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Chapter XXXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


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M. Gambetta: "Citizens, a little calm under present circumstances."
Several voices: "The Republic! the Republic!"
M. Gambetta: " Under present circumstances each one of you must contribute his part to the general order; in each gallery, each citizen must keep guard over his neighbour. It is in your power to furnish a grand spectacle and a grand lesson. Will you do it r Will you have it affirmed that you are at once the most penetrating and the freest of peoples? ['Yes! yes! Vive la République.'] Well, if that be your desire, I adjure you to take this advice. Let there be in every gallery a group which shall insure order during our deliberations. [Bravos and great applause.] The work of the commission charged with the examination of the proposition for the déchéance and that of the provisional Government is being prepared, and the Chamber is about to deliberate upon it in a few minutes."

Even M. Schneider, carried away it would seem by the folly of the hour, made a dignified speech to the noisy intruders, for whom a policeman's staff was the only suitable persuasive. The effect upon the mob of these touching appeals was just what one might have expected; it paid not the slightest regard to them. The body of the hall itself was soon invaded, and the noise and confusion were redoubled. M. Schneider at last rose and said, " Deliberation under such circumstances is impossible. I declare the sitting at an end." Count Palikao was attacked and roughly handled by the mob - set on, as he says, by Eugène Pelletan; he was rescued from them by his aide-de-camp, Colonel Barry, and two other officers. It was now three o'clock. The Count went to the Tuileries to inform the Empress of what had occurred, but he found that she had already fled. Already the mob was spreading through the court of the Tuileries, and the soldiers of the palace guard were quitting their posts. By whose order? asks the Count, and replies that he does not know. About three o'clock, the crowd had forced their way into the Tuileries gardens from the Place de la Concorde, and advanced to the railing of the private garden close to the chateau. Troops drawn from the depot of the Imperial Guard, under the command of General Mellinet, were stationed in this garden in considerable force. A man of the Mobile Guard was sent forward by the crowd with a white flag to open a parley. The General pointed to the roof of the château, from which the Imperial flag no longer waved, and said that he was willing to withdraw his troops if the National Guard would take over the Tuileries into their safe keeping. This being agreed to, the troops raised the butts of their rifles in the air; the garden gates were opened; the National Guard took possession; and the people streamed into the palace. Nothing was purloined, and nothing injured, except the Imperial eagles, the golden "N's," and other emblems of the prostrate dynasty.

The Empress - it having become evident soon after midday that the state of Paris was highly inflammable, and the fidelity of the soldiers not to be depended upon - resolved to seek safety in flight. Preparations being hastily made, she left the palace in a plain travelling dress. A gamin in the street recognised her and called out, " Voila l’Impératrice" in reply to which a cry was raised, "A la guillotine." But the crowd was, on the whole, good-humoured, and the Empress had no difficulty in reaching the house of a friend, whence she set out the same evening, and travelling by post all night, reached, on the next day, the little seaport of Deauville, near Havre. Here she found an English yacht, the Gazelle, belonging to Sir John Burgoyne, preparing to put to sea. To this gallant officer the Empress introduced herself, explained her difficult and trying position, and threw herself on his protection. Sir John Burgoyne, it need hardly be said, instantly placed his vessel at the service of the illustrious fugitive, who in it crossed the Channel to Ryde, and thence proceeded to Hastings, where she was joined by the Prince Imperial. Shortly afterwards the Empress fixed her permanent residence at Chislehurst in Kent.

The violence which had put a summary term to the functions and activity of the Corps Legislatif, could not be expected to spare the Senate, in which Napoleonic influences had borne uncontrolled domination. Under the presidency of M. Rouher, the Senate met for the last time on this day (September 4); the motion which was being made by Jules Favre in the " other house/' for the déchéance of the dynasty, was referred to and indignantly stigmatised; certain senators, inspired by "the courage of their opinions," did not shrink, even in this desperate condition of affairs, from uttering words of loyal attachment to the Empire; and the Assembly broke up, after appointing a meeting for the next day at the usual hour. But that meeting never took place. The Provisional Government, of the institution of which we shall speak presently, declared the Senate to be abolished; its members became private citizens, and were soon dispersed through France, and absorbed in pressing local duties and the necessities of the hour.

