THE MAIRIE OF THE TENTH ARRONDISSEMENT
The Representatives, having come out from M. Daru, rejoined each other
and assembled in the street. There they consulted briefly, from group to
group. There were a large number of them. In less than an hour, by
sending notices to the houses on the left bank of the Seine alone, on
account of the extreme urgency, more than three hundred members could be
called together. But where should they meet? At Lemardelay's? The Rue
Richelieu was guarded. At the Salle Martel? It was a long way off. They
relied upon the Tenth Legion, of which General Lauriston was colonel.
They showed a preference for the Mairie of the Tenth Arrondissement.
Besides, the distance was short, and there was no need to cross any
They formed themselves into column, and set forth.
M. Daru, as we have said, lived in the Rue de Lille, close by the
Assembly. The section of the Rue de Lille lying between his house and
the Palais Bourbon was occupied by infantry. The last detachment
barred his door, but it only barred it on the right, not on the left.
The Representatives, on quitting M. Daru, bent their steps on the side
of the Rue des Saints-Pères, and left the soldiers behind them. At
that moment the soldiers had only been instructed to prevent their
meeting in the Palace of the Assembly; they could quietly form
themselves into a column in the street, and set forth. If they had
turned to the right instead of to the left, they would have been
opposed. But there were no orders for the other alternative; they
passed through a gap in the instructions.
An hour afterwards this threw St. Arnaud into a fit of fury.
On their way fresh Representatives came up and swelled the column. As the
members of the Right lived for the most part in the Faubourg St. Germain,
the column was composed almost entirely of men belonging to the majority.
At the corner of the Quai d'Orsay they met a group of members of the
Left, who had reunited after their exit from the Palace of the Assembly,
and who were consulting together. There were the Representatives
Esquiros, Marc Dufraisse, Victor Hennequin, Colfavru, and Chamiot.
Those who were marching at the head of the column left their places, went
up to the group, and said, "Come with us."
"Where are you going?" asked Marc Dufraisse.
To the Mairie of the Tenth Arrondissement."
"What do you intend to do there?"
"To decree the deposition of Louis Bonaparte."
"Afterwards we shall go in a body to the Palace of the Assembly; we will
force our way in spite of all resistance, and from the top of the steps
we will read out the decree of deposition to the soldiers."
"Very good, we will join you," said Mare Dufraisse.
The five members of the Left marched at some distance from the column.
Several of their friends who were mingled with the members of the Right
rejoined them; and we may here mention a fact without giving it more
importance than it possesses, namely, that the two fractions of the
Assembly represented in this unpremeditated gathering marched towards the
Mairie without being mingled together; one on each side of the street. It
chanced that the men of the majority kept on the right side of the
street, and the men of the minority on the left.
No one had a scarf of office. No outward token caused them to be
recognized. The passers-by stared at them with surprise, and did not
understand what was the meaning of this procession of silent men through
the solitary streets of the Faubourg St. Germain. One district of Paris
was as yet unaware of the _coup d'état_.
Strategically speaking, from a defensive point of view, the Mairie of
the tenth Arrondissement was badly chosen. Situated in a narrow street
in that short section of the Rue de Grenelle-St.-Germain which lies
between the Rue des Saints-Pères and the Rue du Sépulcre, close by the
cross-roads of the Croix-Rouge, where the troops could arrive from so
many different points, the Mairie of the Tenth Arrondissement, confined,
commanded, and blockaded on every side, was a pitiful citadel for the
assailed National Representation. It is true that they no longer had the
choice of a citadel, any more than later on they had the choice of a
Their arrival at the Mairie might have seemed a good omen. The great
gate which leads into a square courtyard was shut; it opened. The post
of the National Guards, composed of some twenty men, took up their arms
and rendered military honors to the Assembly. The Representatives
entered, a Deputy Mayor received them with respect on the threshold of
the Mairie. "The Palace of the Assembly is closed by the troops," said
the Representatives, "we have come to deliberate here." The Deputy Mayor
led them to the first story, and admitted them to the Great Municipal
Hall. The National Guard cried, "Long live the National Assembly!"
The Representatives having entered, the door was shut. A crowd began to
gather in the street and shouted "Long live the Assembly!" A certain
number of strangers to the Assembly entered the Mairie at the same time
as the Representatives. Overcrowding was feared, and two sentries were
placed at a little side-door, which was left open, with orders only to
allow members of the Assembly who might come afterwards to enter. M.
Howyn Tranchère stationed himself at this door, and undertook to identify
On their arrival at the Mairie, the Representatives numbered somewhat
under three hundred. They exceeded this number later on. It was about
eleven o'clock in the morning. All did not go up at once into the hall
where the meeting was to take place. Several, those of the Left in
particular, remained in the courtyard, mingling with the National Guards
They talked of what they were going to do.
This was the first difficulty.
The Father of the meeting was M. de Kératry.
Was he going to preside?
The Representatives who were assembled in the Great Hall were in his
The Representatives remaining in the courtyard hesitated.
