Now the deed is done, it is complete. The grass is growing at the Palais-Bourbon. A virgin forest is beginning to spring up between Pont de la Concorde and Place Bourgogne. Amid the underbrush one distinguishes the box of a sentry. The Corps Legislatif empties its urn among the reeds, and the water flows around the foot of the sentry-box with a gentle murmur.
Now it is all over. The great work is accomplished. And the results of the work! Do you know that Messieurs So-and-So won town houses and country houses in the Circuit Railway alone? Get all you can, gorge yourselves, grow a fat paunch; it is no longer a question of being a great people, of being a powerful people, of being a free nation, of casting a bright light; France no longer sees its way to that. And this is success! France votes for Louis-Napoleon, carries Louis-Napoleon, fattens Louis-Napoleon, contemplates Louis-Napoleon, admires Louis-Napoleon, and is stupefied. The end of civilization is attained!
Now there is no more noise, no more confusion, no more talking, no more parliament, or parliamentarism. The Corps Legislatif, the Senate, the Council of State, have all had their mouths sewn up. There is no more fear of reading a fine speech when you wake up in the morning. It is all over with everything that thought, that meditated, that created, that spoke, that sparkled, that shone among this great people. Be proud, Frenchmen! Lift high your heads, Frenchmen! You are no longer anything, and this man is everything! He holds in his hand your intelligence, as a child holds a bird. Any day he pleases, he can strangle the genius of France. That will be one less source of tumult! In the meantime, let us repeat in chorus: "No more Parliamentarism, no more tribune!" In lieu of all those great voices which debated for the improvement of mankind, which were, one the idea, another the fact, another the right, another justice, another glory, another faith, another hope, another learning, another genius; which instructed, which charmed, which comforted, which encouraged, which brought forth fruit; in lieu of all those sublime voices, what is it that one hears amid the dark night that hangs like a pall over France? The jingle of a spur, of a sword dragged along the pavement!
"Hallelujah!" says M. Sibour. "Hosannah!" replies M. Parisis.
THE ABSOLUTION:—FIRST PHASE: THE 7,500,000 VOTES
Some one says to us: "You do not consider! All these facts, which you call crimes, are henceforth 'accomplished facts,' and consequently to be respected; it is all accepted, adopted, legitimized, absolved."
"Accepted! adopted! legitimized! absolved! by what?"
"By a vote."
"The seven million five hundred thousand votes."
"Oh! true. There was a plebiscite, and a vote, and seven million five hundred thousand ayes. Let us say a word of them."
A brigand stops a diligence in the woods.
He is at the head of a resolute band.
The travellers are more numerous, but they are separated, disunited, cooped up in the different compartments, half asleep, surprised in the middle of the night, seized unexpectedly and without arms.
The brigand orders them to alight, not to utter a cry, not to speak a word, and to lie down with their faces to the ground.
Some resist: he blows out their brains.
The rest obey, and lie on the road, speechless, motionless, terrified, mixed up with the dead bodies, and half dead themselves.
The brigand, while his accomplices keep their feet on the ribs of the travellers, and their pistols at their heads, rifles their pockets, forces open their trunks, and takes all the valuables they possess.
The pockets rifled, the trunks pillaged, the coup d'etat completed, he says to them:—
"Now, in order to set myself right with justice, I have written down on paper a declaration, that you acknowledge that all I have taken belonged to me, and that you give it to me of your own free will. I propose that this shall be your view of the matter. Each of you will have a pen given you, and without uttering a syllable, without making the slightest movement, without quitting your present attitude" (belly on ground, and face in the mud) "you will put out your arms, and you will all sign this paper. If any one of you moves or speaks, here is the muzzle of my pistol. Otherwise, you are quite free."
The travellers put out their arms, and sign.
The brigand thereupon tosses his head, and says:—
"I have seven million five hundred thousand votes."
SCRUTINY OF THE VOTE.—A REMINDER OF PRINCIPLES.—FACTS
M. Louis Bonaparte is president of this diligence. Let us recall a few principles.
For a political ballot to be valid, three absolute conditions must exist: First, the vote must be free; second, the vote must be intelligent; third, the figures must be accurate. If one of these three conditions is wanting, the ballot is null. How is it when all three are wanting?
Let us apply these rules.
First. That the vote must be free.
