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been especially prepared for the heir presumptive, however, in which the
Emperor is a little better treated; being spoken of as "a certain
Marquis de Bonaparte, who commanded the armies of the king."

The mimic attack on the Trocadero, like its great original, was at
night. The troops assembled in the Champs de Mars, and the assault was
made, across the beautiful bridge of Jena, on a sharp acclivity near
Passy, which was the imaginary fortress. The result was a pretty good
effect of night-firing, some smoke, not a little noise, with a very
pretty movement of masses. I could make nothing of it, of much interest,
for the obscurity prevented the eyes from helping the imagination.

Not long since, the king held a great review of regular troops, and of
the entire body of the National Guards of Paris and its environs. This
review also took place in the Champs de Mars, and it was said that
nearly a hundred thousand men were under arms for the occasion. I think
there might have been quite seventy thousand. These mere reviews have
little interest, the evolutions being limited to marching by regiments
on and off the ground. In doing the latter, the troops defile before the
king. Previously to this, the royal cortege passed along the several
lines, receiving the usual honours.

On this occasion the Dauphine and the Duchesse de Berri followed the
king in open carriages, accompanied by the little Duc de Bordeaux and
his sister. I happened to be at an angle of the field as the royal
party, surrounded by a showy group of marshals and generals, passed, and
when there seemed to be a little confusion. As a matter of course, the
cry of "Vive le roi!" had passed along with the procession; for, popular
or not, it is always easy for a sovereign to procure this sign of
affection, or for others to procure it for him. You will readily
understand that _employés_ of the government are especially directed to
betray the proper enthusiasm on such occasions. There was however, a cry
at this corner of the area that did not seem so unequivocally loyal,
and, on inquiry, I was told that some of the National Guards had cried
"A bas les ministres!" The affair passed off without much notice,
however; and I believe it was generally forgotten by the population
within an hour. The desire to get rid of M. de Villèle and his set was
so general in Paris, that most people considered the interruption quite
as a matter of course.

The next day the capital was electrified by a royal ordinance,
disbanding all the National Guards of Paris! A more infatuated, or, if
it were intended to punish the disaffected, a more unjust decree, could
not easily have been issued. It was telling the great majority of the
very class which forms the true force of every government that their
rulers could not confide in them. As confidence, by awakening pride,
begets a spirit in favour of those who depend on it, so does obvious
distrust engender disaffection. But the certainty that Louis XVI. lost
his throne and his life for the want of decision, has created one of
those sweeping opinions here of the virtue of energy, that constantly
leads the rulers into false measures. An act that might have restrained
the France of 1792, would be certain to throw the France of 1827 into
open revolt. The present generation of Frenchmen, in a political sense,
have little in common with even the French of 1814, and measures must be
suited to the times in which we live. As well might one think of using
the birch on the man, that had been found profitable with the boy, as to
suppose these people can be treated like their ancestors.

As might have been expected, a deep, and what is likely to prove a
lasting discontent, has been the consequence of the blunder. It is
pretended that the shopkeepers of Paris are glad to be rid of the
trouble of occasionally mounting guard, and that the affair will be
forgotten in a short time. All this may be true enough, in part, and it
would also be true in the whole, were there not a press to keep
disaffection alive, and to inflame the feelings of those who have been
treated so cavalierly; for he knows little of human nature who does not
understand that, while bodies of men commit flagrant wrongs without the
responsibility being kept in view by their individual members, an
affront to the whole is pretty certain to be received as an affront to
each of those who make an integral part.

The immediate demonstrations of dissatisfaction have not amounted to
much, though the law and medical students paraded the streets, and
shouted beneath the windows of the ministers the very cry that gave rise
to the disbandment of the guards. But, if no other consequence has
followed this exercise of arbitrary power, I, at least, have learned how
to disperse a crowd. As you may have occasion some days, in your
military capacity, to perform this unpleasant duty, it may be worth
while to give you a hint concerning the _modus operandi_.

