Elizabeth Latimer.

France in the Nineteenth Century online

. (page 12 of 37)
Online LibraryElizabeth LatimerFrance in the Nineteenth Century → online text (page 12 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


head from all quarters, the prelate advanced slowly, attended by
his chaplains, to the summit of the barricade. One of them had
his hat pierced by three balls, but the archbishop himself, almost
by a miracle, escaped while on the top. He had descended three
steps on the other side, when he was pierced through the loins by
a shot from a window. The insurgents, horror-struck, approached
him where he fell, stanched the wound, which at once was seen to
be mortal, and carried him to a neighboring hospital. When told
that he had only a few minutes to live, 'God be praised!' he said,
'and may He accept my life as an expiation for my omissions during
my episcopacy, and as an offering for the salvation of this misguided
people.' With these words he expired."

As soon as the archbishop's death was known, the insurgents made
proposals to capitulate, on condition of a general pardon. This
Cavaignac refused, saying that they must surrender unconditionally.
The fight therefore lasted until daybreak. Then the insurgents
capitulated, and all was over.

No one ever knew how many fell. Six generals were killed or mortally
wounded. Ten thousand bodies were recognized and buried, and it is
said that nearly as many more were thrown unclaimed into the Seine.
There were fifteen thousand prisoners, of whom three thousand died
of jail-fever. Thousands were sent to Cayenne; thousands to the
galleys. This terrible four days' fight cost France more lives
than any battle of the Empire.

The insurrection being over, and Cavaignac dictator, the next thing
was for the Assembly to make a constitution. This constitution was
short-lived. A president was to be chosen for four years, with
re-election as often as might be desired. He was to be elected by
universal suffrage. He was to have a salary of about one hundred
and twenty-five thousand dollars per annum, and he was to have
much the same powers as the President of the United States.

There were two principal presidential candidates, - Prince Louis
Napoleon, who had taken his seat in the Assembly; and Cavaignac,
who had the power of Government on his side, and was sanguine of
election. The prince proclaimed in letters and placards his deep
attachment to the Republic, and denounced as his enemies and slanderers
all those who said he was not firmly resolved to maintain the
constitution.

The result of the election showed Louis Napoleon to have had five
and a half millions of votes; Cavaignac one and a half million;
Lamartine, who six months before had been a popular idol, had nineteen
thousand.

[Illustration: _LOUIS NAPOLEON._ (The Prince President.)]

An early friend of Louis Napoleon, who seems to have been willing
to talk freely of the playmate of her childhood, thus spoke of
him to an English traveller.

"He is," she said, "a strange being. His mind wants _keeping_.
A trifle close to his eyes hides from him large objects at a
distance.... The great progress in political knowledge made by
the higher classes in France from 1815 to 1848 is lost on him.
When we met in 1836, after three years' separation, I was struck
by his backwardness in political knowledge. Up to 1848 he never
had lived in France except as a child or a captive. His opinions
and feelings were those of the French masses from 1799 to 1812.
Though these opinions had been modified in the minds of the higher
classes, they were, in 1848, those of the multitude, who despise
parliamentary government, despise the pope, despise the priests,
delight in profuse expenditure, delight in war, hold the Rhine to
be our national frontier, and that it is our duty to seize all
that lies on the French side. The people and he were of one mind. I
have no doubt that the little he may have heard, and the less that
he attended to, from the persons he saw between 1848 and 1852 about
liberty, self-government, economy, the supremacy of the Assembly,
respect for foreign nations, and fidelity to treaties, appeared
to him the silliest talk imaginable. So it would have appeared
to all in the lower classes of France; so it would have appeared
to the army, which is drawn from those classes, and exaggerates
their political views."

"The prince president is romantic, impulsive, and _bizarre_," said
one of his officials to the same English gentleman, "indolent, vain,
good-natured, selfish, fearing and disliking his superiors;...
he loves to excite the astonishment of the populace. As a child
he liked best bad children, - as a man, bad men."

But one good quality he had pre-eminently, - no man was ever more
grateful for kindness, or more indulgent to his friends.