What freedom there was in the vote of the 20th of December, we have just pointed out; we have described that freedom by a striking display of evidence. We might dispense with adding anything to it. Let each of those who voted reflect, and ask himself under what moral and physical violence he dropped his ballot in the box. We might cite a certain commune of the Yonne, where, of five hundred heads of families, four hundred and thirty were arrested, and the rest voted "aye;" or a commune of the Loiret, where, of six hundred and thirty-nine heads of families, four hundred and ninety-seven were arrested or banished; the one hundred and forty-two who escaped voted "aye." What we say of the Loiret and the Yonne might be said of all the departments. Since the 2nd of December, each town has its swarm of spies; each village, each hamlet, its informer. To vote "no" was imprisonment, transportation, Lambessa. In the villages of one department, we were told by an eye-witness, they brought "ass-loads of 'aye' ballots." The mayors, flanked by gardes-champetres, distributed them among the peasants. They had no choice but to vote. At Savigny, near Saint-Maur, on the morning of the vote, some enthusiastic gendarmes declared that the man who voted "no" should not sleep in his bed. The gendarmerie cast into the house of detention at Valenciennes M. Parent the younger, deputy justice of the peace of the canton of Bouchain, for having advised certain inhabitants of Avesne-le-Sec to vote "no." The nephew of Representative Aubry (du Nord), having seen the agents of the prefect distribute "aye" ballots in the great square of Lille, went into the square next morning, and distributed "no" ballots. He was arrested and confined in the citadel.
As to the vote of the army, a part of it voted in its own cause; the rest followed.
But even as to the freedom of this vote of the soldiers, let us hear the army speak for itself. This is what is written by a soldier of the 6th Regiment of the Line, commanded by Colonel Garderens de Boisse:—
"So far as our company was concerned, the vote was a roll-call. The subaltern officers, the corporals, the drummers, and the soldiers, arranged in order of rank, were named by the quartermaster in presence of the colonel, the lieutenant-colonel, the major, and the company officers; and as each man named answered, 'Here!' his name was inscribed by the sergeant-major. The colonel, rubbing his hands, was saying, 'Egad, gentlemen, this is going on wheels!' when a corporal of the company to which I belong approached the table at which the sergeant-major was seated, and requested him to let him have the pen, that he might himself inscribe his name on the 'no' register, which was intended to remain blank.
"'What!' cried the colonel; 'you, who are down for quartermaster, and who are to be appointed on the first vacancy,—you formally disobey your colonel, and that in the presence of your company! It would be bad enough if this refusal of yours were simply an act of insubordination, but know you not, wretched man, that by your vote you seek to bring about the destruction of the army, the burning of your father's house, the annihilation of all society! You hold out your hand to debauchery! What! X——, you, whom I intended to urge for promotion, you come here to-day and admit all this?'
"The poor devil, it may be imagined, allowed his name to be inscribed with the rest."
Multiply this colonel by six hundred thousand, and the product is the pressure of the functionaries of all sorts—military, political, civil, administrative, ecclesiastical, judicial, fiscal, municipal, scholastic, commercial, and consular—throughout France, on the soldier, the citizen, and the peasant. Add, as we have above pointed out, the fictitious communist Jacquerie and the real Bonapartist terrorism, the government imposing by phantasmagoria on the weak, and by dictatorship on the refractory, and brandishing two terrors together. It would require a special volume to relate, expose, and develop the innumerable details of that immense extortion of signatures, which is called "the vote of the 20th of December."
The vote of the 20th of December prostrated the honour, the initiative, the intelligence, and the moral life of the nation. France went to that vote as sheep go to the slaughter-house.
Let us proceed.
Second. That the vote must be intelligent.
Here is an elementary proposition. Where there is no liberty of the press, there is no vote. The liberty of the press is the condition sine qua non, of universal suffrage. Every ballot cast in the absence of liberty of the press is void ab initio. Liberty of the press involves, as necessary corollaries, liberty of meeting, liberty of publishing, liberty of distributing information, all the liberties engendered by the right—antedating all other rights—of informing one's self before voting. To vote is to steer; to vote is to judge. Can one imagine a blind pilot at the helm? Can one imagine a judge with his ears stuffed and his eyes put out? Liberty, then,—liberty to inform one's self by every means, by inquiry, by the press, by speech, by discussion,—this is the express guarantee, the condition of being, of universal suffrage. In order that a thing may be done validly, it must be done knowingly. Where there is no torch, there is no binding act.
