards which the eyes of the civilized world are now turned with a
sort of profound anxiety! Ah! what sort of place is that, whence no
idea has issued that has not been a plot, no action that has not been a
crime? What sort of place is that wherein reside all kinds of cynicism
and all kinds of hypocrisy? What sort of place is that where bishops
elbow Jeanne Poisson on the staircase, and, as a hundred years ago, bow
to the ground before her; where Samuel Bernard laughs in a corner with
Laubardemont; which Escobar enters, arm-in-arm with Guzman d'Alfarache;
where (frightful rumour), in a thicket in the garden, they despatch, it
is said, with the bayonet men whom they dare not bring to trial; where
one hears a man say to a woman who is weeping and interceding: "I
overlook your love-affairs, you must overlook my hatreds!" What sort of
place is that where the orgies of 1852 intrude upon and dishonour the
mourning of 1815! where Cæsarion, with his arms crossed, or his hands
behind his back, walks under those very trees, and in those very
avenues still haunted by the indignant phantom of Cæsar?
That place is the blot upon Paris; that place is the pollution of the
age; that door, whence issue all sorts of joyous sounds, flourishes of
trumpets, music, laughter, and the jingling of glasses; that door,
saluted during the day by the passing battalions; illuminated at night;
thrown wide open with insolent confidence,--is a sort of public insult
always present. There is the centre of the world's shame.
Alas! of what is France thinking? Of a surety, we must awake this
slumbering nation, we must take it by the arm, we must shake it, we
must speak to it; we must scour the fields, enter the villages, go into
the barracks, speak to the soldier who no longer knows what he is
doing, speak to the labourer who has in his cabin an engraving of the
Emperor, and who, for that reason, votes for everything they ask; we
must remove the radiant phantom that dazzles their eyes; this whole
situation is nothing but a huge and deadly joke. We must expose this
joke, probe it to the bottom, disabuse the people,--the country people
above all,--excite them, agitate them, stir them up, show them the
empty houses, the yawning graves, and make them touch with their finger
the horror of this régime. The people are good and honest; they will
comprehend. Yes, peasant, there are two, the great and the little, the
illustrious and the infamous,--Napoleon and Naboleon!
Let us sum up this government! Who is at the Élysée and the Tuileries?
Crime. Who is established at the Luxembourg? Baseness. Who at the
Palais Bourbon? Imbecility. Who at the Palais d'Orsay? Corruption. Who
at the Palais de Justice? Prevarication. And who are in the prisons, in
the fortresses, in the dungeons, in the casemates, in the hulks, at
Lambessa, at Cayenne, in exile? Law, honour, intelligence, liberty, and
Oh! ye proscribed, of what do you complain? You have the better part.
But this government, this horrible, hypocritical, and stupid
government,--this government which causes us to hesitate between a
laugh and a sob, this gibbet-constitution on which all our liberties
are hung, this great universal suffrage and this little universal
suffrage, the first naming the President, and the other the
legislators; the little one saying to the great one: "_Monseigneur,
accept these millions_," and the great one saying to the little one:
"_Be assured of my consideration_;" this Senate,--this Council of
State--whence do they all come? Great Heaven! have we already reached
the point that it is necessary to remind the reader of their source?
Whence comes this government? Look! It is still flowing, it is still
smoking,--it is blood!
The dead are far away, the dead are dead.
Ah! it is horrible to think and to say, but is it possible that we no
longer think of it?
Is it possible that, because we still eat and drink, because the
coachmakers' trade is flourishing, because you, labourer, have work in
the Bois de Boulogne, because you, mason, earn forty sous a day at the
Louvre, because you, banker, have made money in the mining shares of
Vienna, or in the obligations of Hope and Co., because the titles of
nobility are restored, because one can now be called _Monsieur le
Comte_ or _Madame la Duchesse_, because religious processions traverse
the streets on the Fête-Dieu, because people enjoy themselves, because
they laugh, because the walls of Paris are covered with bills of fêtes
and theatres,--is it possible that, because these things are so, men
forgot that there are corpses lying beneath?
Is it possible, that, because one has been to the ball at the École
Militaire, because one has returned home with dazzled eyes, aching
head, torn dress and faded bouquet, because one has thrown one's self
on one's couch, and fallen asleep, thinking of some handsome
officer,--is it possible that one no longer remembers that under the
turf, in an obscure grave, in a deep pit, in the inexorable gloom of
death, there lies a motionless, ice-cold, terrible multitude,--a
multitude of human beings already become a shapeless mass, devoured by
worms, consumed by corruption, and beginning to blend with the earth
around them--who existed, worked, thought, and loved, who had the right
to live, and who were murdered?
Ah! if men recollect this no longer, let us recall it to the minds of
those who forget! Awake, you who sleep! The dead are about to pass
before your eyes.
EXTRACT FROM AN UNPUBLISHED BOOK ENTITLED
THE CRIME OF THE SECOND OF DECEMBER
"THE DAY OF THE 4th OF DECEMBER
"THE COUP D'ÉTAT AT BAY
 By Victor Hugo. This book will shortly be published. It will
be a complete narrative of the infamous performance of 1851. A
large part of it is already written; the author is at this moment
collecting materials for the rest.
He deems it apropos to enter somewhat at length into the details
of this work, which he has imposed upon himself as a duty.
The author does himself the justice to believe that in writing
this narrative,--the serious occupation of his exile,--he has had
constantly present to his mind the exalted responsibility of the
When it shall appear, this narrative will surely arouse numerous
and violent outcries; the author expects no less; one does not
with impunity cut to the quick of a contemporaneous crime, at the
moment when that crime is omnipotent. However that may be, and
however violent the outcries, more or less interested, and to the
end that we may judge beforehand of its merit, the author feels
called upon to explain in what way and with what scrupulous
devotion to the truth this narrative will have been written, or,
to speak more accurately, this report of the crime will have been
drawn. This history of the 2nd of December will contain, in
addition to the general facts, which everybody knows, a very
large number of unknown facts which are brought to light for the
first time therein. Several of these facts the author himself saw
and touched and passed through; of them he can say: _Quoeque
ipse vidi et quorum pars fui._ The members of the Republican
Left, whose conduct was so fearless, saw these facts as he did,
and he will not lack their testimony. For all the rest, the
author has resorted to a veritable judicial investigation; he has
constituted himself, so to speak, the examining magistrate of the
performance; every actor in the drama, every combatant, every
victim, every witness has deposed before him; for all the
doubtful facts, he has brought the opposing declarations, and at
need the witnesses, face to face. As a general rule historians
deal with dead facts; they touch them in the tomb with their
judicial wands, cause them to rise and question them. He has
dealt with living facts.
All the details of the 2nd of December have in this wise passed
before his eyes; he has recorded them all, weighed them all--not
one has escaped him. History will be able to complete this
narration, but not to weaken it. The magistrates were recreant to
their trust, he has performed their functions. When direct,
spoken testimony has failed him, he has sent to the spot what one
might call genuine investigating commissions. He might cite many
a fact for which he has prepared genuine interrogatories to which
detailed replies were made. He repeats that he has subjected the
2nd of December to a long and severe examination. He has carried
the torch so far as he was able. Thanks to this investigation he
has in his possession nearly two hundred reports from which the
book in question will emerge. There is not a single fact beneath
which, when the book is published, the author will not be able to
put a name. It will be readily understood that he will abstain
from doing so, that he will even substitute sometimes for the
real names, yes and for accurate indications of places,
designations as obscure as possible, in view of the pending
proscriptions. He has no desire to furnish M. Bonaparte with a
It is undoubtedly true that in this narrative of the 2nd of
December, the author is not, any more than in this present book,
"impartial," as people are accustomed to say of a history when
they wish to praise the historian. Impartiality--a strange
virtue, which Tacitus does not possess. Woe to him who should
remain impartial in face of the bleeding wounds of liberty! In
presence of the deed of December 2nd, 1851, the author feels that
all human nature rises to arms within his breast; he does not
conceal it from himself, and every one should perceive it when
reading him. But in him the passion for truth equals the passion
for right. The wrathful man does not lie. This history of the 2nd
of December, therefore,--he declares as he is about to quote a
few pages of it,--will have been written, we have just seen by
what method, under conditions of the most absolute reality.
We deem it profitable to detach from it and to publish in this
place a chapter which, we think, will make an impression on men's
minds, in that it casts a new light on the "success" of M.
Bonaparte. Thanks to the judicious reticences of the official
historiographers of the 2nd of December, people are not
sufficiently apprised how near the _coup d'état_ came to being
abortive, and they are altogether ignorant as to the means by
which it was saved. We proceed to place this special detail
before the reader's eyes.
[The author has concluded to reserve for this book alone the
chapter in question which now forms an integral part thereof. He
has therefore rewritten for the _History of a Crime_, the
narrative of the events of December 4, with new facts, and from
another point of view.]
"The resistance had assumed unexpected proportions.
"The combat had become menacing; it was no longer a combat, but a
battle, which was engaged on all sides. At the Élysée and the different
departments, people began to turn pale; they had wished for barricades,
and they had got them.
"All the centre of Paris was becoming covered with improvised redoubts;
the quarters thus barricaded formed a sort of immense trapezium,
between the Halles and Rue Rambuteau on one side, and the boulevards on
the other; bounded on the east by Rue du Temple, and on the west by Rue
Montmartre. This vast network of streets, cut in all directions by
redoubts and entrenchments, assumed every hour a more terrible aspect,
and was becoming a kind of fortress. The combatants at the barricades
pushed their advance guards as far as the quays. Outside the trapezium,
which we have described, the barricades extended, as we have said, as
far as Faubourg Saint-Martin, and to the neighbourhood of the canal.
The quarter of the schools, whither the Committee of Resistance had
despatched Representative de Flotte, had risen even more generally than
on the evening before; the suburbs were taking fire; the drums were
beating to arms at the Batignolles; Madier de Montjau was arousing
Belleville; three enormous barricades were in course of construction at
the Chapelle-Saint-Denis. In the business streets the citizens were
delivering up their muskets, and the women were making lint. 'All is
going well! Paris is up!' exclaimed B----, to us, as he entered the
Committee of Resistance with a face radiant with joy. Fresh
intelligence reached us every instant; all the permanent committees of
the different quarters placed themselves in communication with us. The
members of the committee deliberated and issued orders and instructions
for the combat in every direction. Victory seemed certain. There was a
moment of enthusiasm and joy when all these men, still standing between
life and death, embraced one another.--'Now,' exclaimed Jules Favre,
'let but a regiment come over, or a legion, and Louis Bonaparte is
lost!'--'To-morrow, the Republic will be at the Hotel de Ville!' said
Michel de Bourges. All was ferment, all was excitement; in the most
peaceful quarters the proclamations were torn down, and the ordinances
defaced. On Rue Beaubourg, the women cried from the windows to the men
employed in erecting a barricade: 'Courage!' The agitation reached even
to Faubourg Saint-Germain. At the headquarters on Rue de Jerusalem,
which is the centre of the great cobweb that the police spreads over
Paris, everyone trembled; their anxiety was immense, for they saw the
possibility that the Republic would triumph. In the courtyards, in the
bureaus, and in the passages, the clerks and sergents-de-ville began to
talk with affectionate regret of Caussidiere.
 A Committee of Resistance, charged with the task of
centralizing the action and directing the combat, had been named
on the evening of the 2nd of December, by the members of the Left
assembled at the house of Representative Lafon, Quai Jemmappes,
No. 2. This committee, which was obliged to change its retreat
twenty-seven times in four days, and which, so to say, sat night
and day, and did not cease to act for a single instant during
the various crises of the _coup d'état_, was composed of
Representatives Carnot, de Flotte, Jules Favre, Madier de
Montjau, Michel de Bourges, Schoelcher, and Victor Hugo.
"If one can believe what has oozed out from this den, the prefect,
Maupas, who had been so warm in the cause the evening before, and was
put forward so odiously, began to back out and lose courage. It seemed
as if he were listening with terror to the noise, as of a rising flood,
made by the insurrection--by the holy and legitimate insurrection of
the right. He stammered and hesitated while the word of command died
away upon his tongue. 'That poor young man has the colic,' said the
former prefect, Carlier, on leaving him. In this state of consternation,
Maupas clung to Morny. The electric telegraph maintained a perpetual
dialogue from the Prefecture of Police to the Department of the
Interior, and from the Department of the Interior to the Prefecture of
Police. All the most alarming news, all the signs of panic and
confusion were passed on, one after another, from the prefect to the
minister. Morny, who was less frightened, and who is, at least, a man
of spirit, received all these shocks in his cabinet It is reported that
at the first communication he said: 'Maupas is ill;' and to the
question: 'What is to be done,' replied by the telegraph: 'Go to bed!'
To the second question he still replied: 'Go to bed!' and, as the
third, losing all patience he answered: 'Go to bed and be d----d!'
"The zeal of the government agents was fast giving way and beginning to
change sides. A courageous man, who had been despatched by the
Committee of Resistance to rouse Faubourg Saint-Marceau, was arrested
on Rue des Fossés-Saint-Victor, with his pockets filled with the
proclamations and decrees of the Left. He was immediately marched off
in the direction of the Prefecture of Police. He expected to be shot.
As the escort which was conducting him passed the Morgue on
Quai-Saint-Michel, musket-shots were heard in the Cité. The
sergent-de-ville at the head of the escort said to the soldiers: 'Go
back to your guard-house; I will take care of the prisoner,' As soon as
the soldiers were gone, he cut the cords with which the prisoner's
hands were fastened, and said to him: 'Go, I spare your life; don't
forget that it was I who set you at liberty. Look at me well, so that
you may know me again.'
"The principal military accomplices held a council. The question was
discussed whether it was not necessary for Louis Bonaparte to quit
Faubourg Saint-Honoré immediately, and remove either to the Invalides
or to the Palais du Luxembourg, two strategic points more easy to
defend against a _coup de main_ than the Élysée. Some preferred
the Invalides, others the Luxembourg; the subject gave rise to an
altercation between two generals.
"It was at this moment that the ex-King of Westphalia, Jérôme
Bonaparte, seeing that the _coup d'état_ was tottering to its fall,
and having some care for the morrow, wrote his nephew the following
* * * *
"My dear Nephew,--The blood of Frenchmen has been spilt; stop its
effusion by a serious appeal to the people. Your sentiments are not
rightly understood. Your second proclamation, in which you speak of
the plebiscitum, is ill received by the people, who do not look
upon it as re-establishing the right of suffrage. Liberty possesses
no guarantee if there is not an Assembly to contribute to the
constitution of the Republic. The army has the upper hand. Now is
the moment to complete the material victory by a moral victory, and
that which a government cannot do when beaten, it ought to do when
victorious. After destroying the old parties, bring about the
restoration of the people; proclaim that universal suffrage,
sincere, and acting in harmony with the greatest liberty, shall
name the President and the Constituent Assembly to save and restore
"It is in the name of my brother's memory, and sharing his horror
for civil war, that I now write to you; trust my long experience,
and remember that France, Europe, and posterity will be called on
to judge your conduct.
"Your affectionate uncle,
* * * *
"On Place de la Madeleine, the two representatives, Fabvier and
Crestin, met and accosted each other. General Fabvier directed his
colleague's attention to four pieces of cannon which, turning in an
opposite direction to that they had before been pursuing, left the
Boulevard and galloped off towards the Élysée. 'Can it be that the
Élysée is already on the defensive?' said the general. Crestin,
pointing to the façade of the palate of the Assembly, on the other side
of Place de la Révolution, replied: 'General, to-morrow we shall be
there.'--From, some garrets that look on the stables of the Élysée,
three travelling carriages were observed from an early hour in the
morning, loaded, with the horses put to, and the postilions in their
saddles ready to start.
"The impulsion was really given, the movement of rage and hatred was
becoming universal, and the _coup d'état_ seemed to be lost; one
shock more and Louis Bonaparte would fall. Let the day but end as it
had begun, and all was over. The _coup d'état_ was approaching a
state of despair. The hour for supreme resolutions was come. What did
he intend doing? It was necessary that he should strike a great blow,
an unexpected blow, a terrible blow. He was reduced to this
alternative: to perish, or to save himself by a frightful expedient.
"Louis Bonaparte had not quitted the Élysée. He was in a cabinet on the
ground floor, near the splendid gilt saloon, where, as a child, in
1815, he had been present at the second abdication of Napoleon. He was
there alone; orders had been given that no one should be allowed to
have access to him. From time to time the door was opened a little way,
and the grey head of General Roguet, his aide-de-camp, appeared. The
general was the only person who was allowed to open this door and enter
the room. The general brought news, more and more alarming, and
frequently terminated what he had to say with the words: 'The thing
doesn't work;' or 'Things are going badly.' When he had finished, Louis
Bonaparte, who was seated with his elbows on a table and his feet on
the fire-dogs, before a roaring fire, turned his head half round on the
back of his chair, and, in a most phlegmatic tone, and without apparent
emotion, invariably answered in the following words: 'Let them execute
my orders.' The last time that General Roguet entered the room in this
manner with bad news, it was nearly one o'clock--he himself has related
these details, to the honour of his master's calmness. He told the
Prince that the barricades in the centre of the town still held out,
and were increasing in number; that on the boulevards the cries of
'Down with the dictator' (he did not dare say 'Down with Soulouque'),
and hisses everywhere hailed the troops as they passed; that before
Galerie Jouffroy a major had been pursued by the crowd, and that at the
corner of the Café Cardinal a captain of the staff had been torn from
his horse. Louis Bonaparte half rose from his chair, and gazing fixedly
at the general, calmly said to him: 'Very well! let Saint-Arnaud be
told to execute my orders.'
"What were these orders?
"We shall see.
"Here we pause to reflect, and the narrator lays down his pen with a
species of hesitation and distress of mind. We are approaching the
abominable crisis of that mournful day, the 4th; we are approaching
that monstrous deed from which emerged the success of the _coup
d'état_, dripping with blood. We are about to unveil the most
horrible of the premeditated acts of Louis Bonaparte; we are about to
reveal, to narrate, to describe what all the historiographers of the
2nd of December have concealed; what General Magnan carefully omitted
in his report; what, even at Paris, where these things were seen, men
scarcely dare to whisper to each other. We are about to enter upon the
"The 2nd of December is a crime covered with darkness, a coffin closed
and silent, from the cracks in which streams of blood gush forth.
"We are about to raise the coffin-lid."
"From an early hour in the morning,--for here (we insist upon this
point) premeditation is unquestionable,--from an early hour in the
morning, strange placards had been posted up at all the street-corners;
we have transcribed these placards, and our readers will remember them.
During sixty years that the cannon of revolution have, on certain days,
boomed through Paris, and that the government, when menaced, has had
recourse to desperate measures, nothing has ever been seen like these
placards. They informed the inhabitants that all assemblages, no matter
of what kind, would be dispersed by armed force, _without previous
warning_. In Paris, the metropolis of civilization, people do not
easily believe that a man will push his crime to the last extremity;
and, therefore, these notices had been looked upon as a means of
intimidation that was hideous and barbarous, but almost ridiculous.
"The public were wrong. These placards contained in germ Louis
Bonaparte's whole plan. They were seriously meant.
"One word as to the spot which is about to be the theatre of the
unheard-of drama, prepared and perpetrated by the man of December.
"From the Madeleine to Faubourg Poissonnière, the boulevard was
unobstructed; from the Gymnase Theatre to the Theatre of the Porte
Saint-Martin it was barricaded, as were Rue de Bondy, Rue Neslay, Rue
de la Lune, and all the streets which bound, or debouch at, Porte
Saint-Denis and Porte Saint-Martin. Beyond Porte Saint-Martin the
boulevard was again free as far as the Bastile, with the exception of a
single barricade, which had been begun opposite the Château d'Eau.
Between Porte Saint-Denis and Porte Saint-Martin, seven or eight
redoubts crossed the street at intervals. A square of four barricades
shut in Porte Saint-Denis. Of these four barricades, that one which
looked towards the Madeleine, and which was destined to receive the
first impact of the troops, had been constructed at the culminating
point of the boulevard, with its left resting on the corners of Rue de
la Lune, and its right on Rue Mazagran. Four omnibuses, five
furniture-moving vans, the office of the inspector of hackney coaches,
which had been thrown down, the vespasian columns, which had been
broken up, the public seats on the boulevards, the flag-stones of the
steps on Rue de la Lune, the entire iron railing of the sidewalk, which
had been wrenched from its place at a single effort by the powerful
hand of the crowd--such was the composition of this fortification,
which was hardly sufficient to block the boulevard, which, at this
point, is very broad. There were no paving-stones, as the roadway is
macadamized. The barricade did not even extend from one side of the
boulevard to the other, but left a large open space on the side toward
Rue Mazagran, where there was a house in course of erection. Observing
this gap, a well-dressed young man got upon the scaffolding, and, quite
unaided, without the least hurry, without even taking the cigar from
his mouth, cut all the ropes of the scaffolding. The people at the
neighbouring windows laughed and applauded him. An instant afterwards
the scaffolding fell all at once, and with a loud noise; this completed
"While this redoubt was being completed, a score or more of men entered
the Gymnase Theatre by the stage-door, and came out a few seconds later
with some muskets and a drum which they had found in the wardrobe, and
which were a part of what, in theatrical language, are termed 'the
properties,' One of the men took the drum and began beating to arms.
The others, with the overturned vespasian columns, carriages thrown
on their sides, blinds and shutters torn from their hinges, and old
scenery, constructed, opposite the guard-house of Boulevard
Bonne-Nouvelle, a small barricade as a sort of advanced post, or rather
a lunette, which commanded Boulevards Poissonnière and Montmartre as
well as Rue Hauteville. The troops had evacuated the guard-house in the
morning. They took the flag belonging to it and planted it on the
barricade. It was this same flag which was afterwards declared by the
newspapers of the _coup d'état_ to have been a 'red flag.'
"Some fifteen men took up their position at this advanced post. They
had muskets, but no cartridges, or, at most, very few. Behind them, the
large barricade, which covered Porte Saint-Denis, was held by about a
hundred combatants, in the midst of whom were observed two women and an
old man with white hair, supporting himself on a cane with his left
hand, and, in his right, holding a musket. One of the two women wore a
sabre suspended over her shoulder; while helping to tear up the railing
of the sidewalk, she had cut three fingers of her right hand with the
sharp edge of an iron bar. She showed the wound to the crowd, crying:
'_Vive la République!_' The other woman had ascended to the top of
the barricade, where, leaning on the flag-staff, and escorted by two
men in blouses, who were armed with muskets and presented arms, she
read aloud the call to arms issued by the Representatives of the Left.
The crowd clapped their hands.
"All this occurred between noon and one o'clock. On this side of the
barricades an immense number of people covered the pavement on both
sides of the boulevard; in some places, silent; in others, crying:
'Down with Soulouque! Down with the traitor!'
"From time to time, mournful processions traversed the multitude; they
consisted of files of closed litters borne by hospital attendants and
soldiers. At their head marched men holding long poles, from which hung
blue placards, on which was inscribed, in huge letters: _Service of
the Military Hospitals_. On the curtains of the litters: _Wounded,
Ambulance_. The weather was dull and rainy.
"At this time there was a great crowd at the Bourse. On all the walls
bill-stickers were posting despatches announcing the adhesion of the
departments to the _coup d'état_. Even the stockbrokers, while
trying to bull the market, laughed and shrugged their shoulders at
these placards. Suddenly, a well-known speculator, who had for two days
been a great admirer of the _coup d'état_, made his appearance,
pale and breathless, like a fugitive, and exclaimed: 'They are firing
on the boulevards!'
"This is what had happened:
"A little after one o'clock, a quarter of an hour after the last order
given by Louis Bonaparte to General Roguet, the boulevards throughout
their whole length, from the Madeleine, were suddenly covered with
cavalry and infantry. Almost the whole of Carrelet's division, composed
of the five brigades of Cotte, Bourgon, Canrobert, Dulac, and Reibell,
making a total of sixteen thousand four hundred and ten men, had taken
up their position, and extended in echelon from Rue de la Paix to
Faubourg Poissonnière. Each brigade had its battery with it. Eleven
pieces were counted on Boulevard Poisonnière alone. Two of the guns,
with their muzzles turned different ways, were levelled at the entrance
to Rue Montmartre and Faubourg Montmartre respectively; no one knew
why, as neither the street nor the faubourg presented even the
appearance of a barricade. The spectators, who crowded the sidewalks
and the windows, gazed in dismay at all these guns, sabres, and
"'The troops were laughing and chatting,' says one witness. Another
witness says: 'The soldiers acted strangely. Most of them were leaning
on their muskets, with the butt-end on the ground, and seemed nearly
falling from fatigue, or something else.' One of those old officers who
are accustomed to read a soldier's thoughts in his eyes, General L----,
said, as he passed Café Frascati: 'They are drunk.'
"There were now some indications of what was about to happen.
"At one moment, when the crowd was crying to the troops, '_Vive la
République!_' 'Down with Louis Bonaparte!' one of the officers was
heard to say, in a low voice: 'There's going to be some pigsticking!'
"A battalion of infantry debouches from Rue Richelieu. Before the Café
Cardinal it is greeted by a unanimous cry of '_Vive la République!_'
A writer, the editor of a Conservative paper, who happens to be on the
spot, adds: '_Down with Soulouque!_' The staff officer in command of
the detachment aims a blow at him with his sabre, which, being dodged
by the journalist, cuts in two one of the small trees on the boulevard.
"As the 1st Regiment of Lancers, commanded by Colonel Rochefort,
reached a point abreast of Rue Taitbout, a numerous crowd covered
the pavement of the boulevard. They were residents of the quarter,
tradesmen, artists, journalists, and among them several young mothers
leading their children by the hand. As the regiment was passing, men
and women--every one--cried: '_Vive la Constitution!_' _'Vive la
Loi!_' '_Vive la République!_' Colonel Rochefort,--the same who
had presided at the banquet given on the 31st of October, 1851, at the
Êcole Militaire, by the 1st Regiment of Lancers to the 7th Regiment of
Lancers, and who, at this banquet, had proposed as a toast, 'Prince
Louis-Napoleon, the head of the State, the personification of that
order of which we are the defenders!'--this colonel, when the crowd
uttered the above perfectly lawful cry, spurred his horse into the
midst of them through the chairs on the sidewalk, while the Lancers
precipitated themselves after him, and men, women, and children were
indiscriminately cut down. 'A great number remained dead on the spot,'
says a defender of the _coup d'état_; and adds, 'It was done in a
 Captain Mauduit, _Révolution Militaire du 2 Décembre_,
"About two o'clock, two howitzers were pointed at the extremity of
Boulevard Poissonnière, a hundred and fifty paces from the little
advanced barricade at the Bonne Nouvelle guard-house. While placing the
guns in position, two of the artillerymen, who are not often guilty of
a false manoevre, broke the pole of a caisson. '_Don't you see they
are drunk!_' exclaimed a man of the lower classes.
"At half past two, for it is necessary to follow the progress of this
hideous drama minute by minute, and step by step, fire was opened
before the barricade languidly, and almost as if done for amusement.
The officers appeared to be thinking of anything but a fight. We shall
soon see, however, of what they were thinking.
"The first cannon-ball, badly aimed, passed above all the barricades
and killed a little boy at the Château d'Eau as he was drawing water
from the fountain.
"The shops were shut, as were also almost all the windows. There was,
however, one window left open in an upper story of the house at the
corner of Rue du Sentier. The curious spectators continued to assemble
mainly on the southern side of the street. It was an ordinary crowd and
nothing more,--men, women, children, and old people who looked upon the
languid attack and defence of the barricade as a sort of sham fight.
"This barricade served as a spectacle pending the moment when it should
become a pretext.
"The soldiers had been firing, and the defenders of the barricade
returning their fire, for about a quarter of an hour, without any one
being wounded on either side, when suddenly, as if by an electric
shock, an extraordinary and threatening movement took place, first in
the infantry, then in the cavalry. The troops suddenly faced about.
"The historiographers of the _coup d'état_ have asserted that a
shot, directed against the soldiers, was fired from the window which
had remained open at the corner of Rue du Sentier. Others say that
it was fired from the roof of the house at the corner of Rue
Notre-Dame-de-Recouvrance and Rue Poissonnière. According to others, it
was a pistol shot and was fired from the roof of the tall house at the
corner of Rue Mazagran. The shot is contested, but what cannot be
contested is that, for having fired this problematical shot, which was
perhaps nothing more than the slamming of a door, a dentist, who lived
in the next house, was shot. The question resolves itself into this:
Did any one hear a pistol or musket shot fired from one of the houses
on the boulevard? Is this the fact, or is it not? a host of witnesses
"If the shot was really fired, there still remains a question: Was it a
cause, or was it a signal?
"However this may be, all of a sudden, as we have said before, cavalry,
infantry, and artillery faced towards the dense crowd upon the
sidewalks, and, no one being able to guess why, unexpectedly, without
motive, 'without parley,' as the infamous proclamations of the morning
had announced, the butchery began, from the Gymnase Theatre to the
Bains Chinois, that is to say, along the whole length of the richest,
the most frequented, and the most joyous boulevard of Paris.
"The army began shooting down the people at close range.
"It was a horrible and indescribable moment: the cries, the arms raised
towards heaven, the surprise, the terror, the crowd flying in all
directions, a shower of balls falling on the pavement and bounding to
the roofs of the houses, corpses strewn along the street in a moment,
young men falling with their cigars still in their mouths, women in
velvet gowns shot down by the long rifles, two booksellers killed on
their own thresholds without knowing what offence they had committed,
shots fired down the cellar-holes and killing any one, no matter who,
the Bazaar riddled with shells and bullets, the Hôtel Sallandrouze
bombarded, the Maison d'Or raked with grape-shot, Tortoni's carried by
assault, hundreds of corpses stretched upon the boulevard, and a
torrent of blood on Rue de Richelieu.
"The narrator must here again crave permission to suspend his
"In the presence of these nameless deeds, I who write these lines
declare that I am the recording officer. I record the crime, I appeal
the cause. My functions extend no further. I cite Louis Bonaparte, I
cite Saint-Arnaud, Maupas, Moray, Magnan, Carrelet, Canrobert, and
Reybell, his accomplices; I cite the executioners, the murderers, the
witnesses, the victims, the red-hot cannon, the smoking sabres, the
drunken soldiers, the mourning families, the dying, the dead, the
horror, the blood, and the tears,--I cite them all to appear at the bar
of the civilized world.
"The mere narrator, whoever he might be, would never be believed. Let
the living facts, the bleeding facts, therefore, speak for themselves.
Let us hear the witnesses.
"We shall not print the names of the witnesses, we have said why, but
the reader will easily recognize the sincere and poignant accent of
"One witness says:--
"'I had not taken three steps on the sidewalk, when the troops, who
were marching past, suddenly halted, faced about towards the south,
levelled their muskets, and, by an instantaneous movement, fired upon
the affrighted crowd.
"'The firing continued uninterruptedly for twenty minutes, drowned from
time to time by a cannon-shot.
"'At the first volley, I threw myself on the ground and crept along on
the pavement like a snake to the first door I found open.
"'It was a wine-shop, No. 180, next door to the Bazaar de l'Industrie.
I was the last person who went in. The firing still continued.
"'In this shop there were about fifty persons, and among them five or
six women and two or three children. Three poor wretches were wounded
when they came in; two of them died, after a quarter of an hour of
horrible agony: the third was still alive when I left the shop at four
o'clock; however, as I afterwards learned, he did not survive his
"'In order to give an idea of the crowd on whom the troops fired, I
cannot do better than mention some of the persons assembled in the
"'There were several women, two of whom had come into the quarter to
buy provisions for their dinners; a little lawyer's clerk, who had been
sent on an errand by his master; two or three frequenters of the
Bourse; two or three house-holders; several workmen, in wretched
blouses, or in nothing. One of the unhappy beings who had taken refuge
in the shop produced a deep impression on me. He was a man of about
thirty, with light hair, wearing a gray paletot. He was going with his
wife to dine with his family in Faubourg Montmartre, when he was
stopped on the boulevard by the passage of the column of troops. At the
very beginning, at the first discharge, both he and his wife fell down;
he rose and was dragged into the wine-shop, but he no longer had his
wife on his arm, and his despair cannot be described. In spite of all
we could say, he insisted that the door should be opened so that he
might run and look for his wife amid the grape-shot that was sweeping
the street. It was all we could do to keep him with us for an hour. The
next day, I learned that his wife had been killed, and her body found
in the Cité Bergère. A fortnight afterwards I was informed that the
poor wretch, having threatened to apply the _lex talionis_ to M.
Bonaparte, had been arrested and sent to Brest, on his way to Cayenne.
Almost all the persons assembled in the wine-shop held monarchical
opinions, and I saw only two, a compositor named Meunier, who had
formerly worked on the _Réforme_, and a friend of his, who declared
themselves to be Republicans. About four o'clock, I left the shop.'