Marc Dufraisse went up to MM. Jules de Lasteyrie and Léon de Maleville,
who had stayed behind with the Representatives of the Left, and said to
them, "What are they thinking of upstairs? To make Kératry President? The
name of Kératry would frighten the people as thoroughly as mine would
frighten the middle classes."
A member of the Right, M. de Keranflech, came up, and intending to
support the objection, added, "And then, think of Kératry's age. It is
madness to pit a man of eighty against this hour of danger."
But Esquiros exclaimed,--
"That is a bad reason! Eighty years! They constitute a force."
"Yes; where they are well borne," said Colfavru. "Kératry bears them
"Nothing is greater," resumed Esquiros, "than great octogenarians."
"It is glorious," added Chamiot, "to be presided over by Nestor."
"No, by Gerontes," said Victor Hennequin.
These words put an end to the debate. Kératry was thrown out. MM. Léon
de Maleville and Jules de Lasteyrie, two men respected by all parties,
undertook to make the members of the Right listen to reason. It was
decided that the "bureau" should preside. Five members of the "bureau"
were present; two Vice-Presidents, MM. Benoist d'Azy and Vitet, and three
Secretaries, MM. Griumult, Chapot, and Moulin. Of the two other
Vice-Presidents, one, General Bedrau, was at Mazas; the other, M. Daru,
was under guard in his own house. Of the three other Secretaries, two,
MM. Peapin and Lacaze, men of the Elysée, were absentees; the other, M.
Yvan, a member of the Left, was at the meeting of the Left, in the Rue
Blanche, which was taking place almost at the same moment.
In the meantime an usher appeared on the steps of the Mairie, and cried
out, as on the most peaceful days of the Assembly, "Representatives, to
This usher, who belonged to the Assembly, and who had followed it, shared
its fortunes throughout this day, the sequestration on the Quai d'Orsay
At the summons of the usher all the Representatives in the courtyard, and
amongst whom was one of the Vice-Presidents, M. Vitei, went upstairs to
the Hall, and the sitting was opened.
This sitting was the last which the Assembly held under regular
conditions. The Left, which, as we have seen, had on its side boldly
recaptured the Legislative power, and had added to it that which
circumstances required--as was the duty of Revolutionists; the Left,
without a "bureau," without an usher, and without secretaries, held
sittings in which the accurate and passionless record of shorthand was
wanting, but which live in our memories and which History will gather up.
Two shorthand writers of the Assembly, MM. Grosselet and Lagache, were
present at the sitting at the Mairie of the Tenth Arrondissement. They
have been able to record it. The censorship of the victorious _coup
d'état_ has mutilated their report and has published through its
historians this mangled version as the true version. One lie more. That
does not matter. This shorthand recital belongs to the brief of the 2d
December, it is one of the leading documents in the trial which the
future will institute. In the notes of this book will be found this
document complete. The passages in inverted commas are those which the
censorship of M. Bonaparte has suppressed. This suppression is a proof of
their significance and importance.
Shorthand reproduces everything except life. Stenography is an ear. It
hears and sees not. It is therefore necessary to fill in here the
inevitable blanks of the shorthand account.
In order to obtain a complete idea of this sitting of the Tenth
Arrondissement, we must picture the great Hall of the Mairie, a sort of
parallelogram, lighted on the right by four or five windows overlooking
the courtyard; on the left, along the wall, furnished with several rows
of benches which had been hastily brought thither, on which were piled up
the three hundred Representatives, assembled together by chance. No one
was sitting down, those in front were standing, those behind were mounted
on the benches. Here and there were a few small tables. In the centre
people walked to and fro. At the bottom, at the end opposite the door,
was a long table furnished with benches, which occupied the whole width
of the wall, behind which sat the "bureau." "Sitting" is merely the
conventional term. The "bureau" did not "sit;" like the rest of the
Assembly it was on its feet. The secretaries, M.M. Chapot, Moulin, and
Grimault wrote standing. At certain moments the two Vice-Presidents
mounted on the benches so as to be better seen from all points of the
room. The table was covered by an old green tablecloth, stained with ink,
three or four inkstands had been brought in, and a quire of paper was
scattered about. There the decrees were written as soon as they were
drawn up. They multiplied the copies, some Representatives became
secretaries on the spur of the moment, and helped the official
This great hall was on a level with the landing. It was situated, as we
have said, on the first floor; it was reached by a very narrow staircase.
We must recollect that nearly the whole of the members present were
members of the Right.
The first moment was a serious one. Berryer came out to advantage.
Berryer, like all those extemporizers without style, will only be
remembered as a name, and a much disputed name, Berryer having been
rather a special pleader than an orator who believed what he said. On
that day Berryer was to the point, logical and earnest. They began by
this cry, "What shall we do?" "Draw up a declaration," said M. de
Falloux. "A protest," said M. de Flavigny. "A decree," said Berryer.
In truth a declaration was empty air, a protest was noise, a decree was
action. They cried out, "What decree?" "Deposition," said Berryer.