These are axioms: outside of these axioms, all is ipso facto null.
Now, let us see: did M. Bonaparte, in his ballot of the 20th of December, obey these axioms? Did he fulfil the conditions of free press, free meetings, free tribune, free advertising, free inquiry. The answer is an immense shout of laughter, even from the Elysee.
Thus you are yourself compelled to admit that it was thus that "universal suffrage" was exercised.
What! I know nothing of what is going on: men have been killed, slaughtered, murdered, massacred, and I am ignorant of it! Men have been arbitrarily imprisoned, tortured, banished, exiled, transported, and I scarcely glimpse the fact! My mayor and my cure tell me: "These people, who are taken away, bound with cords, are escaped convicts!" I am a peasant, cultivating a patch of land in a corner of one of the provinces: you suppress the newspaper, you stifle information, you prevent the truth from reaching me, and then you make me vote! in the uttermost darkness of night! gropingly! What! you rush out upon me from the obscurity, sabre in hand, and you say to me: "Vote!" and you call that a ballot.
"Certainly! a 'free and spontaneous' ballot," say the organs of the coup d'etat.
Every sort of machinery was set to work at this vote. One village mayor, a species of wild Escobar, growing in the fields, said to his peasants: "If you vote 'aye,' 'tis for the Republic; if you vote 'no,' 'tis against the Republic." The peasants voted "aye."
And let us illuminate another aspect of this turpitude that people call "the plebiscite of the 20th of December." How was the question put? Was any choice possible? Did he—and it was the least that a coup d'etat man should have done in so strange a ballot as that wherein he put everything at stake—did he open to each party the door at which its principles could enter? were the Legitimists allowed to turn towards their exiled prince, and towards the ancient honour of the fleurs-de-lys? were the Orleanists allowed to turn towards that proscribed family, honoured by the valued services of two soldiers, M M. de Joinville and d'Aumale, and made illustrious by that exalted soul, Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans? Did he offer to the people—who are not a party, but the people, that is to say, the sovereign—did he offer to the people that true republic before which all monarchy vanishes, as night before day; that republic which is the manifest and irresistible future of the civilized world; the republic without dictatorship; the republic of concord, of learning, and of liberty; the republic of universal suffrage, of universal peace, and of universal well-being; the republic, initiator of peoples, and liberator of nationalities; that republic which after all and whatever any one may do, "will," as the author of this book has said elsewhere, "possess France to-morrow, and Europe the day after." Did he offer that? No. This is how M. Bonaparte put the matter: there were in this ballot two candidates; first candidate, M. Bonaparte; second candidate—the abyss. France had the choice. Admire the adroitness of the man, and, not a little, his humility. M. Bonaparte took for his opponent in this contest, whom? M. de Chambord? No! M. de Joinville? No! The Republic? Still less. M. Bonaparte, like those pretty Creoles who show off their beauty by juxtaposition with some frightful Hottentot, took as his competitor in this election a phantom, a vision, a socialistic monster of Nuremberg, with long teeth and talons, and a live coal in its eyes, the ogre of Tom Thumb, the vampire of Porte Saint-Martin, the hydra of Theramenes, the great sea-serpent of the Constitutionnel, which the shareholders have had the kindness to impute to it, the dragon of the Apocalypse, the Tarask, the Dree, the Gra-ouili, a scarecrow. Aided by a Ruggieri of his own, M. Bonaparte lit up this pasteboard monster with red Bengal fire, and said to the scared voter: "There is no possible choice except this or myself: choose!" He said: "Choose between beauty and the beast; the beast is communism; the beauty is my dictatorship. Choose! There is no medium! Society prostrate, your house burned, your barn pillaged, your cow stolen, your fields confiscated, your wife outraged, your children murdered, your wine drunk by others, yourself devoured alive by the great gaping-jaws yonder, or me as your emperor! Choose! Me or Croque-mitaine!"
 Litterature et Philosophie Melees 1830.
The citizen, affrighted, and consequently a child; the peasant, ignorant, and consequently a child, preferred M. Bonaparte to Croque-mitaine. Such is his triumph!
Observe, however, that of ten millions of voters, five hundred thousand would, it seems, have preferred Croque-mitaine.
After all, M. Bonaparte only had seven million five hundred thousand votes.