After M. Schneider had declared the sitting of the Corps Legislative at an end, and the Ministry had acted upon the principle of " sauve qui peut," a brief interregnum followed, during which France was without a Government. The party which alone had strong political convictions - to which faith in democracy and in its supposed healing and saving virtues stood in the place of any more positive religion - naturally came at once to the front. But as yet, beyond filling the Legislative Hall with noise and tumult, the Republicans had accomplished nothing practical. Jules Favre perceived that the citizens who had invaded the hall sacred to the deliberations of representative France were out of their element; they were Parisians, and how should they feel at home except at the seat of the Municipality, the Hotel de Ville? If you want a Republic, he said, it must be proclaimed at the Hotel de Yille, not here. Nothing could more plainly show how unsound and untenable was the transaction now in progress than these words. For they really meant - Paris, from the seat of her political consciousness and activity, has a right to dictate the form of government which the whole of France shall adopt; a pretension the absurdity of which is apparent. The citizens caught at the suggestion of Jules Favre, and the cry was raised, " To the Hotel de Yille." The members of the Extreme Left, accompanied by a dense crowd of fraternising Parisians, proceeded by the quays along the left bank of the Seine, in the direction of the Hotel de Yille. Crossing the river by the Pont Neuf, they reached their destination. Jules Favre and his friends, who were all members of the Department of the Seine in which Paris is situated, installed themselves in the chambers of the magnificent building, and proceeded to deliberate on the names of those who, invested with all the authority that a street mob and a word supposed to be talismanic could give them, were to take charge of the destinies of France. While they were thus deliberating, General Trochu, to whom a messenger had been sent requesting his presence, came in plain clothes to the Hotel de Ville. A singular conversation ensued. The General begged leave to submit to the gentlemen who were engaged in forming a Government this preliminary question - whether they would protect the three institutions, Religion, the Family, and Property, and promise that nothing should be done at variance with their interests. They promised as he wished. Trochu then said, " Upon that condition I am with you, provided that you make me President of the Government. It is indispensable that I should occupy this post. As Minister of War, as Governor of Paris, I shall not be at the head of the army; and if we want to defend Paris, the army must be in our hands. I am not a statesman; I am a soldier; I know the sentiments of my comrades; if they do not see me at your head they will leave you, and your task cannot be fulfilled. It is not ambition which dictates to me this resolution; it is the conviction that without it nothing can be done. Besides, if we are to have any chance of success, it can only be by concentrating all power in the hands of one man. As military commander, my authority must be without limit; I shall not in any way interfere with you in the exercise of civil power; but its action must be in co-operation with that of the defence, which is our supreme duty." This frank and unexpected declaration did not in the least degree offend Jules Favre and his friends; on the contrary, they recognised the essential truth of Trochu's views, and were not sorry to obtain for the new Government the solidity and respectability which his accession to it would confer. Again, his appointment as Governor of Paris having been made by the Imperial Government, Trochu's adhesion formed a sort of bridge or connecting link between the past and the future, and tended to reconcile the Imperialists to the new state of things, or, at any rate, to mitigate their opposition. For these reasons, Jules Favre and his friends willingly consented to the nomination of General Trochu as President of the Government. The other ministerial posts were thus distributed: - Foreign Affairs, Jules Favre; Interior, Gambetta; War, General Le Flo; Marine, Admiral Fourichon; Justice, Cremieux; Finance, Picard; Public Instruction and Religion, Jules Simon; Prefect of Police, Count Kératry. M. Etienne Arago was appointed Mayor of Paris. In the Committee of National Defence several names were included which did not appear on the ministerial list. Of these, the most important were, Emmanuel Arago, Glais Bizoin, Pelletan, and Rochefort. On the morning of the 5th September, the Official Journal, now become the Journal of the French Republic, contained the following manifesto: -

" Frenchmen! The nation has disavowed a Chamber which hesitated. In order to save the country in danger, it has demanded a Republic. It has placed its representatives not in power, but in peril. It was the Republic that saved the country when invaded in 1792. The Republic is proclaimed. The Revolution is accomplished in the name of right and public safety. Citizens! watch over the city which is confided to you; to-morrow you will be, with the army, avengers of the country."

Language such as this - highly coloured, emotional, and inflated - is the ordinary medium through which the partisans of democracy communicate with common mortals; with these startling Delphic utterances they amaze, and would fain impose upon, mankind; but since the oracle in this case notoriously failed, it is worth while to examine these sentences, and see what amount of truth they really contain. " The nation has disavowed a Chamber." This was palpably false; the nation of France was never consulted on the matter; an impatient and excitable section of the population of Paris, availing itself of the consternation into which the Government was thrown by the news of the great disaster of Sedan, and of the reluctance to allow French blood to be shed by French hands while it was being shed in rivers on the battle-field, mobbed the lower branch of the Legislature, and put an end to its proceedings. But the Chamber " hesitated." This means that the Chamber hesitated to nominate a committee invested with absolute authority, and charged with the mission of " expelling the enemy from France." But the measure which the Chamber is censured for not at once adopting did not save the country; their hesitation was therefore justifiable, and the censure directed against them falls to the ground.