Happening to pass through the Place Vendôme, I found the foot of the
celebrated column which stands directly in the centre of the square
surrounded by several hundred students. They were clustered together
like bees, close to the iron railing which encloses the base of the
pillar, or around an area of some fifty or sixty feet square. From time
to time they raised a shout, evidently directed against the ministers,
of whom one resided at no great distance from the column. As the hotel
of the État-Major of Paris is in this square, and there is always a post
at it, it soon became apparent there was no intention quietly to submit
to this insult. I was attracted by a demonstration on the part of the
_corps de garde_, and, taking a station at no greet distance from the
students, I awaited the issue.

The guard, some thirty foot soldiers, came swiftly out of the court of
the hotel, and drew up in a line before its gate. This happened as I
reached their own side of the square, which I had just crossed.
Presently, a party of fifteen or twenty _gendarmes à cheval_ came up,
and wheeled into line. The students raised another shout, as it might
be, in defiance. The infantry shouldered arms, and, filing off singly,
headed by an officer, they marched in what we call Indian file, towards
the crowd. All this was done in the most quiet manner possible, but
promptly, and with an air of great decision and determination. On
reaching the crowd, they penetrated it, in the same order, quite up to
the railing. Nothing was said, nor was anything done; for it would have
been going farther than the students were prepared to proceed, had they
attempted to seize and disarm the soldiers. This appeared to be
understood, and, instead of wasting the moments and exasperating his
enemies by a parley, the officer, as has just been said, went directly
through them until he reached the railing. Once there, he began to
encircle it, followed in the same order by his men. The first turn
loosened the crowd, necessarily, and then I observed that the muskets,
which hitherto had been kept at a "carry," were inclined a little
outwards. Two turns enabled the men to throw their pieces to a charge,
and, by this time, they had opened their order so far as to occupy the
four sides of the area. Facing outwards, they advanced very slowly, but
giving time for the crowd to recede. This manoeuvre rendered the throng
less and less dense, when, watching their time, the mounted gendarmes
rode into it in a body, and, making a circuit, on a trot, without the
line of infantry, they got the mass so loosened and scattered, that,
unarmed as the students were, had they been disposed to resist, they
would now have been completely at the mercy of the troops. Every step
that was gained of course weakened the crowd, and, in ten minutes, the
square was empty; some being driven out of it in one direction, and some
in another, without a blow being struck, or even an angry word used. The
force of the old saying, "that the king's name is a tower of strength,"
or, the law being on the side of the troops, probably was of some avail;
but a mob of fiery young Frenchmen is not too apt to look at the law
with reverence.

I stood near the hotels, but still in the square, when a gendarme,
sweeping his sabre as one would use a stick in driving sheep, came near
me. He told me to go away. I smiled, and said I was a stranger, who was
looking at the scene purely from curiosity. "I see you are, sir," he
answered, "but you had better fall back into the Rue de la Paix." We
exchanged friendly nods, and I did as he told me, without further
hesitation. In truth, there remained no more to be seen.

Certainly, nothing could have been done in better temper, more
effectually, nor more steadily, than this dispersion of the students.
There is no want of spirit in these young men, you must know, but the
reverse is rather the case. The troops were under fifty in number, and
the mob was between six hundred and a thousand, resolute, active, sturdy
young fellows, who had plenty of fight in them, but who wanted the unity
of purpose that a single leader can give to soldiers. I thought this
little campaign of the column of the Place Vendôme quite as good, in its
way, as the _petite guerre_ of the plains of Issy.

I do not know whether you have fallen into the same error as myself in
relation to the comparative merits of the cavalry of this part of the
world, though I think it is one common to most Americans. From the
excellence of their horses, as well as from that general deference for
the character and prowess of the nation which exists at home, I had been
led to believe that the superior qualities of the British cavalry were
admitted in Europe. This is anything but true; military men, so far as I
can learn, giving the palm to the Austrian artillery, the British
infantry, and the French cavalry. The Russians are said to be generally
good for the purposes of defence, and in the same degree deficient for
those of attack. Some shrewd observers, however, think the Prussian
army, once more, the best in Europe.