Deposition was the extreme limit of the energy of the Right. Beyond
deposition, there was outlawry; deposition was practicable for the Right,
outlawry was only possible for the Left. In fact it was the Left who
outlawed Louis Bonaparte. They did it at their first meeting in the Rue
Blanche. We shall see this later on. At deposition, Legality came to an
end; at outlawry, the Revolution began. The recurrence of Revolutions are
the logical consequences of _coups d'état_. The deposition having been
voted, a man who later on turned traitor, Quentin Bauchart, exclaimed,
"Let us all sign it." All signed it. Odilon Barrot came in and signed it.
Antony Thouret came in and signed it. Suddenly M. Piscatory announced
that the Mayor was refusing to allow Representatives who had arrived to
enter the Hall. "Order him to do so by decree," said Berryer. And the
decree was voted. Thanks to this decree, MM. Favreau and Monet entered;
they came from the Legislative Palace; they related the cowardice of
Dupin. M. Dahirel, one of the leaders of the Right, was exasperated, and
said, "We have received bayonet thrusts." Voices were raised, "Let us
summon the Tenth Legion. Let the call to arms be beaten. Lauriston
hesitates. Let us order him to protect the Assembly." "Let us order him
by decree," said Berryer. This decree was drawn up, which, however, did
not prevent Lauriston from refusing. Another decree, again proposed by
Berryer, pronounced any one who had outraged the Parliamentary
inviolability to be a traitor, and ordered the immediate release of those
Representatives who had been wrongfully made prisoners. All this was
voted at once without debate, in a sort of great unanimous confusion, and
in the midst of a storm of fierce conversations. From time to time
Berryer imposed silence. Then the angry outcries broke forth again. "The
_coup d'état_ will not dare to come here." "We are masters here." "We are
at home." "It would be impossible to attack us here." "These wretches
will not dare to do so." If the uproar had been less violent, the
Representatives might have heard through the open windows close at hand,
the sound of soldiers loading their guns.
A regiment of Chasseurs of Vincennes had just entered silently into the
garden of the Mairie, and, while waiting for orders, were loading their
Little by little the sitting, at first disorderly and tumultuous, had
assumed an ordinary aspect. The uproar had relapsed into a murmur. The
voice of the usher, crying "Silence, gentlemen," had succeeded in
overcoming the hubbub. Every moment fresh Representatives came in, and
hastened to sign the decree of deposition at the "bureau." As there was
a great crowd round the "bureau" waiting to sign, a dozen loose sheets
of paper to which the Representatives affixed their signatures were
circulated in the great Hall and the two adjoining rooms.
The first to sign the decree of deposition was M. Dufaure, the last was
M. Betting de Lancastel. Of the two Presidents, one, M. Benoist d'Azy,
was addressing the Assembly; the other, M. Vitet, pale, but calm and
resolute, distributed instructions and orders. M. Benoist d'Azy
maintained a decorous countenance, but a certain hesitation in his
speech revealed an inner agitation. Divisions, even in the Right, had not
disappeared at this critical moment. A Legitimist member was overheard
saying in a low voice, while speaking of one of the Vice-Presidents,
"This great Vitet looks like a whited sepulchre." Vitet was an Orleanist.
Given this adventurer with whom they had to deal, this Louis Bonaparte,
capable of everything, the hour and the man being wrapt in mystery, some
Legitimist personages of a candid mind were seriously but comically
frightened. The Marquis of ----, who acted the fly on the coach-wheel
to the Right, went hither and thither, harangued, shouted, declaimed,
remonstrated, proclaimed, and trembled. Another, M. A---- N----,
perspiring, red-faced, out of breath, rushed about distractedly. "Where
is the guard? How many men are there? Who commands them? The officer!
send me the officer! Long live the Republic! National Guard, stand firm!
Long live the Republic!" All the Right shouted this cry. "You wish then
to kill it," said Esquiros. Some of them were dejected; Bourbousson
maintained the silence of a vanquished placeman. Another, the Viscount of
----, a relative of the Duke of Escars, was so alarmed that every moment
he adjourned to a corner of the courtyard. In the crowd which filled the
courtyard there was a _gamin_ of Paris, a child of Athens, who has since
become am elegant and charming poet, Albert Glatigny. Albert Glatigny
cried out to this frightened Viscount, "Hulloa there! Do you think that
_coups d'état_ are extinguished in the way Gulliver put out the fire?"
Oh, Laughter, how gloomy you are when attended with Tragedy!
The Orleanists were quieter, and maintained a more becoming attitude.
This arose from the fact that they ran greater danger.
Pascal Duprat replaced at the top of the decrees the words, "République
Française," which had been forgotten.
From time to time men who were not speaking on the subject of the moment
mentioned this strange word, "Dupin," open which there ensued shouts of
derision and bursts of laughter. "Utter the name of that coward no more,"
cried Antony Thouret.
