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Chapter 26

A VISIT TO THE OLD CHAMBER OF PEERS.

June, 1849.

The working men who sat in the Luxembourg during
the months of March and April under the presidency
of M. Louis Blanc, showed a sort of respect for the
Chamber of Peers they replaced. The armchairs of the
peers were occupied, but not soiled. There was no insult,
no affront, no abuse. Not a piece of velvet was torn, not a
piece of leather was dirtied. There is a good deal of the
child about the people, it is given to chalking its anger,
its joy and its irony on walls; these labouring men were
serious and inoffensive. In the drawers of the desks they
found the pens and knives of the peers, yet made neither
a cut nor a spot of ink.

A keeper of the palace remarked to me: "They have
behaved themselves very well." They left their places as
they had found them. One only left his mark, and he had
written in the drawer of Louis Blanc on the ministerial
bench:


Royalty is abolished.
Hurrah for Louis Blanc!


This inscription is still there.

The fauteuils of the peers were covered with green velvet
embellished with gold stripes. Their desks were of
mahogany, covered with morocco leather, and with drawers of
oak containing writing material in plenty, but having no
key. At the top of his desk each peer's name was stamped
in gilt letters on a piece of green leather let into the wood.
On the princes' bench, which was on the right, behind the
ministerial bench, there was no name, but a gilt plate
bearing the words: "The Princes' Bench." This plate and the
names of the peers had been torn off, not by the working
men, but by order of the Provisional Government.

A few changes were made in the rooms which served as
ante-chambers to the Assembly. Puget's admirable "Milo
of Crotona," which ornamented the vestibule at the top of
the grand staircase, was taken to the old museum and a
marble of some kind was substituted for it. The full length
statue of the Duke d'Orleans, which was in the second
vestibule, was taken I know not where and replaced by a
statue of Pompey with gilt face, arms and legs, the statue
at the foot of which, according to tradition, assassinated
Caesar fell. The picture of founders of constitutions, in
the third vestibule, a picture in which Napoleon, Louis
XVIII. and Louis Philippe figured, was removed by order
of Ledru-Rollin and replaced by a magnificent Gobelin
tapestry borrowed from the Garde-Meuble.

Hard by this third vestibule is the old hall of the Chamber
of Peers, which was built in 1805 for the Senate. This
hall, which is small, narrow and obscure; supported by
meagre Corinthian columns with mahogany-coloured bases
and white capitals; furnished with flat desks and chairs in
the Empire style with green velvet seats, the whole in
mahogany; and paved with white marble relieved by lozenges of
red Saint Anne marble,--this hall, so full of memories, had
been religiously preserved, and after the new hall was built
in 1840, had been used for the private conferences of the
Court of Peers.

It was in this old hall of the Senate that Marshal Ney
was tried. A bar had been put up to the left of the
Chancellor who presided over the Chamber. The Marshal was
behind this bar, with M. Berryer, senior, on his right, and
M. Dupin, the elder, on his left. He stood upon one of the
lozenges in the floor, in which, by a sinister hazard, the
capricious tracing of the marble figured a death's head.
This lozenge has since been taken up and replaced by another.

After February, in view of the riots, soldiers had to be
lodged in the palace. The old Senate-hall was turned into
a guard-house. The desks of the senators of Napoleon and
of the peers of the Restoration were stored in the lumber
rooms, and the curule chairs served as beds for the troops.

Early in June, 1849, I visited the hall of the Chamber
of Peers and found it just as I had left it seventeen months
before, the last time that I sat there, on February 23, 1848.

Everything was in its place. Profound calmness reigned;
the fauteuils were empty and in order. One might have
thought that the Chamber had adjourned ten minutes previously.


Victor Hugo