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Louis Philippe page 4


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Louis Blanc draws a vivid picture of Louis Philippe and his policy. He says: - "Whatever may have been the baseness of Rome under the Caesars, it was equalled by the corruption in France in the reign of Louis Philippe. Nothing like it had ever been witnessed in history. The thirst for gold having gained possession of minds agitated by impure desires, society terminated by sinking into a brutal materialism. Talent, energy, eloquence, genius, virtue itself, were devoted to no other end but the amassing of a fortune. Renown acquired by money was turned only to increasing it. Literary or scientific, military or civil, everything was venal; glory itself had its price. Oh, the degradation, never to be forgotten, of that noble France which had furnished to ancient times their most illustrious chevaliers, and to modern their brightest genius, their most heroic martyrs! Everything was brought to the market - suffrages counted by crowns. They made, as in a new species of bazaar, a scaffolding of venal consciences, where honour was bought and law sold. This fearful degradation of France was not the work of a day. Since 1830, the formula of their selfishness - Every one by himself and for himself' - had been adopted by the Sovereign as the maxim of states; and that maxim, alike hideous and fatal, had become the ruling principle of government. It was the device of Louis Philippe, a prince gifted with moderation, knowledge, tolerance, humanity; but sceptical, destitute either of nobility of heart or elevation of mind: the most experienced corrupter of the human race that ever appeared on earth. It resulted from his government, that during eighteen years the poison was let in slowly, drop by drop, from high places, in an unobserved but continual flow. In the latter years of the reign of Louis Philippe, every one surrendered himself, with his eyes shut, to the torrent of corruption. If a revolution was vaguely apprehended by a few, it was only when Louis Philippe was dead, and every one replied by a shrug of the shoulders to those who said, 'This silence is fatal; this repose is ominous. Death is germinating beneath dishonour.'"

The first proclamation issued by the Provisional Government was the following: - "A retrograde government has been overturned by the heroism of the people of Paris. This Government has fled, leaving behind it traces of blood, which will for ever forbid its return. The blood of the people has flowed, as in July; but, happily, it has not been shed in vain. It has secured a national and popular government, in accordance with the rights, the progress, and the will of this great and generous people. A Provisional Government, at the call of the people, and some deputies, in the sitting of the 24th of February, is for the moment invested with the care of organising and securing the national victory. It is composed of MM. Dupont (de L'Eure), Lamartine, Crémieux, Arago, Ledru Rollin, and Garnier Pages. The secretaries to this Government are MM. Armand Marrast, Louis Blanc, and Ferdinand Flocon. These citizens have not hesitated for an instant to accept the patriotic mission which has been imposed on them by the urgency of the occasion. Frenchmen, give to the world the example Paris has given to France. Prepare your-r selves, by order and confidence in yourselves, for the institutions which are about to be given to you. The Provisional Government desires a Republic, pending the ratification of the French people, who are to be immediately consulted. Neither the people of Paris nor the Provisional Government desire to substitute their opinion for the opinion of the citizens at large upon the definite form of government which the national sovereignty shall proclaim. 'L'unité de la Nation,' formed, henceforth, of all classes of people that compose it; the government of the nation by itself; liberty, equality, and fraternity for its principles; the people to devise and to maintain order - such is the democratic government which France owes to herself, and which our efforts will assure to her. Such are the first acts of the Provisional Government.

(Signed) "Dupont (de L'Eure), Lamartine, Ledru
Rollin, Bedeau Michel Goudchaux, Arago,
Bethmont, Marie Carnot, Cavaignac,
Garnier Pagès.

" The Municipal Guard is disbanded. The protection of the city of Paris is confided to the National Guard, under the orders of M. Courtais."