" The Republic saved the country in 1792." This superstitious reliance on a mere name is remarkable. It is sufficient to say that the feeling of nationality - the resolution to repel the insolent pretension of foreign Powers to dictate to France how she should govern herself - had far more to do with the defeat of the invasion of 1792 than any enthusiasm for a form of government. The cry of the victorious French soldiers on the field of Yalmj was " Vive la nation," not " Vive la République" " It has placed its representatives not in power, but in peril." The nation, as we have said, had nothing to do with placing the gentlemen who thus addressed it where they were, and therefore to describe them as its " representatives" was false and misleading. And though their self-made position was certainly one of " peril," it is not true that it was not one of " power." They exercised, almost without let or hindrance, all the powers of government, so far as the German occupation permitted, and were only superseded when the country found out that they could not do what they undertook to do.

The Corps Legislative did not resign itself without an effort to the violent suppression which had been effected. A deputation of its members, headed by M. Grévy, presently waited on the Provisional Government. M. Grévy stated that a considerable number of members of the Corps Legislatif, holding the same principles as those which animated the Provisional Government, and prepared to accept the fall of the Napoleonic system as an accomplished fact, were desirous of continuing the sessions of that body in a spirit of co-operation with the Government at the Hotel de Ville. It was arranged that a meeting should be held at the Presidency at eight o'clock the same evening, when Jules Favre and Jules Simon, as a deputation from the Provisional Government, would inform their former colleagues of the decision arrived at in reference to M. Grévy's proposal. The subject was then anxiously debated. M. Glais Bizoin informed the ministers that he had taken upon himself to close the doors of the Hall of the Corps Legislative and seal them. This energetic proceeding it was deemed, upon the whole, advisable to sustain. The continuance of the Corps Legislative would lead, it was feared, to political intrigues and complications of various kinds which would be unfavourable to that concentration of every one's faculties on the task of national defence which it was so desirable to promote. At the meeting in the evening, M. Thiers being in the chair, Jules Favre explained to the members present the reasons which actuated the Provisional Government in declining the co-operation of the Corps Legislatif. Thiers replied with exquisite finesse; spoke of Jules Favre as his " cher ci-devant collègue; " said that he could not approve of what had happened, but that he desired none the less earnestly that the courage of those of his colleagues who had not withdrawn before a formidable task might be profitable to the country, and gain for it that success which was the ardent desire of every good citizen.

In England the news of the fall of the Empire and the revolution of the 4th September was received with mixed feelings. A very general opinion prevailed that the Emperor had been overtaken by a just retribution, though this feeling was qualified by the recollection of the real friendliness which Napoleon had invariably manifested towards this country, and in which his sincerity cannot be doubted. With regard to any change which the revolution just consummated might make in the position of France, and in the duties of the neutral Powers in her regard, the Government of Mr. Gladstone gave no indication of a belief that, either now or hereafter, interference (unless Belgium were attacked) could become the duty or the interest of England. France might be crushed, devastated, dismembered; but England, governed by the commercial masses, for which no political consideration that is not based on the interests of trade has any real force or value, was resolved to look on calmly to the end. But, as far as words went, the Provisional Government had no reason to complain of any lack of cordiality. Our Ambassador, Lord Lyons, was the first of all the foreign representatives to call on M. Jules Favre at the Foreign Office on the morning of the 5th September. Lord Lyons was full of good will. He reminded the minister that his Government had offered its mediation to France, which had refused it. He could not conceal that public opinion in England was still hostile to France, and that the mind of the Queen was strongly acted upon, by the influence of relationship in favour of Germany. Yet it was possible that, in the course of events, the feeling in England might change; and that a sense of common interest might, if Germany pushed her successes too far and too unscrupulously, make the majority of Englishmen think that of two evils intervention was the least. In reply, M. Jules Favre, after laying great stress on the circumstance that the Imperial Government which rashly began the war had been overthrown, and that the party now in power had from the first been opposed to war, enlarged on those considerations which seemed to him to prove that England had a manifest interest in interfering to prevent France from being seriously weakened. England, he thought, would sink in reputation, and lose the respect which her magnanimous conduct at the beginning of the century had won for her among the nations of Europe, if she tamely suffered a people to which she was bound by so many ties to be destroyed piecemeal. England was now in a position, relatively to France, which might be compared to that in which France stood, relatively to Austria, after the battle of Sadowa. France then extended a generous and protecting hand, and saved Austria from ruin; so let England now act towards France. Lord Lyons promised to bring M. Jules Favre's observations under the notice of his Government, and after expressing the strong feeling of sympathy with France in her misfortunes by which he was personally animated, took his departure.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2

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