"Another witness, one of those who fancied he heard the pistol-shot on
Rue de Mazagran, adds:--
"'This shot was a signal to the soldiers for a fusillade on all the
houses and their windows, the roar of which lasted at least thirty
minutes. The discharge was simultaneous from Porte Saint-Denis as far
as the Café du Grand Balcon. The artillery soon took part with the
"Another witness says:--
"'At quarter past three, a singular movement took place. The soldiers
who were facing Porte Saint-Denis, suddenly faced about, resting on the
houses from the Gymnase, the Maison du Pont-de-Fer, and the Hôtel
Saint-Phar, and immediately, a running fire was directed on the people
on the opposite side of the way, from Rue Saint-Denis to Rue Richelieu.
A few minutes were sufficient to cover the pavement with dead bodies;
the houses were riddled with balls, and this paroxysm of fury on the
part of the troops continued for three quarters of an hour.'
"Another witness says:--
"'The first cannon-shots aimed at the barricade Bonne-Nouvelle served
as a signal to the rest of the troops, who fired almost simultaneously
at every one within range of their muskets.'
"Another witness says:--
"'No words are powerful enough to describe such an act of barbarity.
One must himself have seen in order to be bold enough to speak of it,
and to attest the truth of so unspeakable a deed.'
"'The soldiers fired thousands and thousands of shots--the number is
inappreciable--on the unoffending crowd, and that without any sort
of necessity. There was a desire to produce a deep impression. That was
 The witness means _incalculable_, but we have preferred
to change nothing in the original depositions.
"Another witness says:--
"'The troops of the line, followed by the cavalry and the artillery,
arrived on the boulevard at a time when the general excitement was very
great. A musket-shot was fired from the midst of the troops, and it was
easy to see that it had been fired in the air, from the smoke which
rose perpendicularly. This was the signal for firing on the people and
charging them with the bayonet without warning. This is a significant
fact, and proves that the military wanted the pretence of a motive for
beginning the massacre which followed.'
"Another witness tells the following tale:--
"'The cannon, loaded with grape-shot, cut up all the shop-fronts from
the shop _Le Prophète_ to Rue Montmartre. From Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle
they must have fired also on the Maison Billecoq, for it was struck at
the corner of the wall on the Aubusson side, and the ball, having
traversed the wall, penetrated the interior of the house.'
"Another witness, one of those who deny the shot, says:--
"'People have endeavoured to excuse this fusillade and these murders,
by pretending that the troops had been fired on from the windows of
some of the houses. Not only does General Magnan's official report seem
to deny this rumour, but I assert that the discharge was instantaneous
from Porte Saint-Denis to Porte Montmartre, and that there was not,
previously to the general discharge, a single shot fired separately,
either from the windows or by the soldiers, from Faubourg Saint-Denis
to Boulevard des Italiens.'
"Another witness, who is also one of those who did not hear the shot,
"'The troops were marching past the veranda of the Café Tortoni, where
I had been about twenty minutes, when, before any report of fire-arms
had reached us, they quickened their pace; the cavalry went off at a
gallop, the infantry at double-quick. All of a sudden we saw, coming
from the direction of Boulevard Poissonnière, a sheet of fire, which
spread and came on rapidly. I can vouch for the fact that, before the
fusillade began, there had been no report of fire-arms, and that not a
single shot had been fired from any of the houses between the Café
Frascati and the spot where I stood. At last we saw the soldiers before
us level their muskets and threaten us. We took refuge on Rue Taitbout,
under a porte-cochère. At the same moment the balls flew over our
heads, and all around us. A woman was killed ten paces from me just as
I ran under the porte-cochère. I can swear that, up to that time, there
was neither barricade nor insurgents; there were _hunters, and there
was game_ flying from them,--that is all.'
"This image 'hunters and game' is the one which immediately suggests
itself to the mind of all those who beheld this horrible proceeding. We
meet with the same simile in the testimony of another witness:--
"'At the end of my street, and I know that the same thing was observed
in the neighbouring ones as well, we saw the gendarmes mobiles with
their muskets, and themselves in the position of _hunters waiting for
the game to rise_, that is to say, with their muskets at their
shoulders, in order that they might take aim and fire more quickly.
"'In order that those persons who had fallen wounded near the doors on
Rue Montmartre might receive the first necessary attentions, we could
see the doors open from time to time and an arm stretched out, which
hastily drew in the corpse, or dying man, whom the balls were striving
to claim as their own.'
"Another witness hits upon the same image:--
"'The soldiers stationed at the corners of the streets awaited the
people as they passed, _like hunters lying in wait for their game_, and
as soon as they saw them in the street they fired at them _as at a
target_. A great many persons were killed in this manner on Rue du
Sentier, Rue Rougemont, and on Rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière.'
* * * *
"'"Go on," said the officers to the unoffending citizens who demanded
their protection. At these words they went their way quickly and with
confidence; but it was merely a watchword which meant _death_; for
they had gone only a few steps before they fell.'
"'At the moment the firing began on the boulevards,' says another
witness, 'a bookseller near the carpet warehouse was hastily closing
his shop, when a number of fugitives who were striving to obtain
admittance were suspected by the troops of the line, or the gendarmerie
mobile, I do not know which, of having fired upon them. The soldiers
broke into the bookseller's house. The bookseller endeavoured to
explain matters; he was taken out, alone, before his own door, and his
wife and daughters had only time to throw themselves between him and
the soldiers when he fell dead. His wife had her thigh traversed by a
ball, while his daughter was saved by the steel of her stays. I have
been informed that his wife has since gone mad.'
"Another witness says:--
"'The soldiers entered the two booksellers' shops between _Le
Prophète_ and M. Sallandrouze's. The murders committed there have
been proved. The two booksellers were massacred on the pavement. The
other prisoners were put to death in the shops.'
"Let us conclude with three extracts which it is impossible to
transcribe without a shudder:--
"'For the first quarter of an hour of this scene of horror,' says a
witness, 'the firing, which for a moment became less sharp, caused some
persons who were only wounded to suppose that they might get up. Of
those who were lying before _Le Prophète_ two rose. One of them fled by
Rue du Sentier, from which he was only a few yards away. He reached it
amid a shower of balls which carried away his cap. The other could only
succeed in raising himself on his knees, in which position, with his
hands clasped, he besought the soldiers to spare his life; but he fell
at once, shot dead. The next day one could see in the side of the
veranda of _Le Prophète_ a spot only a few feet in extent, which more
than a hundred balls had struck.'
"'At the end of Rue Montmartre as far as the fountain, a distance of
about sixty paces, there were sixty bodies of men and women, mothers,
children, and young girls. All these unfortunate creatures had fallen
victims of the first volley fired by the troops and the gendarmerie,
who were stationed on the opposite side of the boulevard. They all fled
at the first discharge, took a few steps, then fell to rise no more.
One young man had taken refuge in a gateway, and tried to shelter
himself behind the projection of the wall towards the boulevards. After
ten minutes of badly aimed shots, he was hit, in spite of all his
efforts to render himself as small as possible by drawing himself up to
his full height, and he too was seen to fall, to rise no more.'
"'The plate glass and the windows in the Maison du Pont-de-Fer were all
shattered. One man, who was in the courtyard, went mad with fright. The
cellars were filled with women who had sought refuge there, but in
vain. The soldiers fired into the shops and the cellar windows. From
Tortoni's to the Gymnase Theatre similar things took place. This lasted
more than an hour.'
"Let us confine ourselves to these extracts. Let us close this mournful
inquest. We have proofs enough.
"The general execration of the deed is visible. A hundred other
depositions which we have before us repeat the same facts in almost the
same words. It is at present certain, it is proved, it is beyond the
possibility of doubt, it cannot be denied, it is evident as the
sunlight, that on Thursday, the 4th of December, 1851, the unoffending
citizens of Paris, the citizens who were not in any way mixed up with
the fighting, were shot down without warning, and massacred merely for
the sake of intimidation, and that it is not possible to attach any
other meaning to Monsieur Bonaparte's mysterious command.
"This execution lasted until nightfall. For more than an hour, there
was, as it were, a debauch of musketry and artillery. The cannonade and
the platoon-firing crossed each other indiscriminately; at one time the
soldiers were killing one another. The battery of the 6th Regiment of
Artillery, which belonged to Canrobert's brigade, was dismounted; the
horses, rearing in the midst of the balls, broke the axles, the wheels
and the poles, and of the whole battery, in less than a minute there
remained only one gun in commission. A whole squadron of the 1st
Lancers was obliged to seek refuge in a shed on Rue Saint-Fiacre.
Seventy bullet-holes were counted the next day in the pennons of the
lances. A sort of frenzy had seized the soldiers. At the corner of Rue
Rougemont, and in the midst of the smoke, one general was waving his
arms as if to restrain them; a medical officer of the 27th was nearly
killed by the soldiers whom he endeavoured to check. A sergeant said to
an officer who took hold of his arm: 'Lieutenant, you are betraying
us.' The soldiers had no consciousness of themselves; they had gone mad
with the crime they were ordered to commit. There comes a moment when
the very outrageousness of what you are doing makes you redouble your
blows. Blood is a kind of horrible wine; men get drunk with carnage.
"It seemed as if some invisible hand were launching death from the
midst of a cloud. The soldiers were no longer aught but projectiles.
"Two guns in the roadway of the boulevard were pointed at the front of
a single house, that of M. Sallandrouze, and fired volley after volley
at it, at close range. This house, which is an old mansion of hewn
stone, remarkable for its almost monumental flight of steps, being
split by bullets as if by iron wedges, opened, gaped, and cracked from
top to bottom. The soldiers fired faster and faster. At every
discharge, the walls cracked again. Suddenly an officer of artillery
galloped up, and cried, 'Hold! hold!' The house was leaning forward;
another ball, and it would have fallen on the guns and the gunners.
"The artillerymen were so drunk that many of them, not knowing what
they were doing, allowed themselves to be killed by the rebound of
their guns. The balls came simultaneously from Porte Saint-Denis,
Boulevard Poissonnière and Boulevard Montmartre; the drivers, hearing
them whizzing past their ears in every direction, lay down upon their
horses, while the gunners hid underneath the caissons and behind the
wagons; soldiers were seen to drop their caps and fly in dismay into
Rue Notre-Dame-de-Recouvrance; troopers, losing their heads, fired
their carbines in the air, while others dismounted and made a
breastwork of their horses. Two or three of the latter, without riders,
ran here and there, mad with terror.
"The most horrible amusements were blended with the massacre. The
tirailleurs from Vincennes had established themselves at one of the
barricades on the boulevard which they had carried by assault, and from
thence they practised shooting at persons passing at a distance. From
the neighbouring houses, such shocking dialogues as this were heard:
'I'll bet I bring that fellow down.'--'I'll bet you don't.'--'I'll bet
I do.' And the shot followed. When the man fell, one could guess by the
roar of laughter. Whenever a woman passed, the officers cried: 'Fire at
that woman; fire at the women!'
"This was one of the watchwords; on Boulevard Montmartre, where the
bayonet was greatly in requisition, a young staff-captain cried: 'Prick
"One woman, with a loaf under her arm, thought she might cross Rue
Saint-Fiacre. A tirailleur shot her down.
"On Rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau they did not go so far. A woman cried,
'Vive la République!' she was merely whipped by the soldiers. But let
us return to the boulevard.
"One of the passers-by, a bailiff, was struck by a ball aimed at his
head; he fell on his hands and knees, imploring mercy! He received
thirteen more balls in his body. He survived: by a miraculous chance,
not one of his wounds was mortal. The ball which struck his head tore
the skin, and made the circuit of his skull without fracturing it.
"An old man of eighty, being found concealed somewhere or other, was
brought before the steps of _Le Prophète_, and shot: he fell. 'He will
have no bump on his head,' said a soldier; the old man had fallen upon
a heap of dead bodies. Two young men from Issy, who had been married
only a month, to two sisters, were crossing the boulevard on their way
from business. They saw the muskets levelled at them, and threw
themselves on their knees, crying, 'We married the two sisters!' They
were killed. A dealer in cocoa, named Robert, living on Faubourg
Poissonnière, No. 97, fled, with his can on his back, down Rue
Montmartre; he was killed. A boy of thirteen, a saddler's apprentice,
was passing along the boulevard opposite the Café Vachette. The soldiers
took aim at him. He uttered the most heart-rending cries, and, holding
up a bridle that he had in his hand, waved it in the air, exclaiming,
'I am sent on an errand!' He was killed. Three balls perforated his
breast. All along the boulevards were heard the shrieks and heavy falls
of the wounded, whom the soldiers pierced with their bayonets, and then
left, without taking the trouble to despatch them.
 "We may name the witness who saw this. He is one of the
proscribed; it is M. Versigny, a representative of the people.
"'I can still see, opposite Rue du Croissant, an unfortunate
itinerant vender of cocoa, with his tin can on his back, stagger,
then gradually sink in a heap, and fall dead before a shop. Armed
only with his bell, he had received all by himself the honour of
being fired at by a whole platoon.'
"The same witness adds:--'The soldiers swept the streets with
their guns, even where there was not a paving-stone moved from
its place, not a single combatant.'"
"Some villains seized the opportunity to steal. The treasurer of a
company, whose offices are on Rue de la Banque, left at two o'clock to
collect a note on Rue Bergère, returned with the money, and was killed
on the boulevard. When his body was removed, he had neither ring, nor
watch, nor the money he was taking to his office.
"On the pretence that shots had been fired at the troops, the latter
entered ten or twelve houses, at random, and despatched with their
bayonets every one they found. In all the houses on the boulevard,
there are metal pipes by which the dirty water runs out into the
gutter. The soldiers, with no idea why it was so, conceived a feeling
of mistrust or hatred for such and such a house, closed from top to
bottom, mute and gloomy, and like all the houses on the boulevard,
seeming uninhabited, so silent was it. They knocked at the door; the
door opened, and they entered. An instant after there was seen to flow
from the mouth of the metal pipes a red, smoking stream. It was blood.
"A captain, with his eyes starting from their sockets, cried to the
soldiers: 'No quarter!' A major vociferated: 'Enter the houses and kill
"Sergeants were heard to say: '_Pitch into the Bedouins; hit them
hard!_' 'In the uncle's time,' says a witness, 'the soldiers used to
call the civilians _pékins_. At present, we are Bedouins; the soldiers
massacred the people to the cry of "_Give it to the Bedouins_."'
"At the Frascati Club, where many of the regular frequenters of the
place were assembled, among them an old general, they heard the thunder
of musketry and artillery, and could not believe that the troops were
firing ball. They laughed, and said to one another: 'It's blank
cartridges. What a _mise-en-scène_! What an actor this Bonaparte is!'
They thought they were at the Circus. Suddenly the soldiers entered,
mad with rage, and were about to shoot every one. They had no idea of
the danger they were running. They continued to laugh. One of the
eye-witnesses said to us: '_We thought that this was part of the
buffoonery._' However, seeing that the soldiers continued to threaten
them, they at last understood.--'_Kill them all!_' cried the soldiers.
A lieutenant, who recognized the old general, prevented them from
carrying out their threat. In spite of this, a sergeant said: 'Hold
your d----d tongue, lieutenant; this isn't your affair, it's ours.'
"The troops killed for the mere sake of killing. A witness says: 'In
the courtyards of the houses, they shot even the horses and dogs.'
"In the house next Frascati's, at the corner of Rue Richelieu, the
soldiers were coolly going to shoot even the women and children, who
were already drawn up in a mass before a platoon for that purpose when
a colonel arrived. He stopped the massacre, boxed up these poor
trembling creatures in the Passages des Panoramas, where he locked them
in, and saved them. A celebrated writer, Monsieur Lireux, after having
escaped the first balls, was led about, during an hour, from one
guard-house to another, preparatory to being shot. It required a
miracle to save him. The celebrated artist, Sax, who happened to be in
the musical establishment of M. Brandus, was about to be shot, when a
general recognized him. Everywhere else the people were killed
"The first person killed in this butchery--history has in like manner
preserved the name of the first person killed at the massacre of Saint
Bartholomew--was one Théodore Debaecque, who lived in the house at the
corner of Rue du Sentier, where the carnage began.
"When the slaughter came to an end,--that is to say when it was black
night, and it had begun in broad day,--the dead bodies were not
removed; they were so numerous that thirty-three of them were counted
before a single shop, that of M. Barbedienne. Every square of ground
left open in the asphalt at the foot of the trees on the boulevards was
a reservoir of blood. 'The dead bodies,' says a witness, 'were piled up
in heaps, one upon another, old men, children, blouses and paletots,
assembled pell-mell, in an indescribable mass of heads, arms, and
"Another witness describes thus a group of three individuals: 'Two had
fallen on their backs; and the third, having tripped over their legs,
had fallen upon them.' The single corpses were rare and attracted more
notice than the others. One young man, well dressed, was seated against
a wall, with his legs apart, his arms half folded, one of Verdier's
canes in his hand, and seemed to be looking at what was going on around
him; he was dead. A little farther on, the bullets had nailed against a
shop a youth in velveteen trousers who had some proof-sheets in his
hand. The wind fluttered these bloody proofs, on which the fingers of
the corpse were still closed. A poor old man, with white hair, was
lying in the middle of the road, with his umbrella at his side. His
elbow almost touched a young man in patent leather boots and yellow
gloves, who had his eye-glass still in his eye. A few steps away, with
her head on the sidewalk, and her feet in the road, lay a woman of the
people, who had attempted to escape, with her child in her arms. Both
were dead; but the mother still tightly grasped her child.'
"Ah! you will tell me, M. Bonaparte, that you are very sorry, but that
it was an unfortunate affair; that in presence of Paris, ready to rise,
it was necessary to adopt a decided course, and that you were forced to
this extremity; that, as regards the _coup d'état_, you were in debt;
that your ministers were in debt; that your aides-de-camp were in debt;
that your footmen were in debt; that you were answerable for them all;
and that, deuce take it! a man cannot be a prince without spending,
from time to time, a few millions too much; that one must amuse one's
self and enjoy life a bit; that the Assembly was to blame for not
having understood this, and for seeking to restrict you to two paltry
millions a year, and, what is more, to force you to resign your
authority at the expiration of your four years, and to execute the
Constitution; that, after all, you could not leave the Élysée to enter
the debtors' prison at Clichy; that you had in vain had recourse to
those little expedients which are provided for by Article 405; that
exposure was at hand, that the demagogical press was chattering, that
the matter of the gold ingots threatened to become known, that you were
bound to respect the name of Napoleon, and that, on my word! having no
other alternative, rather than become one of the vulgar swindlers named
in the code, you preferred to be one of the great assassins of history!
"So then, instead of polluting, this blood has purified you! Very good.
"When all was finished, Paris came to see the sight. The people flocked
in crowds to those terrible places; no one interfered with them. This
was what the butcher wanted. Louis Bonaparte had not done all this to
hide it afterwards.
"The southern side of the boulevard was covered with torn cartridge
wads; the sidewalk on the northern side disappeared beneath the mortar
torn from the fronts of the houses by the bullets, and was as white as
if snow had fallen on it; while pools of blood left large dark patches
on that snow of ruins. The foot of the passer-by avoided a corpse only
to tread upon fragments of broken glass, plaster, or stone; some houses
were so riddled by the grape and cannon-balls, that they seemed on the
point of tumbling down; this was the case with M. Sallandrouze's, which
we have already mentioned, and the mourning warehouse at the corner of
Faubourg Montmartre. 'The Billecoq house,' says a witness, 'is, at the
present moment, still propped up by wooden beams, and the front will
have to be partly rebuilt. The balls have made holes in the carpet
warehouse in several places.' Another witness says: 'All the houses
from the Cercle des Étrangers to Rue Poissonnière were literally
riddled with balls, especially on the right-hand side of the boulevard.
One of the large panes of plate glass in the warehouses of _La Petite
Jeannette_ received certainly more than two hundred for its share.
There was not a window that had not its ball. One breathed an
atmosphere of saltpetre. Thirty-seven corpses were heaped up in the
Cité Bergère; the passers-by could count them through the iron
railings. A woman was standing at the corner of Rue Richelieu. She was
looking on. Suddenly she felt that her feet were wet. 'Why, has it been
raining?' she said, 'my feet are in the water.'--'No, madame,' replied
a person who was passing, 'it is not water.'--Her feet were in a pool
"On Rue Grange-Batelière three corpses were seen in a corner, quite
"During the butchery, the barricades on the boulevards had been carried
by Bourgon's brigade. The corpses of those who had defended the
barricade at Porte Saint-Denis, of which we have already spoken at the
beginning of our narrative, were piled up before the door of the Maison
Jouvin. 'But,' says a witness, 'they were nothing compared to the heaps
which covered the boulevard.'
"About two paces from the Théâtre des Variétés, the crowd stopped to
look at a cap full of brains and blood, hung upon a tree.
"A witness says: 'A little beyond the Variétés, I came to a corpse
lying on the ground with its face downwards; I tried to raise it, aided
by others, but we were repelled by the soldiers. A little farther on,
there were two bodies, a man and a woman; then one alone, a workman'
(we abridge the account). 'From Rue Montmartre to Rue du Sentier _one
literally walked in blood_; at certain spots, it covered the sidewalk
some inches deep, and, without exaggeration, one was obliged to use the
greatest caution not to step into it. I counted there thirty-three
corpses. The sight was too much for me: I felt great tears rolling down
my cheeks. I asked leave to cross the road, in order to enter my own
house, and my request was _granted as a favour_!'
"Another witness says: 'The boulevard presented a horrible sight. _We
literally walked in blood._ We counted eighteen corpses in about five
and twenty paces.'
"Another witness, the keeper of a wine-shop on Rue du Sentier, says: 'I
went along Boulevard du Temple to my house. When I got home, I had an
inch of blood around the bottom of my trousers.'
"Representative Versigny has this to say: 'We could see, in the
distance, almost as far as Porte Saint-Denis, the immense bivouac-fires
of the infantry. The light from them, with the exception of that from a
few rare lamps, was all we had to guide us amid that horrible carnage.
The fighting in the daytime was nothing compared to those corpses and
that silence. R. and I were half-dead with horror. A man was passing
us; hearing one of my exclamations, he came up to me, took my hand, and
said: "You are a republican; and I was what is called a friend of
order, a reactionary, but one must be forsaken of God, not to execrate
this horrible orgy. France is dishonoured." And he left us, sobbing.'
"Another witness, who allows us to give his name, a Legitimist, the
honourable Monsieur de Cherville, deposes as follows: 'In the evening,
I determined on continuing my sad inspection. On Rue Le Peletier I met
Messieurs Bouillon and Gervais (of Caen). We walked a few steps
together, when my foot slipped. I clung to M. Bouillon. I looked at my
feet. I had walked into a large pool of blood. M. Bouillon then
informed me, that, being at his window, in the morning, he saw a
druggist, whose shop he pointed out to me, shutting his door. A woman
fell; the druggist rushed forward to raise her; at the same moment, a
soldier, ten paces off, aimed at him and lodged a bullet in his head.
Overcome with wrath, and forgetting his own danger, M. Bouillon
exclaimed to the passers-by: "You will all bear witness to what has
"About eleven o'clock at night, when the fires of the bivouacs were
everywhere lighted, M. Bonaparte allowed the troops to amuse
themselves. It was like a _fête-de-nuit_ on the boulevards. The
soldiers laughed and sang, as they threw into the fire the débris of
the barricades. After this, as at Strasbourg and Boulogne, money was
distributed among them. Let us hear what a witness says: 'I saw, at
Porte Saint-Denis, a staff-officer give two hundred francs to the chief
of a detachment of twenty men, with these words: "The prince ordered me
to give you this money, to be distributed among your brave soldiers!
the marks of his satisfaction will not be confined to this."--Each
soldier received ten francs.'
"On the evening of the battle of Austerlitz, the Emperor said:
'Soldiers, I am content with you.'
"Another person adds: 'The soldiers, with cigars in their mouths,
twitted the passers-by and jingled the money in their pockets.' Another
says: 'The officers broke the rolls of louis d'or _like sticks of
"The sentinels allowed only women to pass; whenever a man made his
appearance, they cried: 'Be off!' Tables were spread in the bivouacs,
and officers and soldiers drank around them. The flame of the braziers
was reflected on all those merry faces. The corks and capsules of the
champagne bottles floated on the red torrents of blood. From bivouac to
bivouac the soldiers exchanged loud cries and obscene jokes. They
saluted one another with: 'Long live the grenadiers!' 'Long live the
lancers!' and all joined in, 'Long live Louis-Napoleon!' One heard the
clinking of glasses, and the crash of broken bottles. Here and there,
in the shadow, women, with a taper of yellow wax or a lantern in their
hands, prowled among the dead bodies, gazing at those pale faces, one
after another, and seeking a son, a father, or a husband.
"Let us hasten to have done with these ghastly details.
"The next day, the fifth, something terrible was seen in the cemetery
"An immense space, the exact location of which is unknown to this day,
was 'utilized' for the temporary interment of some of those who had
been massacred. They were buried with their heads above ground, in
order that their relations might recognize them. Most of them had also
their feet above ground, with a little earth upon their breasts. The
crowd flocked to the spot, the sightseers pushed one here and there,
they wandered about among the graves, and, at times, one felt the earth
giving way beneath one's feet: one was walking on the stomach of a
corpse. One turned and beheld a pair of boots, of sabots, or of women's
shoes; while on the other side was the head, which the pressure on the
body caused to move.
"An illustrious witness, the great sculptor David, who is now
proscribed and wandering far from France, says:--
"'In the cemetery of Montmartre, I saw about forty bodies with their
clothes still on them; they had been placed side by side and a few
shovelfuls of earth hid all except their heads, which had been left
uncovered in order that they might be recognized by their relations.
There was so little earth that their feet were still visible; the
crowd, horrible to say, was walking on their bodies. Among them were
young men with noble features, bearing the stamp of courage; in the
midst was a poor woman, a baker's servant, who had been killed while
she was carrying bread to her master's customers, and near her a young
girl who sold flowers on the boulevards. Those persons who were looking
for friends who had disappeared, were obliged to trample the bodies
under foot, in order to obtain a near view of their faces. I heard a
man of the lower classes say, with an expression of horror: "It is like
walking upon a spring-board."'
"The crowd continued to flock to the various spots where the victims
had been carried, especially to the Cité Bergère, so that, on this day,
the fifth, as the numbers increased to such an extent as to become
troublesome, and as it was necessary to get rid of them, these words,
written in capital letters on a large placard, were to be seen at the
entrance of the Cité Bergère: 'There are no more dead bodies here.'
"The three naked corpses on Rue Grange-Batelière were not removed until
the evening of the fifth.
"It is evident, and we insist upon it, that at first, and for the
advantage which it wished to derive from it, the _coup d'état_ did
not make the least endeavour to conceal its crime; shame did not come
until later; the first day, on the contrary, it flaunted it. It was not
content with atrocity, it must needs add cynicism. Massacre was but a
means; the end was intimidation.
"Was this end attained?
"Immediately afterwards, as early as the evening of December 4, the
public excitement subsided. Paris was frozen with stupor. The
indignation that raised its voice before the _coup d'état_, held
its peace before the carnage. The affair had ceased to resemble
anything in history. One felt that one had to deal with a man of a
hitherto unknown type.
"Crassus crushed the gladiators; Herod slaughtered the infants; Charles
IX exterminated the Huguenots; Peter of Russia, the Strelitz; Mehemet
Ali, the Mamelukes; Mahmoud, the Janissaries; while Danton massacred
the prisoners. Louis Bonaparte had just discovered a new sort of
massacre--the massacre of the passers-by.
"This massacre ended the struggle. There are times when what should
exasperate a people, strikes them with terror. The population of Paris
felt that a ruffian had his foot upon his throat. It no longer offered
any resistance. That same evening Mathieu (of the Drôme) entered the
place where the Committee of Resistance was sitting and said to us: 'We
are no longer in Paris, we are no longer under the Republic; we are at
Naples under the sway of King Bomba.'
"From that moment, in spite of all the efforts of the committee, of the
representatives, and of their courageous allies, there was, save at
certain points only,--such as the barricade of the Petit-Carreau, for
instance, where Denis Dussoubs, the brother of the representative, fell
so heroically,--naught but a resistance which resembled the last
convulsions of despair rather than a combat. All was finished.
"The next day, the 5th, the victorious troops paraded on the
boulevards. A general was seen to show his naked sword to the people,
and to exclaim: 'The Republic--here it is!'
"Thus an infamous butchery, the massacre of the passers-by, was
included, as a supreme necessity, in the 'measure' of the 2nd of
December. To undertake it, a man must be a traitor; to make it
successful, he must be an assassin.
"It was by this proceeding that the _coup d'état_ conquered France
and overcame Paris. Yes, Paris! It is necessary for one to repeat it
again and again to himself,--it was at Paris that all this happened!
"Great God! The Russians entered Paris brandishing their lances and
singing their wild songs, but Moscow had been burnt; the Prussians
entered Paris, but Berlin had been taken; the Austrians entered Paris,
but Vienna had been bombarded; the English entered Paris, but the camp
at Boulogne had menaced London; they came to our barriers, these men of
all nations, with drums beating, trumpets resounding, colours flying,
swords drawn, cannon rumbling, matches lighted, drunk with excitement,
enemies, conquerors, instruments of vengeance, shrieking with rage
before the domes of Paris the names of their capitals,--London, Berlin,
Vienna, Moscow! The moment, however, that they crossed the threshold of
the city, the moment that the hoofs of their horses rang upon the
pavement of our streets, Englishmen, Austrians, Prussians, Russians, on
entering Paris, beheld in its walls, its buildings, its people,
something predestined, something venerable and august; they all felt a
holy sentiment of respect for the sacred city; they all felt that they
had before them, not the city of one people, but the city of the whole
human race; they all lowered the swords they had raised! Yes, to
massacre the Parisians, to treat Paris like a place taken by assault,
to deliver up to pillage one quarter of the town, to outrage the second
Eternal City, to assassinate civilization in her very sanctuary, to
shoot down old men, children, and women, in this illustrious spot, this
home of the world; that which Wellington forbade his half-naked
Highlanders, and Schwartzenberg his Croats to do; that which Blucher
did not suffer his Landwehr to do, and which Platow dared not allow his
Cossacks to undertake,--all these things hast thou, base wretch, caused
to be done by French soldiers!"
THE OTHER CRIMES
What was the number of the dead?
Louis Bonaparte, conscious of the advent of history, and imagining that
a Charles IX can extenuate a Saint Bartholomew, has published as a
_pièce justificative_, a so-called "official list of the deceased
persons." In this "Alphabetical List," you will meet with such items
as these: "Adde, bookseller, 17 Boulevard Poissonnière, killed in his
house; Boursier, a child seven years and a-half old, killed on Rue
Tiquetonne; Belval, cabinetmaker, 10 Rue de la Lune, killed in his
house; Coquard, house-holder at Vire (Calvados), killed on Boulevard
Montmartre; Debaecque, tradesman, 45 Rue de Sentier, killed in his
house; De Couvercelle, florist, 257 Rue Saint-Denis, killed in his
house; Labilte, jeweller, 63 Boulevard Saint-Martin, killed in his
house; Monpelas, perfumer, 181 Rue Saint-Martin, killed in his house;
Demoiselle Grellier, housekeeper, 209 Faubourg Saint-Martin, killed on
Boulevard Montmartre; Femme Guillard, cashier, 77 Faubourg Saint-Denis,
killed on Boulevard Saint-Denis; Femme Garnier, confidential servant, 6
Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, killed on Boulevard Saint-Denis; Femme
Ledaust, housekeeper, 76 Passage du Caire, at the Morgue; Françoise
Noël, waistcoat-maker, 20 Rue des Fossés-Montmartre, died at La
Charité; Count Poninski, annuitant, 32 Rue de la Paix, killed on
Boulevard Montmartre; Femme Raboisson, dressmaker, died at the National
Hospital; Femme Vidal, 97 Rue de Temple, died at the Hôtel-Dieu; Femme
Séguin, embroideress, 240 Rue Saint-Martin, died at the hospital
Beaujon; Demoiselle Seniac, shop-woman, 196 Rue du Temple, died at the
hospital Beaujon; Thirion de Montauban, house-holder, 10 Rue de Lancry,
killed at his own door," etc., etc.
 The functionary who drew up this list, is, we know, a learned
and accurate statistician; he prepared this statement honestly,
we have no doubt. He has stated what was shown to him, and what
he was permitted to see, but what was concealed from him was
beyond his reach. The field for conjecture is left open.
To abridge: Louis Bonaparte confesses, in this state paper, _one
hundred and ninety-one_ murders.
This document being cited for what it is worth, the question is, what
is the true total? What is the exact figure of his victims? How many
corpses bestrew the _coup d'état_ of December? Who can tell? Who
knows? Who will ever know? As we have already seen, one witness
deposed: "I counted in that place thirty-three bodies;" another, at a
different part of the boulevard, said: "We counted eighteen bodies
within a space of twenty or twenty-five yards." A third person,
speaking of another spot, said: "There were upwards of sixty bodies
within a distance of sixty yards." The writer so long threatened with
death told ourselves: "I saw with my eyes upwards of eight hundred dead
bodies lying along the boulevard."
