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Chapter 41


Yes, that tribune M. Bonaparte has overthrown. That power, created by our revolutionary parturition, he has broken, shattered, crushed, torn with his bayonets, thrown under the feet of horses. His uncle uttered an aphorism: "The throne is a board covered with velvet." He, also, has uttered his: "The tribune is a board covered with cloth, on which we read, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité." He has thrown board and cloth, and Liberty and Equality and Fraternity, into the fire of a bivouac. A burst of laughter from the soldiers, a little smoke, and all was over.

Is it true? Is it possible? Did it happen so? Has such a thing been seen in these days? Mon Dieu, yes; it is, in fact, extremely simple. To cut off the head of Cicero and nail his two hands upon the rostrum, it sufficed to have a brute who has a knife, and another brute who has nails and a hammer.

The tribune was for France three things: a means of exterior initiative, a method of interior government, a source of glory. Louis Bonaparte has suppressed the initiative. France was the teacher of the peoples, and conquered them by love; to what end? He has suppressed the method of government,--his own is better. He has breathed upon the glory of France, and blown it out. Certain breaths have this property.

But to make an assault upon the tribune is a family crime. The first Bonaparte had already committed it, but at least what he brought into France to replace that glory, was glory, not ignominy.

Louis Bonaparte did not content himself with overthrowing the tribune; he determined to make it ridiculous. As well try that as anything else. The least one can do, when one cannot utter two words consecutively, when one harangues only with written notes in hand, when one is short both of speech and of intelligence, is to make a little fun of Mirabeau. General Ratapoil said to General Foy, "Hold your tongue, chatterbox!"--"What is it you call the tribune?" cries M. Bonaparte Louis; "it is parliamentarism!" What have you to say to "parliamentarism"? Parliamentarism pleases me. Parliamentarism is a pearl. Behold the dictionary enriched. This academician of coups d'état makes new words. In truth one is not a barbarian to refrain from dropping a barbarism now and then. He too is a sower; barbarisms fructify in the brains of idiots. The uncle had "ideologists"--the nephew has "parliamentarisms." Parliamentarism, gentlemen; parliamentarism, ladies. This is answerable for everything. You venture timidly to observe: "It is perhaps a pity so many families have been ruined, so many people transported, so many citizens proscribed, so many coffins filled, so many graves dug, so much blood spilt" "Aha!" replies a coarse voice with a Dutch accent; "so you mistrust parliamentarism, do you?" Get out of the dilemma if you can. Parliamentarism is a great find. I give my vote to M. Louis Bonaparte for the next vacant seat at the Institute. What's that? why, we must encourage neology! This man comes from the dung-heap, this man comes from the Morgue, this man's hands steam like a butcher's, he scratches his ear, smiles, and invents words like Julie d'Angennes. He marries the wit of the Hôtel de Rambouillet to the odour of Montfauçon. We will both vote for him, won't we, M. de Montalembert?

Victor Hugo