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Chapter 8


At seven o'clock in the morning the Pont de la Concorde was still free.
The large grated gate of the Palace of the Assembly was closed; through
the bars might be seen the flight of steps, that flight of steps whence
the Republic had been proclaimed on the 4th May, 1848, covered with
soldiers; and their piled arms might be distinguished upon the platform
behind those high columns, which, during the time of the Constituent
Assembly, after the 15th of May and the 23d June, masked small mountain
mortars, loaded and pointed.

A porter with a red collar, wearing the livery of the Assembly, stood by
the little door of the grated gate. From time to time Representatives
arrived. The porter said, "Gentlemen, are you Representatives?" and
opened the door. Sometimes he asked their names.

M. Dupin's quarters could be entered without hindrance. In the great
gallery, in the dining-room, in the _salon d'honneur_ of the Presidency,
liveried attendants silently opened the doors as usual.

Before daylight, immediately after the arrest of the Questors MM. Baze
and Leflô, M. de Panat, the only Questor who remained free, having been
spared or disdained as a Legitimist, awoke M. Dupin and begged him to
summon immediately the Representatives from their own homes. M. Dupin
returned this unprecedented answer, "I do not see any urgency."

Almost at the same time as M. Panat, the Representative Jerôme Bonaparte
had hastened thither. He had summoned M. Dupin to place himself at the
head of the Assembly. M. Dupin had answered, "I cannot, I am guarded."
Jerôme Bonaparte burst out laughing. In fact, no one had deigned to
place a sentinel at M. Dupin's door; they knew that it was guarded by
his meanness.

It was only later on, towards noon, that they took pity on him. They
felt that the contempt was too great, and allotted him two sentinels.

At half-past seven, fifteen or twenty Representatives, among whom were
MM. Eugène Sue, Joret, de Rességuier, and de Talhouet, met together in
M. Dupin's room. They also had vainly argued with M. Dupin. In the
recess of a window a clever member of the Majority, M. Desmousseaux de
Givré, who was a little deaf and exceedingly exasperated, almost
quarrelled with a Representative of the Right like himself whom he
wrongly supposed to be favorable to the _coup d'état_.

M. Dupin, apart from the group of Representatives, alone dressed in
black, his hands behind his back, his head sunk on his breast, walked up
and down before the fire-place, where a large fire was burning. In his
own room, and in his very presence, they were talking loudly about
himself, yet he seemed not to hear.

Two members of the Left came in, Benoît (du Rhône), and Crestin. Crestin
entered the room, went straight up to M. Dupin, and said to him,
"President, you know what is going on? How is it that the Assembly has
not yet been convened?"

M. Dupin halted, and answered, with a shrug which was habitual with him,--

"There is nothing to be done."

And he resumed his walk.

"It is enough," said M. de Rességuier.

"It is too much," said Eugène Sue.

All the Representatives left the room.

In the meantime the Pont de la Concorde became covered with troops.
Among them General Vast-Vimeux, lean, old, and little; his lank white
hair plastered over his temples, in full uniform, with his laced hat on
his head. He was laden with two huge epaulets, and displayed his scarf,
not that of a Representative, but of a general, which scarf, being too
long, trailed on the ground. He crossed the bridge on foot, shouting to
the soldiers inarticulate cries of enthusiasm for the Empire and the
_coup d'état_. Such figures as these were seen in 1814. Only instead of
wearing a large tri-colored, cockade, they wore a large white cockade.
In the main the same phenomenon; old men crying, "Long live the Past!"
Almost at the same moment M. de Larochejaquelein crossed the Place de la
Concorde, surrounded by a hundred men in blouses, who followed him in
silence, and with an air of curiosity. Numerous regiments of cavalry
were drawn up in the grand avenue of the Champs Elysées.

At eight o'clock a formidable force invested the Legislative Palace.
All the approaches were guarded, all the doors were shut. Some
Representatives nevertheless succeeded in penetrating into the interior
of the Palace, not, as has been wrongly stated, by the passage of the
President's house on the side of the Esplanade of the Invalides, but by
the little door of the Rue de Bourgogne, called the Black Door. This
door, by what omission or what connivance I do not know, remained open
till noon on the 2d December. The Rue de Bourgogne was nevertheless full
of troops. Squads of soldiers scattered here and there in the Rue de
l'Université allowed passers-by, who were few and far between, to use it
as a thoroughfare.

The Representatives who entered by the door in Rue de Bourgogne,
penetrated as far as the Salle des Conférences, where they met their
colleagues coming out from M. Dupin.

