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Chapter 8


THE SITUATION

Although the fighting tactics of the Committee were, for the reasons
which I have already given, not to concentrate all their means of
resistance into one hour, or in one particular place, but to spread
them over as many points and as many days as possible, each of us knew
instinctively, as also the criminals of the Elysée on their side, that
the day would be decisive.

The moment drew near when the _coup d'état_ would storm us from every
side, and when we should have to sustain the onslaught of an entire
army. Would the people, that great revolutionary populace of the
faubourgs of Paris, abandon their Representatives? Would they abandon
themselves? Or, awakened and enlightened, would they at length arise? A
question more and more vital, and which we repeated to ourselves with
anxiety.

The National Guard had shown no sign of earnestness. The eloquent
proclamation, written at Marie's by Jules Favre and Alexander Rey, and
addressed in our name to the National Legions, had not been printed.
Hetzel's scheme had failed. Versigny and Lebrousse had not been able to
rejoin him; the place appointed for their meeting, the corner of the
boulevard and the Rue de Richelieu, having been continually scoured by
charges of cavalry. The courageous effort of Colonel Grassier to win
over the Sixth Legion, the more timid attempt of Lieutenant Colonel
Howyne upon the Fifth, had failed. Nevertheless indignation began to
manifest itself in Paris. The preceding evening had been significant.

Hingray came to us during the morning, bringing under his cloak a
bundle of copies of the Decree of Deposition, which had been reprinted.
In order to bring them to us he had twice run the risk of being
arrested and shot. We immediately caused these copies to be distributed
and placarded. This placarding was resolutely carried out; at several
points our placards were posted by the side of the placards of the
_coup d'état_, which pronounced the penalty of death against any one
who should placard the decrees emanating from the Representatives.
Hingray told us that our proclamations and our decrees had been
lithographed and distributed by hand in thousands. It Was urgently
necessary that we should continue our publications. A printer, who had
formerly been a publisher of several democratic journals, M. Boulé, had
offered me his services on the preceding evening. In June, 1848, I had
protected his printing-office, then being devastated by the National
Guards. I wrote to him: I enclosed our judgments and our decrees in the
letter, and the Representative Montaigu undertook to take them to him.
M. Boulé excused himself; his printing-presses had been seized by the
police at midnight.

Through the precautions which we had taken, and thanks to the patriotic
assistance of several young medical and chemical students, powder had
been manufactured in several quarters. At one point alone, the Rue
Jacob, a hundred kilogrammes had been turned out during the night. As,
however, this manufacture was principally carried out on the left bank
of the river, and as the fighting took place on the right bank, it was
necessary to transport this powder across the bridges. They managed
this In the best manner they could. Towards nine o'clock we were warned
that the police, having been informed of this, had organized a system
of inspection, and that all persons crossing the river were searched,
particularly on the Pont Neuf.

A certain strategical plan became manifest. The ten central bridges
mere militarily guarded.

People were arrested in the street on account of their personal
appearance. A sergent-de-ville, at the corner of he Pont-au-Change,
exclaimed, loud enough for the passers-by to hear, "We shall lay hold
of all those who have not their beards properly trimmed, or who do not
appear to have slept."

Notwithstanding all this we had a little powder; the disarming of the
National Guard at various points had produced about eight hundred
muskets, our proclamations and our decrees were being placarded, our
voice was reaching the people, a certain confidence was springing up.

"The wave is rising! the wave is rising!" exclaimed Edgar Quinet, who
had come to shake my hand.

We were informed that the schools were rising in insurrection during
the day, and that they offered us a refuge in the midst of them.

Jules Favre exclaimed joyfully,--

"To-morrow we shall date our decrees from the Pantheon."

Signs of good omen grew more numerous. An old hotbed of insurrection,
the Rue Saint-André-des-Arts, was becoming agitated. The association
called La Presse du Travail gave signs of life. Some brave workmen, at
the house of one of their colleagues, Nétré No. 13, Rue du Jardinet,
had organized a little printing-press in a garret, a few steps from the
barracks of the Gendarmerie Mobile. They had spent the night first in
compiling, and then in printing "A Manifesto to Working Men," which
called the people to arms. They were five skilful and determined men;
they had procured paper, they had perfectly new type; some of them
moistened the paper, while the others composed; towards two o'clock in
the morning they began to print. It was essential that they should not
be heard by the neighbors; they had succeeded in muffling the hollow
blows of the ink-rollers, alternating with the rapid sound of the
printing blankets. In a few hours fifteen hundred copies were pulled,
and at daybreak they were placarded at the corners of the streets. The
leader of these intrepid workmen, A. Desmoulins, who belonged to that
sturdy race of men who are both cultured and who can fight, had been
greatly disheartened on the preceding day; he now had become hopeful.

On the preceding day he wrote:--"Where are the Representatives? The
communications are cut. The quays and the boulevards can no longer be
crossed. It has become impossible to reunite the popular Assembly. The
people need direction. De Flotte in one district, Victor Hugo in
another, Schoelcher in a third, are actively urging on the combat, and
expose their lives a score of times, but none feel themselves supported
by any organized body: and moreover the attempt of the Royalists in the
Tenth Arrondissement has roused apprehension. People dread lest they
should see them reappear when all is accomplished."

Now, this man so intelligent and so courageous recovered confidence,
and he wrote,--

"Decidedly, Louis Napoleon is afraid. The police reports are alarming
for him. The resistance of the Republican Representatives is bearing
fruit. Paris is arming. Certain regiments appear ready to turn back.
The Gendarmerie itself is not to be depended upon, and this morning an
entire regiment refused to march. Disorder is beginning to show itself
in the services. Two batteries fired upon each other for a long time
without recognition. One would say that the _coup d'état_ is about to
fail."