There were motions and counter-motions; it was a continual uproar
interrupted by deep and solemn silences. Alarmist phrases circulated from
group to group. "We are in a blind alley." "We are caught here as in a
rat trap;" and then on each motion voices were raised: "That is it!" "It
is right!" "It is settled!" They agreed in a low voice upon a rendezvous
at No. 19, Rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin, in case they should be expelled
from the Mairie. M. Bixio carried off the decree of deposition to get it
printed. Esquiros, Marc Dufraisse, Pascal Duprat, Rigal, Lherbette,
Chamiot, Latrade, Colfavru, Antony Thouret, threw in here and there
energetic words of advice. M. Dufaure, resolute and indignant, protested
with authority. M. Odilon Barrot, motionless in a corner, maintained the
silence of stupefied silliness.
MM. Passy and de Tocqueville, in the midst of the groups, described that
when they were Ministers they had always entertained an uneasy suspicion
of a _coup d'état_, and that they clearly perceived this fixed idea in
the brain of Louis Bonaparte. M. de Tocqueville added, "I said to myself
every night, 'I lie down to sleep a Minister; what if I should awake a
prisoner?'" Some of those men who were termed "men of order," muttered
while signing the degree of deposition, "Beware of the Red Republic!" and
seemed to entertain an equal fear of failure and of success. M. de
Vatimesnil pressed the hands of the men of the Left, and thanked them for
their presence. "You make us popular," said he. And Antony Thouret
answered him, "I know neither Right nor Left to-day; I only see the
The younger of the two shorthand writers handed their written sheets
to the Representatives who had spoken, and, asked them to revise them at
once, saying, "We shall not have the time to read them over." Some
Representatives went down into the street, and showed the people copies
of the decree of deposition, signed by the members of the "bureau." One
of the populace took one of these copies, and cried out, "Citizens! the
ink is still quite wet! Long live the Republic!"
The Deputy-Mayor stood at the door of the Hall; the staircase was crowded
with National Guards and spectators. In the Assembly several had
penetrated into the Hall, and amongst them the ex-Constituent Beslay, a
man of uncommon courage. It was at first wished to turn them out, but
they resisted, crying, "This is our business. You are the Assembly, but
we are the People." "They are right," said M. Berryer.
M. de Falloux, accompanied by M. de Kéranflech, came up the Constituent
Beslay, and leaned by his side on the stove, saying to him, "Good-day,
colleague;" and reminded him that they both had formed part of the
Committee of the National Workshops, and that they had together visited
the Workmen at the Parc Monceaux. The Right felt themselves falling; they
became affectionate towards Republicans. The Republic is called
Each spoke from his place; this member upon a bench, that member on a
chair, a few on the tables. All contradictory opinions burst forth at
once. In a corner some ex-leaders of "order" were scared at the possible
triumph of the "Reds." In another the men of the Right surrounded the men
of the Left, and asked them: "Are not the faubourgs going to rise?"
The narrator has but one duty, to tell his story; he relates everything,
the bad as well as the good. Whatever may have taken place, however, and
notwithstanding all these details of which it was our duty to speak,
apart from the exceptions which we had mentioned, the attitude of the
men of the Right who composed the large majority of this meeting was in
many respects honorable and worthy. Some of them, as we have just
mentioned, even prided themselves upon their resolution and their energy,
almost as though they had wished to rival the members of the Left.
We may here remark--for in the course of this narrative we shall more
than once see the gaze of some members of the Right turned towards the
people, and in this no mistake should be made--that these monarchical men
who talked of popular insurrection and who invoked the faubourgs were a
minority in the majority,--an imperceptible minority. Antony Thouret
proposed to those who were leaders there to go in a body through the
working-class neighborhoods with the decree of deposition in their
hands. Brought to bay, they refused. They declared that they would only
protect themselves by organized powers, not by the people. It is a
strange thing to say, but it must be noted, that with their habits of
political shortsightedness, the popular armed resistance, even in the
name of the Law, seemed sedition to them. The utmost appearance of
revolution which they could endure was a regiment of the National Guard,
with their drums at their head; they shrank from the barricade; Right in
a blouse was no longer Right, Truth armed with a pike was no longer
Truth, Law unpaving a street gave them the impression of a Fury. In the
main, however, and taking them for what they were, and considering their
position as politicians, these members of the Right were well-advised.
What would they have done with the people? And what would the people have
done with them? How would they have proceeded to set fire to the masses?
Imagine Falloux as a tribune, fanning the Faubourg St. Antoine into a
Alas! in the midst of this dense gloom, in these fatal complications of
circumstances by which the _coup d'état_ profited so odiously and so
perfidiously, in that mighty misunderstanding which comprised the whole
situation, for kindling the revolutionary spark in the heart of the
people, Danton himself would not have sufficed.
