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The History of a Crime The Testimony of an Eye-Witness online

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one's hand, and printed on paper used for proofs. Noël Parfait brought us
the five hundred copies, still damp, between his waistcoat and his shirt.
Thirty Representatives divided the bills amongst them, and we sent them
on the Boulevards to distribute the Decree to the People.

The effect of this Decree falling in the midst of the crowd was
marvellous. Some _cafés_ had remained open, people eagerly snatched the
bills, they pressed round the lighted shop windows, they crowded under
the street lamps. Some mounted on kerbstones or on tables, and read
aloud the Decree. - "That is it! Bravo!" cried the people. "The
signatures!" "The signatures!" they shouted. The signatures were read
out, and at each popular name the crowd applauded. Charamaule, merry and
indignant, wandered through the groups, distributing copies of the
Decree; his great stature, his loud and bold words, the packet of
handbills which he raised, and waved above his head, caused all hands to
be stretched out towards him. "Shout 'Down with Soulouque!'" said he,
"and you shall have some." All this in the presence of the soldiers.
Even a sergeant of the line, noticing Charamaule, stretched out his hand
for one of the bills which Charamaule was distributing. "Sergeant," said
Charamaule to him, "cry, 'Down with Soulouque!'" The sergeant hesitated
for a moment, and answered "No." "Well, then," replied Charamaule,
"Shout, 'Long live Soulouque.'" This time the sergeant did not hesitate,
he raised his sword, and, amid bursts of laughter and of applause, he
resolutely shouted, "Long live Soulouque!"

The reading of the Decree added a gloomy warmth to the popular anger.
They set to work on all sides to tear down the placards of the _coup
d'état_. At the door of the Café des Variétés a young man cried out to
the officers, "You are drunk!" Some workmen on the Boulevard
Bonne-Nouvelle shook their fists at the soldiers and said, "Fire, then,
you cowards, on unarmed men! If we had guns you would throw the butts of
your muskets in the air." Charges of cavalry began to be made in front
of the Café Cardinal.

As there were no troops on the Boulevard St. Martin and the Boulevard du
Temple, the crowd was more compact pact there than elsewhere. All the
shops were shut there; the street lamps alone gave any light. Against
the gloss of the unlighted windows heads might be dimly seen peering
out. Darkness produced silence; this multitude, as we have already said,
was hushed. There was only heard a confused whispering. Suddenly a
light, a noise, an uproar burst forth from the entrance of the Rue St.
Martin. Every eye was turned in that direction; a profound upheaving
agitated the crowd; they rushed forward, they pressed against the
railings of the high pavements which border the cutting between the
theatres of the Porte St. Martin and the Ambigu. A moving mass was seen,
and an approaching light. Voices were singing. This formidable chorus
was recognized,

"Aux armes, Citoyens; formez vos bataillons!"

Lighted torches were coming, it was the "Marseillaise," that other torch
of Revolution and of warfare which was blazing.

The crowd made way for the mob which carried the torches, and which were
singing. The mob reached the St. Martin cutting, and entered it. It was
then seen what this mournful procession meant. The mob was composed of
two distinct groups. The first carried on its shoulders a plank, on which
could be seen stretched an old man with a white beard, stark, the mouth
open, the eyes fixed, and with a hole in his forehead. The swinging
movement of the bearers shook the corpse, and the dead head rose and fell
in a threatening and pathetic manner. One of the men who carried him,
pale, and wounded in the breast, placed his hand to his wound, leant
against the feet of the old man, and at times himself appeared ready to
fall. The other group bore a second litter, on which a young man was
stretched, his countenance pale and his eyes closed, his shirt stained,
open over his breast, displaying his wounds. While bearing the two
litters the groups sang. They sang the "Marseillaise," and at each chorus
they stopped and raised their torches, crying, "To arms!" Some young men
waved drawn swords. The torches shed a lurid light on the pallid
foreheads of the corpses and on the livid faces of the crowd. A shudder
ran through the people. It appeared as though they again saw the terrible
vision of February, 1848.