Such was the man, untried, uneducated in French politics, covered
with ridicule, and even of doubtful courage, whom the voices of
five and a half millions of French voters called to the presidential
chair. It was to the country Louis Napoleon had appealed, to the
rural population of France as against the dangerous classes in the
great cities. Paris had for sixty years been making revolutions
for the country; now it was the turn of the provincials, who said
they were tired of receiving a new Government by mail whenever it
pleased the Parisians to make one. Paris contained one hundred and
forty thousand Socialists, besides Anarchists and Red Republicans.
With these the rural population had no sympathy. Louis Napoleon was
not chosen by their votes, nor by those of their sympathizers in
other great cities. His success was in the rural districts alone.

His election was a great disappointment to the Assembly, and from
the first moment the prince president and that body were antagonistic
to each other. The president claimed to hold his powers from the
people, and to be in no way under the control of the Assembly;
the Assembly was forever talking of deposing him, of imprisoning
him at Vincennes, and so on.

Immediately after his election the prince president found it very
difficult to form a cabinet. After being repulsed in various quarters,
he sent a confidential messenger to Lamartine, asking him to meet him
by night on horseback in a dark alley in the Bois de Boulogne. After
listening to his rival's appeal for assistance in this emergency,
Lamartine frankly told him that for various reasons he felt himself
to be not only the most useless, but the most dangerous minister a
new Government could select. He said, "I should ruin myself without
serving you." The prince seemed grieved. "With regard to popularity,"
he answered, with a smile, "I have enough for both of us." "I know it,"
replied Lamartine; "but having, as I think, given you unanswerable
reasons for my refusal, I give you my word of honor that if by
to-morrow you have not been able to win over and to rally to you
the men I will name, I will accept the post of prime minister in
default of others."

Before morning the prince president had succeeded elsewhere; but
he retained a sincere respect and regard for Lamartine, who after
this incident fades out of the page of history. He lived a few
years longer; but he was oppressed by pecuniary difficulties, from
which neither his literary industry, nor the assistance of the
Government, nor the subscriptions of his friends, seemed able to
extricate him. Several times Milly, the dear home of his childhood,
was put up for sale by his creditors. It was more than once rescued
on his behalf, but in the end was sold.

Lamartine was buried with national honors; but among all the chances
and changes that have distracted the attention of his countrymen
from his career, he does not seem to have received from the world
or the French nation all the honor, praise, and gratitude that
his memory deserves.

Louis Napoleon, who had all his life dreamed of being the French
emperor, though he took care to repudiate such an idea in all his
public speeches, had not been president of the Republic six weeks
before he read a plan for a _coup d'état_ to General Changarnier,
who utterly refused to listen to it.

We need not here dwell on the struggles that went on between the
prince president and the Assembly, from December, 1848, to November,
1851. It is enough to say that the Chamber, from being the governing
power in France, found itself reduced to a mere legislative body
much hampered by the mistrust and contempt of the Executive. Its
members of course hated "the Man at the Élysée," or "Celui-ci,"
as they called him. The Socialists hated the Assembly even more
than they hated the president. The army was all for him. The
_bourgeoisie_ were thankful that under his rule they might at least
find protection from Socialism and anarchy.

From the election of Prince Louis to the _coup d'état_ in December,
1851, there were four serious _émeutes_ in Paris, and once the
city was in a state of siege. It was estimated that to put down
the smallest of these revolts cost two hundred thousand dollars.

Foreign nations were too busy with their own affairs in 1848 to
have time to meddle with the Government of Louis Napoleon, - indeed,
Russia and Prussia were much obliged to him for keeping out the
Orleans family, whom they by no means wished to see on the French
throne.

One thing that Louis Napoleon did to gain favor with the country
party caused great indignation among genuine republicans, and,
indeed, throughout Europe. This was the part he took against the
Republic of Rome.

Pio Nono, having been elected pope in 1846, had started on his
career as a liberal pontiff and ruler; but before 1848 he had
disappointed the expectations of all parties, and had fled from
Rome to Gaeta, where Ferdinand, king of the Two Sicilies (commonly
known as King Bomba) had also taken refuge. Lamartine, at the time
his power ceased, had been fitting out a French army to lend help
to the Romans if they should be attacked by the Austrians, and if
need were, to protect the pope, who before his flight was supposed
to be opposed to Austrian domination. Louis Napoleon ordered General
Oudinot, who commanded the French forces, to disembark his troops at
Civita Vecchia, and either to occupy Rome peaceably, or to attack
the revolutionists. A battle was fought, and the French worsted;
but they ended by gaining the city and holding it, putting down
the Roman republicans, and handing the city over to Austrian and
papal vengeance on Pio Nono's return.