The _coup d'état_ entered into this meeting impudently, with its
convict's cap on its head. It possessed an infamous assurance there, as
well as everywhere else. There were in this majority three hundred
Representatives of the People. Louis Napoleon sent a sergeant to drive
them away. The Assembly, having resisted the sergeant, he sent an
officer, the temporary commander of the sixth battalion of the Chasseurs
de Vincennes. This officer, young, fair-haired, a scoffer, half laughing,
half threatening, pointed with his finger to the stairs filled with
bayonets, and defied the Assembly. "Who is this young spark?" asked a
member of the Right. A National Guard who was there said, "Throw him out
of the window!" "Kick him downstairs!" cried one of the people.
This Assembly, grievous as were its offences against the principles of
the Revolution--and with these wrongs Democracy alone had the right to
reproach it--this Assembly, I repeat, was the National Assembly, that is
to say, the Republic incarnate, the living Universal Suffrage, the
Majesty of the Nation, upright and visible. Louis Bonaparte assassinated
this Assembly, and moreover insulted it. A slap on the face is worse than
a poniard thrust.
The gardens of the neighborhood occupied by the troops were full of
broken bottles. They had plied the soldiers with drink. They obeyed the
"epaulettes" unconditionally, and according to the expression of
eyewitnesses, appeared "dazed-drunk." The Representatives appealed to
them, and said to them, "It is a crime!" They answered, "We are not aware
One soldier was heard to say to another, "What have you done with your
ten francs of this morning?"
The sergeants hustled the officers. With the exception of the commander,
who probably earned his cross of honor, the officers were respectful, the
A lieutenant showing signs of flinching, a sergeant cried out to him,
"You are not the only one who commands here! Come, therefore, march!"
M. de Vatimesnil asked a soldier, "Will you dare to arrest us--us, the
Representatives of the People?"
"Assuredly!" said the soldier.
Several soldiers hearing some Representatives say that they had eaten
nothing since the morning, offered them their ration bread. Some
Representatives accepted. M. de Tocqueville, who was unwell, and who was
noticed to be pale and leaning on the sill of a window, received from a
soldier a piece of this bread, which he shared with M. Chambolle.
Two Commissaries of Police appeared in "full dress," in black coats
girded with their sash-girdles and their black corded hats. One was an
old man, the other a young man. The first was named Lemoine-Tacherat, and
not Bacherel, as has been wrongly printed: the second was named Barlet.
These names should be noted. The unprecedented assurance of this Barlet
was remarked. Nothing was wanting in him,--cynical speech, provoking
gesture, sardonic intonation. It was with an inexpressible air of
insolence that Barlet, when summoning the meeting to dissolve itself,
added, "Rightly or Wrongly." They murmured on the benches of the
Assembly, "Who is this scoundrel?" The other, compared to him, seemed
moderate and inoffensive. Emile Péan exclaimed, "The old man is simply
working in his profession, but the young man is working out his
Before this Tacherat and this Barlet entered, before the butts of the
muskets had been heard ringing on the stones of the staircase, this
Assembly had talked of resistance. Of what kind of resistance? We have
just stated. The majority could only listen to a regular organized
resistance, a military resistance in uniform and in epaulets. Such a
resistance was easy to decree, but it was difficult to organize. The
Generals on whom the Assembly were accustomed to rely having been
arrested, there only remained two possible Generals, Oudinot and
Lauriston. General Marquis de Lauriston, ex-peer of France, and at the
same time Colonel of the Tenth Legion and Representative of the People,
drew a distinction between his duty as Representative and his duty as
Colonel. Summoned by some of his friends of the Right to beat to arms and
call together the Tenth Legion, he answered, "As Representative of the
People I ought to indict the Executive Power, but as Colonel I ought to
obey it." It appears that he obstinately shut himself up in this singular
reasoning, and that it was impossible to draw him out of it.
"How stupid he is!" said Piscatory.
"How sharp he is!" said Falloux.
The first officer of the National Guard who appeared in uniform, seemed
to be recognized by two members of the Right, who said, "It is M. de
Perigord!" They made a mistake, it was M. Guilbot, major of the third
battalion of the Tenth Legion. He declared that he was ready to march on
the first order from his Colonel, General Lauriston. General Lauriston
went down into the courtyard, and came up a moment afterwards, saying,
"They do not recognize my authority. I have just resigned," Moreover, the
name of Lauriston was not familiar to the soldiers. Oudinot was better
known in the army. But how?
At the moment when the name of Oudinot was pronounced, a shudder ran
through this meeting, almost exclusively composed of members of the
Right. In fact at this critical time, at this fatal name of Oudinot,
reflections crowded upon each other in every mind.
What was the _coup d'état_?
It was the "Roman expedition at home." Which was undertaken against whom?
Against those who had undertaken the "Roman expedition abroad." The
National Assembly of France, dissolved by violence, could find only one
single General to defend it in its dying hour. And whom? Precisely he,
who in the name of the National Assembly of France had dissolved by
violence the National Assembly of Rome. What power could Oudinot, the
strangler of a Republic, possess to save a Republic? Was it not evident
that his own soldiers would answer him, "What do you want with us? That
which we have done at Rome we now do at Paris." What a story is this
story of treason! The French Legislature had written the first chapter
with the blood of the Roman Constituent Assembly: Providence wrote the
second chapter with the blood of the French Legislature, Louis Bonaparte
holding the pen.