Scarcely had the ex-king found a resting-place on British soil, than every vestige of royalty was obliterated in France. The names of public buildings, streets, and newspapers were all changed. The Tuileries, the magnificent palace of the kings of France, was converted into an asylum for invalid workmen. The republican spirit of the citizens pervaded the army, and there was no longer a regiment which gloried in the designation of "Royal." All the ancient titles of nobility were abolished, and the qualifications and immunities attached to them prohibited. The throne was carried from the Tuileries, and burned at the foot of the Column of July. The Royal Château of Neuilly was attacked by a mob, and burned to the ground. The Provisional Government exerted itself with great vigour, zealously seconded by the mass of the citizens, to protect the rights of property, and in a short time order was restored. The Revolution was not distinguished by outrages upon the clergy, or injury to the churches. On the contrary, religion was respected. When the Tuileries was taken by the mob, they found there a magnificent image of the Saviour. " My friends," exclaimed a pupil of the Ecole Polytechnique, "this is the Master of us all." The people immediately took off their hats, and bore the figure in procession to the Church of St. Roch, crying out as they advanced, "Citizens, off with your hats! Salute Christ." Even the clergy had not a word to say for fallen monarchy, or the right divine. On the contrary, the sympathy they expressed «was entirely with triumphant rebellion, and the sovereignty of the people. The Archbishop of Paris addressed a circular to each curé, in which he said " that they wept for the fate of the victims whom death had struck down, because they were their brethren, and because the clergy had learned once more, what disinterestedness, respect for property, and generous sentiment filled the hearts of the people of Paris." And the Archbishop said, " they would pray for all those who had fallen in the struggle, that God might open to them the place of light and peace." Monarchy was struck out of the Liturgy, and the following words inserted - "Domine, salvam fac rem publicam." Trees of liberty were planted in the boulevards and public places, which were formally and solemnly blessed by the priests, one curé having performed this ceremony on no less than twenty-one trees. The Government decreed that the children of citizens killed during the two days' fighting were adopted by the country; and the Government charged itself with all assistance given to the ' wounded, and "to the families of the victims of the monarchical government."

The 25th was a day of extreme agitation among the surging masses of the Paris population. The Communistic party were struggling for ascendancy, and for the establishment of the Red Republic. An immense multitude thronged the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville, in such a state of excitement, that M. de Lamartine was obliged to come out and address them from the windows five times. They were vociferous and imperative in their demand that the red flag should float over the hotel, instead of the tricolour, which they required to be pulled down. To this demand M. Lamartine offered a courageous resistance, and by the magic of his eloquence he succeeded in arresting the torrent of popular passion, and turning its course. The following is the memorable peroration of his harangue: - "It is thus that you are led from calumny to calumny, against the men who have devoted themselves, head, heart, and breast, to give you a real republic - the republic of all rights, all interests, and all the legitimate rights of the people. Yesterday you asked us to usurp, in the name of the people of Paris, the rights of 35,000,000 of men, to vote them an absolute republic, instead of a republic invested with the strength of their consent; that is to say, to make that republic, imposed and not consented to, the will of a part of the people, instead of the will of the whole nation. To-day you demand of us the red flag instead of the tricolour one. Citizens! for my part, I will never adopt the red flag; and I will explain, in a word, why I will oppose it with all the strength of my patriotism. It is, citizens, because the tricolour flag has made the tour of the world, under the Republic and the Empire, with our liberties and our glories; and that the red flag has only made the tour of the Champ de Mars, trailed through torrents of the blood of the people."

It was, perhaps, one of the greatest triumphs of oratory on record. The effect was electrical. The multitude unanimously expressed their enthusiasm in cheering and clapping of hands, and the orator was almost suffocated by the pressure of the crowd, and the efforts of the people to shake hands with him. On the 26th, the Provisional Government sat again at the Hôtel de Ville, and proclaimed the result of their deliberations. It decreed the abolition of royalty, the proclamation of a republic, the establishment of national workshops for all who needed employment, and the abolition of the punishment of death for political offences. On the next day, which was Sunday, an immense multitude assembled at the Place de la Bastille, and there, on the steps of the Column of July, M. Arago again proclaimed the Republic, in presence of the whole of the National Guard. Although the rain descended in torrents and the weather was boisterous, the people remained out of doors, and made the day a great festival, in honour of their victory. It was agreed that a Constituent Assembly should be chosen on the 9th of April, and should meet on the 20th; that the suffrage should be universal, and voting by ballot; that all Frenchmen twenty-one years of age should be electors; that all Frenchmen twenty-five years of age should be eligible; that the representatives should be 900 in number, and that each should be paid twenty-five francs a day during the session. They sent " Commissioners" through the provinces, armed with full authority to make regulations. "What are your powers?" asked the Minister of the Interior, Ledru Rollin. "They are unlimited. Agent of a revolutionary authority, you are revolutionary also. The victory of the people has imposed on you the duty of getting your work proclaimed and consolidated. For the accomplishment of that task you are invested with its sovereignty; you take orders only from your conscience. You are to act only as circumstances may demand for the public safety."

The army had declared for the [Republic; the clergy were passive; but the great difficulty was with the unemployed workmen of Paris, to whom promises were made which it was utterly impossible to fulfil, They undertook " to put an end to the long and iniquitous sufferings of workmen, and to give employment to everyone, at good wages;" for which purpose a commission was appointed, whose president was M. Louis Blanc, and his vice-president M. Albert, formerly a manufacturer, to whose name the word "ouvrier" was always attached. This commission fixed the time of labour as ten hours for all professions. One of the first fruits of its interference with the labour market was a demand that the English workmen should be expelled from the railways and different manufacturing establishments. In many places they had to fly for their lives, to escape the fury of the mob. When the mischief was done, the Provisional Government pleaded with their unmanageable clients, telling them that the formula - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity - which headed all proclamations and State papers, referred to people of every nation; that France ought to set an example of liberality to other countries, and that sending away foreigners, for the sole reason that they were foreigners, was a shameful violation of their principles, and, besides, England might retaliate, and banish the 22,000 Frenchmen employed in that country. The commission for the government of labourers sat in the Palace of the Luxembourg, where they were busy from day to day organising their grand scheme - so ignorant of political economy as not to be aware, when they agreed that the Government should take possession on its own account of all establishments which were about to suspend their works, that there would be soon no works to suspend.

