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France page 2

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These astounding acts did not produce the alarm that might have been expected. They were felt to be so illegal and extravagant, that they must prove abortive. Hitherto Louis Napoleon was not regarded with terror, as the inscrutable and the unpitying, but rather with a feeling of contempt and derision by the citizens of Paris. They thought he was performing a hideous burlesque, and they jeeringly called him "Soulouque," after the negro emperor, who had travestied the achievements of the great Napoleon. But the citizens had been disarmed; the leaders of the Faubourgs had been carried off by the police. In the absence of such leaders, the members of the Assembly who happened to be at large called upon the people to resist the usurpers. During the night of the 3rd, therefore, barricades were rapidly erected along the streets which lie between the Hotel de Ville and the Boulevards Montmartre and des Italiens. But the troops were ready for action, 48,000 strong, including cavalry, infantry, artillery, engineers, and gendarmes. They had been supplied with rations, wine, and spirits in abundance. They had been ordered to give no quarter, either to combatants or to bystanders; but to clear the streets at any cost. Everything had been done to exasperate the soldiers against the citizens, to work them up to a pitch of fury, so that they might perform their bloody task without shrinking or remorse. Magnan's conscience, however, caused him to hesitate long, and was on the point of making a coward of him. There was a small barricade which crossed the boulevard close to the Gymnase Theatre, which was occupied by a small advanced guard of the insurgents; and facing this, fifty yards off, was an immense column of troops, which occupied the whole boulevard, and also the whole way to the Madeleine. The windows and balconies along the line were filled with ladies and gentlemen, gazing at the grand military spectacle, which seemed only to be a demonstration to overawe the disaffected, there being no visible enemy to contend with. The foot pavements were also crowded with men and women, all looking on in the most peaceable and orderly manner, without a thought of resistance or of danger.

An English gentleman, Captain Jesse, who had from his window an uninterrupted view of the scene for 1,000 yards, gave a vivid description of what he witnessed. The whole boulevard, as far as his eye could reach, was crowded with troops, principally infantry, with here and there batteries of 12-pounders and howitzers. The mounted officers were smoking their cigars. Suddenly a few musket shots were fired at the head of the column. The troops returned the fire so regularly, that it seemed at first a feu-de-joie. The column advanced, still firing, and to the utter consternation of the spectators, the shots were directed at the windows and balconies, shivering the panes of glass, smashing the mirrors, rending the curtains, and rattling against the walls. This continued for a quarter of an hour, the inhabitants endeavouring to save themselves by lying prostrate on the floor and flying to the back apartments. There is no doubt that this fusilade was the result of a panic among the troops, who apprehended an attack from the windows. Many persons were shot down in the streets, some endeavouring to escape into the houses. Next day pools of blood were to be seen round the trees along the boulevard. Fortunately the massacre did not last long. "When the barricade of St. Denis had been carried, the insurrection was at an end; but while it did last, it was fearful. The soldiers fired point blank into the crowd; the people rushed in wild confusion seeking shelter, many of them crawling on their hands and knees to escape the deadly shot. " The soldiers loaded and re-loaded with a strange industry, and made haste to kill and kill, as though their lives depended upon the quantity of the slaughter they could get through in some given period of time. When there was no longer a crowd to fire into, the soldiers would aim carefully at any single fugitive." Even those who appealed to them for mercy were ordered off, and shot running. It was a perfect slaughter while it lasted. Some awful spectacles presented themselves to the citizens next morning. Here and there were small heaps of corpses, as if the dying had fallen over one another. Here was a venerable old man with silver hair, whose only weapon was the umbrella that lay by his side. Here was a gay idler, shot in front of the café, with a cigar in his hand. Next was a printer's boy, the proof-sheets grasped firmly in his hand, stained with gore and fluttering in the wind. Many women and children were victims. One woman fell dead clasping her murdered infant in her arms. In some places the boulevards were "perfect shambles," and everywhere along the line the passengers were obliged to pick their steps through the pools of blood upon the pavement. The soldiers broke into many houses, and hunted the inmates from floor to door till they found them, and killed them crouching in corners. As many as fourteen were thus slaughtered in one shop, behind a pile of carpets. Sometimes even the prisoners that had been taken were turned out and shot. One hundred insurgents were slaughtered behind the porch of St. Denis. So deliberate and determined were the officers in the work of slaughter, that the citizens were allowed to give up their effects to be sent to their wives or mothers, and were then shot in cold blood.