This gloomy procession came from the Rue Aumaire. About eight o'clock
some thirty workmen gathered together from the neighborhood of the
markets, the same who on the next day raised the barricade of the
Guérin-Boisseau, reached the Rue Aumaire by the Rue de Petit Lion, the
Rue Neuve-Bourg-l'Abbé, and the Carré St. Martin. They came to fight,
but here the combat was at an end. The infantry had withdrawn after
having pulled down the barricades. Two corpses, an old man of seventy
and a young man of five-and-twenty, lay at the corner of the street on
the ground, with uncovered faces, their bodies in a pool of blood, their
heads on the pavement where they had fallen. Both were dressed in
overcoats, and seemed to belong to the middle class. The old man had his
hat by his side; he was a venerable figure with a white beard, white
hair, and a calm expression. A ball had pierced his skull.

The young man's breast was pierced with buck-shot. One was the father,
the other the son. The son, seeing his father fall, had said, "I also
will die." Both were lying side by side.

Opposite the gateway of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers there was
a house in course of building. They fetched two planks from it, they
laid the corpses on the planks, the crowd raised them upon their
shoulders, they brought torches, and they began their march. In the Rue
St. Denis a man in a white blouse barred the way. "Where are you going?"
said he to them. "You will bring about disasters! You are helping the
'Twenty-five francs!'" "Down with the police! Down with the white
blouse!" shouted the crowd. The man slunk away.

The mob swelled on its road; the crowd opened out and repeated the
"Marseillaise" in chorus, but with the exception of a few swords no one
was armed. On the boulevard the emotion was intense. Women clasped their
hands in pity. Workmen were heard to exclaim, "And to think that we have
no arms!"

The procession, after having for some time followed the Boulevards,
re-entered the streets, followed by a deeply-affected and angry
multitude. In this manner it reached the Rue de Gravilliers. Then a
squad of twenty _sergents de ville_ suddenly emerging from a narrow
street rushed with drawn swords upon the men who were carrying the
litters, and overturned the corpses into the mud. A regiment of
Chasseurs came up at the double, and put an end to the conflict with
bayonet thrusts. A hundred and two citizen prisoners were conducted to
the Prefecture. The two corpses received several sword-cuts in the
confusion, and were killed a second time. The brigadier Revial, who
commanded the squad of the _sergents de ville_, received the Cross of
Honor for this deed of arms.

At Marie's we were on the point of being surrounded. We decided to leave
the Rue Croix des Petits Champs.

At the Elysée they commenced to tremble. The ex-Commandant Fleury, one
of the aides-de-camp of the Presidency, was summoned into the little
room where M. Bonaparte had remained throughout the day. M. Bonaparte
conferred a few moments alone with M. Fleury, then the aide-de-camp came
out of the room, mounted his horse, and galloped off in the direction of

After this the men of the _coup d'état_ met together in M. Bonaparte's
room, and held council. Matters were visibly going badly; it was
probable that the battle would end by assuming formidable proportions.
Up to that time they had desired this, now they did not feel sure that
they did not fear it. They pushed forward towards it, but they
mistrusted it. There were alarming symptoms in the steadfastness of the
resistance, and others not less serious in the cowardice of adherents.
Not one of the new Ministers appointed during the morning had taken
possession of his Ministry - a significant timidity on the part of people
ordinarily so prompt to throw themselves upon such things. M. Roulier,
in particular, had disappeared, no one knew where - a sign of tempest.
Putting Louis Bonaparte on one side, the _coup d'état_ continued to rest
solely upon three names, Morny, St. Arnaud, and Maupas. St. Arnaud
answered for Magnan. Morny laughed and said in a whisper, "But does
Magnan answer for St. Arnaud?" These men adopted energetic measures,
they sent for new regiments; an order to the garrisons to march upon
Paris was despatched in the one direction as far as Cherbourg, and on
the other as far as Maubeuge. These criminals, in the main deeply
uneasy, sought to deceive each other. They assumed a cheerful
countenance; all spoke of victory; each in the background arranged for
flight; in secret, and saying nothing, in order not to give the alarm to
his compromised colleagues, so as, in case of failure, to leave the
people some men to devour. For this little school of Machiavellian apes
the hopes of a successful escape lie in the abandonment of their
friends. During their flight they throw their accomplices behind them.

[12] A popular nickname for Louis Bonaparte. Faustin Soulouque was the
negro Emperor of Hayti, who, when President of the Republic, had carried
out a somewhat similar _coup d'état_ in 1848, being subsequently elected
Emperor. He treated the Republicans with great cruelty, putting most of
them to death.