The new president, anxious to strengthen his popularity in the
provinces, made several tours. Everywhere, as the nephew of his
uncle, he was received with wild enthusiasm. He was not a man to
captivate by his manners on public occasions, neither was he a
ready speaker; but he looked his best on horseback, and above all,
there was in his favor, among the middle class of Frenchmen, a
very potent feeling, - the dread of change.

As a deputy, before his election by the country as its president,
he used to sit in the Chamber silent and alone, pitied by some, and
neglected by all. Silence, indeed, was necessary to his success, for,
"silent and smoking, he matured his plans." One of the first things
he did when he became president was to attempt to get possession of
all papers in the archives concerning his conduct at Strasburg
and Boulogne.

There had been a new Assembly elected. It had few of the old republican
leaders in it, but the Left and the Right and half the Centre were
opposed to the prince president. The Left in the French Chamber
means the Red Republicans; the Right, those members who are in
favor of monarchy; the Centre, the Moderates, who are willing to
accept any good government.

One of the objects of this Assembly, which foresaw that a _coup
d'état_ might be at hand, was to get command of a little army for
its own protection. It appointed as commander of this force General
Changarnier, with whom the prince president had recently quarrelled,
and designated four of its members, whom it called _quoestors_, to
look into all matters relating to its safety.

The constitution was to be revised by this Assembly. Nobody cared
much about the constitution, which had not had time to acquire any
hold on the affections of the people, and Louis Napoleon had recently
acquired popularity with the turbulent part of the population of Paris
by opposing a measure calculated to restrict universal suffrage, and
to prevent tramps, aliens, and ex-convicts from voting at elections.
The prince president, who wanted, for his own purposes, as large
a popular vote as possible, was opposed to any restrictions on
the suffrage.

Such was the condition of things on Nov. 26, 1851, when Louis Napoleon
summoned the principal generals and colonels of the troops in and
around Paris to meet him at the Élysée. At this meeting they all
swore to support the president if called upon to do so, and never
to tell of this engagement. They kept the secret for five years.

Meantime the Assembly on its part was hatching a conspiracy to
overturn the president and send him to a dungeon at Vincennes;
while all who refused to support its authority were to be declared
guilty of treason.

The three men called the generals of the Army of Africa, - namely,
Cavaignac, Changarnier, and Lamoricière, - were opposed to the prince
president. They were either Republicans or Orleanists.

Thus the crisis approached. Each party was ready to spring upon
the other. Again France was to experience a political convulsion,
and the party that moved first would gain the day.




CHAPTER VIII.

THE COUP D'ÉTAT.

"In voting for Louis Napoleon," says Alison, "the French rural
population understood that it was voting for an emperor and for
the repression of the clubs in Paris. It seemed to Frenchmen in
the country that they had only a choice between Jacobin rule by
the clubs, or Napoleonic rule by an emperor." So, though Louis
Napoleon, when he presented himself as a presidential candidate,
assured the electors, "I am not so ambitious as to dream of empire,
of war, nor of subversive theories; educated in free countries
and in the school of misfortune, I shall always remain faithful
to the duties that your suffrages impose on me," public sentiment
abroad and at home, whether hostile or favorable, expected that
he would before long make himself virtually, if not in name, the
Emperor Napoleon. Indeed, the army was encouraged by its officers
to shout, "Vive l'empereur!" and "Vive Napoleon!" And General
Changarnier, for disapproving of these demonstrations, had been
dismissed from his post as military commander at the capital. He
was forthwith, as we have seen, appointed to a military command
in the confidence of the Assembly.

By the autumn of 1851 Louis Napoleon had fully made up his mind
as to his _coup d'état_, and had arranged all its details. He had
five intimates, who were his counsellors, - De Morny, De Maupas,
De Persigny, Fleury, and General Saint-Arnaud.

