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Louis Philippe page 5


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The Fête de la Concorde took place on Sunday, the 21st of May, and passed off without any attempt at disturbance. On the contrary, the people were in excellent humour, and everything upon the surface of society seemed in keeping with the object of the festivity. On the 26th, the Assembly decreed the perpetual banishment of Louis Philippe and his family, by a majority of 695 to 63. But the ex-King was not the only pretender who occupied the attention of the new Government; a far more dangerous one was Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the Emperor, then an exile in London. He had gone over to Paris when the Republic was proclaimed, but acting on the advice of the Government, he quietly retired from the country. So potent, however, was still the charm that attached to the name of Napoleon, that his heir was elected a member of the National Assemby by no less than four constituencies. It was moreover discovered that money had been distributed in Paris by his partisans; that placards in his favour were posted upon the walls, and cries of " Vive Napoleon!" resounded through the city. Within four days, three journals had been established in Paris, preparing the way for the candidature of Louis Napoleon as President. After a violent debate, it was resolved by a large majority that he should be permitted to take his seat as a representative. On the 14th of June ho wrote from London, stating that he had been about to set off in order to appear at his post, when he learned that his election had been made a pretext for disorders in Paris. He disavowed all connection with those who had made use of his name to excite disturbance. His name was the symbol of order, of nationality, of glory; and rather than be the cause of disorder and of anarchy, he should prefer remaining in exile. But if the people imposed duties upon him, he should be at his post. The modesty of this language seemed to veil but thinly the ambition of the writer. But before the excitement which the reading of it had caused in the Assembly had subsided, another letter arrived, tendering his resignation, and adding, " Tranquillity, I trust, will now be restored, and enable me to return to France, as the humblest of citizens, but also as one of the most devoted to the repose and prosperity of the country." On the 10th of June, M. Leon Faucher said, "France needs a Government. It will not return to its industries without order, security, and confidence, for which it has in vain waited for four months. France, which will be governed, when it no longer feels the hand of a Government will throw itself into the arms of a dictator. This dictator I see already in the distance; a name has been pronounced, and adopted in the elections - a talisman against which we cannot too much struggle for liberty allied to order." It was announced that at Troies, when the National Guard cried out, " Vive la République," a regiment of the line entering the town, responded, " Vive Louis Napoleon!" Upon this, General Cavaignac, Minister of War, declared that, though he had no right to question the innocence of the man whose name had thus been so unfortunately put forward, he could not help delivering over to public execration any man who should lay sacrilegious hands on the public liberties. " Shame and woe," he exclaimed, " to him who would dare to speculate on the difficulties of the times and the sufferings of his native land, and who would turn a glorious name to the account of his personal ambition." On the Monday following, Paris was excited by a rumour that Louis Napoleon had arrived, and while De Lamartine was speaking in the Assembly, several shots were fired, one at the Commandant of the National Guard, another at an officer of the army, and this was done to the cry of " Vive l'Empereur Napoleon!" "This," said De Lamartine, "is the first drop of blood that has stained our revolution; and if blood has now been shed, it has not been for liberty, but by military fanaticism, and in the name of an ambition sadly, if not voluntarily, mixed up with guilty manoeuvres. When conspiracy is taken in flagrante delicto, with its hand dyed in French blood, the law should be voted by acclamation." He then proposed a decree, causing the law of banishment of 1832 against Louis Napoleon to be executed. It was voted by acclamation, the Assembly rising in a body, and shouting, " Vive la République!"