Now think, compute how many it requires of battered brains, of breasts
shattered by grape-shot, to cover with blood, "literally," half a mile
of boulevards. Go you, as did the wives, the sisters, the daughters,
the wailing mothers, take a torch, plunge into the dark night, feel on
the ground, feel along the pavement and the walls, pick up the corpses,
interrogate the phantoms, and reckon if you can.
The number of his victims! One is reduced to conjecture. This question
must be solved by history. As for us, it is a question which we pledge
ourselves to examine and explore hereafter.
On the first day, Louis Bonaparte made a display of his slaughter. We
have told the reason why. It suited his purpose. After that, having
derived from the deed all the required advantage, he concealed it.
Orders were given to the Élyséan journals to be silent, to Magnan to
omit, to the historiographers to know nothing. They buried the slain
after midnight, without lights, without processions, without prayers,
without priests, by stealth. Families were enjoined not to weep too
The massacre along the boulevards was only a part; it was followed by
the summary fusillades, the secret executions.
One of the witnesses whom we have questioned asked a major in the
gendarmerie mobile, who had distinguished himself in these butcheries:
"Come, tell us the figure? Was it four hundred?" The man shrugged his
shoulders. "Was it six hundred?" The man shook his head. "Eight
hundred?"--"Say twelve hundred," said the officer, "and you will fall
At this present hour nobody knows exactly what the 2nd of December was,
what it did, what it dared, whom it killed, whom it buried. The very
morning of the crime, the newspaper offices were placed under seal,
free speech was suppressed, by Louis Bonaparte, that man of silence and
darkness. On the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th, the 5th, and ever since, Truth
has been taken by the throat and strangled just as she was about to
speak. She could not even utter a cry. He has deepened the gloom about
his ambuscade and he has succeeded in part. Let history strive as she
may, the 2nd of December will, perhaps, continue involved, for a long
time to come, in a sort of ghastly twilight. It is a crime made up of
audacity and darkness; here it shows itself impudently in broad
daylight; there it skulks away into the mist. Hideous and double-faced
effrontery, which conceals no one knows what monstrosities beneath its
But these glimpses are sufficient. There is a certain side of the 2nd
of December where all is dark; but, within that darkness, graves are
Beneath this great enormity a host of crimes may be vaguely
distinguished. Such is the behest of Providence; there are compulsions
linked to treason. You are a perjurer! You violate your oaths! You
trample upon law and justice! Well! take a rope, for you will be
compelled to strangle; take a dagger, for you will be compelled to
stab; take a club, for you will be compelled to strike; take shadow and
darkness, for you will be compelled to hide yourself. One crime brings
on another; there is a logical consistency in horror. There is no
halting, no middle course. Go on! do this first; good! Now do that,
then this again; and so for ever! The law is like the veil of the
Temple: once rent, it is rent from top to bottom.
Yes, we say it again, in what has been called "the act of the 2nd of
December," one meets with crime at every depth. Perjury floats on the
surface, murder lies at the bottom. Partial homicides, wholesale
butcheries, shooting in open day, fusillades by night; a steam of blood
rises from every part of the _coup d'état_.
Search in the common grave of the churchyards, search beneath the
street pavement, beneath the sloping banks of the Champ-de-Mars,
beneath the trees of the public gardens, in the bed of the Seine!
But few revelations. That is easily understood. Bonaparte has the
satanic art of binding to himself a crowd of miserable officials by I
know not what terrible universal complicity. The stamped papers of the
magistrates, the desks of the registrars, the cartridge-boxes of the
soldiers, the prayers of the priests, are his accomplices. He has cast
his crime about him like a network, and prefects, mayors, judges,
officers, and soldiers are caught therein. Complicity descends from
the general to the corporal, and ascends from the corporal to the
president. The _sergent-de-ville_ and the minister feel that they are
equally implicated. The gendarme whose pistol has pressed against the
ear of some unfortunate, and whose uniform has been splashed with human
brains, feels as guilty as his colonel. Above, cruel men gave orders
which savage men executed below. Savagery keeps the secret of cruelty.
Hence this hideous silence.
There is even emulation and rivalry between this savagery and this
atrocity; what escaped the one was seized upon by the other. The future
will refuse to credit these prodigious excesses. A workman was crossing
the Pont au Change, some gendarmes mobiles stopped him; they smelt his
hands. "He smells of powder," said a gendarme. They shot the workman;
his body was pierced by four balls. "Throw him into the stream," cries
the sergeant. The gendarmes take him by the neck and heels and hurl him
over the bridge. Shot, and then drowned, the man floats down the river.
However, he was not dead; the icy river revived him; but he was unable
to move, his blood flowed into the water from four holes; but being
held up by his blouse, he struck against an arch of one of the bridges.
There some lightermen discovered him, picked him up, and carried him to
the hospital; he recovered; he left the place. The next day he was
arrested, and brought before a court-martial. Rejected by death, he was
reclaimed by Louis Bonaparte. This man is now at Lambessa.
What the Champ-de-Mars secretly witnessed,--the terrible night
tragedies which dismayed and dishonoured it,--history cannot yet
reveal. Thanks to Louis Bonaparte, this revered field of the Federation
may in future be called Aceldama. One of the unhappy soldiers whom the
man of the 2nd of December transformed into executioners, relates with
horror, and beneath his breath, that in a single night the number of
people shot was not less than eight hundred.
Louis Bonaparte hastened to dig a grave and threw in his crime. A few
shovelfuls of earth, a sprinkling of holy water by a priest, and all
was said. And now, the imperial carnival dances above that grave.
Is this all? Can it be that this is the end? Does God allow and
acquiesce in such burials? Believe it not. Some day, beneath the feet
of Bonaparte, between the marble pavements of the Élysée or the
Tuileries, this grave will suddenly re-open, and those bodies will come
forth, one after another, each with its wound, the young man stricken
to the heart, the old man shaking his aged head pierced by a ball, the
mother put to the sword, with her infant killed in her arms,--all of
them upstanding, pallid, terrible to see, and with bleeding eyes fixed
on their assassin.
Awaiting that day, and even now, history has begun to try you, Louis
Bonaparte. History rejects your official list of the dead, and your
History asserts that they lie, and that you lie.
You have tied a bandage over the eyes of France and put a gag in her
Was it to do righteous deeds? No, but crimes. The evil-doer is afraid
of the light.
You shot people by night, on the Champ-de-Mars, at the Prefecture, at
the Palais de Justice, on the squares, on the quays, everywhere.
You say you did not.
I say you did.
In dealing with you we have a right to surmise, to suspect, and to
What you deny, we have a right to believe; your denial is equivalent to
Your 2nd of December is pointed at by the public conscience. Nobody
thinks of it without inwardly shuddering. What did you do in those dark
Your days are ghastly, your nights are suspicious. Ah! man of darkness
that you are!
* * * *
Let us return to the butchery on the boulevard, to the words, "Let my
orders be executed!" and to the day of the 4th.
Louis Bonaparte, during the evening of that day, must have compared
himself to Charles X, who refused to burn Paris, and to Louis Philippe,
who would not shed the people's blood, and he must have done himself
the justice to admit that he is a great politician. A few days later,
General T----, formerly in the service of one of the sons of King Louis
Philippe, came to the Élysée. As soon as Louis Bonaparte caught sight
of him, the comparison we have just pointed out suggesting itself to
him, he cried out to the general, exultingly: "Well?"
Louis Bonaparte is in very truth the man who said to one of his former
ministers, who was our own informant: "_Had I been Charles X, and had
I, during the days of July, caught Laffitte, Benjamin Constant, and
Lafayette, I would have had them shot like dogs._"
On the 4th of December, Louis Bonaparte would have been dragged that
very night from the Élysée, and the law would have prevailed, had he
been one of those men who recoil before a massacre. Fortunately for
him, he had no such scruples. What signified a few dead bodies, more or
less? Nonsense! kill! kill at random! cut them down! shoot, cannonade,
crush, smash! Strike terror for me into this hateful city of Paris! The
_coup d'état_ was in a bad way; this great homicide restored its
spirit. Louis Bonaparte had nearly ruined himself by his felony; he
saved himself by his ferocity. Had he been only a Faliero, it was all
over with him; fortunately he was a Cæsar Borgia. He plunged with his
crime into a river of gore; one less culpable would have sunk, he swam
across. Such was his success as it is called. He is now on the other
bank, striving to wipe himself dry, dripping with the blood which he
mistakes for the purple, and demanding the Empire.
SEQUEL OF CRIMES
Such a man is this malefactor!
And shall we not applaud thee, O Truth! when, in the eyes of Europe and
of the world, before the people, in the face of God, while he appealed
to honour, the sanctity of an oath, faith, religion, the sacredness of
human life, the law, the generosity of all hearts, wives, sisters,
mothers, civilization, liberty, the republic, France; before his
valets, his Senate and his Council of State; before his generals, his
priests, and his police agents,--thou who representest the people (for
the people is truth); thou who representest intelligence (for
intelligence is enlightenment); thou who representest humanity (for
humanity is reason); in the name of the enthralled people, in the name
of exiled intelligence, in the name of outraged humanity, before this
mass of slaves who cannot, or dare not, speak, thou dost scourge this
brigand of order.
Let some one else choose milder words. I am outspoken and harsh; I have
no pity for this pitiless man, and I glory in it.
Let us proceed.
To what we have just related add all the other crimes, to which we
shall have occasion to return more than once, and the history of which,
God granting us life, we shall relate in detail. Add the numberless
incarcerations attended with circumstances of ferocity, the overgorged
prisons, the sequestration of property of the proscribed in ten
departments, notably in La Nièvre, in L'Allier, and in Les
Basses-Alpes; add the confiscation of the Orleans property, with the
slice allotted to the clergy. Schinderhannes never forgot to share with
the curé. Add the mixed commissions, and the commission of clemency, so
called; the councils of war combined with the examining magistrates,
and, multiplying the instances of abomination, the batches of exiles,
the expulsion of a part of France out of France (the department of the
Herault, alone, furnishing 3,200 persons, either banished or
transported); add the appalling proscription,--comparable to the most
tragic devastations in history,--which for an impulse, for an opinion,
for an honest dissent from the government, for the mere word of a
freeman, even when uttered before the 2nd of December, takes, seizes,
apprehends, tears away the labourer from the field, the working-man
from his trade, the house-holder from his house, the physician from his
patients, the notary from his office, the counsellor from his clients,
the judge from his court, the husband from his wife, the brother from
his brother, the father from his children, the child from his parents,
and marks its ill-omened cross on every head, from the highest to the
lowest. Nobody escapes. A man in tatters, wearing a long beard, came
into my room one morning at Brussels. "I have just arrived," said he;
"I have travelled on foot, and have had nothing to eat for two days."
Some bread was given him. He ate. "Where do you come from?"--"From
Limoges."--"Why are you here?"--"I don't know; they drove me away from
my home."--"What are you?"--"A maker of wooden shoes."
 The _Bulletin des Lois_ publishes the following decree,
dated the 27th of March:--
"Considering the law of May 10, 1838, which classes the
ordinary expenses of the provincial prisons with those to be
included in the departmental budgets:
"Whereas this is not the nature of the expenses occasioned by
the arrests resulting from the events of December;
"Whereas the facts which have caused these arrests to
multiply are connected with _a plot against the safety of
the state_, the suppression of which concerned society at
large, and therefore it is just to discharge out of the
public funds the excess of expenditure resulting from the
_extraordinary increase_ in the number of prisoners;
"It is decreed that:--
"An extraordinary credit of 250,000f. be opened, at the
Ministry of the Interior, on the revenue of 1851, to be
applied to the liquidation of the expenses resulting from the
arrests consequent on the events of December."
 "Digne, January 5, 1852.
"The Colonel commanding the state of siege in the department
of the Basses-Alpes
"Within the course of ten days the property of the fugitives
from the law _will be sequestrated_, and administered by
the director of public lands in the Basses-Alpes, according
to civil and military laws, etc. FRIRION."
Ten similar decrees, emanating from the commanders of states of
siege, might be quoted. The first of the malefactors who
committed this crime of confiscating property, and who set the
example of arrests of this sort, is named Eynard. He is a
general. On December 18, he placed under sequestration the
property of a number of citizens of Moulins, "because," as he
cynically observed, "_the beginning of the insurrection leaves
no doubt_ as to the part they took _in the insurrection_, and in
the pillaging in the department of the Allier."
 The number of _convictions_ actually upheld (in most cases
the sentences were of transportation) was declared to be as
follows, at the date of the reports:--
By M. Canrobert 3,876
By M. Espinasse 3,625
By M. Quentin-Bauchard 1,634
Add Africa; add Guiana; add the atrocities of Bertrand, of Canrobert,
of Espinasse, of Martimprey; the ship-loads of women sent off by
General Guyon; Representative Miot dragged from casemate to casemate;
hovels in which there are a hundred and fifty prisoners, beneath a
tropical sun, with promiscuity of sex, filth, vermin, and where all
these innocent patriots, all these honest people are perishing, far
from their dear ones, in fever, in misery, in horror, in despair,
wringing their hands. Add all these poor wretches handed over to
gendarmes, bound two by two, packed in the lower decks of the
_Magellan_, the _Canada_, the _Duguesclin_; cast among the convicts
of Lambessa and Cayenne, not knowing what there is against them, and
unable to guess what they have done. One of them, Alphonse Lambert, of
the Indre, torn from his death-bed; another, Patureau Francoeur, a
vine-dresser, transported, because in his village they wanted to make
him president of the republic; a third, Valette, a carpenter at
Châteauroux, transported for having, six months previous to the 2nd of
December, on the day of an execution, refused to erect the guillotine.
Add to these the man-hunting in the villages, the _battue_ of
Viroy in the mountains of Lure, Pellion's _battue_ in the woods of
Clamecy, with fifteen hundred men; order restored at Crest--out of two
thousand insurgents, three hundred slain; mobile columns everywhere.
Whoever stands up for the law, sabred and shot: at Marseilles, Charles
Sauvan exclaims, "Long live the Republic!" a grenadier of the 54th
fires at him; the ball enters his side, and comes out of his belly;
another, Vincent, of Bourges, is deputy-mayor of his commune: as a
magistrate he protests against the _coup d'état_; they track him
through the village, he flies, he is pursued, a cavalryman cuts off two
of his fingers with his sword, another cleaves his head, he falls; they
remove him to the fort at Ivry before dressing his wounds; he is an old
man of seventy-six.
Add facts like these: in the Cher, Representative Vignier is arrested.
Arrested for what? Because he is a representative, because he is
inviolable, because he is consecrated by the votes of the people.
Vignier is cast into prison. One day he is allowed to go out _for one
hour_ to attend to certain matters which imperatively demand his
presence. Before he went out two gendarmes, Pierre Guéret and one
Dubernelle, a brigadier, seized Vignier; the brigadier held his hands
against each other so that the palms touched, and bound his wrists
tightly with a chain; as the end of the chain hung down, the brigadier
forced it between Vignier's hands, over and over, at the risk of
fracturing his wrists by the pressure. The prisoner's hands turned blue
and swelled.--"You are putting me to the question," said Vignier
coolly.--"Hide your hands," sneered the gendarme, "if you're
ashamed."--"You hound," retorted Vignier, "you are the one of us two
that this chain dishonors."--In this wise Vignier passed through the
streets of Bourges where he had lived thirty years--between two
gendarmes, with his hands raised, exhibiting his chains. Representative
Vignier is seventy years old.
Add the summary fusillades in twenty departments; "All who resist,"
writes Saint-Arnaud, Minister of War, "are to be shot, in the name of
society defending itself." "Six days have sufficed to _crush_ the
insurrection," states General Levaillant, who commanded the state of
siege in the Var. "I have made some good captures," writes Commandant
Viroy from Saint-Étienne; "I have shot, without stirring, eight
persons, and am now in pursuit of the leaders in the woods." At
Bordeaux, General Bourjoly enjoins the leaders of the mobile columns to
"have shot forthwith every person caught with arms in his hands." At
Forcalquier, it was better still; the proclamation declaring the state
of siege reads:--"The town of Forcalquier is in a state of siege. Those
citizens who _took no part_ in the day's events, and those who have
arms in their possession, are summoned to give them up on pain of being
shot." The mobile column of Pézenas arrives at Servian: a man tries to
escape from a house surrounded by soldiers; he is shot at and killed.
At Entrains, eighty prisoners are taken; one of them escapes by the
river, he is fired at, struck by a ball, and disappears under the
water; the rest are shot. To these execrable deeds, add these infamous
ones: at Brioude, in Haute-Loire, a man and woman thrown into prison
for having ploughed the field of one of the proscribed; at Loriol, in
the Drôme, Astier, a forest-keeper, condemned to twenty years' hard
labour, for having sheltered fugitives. Add too, and my pen shakes as I
write it, the punishment of death revived; the political guillotine
re-erected; shocking sentences; citizens condemned to death on the
scaffold by the judicial janissaries of the courts-martial: at Clamecy,
Milletot, Jouannin, Guillemot, Sabatier, and Four; at Lyon, Courty,
Romegal, Bressieux, Fauritz, Julien, Roustain, and Garan, deputy-mayor
of Cliouscat; at Montpellier, seventeen for the affair of Bédarieux,
Mercadier, Delpech, Denis, André, Barthez, Triadou, Pierre Carrière,
Galzy, Galas (called Le Vacher), Gardy, Jacques Pagès, Michel Hercule,
Mar, Vène, Frié, Malaterre, Beaumont, Pradal, the six last luckily
being out of the jurisdiction; and at Montpellier four more, Choumac,
Vidal, Cadelard and Pagès. What was the crime of these men? Their crime
is yours, if you are a good subject; it is mine, who writes these
lines; it is obedience to Article 110 of the Constitution; it is armed
resistance to Louis Bonaparte's crime; and the court "orders that the
execution shall take place in the usual way on one of the public
squares of Béziers," with respect to the last four, and, in the case of
the other seventeen, on one of the squares at Bédarieux. The _Moniteur_
announces it; it is true that the _Moniteur_ announces, at the same
time, that the service of the last ball at the Tuileries was performed
by three hundred maîtres d'hôtel, habited in the liveries rigorously
prescribed by the ceremonial of the old imperial palace.
 Read the odious despatch, copied verbatim from the
"The armed insurrection has been totally suppressed in Paris
by vigorous measures. The same energy will produce the same
effect everywhere else.
"Bands of people who spread pillage, rapine, and fire, place
themselves outside of the law. With them one does not argue
or warn; one attacks and disperses them.
"All who resist must be SHOT, in the name of society
Unless a universal cry of horror should stop this man in time, all
these heads will fall.
Whilst we are writing, this is what has just occurred at Belley:--
A native of Bugez, near Belley, a working-man, named Charlet, had
warmly advocated, on the 10th of December, 1848, the election of Louis
Bonaparte. He had distributed circulars, supported, propagated, and
hawked them; the election was in his eyes a triumph; he hoped in
Louis-Napoleon; he took seriously the socialist writings of the
prisoner of Ham, and his "philanthropical" and "republican" programmes:
on the 10th of December there were many such honest dupes; they are now
the most indignant. When Louis Bonaparte was in power, when they saw
the man at work, these illusions vanished. Charlet, a man of
intelligence, was one of those whose republican probity was outraged,
and gradually, as Louis Bonaparte plunged deeper and deeper into
reactionary measures, Charlet shook himself free; thus did he pass from
the most confiding partisanship to the most open and zealous
opposition. Such is the history of many other noble hearts.
On the 2nd of December, Charlet did not hesitate. In the face of the
many crimes combined in the infamous deed of Louis Bonaparte, Charlet
felt the law stirring within him; he reflected that he ought to be the
more severe, because he was one of those whose trust had been most
betrayed. He clearly understood that there remained but one duty for
the citizen, a bounden duty, inseparable from the law,--to defend the
Republic and the Constitution, and to resist by every means the man
whom the Left, but still more his own crime, had outlawed. The refugees
from Switzerland passed the frontier in arms, crossed the Rhône, near
Anglefort, and entered the department of the Ain. Charlet joined their
At Seyssel, the little troop fell in with the custom-house officers.
The latter, voluntary or misled accomplices of the _coup d'état_,
chose to resist their passage. A conflict ensued, one of the officers
was killed, and Charlet was made prisoner.
The _coup d'état_ brought Charlet before a court-martial. He was
charged with the death of the custom-house officer, which, after all,
was but an incident of war. At all events, Charlet was innocent of that
death; the officer was killed by a bullet, and Charlet had no weapon
but a sharpened file.
Charlet would not recognize as a lawful court the body of men who
pretended to sit in judgment on him. He said to them: "You are no
judges; where is the law? The law is on my side." He refused to answer
Questioned on the subject of the officer's death, he could have cleared
up the whole matter by a single word; but to descend to an explanation
would, to a certain extent, have been a recognition of the tribunal. He
did not choose to recognize it, so he held his peace.
These men condemned him to die, "according to the usual mode of
The sentence pronounced, he seemed to have been forgotten; days, weeks,
months elapsed. Everybody about the prison said to Charlet, "You are
On the 29th of June, at break of day, the town of Belley saw a mournful
sight. The scaffold had risen from the earth during the night, and
stood in the middle of the public square.
The people accosted one another, pale as death, and asked: "Have you
seen what there is in the square?"--"Yes."--"Whom is it for?"
It was for Charlet.
The sentence of death had been referred to M. Bonaparte, it had
slumbered a long time at the Élysée; there was other business to attend
to; but one fine morning, after a lapse of seven months, all the world
having forgotten the conflict at Seyssel, the slain custom-house
officer, and Charlet himself, M. Bonaparte, wanting most likely to
insert some event between the festival of the 10th of May and the
festival of the 15th of August, signed the warrant for the execution.
On the 29th of June, therefore, only a few days ago, Charlet was
removed from his prison. They told him he was about to die. He
continued calm. A man who has justice on his side does not fear death,
for he feels that there are two things within him: one, his body, which
may be put to death, the other, justice, whose hands are not bound, nor
does its head fall beneath the knife.
They wanted to make Charlet ride in a cart. "No," said he to the
gendarmes, "I will go on foot, I can walk, I am not afraid."
There was a great crowd along his route. Every one in the town knew him
and loved him; his friends sought his eye. Charlet, his arms fastened
behind his back, bowed his head right and left. "Adieu, Jacques! adieu,
Pierre!" said he, smiling. "Adieu, Charlet!" they answered, and all of
them wept. The gendarmerie and the infantry surrounded the scaffold. He
ascended it with slow and steady steps. When they saw him standing on
the scaffold, a shudder ran through the crowd; the women cried aloud,
the men clenched their fists.
While they were strapping him to the plank, he looked up at the knife,
saying: "When I reflect that I was once a Bonapartist!" Then, raising
his eyes to Heaven, he exclaimed, "Vive la République!"
The next moment his head fell.
It was a day of mourning at Belley and through all the villages of the
Ain. "How did he die?" people would ask.--"Bravely."--"God be praised!"
In this wise a man has been killed.
The mind succumbs and is lost in horror in presence of a deed so
This crime being added to the rest complements and sets a sinister sort
of seal upon them.
It is more than the complement, it is the crowning act.
One feels that M. Bonaparte ought to be satisfied! To have shot down at
night, in the dark, in solitude, on the Champ-de-Mars, under the arches
of the bridges, behind a lonely wall, at random, haphazard, no matter
whom, unknown persons, shadows, the very number of whom none can tell;
to cause nameless persons to be slain by nameless persons; and to have
all this vanish in obscurity, in oblivion, is, in very truth, far from
gratifying to one's self-esteem; it looks like hiding one's self, and
in truth that is what it is; it is commonplace. Scrupulous men have the
right to say to you: "You know you are afraid; you would not dare to do
these things publicly; you shrink from your own acts." And, to a
certain extent, they seem to be right. To shoot down people by night is
a violation of every law, human and divine, but it lacks audacity. One
does not feel triumphant afterwards. Something better is possible.
Broad daylight, the public square, the judicial scaffold, the regular
apparatus of social vengeance--to hand the innocent over to these, to
put them to death in this manner, ah! that is different. I can
understand that. To commit a murder at high noon, in the heart of the
town, by means of one machine called court, or court-martial, and of
another machine slowly erected by a carpenter, adjusted, put together,
screwed and greased at pleasure; to say it shall be at such an hour;
then to display two baskets, and say: "This one is for the body, that
other for the head;" at the appointed time to bring the victim bound
with ropes, attended by a priest; to proceed calmly to the murder, to
order a clerk to prepare a report of it, to surround the murder victim
with gendarmes and naked swords, so that the people there may shudder,
and no longer know what they see, and wonder whether those men in
uniform are a brigade of gendarmerie or a band of robbers, and ask one
another, looking at the man who lets the knife fall, whether he is the
executioner or whether he is not rather an assassin! This is bold and
resolute, this is a parody of legal procedure, most audacious and
alluring, and worth being carried out. This is a noble and
far-spreading blow on the cheek of justice. Commend us to this!
To do this seven months after the struggle, in cold blood, to no
purpose, as an omission that one repairs, as a duty that one fulfills,
is awe-inspiring, it is complete; one has the appearance of acting
within one's rights, which perplexes the conscience and makes honest
A terrible juxtaposition, which comprehends the whole case. Here are
two men, a working-man and a prince. The prince commits a crime, he
enters the Tuileries; the working-man does his duty, he ascends the
scaffold. Who set up the working-man's scaffold? The prince!
Yes, this man who, had he been beaten in December, could have escaped
the death penalty only by the omnipotence of progress, and by an
enlargement, too liberal certainly, of the principle that human life is
sacred; this man, this Louis Bonaparte, this prince who carries the
practices of Poulmann and Soufflard into politics, he it is who
rebuilds the scaffold! Nor does he tremble! Nor does he turn pale! Nor
does he feel that it is a fatal ladder, that he is at liberty to
refrain from erecting it, but that, when once it is erected, he is not
at liberty to take it down, and that he who sets it up for another,
afterwards finds it for himself. It knows him again, and says to him,
"Thou didst place me here, and I have awaited thee."
No, this man does not reflect, he has longings, he has whims, and they
must be satisfied. They are the longings of a dictator. Unlimited power
would be tasteless without this seasoning. Go to,--cut off Charlet's
head, and the others. M. Bonaparte is Prince-President of the French
Republic; M. Bonaparte has sixteen millions a year, forty-four thousand
francs a day, twenty-four cooks in his household, and as many
aides-de-camp; he has the right of fishing in the ponds of Saclay and
Saint-Quentin; of hunting in the forests of Laigne, Ourscamp,
Carlemont, Champagne and Barbeau; he has the Tuileries, the Louvre, the
Élysée, Rambouillet, Saint-Cloud, Versailles, Compiègne; he has his
imperial box at every theatre, feasting and music every day, M.
Sibour's smile, and the arm of the Marchioness of Douglas on which to
enter the ballroom; but all this is not enough; he must have the
guillotine to boot; he must have some of those red baskets among his
baskets of champagne.
Oh! hide we our faces with both our hands! This man, this hideous
butcher of the law and of justice, still had his apron round his waist
and his hands in the smoking bowels of the Constitution, and his feet
in the blood of all the slaughtered laws, when you, judges, when you,
magistrates, men of the law, men of the right...! But I pause; I shall
meet you hereafter with your black robes and your red robes, your robes
of the colour of ink, and your robes of the colour of blood; and I
shall find them, too, and having chastised them once, will chastise
them again--those lieutenants of yours, those judicial supporters of
the ambuscade, those soilers of the ermine,--Baroche, Suin, Royer,
Mongis, Rouher, and Troplong, deserters from the law,--all those names
which signify nothing more than the utmost contempt which man can feel.
If he did not crush his victims between two boards, like Christiern II;
if he did not bury people alive, like Ludovic the Moor; if he did not
build his palace walls with living men and stones, like Timour-Beg, who
was born, says the legend, with his hands closed and full of blood; if
he did not rip open pregnant women, like Cæsar Borgia, Duke of
Valentinois; if he did not scourge women on the breasts, _testibusque
viros_, like Ferdinand of Toledo; if he did not break on the wheel
alive, burn alive, boil alive, flay alive, crucify, impale, and
quarter, blame him not, the fault was not his; the age obstinately
refuses to allow it. He has done all that was humanly or inhumanly
possible. Given the nineteenth century, a century of gentleness,--of
decadence, say the papists and friends of arbitrary power,--Louis
Bonaparte has equalled in ferocity his contemporaries, Haynau,
Radetzky, Filangieri, Schwartzenberg, and Ferdinand of Naples: he has
even surpassed them. A rare merit, with which we must credit him as
another impediment: the scene was laid in France. Let us do him this
justice: in the times in which we live, Ludovic Sforza, the
Valentinois, the Duke of Alva, Timour, and Christiern II, would have
done no more than Louis Bonaparte; in their time, he would have done
all that they did; in our time, just as they were about to erect their
gibbets, their wheels, their wooden horses, their cranes, their living
towers, their crosses, and their stakes, they would have desisted like
him, in spite of themselves, and unconsciously, before the secret and
invincible resistance of the moral environment, of that formidable and
mysterious interdiction of an entire epoch, which rises in the north,
the south, the east, and the west, to confront tyrants, and says no to
WHAT 1852 WOULD HAVE BEEN
But, had it not been for this abominable 2nd of December, which its
accomplices, and after them its dupes, call "necessary," what would
have occurred in France? Mon Dieu! this:--
Let us go back a little, and review, in a summary way, the situation as
it was before the _coup d'état_.
The party of the past, under the name of order, opposed the republic,
or in other words, opposed the future.
Whether opposed or not, whether assented to or not, the republic, all
illusions apart, is the future, proximate or remote, but inevitable, of
How is the republic to be established? There are two ways of
establishing it: by strife and by progress. The democrats would arrive
at it by progress; their adversaries, the men of the past, appear to
desire to arrive at it by strife.
As we have just observed, the men of the past are for resisting; they
persist; they apply the axe to the tree, expecting to stop the mounting
sap. They lavish their strength, their puerility, and their anger.
Let us not utter a single bitter word against our old adversaries,
fallen with ourselves on the same day, and several among them with
honour on their side; let us confine ourselves to noting that it was
into this struggle that the majority of the Legislative Assembly of
France entered at the very beginning of its career, in the month of
This policy of resistance is a deplorable policy. This struggle between
man and his Maker is inevitably vain; but, though void of result, it is
fruitful in catastrophes. That which ought to be will be; that which
ought to flow will flow; that which ought to fall will fall; that which
ought to spring up will spring up; that which ought to grow will grow;
but, obstruct these natural laws, confusion follows, disorder begins.
It is a melancholy fact that it was this disorder which was called
Tie up a vein, and sickness ensues; clog up a stream, and the water
overflows; obstruct the future, and revolutions break out.
Persist in preserving among you, as if it were alive, the past, which
is dead, and you produce an indescribable moral cholera; corruption
spreads abroad, it is in the air, we breathe it; entire classes of
society, the public officials, for instance, fall into decay. Keep dead
bodies in your houses, the plague will break out.
This policy inevitably makes blind those who adopt it. Those men who
dub themselves statesmen do not understand that they themselves have
made, with their own hands and with untold labour, and with the sweat
of their brows, the terrible events they deplore, and that the very
catastrophes which fall upon them were by them constructed. What would
be said of a peasant who should build a dam from one side of a river to
the other, in front of his cottage, and who, when he saw the river
turned into a torrent, overflow, sweep away his wall, and carry off his
roof, should exclaim: "Wicked river!"? The statesmen of the past, those
great builders of dams across streams, spend their time in exclaiming:
Take away Polignac and the July ordinances, that is to say, the dam,
and Charles X would have died at the Tuileries. Reform in 1847 the
electoral laws, that is to say once more, take away the dam, and Louis
Philippe would have died on the throne. Do I mean thereby that the
Republic would not have come? Not so. The Republic, we repeat, is the
future; it would have come, but step by step, successive progress by
progress, conquest by conquest, like a river that flows, and not like a
deluge that overflows; it would have come at its own hour, when all was
ready for it; it would have come, certainly not more enduring, for it
is already indestructible, but more tranquil, free from all possibility
of reaction, with no princes keeping watch, with no _coup d'état_
The policy which obstructs the progress of mankind--let us insist on
this point--excels in producing artificial floods. Thus it had managed
to render the year 1852 a sort of formidable eventuality, and this
again by the same contrivance, by means of a dam. Here is a railway; a
train will pass in an hour; throw a beam across the rails, and when the
train comes to that point it will be wrecked, as it was at Fampoux;
remove the beam before the train arrives, and it will pass without even
suspecting the catastrophe recently lurking there. This beam is the law
of the 31st of May.