A numerous group of men, representing every shade of opinion in the
Assembly, was speedily assembled in this hall, amongst whom were MM.
Eugène Sue, Richardet, Fayolle, Joret, Marc Dufraisse, Benoît (du
Rhône), Canet, Gambon, d'Adelsward, Créqu, Répellin, Teillard-Latérisse,
Rantion, General Leydet, Paulin Durrieu, Chanay, Brilliez, Collas (de la
Gironde), Monet, Gaston, Favreau, and Albert de Rességuier.

Each new-comer accosted M. de Panat.

"Where are the vice-Presidents?"

"In prison."

"And the two other Questors?"

"Also in prison. And I beg you to believe, gentlemen," added M. de
Panat, "that I have had nothing to do with the insult which has been
offered me, in not arresting me."

Indignation was at its height; every political shade was blended in the
same sentiment of contempt and anger, and M. de Rességuier was no less
energetic than Eugène Sue. For the first time the Assembly seemed only
to have one heart and one voice. Each at length said what he thought of
the man of the Elysée, and it was then seen that for a long time past
Louis Bonaparte had imperceptibly created a profound unanimity in the
Assembly--the unanimity of contempt.

M. Collas (of the Gironde) gesticulated and told his story. He came from
the Ministry of the Interior. He had seen M. de Morny, he had spoken to
him; and he, M. Collas, was incensed beyond measure at M. Bonaparte's
crime. Since then, that Crime has made him Councillor of State.

M. de Panat went hither and thither among the groups, announcing to the
Representatives that he had convened the Assembly for one o'clock. But it
was impossible to wait until that hour. Time pressed. At the Palais
Bourbon, as in the Rue Blanche, it was the universal feeling that each
hour which passed by helped to accomplish the _coup d'état_. Every one
felt as a reproach the weight of his silence or of his inaction; the
circle of iron was closing in, the tide of soldiers rose unceasingly,
and silently invaded the Palace; at each instant a sentinel the more was
found at a door, which a moment before had been free. Still, the group of
Representatives assembled together in the Salle des Conférences was as
yet respected. It was necessary to act, to speak, to deliberate, to
struggle, and not to lose a minute.

Gambon said, "Let us try Dupin once more; he is our official man, we
have need of him." They went to look for him. They could not find him.
He was no longer there, he had disappeared, he was away, hidden,
crouching, cowering, concealed, he had vanished, he was buried. Where?
No one knew. Cowardice has unknown holes.

Suddenly a man entered the hall. A man who was a stranger to the Assembly,
in uniform, wearing the epaulet of a superior officer and a sword by his
side. He was a major of the 42d, who came to summon the Representatives
to quit their own House. All, Royalists and Republicans alike, rushed
upon him. Such was the expression of an indignant eye-witness. General
Leydet addressed him in language such as leaves an impression on the
cheek rather than on the ear.

"I do my duty, I fulfil my instructions," stammered the officer.

"You are an idiot, if you think you are doing your duty," cried Leydet
to him, "and you are a scoundrel if you know that you are committing a
crime. Your name? What do you call yourself? Give me your name."

The officer refused to give his name, and replied, "So, gentlemen, you
will not withdraw?"


"I shall go and obtain force."

"Do so."

He left the room, and in actual fact went to obtain orders from the
Ministry of the Interior.

The Representatives waited in that kind of indescribable agitation which
might be called the Strangling of Right by Violence.

In a short time one of them who had gone out came back hastily, and warned
them that two companies of the _Gendarmerie Mobile_ were coming with
their guns in their hands.

Marc Dufraisse cried out, "Let the outrage be thorough. Let the _coup
d'état_ find us on our seats. Let us go to the Salle des Séances," he
added. "Since things have come to such a pass, let us afford the genuine
and living spectacle of an 18th Brumaire."

They all repaired to the Hall of Assembly. The passage was free. The
Salle Casimir-Périer was not yet occupied by the soldiers.

They numbered about sixty. Several were girded with their scarves of
office. They entered the Hall meditatively.

There, M. de Rességuier, undoubtedly with a good purpose, and in order
to form a more compact group, urged that they should all install
themselves on the Right side.

"No," said Marc Dufraisse, "every one to his bench." They scattered
themselves about the Hall, each in his usual place.

M. Monet, who sat on one of the lower benches of the Left Centre, held
in his hand a copy of the Constitution.

Several minutes elapsed. No one spoke. It was the silence of expectation
which precedes decisive deeds and final crises, and during which every
one seems respectfully to listen to the last instructions of his

Suddenly the soldiers of the _Gendarmerie Mobile_, headed by a captain
with his sword drawn, appeared on the threshold. The Hall of Assembly
was violated. The Representatives rose from their seats simultaneously,
shouting "Vive la République!"

