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Chapter 42

THE TRIBUNE DESTROYED


So "parliamentarism"--that is to say, protection of the citizen, freedom of discussion, liberty of the press, liberty of the subject, supervision of the taxes, inspection of the receipts and expenses, the safety-lock upon the public money-box, the right of knowing what is being done with your money, the solidity of credit, liberty of conscience, liberty of worship, protection of property, the guarantee against confiscation and spoliation, the safeguard of the individual, the counterpoise to arbitrary power, the dignity of the nation, the glory of France, the steadfast morals of free nations, movement, life,--all these exist no longer. Wiped out, annihilated, vanished! And this "deliverance" has cost France only the trifle of twenty-five millions, divided amongst twelve or fifteen saviours, and forty thousand francs in eau-de-vie, per brigade! Verily, this is not dear! these gentlemen, of the coup d'état did the thing at a discount.

Now the deed is done, it is complete. The grass is growing at the Palais-Bourbon. A virgin forest is beginning to spring up between Pont de la Concorde and Place Bourgogne. Amid the underbrush one distinguishes the box of a sentry. The Corps Législatif empties its urn among the reeds, and the water flows around the foot of the sentry-box with a gentle murmur.

Now it is all over. The great work is accomplished. And the results of the work! Do you know that Messieurs So-and-So won town houses and country houses in the Circuit Railway alone? Get all you can, gorge yourselves, grow a fat paunch; it is no longer a question of being a great people, of being a powerful people, of being a free nation, of casting a bright light; France no longer sees its way to that. And this is success! France votes for Louis-Napoleon, carries Louis-Napoleon, fattens Louis-Napoleon, contemplates Louis-Napoleon, admires Louis-Napoleon, and is stupefied. The end of civilization is attained!

Now there is no more noise, no more confusion, no more talking, no more parliament, or parliamentarism. The Corps Législatif, the Senate, the Council of State, have all had their mouths sewn up. There is no more fear of reading a fine speech when you wake up in the morning. It is all over with everything that thought, that meditated, that created, that spoke, that sparkled, that shone among this great people. Be proud, Frenchmen! Lift high your heads, Frenchmen! You are no longer anything, and this man is everything! He holds in his hand your intelligence, as a child holds a bird. Any day he pleases, he can strangle the genius of France. That will be one less source of tumult! In the meantime, let us repeat in chorus: "No more Parliamentarism, no more tribune!" In lieu of all those great voices which debated for the improvement of mankind, which were, one the idea, another the fact, another the right, another justice, another glory, another faith, another hope, another learning, another genius; which instructed, which charmed, which comforted, which encouraged, which brought forth fruit; in lieu of all those sublime voices, what is it that one hears amid the dark night that hangs like a pall over France? The jingle of a spur, of a sword dragged along the pavement!

"Hallelujah!" says M. Sibour. "Hosannah!" replies M. Parisis.


Victor Hugo