In 1849, Louis Bonaparte had assassinated the sovereignty of the People
in the person of its Roman Representatives; in 1851 he assassinated it in
the person of its French Representatives. It was logical, and although it
was infamous, it was just. The Legislative Assembly bore at the same time
the weight of two crimes; it was the accomplice of the first, the victim
of the second. All these men of the majority felt this, and were humbled.
Or rather it was the same crime, the crime of the Second of July, 1849,
ever erect, ever alive, which had only changed its name, which now called
itself the Second of December, and which, the offspring of this Assembly,
stabbed it to the heart. Nearly all crimes are parricidal. On a certain
day they recoil upon those who have committed them, and slay them.
At this moment, so full of anxiety, M. de Falloux must have glanced round
for M. de Montalembert. M. de Montalembert was at the Elysée.
When Tamisier rose and pronounced this terrifying word, "The Roman
Question?" distracted M. de Dampierre shouted to him, "Silence! You kill
It was not Tamisier who was killing them--it was Oudinot.
M. de Dampierre did not perceive that he cried "Silence!" to history.
And then without even reckoning the fatal remembrance which at such a
moment would have crushed a man endowed in the highest degree with great
military qualities, General Oudinot, in other respects an excellent
officer, and a worthy son of his brave father, possessed none of those
striking qualities which in the critical hour of revolution stir the
soldier and carry with them the people. At that instant to win back an
army of a hundred thousand men, to withdraw the balls from the cannons'
mouths, to find beneath the wine poured out to the Praetorians the true
soul of the French soldier half drowned and nearly dead, to tear the flag
from the _coup d'état_ and restore it to the Law, to surround the
Assembly with thunders and lightnings, it would have needed one of those
men who exist no longer; it would have needed the firm hand, the calm
oratory, the cold and searching glance of Desaix, that French Phocion; it
would have needed the huge shoulders, the commanding stature, the
thundering voice, the abusive, insolent, cynical, gay, and sublime
eloquence of Kléber, that military Mirabeau. Desaix, the countenance of a
just man, or Kléber, the face of the lion! General Oudinot, little,
awkward, embarrassed, with an indecisive and dull gaze, red cheeks, low
forehead, with grizzled and lank hair, polite tone of voice, a humble
smile, without oratory, without gesture, without power, brave before the
enemy, timid before the first comer, having assuredly the bearing of a
soldier, but having also the bearing of a priest; he caused the mind to
hesitate between the sword and the taper; he had in his eyes a sort of
He had the best intentions in the world, but what could he do? Alone,
without prestige, without true glory, without personal authority, and
dragging Rome after him! He felt all this himself, and he was as it were
paralyzed by it. As soon as they had appointed him he got upon a chair
and thanked the Assembly, doubtless with a firm heart, but with
hesitating speech. When the little fair-haired officer dared to look him
in the face and insult him, he, holding the sword of the people, he,
General of the sovereign Assembly, he only knew how to stammer out such
wretched phrases as these, "I have just declared to you that we are
unable, 'unless compelled and constrained,' to obey the order which
prohibits us from remaining assembled together." He spoke of obeying, he
who ought to command. They had girded him with his scarf, and it seemed
to make him uncomfortable. He inclined his head alternately first to one
shoulder and then to the other; he held his hat and cane in his hand, he
had a benevolent aspect. A Legitimist member muttered in a low voice to
his neighbor, "One might imagine he was a bailiff speechifying at a
wedding." And his neighbor, a Legitimist also, replied, "He reminds me of
the Duc d'Angoulême."
What a contrast to Tamisier! Tamisier, frank, earnest confident, although
a mere Captain of Artillery, had the bearing of a General. Had Tamisier,
with his grave and gentle countenance, high intelligence, and dauntless
heart, a species of soldier-philosopher, been better known, he could have
rendered decisive services. No one can tell what would have happened if
Providence had given the soul of Tamisier to Oudinot, or the epaulets of
Oudinot to Tamisier.
In this bloody enterprise of December we failed to find a General's
uniform becomingly worn. A book might be written on the part which gold
lace plays in the destiny of nations.
Tamisier, appointed Chief of the Staff some instants before the invasion
of the hall, placed himself at the disposal of the Assembly. He was
standing on a table. He spoke with a resonant and hearty voice. The most
downcast became reassured by this modest, honest, devoted attitude.
Suddenly he drew himself up, and looking all that Royalist majority in
the face, exclaimed, "Yes, I accept the charge you offer me. I accept the
charge of defending the Republic! Nothing but the Republic! Do you
A unanimous shout answered him. "Long live the Republic!"
"Ah!" said Beslay, "the voice comes back to you as on the Fourth of May."
"Long live the Republic! Nothing but the Republic!" repeated the men of
the Right, Oudinot louder than the others. All arms were stretched
towards Tamisier, every hand pressed his. Oh Danger! irresistible
converter! In his last hour the Atheist invokes God, and the Royalist the
Republic. They cling to that which they have repudiated.