In order to save the conspirators from the effects of the universal horror which these atrocities were calculated to excite, it was necessary to set forth in a public manner the reasons for the usurpation of power by Napoleon. St. Arnaud did not hesitate to say all that was thought needful. He might do so with impunity, for there was no one to contradict him. Every newspaper in Paris had been seized, and every newspaper office occupied by the police on the night of the coup d'état. There was, therefore, no public voice but that of the new Government. There was only one ground on which a shadow of excuse could be offered for the deeds that had been done - that was, that it was necessary to save society from Red Republicanism. On the evening of the 4th, at the close of the dreadful work, the general published an order of the day, in which he said - " Soldiers, you have to-day accomplished a great act of your military life. You have preserved the country from anarchy and pillage, and saved the Republic. You have shown yourselves, what you will always be, brave, de - voted, and indefatigable. France admires and thanks you."

In order to give the full appearance of truth to this proclamation to the army, it was necessary that the police should play their part. Therefore De Maupas sent forth a circular to the commissaries of police, stating that arms, ammunition, and incendiary writings were concealed to a large extent in lodging- houses, cafés, and private dwellings. "Hence," he said, " all the causes of agitation must be suppressed, by practising on a large scale a system of search and arrests." The National Guard was disbanded on the 7th, as another precautionary measure. There was one order of men, however, which could neither be disbanded nor sent off in prison vans, but which, if conciliated, could be made powerful auxiliaries of despotism; while, if alienated and exasperated, they would be its most dangerous enemies - the Roman Catholic clergy. Therefore Louis Napoleon hastened to announce the restoration of the Pantheon to its original use as the Church of St. Genevieve.

The next step was a proclamation to the French people, stating that he had saved society, that it was madness to oppose the united and patriotic army, and that the intelligent people of Paris were all on his side. Then followed the vote by universal suffrage, which was put in this way: - "For Louis Napoleon and the new constitution, Yes or No." This was putting before the nation this alternative - a strong government or anarchy. In this way it was understood by Montalembert, who said - " To vote for Louis Napoleon is not to approve all he has done. It is to choose between him and the total ruin of France." The result of the voting was, for Louis Napoleon, 7,481,231; against him, 640,737. Thus armed, the President met his consultative commission on the last day of the year, and told them that he understood all the grandeur of his new mission, that he had an upright heart, that he looked for the co-operation of all right-minded men, and that he would next day solemnly invoke the protection of Heaven. The inscriptions on public buildings of "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité," were all effaced, and the trees of liberty were all cut down.

Thus, by cleverly securing the aid of the soldiery, through sharpening their feelings of irritation against the civilians, a small band of conspirators were enabled to seize and keep the government of the greatest nation on the Continent, to extinguish all its organs of public opinion, and to imprison and transport all its greatest statesmen, generals, and citizens. Such was the coup d'état of the 2nd December, 1851.

On the public mind in England, as the facts were made known through correspondence, the effect produced was a general feeling of execration. But it had political consequences of a serious nature, for it caused the fall of the Russell Administration. It appeared that Lord Palmerston, as Foreign Secretary, was in the habit of acting very much on his own responsibility in his department, and that this gave dissatisfaction to the Queen, which led to the following communication: - " The Queen requires, first, that Lord Palmerston will distinctly state what he proposes in a given case, in order that the Queen may know as distinctly to what she has given her royal sanction; secondly, having once given her sanction to a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered or modified by the Minister. Such an act she must consider as failing in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to be visited by the exercise of her constitutional right of dismissing that Minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and the foreign ministers before important decisions are taken based upon that intercourse; to receive the foreign despatches in good time; and to have the drafts for her approval sent to her in sufficient time to make herself acquainted with their contents before they must be sent off. The Queen thinks it best that Lord John Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston."

This was sent to Lord Palmerston by Lord John Russell, and it was acknowledged by Lord Palmerston as follows: - " I have taken a copy of this memorandum of the Queen's, and will not fail to attend to the directions which it contains." This occurred in August, 1850, more than twelve months before the occurrence of the coup d'état in Paris - a very important event, which certainly required deliberation and consultation in the Cabinet before our Sovereign was committed to a recognition of the usurper.