The leaders of the majority of the Legislative Assembly had thrown it
across 1852, and they cried: "This is where society will be crushed!"
The Left replied: "Take away your beam, and let universal suffrage pass
unobstructed." This is the whole history of the law of the 31st of May.
These are things for children to understand, but which "statesmen" do
Now let us answer the question we just now proposed: Without the 2nd of
December, what would have occurred in 1852?
Revoke the law of the 31st of May, take away the dam from before the
people, deprive Bonaparte of his lever, his weapon, his pretext, let
universal suffrage alone, take the beam off the rails, and do you know
what you would have had in 1852?
A sort of peaceful Sundays, when the people would have come forward to
vote, labourers yesterday, today electors, to-morrow labourers, and
Somebody rejoins: "Oh, yes, elections! You talk very glibly about them.
But what about the 'red chamber' which would have sprung from these
Did they not announce that the Constitution of 1848 would prove a "red
chamber?" Red chambers, red hobgoblins, all such predictions are of
equal value. Those who wave such phantasmagorias on the end of a stick
before the terrified populace know well what they are doing, and laugh
behind the ghastly rag they wave. Beneath the long scarlet robe of the
phantom, to which had been given the name of 1852, we see the stout
boots of the _coup d'état_.
Meanwhile, after the 2nd of December, the crime being committed, it was
imperative to mislead public opinion. The _coup d'état_ began to
shriek about the Jacquerie, like the assassin who cried: "Stop thief!"
We may add, that a _Jacquerie_ had been promised, and that M. Bonaparte
could not break all his promises at once without some inconvenience.
What but the Jacquerie was the red spectre? Some reality must be
imparted to that spectre: one cannot suddenly burst out laughing in the
face of a whole people and say: "It was nothing! I only kept you in
fear of yourselves."
Consequently there was a _Jacquerie_. The promises of the play-bill
The imaginations of his entourage gave themselves a free rein; that old
bugbear Mother Goose was resuscitated, and many a child, on reading the
newspaper, might have recognized the ogre of Goodman Perrault in the
disguise of a socialist; they surmised, they invented; the press being
suppressed, it was quite easy; it is easy to lie when the tongue of
contradiction has been torn out beforehand.
They exclaimed: "Citizens, be on your guard! without us you were lost.
We shot you, but that was for your good. Behold, the Lollards were at
your gates, the Anabaptists were scaling your walls, the Hussites were
knocking at your window-blinds, the lean and hungry were climbing your
staircases, the empty-bellied coveted your dinner. Be on your guard!
Have not some of your good women been outraged?"
They gave the floor to one of the principal writers in _La Patrie_, one
"I dare not write or describe the horrible and improper things they did
to the ladies. But among other disorderly and villainous injuries, they
killed a chevalier and put a spit through him, and turned him before
the fire, and roasted him before the wife and her children. After ten
or twelve had violated the woman, they tried to make her and the
children eat some of the body; then killed them, put them to an evil
"These wicked people pillaged and burned everything; they killed, and
forced, and violated all the women and maidens, without pity or mercy,
as if they were mad dogs.
"Quite in the same manner did lawless people conduct themselves between
Paris and Noyon, between Paris and Soissons and Ham in Vermandois, all
through the land of Coucy. There were the great violators and
malefactors; and, in the county of Valois, in the bishopric of Laon, of
Soissons, and of Noyon, they destroyed upwards of a hundred châteaux
and goodly houses of knights and squires, and killed and robbed all
they met. But _God_, by his grace, found a fit remedy, for which all
praise be given to him."
People simply substituted for God, Monseigneur le Prince-President.
They could do no less.
Now that eight months have elapsed, we know what to think of this
"Jacquerie;" the facts have at length been brought to light. Where?
How? Why, before the very tribunals of M. Bonaparte. The sub-prefects
whose wives had been violated were single men; the curés who had been
roasted alive, and whose hearts Jacques had eaten, have written to say
that they are quite well; the gendarmes, round whose bodies others had
danced have been heard as witnesses before the courts-martial; the
public coffers, said to have been rifled, have been found intact in the
hands of M. Bonaparte, who "saved" them; the famous deficit of five
thousand francs, at Clamecy, has dwindled down to two hundred expended
in orders for bread. An official publication had said, on the 8th of
December: "The curé, the mayor, and the sub-prefect of Joigny, besides
several gendarmes, have been basely massacred." Somebody replied to
this in a letter, which was made public; "Not a drop of blood was shed
at Joigny; nobody's life was threatened." Now, by whom was this letter
written? This same mayor of Joigny who had been _basely massacred_, M.
Henri de Lacretelle, from whom an armed band had extorted two thousand
francs, at his château of Cormatin, is amazed, to this day, not at the
extortion, but at the fable. M. de Lamartine, whom another band had
intended to plunder, and probably to hang on the lamp-post, and whose
château of Saint-Point was burned, and who "had written to demand
government assistance," knew nothing of the matter until he saw it in
The following document was produced before the court-martial in the
Nièvre, presided over by ex-Colonel Martinprey:--
"ORDER OF THE COMMITTEE
"_Honesty is a virtue of republicans._
"_Every thief and plunderer will be shot._
"_Every detainer of arms who, in the course of twelve hours, shall
not have deposited them at the mayor's office, or given them up,
shall be arrested and confined until further orders._
"_Every drunken citizen shall be disarmed and sent to prison._
"_Clamecy, December 7, 1851._
"_Vive la république sociale!_
"THE SOCIAL REVOLUTIONARY COMMITTEE."
This that you have just read is the proclamation of "Jacques." "Death
to the pillagers! death to the thieves!" Such is the cry of these
thieves and pillagers.
One of these "Jacques," named Gustave Verdun-Lagarde, a native of
Lot-Garonne, died in exile at Brussels, on the 1st of May, 1852,
bequeathing one hundred thousand francs to his native town, to found a
school of agriculture. This partitioner did indeed make partition.
There was not, then, and the honest co-authors of the _coup d'état_
admit it now to their intimates, with playful delight, there was not
any "Jacquerie," it is true; but the trick has told.
There was in the departments, as there was in Paris, a lawful
resistance, the resistance prescribed to the citizens by Article 110 of
the Constitution, and superior to the Constitution by natural right;
there was the legitimate defence--this time the word is properly
applied--against the "preservers;" the armed struggle of right and law
against the infamous insurrection of the ruling powers. The Republic,
surprised by an ambuscade, wrestled with the _coup d'état_. That
Twenty-seven departments rose in arms: the Ain, the Aude, the Cher, the
Bouches du Rhône, the Côte d'Or, the Haute-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, the
Loiret, the Marne, the Meurthe, the Nord, the Bas-Rhin, the Rhône,
Seine-et-Marne, did their duty worthily; the Allier, the Basses-Alpes,
the Aveyron, the Drome, the Gard, the Gers, the Hérault, the Jura, the
Nièvre, the Puy-de-Dôme, Saône-et-Loire, the Var and Vaucluse, did
theirs fearlessly. They succumbed, as did Paris.
The _coup d'état_ was as ferocious there as at Paris. We have cast
a summary glance at its crimes.
So, then, it was this lawful, constitutional, virtuous resistance, this
resistance in which heroism was on the side of the citizens, and
atrocity on the side of the powers; it was this which the _coup
d'état_ called "Jacquerie." We repeat, a touch of red spectre was
This Jacquerie had two aims; it served the policy of the Elysée in two
ways; it offered a double advantage: first, to win votes for the
"plebiscite;" to win these votes by the sword and in face of the
spectre, to repress the intelligent, to alarm the credulous, compelling
some by terror, others by fear, as we shall shortly explain; therein
lies all the success and mystery of the vote of the 20th of December;
secondly, it afforded a pretext for proscriptions.
The year 1852 in itself contained no actual danger. The law of the 31st
of May, morally extinct, was dead before the 2nd of December. A new
Assembly, a new President, the Constitution simply put in operation,
elections,--and nothing more.
But it was necessary that M. Bonaparte should go. There was the
obstacle; thence the catastrophe.
Thus, then, did this man one fine morning seize by the throat the
Constitution, the Republic, the Law, and France; he stabbed the future
in the back; under his feet he trampled law, common sense, justice,
reason, and liberty; he arrested men who were inviolable, he
sequestered innocent men; in the persons of their representatives he
seized the people in his grip; he raked the Paris boulevards with his
shot; he made his cavalry wallow in the blood of old men and of women;
he shot without warning and without trial; he filled Mazas, the
Conciergerie, Saint-Pélagie, Vincennes, his fortresses, his cells, his
casemates, his dungeons, with prisoners, and his cemeteries with
corpses; he incarcerated, at Saint-Lazare, a wife who was carrying
bread to her husband in hiding; he sent to the galleys for twenty
years, a man who had harboured one of the proscribed; he tore up every
code of laws, broke every enactment; he caused the deported to rot by
thousands in the horrible holds of the hulks; he sent to Lambessa and
Cayenne one hundred and fifty children between twelve and fifteen; he
who was more absurd than Falstaff, has become more terrible than
Richard III; and why has all this been done? Because there was, he
said, "a plot against his power;" because the year which was closing
had a treasonable understanding with the year which was beginning to
overthrow him; because Article 45 perfidiously concerted with the
calendar to turn him out; because the second Sunday in May intended to
"depose" him; because his oath had the audacity to plot his fall;
because his plighted word conspired against him.
The day after his triumph, he was heard to say: "The second Sunday in
May is dead." No! it is probity that is dead! it is honour that is
dead! it is the name of Emperor that is dead!
How the man sleeping in the chapel of St. Jerome must shudder, how he
must despair! Behold the gradual rise of unpopularity about his great
figure; and it is this ill-omened nephew who has placed the ladder. The
great recollections are beginning to fade, the bad ones are returning.
People dare no longer speak of Jena, Marengo, and Wagram. Of what do
they speak? Of the Duc d'Enghien, of Jaffa, of the 18th Brumaire. They
forget the hero, and see only the despot. Caricature is beginning to
sport with Cæsar's profile. And what a creature beside him! Some there
are who confound the nephew with the uncle, to the delight of the
Élysée, but to the shame of France! The parodist assumes the airs of a
stage manager. Alas! a splendour so infinite could not be tarnished
save by this boundless debasement! Yes! worse than Hudson Lowe! Hudson
Lowe was only a jailor, Hudson Lowe was only an executioner. The man
who has really assassinated Napoleon is Louis Bonaparte; Hudson Lowe
killed only his life, Louis Bonaparte is killing his glory.
Ah! the villain! he takes everything, he abuses everything, he sullies
everything, he dishonours everything. He selects, for his ambuscade the
month, the day, of Austerlitz. He returns from Satory as one would
return from Aboukir. He conjures out of the 2nd of December I know not
what bird of night, and perches it on the standard of France, and
exclaims: "Soldiers, behold the eagle." He borrows the hat from
Napoleon, and the plume from Murat. He has his imperial etiquette, his
chamberlains, his aides-de-camp, his courtiers. Under the Emperor, they
were kings, under him they are lackeys. He has his own policy, his own
13th Vendémiaire, his own 18th Brumaire. Yes, he risks comparison! At
the Élysée, Napoleon the Great has disappeared: they say, "_Uncle
Napoleon_." The man of destiny has outdone Géronte. The perfect man
is not the first, but this one. It is evident that the first came only
to make the second's bed. Louis Bonaparte, in the midst of his valets
and concubines, to satisfy the necessities of the table and the
chamber, mingles the coronation, the oath, the Legion of Honour, the
camp of Boulogne, the Column Vendôme, Lodi, Arcola, Saint-Jean-d'Acre,
Eylau, Friedland, Champaubert--Ah! Frenchmen! look upon this hog
covered with slime strutting about in that lion's skin!
One day, more than sixty-three years ago, the French people, who had
been the property of one family for upwards of eight hundred years, who
had been oppressed by the barons down to Louis XI, and since Louis XI
by the parliaments, that is to say, to employ the frank remark of a
great nobleman of the eighteenth century, "who had been half eaten up
by wolves and finished by vermin;" who had been parcelled into
provinces, into châtellanies, into bailiwicks, and into seneschalries;
who had been exploited, squeezed, taxed, fleeced, peeled, shaven,
shorn, clipped and abused without mercy, fined incessantly at the good
pleasure of their masters; governed, led, misled, overdriven, tortured;
beaten with sticks, and branded with red-hot irons for an oath; sent to
the galleys for killing a rabbit upon the king's grounds; hung for a
matter of five sous; contributing their millions to Versailles and
their skeletons to Montfauçon; laden with prohibitions, with
ordinances, with patents, with royal letters, with edicts pecuniary and
rural, with laws, with codes, with customs; ground to the earth with
imposts, with fines, with quit-rents, with mortmains, import and export
duties, rents, tithes, tolls, statute-labour, and bankruptcies;
cudgelled with a cudgel called a sceptre; gasping, sweating, groaning,
always marching, crowned, but on their knees, rather a beast of burthen
than a nation,--the French people suddenly stood upright, determined to
be men, and resolved to demand an account of Providence, and to
liquidate those eight centuries of misery. It was a noble effort!
A large hall was chosen which was surrounded with benches, then they
took boards, and with these boards constructed, in the middle of the
hall, a kind of platform. When this platform was finished, what in
those days was called the nation, that is to say, the clergy, in their
red and violet robes, the nobility in spotless white, with their swords
at their sides, and the bourgeoisie dressed in black, took their seats
upon the benches. Scarcely were they seated when there was seen to
ascend the platform and there take its stand an extraordinary figure.
"Who is this monster?" said some; "Who is this giant?" said others. It
was a singular being, unforeseen, unknown, emerging abruptly from the
obscurity, who terrified, and who fascinated. A dreadful disease had
given him a kind of tiger's head; every degree of ugliness seemed to
have been imprinted upon that mask by every possible vice. Like the
bourgeoisie, he was dressed in black, that is to say, in mourning. His
bloodshot eye cast upon the assembly a dazzling glance; it resembled
menace and reproach--all looked upon him with a degree of curiosity in
which was mingled horror. He raised his hand, and there was silence.
Then were heard to issue from this hideous face sublime words. It was
the voice of the new world speaking through the mouth of the old world;
it was '89 that had risen, and was questioning, and accusing and
denouncing to God and man all the fatal dates of the monarchy; it was
the past,--an august spectacle,--the past, bruised with chains, branded
on the shoulder, ex-slave, ex-convict,--the unfortunate past, calling
aloud upon the future, the emancipating future! that is what that
stranger was, that is what he did on that platform! At his word, which
at certain moments was as the thunder, prejudices, fictions, abuses,
superstitions, fallacies, intolerance, ignorance, fiscal infamies,
barbarous punishments, outworn authorities, worm-eaten magistracy,
discrepit codes, rotten laws, everything that was doomed to perish,
trembled, and the downfall of those things began. That formidable
apparition has left a name in the memory of men; he should be called
Revolution,--his name is Mirabeau!
From the moment that that man put his foot upon that platform, that
platform was transformed. The French tribune was founded.
The French tribune! A volume would be necessary to tell all that that
word contains. The French tribune has been, these sixty years, the open
mouth of human intelligence. Of human intelligence, saying everything,
combining everything, blending everything, fertilizing everything: the
good, the bad, the true, the false, the just, the unjust, the high, the
low, the horrible, the beautiful, dreams, facts, passion, reason, love,
hate, the material, the ideal; but, in a word--for that is the essence
of its sublime and eternal mission--making darkness in order to draw
from it light, making chaos to draw from it life, making the revolution
to draw from it the republic.
What has taken place upon that tribune, what it has seen, what it has
done, what tempests have raged around it, _to_ what events it has
given birth, what men have shaken it with their clamour, what men
have made it sacred with their truths--how recount this? After
Mirabeau,--Vergniaud, Camille Desmoulins, Saint-Just, that stern young
man, Danton, that tremendous tribune, Robespierre, that incarnation of
the great and terrible year! From it were heard those ferocious
interruptions. "Aha!" cries an orator of the Convention, "do you
propose to cut short my speech?" "Yes," answers a voice, "and your neck
to-morrow." And those superb apostrophes. "Minister of Justice," said
General Foy to an iniquitous Keeper of the Seals, "I condemn you, on
leaving this room, to contemplate the statue of L'Hôpital."--There,
every cause has been pleaded, as we have said before, bad causes as
well as good; the good only have been finally won; there, in the
presence of resistance, of denials, of obstacles, those who long for
the future, like those who long for the past, have lost all patience;
there, it has happened to truth to become violent, and to falsehood to
rage; there, all extremes have appeared. On that tribune the guillotine
had its orator, Marat; and the Inquisition its Montalembert. Terrorism
in the name of public safety, terrorism in the name of Rome; gall in
the mouths of both, agony in the audience. When one was speaking, you
fancied you saw the gleam of the knife; when the other was speaking,
you fancied you heard the crackling of the stake. There factions have
fought, all with determination, a few with glory. There, the royal
power violated the right of the people in the person of Manuel, become
illustrious in history by this very violation; there appeared,
disdaining the past, whose servants they were, two melancholy old men:
Royer-Collard, disdainful probity, Chateaubriand, the satirical genius;
there, Thiers, skill, wrestled with Guizot, strength; there men have
mingled, have grappled, have fought, have brandished evidence like a
sword. There, for more than a quarter of a century, hatred, rage,
superstition, egotism, imposture, shrieking, hissing, barking,
writhing, screaming always the same calumnies, shaking always the same
clenched fist, spitting, since Christ, the same saliva, have whirled
like a cloud-storm about thy serene face, O Truth!
All this was alive, ardent, fruitful, tumultuous, grand. And when
everything had been pleaded, argued, investigated, searched, gone to
the bottom of, said and gainsaid, what came forth from the chaos?
always the spark! What came forth from the cloud? always light! All
that the tempest could do was to agitate the ray of light, and change
it into lightning. There, in that tribune, has been propounded,
analyzed, clarified, and almost always determined, every question of
the day: questions of finance, questions of credit, questions of
labour, questions of circulation, questions of salary, questions of
state, questions of the land, questions of peace, questions of war.
There, for the first time, was pronounced that phrase which contained a
whole new alignment of society,--the Rights of Man. There, for fifty
years, has been heard the ringing of the anvil upon which supernatural
smiths were forging pure ideas,--ideas, those swords of the people,
those lances of justice, that armour of law. There, suddenly
impregnated with sympathetic currents, like embers which redden in the
wind, all those who had flame in their hearts, great advocates like
Ledru-Rollin and Berryer, great historians like Guizot, great poets
like Lamartine, rose at once, and naturally, into great orators.
That tribune was a place of strength and of virtue. It saw, it inspired
(for it is easy to believe that these emanations sprang from it), all
those acts of devotion, of abnegation, of energy, of intrepidity. As
for us, we honour every display of courage, even in the ranks of those
who are opposed to us. One day the tribune was surrounded with
darkness; it seemed as if an abyss had opened around it; and in this
darkness one heard a noise like the roaring of the sea; and suddenly,
in that impenetrable night, above that ledge of marble to which clung
the strong hand of Danton, one saw arise a pike bearing a bleeding
head! Boissy d'Anglas saluted it.
That was a day of menace. But the people do not overthrow tribunes. The
tribunes belong to the people, and the people know it. Place a tribune
in the centre of the world, and in a few days, in the four corners of
the earth, the Republic will arise. The tribune shines for the people,
and they are not unaware of it. Sometimes the tribune irritates the
people, and makes them foam with rage; sometimes they beat it with
their waves, they overflow it even, as on the 15th of May, but then
they retire majestically like the ocean, and leave it standing upright
like a beacon. To overthrow the tribune is, on the part of the people,
rank folly; it is the proper work of tyrants only.
The people were rising, full of anger, of irritation. Some generous
error had seized them, some illusion was leading them astray; they had
misunderstood some act, some measure, some law; they were beginning to
be wroth, they were laying aside that superb tranquillity wherein their
strength consists, they were invading all the public squares with dull
murmurings and formidable gestures; it was an émeute, an insurrection,
civil war, a revolution, perhaps. The tribune was there. A beloved
voice arose and said to the people: "Pause, look, listen, judge!" _Si
forte virum quem conspexere, silent._ This was true at Rome, and
true at Paris. The people paused. O Tribune! pedestal of men of might!
from thee have sprung eloquence, law, authority, patriotism, devotion,
and great thoughts,--the curb of the people, the muzzles of lions.
In sixty years, every sort of mind, every sort of intelligence, every
description of genius, has successively spoken in that spot, the most
resonant in the world. From the first Constituent Assembly to the last,
from the first Legislative Assembly to the last, through the
Convention, the Councils, and the Chambers, count the men if you can.
It is a catalogue worthy of Homer. Follow the series! How many
contrasting figures are there from Danton to Thiers? How many figures
that resemble one another, from Barère to Baroche, from Lafayette to
Cavaignac? To the names we have already mentioned,--Mirabeau,
Vergniaud, Danton, Saint-Just, Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins, Manuel,
Foy, Royer-Collard, Chateaubriand, Guizot, Thiers, Ledru-Rollin,
Berryer, Lamartine,--add these other names, so different, sometimes
hostile,--scholars, artists, men of science, men of the law, statesmen,
warriors, democrats, monarchists, liberals, socialists, republicans,
all famous, a few illustrious, each having the halo which befits him:
Barnave, Cazalès, Maury, Mounier, Thouret, Chapelier, Pétion, Buzot,
Brissot, Sieyès, Condorcet, Chénier, Carnot, Lanjuinais, Pontécoulant,
Cambacérès, Talleyrand, Fontanes, Benjamin Constant, Casimir Perier,
Chauvelin, Voyer d'Argenson, Laffitte, Dupont (de l'Eure), Fitz-James,
Cuvier, Villemain, Camille Jordan, Lainé, Bonald, Villèle, Martignac,
the two Lameths, the two Davids (the painter in '93, the sculptor in
'48), Lamarque, Mauguin, Odilon Barrot, Arago, Garnier-Pagès, Louis
Blanc, Marc Dufraisse, Lamennais, Émile de Girardin, Lamoricière,
Dufaure, Crémieux, Michel (de Bourges), Jules Favre. What a
constellation of talents! what a variety of aptitudes! what services
rendered! what a battling of all the realities against all the errors!
what brains at work! what an outlay, for the benefit of progress, of
learning, of philosophy, of passion, of conviction, of experience, of
sympathy, of eloquence! what a fertilising heat spread abroad! what a
shining firmament of light!
And we do not name them all. To make use of an expression which is
sometimes borrowed from the author of this book, "_Nous en passons et
des meilleurs_." We have not even alluded to that valiant legion of
young orators who arose on the Left during these last years,--Arnauld
(de l'Ariège), Bancel, Chauffour, Pascal Duprat, Esquiros, de Flotte,
Farcounet, Victor Hennequin, Madier de Montjau, Morellet, Noël Parfait,
Pelletier, Sain, Versigny.
Let us insist upon this point: starting from Mirabeau, there was in the
world, in human society, in civilization, a culminating point, a
central spot, a common altar, a summit. This summit was the tribune of
France; admirable landmark for coming generations, a glittering height
in time of peace, a lighthouse in the darkness of catastrophes. From
the extremities of the intelligent world, the peoples fixed their eyes
upon this peak, from which has shone the human mind. When dark night
suddenly enveloped them, they heard issuing from that height a mighty
voice, which spoke to them in the darkness. _Admonet et magna testatur
voce per umbras._ A voice which all at once, when the hour had come,
like the cockcrow announcing the dawn, like the cry of the eagle
hailing the sun, resounded like a clarion of war, or like the trumpet
of judgment, and brought to their feet once more, awe-inspiring, waving
their winding-sheets, seeking swords in their tombs, all those heroic
dead nations,--Poland, Hungary, Italy! Then, at that voice of France,
the glorious sky of the future opened; old despotisms, blinded and in
fear, hid their heads in the nether darkness, and there, her feet upon
the clouds, her forehead among the stars, a sword flashing in her hand,
her mighty wings outspread in the azure depths, one saw Liberty appear,
the archangel of the nations.
INFLUENCE OF ORATORY
This tribune was the terror of every tyranny and fanaticism, it was the
hope of every one who was oppressed under Heaven. Whoever placed his
foot upon that height, felt distinctly the pulsations of the great
heart of mankind. There, providing he was a man of earnest purpose, his
soul swelled within him, and shone without. A breath of universal
philanthropy seized him, and filled his mind as the breeze fills the
sail; so long as his feet rested upon those four planks, he was a
stronger and a better man; he felt at that consecrated minute as if he
were living the life of all the nations; words of charity for all men
came to his lips; beyond the Assembly, grouped at his feet, and
frequently in a tumult, he beheld the people, attentive, serious, with
ears strained, and fingers on lips; and beyond the people, the human
race, plunged in thought, seated in circles, and listening. Such was
this grand tribune, from which a man addressed the world.
From this tribune, incessantly vibrating, gushed forth perpetually a
sort of sonorous flood, a mighty oscillation of sentiments and ideas,
which, from billow to billow, and from people to people, flowed to the
utmost confines of the earth, to set in motion those intelligent waves
which are called souls. Frequently one knew not why such and such a
law, such and such an institution, was tottering, beyond the frontiers,
beyond the most distant seas: the Papacy beyond the Alps, the throne of
the Czar at the extremity of Europe, slavery in America, the death
penalty all over the world. The reason was that the tribune of France
had quivered. At certain hours the quiver of that tribune was an
earthquake. The tribune of France spoke, and every sentient being on
this earth betook itself to reflection; the words sped into the
obscurity, through space, at hazard, no matter where,--"It is only the
wind, it is only a little noise," said the barren minds that live upon
irony; but the next day, or three months, or a year later, something
fell on the surface of the earth, or something rose. What had been the
cause of that? The noise that had vanished, the wind that had passed
away. This noise, this wind, was "the Word." A sacred force! From the
Word of God came the creation of human beings;--from the Word of Man
will spring the union of the peoples.
WHAT AN ORATOR IS
Once mounted upon this tribune, the man who was there was no longer a
man: he was that mysterious workman whom we see, at twilight, walking
with long strides across the furrows, and flinging into space, with an
imperial gesture, the germs, the seeds, the future harvests, the wealth
of the approaching summer, bread, life.
He goes to and fro, he returns; his hand opens and empties itself,
fills itself and empties itself again and again; the sombre plain is
stirred, the deeps of nature open, the unknown abyss of creation begins
its work; the waiting dews fall, the spear of wild grain quivers and
reflects that the sheaf of wheat will succeed it; the sun, hidden
behind the horizon, loves what that workman is doing, and knows that
his rays will not be wasted. Sacred and mysterious work!
The orator is the sower. He takes from his heart his instincts, his
passions, his beliefs, his sufferings, his dreams, his ideas, and
throws them, by handfuls, into the midst of men. Every brain is to him
an open furrow. One word dropped from the tribune always takes root
somewhere, and becomes a thing. You say, "Oh! it is nothing--it is a
man talking," and you shrug your shoulders. Shortsighted creatures! it
is a future which is germinating, it is a new world bursting into
WHAT THE TRIBUNE ACCOMPLISHED
Two great problems hang over the world. War must disappear, and
conquest must continue. These two necessities of a growing civilization
seemed to exclude each other. How satisfy the one without failing the
other? Who could solve the two problems at the same time? Who did solve
them? The tribune! The tribune is peace, and the tribune is conquest.
Conquest by the sword,--who wants it? Nobody. The peoples are
fatherlands. Conquest by ideas,--who wants it? Everybody. The peoples
are mankind. Now two preëminent tribunes dominated the nations--the
English tribune doing business, and the French tribune creating ideas.
The French tribune had elaborated after '89 all the principles which
form the political philosopher's stone, and it had begun to elaborate
since 1848 all the principles which form the social philosopher's
stone. When once a principle had been released from confinement and
brought into the light, the French tribune threw it upon the world,
armed from head to foot, saying: "Go!" The victorious principle took
the field, met the custom-house officers on the frontier, and passed in
spite of their watch-dogs; met the sentinels at the gates of cities,
and passed despite their pass-words; travelled by railway, by
packet-boat, scoured continents, crossed the seas, accosted wayfarers
on the highway, sat at the firesides of families, glided between friend
and friend, between brother and brother, between man and wife, between
master and slave, between people and king; and to those who asked: "Who
art thou?" it replied: "I am the truth;" and to those who asked:
"Whence comest thou?" it replied, "I come from France." Then he who had
questioned the principle offered it his hand, and it was better than
the annexation of a province, it was the annexation of a human mind.
Thenceforth, between Paris, the metropolis, and that man in his
solitude, and that town buried in the heart of the woods or of the
steppes, and that people groaning under the yoke, a current of thought
and of love was established. Under the influence of these currents
certain nationalities grew weak, whilst others waxed strong and rose
again. The savage felt himself less savage, the Turk less Turk, the
Russian less Russian, the Hungarian more Hungarian, the Italian more
Italian. Slowly, and by degrees, the French spirit assimilated the
other nations, for universal progress. Thanks to this admirable French
language, composed by Providence, with wonderful equilibrium, of enough
consonants to be pronounced by the nations of the North, and of enough
vowels to be pronounced by the peoples of the South; thanks to this
language, which is a power of civilization and of humanity, little by
little, and by its radiation alone, this lofty central tribune of Paris
conquered the nations and made them France. The material boundary of
France was such as she could make it; but there were no treaties of
1815 to determine her moral frontier. The moral frontier constantly
receded and broadened from day to day; and before a quarter of a
century, perhaps, one would have said the French world, as one said the
That is what the tribune was, that is what it was accomplishing for
France, a prodigious engine of ideas, a gigantic factory ever elevating
the level of intelligence all over the world, and infusing into the
heart of humanity a vast flood of light.
And this is what M. Bonaparte has suppressed!
Yes, that tribune M. Bonaparte has overthrown. That power, created by
our revolutionary parturition, he has broken, shattered, crushed, torn
with his bayonets, thrown under the feet of horses. His uncle uttered
an aphorism: "The throne is a board covered with velvet." He, also, has
uttered his: "The tribune is a board covered with cloth, on which we
read, _Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité_." He has thrown board and cloth,
and Liberty and Equality and Fraternity, into the fire of a bivouac. A
burst of laughter from the soldiers, a little smoke, and all was over.
Is it true? Is it possible? Did it happen so? Has such a thing been
seen in these days? Mon Dieu, yes; it is, in fact, extremely simple. To
cut off the head of Cicero and nail his two hands upon the rostrum, it
sufficed to have a brute who has a knife, and another brute who has
nails and a hammer.
The tribune was for France three things: a means of exterior
initiative, a method of interior government, a source of glory. Louis
Bonaparte has suppressed the initiative. France was the teacher of the
peoples, and conquered them by love; to what end? He has suppressed the
method of government,--his own is better. He has breathed upon the
glory of France, and blown it out. Certain breaths have this property.
But to make an assault upon the tribune is a family crime. The first
Bonaparte had already committed it, but at least what he brought into
France to replace that glory, was glory, not ignominy.
Louis Bonaparte did not content himself with overthrowing the tribune;
he determined to make it ridiculous. As well try that as anything else.
The least one can do, when one cannot utter two words consecutively,
when one harangues only with written notes in hand, when one is short
both of speech and of intelligence, is to make a little fun of
Mirabeau. General Ratapoil said to General Foy, "Hold your tongue,
chatterbox!"--"What is it you call the tribune?" cries M. Bonaparte
Louis; "it is parliamentarism!" What have you to say to
"parliamentarism"? Parliamentarism pleases me. Parliamentarism is a
pearl. Behold the dictionary enriched. This academician of _coups
d'état_ makes new words. In truth one is not a barbarian to refrain
from dropping a barbarism now and then. He too is a sower; barbarisms
fructify in the brains of idiots. The uncle had "ideologists"--the
nephew has "parliamentarisms." Parliamentarism, gentlemen;
parliamentarism, ladies. This is answerable for everything. You venture
timidly to observe: "It is perhaps a pity so many families have been
ruined, so many people transported, so many citizens proscribed, so
many coffins filled, so many graves dug, so much blood spilt" "Aha!"
replies a coarse voice with a Dutch accent; "so you mistrust
parliamentarism, do you?" Get out of the dilemma if you can.
Parliamentarism is a great find. I give my vote to M. Louis Bonaparte
for the next vacant seat at the Institute. What's that? why, we must
encourage neology! This man comes from the dung-heap, this man comes
from the Morgue, this man's hands steam like a butcher's, he scratches
his ear, smiles, and invents words like Julie d'Angennes. He marries
the wit of the Hôtel de Rambouillet to the odour of Montfauçon. We will
both vote for him, won't we, M. de Montalembert?