The French cavalry is usually mounted on small, clumsy, but sturdy
beasts, that do not show a particle of blood. Their movement is awkward,
and their powers, for a short effort, certainly are very much inferior
to those of either England or America. Their superiority must consist in
their powers of endurance; for the blooded animal soon falls off, on
scanty fare and bad grooming. I have heard the moral qualities of the
men given as a reason why the French cavalry should be superior to that
of England. The system of conscription secures to an army the best
materials, while that of enlistment necessarily includes the worst. In
this fact is to be found the real moral superiority of the French and
Prussian armies. Here, service, even in the ranks, is deemed honourable;
whereas with us, or in England, it would be certain degradation to a man
of the smallest pretension to enlist as a soldier, except in moments
that made stronger appeals than usual to patriotism. In short, it is
_primâ facie_ evidence of a degraded condition for a man to carry a
musket in a regular battalion. Not so here. I have frequently seen
common soldiers copying in the gallery of the Louvre, or otherwise
engaged in examining works of science or of taste; not ignorantly, and
with vulgar wonder, but like men who had been regularly instructed. I
have been told that a work on artillery practice lately appeared in
France, which excited so much surprise by its cleverness, that an
inquiry was set on foot for its author. He was found seated in a
cabriolet in the streets, his vocation being that of a driver. What
renders his knowledge more surprising is the fact, that the man was
never a soldier at all; but, having a great deal of leisure, while
waiting for his fares, he had turned his attention to this subject, and
had obtained all he knew by means of books. Nothing is more common than
to see the drivers of cabriolets and fiacres reading in their seats; and
I have even seen market-women, under their umbrellas, _à la Robinson_,
with books in their hands. You are not, however, to be misled by these
facts, which merely show the influence of the peculiar literature of the
country, so attractive and amusing; for a very great majority of the
French can neither read nor write. It is only in the north that such
things are seen at all, except among the soldiers, and a large
proportion of even the French army are entirely without schooling.

To return to the cavalry, I have heard the superiority of the French
ascribed also to their dexterity in the use of the sabre, or, as it is
termed here, _l'arme blanche_. After all, this is rather a poetical
conclusion; for charges of cavalry rarely result in regular hand-to-hand
conflicts. Like the bayonet, the sabre is seldom used except on an
unresisting enemy. Still, the consciousness of such a manual superiority
might induce a squadron less expert to wheel away, or to break, without
waiting for orders.

I have made the acquaintance, here, of an old English general, who has
passed all his life in the dragoons, and who commanded brigades of
cavalry in Spain and at Waterloo. As he is a sensible old man, of great
frankness and simplicity of character, perfect good breeding and good
nature, and moreover, so far as I can discover, absolutely without
prejudice against America, he has quite won my heart, and I have availed
myself of his kindness to see a good deal of him. We walk together
frequently, and chat of all things in heaven and earth, just as they
come uppermost. The other day I asked him to explain the details of a
charge of his own particular arm to me, of which I confessed a proper
ignorance. "This is soon done," said the old gentleman, taking my arm
with a sort of sly humour, as if he were about to relate something
facetious: "against foot, a charge is a menace; if they break, we profit
by it; if they stand, we get out of the scrape as well as we can. When
foot are in disorder, cavalry does the most, and it is always active in
securing a victory, usually taking most of the prisoners. But as against
cavalry, there is much misconception. When two regiments assault each
other, it is in compact line - " "How," I interrupted him, "do not you
open, so as to leave room to swing a sabre?" "Not at all. The theory is
knee to knee; but this is easier said than done, in actual service. I
will suppose an unsuccessful charge. We start, knee to knee, on a trot.
This loosens the ranks, and, as we increase the speed, they become still
looser. We are under the fire of artillery, or, perhaps, of infantry,
all the time, and the enemy won't run. At this moment, a clever officer
will command a retreat to be sounded. If he should not, some officer is
opportunely killed, or some leading man loses command of his horse,
which is wounded and wheels, the squadron follows, and we get away as
well as we can. The enemy follows, and if he catches us, we are cut up.
Other charges do occur; but this is the common history of cavalry
against cavalry, and, in unsuccessful attacks of cavalry, against
infantry too. A knowledge of the use of the sword is necessary; for did
your enemy believe you ignorant of it, he would not fly; but the weapon
itself is rarely used on such occasions. Very few men are slain in their
ranks by the bayonet or the sabre."