During the same night towards four o'clock the approaches of the
Northern Railway Station were silently invested by two regiments; one
of Chasseurs de Vincennes, the other of _Gendarmerie Mobile_. Numerous
squads of _sergents de ville_ installed themselves in the terminus. The
station-master was ordered to prepare a special train and to have an
engine ready. A certain number of stokers and engineers for night
service were retained. No explanation however was vouchsafed to any
one, and absolute secrecy was maintained. A little before six o'clock a
movement was apparent in the troops. Some _sergents de ville_ came
running up, and a few minutes afterwards a squadron of Lancers emerged
at a sharp trot from the Rue du Nord. In the centre of the squadron and
between the two lines of horse-soldiers could be seen two police-vans
drawn by post-horses, behind each vehicle came a little open barouche,
in which there sat one man. At the head of the Lancers galloped the
aide-de-camp Fleury.

The procession entered the courtyard, then the railway station, and the
gates and doors were reclosed.

The two men in the barouches made themselves known to the Special
Commissary of the station, to whom the aide-de-camp Fleury spoke
privately. This mysterious convoy excited the curiosity of the railway
officials; they questioned the policemen, but these knew nothing. All
that they could tell was that these police-vans contained eight places,
that in each van there were four prisoners, each occupying a cell, and
that the four other cells were filled by four _sergents de ville_
placed between the prisoners so as to prevent any communication between
the cells.

After various consultations between the aide-de-camp of the Elysée and
the men of the Prefect Maupas, the two police-vans were placed on
railway trucks, each having behind it the open barouche like a wheeled
sentry-box, where a police agent acted as sentinel. The engine was
ready, the trucks were attached to the tender, and the train started. It
was still pitch dark.

For a long time the train sped on in the most profound silence.
Meanwhile it was freezing, in the second of the two police-vans, the
_sergents de ville_, cramped and chilled, opened their cells, and in
order to warm and stretch themselves walked up and down the narrow
gangway which runs from end to end of the police-vans. Day had broken,
the four _sergents de ville_ inhaled the outside air and gazed at the
passing country through a species of port-hole which borders each side
of the ceiling of the passage. Suddenly a loud voice issued from one of
the cells which had remained closed, and cried out, "Hey! there! it is
very cold, cannot I relight my cigar here?"

Another voice immediately issued from a second cell, and said, "What! it
is you? Good-morning, Lamoricière!"

"Good-morning, Cavaignac!" replied the first voice.

General Cavaignac and General Lamoricière had just recognized each

A third voice was raised from a third cell. "Ah! you are there,
gentlemen. Good-morning and a pleasant journey."

He who spoke then was General Changarnier.

"Generals?" cried out a fourth voice. "I am one of you!"

The three generals recognized M. Baze. A burst of laughter came from the
four cells simultaneously.

This police-van in truth contained, and was carrying away from Paris,
the Questor Baze, and the Generals Lamoricière, Cavaignac, and
Changarnier. In the other vehicle, which was placed foremost on the
trucks, there were Colonel Charras, Generals Bedeau and Le Flô, and
Count Roger (du Nord).

At midnight these eight Representative prisoners were sleeping in their
cells at Mazas, when they heard a sudden knocking at their doors, and a
voice cried out to them, "Dress, they are coming to fetch you." "Is it to
shoot us?" cried Charras from the other side of the door. They did not
answer him. It is worth remarking that this idea came simultaneously to
all. And in truth, if we can believe what has since transpired through
the quarrels of accomplices, it appears that in the event of a sudden
attack being made by us upon Mazas to deliver them, a fusillade had been
resolved upon, and that St. Arnaud had in his pocket the written order,
signed "Louis Bonaparte."

The prisoners got up. Already on the preceding night a similar notice
had been given to them. They had passed the night on their feet, and at
six o'clock in the morning the jailer said to them, "You can go to bed."
The hours passed by; they ended by thinking it would be the same as the
preceding night, and many of them, hearing five o'clock strike from the
clock tower inside the prison, were going to get back into bed, when the
doors of their cells were opened. All the eight were taken downstairs
one by one into the clerk's office in the Rotunda, and were then ushered
into the police-van without having met or seen each other during the
passage. A man dressed in black, with an impertinent bearing, seated at
a table with pen in hand, stopped them on their way, and asked their
names. "I am no more disposed to tell you my name than I am curious to
learn yours," answered General Lamoricière, and he passed outside.