THE TRIBUNE DESTROYED
So "parliamentarism"--that is to say, protection of the citizen,
freedom of discussion, liberty of the press, liberty of the subject,
supervision of the taxes, inspection of the receipts and expenses, the
safety-lock upon the public money-box, the right of knowing what is
being done with your money, the solidity of credit, liberty of
conscience, liberty of worship, protection of property, the guarantee
against confiscation and spoliation, the safeguard of the individual,
the counterpoise to arbitrary power, the dignity of the nation, the
glory of France, the steadfast morals of free nations, movement,
life,--all these exist no longer. Wiped out, annihilated, vanished! And
this "deliverance" has cost France only the trifle of twenty-five
millions, divided amongst twelve or fifteen saviours, and forty
thousand francs in eau-de-vie, per brigade! Verily, this is not dear!
these gentlemen, of the _coup d'état_ did the thing at a discount.
Now the deed is done, it is complete. The grass is growing at the
Palais-Bourbon. A virgin forest is beginning to spring up between Pont
de la Concorde and Place Bourgogne. Amid the underbrush one
distinguishes the box of a sentry. The Corps Législatif empties its urn
among the reeds, and the water flows around the foot of the sentry-box
with a gentle murmur.
Now it is all over. The great work is accomplished. And the results of
the work! Do you know that Messieurs So-and-So won town houses and
country houses in the Circuit Railway alone? Get all you can, gorge
yourselves, grow a fat paunch; it is no longer a question of being a
great people, of being a powerful people, of being a free nation, of
casting a bright light; France no longer sees its way to that. And this
is success! France votes for Louis-Napoleon, carries Louis-Napoleon,
fattens Louis-Napoleon, contemplates Louis-Napoleon, admires
Louis-Napoleon, and is stupefied. The end of civilization is attained!
Now there is no more noise, no more confusion, no more talking, no more
parliament, or parliamentarism. The Corps Législatif, the Senate, the
Council of State, have all had their mouths sewn up. There is no more
fear of reading a fine speech when you wake up in the morning. It is
all over with everything that thought, that meditated, that created,
that spoke, that sparkled, that shone among this great people. Be
proud, Frenchmen! Lift high your heads, Frenchmen! You are no longer
anything, and this man is everything! He holds in his hand your
intelligence, as a child holds a bird. Any day he pleases, he can
strangle the genius of France. That will be one less source of tumult!
In the meantime, let us repeat in chorus: "No more Parliamentarism, no
more tribune!" In lieu of all those great voices which debated for the
improvement of mankind, which were, one the idea, another the fact,
another the right, another justice, another glory, another faith,
another hope, another learning, another genius; which instructed, which
charmed, which comforted, which encouraged, which brought forth fruit;
in lieu of all those sublime voices, what is it that one hears amid the
dark night that hangs like a pall over France? The jingle of a spur, of
a sword dragged along the pavement!
"Hallelujah!" says M. Sibour. "Hosannah!" replies M. Parisis.
THE ABSOLUTION:--FIRST PHASE: THE 7,500,000 VOTES
Some one says to us: "You do not consider! All these facts, which you
call crimes, are henceforth 'accomplished facts,' and consequently to
be respected; it is all accepted, adopted, legitimized, absolved."
"Accepted! adopted! legitimized! absolved! by what?"
"By a vote."
"The seven million five hundred thousand votes."
"Oh! true. There was a plebiscite, and a vote, and seven million five
hundred thousand ayes. Let us say a word of them."
A brigand stops a diligence in the woods.
He is at the head of a resolute band.
The travellers are more numerous, but they are separated, disunited,
cooped up in the different compartments, half asleep, surprised in the
middle of the night, seized unexpectedly and without arms.
The brigand orders them to alight, not to utter a cry, not to speak a
word, and to lie down with their faces to the ground.
Some resist: he blows out their brains.
The rest obey, and lie on the road, speechless, motionless, terrified,
mixed up with the dead bodies, and half dead themselves.
The brigand, while his accomplices keep their feet on the ribs of the
travellers, and their pistols at their heads, rifles their pockets,
forces open their trunks, and takes all the valuables they possess.
The pockets rifled, the trunks pillaged, the _coup d'état_ completed,
he says to them:--
"Now, in order to set myself right with justice, I have written down on
paper a declaration, that you acknowledge that all I have taken
belonged to me, and that you give it to me of your own free will. I
propose that this shall be your view of the matter. Each of you will
have a pen given you, and without uttering a syllable, without making
the slightest movement, without quitting your present attitude" (belly
on ground, and face in the mud) "you will put out your arms, and you
will all sign this paper. If any one of you moves or speaks, here is
the muzzle of my pistol. Otherwise, you are quite free."
The travellers put out their arms, and sign.
The brigand thereupon tosses his head, and says:--
"I have seven million five hundred thousand votes."
SCRUTINY OF THE VOTE.--A REMINDER OF PRINCIPLES.--FACTS
M. Louis Bonaparte is president of this diligence. Let us recall a few
For a political ballot to be valid, three absolute conditions must
exist: First, the vote must be free; second, the vote must be
intelligent; third, the figures must be accurate. If one of these three
conditions is wanting, the ballot is null. How is it when all three are
Let us apply these rules.
First. _That the vote must be free._
What freedom there was in the vote of the 20th of December, we have
just pointed out; we have described that freedom by a striking display
of evidence. We might dispense with adding anything to it. Let each of
those who voted reflect, and ask himself under what moral and physical
violence he dropped his ballot in the box. We might cite a certain
commune of the Yonne, where, of five hundred heads of families, four
hundred and thirty were arrested, and the rest voted "aye;" or a
commune of the Loiret, where, of six hundred and thirty-nine heads of
families, four hundred and ninety-seven were arrested or banished; the
one hundred and forty-two who escaped voted "aye." What we say of the
Loiret and the Yonne might be said of all the departments. Since the
2nd of December, each town has its swarm of spies; each village, each
hamlet, its informer. To vote "no" was imprisonment, transportation,
Lambessa. In the villages of one department, we were told by an
eye-witness, they brought "ass-loads of 'aye' ballots." The mayors,
flanked by gardes-champêtres, distributed them among the peasants. They
had no choice but to vote. At Savigny, near Saint-Maur, on the morning
of the vote, some enthusiastic gendarmes declared that the man who
voted "no" should not sleep in his bed. The gendarmerie cast into the
house of detention at Valenciennes M. Parent the younger, deputy
justice of the peace of the canton of Bouchain, for having advised
certain inhabitants of Avesne-le-Sec to vote "no." The nephew of
Representative Aubry (du Nord), having seen the agents of the prefect
distribute "aye" ballots in the great square of Lille, went into the
square next morning, and distributed "no" ballots. He was arrested and
confined in the citadel.
As to the vote of the army, a part of it voted in its own cause; the
But even as to the freedom of this vote of the soldiers, let us hear
the army speak for itself. This is what is written by a soldier of the
6th Regiment of the Line, commanded by Colonel Garderens de Boisse:--
"So far as our company was concerned, the vote was a roll-call. The
subaltern officers, the corporals, the drummers, and the soldiers,
arranged in order of rank, were named by the quartermaster in presence
of the colonel, the lieutenant-colonel, the major, and the company
officers; and as each man named answered, 'Here!' his name was
inscribed by the sergeant-major. The colonel, rubbing his hands, was
saying, 'Egad, gentlemen, this is going on wheels!' when a corporal of
the company to which I belong approached the table at which the
sergeant-major was seated, and requested him to let him have the pen,
that he might himself inscribe his name on the 'no' register, which was
intended to remain blank.
"'What!' cried the colonel; 'you, who are down for quartermaster, and
who are to be appointed on the first vacancy,--you formally disobey
your colonel, and that in the presence of your company! It would be bad
enough if this refusal of yours were simply an act of insubordination,
but know you not, wretched man, that by your vote you seek to bring
about the destruction of the army, the burning of your father's house,
the annihilation of all society! You hold out your hand to debauchery!
What! X----, you, whom I intended to urge for promotion, you come here
to-day and admit all this?'
"The poor devil, it may be imagined, allowed his name to be inscribed
with the rest."
Multiply this colonel by six hundred thousand, and the product is the
pressure of the functionaries of all sorts--military, political, civil,
administrative, ecclesiastical, judicial, fiscal, municipal,
scholastic, commercial, and consular--throughout France, on the
soldier, the citizen, and the peasant. Add, as we have above pointed
out, the fictitious communist Jacquerie and the real Bonapartist
terrorism, the government imposing by phantasmagoria on the weak, and
by dictatorship on the refractory, and brandishing two terrors
together. It would require a special volume to relate, expose, and
develop the innumerable details of that immense extortion of
signatures, which is called "the vote of the 20th of December."
The vote of the 20th of December prostrated the honour, the initiative,
the intelligence, and the moral life of the nation. France went to that
vote as sheep go to the slaughter-house.
Let us proceed.
Second. _That the vote must be intelligent._
Here is an elementary proposition. Where there is no liberty of the
press, there is no vote. The liberty of the press is the condition
_sine quâ non_, of universal suffrage. Every ballot cast in the absence
of liberty of the press is void _ab initio_. Liberty of the press
involves, as necessary corollaries, liberty of meeting, liberty of
publishing, liberty of distributing information, all the liberties
engendered by the right--antedating all other rights--of informing
one's self before voting. To vote is to steer; to vote is to judge. Can
one imagine a blind pilot at the helm? Can one imagine a judge with his
ears stuffed and his eyes put out? Liberty, then,--liberty to inform
one's self by every means, by inquiry, by the press, by speech, by
discussion,--this is the express guarantee, the condition of being, of
universal suffrage. In order that a thing may be done validly, it must
be done knowingly. Where there is no torch, there is no binding act.
These are axioms: outside of these axioms, all is _ipso facto_ null.
Now, let us see: did M. Bonaparte, in his ballot of the 20th of
December, obey these axioms? Did he fulfil the conditions of free
press, free meetings, free tribune, free advertising, free inquiry. The
answer is an immense shout of laughter, even from the Élysée.
Thus you are yourself compelled to admit that it was thus that
"universal suffrage" was exercised.
What! I know nothing of what is going on: men have been killed,
slaughtered, murdered, massacred, and I am ignorant of it! Men have
been arbitrarily imprisoned, tortured, banished, exiled, transported,
and I scarcely glimpse the fact! My mayor and my curé tell me: "These
people, who are taken away, bound with cords, are escaped convicts!" I
am a peasant, cultivating a patch of land in a corner of one of the
provinces: you suppress the newspaper, you stifle information, you
prevent the truth from reaching me, and then you make me vote! in the
uttermost darkness of night! gropingly! What! you rush out upon me from
the obscurity, sabre in hand, and you say to me: "Vote!" and you call
that a ballot.
"Certainly! a 'free and spontaneous' ballot," say the organs of the
Every sort of machinery was set to work at this vote. One village
mayor, a species of wild Escobar, growing in the fields, said to his
peasants: "If you vote 'aye,' 'tis for the Republic; if you vote 'no,'
'tis against the Republic." The peasants voted "aye."
And let us illuminate another aspect of this turpitude that people call
"the plebiscite of the 20th of December." How was the question put? Was
any choice possible? Did he--and it was the least that a _coup d'état_
man should have done in so strange a ballot as that wherein he put
everything at stake--did he open to each party the door at which its
principles could enter? were the Legitimists allowed to turn towards
their exiled prince, and towards the ancient honour of the
_fleurs-de-lys_? were the Orleanists allowed to turn towards that
proscribed family, honoured by the valued services of two soldiers, M
M. de Joinville and d'Aumale, and made illustrious by that exalted
soul, Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans? Did he offer to the people--who are
not a party, but the people, that is to say, the sovereign--did he
offer to the people that true republic before which all monarchy
vanishes, as night before day; that republic which is the manifest and
irresistible future of the civilized world; the republic without
dictatorship; the republic of concord, of learning, and of liberty; the
republic of universal suffrage, of universal peace, and of universal
well-being; the republic, initiator of peoples, and liberator of
nationalities; that republic which after all and whatever any one may
do, "will," as the author of this book has said elsewhere, "possess
France to-morrow, and Europe the day after." Did he offer that? No.
This is how M. Bonaparte put the matter: there were in this ballot two
candidates; first candidate, M. Bonaparte; second candidate--the abyss.
France had the choice. Admire the adroitness of the man, and, not a
little, his humility. M. Bonaparte took for his opponent in this
contest, whom? M. de Chambord? No! M. de Joinville? No! The Republic?
Still less. M. Bonaparte, like those pretty Creoles who show off their
beauty by juxtaposition with some frightful Hottentot, took as his
competitor in this election a phantom, a vision, a socialistic monster
of Nuremberg, with long teeth and talons, and a live coal in its eyes,
the ogre of Tom Thumb, the vampire of Porte Saint-Martin, the hydra of
Theramenes, the great sea-serpent of the _Constitutionnel_, which the
shareholders have had the kindness to impute to it, the dragon of the
Apocalypse, the Tarask, the Drée, the Gra-ouili, a scarecrow. Aided by
a Ruggieri of his own, M. Bonaparte lit up this pasteboard monster with
red Bengal fire, and said to the scared voter: "There is no possible
choice except this or myself: choose!" He said: "Choose between beauty
and the beast; the beast is communism; the beauty is my dictatorship.
Choose! There is no medium! Society prostrate, your house burned, your
barn pillaged, your cow stolen, your fields confiscated, your wife
outraged, your children murdered, your wine drunk by others, yourself
devoured alive by the great gaping-jaws yonder, or me as your emperor!
Choose! Me or Croque-mitaine!"
 _Littérature et Philosophie Mêlées 1830._
The citizen, affrighted, and consequently a child; the peasant,
ignorant, and consequently a child, preferred M. Bonaparte to
Croque-mitaine. Such is his triumph!
Observe, however, that of ten millions of voters, five hundred thousand
would, it seems, have preferred Croque-mitaine.
After all, M. Bonaparte only had seven million five hundred thousand
Thus, then, and in this fashion,--freely as we see, knowingly as we
see,--that which M. Bonaparte is good enough to call universal
suffrage, voted. Voted what?
Dictatorship, autocracy, slavery, the republic a despotism, France a
pachalik, chains on all wrists, a seal on every mouth, silence,
degradation, fear, the spy the soul of all things! They have given to a
man--to you!--omnipotence and omniscience! They have made that man the
supreme, the only legislator, the alpha of the law, the omega of power!
They have decreed that he is Minos, that he is Numa, that he is Solon,
that he is Lycurgus! They have incarnated in him the people, the
nation, the state, the law! and for ten years! What! I, a citizen,
vote, not only for my own dispossession, my own forfeiture, my own
abdication, but for the abdication of universal suffrage for ten years,
by the coming generations, over whom I have no right, over whom you, an
usurper, force me to usurp power, which, by the way, be it said in
passing, would suffice to nullify that monstrous ballot, if all
conceivable nullities were not already piled, heaped and welded upon
it. What! is that what you would have me do? You make me vote that all
is finished, that nothing remains, that the people is a slave! What!
you say to me: "Since you are sovereign, you shall give yourself a
master; since you are France, you shall become Haiti!" What an
Such is the vote of the 20th of December,--that sanction, as M. de
Morny says; that absolution, as M. Bonaparte says.
Assuredly, a short time hence,--in a year, in a month, perhaps in a
week,--when all that we now see has vanished, men will be ashamed of
having, if only for an instant, bestowed upon that infamous semblance
of a ballot, which they call the ballot of seven million five hundred
thousand votes, the honour of discussing it. Yet it is the only basis,
the only support, the only rampart of this prodigious power of M.
Bonaparte. This vote is the excuse of cowards, this vote is the buckler
of dishonoured consciences. Generals, magistrates, bishops, all crimes,
all prevarications, all degrees of complicity, seek refuge for their
ignominy behind this vote. France has spoken, say they: _vox populi,
vox Dei_, universal suffrage has voted; everything is covered by a
ballot.--_That_ a vote! _that_ a ballot? One spits on it, and passes
Third. _The figures must be accurate._ I admire that figure: 7,500,000!
It must have had a fine effect, through the fog of the 1st of January,
in letters of gold, three feet high, on the portal of Notre-Dame.
I admire that figure. Do you know why? Because I consider it humble.
Seven million five hundred thousand. Why seven million five hundred
thousand? It is not many. No one refused M. Bonaparte full measure.
After what he had done on the 2nd of December, he was entitled to
something better than that. Tell us, who played him that trick? Who
prevented him from putting down eight millions, or ten millions,--a
good round sum? As for myself, I was quite disappointed in my hopes. I
counted on unanimity. _Coup d'état_, you are indeed modest!
How now! a man has done all we have recalled or related: has taken an
oath and perjured himself; was the guardian of a constitution and
destroyed it, was the servant of a republic and betrayed it, was the
agent of a sovereign assembly and violently crushed it; used the
military pass-word as a poignard to kill military honour, used the
standard of France to wipe away mud and shame, put handcuffs on the
generals of Africa, made the representatives of the people travel in
prison-vans, filled Mazas, Vincennes, Mont Valérien, and Sainte-Pélagie
with inviolable men, shot down point-blank, on the barricade of the
law, the legislator girt with that scarf which is the sacred and
venerable symbol of the law; gave to a colonel, whom we could name, a
hundred thousand francs to trample duty under foot, and to each soldier
ten francs a day; distributed in four days forty thousand francs' worth
of brandy to each brigade; covered with the gold of the Bank the
card-tables of the Élysée, and said to his friends, "Help yourselves!"
killed M. Adde in his own house, M. Belval in his own house, M.
Debaecque in his own house, M. Labilte in his own house, M. de
Couvercelle in his own house, M. Monpelas in his own house, M. Thirion
de Mortauban in his own house; massacred on the boulevards and
elsewhere, shot anybody anywhere, committed numerous murders, of which
he modestly confesses to only one hundred and ninety-one; changed the
trenches about the trees on the boulevards into pools of blood; spilt
the blood of the infant with the blood of the mother, mingling with
both the champagne of the gendarmes!--a man has done all these things,
has taken all this trouble; and when he asks the nation: "Are you
satisfied?" he obtains only seven million five hundred thousand
voters!--Really, he is underpaid.
Sacrifice one's self "to save society," indeed! O, ingratitude of
In truth, three millions of voices replied "_No_." Who was it, pray,
who said that the South Sea savages call the French the "_oui-ouis_?"
Let us speak seriously. For irony is painful in such tragic matters.
_Coup d'état_ men, nobody believes in your seven million five hundred
Come, be frank, and confess that you are more or less swindlers, that
you cheat a little. In your balance-sheet of the 2nd of December you
set down too many votes,--and not enough corpses.
Seven million five hundred thousand! What figure is that? Whence comes
it? What do you want us to do with it?
Seven million, eight million, ten million, what does it matter? We
concede you everything, and we contest everything with you.
The seven million you have, plus the five hundred thousand; the round
sum, plus the odd money; you say so, prince, you affirm it, you swear
it; but what proves it?
Who counted? Baroche. Who examined? Rouher. Who checked? Piétri. Who
added? Maupas. Who certified? Troplong. Who made the proclamation?
In other words, servility counted, platitude examined, trickery
checked, forgery added, venality certified, and mendacity proclaimed.
Whereupon, M. Bonaparte ascends to the Capitol, orders M. Sibour to
thank Jupiter, puts a blue and gold livery on the Senate, a blue and
silver livery on the Corps Législatif, and a green and gold livery on
his coachman; lays his hand on his heart, declares that he is the
product of "universal suffrage," and that his "legitimacy" has issued
from the ballot-box. That box is a wine-cup.
WHO REALLY VOTED FOR M. BONAPARTE?
We declare therefore, we declare simply this, that on the 20th of
December, 1851, eighteen days after the 2nd, M. Bonaparte put his hand
into every man's conscience, and robbed every man of his vote. Others
filch handkerchiefs, he steals an Empire. Every day, for pranks of the
same sort, a _sergent-de-ville_ takes a man by the collar and carries
him off to the police-station.
Let us be understood, however.
Do we mean to declare that nobody really voted for M. Bonaparte? That
no one voluntarily said "Aye?" That no one knowingly and willingly
accepted that man?
By no means.
M. Bonaparte had for him the crowd of officeholders, the one million
two hundred thousand parasites of the budget, and their dependents and
hangers-on; the corrupt, the compromised, the adroit; and in their
train the _crétins_, a very considerable party.
He had for him Messieurs the Cardinals, Messieurs the Bishops,
Messieurs the Canons, Messieurs the Curés, Messieurs the Vicars,
Messieurs the Arch-deacons, Deacons, and Sub-deacons, Messieurs the
Prebendaries, Messieurs the Churchwardens, Messieurs the Sextons,
Messieurs the Beadles, Messieurs the Church-door-openers, and the
"religious" men, as they say. Yes, we admit, without hesitation, M.
Bonaparte had for him all those bishops who cross themselves like
Veuillot and Montalembert, and all those religious men, a priceless,
ancient race, but largely increased and recruited since the landholders'
terrors of 1848, who pray in this wise: "O, my God! send up the Lyons
shares! Dear Lord Jesus, see to it that I make a profit of twenty-five
per cent, on my Rothschild-Neapolitan bonds! Holy Apostles, sell my
wines for me! Blessed Martyrs, double my rents! Holy Mary, Mother of
God, immaculate Virgin, Star of the Sea, Enclosed Garden, _Hortus
Conclusus_, deign to cast a favouring eye on my little business at the
corner of Rue Tire-chape and Rue Quincampoix! Tower of Ivory, cause the
shop over the way to lose trade!"
These really and incontestably voted for M. Bonaparte: first category,
the office-holder; second category, the idiot; third category, the
The human understanding in general, and the bourgeois intellect in
particular, present singular enigmas. We know, and we have no desire to
conceal it, that from the shopkeeper up to the banker, from the petty
trader up to the stockbroker, great numbers of the commercial and
industrial men of France,--that is to say, great numbers of the men who
know what well-placed confidence is, what a trust faithfully
administered is, what a key placed in safe hands is,--voted after the
2nd of December for M. Bonaparte. The vote given, you might have
accosted one of these men of business, the first you met by chance; and
this is the dialogue that you might have exchanged with him:
'You have elected Louis Bonaparte President of the Republic?"
"Would you engage him as your cashier?"
And this is the ballot,--let us repeat it--insist on it--never be tired
of uttering it; "I cry the same things a hundred times," says Isaiah,
"so that they may be heard once;" this is the ballot, this is the
plebiscite, this is the vote, this is the sovereign decree of
"Universal Suffrage," beneath whose shadow take shelter--of which they
make a patent of authority, a diploma of government--those men who now
hold France, who command, who dominate, who administer, who judge, who
reign: their arms in gold up to the elbows, their legs in blood up to
And now, to have done with it, let us make a concession to M.
Bonaparte. No more quibbling. His ballot of the 20th of December was
free; it was intelligent; all the newspapers printed whatever they
pleased; he who says the contrary is a slanderer; electoral meetings
were held; the walls were hidden beneath placards; the promenaders in
Paris swept with their feet, on the boulevards and on the streets, a
snow of ballots, white, blue, yellow, red; everybody spoke who chose,
wrote who chose; the figures were accurate; it was not Baroche who
counted, it was Barême; Louis Blanc, Guinard, Félix Pyat, Raspail,
Caussidière, Thorné, Ledru-Rollin, Etienne Arago, Albert, Barbès,
Blanqui, and Gent, were the inspectors; it was they themselves who
announced the seven million five hundred thousand votes. Be it so. We
concede all that. What then? What conclusion does the _coup d'état_
What conclusion? It rubs its hands, it asks nothing further; that is
quite sufficient; it concludes that all is right, all complete, all
finished, that nothing more is to be said, that it is "absolved."
The free vote, the actual figures--these are only the physical side of
the question; the moral side remains to be considered. Ah! there is a
moral side, then? Undoubtedly, prince, and that is precisely the true
side, the important side of this question of the 2nd of December. Let
us look into it.
THE MORAL SIDE OF THE QUESTION
First, M. Bonaparte, it is expedient that you should acquire a notion
what the human conscience is.
There are two things in this world--learn this novelty--which men call
good and evil. You must be informed that lying is not good, treachery
is evil, assassination is worse. It makes no difference that it is
useful, it is prohibited. "By whom?" you will add. We will explain that
point to you, a little farther on; but let us proceed. Man--you must
also be informed--is a thinking being, free in this world, responsible
in the next. Singularly enough--and you will be surprised to hear
it--he is not created merely to enjoy himself, to indulge all his
fancies, to follow the hazard of his appetites, to crush whatever he
finds before him in his path, blade of grass or plighted oath, to
devour whatever presents itself when he is hungry. Life is not his
prey. For example, to pass from nothing a year to twelve hundred
thousand francs, it is not permitted to take an oath which one has no
intention to keep; and, to pass from twelve hundred thousand francs to
twelve millions, it is not permitted to crush the constitution and laws
of one's country, to rush from an ambuscade upon a sovereign assembly,
to bombard Paris, to transport ten thousand persons, and to proscribe
forty thousand. I continue your initiation into this singular mystery.
Certes, it is agreeable to give one's lackeys white silk stockings;
but, to arrive at this grand result, it is not permitted to suppress
the glory and the thought of a people, to overthrow the central tribune
of the civilized world, to shackle the progress of mankind, and to shed
torrents of blood. That is forbidden. "By whom?" you repeat, who see
before you no one who forbids you anything. Patience: you shall know
What!--here you begin to be disgusted, and I can understand it--when
one has, on the one hand, one's interest, one's ambition, one's
fortune, one's pleasures, a fine palace to maintain in Faubourg
Saint-Honoré; and, on the other side, the jeremiads and whining of
women from whom one takes their sons, of families from whom one tears
their fathers, of children from whom one takes their bread, of the
people whose liberty one confiscates, of society from whom one takes
its support, the laws; what! when these clamours are on one side and
one's own interest on the other, is it not permitted to contemn the
uproar, to let all these people "vociferate" unheeded, to trample on
all obstacles, and to go naturally where one sees one's fortune, one's
pleasures, and the fine palace in Faubourg Saint-Honoré? A pretty idea,
truly! What! one is to trouble one's self to remember that, some three
or four years ago, one cannot now say when or where, one day in
December, when it was very cold, and rained, and one felt it desirable
to leave a chamber in an inn for a better lodging, one pronounced, one
no longer knows in relation to what, in an indifferently lighted room,
before eight or nine hundred imbeciles who chose to believe what one
said, these eight letters, "I swear it!" What! when one is meditating
"a great act," one must needs waste one's time asking one's self what
will be the result of the course that he is taking! must worry because
one man may be eaten up by vermin in the casemates, or another rot in
the hulks, or another die at Cayenne; or because another was killed
with bayonets, or another crushed by paving-stones, or another idiot
enough to get himself shot; because these are ruined, and those exiled;
and because all these men whom one ruins, or shoots, or exiles, or
massacres, who rot in the hulks, or die in the hold, or in Africa, are,
forsooth, honest men who have done their duty! Is one to be stopped by
such stuff as that? What! one has necessities, one has no money, one is
a prince, chance places power in one's hands, one makes use of it, one
authorizes lotteries, one exhibits ingots of gold in the Passage
Jouffroy; everybody opens his pocket, one takes all one can out of it,
one shares what one gets with one's friends, with the devoted comrades
to whom one owes gratitude; and because there comes a moment when
public indiscretion meddles in the matter, when that infamous liberty
of the press seeks to fathom the mystery, and justice fancies that it
is its business, one must needs leave the Éysée, lay down the power,
and take one's seat, like an ass, between two gendarmes on the
prisoners' bench in the sixth chamber! Nonsense! Isn't it much more
simple to take one's seat on the throne of the emperor? Isn't it much
more simple to destroy the liberty of the press? Isn't it much more
simple to crush justice? Isn't it a much shorter way to trample the
judges under foot? Indeed, they ask nothing better! they are quite
ready! And this is not permitted! This is forbidden!
Yes, Monseigneur, this is forbidden!
Who opposes it? Who does not permit it? Who forbids it?
Monsieur Bonaparte, you are master, you have eight millions of votes
for your crimes, and twelve millions of francs for your pleasures; you
have a Senate, with M. Sibour in it; you have armies, cannon,
fortresses, Troplongs flat on their bellies, and Baroches on all fours;
you are a despot; you are all-potent; some one lost in the obscurity,
unknown, a mere passer-by, rises before you, and says to you: "Thou
shalt not do this."
This some one, this voice that speaks in the darkness, not seen but
heard, this passer-by, this unknown, this insolent intruder, is the
That is what the human conscience is.
It is some one, I repeat, whom one sees not, and who is stronger than
an army, more numerous than seven million five hundred thousand votes,
more lofty than a senate, more religious than an archbishop, more
learned in law than M. Troplong, more prompt to anticipate any sort of
justice than M. Baroche, and who thee-and-thous your majesty.
AN EXPLANATION FOR M. BONAPARTE'S BENEFIT
Let us go a little deeper into all these novelties.
Pray learn this also, M. Bonaparte: that which distinguishes man from
brute, is the notion of good and of evil--of that good and that evil of
which I was speaking to you just now.
There is the abyss.
The animal is a complete being. That which constitutes the grandeur of
man is the being incomplete; it is the feeling one's self to be many
degrees removed from completion; it is the perceiving something on that
side of one's self, something on this side. This something is mystery;
it is--to make use of those feeble human expressions which always come
one by one, and never express more than one side of things--the moral
world. This moral world man bathes in, as much as, more than, in the
material world. He lives in what he feels, more than in what he sees.
Creation may beset him, want may assail him, pleasure may tempt him,
the beast within him may torment him, but all in vain; a sort of
incessant aspiration toward another world impels him irresistibly
beyond creation, beyond want, beyond pleasure, beyond the beast. He
glimpses everywhere, at every moment, the upper world, and he fills his
soul with that vision, and regulates his actions by it. He does not
feel complete in this life on earth. He bears within him, so to speak,
a mysterious pattern of the anterior and ulterior world--the perfect
world--with which he is incessantly, and despite himself, comparing the
imperfect world, and himself, and his infirmities, and his appetites,
and his passions, and his actions. When he perceives that he is
approaching this ideal pattern, he is overjoyed; when he sees that he
is receding from it, he is sad. He understands thoroughly that there
is nothing useless or superfluous in this world, nothing which does
not proceed from something, and which does not lead to something. The
just, the unjust, good, evil, good works, evil deeds, fall into the
abyss, but are not lost there, passing on into the infinite, for the
benefit or the burden of those who have accomplished them. After death
they are collected, and the sum-total cast up. To disappear, to vanish,
to be annihilated, to cease to be, is no more possible for the moral
atom than for the material atom. Hence, in man, that great twofold
sense of his liberty and of his responsibility. It is given him to be
good or to be bad. It is an account that will have to be settled. He
may be guilty, and therein--a striking circumstance upon which I
dwell--consists his grandeur. There is nothing similar for the brute.
With the brute it is all instinct: to drink when thirsty, to eat when
hungry, to procreate in due season, to sleep when the sun sets, to wake
when it rises, or _vice versa_, if it be a beast of night. The brute
has only an obscure sort of _ego_, illumined by no moral light. Its
entire law, I repeat, is instinct: instinct, a sort of railway, along
which inevitable nature impels the brute. No liberty, therefore, no
responsibility, and consequently no future life. The brute does neither
evil nor good; it is wholly ignorant. Even the tiger is innocent.
If, perchance, you were innocent as the tiger!
At certain moments one is tempted to believe that, having no warning
voice within, any more than the tiger, you have no more sense of
Really, at times I pity you. Who knows? perhaps after all, you are only
a miserable blind force!
Louis Bonaparte, you have not the notion of good and evil. You are,
perhaps, the only man of all mankind who has not that notion. This
gives you a start over the human race. Yes, you are formidable. It is
that which constitutes your genius, it is said; I admit that, at all
events, it is that which at this moment constitutes your power.
But do you know what results from this sort of power? Possession, yes;
Crime essays to deceive history as to its true name; it says, "I am
success."--Thou art crime!
You are crowned and masked. Down with the mask! Down with the crown!
Ah! you are wasting your trouble, you are wasting your appeals to the
people, your plebiscites, your ballots, your footings, your executive
committees proclaiming the sum total, your red or green banners, with
these figures in gold paper,--7,500,000! You will derive no advantage
from this elaborate _mise-en-scène_. There are things about which
universal sentiment is not to be gulled. The human race, taken as a
whole, is an honest man.
Even by those about you you are judged. There is not one of your
domestics, whether in gold lace or in embroidered coat, valet of the
stable, or valet of the Senate, who does not say beneath his breath
that which I say aloud. What I proclaim, they whisper; that is the only
difference. You are omnipotent, they bend the knee, that is all. They
salute you, their brows burning with shame.
They feel that they are base, but they know that you are infamous.
Come, since you are by way of hunting those whom you call "the rebels
of December," since it is on them you are setting your hounds, since
you have instituted a Maupas, and created a ministry of police
specially for that purpose, I denounce to you that rebel, that
recusant, that insurgent, every man's conscience.
You give money, but 'tis the hand receives it, not the conscience.
Conscience! while you are about it, inscribe it on your lists of
exiles. It is an obstinate opponent, pertinacious, persistent,
inflexible, making a disturbance everywhere. Drive it out of France.