Thus, then, and in this fashion,—freely as we see, knowingly as we see,—that which M. Bonaparte is good enough to call universal suffrage, voted. Voted what?
Dictatorship, autocracy, slavery, the republic a despotism, France a pachalik, chains on all wrists, a seal on every mouth, silence, degradation, fear, the spy the soul of all things! They have given to a man—to you!—omnipotence and omniscience! They have made that man the supreme, the only legislator, the alpha of the law, the omega of power! They have decreed that he is Minos, that he is Numa, that he is Solon, that he is Lycurgus! They have incarnated in him the people, the nation, the state, the law! and for ten years! What! I, a citizen, vote, not only for my own dispossession, my own forfeiture, my own abdication, but for the abdication of universal suffrage for ten years, by the coming generations, over whom I have no right, over whom you, an usurper, force me to usurp power, which, by the way, be it said in passing, would suffice to nullify that monstrous ballot, if all conceivable nullities were not already piled, heaped and welded upon it. What! is that what you would have me do? You make me vote that all is finished, that nothing remains, that the people is a slave! What! you say to me: "Since you are sovereign, you shall give yourself a master; since you are France, you shall become Haiti!" What an abominable farce!
Such is the vote of the 20th of December,—that sanction, as M. de Morny says; that absolution, as M. Bonaparte says.
Assuredly, a short time hence,—in a year, in a month, perhaps in a week,—when all that we now see has vanished, men will be ashamed of having, if only for an instant, bestowed upon that infamous semblance of a ballot, which they call the ballot of seven million five hundred thousand votes, the honour of discussing it. Yet it is the only basis, the only support, the only rampart of this prodigious power of M. Bonaparte. This vote is the excuse of cowards, this vote is the buckler of dishonoured consciences. Generals, magistrates, bishops, all crimes, all prevarications, all degrees of complicity, seek refuge for their ignominy behind this vote. France has spoken, say they: vox populi, vox Dei, universal suffrage has voted; everything is covered by a ballot.—That a vote! that a ballot? One spits on it, and passes by.
Third. The figures must be accurate. I admire that figure: 7,500,000! It must have had a fine effect, through the fog of the 1st of January, in letters of gold, three feet high, on the portal of Notre-Dame.
I admire that figure. Do you know why? Because I consider it humble. Seven million five hundred thousand. Why seven million five hundred thousand? It is not many. No one refused M. Bonaparte full measure. After what he had done on the 2nd of December, he was entitled to something better than that. Tell us, who played him that trick? Who prevented him from putting down eight millions, or ten millions,—a good round sum? As for myself, I was quite disappointed in my hopes. I counted on unanimity. Coup d'etat, you are indeed modest!
How now! a man has done all we have recalled or related: has taken an oath and perjured himself; was the guardian of a constitution and destroyed it, was the servant of a republic and betrayed it, was the agent of a sovereign assembly and violently crushed it; used the military pass-word as a poignard to kill military honour, used the standard of France to wipe away mud and shame, put handcuffs on the generals of Africa, made the representatives of the people travel in prison-vans, filled Mazas, Vincennes, Mont Valerien, and Sainte-Pelagie with inviolable men, shot down point-blank, on the barricade of the law, the legislator girt with that scarf which is the sacred and venerable symbol of the law; gave to a colonel, whom we could name, a hundred thousand francs to trample duty under foot, and to each soldier ten francs a day; distributed in four days forty thousand francs' worth of brandy to each brigade; covered with the gold of the Bank the card-tables of the Elysee, and said to his friends, "Help yourselves!" killed M. Adde in his own house, M. Belval in his own house, M. Debaecque in his own house, M. Labilte in his own house, M. de Couvercelle in his own house, M. Monpelas in his own house, M. Thirion de Mortauban in his own house; massacred on the boulevards and elsewhere, shot anybody anywhere, committed numerous murders, of which he modestly confesses to only one hundred and ninety-one; changed the trenches about the trees on the boulevards into pools of blood; spilt the blood of the infant with the blood of the mother, mingling with both the champagne of the gendarmes!—a man has done all these things, has taken all this trouble; and when he asks the nation: "Are you satisfied?" he obtains only seven million five hundred thousand voters!—Really, he is underpaid.
Sacrifice one's self "to save society," indeed! O, ingratitude of nations!
In truth, three millions of voices replied "No." Who was it, pray, who said that the South Sea savages call the French the "oui-ouis?"