Soon after the opening of Parliament in 1852, Lord John Russell related to the House what had happened in connection with this matter. Our ambassador in France had been instructed to abstain from all interference with the internal affairs of that country. Lord Palmerston was alleged to have held a conversation with the French Ambassador inconsistent with those instructions. The Premier wrote to him on the subject, but his inquiries had for some days been met with a disdainful silence; Lord Palmerston having meanwhile, without the knowledge ox his colleagues, written a despatch, containing instructions to Lord Normanby, which Lord John Russell considered was putting himself in the place of the Crown and passing by the Crown; while he gave the moral approbation of England to the acts of the President of the Republic, in direct opposition to the policy which the Government had hitherto pursued. Under these circumstances Lord John said he had no other alternative but to declare, that while he was prime minister, Lord Palmerston could not hold the seals of office. The noble Foreign Secretary had been accordingly dismissed.

Lord Palmerston then rose to explain his conduct. He stated that the French Ambassador had given a highly-coloured version of a long conversation, to the effect that he had entirely approved of what had been done, and thought the President of the French fully justified. Lord Normanby wrote for authority to contradict that statement. Lord Palmerston repeated, however, his opinion that it was better the President should prevail than the Assembly, because the Assembly had nothing to offer as a substitution for the President, unless an alternative obviously ending in civil war or anarchy; whereas the President, on the other hand, had to offer unity of purpose and unity of authority, and if he were inclined to do so he might give to France internal tranquillity, with good and permanent government. Lord Palmerston retaliated on Lord John Russell, by stating that both he and other members of the Cabinet had also expressed opinions, in conversation with the French Ambassador, not very different from his own.

Lord Palmerston had been succeeded as Foreign Secretary by Earl Granville; but the noble lord soon had his revenge on the Prime Minister. Feelings of anxiety prevailed at this time with regard to the national defences, and it was thought necessary to organise a large militia force, which would constitute a powerful reserve in case of war with any foreign country. Lord John Russell therefore brought in a bill on the subject, on the 16th of February. Lord Palmerston suggested that the word "local" should be left out of the bill, and stated that it was susceptible of other improvements. He accordingly moved amendments in committee. Upon this Lord John Russell stated that if the House decided to leave out the word " local," the chairman of the committee and Lord Palmerston must bring in the bill. Upon a division, however, the word was left out by a majority of eleven. Lord John Russell then said that he must now decline the responsibility of the measure. Lord Palmerston expressed his extreme surprise at this abandonment by the Government of their functions in that House. Lord John replied that he was stopped at the threshold, and told by the division that the House had no confidence in the Government. The cheers with which this statement was received confirmed its truth.

The Ministry therefore resigned. The fact was announced in the Upper House by Lord Lansdowne, who intimated that it was the last time, in all probability, that ever he should address them from the Treasury Bench. The parting speech of the noble Marquis was frequently interrupted by cordial cheers, and although from that time forward he did not take the same prominent part in the Legislature that he had done hitherto, still, upon occasions of trouble and difficulty, he was ever ready to give his sage counsel and advice; and when his long and distinguished career was some years later brought to a close, Her Majesty lost one of her most faithful advisers. The Queen sent for Lord Derby, who succeeded in forming a Cabinet, which consisted of the following members: - Prime Minister, Lord Derby; Chancellor, Lord St. Leonards; Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Disraeli; President of the Council, Lord Lonsdale; Privy Seal, Marquis of Salisbury; Home Secretary, Mr. Walpole; Foreign Secretary, Lord Malmesbury; Colonial Secretary, Sir John Pakington; Admiralty, Duke of Northumberland; Board of Control, Mr. Herries; Postmaster- General, Lord Hardwicke; Board of Trade, Mr. Henley; Public Works, Lord J. Manners. In Scotland, the Lord Advocate was Mr. A. Anderson; and the Solicitor- General, Mr. J. Inglis. In Ireland, the Earl of Eglin- toun was Lord Lieutenant; Mr. Blackburne, Lord Chancellor; Lord Naas, Chief Secretary; Mr. Napier, Attorney-General; and Mr. Whiteside, Solicitor-General. The new Ministry carried through the Militia Bill, which passed the House of Commons by large majorities. In the Lords, the second reading was moved on the 15th of Juno. It passed through all its stages without difficulty, and received the royal assent in due course.

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