The aide-de-camp Fleury, concealing his uniform under his hooded cloak,
stationed himself in the clerk's office. He was charged, to use his own
words, to "embark" them, and to go and report their "embarkation" at the
Elysée. The aide-de-camp Fleury had passed nearly the whole of his
military career in Africa in General Lamoricière's division; and it was
General Lamoricière who in 1848, then being Minister of War, had
promoted him to the rank of major. While passing through the clerk's
office, General Lamoricière looked fixedly at him.

When they entered the police-vans the generals were smoking cigars. They
took them from them. General Lamoricière had kept his. A voice from
outside cried three separate times, "Stop his smoking!" A _sergent de
ville_ who was standing by the door of the cell hesitated for
some time, but however ended by saying to the general, "Throw away your

Thence later on ensued the exclamation which caused General Cavaignac to
recognize General Lamoricière. The vehicles having been loaded they set

They did not know either with whom they were or where they were going.
Each observed for himself in his box the turnings of the streets, and
tried to speculate. Some believed that they were being taken to the
Northern Railway Station; others thought to the Havre Railway Station.
They heard the trot of the escort on the paving-stones.

On the railway the discomfort of the cells greatly increased. General
Lamoricière, encumbered with a parcel and a cloak, was still more jammed
in than the others. He could not move, the cold seized him, and he ended
by the exclamation which put all four of them in communication with each

On hearing the names of the prisoners their keepers, who up to that time
had been rough, became respectful. "I say there," said General
Changarnier, "open our cells, and let us walk up and down the passage
like yourselves." "General," said a _sergent de ville_, "we are forbidden
to do so. The Commissary of Police is behind the carriage in a barouche,
whence he sees everything that is taking place here." Nevertheless, a
few moments afterwards, the keepers, under pretext of cold, pulled up
the ground-glass window which closed the vehicle on the side of the
Commissary, and having thus "blocked the police," as one of them
remarked, they opened the cells of the prisoners.

It was with great delight that the four Representatives met again and
shook hands. Each of these three generals at this demonstrative moment
maintained the character of his temperament. Lamoricière, impetuous and
witty, throwing himself with all his military energy upon "the Bonaparte;"
Cavaignac, calm and cold; Changarnier, silent and looking out through
the port-hole at the landscape. The _sergents de ville_ ventured to put
in a word here and there. One of them related to the prisoners that the
ex-Prefect Carlier had spent the night of the First and Second at the
Prefecture of Police. "As for me," said he, "I left the Prefecture at
midnight, but I saw him up to that hour, and I can affirm that at
midnight he was there still."

They reached Creil, and then Noyon. At Noyon they gave them some
breakfast, without letting them get out, a hurried morsel and a glass of
wine. The Commissaries of Police did not open their lips to them. Then
the carriages were reclosed, and they felt they were being taken off the
trucks and being replaced on the wheels. Post horses arrived, and the
vehicles set out, but slowly; they were now escorted by a company of
infantry _Gendarmerie Mobile_.

When they left Noyon they had been ten hours in the police-van. Meanwhile
the infantry halted. They asked permission to get out for a moment "We
consent," said one of the Commissaries of the Police, "but only for a
minute, and on condition that you will give your word of honor not to
escape." "We will give our word of honor," replied the prisoners.
"Gentlemen," continued the Commissary, "give it to me only for one
minute, the time to drink a glass of water." "No," said General
Lamoricière, "but the time to do the contrary," and he added, "To Louis
Bonaparte's health." They allowed them to get out, one by one, and they
were, able to inhale for a moment the fresh air in the open country by
the side of the road.

Then the convoy resumed its march.

As the day waned they saw through their port-hole a mass of high walls,
somewhat overtopped by a great round tower. A moment afterwards the
carriages entered beneath a low archway, and then stopped in the centre
of a long courtyard, steeply embanked, surrounded by high walls, and
commanded by two buildings, of which one had the appearance of a
barrack, and the other, with bars at all the windows, had the appearance
of a prison. The doors of the carriages were opened. An officer who wore
a captain's epaulets was standing by the steps. General Changarnier came
down first. "Where are we?" said he. The officer answered, "You are at

This officer was the Commandant of the Fort. He had been appointed to
this post by General Cavaignac.

