Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 17


The curious part of it is that they are desirous of being respected; a general is venerable, a minister is sacred. The Countess d'Andl----, a young woman of Brussels, was at Paris in March, 1852, and was one day in a salon in Faubourg Saint-Honoré when M. de P. entered. Madame d'Andl----, as she went out, passed before him, and it happened that, thinking probably of something else, she shrugged her shoulders. M. de P. noticed it; the following day Madame d'Andl---- was apprised, that henceforward, under pain of being expelled from France like a representative of the people, she must abstain from every mark of approbation or disapprobation when she happened to meet a minister.

Under this corporal-government, and under this countersign-constitution, everything proceeds in military form. The French people consult the order of the day to know how they must get up, how they must go to bed, how they must dress, in what toilette they may go to the sitting of the court, or to the soirée of the prefect; they are forbidden to make mediocre verses; to wear beards; the frill and the white cravat are laws of state. Rule, discipline, passive obedience, eyes cast down, silence in the ranks; such is the yoke under which bows at this moment the nation of initiative and of liberty, the great revolutionary France. The reformer will not stop until France shall be enough of a barrack for the generals to exclaim: "Good!" and enough of a seminary for the bishops to say: "That will do!"

Do you like soldiers? they are to be found everywhere. The Municipal Council of Toulouse gives in its resignation; the Prefect Chapuis-Montlaville replaces the mayor by a colonel, the first deputy by a colonel, and the second deputy by a colonel.[1] Military men take the inside of the sidewalk. "The soldiers," says Mably, "considering themselves in the place of the citizens who formerly made the consuls, the dictators, the censors, and the tribunes, associated with the government of the emperors a species of military democracy." Have you a shako on your head? then do what you please. A young man returning from a ball, passed through Rue de Richelieu before the gate of the National Library; the sentinel took aim at him and killed him; the journals of the following morning said: "The young man is dead," and there it ended. Timour Bey granted to his companions-in-arms, and to their descendants to the seventh generation, impunity for all crimes whatsoever, provided the delinquent had not committed a crime nine times. The sentinel of Rue Richelieu has, therefore, eight citizens more to kill before he can be brought before a court-martial. It is a good thing to be a soldier, but not so good to be a citizen. At the same time, however, this unfortunate army is dishonoured. On the 3rd of December, they decorated the police officers who arrested its representatives and its generals; though it is equally true that the soldiers themselves received two louis per man. Oh, shame on every side! money to the soldiers, and the cross to the police spies!

[1] These three colonels are MM. Cailhassou, Dubarry and Policarpe.

Jesuitism and corporalism, this is the sum total of the regime. The whole political theory of M. Bonaparte is composed of two hypocrisies--a military hypocrisy towards the army, a catholic hypocrisy towards the clergy. When it is not Fracasse it is Basile. Sometimes it is both together. In this manner he succeeded wonderfully in duping at the same time Montalembert, who does not believe in France, and Saint-Arnaud who does not believe in God.

Does the Dictator smell of incense? Does he smell of tobacco? Smell and see. He smells of both tobacco and incense. Oh, France! what a government is this! The spurs pass by beneath the cassock. The coup d'état goes to mass, thrashes the civilians, reads its breviary, embraces Catin, tells its beads, empties the wine pots, and takes the sacrament. The coup d'état asserts, what is doubtful, that we have gone back to the time of the Jacqueries; but this much is certain, that it takes us back to the time of the Crusades. Cæsar goes crusading for the Pope. Diex el volt. The Élysée has the faith, and the thirst also, of the Templar.

To enjoy and to live well, we repeat, and to consume the budget; to believe nothing, to make the most of everything; to compromise at once two sacred things, military honour and religious faith; to stain the altar with blood and the standard with holy water; to make the soldier ridiculous, and the priest a little ferocious; to mix up with that great political fraud which he calls his power, the Church and the nation, the conscience of the Catholic and the conscience of the patriot. This is the system of Bonaparte the Little.

All his acts, from the most monstrous to the most puerile, from that which is hideous to that which is laughable, are stamped with this twofold scheme. For instance, national solemnities bore him. The 24th of February and the 4th of May: these are disagreeable or dangerous reminders, which obstinately return at fixed periods. An anniversary is an intruder; let us suppress anniversaries. So be it. We will keep but one birthday, our own. Excellent. But with one fête only how are two parties to be satisfied--the soldier party and the priest party? The soldier party is Voltairian. Where Canrobert smiles, Riancey makes a wry face. What's to be done? You shall see. Your great jugglers are not embarrassed by such a trifle. The Moniteur one fine morning declares that there will be henceforth but one national fête, the 15th of August. Hereupon a semi-official commentary: the two masks of the Dictator begin to speak. "The 15th of August," says the Ratapoil mouth, "Saint Napoleon's day!" "The 15th of August," says the Tartuffe mouth, "the fête of the Holy Virgin!" On one side the Second-of-December puffs out its cheeks, magnifies its voice, draws its long sabre and exclaims: "Sacre-bleu, grumblers! Let us celebrate the birthday of Napoleon the Great!" On the other, it casts down its eyes, makes the sign of the cross, and mumbles: "My very dear brethren, let us adore the sacred heart of Mary!"

The present government is a hand stained with blood, which dips a finger in the holy water.

Victor Hugo