The Representative Monet alone remained standing, and in a loud and
indignant voice, which resounded through the empty hall like a trumpet,
ordered the soldiers to halt.

The soldiers halted, looking at the Representatives with a bewildered

The soldiers as yet only blocked up the lobby of the Left, and had not
passed beyond the Tribune.

Then the Representative Monet read the Articles 36, 37, and 68 of the

Articles 36 and 37 established the inviolability of the
Representatives. Article 68 deposed the President in the event of

That moment was a solemn one. The soldiers listened in silence.

The Articles having been read, Representative d'Adelsward, who sat on
the first lower bench of the Left, and who was nearest to the soldiers,
turned towards them and said,--

"Soldiers, you see that the President of the Republic is a traitor, and
would make traitors of you. You violate the sacred precinct of rational
Representation. In the name of the Constitution, in the name of the Law,
we order you to withdraw."

While Adelsward was speaking, the major commanding the _Gendarmerie
Mobile_ had entered.

"Gentlemen," said he, "I have orders to request you to retire, and, if
you do not withdraw of your own accord, to expel you."

"Orders to expel us!" exclaimed Adelsward; and all the Representatives
added, "Whose orders; Let us see the orders. Who signed the orders?"

The major drew forth a paper and unfolded it. Scarcely had he unfolded
it than he attempted to replace it in his pocket, but General Leydet
threw himself upon him and seized his arm. Several Representatives leant
forward, and read the order for the expulsion of the Assembly, signed
"Fortoul, Minister of the Marine."

Marc Dufraisse turned towards the _Gendarmes Mobiles_, and cried out to

"Soldiers, your very presence here is an act of treason. Leave the

The soldiers seemed undecided. Suddenly a second column emerged from the
door on the right, and at a signal from the commander, the captain

"Forward! Turn them all out!"

Then began an indescribable hand-to-hand fight between the gendarmes and
the legislators. The soldiers, with their guns in their hands, invaded
the benches of the Senate. Repellin, Chanay, Rantion, were forcibly torn
from their seats. Two gendarmes rushed upon Marc Dufraisse, two upon
Gambon. A long struggle took place on the first bench of the Right, the
same place where MM. Odilon Barrot and Abbatucci were in the habit of
sitting. Paulin Durrieu resisted violence by force, it needed three men
to drag him from his bench. Monet was thrown down upon the benches of the
Commissaries. They seized Adelsward by the throat, and thrust him outside
the Hall. Richardet, a feeble man, was thrown down and brutally treated.
Some were pricked with the points of the bayonets; nearly all had their
clothes torn.

The commander shouted to the soldiers, "Rake them out."

It was thus that sixty Representatives of the People were taken by the
collar by the _coup d'état_, and driven from their seats. The manner in
which the deed was executed completed the treason. The physical
performance was worthy of the moral performance.

The three last to come out were Fayolle, Teillard-Latérisse, and Paulin

They were allowed to pass by the great door of the Palace, and they
found themselves in the Place Bourgogne.

The Place Bourgogne was occupied by the 42d Regiment of the Line, under
the orders of Colonel Garderens.

Between the Palace and the statue of the Republic, which occupied the
centre of the square, a piece of artillery was pointed at the Assembly
opposite the great door.

By the side of the cannon some Chasseurs de Vincennes were loading their
guns and biting their cartridges.

Colonel Garderens was on horseback near a group of soldiers, which
attracted the attention of the Representatives Teillard-Latérisse,
Fayolle, and Paulin Durrieu.

In the middle of this group three men, who had been arrested, were
struggling crying, "Long live the Constitution! Vive la République!"

Fayolle, Paulin Durrieu, and Teillard-Latérisse approached, and
recognized in the three prisoners three members of the majority,
Representatives Toupet-des-Vignes Radoubt, Lafosse, and Arbey.

Representative Arbey was warmly protesting. As he raised his voice,
Colonel Garderens cut him short with these words, which are worthy of

"Hold your tongue! One word more, and I will have you thrashed with the
butt-end of a musket."

The three Representatives of the Left indignantly called on the Colonel
to release their colleagues.

"Colonel," said Fayolle, "You break the law threefold."

"I will break it sixfold," answered the Colonel, and he arrested
Fayolle, Durrieu, and Teillard-Latérisse.

The soldiery were ordered to conduct them to the guard house of the
Palace then being built for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On the way the six prisoners, marching between a double file of bayonets,
met three of their colleagues Representatives Eugène Sue, Chanay, and
Benoist (du Rhône).

Eugène Sue placed himself before the officer who commanded the detachment,
and said to him,--

"We summon you to set our colleagues at liberty."