You will be at ease then.
Would you like to know what it calls you, even among your friends?
Would you like to know in what terms an honourable chevalier of
Saint-Louis, an octogenarian, a great antagonist of "demagogues," and a
partisan of yours, cast his vote for you on the 20th of December? "He
is a scoundrel," said he, "but a _necessary scoundrel_."
No! there are no necessary scoundrels. No! crime is never useful! No!
crime is never a good. Society saved by treason! Blasphemy! we must
leave it to the archbishops to say these things. Nothing good has evil
for its basis. The just God does not impose on mankind the necessity
for scoundrels. There is nothing necessary in this world but justice
and truth. Had that venerable man thought less of life and more of the
tomb, he would have seen this. Such a remark is surprising on the part
of one advanced in years, for there is a light from God which
enlightens souls approaching the tomb, and shows them the truth.
Never do crime and the right come together: on the day when they should
meet, the words of the human tongue would change their meaning, all
certainty would vanish, social darkness would supervene. When, by
chance, as has been sometimes seen in history, it happens that, for a
moment, crime has the force of law, the very foundations of humanity
tremble. "_Jusque datum sceleri!_" exclaims Lucan, and that line
traverses history, like a cry of horror.
Therefore, and by the admission of your voters, you are a scoundrel. I
omit the word necessary. Make the best of this situation.
"Well, be it so," you say. "But that is precisely the case in question:
one procures 'absolution' by universal suffrage."
Yes, impossible. I will put your finger on the impossibility.
You are a captain of artillery at Berne, Monsieur Louis Bonaparte; you
have necessarily a smattering of algebra and geometry. Here are certain
axioms of which you have, probably, some idea.
Two and two make four.
Between two given points, the straight line is the shortest way.
A part is less than the whole.
Now, cause seven million five hundred thousand voters to declare that
two and two make five, that the straight line is the longest way, that
the whole is less than a part; cause eight millions, ten millions, a
hundred millions of voters so to declare, and you will not have
advanced a single step.
Well--you will be surprised to hear it--there are axioms in probity, in
honesty, in justice, as there are axioms in geometry; and moral truth
is no more at the mercy of a vote than is algebraic truth.
The notion of good and evil is insoluble by universal suffrage. It is
not given to a ballot to make the false true, or injustice just. Human
conscience is not to be put to the vote.
Now, do you understand?
Look at that lamp, that little obscure light, unnoticed, forgotten in a
corner, lost in the darkness. Look at it, admire it. It is hardly
visible; it burns in solitude. Make seven million five hundred thousand
mouths breathe upon it at once, and you will not extinguish it. You
will not even cause the flame to flicker. Cause a hurricane to blow;
the flame will continue to ascend, straight and pure, towards Heaven.
That lamp is Conscience.
That flame is the flame which illumines, in the night of exile, the
paper on which I now write.
WHEREIN M. BONAPARTE HAS DECEIVED HIMSELF
Thus then, be your figures what they may, counterfeit or genuine, true
or false, extorted or not, it matters little; they who keep their eyes
steadfastly on justice say, and will continue to say, that crime is
crime, that perjury is perjury, that treachery is treachery, that
murder is murder, that blood is blood, that slime is slime, that a
scoundrel is a scoundrel, that the man who fancies he is copying
Napoleon _en petit_, is copying Lacenaire _en grand_; they say that,
and they will repeat it, despite your figures, seeing that seven
million five hundred thousand votes weigh as nothing against the
conscience of the honest man; seeing that ten millions, that a hundred
millions of votes, that even the whole of mankind, voting _en masse_,
would count as nothing against that atom, that molecule of God, the
soul of the just man; seeing that universal suffrage, which has full
sovereignty over political questions, has no jurisdiction over moral
I put aside for the moment, as I said just now, your process of
ballotting, with eyes bandaged, gag in mouth, cannon in the streets and
squares, sabres drawn, spies swarming, silence and terror leading the
voter to the ballot-box as a malefactor to the prison; I put these
aside; I assume (I repeat) genuine universal suffrage, free, pure,
real; universal suffrage controlling itself, as it ought to do;
newspapers in everybody's hands, men and facts questioned and sifted,
placards covering the walls, speech everywhere, enlightenment
everywhere! Very good! to universal suffrage of this sort submit peace
and war, the strength of the army, the public credit, the budget, the
public aid, the penalty of death, the irremovability of judges, the
indissolubility of marriages, divorce, the civil and political status
of women, free education, the constitution of the commune, the rights
of labour, the payment of the clergy, free trade, railways, the
currency, colonisation, the fiscal code,--all the problems, the
solution of which does not involve its own abdication--for universal
suffrage may do everything except abdicate; submit these things to it
and it will solve them, not without error, perhaps, but with the grand
total of certitude that appertains to human sovereignty; it will solve
them masterfully. Now, put to it the question whether John or Peter did
well or ill in stealing an apple from an orchard. At that, it halts; it
is at fault. Why? Is it because this question is on a lower plane? No:
it is because it is on a higher plane. All that constitutes the proper
organization of societies, whether you consider them as territory,
commune, state, as country, every political, financial, social matter,
depends on universal suffrage and obeys it; the smallest atom of the
smallest moral question defies it.
The ship is at the mercy of the ocean, the star is not.
It has been said of M. Leverrier and of yourself, Monsieur Bonaparte,
that you were the only two men who believed in your star. You do, in
fact, believe in your star; you look for it above your head. Well, that
star which you seek outside of yourself, other men have within
themselves. It shines beneath the vaulted roof of their brain, it
enlightens and guides them, it shows them the true outlines of life; it
exhibits to them, in the obscurity of human destiny, good and evil, the
just and the unjust, the real and the false, ignominy and honour,
honesty and knavery, virtue and crime. This star, without which the
human soul is but darkness, is moral truth.
Wanting this light, you have deceived yourself. Your ballot of the 20th
of December is, in the eyes of the thinker, merely a sort of monstrous
simplicity. You have applied what you call "universal suffrage" to a
question to which universal suffrage did not apply. You are not a
politician, you are a malefactor. The question what is to be done with
you is no concern of universal suffrage.
Yes, simplicity; I insist on the term. The bandit of the Abruzzi, his
hands scarcely laved of the blood which still remains under his nails,
goes to seek absolution from the priest; you have sought absolution
from the ballot, only you have forgotten to confess. And, in saying to
the ballot, "Absolve me," you put the muzzle of your pistol to its
Ah, wretched, desperate man! To "absolve you," as you call it, is
beyond the popular power, is beyond all human power.
Nero, who had invented the Society of the Tenth-of-December, and who,
like yourself, employed it in applauding his comedies, and even, like
you again, his tragedies,--Nero, after he had slashed his mother's
belly a hundred times with a dagger, might, like you, have appealed to
his universal suffrage, which had this further resemblance to yours,
that it was no more impeded by the license of the press; Nero, Pontiff
and Emperor, surrounded by judges and priests prostrate at his feet,
might have placed one of his bleeding hands on the still warm corpse of
the Empress, and raising the other towards Heaven, have called all
Olympus to witness that he had not shed that blood, and have adjured
his universal suffrage to declare in the face of gods and of men that
he, Nero, had not killed that woman; his universal suffrage, working
much as yours works, with the same intelligence, and the same liberty,
might have affirmed by 7,500,000 votes that the divine Cæsar Nero,
Pontiff and Emperor, had done no harm to that woman who lay dead;
understand, monsieur, that Nero would not have been "absolved;" it
would have sufficed for one voice, one single voice on earth, the
humblest and most obscure, to lie raised amid that profound night of
the Roman Empire, and to cry: "Nero is a parricide!" for the echo, the
eternal echo of the human conscience to repeat for ever, from people to
people, and from century to century: "Nero slew his mother!"
Well, that voice which protests in the darkness is mine. I exclaim
to-day, and, doubt not that the universal conscience of mankind repeats
with me: "Louis Bonaparte has assassinated France! Louis Bonaparte has
slain his mother!"
THE ABSOLUTION:--SECOND PHASE: THE OATH
FOR AN OATH, AN OATH AND A HALF
What is Louis Bonaparte? He is perjury personified; he is mental
reservation incarnate, felony in flesh and bone; he is a false oath
wearing a general's hat, and calling himself Monseigneur.
Well! what is it that he demands of France, this man-ambuscade? An
Indeed, after the 20th of December, 1848, and the 2nd of December,
1851, after the inviolate representatives of the people had been
arrested and hunted down; after the confiscation of the Republic, after
the _coup d'état_, one might have expected from this malefactor an
honest cynical laugh at the oath, and that this Sbrigani would say to
France: "Oh, yes! it is true! I did pledge my word of honour. It is
very funny. Let us say no more about such nonsense."
Not so: he requires an oath.
And so, mayors, gendarmes, judges, spies, prefects, generals,
_sergents-de-ville_, _gardes champêtres_, commissaries of police,
magistrates, office-holders, Senators, Councillors of State,
legislators, clerks, it is said, it is his will, this idea has passed
through his head, he will have it so, it is his good pleasure; lose no
time, start off, you to the registrar, you to a confessional, you under
the eye of your brigadier, you to the minister, you, Senators, to the
Tuileries, to the salon of the marshals, you, spies, to the prefecture
of police, you, first presidents and solicitors-general to M.
Bonaparte's ante-chamber; hasten in carriages, on foot, on horseback,
in gown, in scarf, in court dress, in uniform, gold-laced, bespangled,
embroidered, beplumed, with cap on head, ruff at the neck, sash around
the waist, and sword by the side; place yourselves, some before the
plaster bust, others before the man himself; very good, there you are,
all of you, none are missing; look him well in the face, reflect,
search your conscience, your loyalty, your decency, your religion; take
off your glove, raise your hand, and take oath to his perjury, swear
fealty to his treason.
Have you done it? Yes! Ah, what a precious farce!
So Louis Bonaparte takes the oath _au sérieux_. True, he believes in my
word, in yours, in ours, in theirs; he believes everybody's word but
his own. He demands that everybody about him shall swear, and he orders
them to be loyal. It pleases Messalina to be surrounded by virgins.
He requires all to be honourable; you must understand this,
Saint-Arnaud, and you, Maupas, must look upon it as final.
But let us sift things to the bottom; there are oaths and oaths. The
oath which freely, solemnly, before the face of God and man, having
received a note of confidence from 6,000,000 of citizens, one swears
before the National Assembly, to the constitution of his country, to
the law, to the people, and to France, that is nothing, it is not
binding, one can trifle with it, laugh at it, and some fine day trample
it under foot; but the oath that one swears before the cannon's mouth,
at the sword's point, under the eye of the police, in order to retain
the employment that gives one food, to preserve the rank which is one's
property; the oath which, to save one's daily bread and that of one's
children, one swears to a villain, a rebel, the violator of the laws,
the slaughterer of the Republic, a fugitive from every court, the man
who himself has broken his oath--oh! that oath is sacred! Let us not
The oath that we take on the 2nd of December, nephew of the 18th
Brumaire, is sacrosanct!
What I admire most is its ineptitude. To receive as so much ready money
and coin of good alloy, all those "I swear" of the official commons;
not even to think that every scruple has been overcome, and that there
cannot be in them all one single word of pure metal! He is both a
prince and a traitor! To set the example from the summit of the State,
and to imagine that it will not be followed! To sow lead, and expect to
reap gold! Not even to perceive that, in such a case, every conscience
will model itself on the conscience at the summit, and that the perjury
of the prince transmutes all oaths into counterfeit coin.
DIFFERENCE IN PRICE
And from whom, then, are oaths required? From that prefect? he has
betrayed the state. From that general? he has betrayed his colours.
From that magistrate? he has betrayed the law. From all these
office-holders? they have betrayed the Republic. A strange thing, and
calculated to make the philosopher reflect, is this heap of traitors
from which comes this heap of oaths!
Let us, then, dwell upon this charming feature of the 2nd of
M. Bonaparte Louis believes in men's oaths! he believes in the oaths
that one takes to him! When M. Rouher takes off his glove, and says, "I
swear;" when M. Suin takes off his glove, and says, "I swear;" when M.
Troplong places his hand upon his breast, on that spot where is placed
the third button of a senator, and the heart of other men, and says, "I
swear," M. Bonaparte feels tears in his eyes; deeply moved, he foots
up all these loyalties, and contemplates all these creatures with
profound emotion. He trusts! he believes! Oh, abyss of candour! Really,
the innocence of rogues sometimes elicits the wonder of honest men.
One thing, however, must astonish the kindly-disposed observer and vex
him a little; that is, the capricious and disproportionate manner in
which oaths are paid for, the inequality of the prices that M.
Bonaparte places on this commodity. For example, M. Vidocq, if he were
still chief of police, would receive six thousand francs per annum, M.
Baroche receives eighty thousand. It follows, then, that the oath of M.
Vidocq would bring him in but 16 francs 66 centimes per day, while
the oath of M. Baroche brings him in 222 francs 22 centimes. This is
evidently unjust; why such a difference? An oath is an oath; an oath
consists of a glove removed and six letters. How much more is there in
M. Baroche's oath than in M. Vidocq's?
You will tell me that it is owing to the difference of their functions;
that M. Baroche presides in the Council of State, and that M. Vidocq
would be merely the chief of police. My answer is, that it is but
chance; that probably M. Baroche might excel in directing the police,
and that M. Vidocq might very well be President of the Council of
State. This is no reason.
Are there then several sorts of oaths? Is it the same as with masses?
Are there, in this business also, masses at forty sous, and masses at
ten sous, which latter, as the priest said, are but "rubbish?" Does the
quality of the oath vary with the price? Are there in this commodity of
the oath, superfine, extra-fine, fine, and half-fine? Are some oaths
better than others? Are they more durable, less adulterated with tow
and cotton, better dyed? Are there new oaths, still unused, oaths worn
at the knees, patched oaths and ragged oaths? Is there any choice? Let
us know it. The thing is worth while. It is we who pay. Having made
these observations in the interest of those who are contributors, I
humbly beg pardon of M. Vidocq for having made use of his name. I admit
that I had no right to do so. Besides, M. Vidocq might possibly have
refused the oath!
OATHS OF SCIENTIFIC AND LITERARY MEN
Here is a priceless detail: M. Bonaparte was desirous that Arago should
take the oath. Understand,--astronomy must swear fealty. In a
well-regulated state, like France or China, everything is bureaucracy,
even science. The mandarin of the Institute depends upon the mandarin
of the police. The great parallactic telescope owes homage to M.
Bonaparte. An astronomer is a sort of constable of the heavens. The
observatory is like any sentry-box. It is necessary to keep an eye on
the good God up yonder, who seems sometimes not to submit absolutely
to the Constitution of the 14th of January. The heavens are full of
unpleasant allusions, and require to be kept in order. The discovery
of a new spot on the sun is evidently a case for the censorship. The
prediction of a high tide may be seditious. The announcement of an
eclipse of the moon may be treason. We are a bit moonstruck at the
Élysée. Free astronomy is almost as dangerous as a free press. Who can
tell what takes place in those nocturnal _tête-à-têtes_ between Arago
and Jupiter? If it were M. Leverrier, well and good!--but a member
of the Provincial Government! Beware, M. de Maupas! the Bureau of
Longitude must make oath not to conspire with the stars, and especially
with those mad artisans of celestial _coups d'états_ which are
Then, too, as we have already said, one is a fatalist when one is a
Bonaparte. Napoleon the Great had his star, Napoleon the Little ought
surely to have a nebula; the astronomers are certainly something of
astrologers. So take the oath, gentlemen. It goes without saying that
One of the virtues of the oath to Louis Bonaparte is that, according as
it is refused or taken, that oath gives you or takes from you merits,
aptitudes, talents. You are a professor of Greek or Latin; take the
oath, or you are deprived of your chair, and you no longer know Greek
or Latin. You are a professor of rhetoric; take the oath, or tremble;
the story of Theramenes and the dream of Athalie are interdicted; you
shall wander about them for the rest of your days, and never again be
permitted to enter. You are a professor of philosophy; take the oath to
M. Bonaparte,--if not, you become incapable of understanding the
mysteries of the human conscience, and of explaining them to young men.
You are a professor of medicine; take the oath,--if not, you no longer
know how to feel the pulse of a feverish patient. But if the good
professors depart, will there be any more good pupils? Particularly in
medicine, this is a serious matter. What is to become of the sick? The
sick? as if we cared about the sick! The important thing is that
medicine should take the oath to M. Bonaparte. For it comes to this:
either the seven million five hundred thousand votes have no sense, or
it is evident that it would be better to have your leg amputated by an
ass who has taken the oath, than by a refractory Dupuytren.
Ah! one would fain jest, but all this makes the heart sad. Are you a
young and generous spirit, like Deschanel; a sane and upright
intellect, like Despois; a serious and powerful mind, like Jacques; an
eminent writer, a popular historian, like Michelet--take the oath, or
die of hunger.
They refuse! The darkness and silence, in which they stoically seek
refuge, know the rest.
CURIOSITIES OF THE BUSINESS
All morality is denied by such an oath, the cup of shame drained to the
dregs, all decency outraged. There is no reason why one should not see
unheard-of things, and one sees them. In some towns, Evreux for
example, the judges who have taken the oath sit in judgment on the
judges who have refused it; dishonour seated on the bench places
honour at the bar; the sold conscience "reproves" the upright
conscience; the courtesan lashes the virgin.
 The President of the Tribunal of Commerce at Evreux refused
to take the oath. Let us listen to the _Moniteur_:
"M. Verney, late President of the Tribunal of Commerce at
Evreux, was cited to appear, on Thursday last, before the
correctional judges of Evreux, on account of facts that took
place on the 29th of April last, within the consular
"M. Verney is accused of inciting to hatred and treason
against the Government."
The judges of first instance discharged M. Verney, and "reproved"
him. Appeal _a minima_ by the "procureur of the Republic."
Sentence of the Court of Appeal of Rouen:--
"Whereas the prosecution has no other object than the
repression of the crime of inciting to hatred and scorn of
"Whereas that offence would result, according to the
prosecution, from the last paragraph of the letter of M.
Verney to the procureur of the Republic at Evreux, on the
26th of April last, which is thus worded:--
"'But it would be too serious a matter to barter any longer
what we conceive to be right. The magistracy itself will owe
us thanks for not exposing the ermine of the judge to succumb
under the formality which your dispatch announces.'
"Whereas, however blamable _the conduct of Verney has been in
this affair_, the Court cannot see in that portion of the
letter, the offence of inciting to hatred and contempt of the
Government, since the order by which force was to be employed
to prevent the judges from taking their seats who had refused
to take the oaths, did not emanate from the Government;
"Whereas there is no ground, therefore, for applying to him
the penal code;
"For these reasons,
"Confirms the judgment without costs."
The Court of Appeal at Rouen has for its first President, M.
Franck-Carré, formerly procureur-general to the Court of Peers in
the prosecution at Boulogne; the same who addressed to M. Louis
Bonaparte these words: "You have caused corruption to be employed
and money to be distributed to buy treason."
With this oath one journeys from surprise to surprise. Nicolet was but
a booby compared to M. Bonaparte. When M. Bonaparte had had the circuit
made of his valets, his accomplices, and his victims, and had pocketed
all their oaths, he turned good-naturedly to the valiant chiefs of the
African army, and "spoke to them nearly in these words:" "By the bye,
you are aware I caused you to be arrested at night, by my men, when you
were in your beds; my spies broke into your domiciles, sword in hand; I
have in fact decorated them for that feat of arms; I caused you to be
threatened with the gag if you uttered a cry; my agents took you by the
collar; I have had you placed in a felon's cell at Mazas, and in my own
dungeon at Ham; your hands still bear the marks of the cords with which
I bound you. Bonjour, messieurs, may God have you in his keeping; swear
fealty to me." Changarnier fixed his eyes upon him, and made answer:
"No, traitor!" Bedeau replied: "No, forger!" Lamoricière replied: "No,
perjurer!" Leflô answered: "No, bandit!" Charras struck him in the
At this moment M. Bonaparte's face is red, not from shame, but from the
There is one other variety of the oath. In the fortresses, in the
prisons, in the hulks, in the jails of Africa, there are thousands of
prisoners. Who are those prisoners? We have said,--republicans,
patriots, soldiers of the law, innocent men, martyrs. Their sufferings
have already been proclaimed by generous voices, and one has a glimpse
of the truth. In our special volume on the 2nd of December, it shall be
our task to tear asunder the veil. Do you wish to know what is taking
place?--Sometimes, when endurance is at an end and strength exhausted,
bending beneath the weight of misery, without shoes, without bread,
without clothing, without a shirt, consumed by fever, devoured by
vermin, poor artisans torn from their workshops, poor husbandmen
forcibly taken from the plough, weeping for a wife, a mother, children,
a family widowed or orphaned, also without bread and perhaps without
shelter, overdone, ill, dying, despairing,--some of these wretched
beings succumb, and consent to "ask for pardon!" Then a letter is
presented for their signature, all written and addressed: "To
Monseigneur le Prince-President." We give publicity to this letter, as
Sieur Quentin Bauchart avows it.
"I, the undersigned, declare upon my honour, that I accept _most
thankfully_ the pardon offered me by Prince Louis-Napoleon, and I
engage never to become a member of any secret society, to respect the
law, and be _faithful_ to the Government that the country has chosen
by the votes of the 20th and 21st of December, 1851."
Let not the meaning of this grave performance be misunderstood. This is
not clemency granted, it is clemency implored. This formula: "Ask us
for your pardon," means: "Grant us our pardon." The murderer, leaning
over his victim and with his knife raised, cries: "I have waylaid you,
seized you, hurled you to the earth, despoiled and robbed you, passed
my knife through your body, and now you are under my feet, your blood
is oozing from twenty wounds; _say you repent_, and I will not finish
you." This _repentance_ exacted by a criminal from an innocent man, is
nothing else than the outward form which his inward remorse assumes.
He fancies that he is thus safeguarded against his own criminality.
Whatever expedient he may adopt to deaden his feelings, although he may
be for ever ringing in his own ears the seven million five hundred
thousand little bells of his plebiscite, the man of the _coup d'état_
reflects at times; he catches vague glimpses of a tomorrow, and
struggles against the inevitable future. He must have legal purgation,
discharge, release from custody, quittance. He exacts it from the
vanquished, and at need puts them to the torture, to obtain it. Louis
Bonaparte knows that there exists, in the conscience of every prisoner,
of every exile, of every man proscribed, a tribunal, and that that
tribunal is beginning his prosecution; he trembles, the executioner
feels a secret dread of his victim; and, under pretext of a pardon
accorded by him to that victim, he forces his judges to sign his
Thus he hopes to deceive France, which, too, is a living conscience and
a watchful tribunal; and that when the hour for passing sentence shall
strike, seeing that he has been absolved by his victims, she will
pardon him. He deceives himself. Let him cut a hole in the wall on
another side, he will not escape through that one.
THE 5TH OF APRIL, 1852
On the 5th of April, 1852, this is what was witnessed at the Tuileries.
About eight in the evening, the ante-chamber was filled with men in
scarlet robes, grave and majestic, speaking with subdued voices,
holding in their hands black velvet caps, bedecked with gold lace; most
of them were white-haired. These were the presidents and councillors of
the Court of Cassation, the first presidents of the Courts of Appeal,
and the procureurs-general: all the superior magistracy of France.
These persons were kept waiting in the ante-chamber. An aide-de-camp
ushered them in and left them there. A quarter of an hour passed, half
an hour, an hour; they wandered up and down the room, conversing,
looking at their watches, awaiting the ringing of the bell. After more
than an hour of tedious waiting they perceived that they had not even
chairs to sit upon. One of them, M. Troplong, went to another room
where the footmen were, and complained. A chair was brought him. At
last a folding-door was thrown open; they rushed pell-mell into a
salon. There a man in a black coat was standing with his back against
the chimney-piece. What errand summoned these men in red robes to this
man in a black coat? They came to tender him their oaths. The man was
M. Bonaparte. He nodded, and, in return, they bowed to the ground, as
is meet. In front of M. Bonaparte, at a short distance, stood his
chancellor, M. Abbattucci, late a liberal deputy, now Minister of
Justice to the _coup d'état_. The ceremony began. M. Abbattucci
delivered a discourse, and M. Bonaparte made a speech. The Prince
drawled a few contemptuous words, looking at the carpet; he spoke of
his "legitimacy;" after which the magistrates took the oath. Each in
turn raised his hand. While they were swearing, M. Bonaparte, his back
half turned to them, laughed and chatted with his aides-de-camp, who
were grouped behind him. When it was over he quite turned his back upon
them, and they departed, shaking their heads, humbled and ashamed, not
for having done a base deed, but because they had had no chairs in the
As they were departing, the following dialogue was overheard:--"That,"
said one of them, "was an oath it was necessary to take." "And," said
another, "which it will be necessary to keep." "Yes," said a third,
"like the master of the house."
All this is pure servility. Let us proceed.
Among these first presidents who swore fidelity to Louis Bonaparte,
were a certain number of former peers of France, who, as such, had
passed upon Louis Bonaparte the sentence of perpetual imprisonment.
But why should we look back so far? Let us still proceed; here is
something even better. Among these magistrates, there were seven
individuals, by name, Hardouin, Moreau, Pataille, Cauchy, Delapalme,
Grandet, and Quesnault. Prior to the 2nd of December these seven men
composed the High Court of Justice; the first, Hardouin, was president,
the last two, deputy-presidents, the other four, judges. These men had
received and accepted from the Constitution of 1848 a mandate thus
"Article 68. Every measure by which the President of the Republic shall
dissolve the National Assembly, prorogue it or impede the performance
of its decrees, is high treason.
"The judges of the High Court shall thereupon immediately assemble,
under penalty of forfeiture; they shall convoke the jurors in such
place as they shall appoint, to proceed to the trial of the President
and his accomplices; they shall themselves appoint magistrates to
perform the functions of the national administration."
On the 2nd of December, in the face of the flagrant felony, they had
begun the trial, and appointed a procureur-general, M. Renouard, who
had accepted the office, to proceed against Louis Bonaparte on the
charge of high treason. Let us add the name of Renouard to the seven.
On the 5th of April, they were, all eight, present in the antechamber
of Louis Bonaparte; we have just seen what was their business there.
Here it is impossible not to pause.
There are certain melancholy thoughts upon which one must have the
strength to insist; there are sinks of ignominy we must have the
courage to sound.
Cast your eyes upon that man. He was born at hazard, by misfortune, in
a hovel, in a cellar, in a cave, no one knows where, no one knows of
whom. He came out of the dust to fall into the mire. He had only so
much father and mother as was necessary for his birth, after which all
shrank from him. He has crawled on as best he could. He grew up
bare-footed, bare-headed, in rags, with no idea why he was living. He
can neither read nor write, nor does he know that there are laws above
him; he scarcely knows there is a heaven. He has no home, no family, no
creed, no book. He is a blind soul. His intellect has never opened, for
intellect opens only to light as flowers open only to the day, and he
dwells in the dark. However, he must eat. Society has made him a brute
beast, hunger makes him a wild beast. He lies in wait for travellers on
the outskirts of a wood, and robs them of their purses. He is caught,
and sent to the galleys. So far, so good.
Now look at this other man; it is no longer the red cap, it is the red
robe. He believes in God, reads Nicole, is a Jansenist, devout, goes to
confession, takes the sacrament. He is well born, as they say, wants
nothing, nor has ever wanted anything; his parents have lavished
everything on his youth--trouble, instruction, advice, Greek and Latin,
masters in every science. He is a grave and scrupulous personage;
therefore he has been made a magistrate. Seeing this man pass his days
in meditating upon all the great texts, both sacred and profane; in the
study of the law, in the practice of religion, in the contemplation of
the just and unjust, society placed in his keeping all that it holds
most august, most venerable--the book of the law. It made him a judge,
and the punisher of treason. It said to him: "A day may come, an hour
may strike, when the chief by physical force shall trample under his
foot both the law and the rights of man; then you, man of justice, you
will arise, and smite with your rod the man of power."--For that
purpose, and in expectation of that perilous and supreme day, it
lavishes wealth upon him, and clothes him in purple and ermine. That
day arrives, that hour, unique, pitiless, and solemn, that supreme hour
of duty; the man in the red gown begins to stutter the words of the
law; suddenly he perceives that it is not the cause of justice that
prevails, but that treason carries the day. Whereupon he, the man who
has passed his life in imbuing himself with the pure and holy light of
the law, that man who is nothing unless he be the contemner of
unmerited success, that lettered, scrupulous, religious man, that judge
in whose keeping the law has been placed, and, in some sort, the
conscience of the state, turns towards triumphant perjury, and with the
same lips, the same voice in which, if this traitor had been
vanquished, he would have said:
"Criminal, I sentence you to the galleys," he says:
"Monseigneur, I swear fealty to you."
Now take a balance, place in one scale the judge, in the other the
felon, and tell me which side kicks the beam.
EVERYWHERE THE OATH
Such are the things we have beheld in France, on the occasion of the
oath to M. Bonaparte. Men have sworn here, there, everywhere; at Paris,
in the provinces, in the north, in the south, in the cast, and in the
west. There was in France, during a whole month, a tableau of hands
raised, of arms outstretched, and the final chorus was: "We swear,"
etc. The ministers placed their oaths in the hands of the President,
the prefects in those of ministers, and the mob in those of the
prefects. What does M. Bonaparte do with all these oaths? Is he making
a collection of them? Where does he put them? It has been remarked
that none but unpaid functionaries have refused the oath, the
councillors-general, for instance. The fact is, that the oath has been
taken to the budget. We heard on the 29th of March a senator exclaim,
in a loud voice, against the omission of his name, which was, so to
speak, vicarious modesty. M. Sibour, Archbishop of Paris swore; M.
Frank Carré, procureur-general to the Court of Peers in the affair of
Boulogne, swore; M. Dupin, President of the National Assembly on the
2nd of December, swore--O, my God! it is enough to make one wring
one's hands for shame. An oath, however, is a sacred obligation.
 As Senator.
 As First President of the Court of Appeal at Rouen.
 As a member of his Municipal Council.
The man who takes an oath ceases to be a man, he becomes an altar, upon
which God descends. Man, that infirmity, that shadow, that atom, that
grain of sand, that drop of water, that tear dropped from the eye of
destiny; man, so little, so weak, so uncertain, so ignorant, so
restless; man, who lives in trouble and in doubt, knowing little of
yesterday, and nothing of to-morrow, seeing just enough of his road to
place his foot before him, and then nothing but darkness; who trembles
if he looks forward, is sad if he looks back; man, enveloped in those
immensities and those obscurities, time, space, and being, and lost in
them; having an abyss within him, his soul; and an abyss without,
heaven; man, who at certain hours bows his head with a sacred horror,
under every force of nature, under the roar of the sea, under the
rustling of the trees, under the shadow of the mountain, under the
twinkling of the stars; man, who can not lift his head by day, without
being blinded by the light, nor by night, without being crushed by the
infinite; man, who knows nothing, who sees nothing, who hears nothing,
who may be swept away to-morrow, to-day, now, by the waves that pass,
by the breeze that blows, by the pebble that falls, by the hour that
strikes; on a certain day, man, that trembling, stumbling being, the
plaything of chance and of the passing moment, rises suddenly before
the riddle that is called human life, feels that there is within him
something greater than this abyss,--honour! something stronger than
fatality,--virtue! something more mysterious than the unknown,--faith!
and alone, feeble and naked, he says to all this formidable mystery
that envelopes him: "Do with me what you will, but I will do this, and
I will not do that;" and proud, tranquil, serene, creating by a word a
fixed point in the sombre instability that fills the horizon, as the
mariner casts his anchor in the sea, he casts his oath into the future.
O plighted oath! admirable confidence of the just man in himself!
Sublime permission given by God to man, to affirm! It is all over.
There are no more of them. Another of the soul's splendours that has
PROGRESS CONTAINED IN THE COUP D'ÉTAT
THE QUANTUM OF GOOD CONTAINED IN EVIL
Among us democrats, many well-meaning minds were stupefied by the event
of the 2nd of December. It disconcerted some, discouraged others, and
terrified many. I have seen some who cried: _Finis Poloniae_. As for
myself, since at certain times I am obliged to say, I, and to speak in
the face of history as a witness, I proclaim that I saw that event
without perturbation. I say more than this, that at times, in the face
of the 2nd of December, I declare myself satisfied.
When I can abstract myself from the present, when for a moment I can
turn my eyes away from all the crimes, from all the blood spilt, from
all the victims, from all the proscribed, from those hulks that echo
the death rattle, from those deadful penal settlements of Lambessa and
Cayenne, where death is swift, from that exile where death is slow,
from this vote, from this oath, from this vast stain of shame inflicted
upon France, which is growing wider and wider each day; when,
forgetting for a few moments these painful thoughts, the usual
obsession of my mind, I succeed in confining myself within the severe
calmness of the politician, and in considering, not the fact, but the
consequences of the fact; then, among many results, disastrous beyond
doubt, a considerable, real, enormous progress becomes manifest to me,
and, from that moment, while I am still of those whom the 2nd of
December exasperates, I am no longer of those whom it afflicts.