In the meantime, the Ateliers Nationaux, or Government workshops, had, as might have been expected, miserably failed to answer their object, and the working classes were now in a state of great destitution and dangerous discontent. "What," asked M. Victor Hugo, "had they produced in the course of four months? Nothing. They had degraded the vigorous children of labour, deprived them of all taste for labour, and demoralised them to such a degree, that they no longer blushed to beg in the streets. The Monarchy had its idlers, the Republic its vagabonds; but he thought that the enemies of the country would not succeed in converting the Parisian labourers, formerly so virtuous, into lazzaroni and janissaries, or Pretoriens of erneute at the services of a Dictatorship." The number of persons employed in the national workshops had increased to 120,000; misery was extending to all classes of society; one half of Paris was said to be feeding the other half, and it was expected that in a short time there would not be a single manufacture in operation in Paris. It was therefore determined to reduce the number of workmen employed by the Government, and the reduction was begun by sending back 3,000 who had come from the provinces. But having passed the barrier, 400 returned, and sent a deputation to the Executive Committee at the Palace of the Luxembourg. The interview was unsatisfactory, and the deputation marched through the streets, shouting, " Down with the Executive Commission! down with the Assembly! " They were joined by great numbers, and it was soon discovered that an insurrection had been fully organised; and, although next morning the National Guard appeared in great force in the streets, the people began to erect barricades at the Porte St. Denis, the Porte St. Martin, in the Faubourg St. Antoine, and in various other places. The Government, had, however, made effectual arrangements for putting down the riots; but the army, the National Guard, and the Garde Mobile had to encounter the most desperate resistance. There was an obstinate fight at every barricade, and when those positions proved untenable, the troops were attacked from the houses, the walls of which had been pierced with loopholes, and which had been made to communicate with one another by passages opening through the party walls. Mattresses were placed against the windows, from behind which the rebels took deadly aim against their assailants, who fell in great numbers, both in the streets and in the houses, which they courageously entered. Many of the barricades had been successfully defended, and from them the red flag waved over heaps of dead bodies. During the afternoon, General Cavaignac was invested with the command of all the military forces in Paris, and he found it absolutely necessary to have recourse to artillery to clear the streets. As the night closed, therefore, the roar of cannon was heard through Paris; but the insurgents were not yet subdued or dismayed. The barricades that had been levelled were reconstructed during the night. The insurgents were organised according to districts, with commanders whom they implicitly obeyed; the leaders of the insurrection sitting and giving orders in the Hospital of the Hôtel Dieu. Paris was declared by the Assembly to be in a state of siege, and all the executive powers were delegated to General Cavaignac. Next day he was reinforced by large numbers of National Guards from the provinces, and the General issued the following notice: - "If at noon the barricades are not removed, mortars and howitzers will be brought, by which shells will be thrown, which will explode behind the barricades, and in the apartments of the houses occupied by the insurgents." The warning was disregarded, and the fighting recommenced with fury; numbers of the National Assembly, having vainly endeavoured to induce the insurgents to desist, fought gallantly beside the troops. Sunday came, and the dreadful conflict still continued. In the evening of that day the President of the Assembly, announced that the troops of the Republic were in possession of a great number of the strongholds of the insurgents, but at an immense loss of blood. Never had anything like it been seen in Paris. He hoped that all would that night be finished. This day (June 25th) was signalised by a tragedy that will be long remembered in France. The Archbishop of Paris, an estimable prelate, resolved to make an effort to stop the fratricidal war, and the frightful spilling of human blood, by acting as mediator between the combatants. He therefore proceeded, in his episcopal robes, attended by two vicars, towards the Faubourg St. Antoine. He was stopped by a strong barricade erected on the Place de la Bastille, at the foot of the Column of July, where fighting was going on. He mounted the barricade, and began to address the insurgents at the other side. But suddenly was heard the roll of a drum, and the firing recommenced. The heroic archbishop fell, struck by a ball in the loins. The insurgents rushed forward, and bore him into a house within their barricade, where, having received the last sacraments of his church, he soon expired. When told that his wound was mortal, he said, " Well, then, let God be praised; and may he accept the sacrifice which I again offer him for the salvation of this misguided people. May my death expiate the sins which I have committed during my episcopacy."

On the morning of the 26th, the conflict was confined chiefly to the Faubourg St. Antoine and the greatest stronghold of the insurgents, the Clos St. Lazarre. The barriers were built of paving stones of large size, and blocks of building-stone. All the houses commanding them were occupied by the insurgents. The city wall was perforated for a mile in length with loopholes, and from behind it a deadly fire upon the troops was kept up for two days by invisible enemies, who ran from loophole to loophole with the agility of monkeys. General Lamoricière commanded here, and having ordered cannon and mortars, he made breaches in the barricades, and reduced many of the fortified houses to heaps of ruins. The Faubourg St. Antoine was surrounded by troops on all sides. The insurgents were summoned to surrender, and after some parleying, a flag of truce was sent forward, and they finally submitted, permitting the troops to take quiet possession of the district. General Cavaignac immediately announced the result to the President of the Assembly, stating that the revolt was suppressed, that the struggle had completely ceased, and that he was ready to resign his dictatorship the moment the powers confided to him were found to be no longer necessary for the salvation of the public. He resigned accordingly, but he was placed at the head of the Ministry, as President of the Council. During this tremendous conflict between the Red Republicans and the guardians of society, more than 300 barricades had been erected, 16,000 persons were killed and wounded, 8,000 prisoners were taken, and the loss to the nation by the insurrection was estimated at 30,000,000 francs.

In September, Louis Napoleon having been elected by four constituencies - one of which was Paris, where he had 116,000 votes - was declared to be a member of the National Assembly. His maiden speech was remarkable. After thirty-three years of proscription and exile, he said, he was at last entitled to resume his rights as a citizen. The Republic had conferred upon him happiness, and he tendered to them his oath of gratitude, his oath of devotion. He concluded thus: - "Receive me, then, my dear colleagues, into your ranks, with the same sense of affectionate confidence which I bring there. My conduct - always inspired by duty, always animated by respect for the law - my conduct will prove the falsehood of those who have attempted to blacken me, for the purpose of still keeping me proscribed, and will demonstrate that no one is more firmly resolved than myself to establish and defend the Republic."

The plan of a very liberal constitution was discussed for several days, and ultimately adopted. It is unnecessary here to describe in detail the principles of a constitution so short-lived. One of those principles led to its speedy destruction. It was, that the President of the Republic should be chosen, not by the Assembly, but by the nation at large. This was a very extraordinary course for the Assembly to take, because they must have known that Louis Napoleon would be elected by universal suffrage; whereas their own choice would have fallen upon Cavaignac. The following was the result of the voting: - Louis Napoleon, 5,434,226; Cavaignac, 1,448,107; Ledru Rollin, 370,119; Raspail, 36,900; Lamartine, 17,910; Changarnier, 4,790; votes lost, 12,600.

On the 20th of December Prince Napoleon was proclaimed President of the French Republic, in the National Assembly, by the President, M. Marrast, in the following terms: - " In the name of the French people: whereas, Citizen Charles Louis Bonaparte, born in Paris, possesses a 11 the qualifications of eligibility required by the 44th article of the constitution; whereas, the ballot gave him the absolute majority of suffrages for the Presidency; by virtue of the powers conferred on the Assembly by the 47th and 48th articles of the constitution, I proclaim him President of the French Republic, from this day until the second Sunday of May, 1852; and I now invite him to ascend the tribune, and take the oath required by the constitution." He did so; and while the oath was read to him, he raised his right hand and said, "I swear!"

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