THE PORTE SAINT MARTIN
Important deeds had been already achieved during the morning.
"It is taking root," Bastide had said.
The difficulty is not to spread the flames but to light the fire.
It was evident that Paris began to grow ill-tempered. Paris does not
get angry at will. She must be in the humor for it. A volcano possesses
nerves. The anger was coming slowly, but it was coming. On the horizon
might be seen the first glimmering of the eruption.
For the Elysée, as for us, the critical moment was drawing nigh. From
the preceding evening they were nursing their resources. The _coup
d'état_ and the Republic were at length about to close with each other.
The Committee had in vain attempted to drag the wheel; some
irresistible impulse carried away the last defenders of liberty and
hurried them on to action. The decisive battle was about to be fought.
In Paris, when certain hours have sounded, when there appears an
immediate necessity for a progressive movement to be carried out, or a
right to be vindicated, the insurrections rapidly spread throughout the
whole city. But they always begin at some particular point. Paris, in
its vast historical task, comprises two revolutionary classes, the
"middle-class" and the "people." And to these two combatants correspond
two places of combat; the Porte Saint Martin when the middle-class are
revolting, the Bastille when the people are revolting. The eye of the
politician should always be fixed on these two points. There, famous in
contemporary history, are two spots where a small portion of the hot
cinders of Revolution seem ever to smoulder.
When a wind blows from above, these burning cinders are dispersed, and
fill the city with sparks.
This time, as we have already explained, the formidable Faubourg
Antoine slumbered, and, as has been seen, nothing had been able to
awaken it. An entire park of artillery was encamped with lighted
matches around the July Column, that enormous deaf-and-dumb memento of
the Bastille. This lofty revolutionary pillar, this silent witness of
the great deeds of the past, seemed to have forgotten all. Sad to say,
the paving stones which had seen the 14th of July did not rise under
the cannon-wheels of the 2d of December. It was therefore not the
Bastille which began, it was the Porte Saint Martin.
From eight o'clock in the morning the Rue Saint Denis and the Rue Saint
Martin were in an uproar throughout their length; throngs of indignant
passers-by went up and down those thoroughfares. They tore down the
placards of the _coup d'état_; they posted up our Proclamations; groups
at the corners of all the adjacent streets commented upon the decree of
outlawry drawn up by the members of the Left remaining at liberty; they
snatched the copies from each other. Men mounted on the kerbstones read
aloud the names of the 120 signatories, and, still more than on the day
before, each significant or celebrated name was hailed with applause.
The crowd increased every moment--and the anger. The entire Rue Saint
Denis presented the strange aspect of a street with all the doors and
windows closed, and all the inhabitants in the open air. Look at the
houses, there is death; look at the street, it is the tempest.
Some fifty determined men suddenly emerged from a side alley, and
began to run through the streets, saying, "To arms! Long live the
Representatives of the Left! Long live the Constitution!" The disarming
of the National Guards began. It was carried out more easily than on
the preceding evening. In less than an hour more than 150 muskets had
In the meanwhile the street became covered with barricades.
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