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Chapter 8

THE CONSTITUTION


A roll of the drums; clowns, attention!

THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC,

"Considering that--all the restrictive laws on the liberty of the press having been repealed, all the laws against hand-bills and posting-bills having been abolished, the right of public assemblage having been fully re-established, all the unconstitutional laws, including martial law, having been suppressed, every citizen being empowered to say what he likes through every medium of publicity, whether newspaper, placard, or electoral meeting, all solemn engagements, especially the oath of the 20th of December, 1848, having been scrupulously kept, all facts having been investigated, all questions propounded and discussed, all candidacies publicly defeated, without the possibility of alleging that the slightest violence had been exercised against the meanest citizen,--in one word, in the fullest enjoyment of liberty. "The sovereign people being interrogated on this question:--

"'Do the French people mean to place themselves, tied neck and heels, at the discretion of M. Louis Bonaparte?'

"Have replied YES by 7,500,000 votes. (Interruption by the author:--We shall have more to say of these 7,500,000 votes.)

"PROMULGATES

"THE CONSTITUTION IN MANNER FOLLOWING, THAT IS TO SAY:

"Article 1. The Constitution recognises, confirms, and guarantees the great principles proclaimed in 1789, which are the foundation of the public law of the French people.

"Article 2 and following. The platform and the press, which impeded the march of progress, are superseded by the police and the censorship, and by the secret deliberations of the Senate, the Corps Législatif and the Council of State.

"Article last. The thing commonly called human intelligence is suppressed.

"Done at the Palace of the Tuileries January 14, 1852.

"LOUIS NAPOLEON.

"Witnessed and sealed with the great seal.

"E. ROUHER.

"Keeper of the Seals and Minister of Justice."

This Constitution, which loudly proclaims and confirms the Revolution of 1789 in its principles and its consequences, and which merely abolishes liberty, was evidently and happily inspired in M. Bonaparte, by an old provincial play-bill which it is well to recall at this time:

THIS DAY,

The Grand Representation

OF

LA DAME BLANCHE,

AN OPERA IN THREE ACTS.

Note. The music, which would embarrass the progress of the plot, will be replaced by lively and piquant dialogue.


Victor Hugo