I was once told, though not directly by an officer, that the English
dragoon neglected his horse in the field, selling the provender for
liquor, and that, as a consequence, the corps became inefficient;
whereas the French dragoon, being usually a sober man, was less exposed
to this temptation. This may, or may not, be true; but drunkenness is
now quite common in the French army, though I think much less so in the
cavalry than in the foot. The former are generally selected with some
care, and the common regiments of the line, as a matter of course,
receive the refuse of the conscription.

This conscription is after all, extremely oppressive and unjust, though
it has the appearance of an equal tax. Napoleon had made it so
unpopular, by the inordinate nature of his demands for men, that Louis
XVIII. caused an article to be inserted in the charter, by which it was
to be altogether abolished. But a law being necessary to carry out this
constitutional provision, the clause remains a perfect dead letter, it
being no uncommon thing for the law to be stronger than the constitution
even in America, and quite a common thing here. I will give you an
instance of the injustice of the system. An old servant of mine has been
drafted for the cavalry. I paid this man seven hundred francs a year,
gave him coffee, butter, and wine, with his food, and he fell heir to a
good portion of my old clothes. The other day he came to see me, and I
inquired into his present situation. His arms and clothes were found
him. He got neither coffee, wine, nor butter; and his other food, as a
matter of course, was much inferior to that he had been accustomed to
receive with me. His pay, after deducting the necessary demands on it in
the shape of regular contributions, amounts to about two sous a day,
instead of the two francs he got in my service.

Now, necessity, in such matters, is clearly the primary law. If a
country cannot exist without a large standing army, and the men are not
to be had by voluntary enlistments, a draft is probably the wisest and
best regulation for its security. But, taking this principle as the
basis of the national defence, a just and a paternal government would
occupy itself in equalizing the effects of the burden, as far as
circumstances would in any manner admit. The most obvious and efficient
means would be by raising the rate of pay to the level, at least, of a
scale that should admit of substitutes being obtained at reasonable
rates. This is done with us, where a soldier receives a full ration, all
his clothes, and sixty dollars a year.[10] It is true, that this would
make an army very costly, and, to bear the charge, it might be necessary
to curtail some of the useless magnificence and prodigality of the other
branches of the government; and herein is just the point of difference
between the expenditures of America and those of France. It must be
remembered, too, that a really free government, by enlisting the popular
feeling in its behalf through its justice, escapes all the charges that
are incident to the necessity of maintaining power by force, wanting
soldiers for its enemies without, and not for its enemies within. We
have no need of a large standing army, on account of our geographical
position, it is true; but had we the government of France, we should not
find that our geographical position exempted us from the charge.

[Footnote 10: He now receives seventy-two.]

You have heard a great deal of the celebrated soldiers who surrounded
Napoleon, and whose names have become almost as familiar to us as his
own. I do not find that the French consider the marshals men of singular
talents. Most of them reached their high stations on account of their
cleverness in some particular branch of their duties, and by their
strong devotion, in the earlier parts of their career, to their master.
Maréchal Soult has a reputation for skill in managing the civil detail
of service. As a soldier, he is also distinguished for manoeuvring in
the face of his enemy, and under fire. Some such excitement appears
necessary to arouse his dormant talents. Suchet is said to have had
capacity; but, I think, to Massena, and to the present King of Sweden,
the French usually yield the palm in this respect. Davoust was a man of
terrible military energy, and suited to certain circumstances, but
scarcely a man of talents. It was to him Napoleon said, "remember, you
have but a single friend in France - myself; take care you do not lose
him." Lannes seems to have stood better than most of them as a soldier,
and Macdonald as a man. But, on the whole, I think it quite apparent
there was scarcely one among them all calculated to have carried out a
very high fortune for himself, without the aid of the directing genius
of his master. Many of them had ambition enough for anything; but it was
an ambition stimulated by example, rather than by a consciousness of