The official historians of the _coup d'état_ have stated that at the
beginning of the sitting two Representatives had been sent by the
Assembly to the Ministry of the Interior to "negotiate." What is certain
is that these two Representatives had no authority. They presented
themselves, not on behalf of the Assembly, but in their own name. They
offered themselves as intermediaries to procure a peaceable termination
of the catastrophe which had begun. With an honesty which bordered on
simplicity they summoned Morny to yield himself a prisoner, and to return
within the law, declaring that in case of refusal the Assembly would do
its duty, and call the people to the defence of the Constitution and of
the Republic. Marny answered them with a smile, accompanied by these
plain words, "If you appeal to arms, and if I find any Representatives on
the barricades, I will have them all shot to the last man."
The meeting in the Tenth Arrondissement yielded to force. President Vitet
insisted that they should forcibly arrest him. A police agent who seized
him turned pale and trembled. In certain circumstances, to lay violent
hands upon a man is to lay them upon Right, and those who dare to do so
are made to tremble by outraged Law. The exodus from the Mairie was long
and beset with obstructions. Half-an-hour elapsed while the soldiers were
forming a line, and while the Commissaries of Police, all the time
appearing solely occupied with the care of driving back the crowd in the
street, sent for orders to the Ministry of the Interior. During that time
some of the Representatives, seated round a table in the great Hall,
wrote to their families, to their wives, to their friends. They snatched
up the last leaves of paper; the pens failed; M. de Luynes wrote to his
wife a letter in pencil. There were no wafers; they were forced to send
the letters unsealed; some soldiers offered to post them. M. Chambolle's
son, who had accompanied his father thus far, undertook to take the
letters addressed to Mesdames de Luynes, de Lasteyrie, and Duvergier de
Hauranne. General Forey--the same who had refused a battalion to the
President of the Constituent Assembly, Marrast, who had promoted him from
a colonel to a general--General Forey, in the centre of the courtyard of
the Mairie, his face inflamed, half drunk, coming out, they said, from
breakfast at the Elysée, superintended the outrage. A member, whose name
we regret we do not know, dipped his boot into the gutter and wiped it
along the gold stripe of the regimental trousers of General Forey.
Representative Lherbette came up to General Forey, and said to him,
"General, you are a coward." Then turning to his colleagues, he
exclaimed, "Do you hear? I tell this general that he is a coward."
General Forey did not stir. He kept the mud on his uniform and the
epithet on his cheek.
The meeting did not call the people to arms. We have just explained that
it was not strong enough to do so; nevertheless, at the last moment, a
member of the Left, Latrade, made a fresh effort. He took M. Berryer
aside, and said to him, "Our official measures of resistance have come to
an end; let us not allow ourselves now to be arrested. Let us disperse
throughout the streets crying, 'To arms!'" M. Berryer consulted a few
seconds on the matter with the Vice-President, M. Benoist d'Azy, who
The Deputy Mayor, hat in hand, reconducted the members of the Assembly as
far as the gate of the Mairie. As soon as they appeared in the courtyard
ready to go out between two lines of soldiers, the post of National
Guards presented arms, acid shouted, "Long live the Assembly! Long live
the Representatives of the People!" The National Guards were at once
disarmed, almost forcibly, by the Chasseurs de Vincennes.
There was a wine-shop opposite the Mairie. As soon as the great folding
gates of the Mairie opened, and the Assembly appeared in the street, led
by General Forey on horseback, and having at its head the Vice-President
Vitet, grasped by the necktie by a police agent, a few men in white
blouses, gathered at the windows of this wine-shop, clapped their hands
and shouted, "Well done! down with the 'twenty-five francs!'"
They set forth.
The Chasseurs de Vincennes, who marched in a double line on each side of
the prisoners, cast at them looks of hatred. General Oudinot said in a
whisper, "These little infantry soldiers are terrible fellows. At the
siege of Rome they flung themselves at the assault like madmen. These
lads are very devils." The officers avoided the gaze of the
Representatives. On leaving the Mairie, M. de Coislin passed by an
officer and exclaimed, "What a disgrace for the uniform!" the officer
retaliated with angry words, and incensed M. de Coislin. Shortly
afterwards, during the march, he came up to M. de Coislin and said to
him, "Sir, I have reflected; it is I who am wrong."
They proceeded on the way slowly. At a few steps from the Mairie the
precession met M. Chegaray. The Representatives called out to him,
"Come!" He answered, while making an expressive gesture with his hands
and his shoulders, "Oh! I dare say! As they have not arrested me...." and
he feigned as though he would pass on. He was ashamed, however, and went
with them. His name is found in the list of the roll-call at the
A little further on M. de Lespérut passed them. They cried out to him.
"Lespérut! Lespérut!" "I am with you," answered he. The soldiers pushed
him back. He seized the butt-ends of the muskets, and forced his way into
In one of the streets through which they went a window was opened.