The National Assembly commenced its sittings on the 4th of May, in a temporary wooden structure erected for the purpose. The Assembly was addressed by M. Dupont de L'Eure, its oldest member, now an octogenarian. He hailed the deputies as depositaries of the national sovereignty, about to found institutions on the broad basis of democracy, and to give to France the only constitution that would suit her - a Republic. At this the whole Assembly rose, and with right hands upraised, cried, " Vive la République!" Shortly after the Assembly rose in a body, with the members of the Provisional Government, and stood outside on the flight of steps facing the Pont de la Concorde; the National Guard filling the space between them and the river. A shout was raised for the colours of the army, which were brought forward amid the pealing of artillery and the cheers of the multitude, and unfurled to the breeze. There, in the presence of 200,000 citizens, the Government and the National Assembly declared, in the "name of the French people and in the face of the entire world, that the Republic proclaimed on the 24th of February, 1848, is, and shall remain, the form of government of France, with the motto - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."

In the hurry, confusion, and crushing during the revolutionary tumult, two Provisional Governments had been appointed, but they were afterwards amalgamated; three of the names being common to both, viz.: De Lamartine, Arago, and Ledru Rollin. There was in the Ministry a strong division of sentiment. It consisted of a moderate and extreme party. De Lamartine belonged to the former, and to his exertions chiefly was due the restraint that was put upon the democracy. The Red Republicans and Socialists were represented by Ledru Rollin, Flocon, Louis Blanc, and Albert; the latter striving to impel the Government to violent courses. On the day after the Republic had been solemnly proclaimed, the Hôtel de Ville was surrounded by a multitude of workmen, crying out for the rights of labour, and the organisation of labour. The Government resisted their demands, and pointed out to them that if their wishes were complied with, the capital which gave them employment would disappear. But they would not listen to reason. Deputation after deputation came from armed men, with cannons loaded and matches lighted. " Citizens," said Lamartine, "if you were to put me at the mouth of one of those pieces of cannon, I would not sign the two words 'organisation' and 'labour' put together. After twenty years' reflection on the subject, I don't understand them. They have no meaning. " He continued to explain the matter, and his logical and eloquent appeals had some effect for the moment. But the Socialist and Red Republican elements continued to be very active, and to prevail more and more, till at length an attempt was made to overthrow the Government by another revolution. Blanqui, Cabet, and others headed a demonstration, the object of which was to demand the dismissal of the moderate members of the Government, on the pretence that they refused to go to war for Poland, but the rappel was beaten, and two hundred thousand National Guards soon took possession of the streets. The insurgents, who found the Pont Neuf occupied by troops, were met with cries of " A has Blanqui!" "A bas les communistes!" After such a reception, they thought the best plan was to retire. One of the first acts of the Assembly was to pass a resolution - that in this, as well as in other respects, the provisional government had deserved well of the country. But the revolutionary passions out of doors were far from being appeased. Secret societies and clubs were actively at work, and on the 11th of May a placard appeared, citing the proclamation of the provisional government dated the 25th of February, in which it unwisely undertook "to guarantee labour for all the citizens," and proceeding thus: - "The promises made on the barricades not having been fulfilled, and the National Assembly having refused, in its sitting on the 10th of May, to constitute a ministry of labour, the delegates of the Luxembourg decline to assist at the fête called ' de la Concorde.' " On the 15th of May the chamber was invaded by a body of men, carrying banners in their hands, and shouting for Poland. The President put on his hat, and the Assembly broke up. After a short time he returned. The National Guard appeared in force, and quickly cleared the hall. It had acted under special orders, for its general - Courtais - had betrayed his trust. A successor was appointed in the Assembly, while he was degraded on the spot, his sword being wrenched from him, and his epaulettes torn off. He was then driven from the Assembly, with cries of "Down with the traitor! " After these measures were taken to suppress the counter-revolution, the Assembly resumed its labours. A proclamation was issued, stating that the National Guard, the Garde Mobile, all the forces in Paris and the neighbourhood, had driven before them the insane conspirators, who concealed their plots against liberty under the pretence of zeal for Poland.

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