In nothing have I been more disappointed than in the appearance of these
men. There is more or less of character about the exterior and
physiognomy of them all, it is true; but scarcely one has what we are
accustomed to think the carriage of a soldier. It may be known to you
that Moreau had very little of this, and really one is apt to fancy he
can see the civic origin in nearly all of them. While the common French
soldiers have a good deal of military coquetry, the higher officers
appear to be nearly destitute of it. Maréchal Molitor is a fine man;
Maréchal Marmont, neat, compact, and soldierly-looking; Maréchal
Mortier, a grenadier without grace; Maréchal Oudinot, much the same; and
so on to the end of the chapter. Lamarque is a little swarthy man, with
good features and a keen eye; but he is military in neither carriage nor

Crossing the Pont Royal, shortly after my arrival, in company with a
friend, the latter pointed out to me a stranger, on the opposite
side-walk, and desired me to guess who and what he might be. The subject
of my examination was a compact, solidly-built man, with a plodding
rustic air, and who walked a little lame. After looking at him a minute,
I guessed he was some substantial grazier, who had come to Paris on
business connected with the supplies of the town. My friend laughed, and
told me it was Marshal Soult. To my inexperienced eye, he had not a bit
of the exterior of a soldier, and was as unlike the engravings we see of
the French heroes as possible. But here, art is art; and like the man
who was accused of betraying another into a profitless speculation by
drawing streams on his map, when the land was without any, and who
defended himself by declaring no one ever saw a _map_ without streams,
the French artists appear to think every one should be represented in
his ideal character, let him be as _bourgeois_ as he may in truth. I
have seen Marshal Soult in company, and his face has much character. The
head is good, and the eye searching, the whole physiognomy possessing
those latent fires that one would be apt to think would require the
noise and excitement of a battle to awaken. La Fayette looks more like
an old soldier than any of them. Gérard, however, is both a handsome man
and of a military mien.

Now and then we see a _vieux moustache_ in the guards; but, on the
whole, I have been much surprised at finding how completely the army of
this country is composed of young soldiers. The campaigns of Russia, of
1813, 1814, and of 1815, left few besides conscripts beneath the eagles
of Napoleon. My old servant Charles tells me that the guardhouse is
obliged to listen to tales of the campaign of Spain, and of the

The army of France is understood to be very generally disaffected. The
restoration has introduced into it, in the capacity of general officers,
many who followed the fortunes of the Bourbons into exile, and some, I
believe, who actually fought against this country in the ranks of her
enemies. This may be, in some measure, necessary, but it is singularly

I have been told, on good authority, that, since the restoration of
1815, several occasions have occurred, when the court thought itself
menaced with a revolution. On all these occasions the army, as a matter
of course, has been looked to with hope or with distrust. Investigation
is said to have always discovered so bad a spirit, that little reliance
is placed on its support.

The traditions of the service are all against the Bourbons. It is true,
that very few of the men who fought at Marengo and Austerlitz still
remain; but then the recollection of their deeds forms the great delight
of most Frenchmen. There is but one power that can counteract this
feeling, and it is the power of money. By throwing itself into the arms
of the industrious classes, the court might possibly obtain an ally,
sufficiently strong to quell the martial spirit of the nation; but, so
far from pursuing such a policy, it has all the commercial and
manufacturing interests marshalled against it, because it wishes to
return to the _bon vieux tems_ of the old system.

After all, I much question if any government in France will have the army
cordially with it, that does not find it better employment than
mock-fights on the plain of Issy, and night attacks on the mimic

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperRecollections of Europe → online text (page 12 of 29)