The journey from Noyon to Ham had lasted three hours and a half. They
had spent thirteen hours in the police van, of which ten were on the

They led them separately into the
prison, each to the room that was allotted to him. However, General
Lamoricière having been taken by mistake into Cavaignac's room, the two
generals could again exchange a shake of the hand. General Lamoricière
wished to write to his wife; the only letter which the Commissaries of
Police consented to take charge of was a note containing this line: "I
am well."

The principal building of the prison of Ham is composed of a story above
the ground floor. The ground floor is traversed by a dark and low
archway, which leads from the principal courtyard into a back yard, and
contains three rooms separated by a passage; the first floor contains
five rooms. One of the three rooms on the ground floor is only a little
ante-room, almost uninhabitable; there they lodged M. Baze. In the
remaining lower chambers they installed General Lamoricière and General
Changarnier. The five other prisoners were distributed in the five rooms
of the first floor.

The room allotted to General Lamoricière had been occupied in the time
of the captivity of the Ministers of Charles X. by the ex-Minister of
Marine, M. d'Haussez. It was a low, damp room, long uninhabited, and
which had served as a chapel, adjoining the dreary archway which led
from one courtyard to the other, floored with great planks slimy and
mouldy, to which the foot adhered, papered with a gray paper which had
turned green, and which hung in rags, exuding saltpetre from the floor
to the ceiling, lighted by two barred windows looking on to the
courtyard, which had always to be left open on account of the smoky
chimney. At the bottom of the room was the bed, and between the windows
a table and two straw-bottomed chairs. The damp ran down the walls. When
General Lamoricière left this room he carried away rheumatism with him;
M. de Haussez went out crippled.

When the eight prisoners had entered their rooms, the doors were shut
upon them; they heard the bolts shot from outside, and they were told:
"You are in close confinement."

General Cavaignac occupied on the first floor the former room of M. Louis
Bonaparte, the best in the prison. The first thing which struck the eye
of the General was an inscription traced on the well, and stating the day
when Louis Bonaparte had entered this fortress, and the day when he had
left it, as is well known, disguised as a mason, and with a plank on his
shoulder. Moreover, the choice of this building was an attention on the
part of M. Louis Bonaparte, who having in 1848 taken the place of General
Cavaignac in power; wished that in 1851 General Cavaignac should take his
place in prison.

"Turn and turn about!" Morny had said, smiling.

The prisoners were guarded by the 48th of the Line, who formed the
garrison at Ham. The old Bastilles are quite impartial. They obey those
who make _coups d'état_ until the day when they clutch them. What do
these words matter to them, Equity, Truth, Conscience, which moreover in
certain circles do not move men any more than stones? They are the cold
and gloomy servants of the just and of the unjust. They take whatever is
given them. All is good to them. Are they guilty? Good! Are they
innocent? Excellent! This man is the organizer of an ambush. To prison!
This man is the victim of an ambush! Enter him in the prison register!
In the same room. To the dungeon with all the vanquished!

These hideous Bastilles resemble that old human justice which possessed
precisely as much conscience as they have, which condemned Socrates and
Jesus, and which also takes and leaves, seizes and releases, absolves
and condemns, liberates and incarcerates, opens and shuts, at the will
of whatever hand manipulates the bolt from outside.



We left Marie's house just in time. The regiment charged to track us and
to arrest us was approaching. We heard the measured steps of soldiers in
the gloom. The streets were dark. We dispersed. I will not speak of a
refuge which was refused to us.

Less than ten minutes after our departure M. Marie's house was invested.
A swarm of guns and swords poured in, and overran it from cellar to
attic. "Everywhere! everywhere!" cried the chiefs. The soldiers sought
us with considerable energy. Without taking the trouble to lean down and
look, they ransacked under the beds with bayonet thrusts. Sometimes they
had difficulty in withdrawing the bayonets which they had driven into the
wall. Unfortunately for this zeal, we were not there.

This zeal came frown higher sources. The poor soldiers obeyed. "Kill

Online LibraryVictor HugoThe History of a Crime The Testimony of an Eye-Witness → online text (page 18 of 36)