Suddenly a woman appeared with a child; the child, recognizing its father
amongst the prisoners, held out its arms and called to him, the mother
wept in the background.
It was at first intended to take the Assembly in a body straight to
Mazas, but this was counter-ordered by the Ministry of the Interior. It
was feared that this long walk, in broad daylight, through populous and
easily aroused streets, might prove dangerous; the D'Orsay barracks were
close at hand. They selected these as a temporary prison.
One of the commanders insolently pointed out with his sword the arrested
Representatives to the passers-by, and said in a fond voice, "These are
the Whites, we have orders to spare them. Now it is the turn of the Red
Representatives, let them look out for themselves!"
Wherever the procession passed, the populace shouted from the pavements,
at the doors, at the windows, "Long live the National Assembly!" When
they perceived a few Representatives of the Left sprinkled in the column
they cried, "Vive la République!" "Vive la Constitution!" and "Vive la
Loi!" The shops were not shut, and passers-by went to and fro. Some
people said, "Wait until the evening; this is not the end of it."
A staff-officer on horseback, in full uniform, met the procession,
recognized M. de Vatimesnil, and came up to greet him. In the Rue de
Beaune, as they passed the house of the _Démocratic Pacifique_ a group
shouted, "Down with the Traitor of the Elysée!"
On the Quai d'Orsay, the shouting was redoubled. There was a great crowd
there. On either side of the quay a file of soldiers of the Line, elbow
to elbow, kept back the spectators. In the middle of the space left
vacant, the members of the Assembly slowly advanced between a double file
of soldiers, the one stationary, which threatened the people, the other
on the march, which threatened tire Representatives.
Serious reflections arise in the presence of all the details of the great
crime which this book is designed to relate. Every honest man who sets
himself face to face with the _coup d'état_ of Louis Bonaparte hears
nothing but a tumult of indignant thoughts in his conscience. Whoever
reads our work to the end will assuredly not credit us with the intention
of extenuating this monstrous deed. Nevertheless, as the deep logic of
actions ought always to be italicized by the historian, it is necessary
here to call to mind and to repeat, even to satiety, that apart from the
members of the Left, of whom a very small number were present, and whom
we have mentioned by name, the three hundred Representatives who thus
defiled before the eyes of the crowd, constituted the old Royalists and
reactionary majority of the Assembly. If it were possible to forget,
that--whatever were their errors, whatever were their faults, and, we
venture to add, whatever were their illusions--these persons thus treated
were the Representatives of the leading civilized nation, were sovereign
Legislators, senators of the people, inviolable Deputies, and sacred by
the great law of Democracy, and that in the same manner as each man bears
in himself something of the mind of God, so each of these nominees of
universal suffrage bore something of the soul of France; if it were
possible to forget this for a moment, it assuredly would be a spectacle
perhaps more laughable than sad, and certainly more philosophical than
lamentable to see, on this December morning, after so many laws of
repression, after so many exceptional measures, after so many votes of
censure and of the state of siege, after so many refusals of amnesty,
after so many affronts to equity, to justice, to the human conscience, to
the public good faith, to right, after so many favors to the police,
after so many smiles bestowed on absolution, the entire Party of Order
arrested in a body and taken to prison by the _sergents de ville_!
One day, or rather, one night, the moment having come to save society,
the _coup d'état_ abruptly seizes the Demagogues, and finds that it holds
by the collar, Whom? the Royalists.
They arrived at the barracks, formerly the barracks of the Royal Guard,
and on the pediment of which is a carved escutcheon, whereon are still
visible the traces of the three _fleurs de lis_ effaced in 1830. They
halted. The door was opened. "Why!" said M. de Broglie, "here we are."
At that moment a great placard posted on the barrack wall by the side of
the door bore in big letters--
"REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION."
It was the advertisement of a pamphlet, published two or three days
previous to the _coup d'état_, without any author's name, demanding the
Empire, and was attributed to the President of the Republic.
The Representatives entered and the doors were closed upon them. The
shouts ceased; the crowd, which occasionally has its meditative moments,
remained for some time on the quay, dumb, motionless, gazing alternately
at the closed gate of the Barracks, and at the silent front of the
Palace of the Assembly, dimly visible in the misty December twilight,
two hundred paces distant.
The two Commissaries of Police went to report their "success" to M. de
Morny. M. de Morny said, "Now the struggle has begun. Excellent! These
are the last Representatives who will be made prisoners."
 The Gerontes, or Gerontia, were the Elders of Sparta, who constituted
 The "bureau" of the Assembly consists of the President, for the time
being of the Assembly, assisted by six secretaries, whose duties mainly
lie in deciding in what sense the Deputies have voted. The "bureau" of
the Assembly should not be confounded with the fifteen "bureaux" of the
Deputies, which answer to our Select Committees of the House of Commons,
and are presided over by self-chosen Presidents.
 An allusion to the twenty-five francs a day officially payable to the
members of the Assembly.
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