Fixing my eyes upon certain points in the future, I say to myself: "The
deed was infamous, but the result is good."
Attempts have been made to explain the inexplicable victory of the
_coup d'état_ in a hundred ways. A true balance has been struck
between all possible resistances, and they are neutralized one by the
other: the people were afraid of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie were
afraid of the people;--the faubourgs hesitated before the restoration
of the majority, fearing, wrongfully however, that their victory would
bring back to power that Right which is so thoroughly unpopular; the
shopocracy recoiled before the red republic; the people did not
understand; the middle classes shuffled; some said, "Whom shall we send
to the legislative palace?" others: "whom are we going to see at the
Hotel de Ville?" In fine, the rude repression of 1848, the insurrection
crushed by cannon-shot, the quarries, the casements, and the
transportations--a living and terrible recollection;--and then--Suppose
some one had succeeded in beating the call to arms! Suppose a single
legion had sallied forth! Suppose M. Sibour had been M. Affre, and had
thrown himself in the midst of the bullets of the pretorians! Suppose
the High Court had not suffered itself to be driven away by a corporal!
Suppose the judges had followed the example of the representatives, and
we had seen the scarlet gowns on the barricades, as we saw the scarfs!
Suppose a single arrest had miscarried! Suppose a single regiment had
hesitated! Suppose the massacre on the boulevards had not taken place,
or had turned out ill for Louis Bonaparte! etc., etc., etc. This is all
true, and yet what has been, was what was to be. Let us say again,
under the shadow of that monstrous victory vast and definitive progress
is taking place. The 2nd of December succeeded, because in more than
one point of view, I repeat, it was good that it should succeed. All
explanations are just, but all are vain. The invisible hand is mingled
in all this. Louis Bonaparte committed the crime; Providence brought
about the result.
In truth, it was essential that _order_ should come to the end of
its logic. It was essential that people should learn, and should learn
for all time, that, in the mouths of the men of the past, that word
_order_ signifies false oaths, perjury, pillage of the public cash-box,
civil war, courts-martial, confiscation, sequestration, deportation,
transportation, proscription, fusillades, police, censorship,
degradation of the army, disregard of the people, debasement of France,
a dumb Senate, the tribune overthrown, the press suppressed, a political
guillotine, murder of liberty, garroting of the right, violation of
laws, sovereignty of the sword, massacre, treason, ambuscades. The
spectacle that we have before our eyes is a profitable spectacle. What
we see in France since the 2nd of December is the debauch of order.
Yes, the hand of Providence is in it. Reflect, too, upon this: for
fifty years the Republic and the Empire have filled men's imaginations,
the one with its souvenirs of terror, the other with its souvenirs of
glory. Of the Republic men saw only 1793, that is to say, the terrible
revolutionary necessity,--the furnace; of the Empire they saw only
Austerlitz. Hence a prejudice against the Republic, and prestige for
the Empire. Now, what is the future of France to be? is it the Empire?
No, it is the Republic.
It became necessary to reverse that situation, to suppress the prestige
of that which cannot be restored, and to suppress the prejudice against
that which must be. Providence did it: it destroyed those two mirages.
February came and took away from the Republic its terror; Louis
Bonaparte came and deprived the Empire of its prestige. Henceforth,
1848, fraternity, is superimposed upon 1793, terror; Napoleon the
Little is superimposed upon Napoleon the Great. The two grand things,
one of which alarmed and the other dazzled, are receding. We perceive
'93 only through its justification, and Napoleon only through his
caricature; the foolish fear of the guillotine vanishes, the empty
imperial popularity disappears. Thanks to 1848, the Republic no longer
terrifies; thanks to Louis Bonaparte, the Empire no longer fascinates.
The future has become possible. These are the secrets of the Almighty!
But the word republic is not sufficient; it is the _thing_ republic
that is wanting; well, we shall have the thing with the word. Let us
develop this thought.
THE FOUR INSTITUTIONS THAT STAND OPPOSED TO THE REPUBLIC
Awaiting the marvellous but tardy simplifications which the union of
Europe and the democratic federation of the continent will some day
bring forth, what will be in France, the form of the social edifice, of
whose ill-defined and luminous outlines the thinking man already has a
glimpse, through the darkness of dictatorships?
That form is this:--
The sovereign commune, ruled by an elective mayor; universal suffrage
everywhere, subordinate to the national unity only in respect to acts
of general concern; so much for the administration. Syndics and upright
men arranging the private differences of associations and industries;
the jury, magistrate of the fact, enlightening the judge, magistrate of
the law; elective judges; so much for justice. The priest excluded from
everything except the church, living with his eye fixed on his book and
on Heaven, a stranger to the budget, unknown to the state, known only
to his flock, no longer possessing authority, but possessing liberty;
so much for religion. War confined to the defence of the territory. The
whole nation constituting a national guard, divided into three
districts, and able to rise as one man; so much for power. The law for
ever, the right for ever, the ballot for ever, the sword nowhere.
Now, what were the obstacles to this future, to this magnificent
realization of the democratic ideal?
There were four material obstacles, namely:--
The standing army.
The office-holding clergy.
The irremovable magistracy.
SLOW MOVEMENT OF NORMAL PROGRESS
What these four obstacles are, what they were even under the Republic
of February, even under the Constitution of 1848; the evil they
produced, the good they prevented, what sort of past they perpetuated,
what excellent social order they postponed, the publicist saw, the
philosopher knew, the nation did not know.
These four institutions, immense, ancient, solid, supported one upon
another, composite at their base and summit, growing like a hedge of
tall old trees, their roots under our feet, their branches over our
heads, smothered and crushed on all sides the scattered germs of the
new France. Where life and movement, association, local liberty,
communal initiative should have been, there was administrative
despotism; where there should have been the intelligent vigilance,
armed at need, of the patriot and the citizen, there was the passive
obedience of the soldier; where the quick Christian faith should have
gushed forth, there was the Catholic priest; where there should have
been justice, there was the judge. And the future was there, under the
feet of suffering generations, which could not rise and were waiting.
Was this known among the people? Was it suspected? Was it divined?
Far from it. In the eyes of the greater part, and of the middle classes
in particular, these four obstacles were four buttresses. Army,
magistracy, administration, clergy, these were the four virtues of
order, the four social powers, the four sacred pillars of the old
Attack that, if you dare!
I have no hesitation is saying, that in the state of blindness in which
are plunged the best minds, with the measured march of normal progress,
with our assemblies, of which I shall not be suspected to be the
detractor, but which, when they are both honest and timid, as is often
the case, are disposed to be led only by their average men, that is, by
mediocrity; with the committees of initiative, their delays and
ballottings, if the 2nd of December had not brought its overwhelming
demonstration, if Providence had not taken a hand, France would have
remained condemned for an indefinite term to its irremovable
magistracy, to administrative centralization, to the standing army, and
to the office-holding clergy.
Surely, the power of the tribune and of the press combined, these two
great forces of civilization,--it is not I who seek to deny or belittle
them; but see how many efforts of all kinds it would have required, in
every direction, and under every form, by the tribune and by the
newspaper, by the book and by the spoken word, to succeed even in
shaking the universal prejudice in favor of these four fatal
institutions! How many to succeed in overthrowing them! to exhibit the
evidence to the eyes of all, to overcome selfish, passionate or
unintelligent resistance, thoroughly to enlighten public opinion, the
consciences of the people, and the ruling powers, to cause this
fourfold reform to force its way first into ideas, then into the laws.
Reckon up the speeches, the writings, the newspaper articles, the
projects of laws, the counter-projects, the amendments, the amendments
to amendments, the reports, the counter-reports, the facts, the
incidents, the polemics, the discussions, the assertions, the denials,
the storms, the steps forward, the steps backward, the days, the weeks,
the months, the years, the quarter-century, the half-century!
WHAT AN ASSEMBLY WOULD HAVE DONE
I imagine, on the benches of an assembly, the most intrepid of
thinkers, a brilliant mind, one of those men who, when they ascend the
tribune, feel it beneath them like the tripod of the oracle, suddenly
grow in stature and become colossal, surpass by a head the massive
appearances that mask reality, and see clearly the future over the
high, frowning wall of the present. That man, that orator, that seer,
seeks to warn his country; that prophet seeks to enlighten statesmen;
he knows where the breakers are; he knows that society will crumble by
means of these four false supports: centralized government, standing
army, irremovable judges, salaried priesthood; he knows it, he desires
that all should know it, he ascends the tribune and says:--
"I denounce to you four great public perils. Your political system
bears that within it that will destroy it. It is incumbent upon you to
transform your government root and branch, the army, the clergy, and
the magistracy: to suppress here, retrench there, remodel everything,
or perish through these four institutions, which you consider as
lasting elements, but which are elements of dissolution."
Murmurs. He exclaims: "Do you know what your centralized administration
may become in the hands of a perjured executive power? A vast treason,
carried into effect at one blow over the whole of France, by every
office-holder without exception."
Murmurs break out anew with redoubled violence; cries of "order!" The
orator continues: "Do you know what your standing army may become at
any moment? An instrument of crime. Passive obedience is the bayonet
ever pointed at the heart of the law. Yes, here, in this France, which
is the initiatress of the world, in this land of the tribune and the
press, in this birthplace of human thought, yes, the time may come when
the sword will rule, when you, inviolable legislators, will be collared
by corporals, when our glorious regiments will transform themselves,
for the profit of one man and to the shame of the nation, into
gold-laced hordes and pretorian bands, when the sword of France will
become a thing that strikes from behind, like the dagger of a hired
assassin, when the life-blood of the first city in the world, done to
death, will splash the gold epaulettes of your generals!"
The murmur becomes an uproar, cries of "Order!" are heard from all
quarters. The orator is interrupted: "You have been insulting the
government, now you insult the army!" The President calls the orator to
The orator resumes:
"And if it should happen some day that a man, having in his hand the
five hundred thousand officeholders who constitute the government, and
the four hundred thousand soldiers composing the army, if it should
happen that this man should tear up the Constitution, should violate
every law, break every oath, trample upon every right, commit every
crime, do you know what your irremovable magistrates, instructors in
the right, and guardians of the law, would do? They would hold their
The uproar prevents the orator from completing his sentence. The tumult
becomes a tempest.--"This man respects nothing. After the government
and the army, he drags the magistracy in the mire! Censure! censure!"
The orator is censured and the censure entered in the journal. The
President declares that, if he continues, the Assembly will proceed to
a vote, and the floor will be taken from him.
The orator continues: "And your paid clergy! and your office-holding
bishops! On the day when a pretender shall have employed in such
enterprises the government, the magistracy, and the army; on the day
when all these institutions shall drip with the blood shed by and for
the traitor; when, placed between the man who has committed the crimes
and God who orders an anathema to be launched against the criminal--do
you know what these bishops of yours will do? They will prostrate
themselves, not before God, but before man!"
Can you form any idea of the frenzied shouts and imprecations that
would greet such words? Can you imagine the shouts, the apostrophes,
the threats, the whole Assembly rising _en masse_, the tribune
escaladed and with difficulty guarded by the ushers! The orator has
profaned every sanctified ark in succession, and he has ended by
profaning the Holy of Holies, the clergy! And what does he mean by it
all? What a medley of impossible and infamous hypotheses! Do you not
hear Baroche growl, and Dupin thunder? The orator would be called to
order, censured, fined, suspended from the Chamber for three days, like
Pierre Leroux and Émile de Girardin; who can tell, perhaps expelled,
And the next day, the indignant citizen would say: "That is well done!"
And from every quarter the journals devoted to order would shake their
fist at the CALUMNIATOR. And in his own party, on his usual bench in
the Assembly, his best friends would forsake him, and say: "It is his
own fault; he has gone too far; he has imagined chimeras and
And after this generous and heroic effort, it would be found that the
four institutions that have been attacked were more venerable and
impeccable than ever, and that the question, instead of advancing, had
WHAT PROVIDENCE HAS DONE
But Providence,--Providence goes about it differently. It places the
thing luminously before your eyes, and says, "Behold!"
A man arrives some fine morning,--and such a man! The first comer, the
last comer, without past, without future, without genius, without
renown, without prestige. Is he an adventurer? Is he a prince? This man
has his hands full of money, of bank-notes, of railroad shares, of
offices, of decorations, of sinecures; this man stoops down to the
office-holders, and says, "Office-holders, betray your trust!"
The office-holders betray their trust.
What, all? without one exception?
He turns to the generals, and says: "Generals, massacre."
And the generals massacre.
He turns towards the irremovable judges, and says: "Magistrates, I
shatter the Constitution, I commit perjury, I dissolve the sovereign
Assembly, I arrest the inviolate members, I plunder the public
treasury, I sequester, I confiscate, I banish those who displease me, I
transport people according to my fancy, I shoot down without summons to
surrender, I execute without trial, I commit all that men are agreed in
calling crime, I outrage all that men are agreed in calling right;
behold the laws--they are under my feet."
"We will pretend not to see any thing," say the magistrates.
"You are insolent," replies the providential man. "To turn your eyes
away is to insult me. I propose that you shall assist me. Judges, you
are going to congratulate me to-day, me who am force and crime; and
to-morrow, those who have resisted me, those who are honor, right, and
law, them you will try,--and you will condemn them."
These irremovable judges kiss his boot, and set about investigating
_l'affaire des troubles_.
They swear fidelity to him, to boot.
Then he perceives, in a corner, the clergy, endowed, gold-laced, with
cross and cope and mitre, and he says:--
"Ah, you are there, Archbishop! Come here. Just bless all this for me."
And the Archbishop chants his _Magnificat_.
WHAT THE MINISTERS, ARMY, MAGISTRACY, AND CLERGY HAVE DONE
Oh! what a striking thing and how instructive! "_Erudimini_," Bossuet
The Ministers fancied that they were dissolving the Assembly; they
dissolved the government.
The soldiers fired on the army and killed it.
The judges fancied that they were trying and convicting innocent
persons; they tried and convicted the irremovable magistracy.
The priests thought they were chanting hosannahs upon Louis Bonaparte;
they chanted a _De profundis_ upon the clergy.
THE FORM OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD
When God desires to destroy a thing, he entrusts its destruction to the
Every bad institution of this world ends by suicide.
When they have weighed sufficiently long upon men, Providence, like the
sultan to his viziers, sends them the bowstring by a mute, and they
Louis Bonaparte is the mute of Providence.
PETTINESS OF THE MASTER--ABJECTNESS OF THE SITUATION
Never fear, History has him in its grip.
If perchance it flatters the self-love of M. Bonaparte to be seized by
history, if perchance, and truly one would imagine so, he cherishes any
illusion as to his value as a political miscreant, let him divest
himself of it.
Let him not imagine, because he has piled up horror on horror, that he
will ever raise himself to the elevation of the great historical
bandits. We have been wrong, perhaps, in some pages of this book, here
and there, to couple him with those men. No, although he has committed
enormous crimes, he will remain paltry. He will never be other than the
nocturnal strangler of liberty; he will never be other than the man who
intoxicated his soldiers, not with glory, like the first Napoleon, but
with wine; he will never be other than the pygmy tyrant of a great
people. Grandeur, even in infamy, is utterly inconsistent with the
calibre of the man. As dictator, he is a buffoon; let him make himself
emperor, he will be grotesque. That will finish him. His destiny is to
make mankind shrug their shoulders. Will he be less severely punished
for that reason? Not at all. Contempt does not, in his case, mitigate
anger; he will be hideous, and he will remain ridiculous. That is all.
History laughs and crushes.
Even the most indignant chroniclers will not help him there. Great
thinkers take satisfaction in castigating the great despots, and, in
some instances, even exalt them somewhat, in order to make them worthy
of their rage; but what would you have the historian do with this
The historian can only lead him to posterity by the ear.
The man once stripped of success, the pedestal removed, the dust
fallen, the tinsel and spangles and the great sabre taken away, the
poor little skeleton laid bare and shivering,--can one imagine anything
meaner and more pitiful?
History has its tigers. The historians, immortal keepers of wild
beasts, exhibit this imperial menagerie to the nations. Tacitus alone,
that great showman, captured and confined eight or ten of these tigers
in the iron cage of his style. Look at them: they are terrifying and
superb; their spots are an element in their beauty. This is Nimrod, the
hunter of men; this, Busiris, the tyrant of Egypt; this, Phalaris, who
baked living men in a brazen bull, to make the bull roar; this,
Ahasuerus, who flayed the heads of the seven Maccabees, and had them
roasted alive; this, Nero, the burner of Rome, who smeared Christians
with wax and pitch, and then set them alight as torches; this,
Tiberius, the man of Capræa; this, Domitian; this, Caracalla; this,
Heliogabalus; that other is Commodus, who possesses an additional claim
to our respect in the horrible fact that he was the son of Marcus
Aurelius; these are Czars; these, Sultans; these, Popes, among whom
remark the tiger Borgia; here is Philip, called the Good, as the Furies
were called the Eumenides; here is Richard III, sinister and deformed;
here, with his broad face and his great paunch, Henry VIII, who, of
five wives that he had, killed three, one of whom he disemboweled; here
is Christiern II, the Nero of the North; here Philip II, the Demon of
the South. They are terrifying: hear them roar, consider them, one
after the other; the historian brings them to you; the historian drags
them, raging and terrible, to the side of the cage, opens their jaws
for you, shows you their teeth and their claws; you can say of every
one of them: "That is a royal tiger." In fact, they are taken from all
the thrones of the earth. History parades them through the ages. She
prevents them from dying; she takes care of them. They are her tigers.
She does not mingle jackals with them.
She puts and keeps apart the disgusting beasts. M. Bonaparte will be
with Claudius, with Ferdinand VII of Spain, with Ferdinand II of
Naples, in the hyena cage.
He is a bit of a brigand, and a great deal of a knave. One is always
conscious of the poor prince of industry, who lived from hand to mouth
in England; his present prosperity, his triumph, his empire, and his
inflation amount to nothing; the purple mantle trails over shoes down
at heel. Napoleon the Little, nothing more, nothing less. The title of
this book is well chosen.
The meanness of his vices prejudices the grandeur of his crimes. What
would you have? Peter the Cruel massacred, but he did not steal; Henry
III assassinated, but he did not swindle; Timour crushed children under
horses' hoofs, much as M. Bonaparte exterminated women and old men on
the boulevard, but he did not lie. Hear the Arabian historian:
"Timour-Beg, Sahib-Keran (master of the world and of the age, master of
the planetary conjunctions), was born at Kesch, in 1336; he slaughtered
a hundred thousand captives; as he was besieging Siwas, the
inhabitants, to mollify him, sent him a thousand little children,
bearing each a Koran on its head, and crying, 'Allah! Allah!' He caused
the sacred books to be removed with respect, and the children to be
crushed beneath the hoofs of wild horses. He used seventy thousand
human heads, with cement, stone, and brick, in building towers at
Herat, Sebzvar, Tekrit, Aleppo, and Bagdad; he detested lying; when he
had given his word, men could rely upon it."
M. Bonaparte is not of this stature. He has not that dignity which the
great despots of the East and of the West mingle with ferocity. The
amplitude of the Cæsars is wanting in him. To bear one's self worthily
and make a fair appearance among all the illustrious executioners who
have tortured mankind in the course of four thousand years, one must
not have any mental hesitation between a general of division and a
bass-drummer on the Champs-Elysées; one must not have been a constable
in London; one must not have undergone, with lowered eyes, in the Court
of Peers, the haughty scorn of M. Magnan; one must not have been called
"pickpocket" by the English newspapers; one must not have been menaced
with Clichy; in a word, there must have been nothing of the sneak in
Monsieur Louis Napoleon, you are ambitious, you aim high, but you must
have the truth told you. Well, what would you have us do in the matter?
In vain have you, by overturning the tribune of France, realized, after
your fashion, the wish of Caligula: "I would that mankind had but one
head, so that I might cut it off with a blow;" in vain have you
banished the republicans by thousands, as Philip III expelled the
Moors, and as Torquemada drove out the Jews; in vain have you dungeons
like Peter the Cruel, hulks like Hariadan, _dragonnades_ like Père
Letellier, and _oubliettes_ like Ezzelino III; in vain have you
perjured yourself like Ludovic Sforza; in vain have you massacred and
assassinated _en masse_ like Charles IX; in vain have you done all
this, in vain have you recalled all these names to men's minds when
they think of your name,--you are nothing but a rogue. A man is not a
monster for the wishing.
From every agglomeration of men, from every city, from every nation,
there inevitably arises a collective force.
Place this collective force at the service of liberty, let it rule by
universal suffrage, the city becomes a commune, the nation becomes a
This collective force is not, of its nature, intelligent. Belonging to
all, it belongs to no one; it floats about, so to speak, outside of the
Until the day comes when, according to the true social formula,--_as
little government as possible_,--this force may be reduced to a mere
street and road police, paving the streets, lighting the lamps, and
looking after malefactors; until that day comes, this collective force,
being at the mercy of many chances and many ambitions, needs to be
guarded and protected by jealous, clear-sighted, well-armed
It may be subjugated by tradition, it may be surprised by stratagem.
A man may rush upon it, seize it, bridle it, quell it, and cause it to
trample upon the citizens.
The tyrant is the man, who, born of tradition, like Nicholas of Russia,
or of stratagem, like Louis Bonaparte, seizes for his own profit, and
according to his caprice disposes of the collective force of a people.
This man, if he be by birth what Nicholas is, is the enemy of society;
if he have done what Louis Bonaparte has done, he is a public robber.
The former has no account to settle with regular legal justice, with
the articles of codes. He has behind him, spying upon and watching him,
hatred in their hearts, and vengeance in their hands, Orloff in his
palace, and Mouravieff among the people; he may be assassinated by one
of his army, or poisoned by one of his family; he runs the risk of
barrack conspiracies, of revolts of regiments, of secret military
societies, of domestic plots, of sudden, mysterious maladies, of
terrible blows, of great catastrophes. The other ought simply to go to
The former has the wherewithal to die in the purple, and to end his
life with pomp and royally, as monarchs end and tragedies. The other
must live; live between four walls behind bars, through which the
people can look at him, sweeping courtyards, making horse-hair brushes
or list shoes, emptying buckets, with a green cap on his head, wooden
shoes on his feet, and straw in his shoes.
Ah! ye leaders of the old parties, ye men of absolutism, in France you
voted _en masse_ among 7,500,000; outside of France you applauded,
taking this Cartouche for the hero of order. He is ferocious enough for
it, I admit; but look at his size. Don't be ungrateful to your real
colossi; you have cashiered your Haynaus and your Radetzkys too
precipitately. Above all, weigh this comparison, which so naturally
presents itself to the mind. What is this Mandrin of Lilliput beside
Nicholas, Czar, Emperor, and Pope, a power half-Bible, half-knout, who
damns and condemns, drills eight hundred thousand soldiers and two
hundred thousand priests, holds in his right hand the keys of paradise,
and in his left hand the keys of Siberia, and possesses, as his
chattel, sixty millions of men--their souls as if he were God, their
bodies as if he were the tomb!
If there should not be ere long a sudden, imposing, and overwhelming
catastrophe, if the present situation of the nation should be prolonged
and endure, the grand injury, the fearful injury, would be the moral
The boulevards of Paris, the streets of Paris, the rural districts and
the towns of twenty departments of France, were strewn on the 2nd of
December with dead and dying citizens; there were seen, before their
thresholds, fathers and mothers slaughtered, children sabred,
dishevelled women in pools of blood, disemboweled by grape-shot; there
were seen, in the houses, suppliants massacred, some shot in heaps in
their cellars, others despatched by the bayonet under their beds,
others struck down by a bullet on their own hearths. The impress of
bloodstained hands of all sizes may be seen at this moment, here on a
wall, there on a door, there in a recess; for three days after the
victory of Louis Bonaparte, Paris walked in ruddy mire; a cap full of
human brains was hung on a tree on Boulevard des Italiens. I, who write
these lines, saw, among other victims, on the night of the 4th, near
the Mauconseil barricade, an aged white-haired man, stretched on the
pavement, his bosom pierced with a bayonet, his collar-bone broken; the
gutter that ran beneath him bore away his blood. I saw, I touched with
my hands, I helped to undress, a poor child seven years old, killed,
they told me, on Rue Tiquetonne; he was pale, his head rolled from one
shoulder to the other while they were taking off his clothes; his
half-closed eyes were fixed and staring, and as I leaned over his
half-opened mouth, it seemed that I could still hear him murmur
Well, there is something more heart-rending than murdered child, more
lamentable than that old man shot dead, more horrible than that cap
full of human brains, more frightful than those pavements red with
carnage, more irreparable than those men and women, those fathers and
those mothers, stabbed and murdered,--it is the vanishing honour of a
Assuredly those pyramids of dead bodies which one saw in the
cemeteries, after the wagons from the Champ-de-Mars had emptied their
contents; those immense open trenches, which they filled in the morning
with human bodies, making speed because of the increasing light of
day,--all this was frightful; but what is still more frightful is to
think that, at this hour, the nations are in doubt; and that in their
eyes France, that great moral splendour, has disappeared!
That which is more heart-rending than skulls cleft by the sword, than
breasts riddled by bullets, more disastrous than houses pillaged, than
murder filling the streets, than blood shed in rivers, is to think that
now, among all the peoples of the earth, men are saying to one another:
"Do you know that that nation of nations, that people of the 14th of
July, that people of the 10th of August, that people of 1830, that
people of 1848, that race of giants which razed bastiles, that race of
men whose faces cast a bright light, that fatherland of the human race
which produced heroes and thinkers, those heroes who made all the
revolutions and gave birth to all births, that France whose name meant
liberty, that soul of the world, so to say, which shone resplendent in
Europe, that light.... Well! some one has stepped upon it, and put it
out. There is no longer a France. It is at an end. Look! everywhere
darkness. The world is feeling its way."
Ah! it was so grand. Where are those times, those glorious times,
interspersed with storms, but glorious, when all was life, when all was
liberty, when all was glory? those times when the French people, awake
before all others, and up before the light, their brows illumined by
the dawn of the future already risen for them, said to the other
nations, still drowsy and overborne, and scarcely able to shake their
chains in their sleep: "Fear naught, I work for all, I dig the earth
for all,--I am the workman of the Almighty!"
What profound grief! Regard that torpor where formerly there was such
power! that shame, where formerly there was such pride! that noble
people, whose heads were once held erect and are now lowered!
Alas! Louis Bonaparte has done more than kill persons, he has caused
men's minds to dwindle, he has withered the heart of the citizen. One
must belong to the race of the invincible and the indomitable, to
persevere now in the rugged path of renunciation and of duty. An
indescribable gangrene of material prosperity threatens to cause public
honesty to degenerate into rottenness. Oh! what happiness to be
banished, to be disgraced, to be ruined,--is it not, brave workmen? Is
it not, worthy peasants, driven from France, who have no roof to
shelter you, and no shoes to your feet? What happiness to eat black
bread, to lie on a mattress thrown on the ground, to be out at elbows,
to be away from all this, and to those who say to you: "You are
French!" to answer, "I am proscribed!"
What a pitiful thing is this delight of self-interest and cupidity,
wallowing in the slough of the 2nd of December! Faith! let us live, let
us go into business, let us speculate in zinc and railway shares, let
us make money; it is degrading but it is an excellent thing; a scruple
less, a louis more; let us sell our whole soul at that rate. One runs
to and fro, one rushes about, one cools his heels in anterooms, one
drinks deep of every kind of shame, and if one cannot get a concession
of railways in France or of lands in Africa, one asks for an office. A
host of intrepid devotions besiege the Elysée, and collect about the
man. Junot, beside the first Bonaparte, defied the splashing of shells,
these fellows beside the second, defy the splashing of mud. What care
they about sharing his ignominy, provided they share his fortune? The
competition is to see who shall carry on this traffic in himself most
cynically; and among these creatures there are young men with pure
limpid eyes, and all the appearance of generous youth; and there are
old men, who have but one fear, which is, that the office solicited may
not reach them in time, and that they may not succeed in dishonouring
themselves before they die. One would sell himself for a prefecture,
another for a collectorship, another for a consulate; one wants a
tobacco license, another an embassy. All want money, some more, some
less; for it is of the salary they think, not of the duties. Every one
has his hand out. All offer themselves. One of these days we shall have
to appoint an assayer of consciences at the Mint.
What! this is what we have come to! What! those very men who supported
the _coup d'état_, those very men who recoiled from the red
_croquemitaine_ and the twaddle about Jacquerie in 1852; those very
men to whom that crime seemed a good thing, because, according to them,
it rescued from peril their consols, their ledgers, their money-boxes,
their bill-books,--even they do not comprehend that material interest,
surviving alone, would, after all, be only a melancholy waif in an
immense moral shipwreck, and that it is a fearful and monstrous
situation, when men say: "All is saved, save honour!"
The words independence, enfranchisement, progress, popular pride,
national pride, French greatness, may no longer be pronounced in
France. Hush! these words make too much noise; let us walk on tiptoe,
and speak low; we are in a sick man's chamber.
Who is this man?--He is the chief, the master. Every one obeys
him.--Ah! every one respects him, then?--No, every one despises
him.--Oh! what a plight!
And military honour, where is it? Let us say no more, if you please, of
what the army did in December, but of what it is undergoing at this
moment, of that which is at its head, of that which is on its head. Do
you think of that? Does it think of that? O army of the republic! army
that had for captains, generals paid with four francs a day; army that
had for leaders, Carnot, austerity, Marceau, unselfishness, Hoche,
honour, Kléber, devotion, Joubert, probity, Desaix, valour, Bonaparte,
genius! O, French army, poor, unfortunate, heroic army, gone astray in
the train of these men! What will they do with it? whither will they
lead it? how will they occupy it? what parodies are we destined to see
and hear? Alas! what are these men who command our regiments, and who
govern us? The master--we know him. This fellow, who had been a
minister, was going to be "seized" on the 3rd of December; it was for
that reason he _made_ the 2nd. That other is the "borrower" of the
twenty-five millions from the Bank. That other is the man of the gold
ingots. To that other, before he was made minister, "a friend"
said:--"_I say! you are humbugging us about the shares in that affair;
that won't go down with me. If there's any swindling going on, let me
at least have a finger in it._" That other, who wears epaulettes, has
just been convicted of selling mortgaged property; that other, who also
wears epaulettes, received, on the morning of the 2nd of December,
100,000 francs, for "emergencies." He was only a colonel; if he had
been a general he would have had more. This man, who is a general, when
he was a body-guard of Louis XVIII, being on duty behind the king's
chair during mass, cut a gold tassel from the throne and put it in his
pocket; he was expelled from the guards for that. Surely, to these men,
also, we might rear a column, _ex aere capto_, with the money they
stole. This other, who is a general of division, "converted" 52,000
francs, to the knowledge of Colonel Caharras, in the construction of
the villages of Saint André and Saint Hippolyte, near Mascara. This
one, who is general-in-chief, was christened at Ghent, where he is
known, _le général Cinq-cents-francs_. This one, who is Minister of
War, has only General Rulhière's clemency to thank that he was not sent
before a court-martial. Such are the men. No matter; forward! beat,
drums, sound, trumpets, wave, flags! Soldiers, from the top of yon
pyramids the forty thieves look down upon you!
Let us go farther into this mournful subject, and survey it in all its
The mere spectacle of fortune like that of M. Bonaparte, placed at the
head of the state, would suffice to demoralize a people.
There is always, and it is the fault of our social institutions, that
ought, above all, to enlighten and civilize, there is always, in a
large population like that of France, a class which is ignorant, which
suffers, covets, and struggles, placed between the brutish instinct
which impels it to take, and the moral law which invites it to labour.
In the grievous and oppressed condition in which it still is, this
class, in order to maintain itself in probity and well-doing, requires
all the pure and holy light that emanates from the Gospel; it requires
that, on the one hand, the spirit of Jesus Christ, and, on the other,
the spirit of the French Revolution, should address to it the same
manly words, and should never cease to point out to it, as the only
lights worthy of the eyes of man, the exalted and mysterious laws of
human destiny,--self-denial, devotion, sacrifice, the labour which
leads to material well-being, the probity which leads to inward
well-being; even with this perennial instruction, at once divine and
human, this class, so worthy of sympathy and fraternity, often
succumbs. Suffering and temptation are stronger than virtue. Now do you
comprehend the infamous counsel which the success of M. Bonaparte gives
to this class?
A poor man, in rags, without money, without work, is there in the
shadow, at the corner of the street, seated on a stone; he is
meditating, and at the same time repelling, a bad action; now he
wavers, now he recovers himself; he is starving, and feels a desire to
rob; to rob he must make a false key, he must scale a wall; then, the
key made and the wall scaled, he will stand before the strong box; if
any one wakes, if any one resists, he must kill. His hair stands on
end, his eyes become haggard, his conscience, the voice of God, revolts
within him, and cries to him: "Stop! this is evil! these are crimes!"