[Illustration: _DUC DE MORNY._]

De Morny has always been reputed to have been the half-brother of
Louis Napoleon. In 1847 he lived luxuriously in a small _hôtel_
in the Champs Elysées, surrounded by rare and costly works of art.
He had then never been considered anything but a man of fashion;
but he proved well fitted to keep secrets, to conduct plots, and
to do the cruellest things in a jocund, off-hand way.

Saint-Arnaud's name had been originally Jacques Le Roy. At one
time, under the name of Florival, he had been an actor in Paris
at one of the suburban theatres. He had served three times in the
French army, and been twice dismissed for conduct unbecoming an
officer. His third term of service for his country was in a foreign
legion, composed of dare-devils of all nations, who enrolled themselves
in the army of Algeria. There his brilliant bravery had a large
share in securing the capture of Constantine. He rose rapidly to
be a general, was an excellent administrator, a cultivated and
agreeable companion, perfectly unscrupulous, and ready to assist
in any scheme of what he considered _necessary_ cruelty. Fleury,
who had been sent to Africa to select a military chief fitted to
carry out the _coup d'état_, found Saint-Arnaud the very man to
suit the purpose of his master. Saint-Arnaud was tall, thin, and
bony, with close-cropped hair. De Morny used to laugh behind his
back at the way he said _le peuple souvérain_, and said he knew
as little about the sovereign people as about the pronunciation.
He spoke English well, for he had lived for some years an exile
in Leicester Square, - the disreputable French quarter of London;
this accomplishment was of great service to him during the Crimean
War.

De Maupas had been a country prefect, and was eager for promotion.
Louis Napoleon converted him into his Minister of Police.

Fleury was the simple-hearted and attached friend of his master.

De Persigny, like Saint-Arnaud, had changed his name, having begun
life as Fialin.

These five plotted the _coup d'état_[1]; arranged all its details,
and kept their own counsel.

[Footnote 1: De Maupas, Le Coup d'Etat.]

The generals and colonels in garrison in Paris had been sounded,
as we have seen, in reference to their allegiance to the Great
Emperor's nephew, and by the close of 1851 all things had been made
ready for the proposed _coup d'état_.

A _coup d'état_ is much the same thing as a _coup de main_, - with
this difference, that in the political _coup de main_ it is the
mob that takes the initiative, in the _coup d'état_ the Government;
and the Government generally has the army on its side.

Louis Napoleon and his five associates were about to do the most
audacious thing in modern history; but no man can deny them the praise
awarded to the unjust steward. If the thing was to be done, or, in
the language of Victor Hugo, if the _crime_ was to be committed,
it could not have been more admirably planned or more skilfully
executed.

The world, to all appearance, went on in its usual way. The Assembly,
on December 1, 1851, was busy discussing the project of a railroad
to Lyons. That evening M. de Morny was at the Opéra Comique in
company with General Changarnier, and the prince president was
doing the honors as usual in his reception-room at the Élysée. His
visage was as calm, his manners were as conciliatory and affable,
as usual. No symptoms of anything extraordinary were to be seen,
and an approaching municipal election in Paris accounted for the
arrival of several _estafettes_ and couriers, which from time to
time called the prince president from the room. When the company
had taken leave, Saint-Arnaud, Maupas, Morny, and a colonel on
the staff went with the prince president into his smoking-room,
where the duties of each were assigned to him. Everything was to be
done by clock-work. Exactly at the hour appointed, all the African
generals and several of their friends were to be arrested. Exactly
at the moment indicated, troops were to move into position. At so
many minutes past six A. M. all the printing-offices were to be
surrounded. Every man who had in any way been prominent in politics
since the days of Louis Philippe was to be put under arrest.

By seven o'clock in the morning all this had been accomplished.
The Parisians awoke to find their walls placarded by proclamations
signed by Prince Louis Napoleon as President, De Morny as Minister
of the Interior, De Maupas as Prefect of Police, and Saint-Arnaud
as Minister of War.

These proclamations announced, -

I. The dissolution of the Assembly.
II. The restoration of universal suffrage.
III. A general election on December 14.
IV. The dissolution of the Council of State.
V. That Paris was in a state of siege.

This last meant that any man might be arrested, without warrant,
at the pleasure of the police.

Another placard forbade any printer, on pain of death, to print
any placard not authorized by Government; and death likewise was
announced for anyone who tore down a Government placard.