The symptoms, as may be seen, were growing more reassuring.

Had Maupas become unequal to the task? Had they resorted to a more
skilful man? An incident seemed to point to this. On the preceding
evening a tall man had been seen, between five and seven o'clock,
walking up and down before the café of the Place Saint-Michel; he had
been joined by two of the Commissaries of the Police who had effected
the arrests of the 2d of December, and had talked to them for a long
time. This man was Carlier. Was he about to supplant Maupas?

The Representative Labrousse, seated at a table of the café, had
witnessed this conspirators' parley.

Each of the two Commissaries was followed by that species of police
agent which is called "the Commissary's dog."

At the same time strange warnings reached the Committee; the following
letter[18] was brought to our knowledge.

"3d December.

"MY DEAR BOCAGE,

"To-day at six o'clock, 25,000 francs has been offered to any one who
arrests or kills Hugo.

"You know where he is. He must not go out under any pretext whatever.

"Yours ever,

"AL. DUMAS."

At the back was written, "Bocage, 18, Rue Cassette." It was necessary
that the minutest details should be considered. In the different places
of combat a diversity of passwords prevailed, which might cause danger.
For the password on the day before we had given the name of "Baudin." In
imitation of this the names of other Representatives had been adopted as
passwords on barricades. In the Rue Rambuteau the password was "Eugène
Sue and Michel de Bourges;" in the Rue Beaubourg, "Victor Hugo;" at the
Saint Denis chapel, "Esquiros and De Flotte." We thought it necessary to
put a stop to this confusion, and to suppress the proper names, which
are always easy to guess. The password settled upon was, "What is Joseph
doing?"

At every moment items of news and information came to us from all
sides, that barricades were everywhere being raised, and that firing
was beginning in the central streets. Michel de Bourges exclaimed,
"Construct a square of four barricades, and we will go and deliberate
in the centre."

We received news from Mont Valérien. Two prisoners the more. Rigal and
Belle had just been committed. Both of the Left. Dr. Rigal was the
Representative of Gaillac, and Belle of Lavaur. Rigal was ill; they had
arrested him in bed. In prison he lay upon a pallet, and could not
dress himself. His colleague Belle acted as his _valet de chambre_.

Towards nine o'clock an ex-Captain of the 8th Legion of the National
Guard of 1848, named Jourdan, came to place himself at our service. He
was a bold man, one of those who had carried out, on the morning of the
24th February, the rash surprise of the Hôtel de Ville. We charged him
to repeat this surprise, and to extend it to the Prefecture of Police.
He knew how to set about the work. He told us that he had only a few
men, but that during the day he would cause certain houses of strategical
importance on the Quai des Cèvres, on the Quai Lepelletier, and in the
Rue de la Cité, to be silently occupied, and that if it should chance
that the leaders of the _coup d'état_, owing to the combat in the centre
of Paris growing more serious, should be forced to withdraw the troops
from the Hôtel de Ville and the Prefecture, an attack would be immediately
commenced on these two points. Captain Jourdan, we may at once mention,
did what he had promised us; unfortunately, as we learnt that evening,
he began perhaps a little too soon. As he had foreseen, a moment arrived
when the square of the Hôtel de Ville was almost devoid of troops, General
Herbillon having been forced to leave it with his cavalry to take the
barricades of the centre in the rear. The attack of the Republicans burst
forth instantly. Musket shots were fired from the windows on the Quai
Lepelletier; but the left of the column was still on the Pont d'Arcole,
a line of riflemen had been placed by a major named Larochette before
the Hôtel de Ville, the 44th retraced its steps, and the attempt
failed.

Bastide arrived, with Chauffour and Laissac.

"Good news," said he to us, "all is going on well." His grave, honest,
and dispassionate countenance shone with a sort of patriotic serenity.
He came from the barricades, and was about to return thither. He had
received two balls in his cloak. I took him aside, and said to him,
"Are you going back?" "Yes." "Take me with you." "No," answered he,
"you are necessary here. To-day you are the general, I am the soldier."
I insisted in vain. He persisted in refusing, repeating continually.
"The Committee is our centre, it should not disperse itself. It is your
duty to remain here. Besides," added he, "Make your mind easy. You run
here more risk than we do. If you are taken you will be shot." "Well,
then," said I, "the moment may come when our duty will be to join in
the combat." "Without doubt." I resumed, "You who are on the barricades
will be better judges than we shall of that moment. Give me your word
of honor that you will treat me as you would wish me to treat you, and
that you will come and fetch us." "I give it you," he answered, and he
pressed my two hands in his own.

Later on, however, a few moments after Bastide had left, great as was
my confidence in the loyal word of this courageous and generous man, I
could no longer restrain myself, and I profited by an interval of two
hours of which I could dispose, to go and see with my own eyes what was
taking place, and in what manner the resistance was behaving.

I took a carriage in the square of the Palais Royal. I explained to the
driver who I was, and that I was about to visit and encourage the
barricades; that I should go sometimes on foot, sometimes in the
carriage, and that I trusted myself to him. I told him my name.

The first comer is almost always an honest man. This true-hearted
coachman answered me, "I know where the barricades are. I will drive
you wherever it is necessary. I will wait for you wherever it is
necessary. I will drive you there and bring you back; and if you have
no money, do not pay me, I am proud of such an action."

And we started.


[18] The original of this note is in the hands of the author of this
book. It was handed to us by M. Avenel on the part of M. Bocage.

Victor Hugo