"I cannot do so," answered the officer.

"In that case complete your crimes," said Eugène Sue, "We summon you to
arrest us also."

The officer arrested them.

They were taken to the guard-house of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs,
and, later on, to the barracks of the Quai d'Orsay. It was not till
night that two companies of the line came to transfer them to this
ultimate resting-place.

While placing them between his soldiers the commanding officer bowed
down to the ground, politely remarking, "Gentlemen, my men's guns are

The clearance of the hall was carried out, as we have said, in a
disorderly fashion, the soldiers pushing the Representatives before them
through all the outlets.

Some, and amongst the number those of whom we have just spoken, wens out
by the Rue de Bourgogne, others were dragged through the Salle des Pas
Perdus towards the grated door opposite the Pont de la Concorde.[3]

The Salle des Pas Perdus has an ante-chamber, a sort of crossway room,
upon which opened the staircase of the High Tribune, and several doors,
amongst others the great glass door of the gallery which leads to the
apartments of the President of the Assembly.

As soon as they had reached this crossway room which adjoins the little
rotunda, where the side door of exit to the Palace is situated, the
soldiers set the Representatives free.

There, in a few moments, a group was formed, in which the
Representatives Canet and Favreau began to speak. One universal cry was
raised, "Let us search for Dupin, let us drag him here if it is

They opened the glass door and rushed into the gallery. This time M.
Dupin was at home. M. Dupin, having learnt that the gendarmes had
cleared out the Hall, had come out of his hiding-place. The Assembly
being thrown prostrate, Dupin stood erect. The law being made prisoner,
this man felt himself set free.

The group of Representatives, led by MM. Canet and Favreau, found him in
his study.

There a dialogue ensued. The Representatives summoned the President to
put himself at their head, and to re-enter the Hall, he, the man of the
Assembly, with them, the men of the Nation.

M. Dupin refused point-blank, maintained his ground, was very firm, and
clung bravely to his nonentity.

"What do you want me to do?" said he, mingling with his alarmed protests
many law maxims and Latin quotations, an instinct of chattering jays,
who pour forth all their vocabulary when they are frightened. "What do
you want me to do? Who am I? What can I do? I am nothing. No one is any
longer anything. _Ubi nihil, nihil_. Might is there. Where there is
Might the people lose their Rights. _Novus nascitur ordo_. Shape your
course accordingly. I am obliged to submit. _Dura lex, sed lex_. A law
of necessity we admit, but not a law of right. But what is to be done? I
ask to be let alone. I can do nothing. I do what I can. I am not wanting
in good will. If I had a corporal and four men, I would have them

"This man only recognizes force," said the Representatives. "Very well,
let us employ force."

They used violence towards him, they girded him with a scarf like a cord
round his neck, and, as they had said, they dragged him towards the
Hall, begging for his "liberty," moaning, kicking--I would say
wrestling, if the word were not too exalted.

Some minutes after the clearance, this Salle des Pas Perdus, which had
just witnessed Representatives pass by in the clutch of gendarmes, saw
M. Dupin in the clutch of the Representatives.

They did not get far. Soldiers barred the great green folding-doors.
Colonel Espinasse hurried thither, the commander of the gendarmerie came
up. The butt-ends of a pair of pistols were seen peeping out of the
commander's pocket.

The colonel was pale, the commander was pale, M. Dupin was livid. Both
sides were afraid. M. Dupin was afraid of the colonel; the colonel
assuredly was not afraid of M. Dupin, but behind this laughable and
miserable figure he saw a terrible phantom rise up--his crime, and he
trembled. In Homer there is a scene where Nemesis appears behind

M. Dupin remained for some moments stupefied, bewildered and speechless.

The Representative Gambon exclaimed to him,--

"Now then, speak, M. Dupin, the Left does not interrupt you."

Then, with the words of the Representatives at his back, and the
bayonets of the soldiers at his breast, the unhappy man spoke. What
his mouth uttered at this moment, what the President of the Sovereign
Assembly of France stammered to the gendarmes at this intensely critical
moment, no one could gather.

Those who heard the last gasps of this moribund cowardice, hastened
to purify their ears. It appears, however, that he stuttered forth
something like this:--

"You are Might, you have bayonets; I invoke Right and I leave you. I
have the honor to wish you good day."

He went away.

They let him go. At the moment of leaving he turned round and let fall a
few more words. We will not gather them up. History has no rag-picker's

[3] This grated door was closed on December 2, and was not reopened
until the 12th March, when M. Louis Bonaparte came to inspect the works
of the Hall of the Corps Legislatif.

Victor Hugo