Louis Napoleon followed this up by an appeal to the people. He said
he wished the people to judge between the Assembly and himself.
If France would not support him, she must choose another president.
In place of the constitution of 1848 he proposed one that should
make the presidential term of office ten years; he also proposed
that the president's cabinet should be of his own selection.

Louis Napoleon had entire confidence that all elections by universal
suffrage would be in his favor. He had just made extensive tours in
the provinces, and had been received everywhere with enthusiasm.

Thus far I have given the historical outline of the story; but if
we look into Victor Hugo's "Histoire d'un Crime," and disentangle
its facts from its hysterics, we may receive from his personal
narrative a vivid idea of what passed in Paris from the night of
Dec. 1, 1851, to the evening of December 4, when all was over.

Roused early in the morning by members of the Assembly, who came
to announce the events of the night, Victor Hugo, to whom genuine
republicans who were not Socialists looked as a leader, was, like
all the rest of Paris, taken completely by surprise. One of his
visitors was a working-man, a wood-carver; of him Hugo eagerly
asked: "What do the working-men - the people - say as they read the
placards?" He answered: "Some say one thing, some another. The
thing has been so done that they cannot understand it. Men going
to their work are reading the placards. Not one in a hundred says
anything, and those who do, say generally, 'Good! Universal suffrage
is reestablished. The conservative majority in the Assembly is
got rid of, - that's splendid! Thiers is arrested, - better still!
Changarnier is in prison, - bravo!' Beneath every placard there
are men placed to lead the approval. My opinion is that the people
will approve!"

At exactly six that morning, Cavaignac, Changarnier, Lamoricière,
Thiers, and all those who had lain down to sleep as cabinet ministers
of the prince president, were roused from their beds by officers of
cavalry, with orders to dress quickly, for they were under arrest.
Before each door a hackney-coach was waiting, and an escort of two
hundred Lancers was in a street near by. Resistance seemed useless
in the face of such precautions, but Victor Hugo and his friends were
resolved upon a fight. They put their official scarves as deputies
into their pockets, and started forth to see if they could raise
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. But their friend the wood-carver had
told them truly, - there was neither sympathy nor enthusiasm in
the streets for the constitution that had fallen, the deputies
who had been placed under arrest, nor for violated political
institutions.

In vain they appealed to the people in the name of the law. The
mob seemed to consider that provided it had universal suffrage,
and that the man of its choice were at the head of affairs, it
had better trust the safety of the nation to one man than risk the
uncertainties that might attend the tyranny of many.

The frantic efforts made that day by Victor Hugo and a few other
deputies of the Left to rouse the populace are almost ludicrous.
Victor Hugo, no doubt, was a brave man, though a very melodramatic
one, and he seems to have thought that if he could get the soldiers
to shoot him, - _him_, the greatest literary star of France since
the death of Voltaire, - the notoriety of his death might rouse
the population.

Here is one scene in his narrative. He and three of his friends,
finding that the Faubourg Saint-Antoine gave no ear to their appeals,
and for once was disinclined to fight, decided to return home,
and took seats in an omnibus which passed them on the Place de la
Bastille.

"We were all glad to get in," says Victor Hugo. "I took it much
to heart that I had not that morning, when I saw a crowd assembled
round the Porte Saint-Martin, shouted 'To arms!'... The omnibus
started. I was sitting at the end on the left, my friend young
Armand was beside me. As the omnibus moved on, the crowd became
more closely packed upon the Boulevard. When we reached the narrow
ascent near the Porte Saint-Martin, a regiment of heavy cavalry
met us. The men were Cuirassiers. Their horses were in a trot,
and their swords were drawn. All of a sudden the regiment came
to a halt. Something was in their way. Their halt detained the
omnibus. My heart was stirred. Close before me, a yard from me,
were Frenchmen turned into Mamelukes, citizen-supporters of the
Republic transformed into the mercenaries of a Second Empire! From
my seat I could almost put my hand upon them. I could no longer
bear the sight. I let down the glass, I put my head out of the
window, and looked steadily at the close line of armed men. Then



Online LibraryElizabeth LatimerFrance in the Nineteenth Century → online text (page 12 of 37)