At that moment the head of the state passes by; the man sees M.
Bonaparte in his uniform of a general, with the _cordon rouge_, and
with footmen in gold-laced liveries, dashing towards his palace in a
carriage drawn by four horses; the unhappy wretch, hesitating before
his crime, greedily gazes on this splendid vision; and the serenity of
M. Bonaparte, and his gold epaulettes, and his _cordon rouge_, and
the liveries, and the palace, and the four-horse carriage, say to him:
He attaches himself to this apparition, he follows it, he runs to the
Élysée; a gilded mob rushes in after the prince. All sorts of carriages
pass under that portal, and he has glimpses of happy, radiant men! This
one is an ambassador; the ambassador looks at him, and says: "Succeed."
This is a bishop; the bishop looks at him and says: "Succeed." This is
a judge; the judge looks at him, and smiles on him, and says:
Thus, to escape the gendarmes,--therein consists henceforth the whole
moral law. To rob, to pillage, to poignard, to assassinate, all this is
criminal only when one is fool enough to allow himself to be caught.
Every man who meditates a crime has a constitution to violate, an oath
to break, an obstacle to destroy. In a word, take your measures well.
Be adroit. Succeed. The only guilty actions are the _coups_ that fail.
You put your hand in the pocket of a passer-by, in the evening, at
nightfall, in a lonely place; he seizes you; you let go; he arrests
you, and takes you to the guard-house. You are guilty; to the galleys!
You do not let go: you have a knife about you, you bury it in the man's
throat; he falls; he is dead; now take his purse, and make off. Bravo!
capitally done! You have shut the victim's mouth, the only witness who
could speak. Nobody has anything to say to you.
If you had only robbed the man, you would have been in the wrong; kill
him, and you are right.
Succeed, that is the point.
Ah! this is indeed alarming!
On the day when the human conscience shall lose its bearings, on the
day when success shall carry the day before that forum, all will be at
an end. The last moral gleam will reascend to heaven. Darkness will be
in the mind of man. You will have nothing to do but to devour one
another, wild beasts that you are!
With moral degradation goes political degradation. M. Bonaparte treats
the people of France like a conquered country. He effaces the
republican inscriptions; he cut down the trees of liberty, and makes
firewood of them. There was on Place Bourgogne a statue of the
Republic; he puts the pickaxe to it; there was on our coinage a figure
of the Republic, crowned with ears of corn; M. Bonaparte replaces it by
the profile of M. Bonaparte. He has his bust crowned and harangued in
the market-places, just as the tyrant Gessler made the people salute
his cap. The rustics in the faubourgs were in the habit of singing in
chorus, in the evening, as they returned from work; they used to sing
the great republican songs, the Marseillaise, the Chant du Depart; they
were ordered to keep silent; the faubourgers will sing no more; there
is amnesty only for obscenities and drunken songs. The triumph is so
complete, that they no longer keep within bounds. Only yesterday they
kept in hiding, they did their shooting at night; it was shocking, but
there was still some shame; there was a remnant of respect for the
people; they seemed to think that it had still enough life in it to
revolt, if it saw such things. Now they show themselves, they fear
nothing, they guillotine in broad day. Whom do they guillotine? Whom?
the men of the law, and the law is there! Whom? the men of the people!
and the people is there! Nor is this all. There is a man in Europe, who
horrifies Europe: that man sacked Lombardy, he set up the gibbets of
Hungary; he had a woman whipped under the gibbet upon which hung her
husband and her son; we still remember the terrible letter in which
that woman recounts the deed, and says: "My heart has turned to stone."
Last year this man took it into his head to visit England as a tourist,
and, while in London, he took it into his head to visit a brewery, that
of Barclay and Perkins. There he was recognized; a voice whispered: "It
is Haynau!"--"It is Haynau!" repeated the workmen!--It was a fearful
cry; the crowd rushed upon the wretch, tore out his infamous white hair
by handfuls, spat in his face, and thrust him out. Well, this old
bandit in epaulettes, this Haynau, this man who still bears on his
cheek the immense buffet of the English people, it is announced that
"Monseigneur the Prince-President invites him to visit France." It is
quite right; London put an affront on him, Paris owes him an ovation.
It is a reparation. Be it so. We will be there to see. Haynau was
cursed and hooted at the brewery of Barclay and Perkins, he will
receive bouquets at the brewery of Saint-Antoine. The Faubourg
Saint-Antoine will receive an order to conduct itself properly. The
Faubourg Saint-Antoine, mute, motionless, impassive, will see them
pass, triumphant and conversing together, like two friends, through its
old revolutionary streets, one in French, the other in Austrian
uniform,--Louis Bonaparte, the murderer of the boulevard, arm-in-arm
with Haynau, the whipper of women! Go on, add insult to insult,
disfigure this France of ours, fallen flat on the pavement! make her
unrecognizable! crush the faces of the people with your heels!
Oh! inspire me, seek for me, give me, invent for me a means, whatever
it may be, short of a poignard, which I repudiate,--a Brutus for that
man! bah! he is not worthy of even a Louvel!--find me some means of
laying that man low, and of delivering my country! of laying that man
low, that man of craft, that man of lies, that man of success, that man
of evil! Some means, the first that offers,--pen, sword, paving-stone,
_émeute_,--by the people, by the soldier; yes, whatever it be, so it be
honourable, and in open day, I take it, we all take it, we proscribed,
if it can re-establish liberty, set free the republic, deliver our
country from shame, and drive back to his dust, to his oblivion, to
his cloaca, this imperial ruffian, this prince pick-pocket, this gypsy
king, this traitor, this master, this groom of Franconi's! this
radiant, imperturbable, self-satisfied governor, crowned with his
successful crime, who goes and comes, and peacefully parades trembling
Paris, and who has everything on his side,--the Bourse, the
shopkeepers, the magistracy, all influences, all guarantees, all
invocations, from the _Nom de Dieu_ of the soldier to the Te Deum of
Really, when one has fixed one's eyes too long on certain aspects of
this spectacle, even the strongest minds are attacked with vertigo.
But does he, at least, do himself justice, this Bonaparte? Has he a
glimmering, an idea, a suspicion, the slightest perception, of his
infamy? Really, one is driven to doubt it.
Yes, sometimes, from the lofty words he uses, when one hears him make
incredible appeals to posterity, to that posterity which will shudder
with horror and wrath at him; when one hears him speak coolly of his
"legitimacy," and his "mission," one is almost tempted to think that he
has come to take himself into high consideration, and that his head is
turned to such a degree that he no longer perceives what he is, nor
what he does. He believes in the adhesion of the poor, he believes in
the good-will of kings, he believes in the fête of eagles, he believes
in the harangues of the Council of State, he believes in the
benedictions of the bishops, he believes in the oath that he has forced
people to take, he believes in the 7,500,000 votes!
He is talking now, feeling in the humour of Augustus, of granting
amnesty to the proscribed. Usurpation granting amnesty to right!
treason to honour! cowardice to courage! crime to virtue! He is to that
degree embruted by his success that he thinks this all very simple.
Singular effect of intoxication! Optical illusion! In his eyes that
thing of the 14th of January appears all golden and glorious and
radiant, that constitution defiled with mud, stained with blood, laden
with chains, dragged amid the hooting of Europe by the police, the
Senate, the Corps Législatif and the Council of State, all newly shod.
He takes as a triumphal car, and would drive under the Arc de l'Étoile,
that sledge, standing on which, hideous, with whip in hand, he parades
the ensanguined corpse of the republic!
FAITH AND AFFLICTION
Providence brings to maturity men, things, and events, by the single
fact of universal life. To cause the disappearance of an old world it
is sufficient that civilization, ascending majestically towards its
solstice, should shine upon old institutions, upon old prejudices, upon
old laws, and upon old customs. This radiation burns and devours the
past. Civilization enlightens, this is the visible fact; and at the
same time it consumes, this is the mysterious fact. Under its
influence, gradually and without a shock, that which should decline
declines, and what should grow old grows old; wrinkles appear upon
things condemned, on castes, on codes, on institutions, and on
religions. This work of decrepitude is, in some sort, self-acting. A
fruitful decrepitude, under which germinates the new life. Little by
little the ruin progresses; deep crevices, which are not visible,
ramify in the darkness, and internally reduce to powder the venerable
structure, which still appears a solid mass without; and suddenly, some
fine day, this ancient _ensemble_ of worm-eaten things, of which
decaying societies are composed, becomes shapeless, the nails come out,
the structure becomes disjointed, and overhangs. Then it no longer has
any solidity. Let one of those giants peculiar to revolutions appear;
let him raise his hand, and all is said. There was a moment in history
when a nudge of Danton's elbow would have shaken all Europe to its
The year 1848 was such a moment. Ancient Europe, feudal, papal, and
monarchical, replastered so disastrously for France, in 1815, tottered.
But there was no Danton. The crash did not take place.
It has often been said, in the commonplace phraseology used on similar
occasions, that 1848 opened a gulf. Not at all. The corpse of the past
lay upon Europe; it lies there still at this moment. The year 1848
opened a grave wherein to throw that corpse. It is this grave that has
been taken for a gulf.
In 1848 all that still held to the past, all that still survived of the
body, had a close view of this grave. Not only the kings upon their
thrones, the cardinals under their hats, the judges in the shadow of
their guillotines, the captains on their war-horses, were thrown into
commotion; but he who had any interest whatever in what was about to
disappear; he who was cultivating for his own profit a social fiction,
and had an abuse to let out on hire; he who was guardian of some
falsehood, doorkeeper of some prejudice, or farmer of some
superstition; he who was taking advantage of another, or dealing in
usury, oppression and falsehood; he who sold by false weights, from
those who falsify a balance to those who falsify the Bible; from the
cheating merchant to the cheating priest; from those who manipulate
figures to those who traffic in miracles,--all, from the Jew banker who
feels that he is more or less Catholic, to the bishop who becomes more
or less of a Jew,--all the men of the past inclined their heads towards
one another and trembled.
This grave, which was gaping, and into which had nearly fallen all the
fictions--their treasure--which have weighed upon men for so many ages,
they resolved to fill up. They determined to wall it up, to pile rocks
and stones upon it, and to erect upon the pile a gibbet, and to hang
upon this gibbet, all bleeding and dejected, that mighty culprit,
They determined, once for all, to make an end of the spirit of freedom
and emancipation, and to drive back and repress for ever the upward
tendency of mankind.
The enterprise was formidable. What the nature of it was we have
already indicated, more than once, in this book and elsewhere.
To undo the labour of twenty generations; to kill in the nineteenth
century, by strangulation, three centuries, the sixteenth, the
seventeenth, and the eighteenth, that is to say, Luther, Descartes, and
Voltaire, religious scrutiny, philosophical scrutiny, universal
scrutiny; to crush throughout all Europe this immense vegetation of
free thought, here a tender blade, there a sturdy oak; to marry the
knout and the holy-water-sprinkler; to put more of Spain in the South,
and more of Russia in the North; to resuscitate all they could of the
Inquisition, and to stifle all they could of intelligence; to stultify
youth, in other words to brutalize the future; to make the world a
witness of the _auto-da-fé_ of ideas; to throw down the tribune, to
suppress the newspaper, the placard, the book, the spoken word, the
cry, the whisper, the breath; to make silence; to pursue thought into
the case of the printer, into the composing-stick, into the leaden
type, into the stereotype, into the lithograph, into the drawing, upon
the stage, into the street-show, into the mouth of the actor, into the
copy-book of the schoolmaster, into the hawker's pack; to hold out to
each man, for faith, for law, for aim in life, and for God, his selfish
interest; to say to nations: "Eat and think no more;" to take man from
the brain, and put him in the belly; to extinguish individual initiative,
local life, national impulse, all those deep-rooted instincts which
impel man to that which is right; to annihilate that _ego_ of nations
which is called the fatherland; to destroy nationality among
partitioned and dismembered peoples, constitutions in constitutional
states, the republic in France, and liberty everywhere; to plant the
foot everywhere upon human effort.
In one word, to close that abyss which is called Progress.
Such was the plan, vast, enormous, European, which no one conceived,
for not one of those men of the old world had had genius for it, but
which all followed. As for the plan in itself, as for that
all-embracing idea of universal repression, whence came it? who could
tell? It was seen in the air. It appeared in the past. It enlightened
certain souls, it pointed to certain routes. It was a gleam issuing
from the tomb of Machiavelii.
At certain moments of human history, from the things which are plotted
and the things which are done, it would seem that all the old demons of
humanity, Louis XI, Philip II, Catherine de Medicis, the Duke of Alva,
Torquemada, are somewhere or other in a corner, seated around a table,
and taking counsel together.
We look, we search, and instead of the colossi, we find abortions.
Where we expected to see the Duke of Alva, we find Schwartzenberg;
where we expected to see Torquemada we find Veuillot. The old European
despotism continues its march, with these little men, and goes on and
on; it resembles the Czar Peter when travelling:--"_We relay with
what we can find," he wrote; "_when we had no more Tartar horses, we
took donkeys." To attain this object, the repression of everything and
everybody, it was necessary to pursue an obscure, tortuous, rugged,
difficult path; they pursued it. Some of those who entered it, knew
what they were doing.
Parties are kept alive by watchwords; those men, those ringleaders,
whom 1848 frightened and assembled, had, as we have said above, adopted
theirs: religion, family, property. With that commonplace adroitness
which suffices when one speaks to fear, they exploited certain obscure
aspects of what was called socialism. It was a question of "saving
religion, property, and the family."--"Save the flag!" they exclaimed.
The vulgar herd of terrified selfish interests threw themselves into
They coalesced, they made a stand, they formed in mass. They had a
crowd around them. This crowd was composed of diverse elements. The
landed proprietor entered it because his rents had fallen; the peasant,
because he had paid the forty-five centimes; he who did not believe in
God thought it necessary to save religion, because he had been forced
to sell his horses. They extracted from this crowd the force it
contained, and made use of it. They made everything contribute to
repression: the law, despotism, the assemblies, the tribune, the jury,
the magistracy, the police; in Lombardy the sabre, at Naples the
convict prison, in Hungary the gibbet. To remuzzle men's intellects, to
replace the fetters on men's minds, these runaway slaves, to prevent
the past from disappearing, to prevent the future from being born, to
remain kings, powerful, privileged and happy, all means were good, all
just, all legitimate. For the exigencies of the struggle, they
manufactured and spread throughout the world a sort of ambuscade-morality
against liberty, which Ferdinand put in action at Palermo, Antonelli at
Rome, Schwartzenberg at Milan and at Pesth, and later, at Paris, those
wolves of state, the men of December.
There was a nation among the nations, which was a sort of elder brother
in this family of the oppressed, a prophet in the human tribe. This
nation took the initiative of the whole human movement. It went on,
saying, "Come!" and the rest followed. As a complement to the
fraternity of men, in the Gospel, it taught the fraternity of nations.
It spoke by the voice of its writers, of its poets, of its
philosophers, of its orators, as by a single mouth, and its words flew
to the extremities of the earth, to rest, like tongues of fire, upon
the brow of all nations. It presided over the communion of intellects.
It multiplied the bread of life to those who were wandering in the
desert. One day it was enveloped in a tempest; it marched over the
abyss, and said to the frightened nations: "Why are you afraid?" The
wave of the revolutions it had excited subsided under its footsteps,
and, far from engulfing it, increased its glory. The suffering, infirm,
and diseased nations pressed around it; one was limping, for the chain
of the Inquisition, riveted to its foot for three centuries, had lamed
it; to this one it said, "Walk!" and it walked. Another was blind, the
old Roman papistry had filled its eyes with mist and darkness; to this
one it said, "Receive thy sight!" it opened its eyes and saw. "Throw
away your crutches, that is to say, your prejudices," it said; "throw
away your bandages, that is to say, your superstitions; stand upright,
raise your head, look at the sky, look at God. The future is yours. O
nations! you have a leprosy, ignorance; you have a plague, fanaticism;
there is not one of you but is afflicted with that frightful malady
called a despot; go, march, break the bonds of evil; I deliver you, I
cure you!" Throughout the earth a grateful clamour arose among the
nations which these words made sound and strong. One day it accosted
dead Poland; it raised its finger, and exclaimed, "Arise!" and dead
This nation, the men of the past, whose fall it announced, dreaded and
hated. By dint of stratagem, of tortuous patience, and of audacity,
they ended by seizing it, and succeeded in throttling it.
For three years and more, the world has witnessed a tremendous agony
and a frightful spectacle. For three years and more, the men of the
past, the scribes, the Pharisees, the publicans, the princes of the
priests, have crucified, in presence of the human race, the Christ of
nations, the French people. Some furnished the cross, others the nails,
others the hammer. Falloux placed upon its forehead the crown of
thorns. Montalembert placed upon its mouth the sponge, dipped in gall
and vinegar. Louis Bonaparte is the miserable soldier who struck his
lance into its side, and caused it to utter the supreme cry: _Eli!
Eli! Lama Sabachthani_!
Now it is all over. The French nation is dead. The great tomb is about
For three days!
Let us have faith.
No, let us not be cast down. To despair is to desert.
Let us look to the future.
The future,--no one knows what tempests still separate us from port,
but the port, the distant and radiant port, is in sight; the future, we
repeat, is the republic for all men; let us add, the future is peace
with all men.
Let us not fall into the vulgar error, which is to curse and to
dishonour the age in which we live. Erasmus called the sixteenth
century "the excrement of the ages," _fex temporum_. Bossuet thus
qualified the seventeenth century: "A wicked and paltry age." Rousseau
branded the eighteenth century, in these terms: "This great rottenness
amidst which we live." Posterity has proved these illustrious men in
the wrong. It has said to Erasmus: "The sixteenth century was great;"
it has said to Bossuet: "The seventeenth century was great;" it has
said to Rousseau: "The eighteenth century was great."
Even had the infamy of those ages been actual, those great men would
have been wrong to complain. The man who thinks should accept simply
and calmly the surroundings in which Providence has placed him. The
splendour of human intelligence, the loftiness of genius, shine no less
by contrast than by harmony with the age. The stoic and profound
philosopher is not diminished by an external debasement. Virgil,
Petrarch, Racine are great in their purple; Job is still greater on his
But we can say, we men of the nineteenth century, that the nineteenth
century is not the dunghill. However deep the shame of the present,
whatever blows we receive from the fluctuation of events, whatever the
apparent desertion or the momentary lethargy of mental vigour, none of
us, democrats, will repudiate the magnificent epoch in which we live,
the virile age of mankind.
Let us proclaim it aloud, let us proclaim it in our fall and in our
defeat, this is the greatest of all ages! and do you know the reason
why? because it is the mildest. This age, the immediate issue, the
firstborn offspring, of the French Revolution, frees the slave in
America, raises from his degradation the _pariah_ in Asia, abolishes
the suttee in India, and extinguishes in Europe the last brands of the
stake, civilizes Turkey, carries the Gospel into the domain of the
Koran, dignifies woman, subordinates the right of the strongest to that
of the most just, suppresses pirates, mitigates sentences, makes the
galleys healthy, throws the red-hot iron into the sewer, condemns the
penalty of death, removes the ball and chain from the leg of the
convict, abolishes torture, degrades and brands war, stifles Dukes of
Alva and Charles the Ninths, and extracts the claws of tyrants.
This age proclaims the sovereignty of the citizen, and the
inviolability of life; it crowns the people, and consecrates man.
In art, it possesses all varieties of genius,--writers, orators, poets,
historians, publicists, philosophers, painters, sculptors, musicians;
majesty, grace, power, force, splendour, colour, form, style; it renews
its strength in the real and in the ideal, and bears in its hand the
two thunderbolts, the true and the beautiful. In science it
accomplishes unheard-of miracles; it makes of cotton saltpetre, of
steam a horse, of the voltaic battery a workman, of the electric fluid
a messenger, of the sun a painter; it waters itself with subterranean
streams, pending the time when it shall warm itself with the central
fire; it opens upon the two infinites those two windows, the telescope
upon the infinitely great, the microscope upon the infinitely little,
and it finds stars in the first abyss, and insects in the second, which
prove to it the existence of God. It annihilates time, it annihilates
space, it annihilates suffering; it writes a letter from Paris to
London, and has an answer in ten minutes; it cuts off a man's leg, the
man sings and smiles.
It has now only to realize--and it has nearly done it--a progress which
is nothing compared to the miracles it has already wrought; it has only
to find the means of directing through a mass of air a bubble of
lighter air; it has already obtained the bubble of air, and keeps it
imprisoned; it has now only to find the impulsive force, only to cause
a vacuum before the balloon, for instance, only to burn the air before
the aerostat, as the rocket does before itself; it has only to solve
this problem in some way or other; and it will solve it, and do you
know what will happen then? At that instant frontiers will vanish, all
barriers will be swept away; everything that constitutes a Chinese wall
round thought, round commerce, round industry, round nationalities,
round progress, will crumble; in spite of censorships, in spite of
_index expurgatorius_, it will rain books and journals upon every
country under the sun; Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, will fall like hail
upon Rome, Naples, Vienna, St. Petersburg; the human word is manna, and
the serf will gather it in the furrows; fanaticism will die, oppression
will be impossible; man dragged himself along the ground,--he will
escape; civilization changes itself into a flock of birds, and flies
away, and whirls about and alights joyously at the same moment upon
every point of the globe. Lo! yonder it passes; aim your cannons, old
despotisms, it disdains you; you are only the bullet, it is the
lightning; no more hatreds, no more mutually devouring interests, no
more wars; a sort of new life, composed of concord and light, pervades
and soothes the world; the fraternity of nations soars through space,
and holds communion in the eternal azure; men mingle in the skies.
While we await this final progress, let us consider the point to which
this age had brought civilization.
Formerly there was a world in which people walked slowly, with bent
back, and eyes cast down; in which the Comte de Gouvon was served at
table by Jean-Jacques; in which the Chevalier de Rohan belaboured
Voltaire with a stick; in which Daniel Defoe was placed in the pillory;
in which a city like Dijon was separated from a city like Paris by the
necessity of making one's will, by robbers at every corner, and ten
days by stage; in which a book was a sort of infamy and filth which the
hangman burned upon the steps of the Palais de Justice; in which
superstition and ferocity shook hands; in which the Pope said to the
Emperor: "_Jungamus dexteras, gladium gladio copulemus_;" in which
one met at every step crosses hung with amulets, and gibbets hung with
men; in which there were heretics, Jews, and lepers; in which houses
had battlements and loop-holes; in which streets were closed with a
chain, rivers with a chain, and even camps with a chain (as at the
battle of Tolosa), cities with walls, kingdoms with prohibitions and
penalties; in which, with the exception of force and authority, which
stuck tightly together, everything was penned up, distributed, divided,
cut into fragments, hated and hating, scattered and dead; men were as
dust, power a solid block. But now we have a world in which everything
is alive, united, combined, coupled, mingled together; a world in which
thought, commerce, and industry reign; in which politics, more and more
firmly fixed, tends to an intimate union with science; a world in which
the last scaffolds and the last cannon are hastening to cut off their
last heads and to vomit forth their last shells; a world in which light
increases every instant; a world in which distance has disappeared, in
which Constantinople is nearer to Paris than Lyons was a hundred years
ago, in which Europe and America pulsate with the same heart-throb; a
world all circulation and all love, of which France is the brain, the
railroads the arteries, and the electric wires the fibres. Do you not
see that simply to set forth such a state of affairs is to explain, to
demonstrate, and to solve everything? Do you not feel that the old
world had an aged soul, tyranny, and that into the new world is about
to descend, necessarily, irresistibly, and divinely, a youthful soul,
This was the work that the nineteenth century had done among men, and
was continuing in glorious, fashion to do,--that century of sterility,
that century of domination, that century of decadence, that century of
degradation, as it is called by the pedants, the rhetoricians, the
imbeciles, and all that filthy brood of bigots, of knaves, and of
sharpers, who sanctimoniously slaver gall upon glory, who assert that
Pascal was a madman, Voltaire a coxcomb, and Rousseau a brute, and
whose triumph it would be to put a fool's-cap upon the human race.
You speak of the Lower Empire; are you serious? Had the Lower Empire
behind it John Huss, Luther, Cervantes, Shakespere, Pascal, Molière,
Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Mirabeau? Had the Lower Empire
behind it the taking of the Bastile, the Federation, Danton,
Robespierre, the Convention? Did the Lower Empire possess America? Had
the Lower Empire universal suffrage? Had the Lower Empire those two
ideas, country and humanity: country which enlarges the heart, humanity
which expands the horizon? Do you know that, under the Lower Empire,
Constantinople fell in ruins, and finally had only thirty thousand
inhabitants? Has Paris fallen so low? Because you have witnessed the
success of a pretorian _coup de main_, you liken yourselves to the
Lower Empire! 'Tis quickly said, and meanly thought. But reflect, if
you can. Had the Lower Empire the compass, the electric battery, the
printing press, the newspaper, the locomotive, the electric telegraph?
So many wings to bear man aloft, which the Lower Empire did not
possess! The nineteenth century soars, where the Lower Empire crawled.
Are you aware of this? What! Shall we see once more the Empress Zoé,
Roman Argyrio, Nicephorus Logothetes, Michael Calafates? Nonsense! Do
you imagine that Providence repeats itself so tamely? Do you believe
that God keeps repeating himself?
Let us have faith! Let us speak with decision! Self-irony is the
beginning of baseness. It is by speaking with decision that we become
good, that we become great. Yes, the enfranchisement of intellects, and
the consequent enfranchisement of nations, this was the sublime task
that the nineteenth century was performing in conjunction with France;
for the twofold providential work of the time and of men, of maturation
and of action, was blended in the common labour, and the great epoch
had for its true home the great nation.
O my country! it is at this moment, when I see you bleeding, inanimate,
your head hanging, your eyes closed, your mouth open, and no words
issuing therefrom, the marks of the whip upon your shoulders, the nails
of the executioner's shoes imprinted upon your body, naked and ashamed,
and like a thing deprived of life, an object of hatred, of derision,
alas! it is at this moment, my country, that the heart of the exile
overflows with love and respect for you!
You lie there motionless. The minions of despotism and oppression
laugh, and enjoy the haughty illusion that you are no longer to be
feared. Fleeting joy! The peoples that are in the dark forget the past;
they see only the present, and despise you. Forgive them, they know not
what they do. Despise you! Great Heaven! despise France? And who are
they? What language do they speak? What books have they in their hands?
What names do they know by heart? What is the placard pasted on the
walls of their theatres? What forms do their arts assume, their laws,
their manners, their clothing, their pleasures, their fashions? What is
the great date for them, as for us? '89! If they take France from out
their hearts, what remains to them? O my people! Though it be fallen
and fallen for ever, is Greece despised? Is Italy despised? Is France
despised? Look at those breasts, they are your nurse; look at that
womb, it is your mother.
If she sleeps, if she is in a lethargy, silence, and off with your hat.
If she is dead, to your knees!
The exiles are scattered; destiny has blasts which disperse men like a
handful of ashes. Some are in Belgium, in Piedmont, in Switzerland,
where they do not enjoy liberty; others are in London, where they have
no roof to shelter them. One, a peasant, has been torn from his native
field; another, a soldier, has only a fragment of his sword, which was
broken in his hand; another, an artisan, is ignorant of the language of
the country, he is without clothes and without shoes, he knows not if
he shall eat food to-morrow; another has left behind him a wife and
children, a dearly loved group, the object of his labour, and the joy
of his life; another has an old mother with grey hairs, who weeps for
him; another an old father, who will die without seeing him again;
another is a lover,--he has left behind him some adored being, who will
forget him; they raise their heads and they hold out their hands to one
another; they smile; there is no nation that does not stand aside with
respect as they pass, and contemplate with profound emotion, as one of
the noblest spectacles which destiny can offer to men, all those serene
consciences, all those broken hearts.
They suffer and are silent; in them the citizen has sacrificed the man;
they look with firmness on adversity, they do not cry out even under
the pitiless rod of misfortune: _Civis Romanus sum!_ But at eve, when
one dreams,--when everything in the strange city of the stranger is
involved in melancholy, for what seems cold by day becomes funereal in
twilight,--but at night, when sleep does not close one's eyes, hearts
the most stoical open to mourning and dejection. Where are the little
ones? who will give them bread? who will give them their father's kiss?
where is the wife? where is the mother? where is the brother? where are
they all? And the songs which at eventide they used to hear, in their
native tongue, where are they? where is the wood, the tree, the forest
path, the roof filled with nests, the church tower surrounded by tombs?
Where is the street, the faubourg, the lamp burning bright before the
door, the friends, the workshop, the trade, the customary toil? And the
furniture put up for sale, the auction invading the domestic sanctuary!
Oh! these eternal adieux! Destroyed, dead, thrown to the four winds,
that moral existence which is called the family hearth, and which is
composed not only of loving converse, of caresses and embraces, but of
hours, of habits, of friendly visits, of joyous laughter, of the
pressure of the hand, of the view from certain windows, of the position
of certain furniture, of the arm-chair where the grandsire used to sit,
of the carpet on which the first-born used to play! Flown away for ever
are those objects which bore the imprint of one's daily life! Vanished
are the visible forms of one's souvenirs! There are in grief private
and secret recesses, where the most lofty courage bends. The Roman
orator put forth his head without flinching to the knife of the
centurion Lenas, but he wept when he thought of his house demolished by
The exiles are silent, or, if they complain, it is only among
themselves. As they know one another, and are doubly brothers, having
the same fatherland and sharing the same proscription, they tell one
another their sufferings. He who has money shares it with those who
have none, he who has firmness imparts it to those who lack it. They
exchange recollections, aspirations, hopes. They turn, their arms
extended in the darkness towards those they have left behind. Oh! how
happy they who think no more of us! Every man suffers and at times
waxes wroth. The names of all the executioners are engraven in the
memory of all. Each has something to curse,--Mazas, the hulk, the
dungeon, the informer who betrayed, the spy who watched, the gendarme
who arrested him, Lambessa, where one has a friend, Cayenne, where one
has a brother; but there is one thing that is blessed by all, and that
is thou, France!
Oh! a complaint, a word against thee, France! No! no! one's country is
never so deeply fixed in the heart as when one is torn from it by
They will do their whole duty, with a tranquil brow and unshaken
perseverance. Never to see thee again is their sorrow, never to forget
thee their joy.
Ah, what grief! And after eight months it is in vain that we say to
ourselves that these things are so; it is in vain that we look around
us and see the spire of Saint-Michael's instead of the Pantheon, and
Saint-Gudule instead of Notre-Dame,--we cannot believe it.
It is, however, true, it cannot be denied, we must admit it, we must
acknowledge it, even though we expire of humiliation and despair,--that
which is lying there, on the ground, is the nineteenth century, is
And it is this Bonaparte who has caused all this ruin!
And it is in the very centre of the greatest nation upon earth! it is
in the midst of the greatest century of all history, that this man has
suddenly risen and has triumphed! To seize upon France as his prey,
great Heaven! What the lion would not dare to do, the ape has done!
what the eagle would have dreaded to seize in his talons, the parrot
has taken in his claws! What! Louis XI failed! Richelieu destroyed
himself in the attempt! Even Napoleon was unequal to it! In a single
day, between night and morning, the absurd became the possible! All
that was axiomatic has become chimerical. All that was false has become
living fact. What! the most brilliant concourse of men! the most
magnificent movements of ideas! the most formidable sequence of events!
a thing that no Titian could have controlled, that no Hercules could
have turned aside,--the human flood in full course, the French wave
sweeping onward, civilization, progress, intelligence, revolution,
liberty,--he stopped it all one fine morning, stopped it short, he,
this mask, this dwarf, this aborted Tiberius, this nothing!
God was advancing. Louis Bonaparte, his plume on his head, blocked his
path and said to God: "Thou shalt go no farther!"
And you fancy that this is so! and you imagine that this plebiscite
exists, that this constitution of some day or other in January exists,
that this Senate exists, that this Council of State and this Corps
Législatif exist! You fancy that there is a lackey who is called
Rouher, a valet who is called Troplong, a eunuch who is called Baroche,
and a sultan, a pacha, a master who is called Louis Bonaparte! You do
not see, then, that all this is a chimera! you do not see that the
2nd of December is nothing but an immense illusion, a pause, a
breathing-space, a sort of drop-curtain behind which God, that
marvellous scene-shifter, is preparing and constructing the last act,
the supreme, triumphal act of the French Revolution! You gaze stupidly
at the curtain, at the things painted on the coarse canvas, this one's
nose, that one's epaulettes, the great sabre of a third, those belaced
venders of _eau de Cologne_ whom you call generals, those _poussahs_
whom you call magistrates, those worthy men whom you call senators,
this mixture of caricatures and spectres, and you take them all for
realities! And you do not hear beyond them, in the shadow, that hollow
sound! you do not hear some one going and coming! you do not see that
curtain quiver in the breath of Him who is behind!