Let us speak seriously. For irony is painful in such tragic matters.
Coup d'etat men, nobody believes in your seven million five hundred thousand votes.
Come, be frank, and confess that you are more or less swindlers, that you cheat a little. In your balance-sheet of the 2nd of December you set down too many votes,—and not enough corpses.
Seven million five hundred thousand! What figure is that? Whence comes it? What do you want us to do with it?
Seven million, eight million, ten million, what does it matter? We concede you everything, and we contest everything with you.
The seven million you have, plus the five hundred thousand; the round sum, plus the odd money; you say so, prince, you affirm it, you swear it; but what proves it?
Who counted? Baroche. Who examined? Rouher. Who checked? Pietri. Who added? Maupas. Who certified? Troplong. Who made the proclamation? Yourself!
In other words, servility counted, platitude examined, trickery checked, forgery added, venality certified, and mendacity proclaimed.
Whereupon, M. Bonaparte ascends to the Capitol, orders M. Sibour to thank Jupiter, puts a blue and gold livery on the Senate, a blue and silver livery on the Corps Legislatif, and a green and gold livery on his coachman; lays his hand on his heart, declares that he is the product of "universal suffrage," and that his "legitimacy" has issued from the ballot-box. That box is a wine-cup.
WHO REALLY VOTED FOR M. BONAPARTE?
We declare therefore, we declare simply this, that on the 20th of December, 1851, eighteen days after the 2nd, M. Bonaparte put his hand into every man's conscience, and robbed every man of his vote. Others filch handkerchiefs, he steals an Empire. Every day, for pranks of the same sort, a sergent-de-ville takes a man by the collar and carries him off to the police-station.
Let us be understood, however.
Do we mean to declare that nobody really voted for M. Bonaparte? That no one voluntarily said "Aye?" That no one knowingly and willingly accepted that man?
By no means.
M. Bonaparte had for him the crowd of officeholders, the one million two hundred thousand parasites of the budget, and their dependents and hangers-on; the corrupt, the compromised, the adroit; and in their train the cretins, a very considerable party.
He had for him Messieurs the Cardinals, Messieurs the Bishops, Messieurs the Canons, Messieurs the Cures, Messieurs the Vicars, Messieurs the Arch-deacons, Deacons, and Sub-deacons, Messieurs the Prebendaries, Messieurs the Churchwardens, Messieurs the Sextons, Messieurs the Beadles, Messieurs the Church-door-openers, and the "religious" men, as they say. Yes, we admit, without hesitation, M. Bonaparte had for him all those bishops who cross themselves like Veuillot and Montalembert, and all those religious men, a priceless, ancient race, but largely increased and recruited since the landholders' terrors of 1848, who pray in this wise: "O, my God! send up the Lyons shares! Dear Lord Jesus, see to it that I make a profit of twenty-five per cent, on my Rothschild-Neapolitan bonds! Holy Apostles, sell my wines for me! Blessed Martyrs, double my rents! Holy Mary, Mother of God, immaculate Virgin, Star of the Sea, Enclosed Garden, Hortus Conclusus, deign to cast a favouring eye on my little business at the corner of Rue Tire-chape and Rue Quincampoix! Tower of Ivory, cause the shop over the way to lose trade!"
These really and incontestably voted for M. Bonaparte: first category, the office-holder; second category, the idiot; third category, the religious Voltairian—land-owner—tradesman.
The human understanding in general, and the bourgeois intellect in particular, present singular enigmas. We know, and we have no desire to conceal it, that from the shopkeeper up to the banker, from the petty trader up to the stockbroker, great numbers of the commercial and industrial men of France,—that is to say, great numbers of the men who know what well-placed confidence is, what a trust faithfully administered is, what a key placed in safe hands is,—voted after the 2nd of December for M. Bonaparte. The vote given, you might have accosted one of these men of business, the first you met by chance; and this is the dialogue that you might have exchanged with him:
'You have elected Louis Bonaparte President of the Republic?"
"Would you engage him as your cashier?"
And this is the ballot,—let us repeat it—insist on it—never be tired of uttering it; "I cry the same things a hundred times," says Isaiah, "so that they may be heard once;" this is the ballot, this is the plebiscite, this is the vote, this is the sovereign decree of "Universal Suffrage," beneath whose shadow take shelter—of which they make a patent of authority, a diploma of government—those men who now hold France, who command, who dominate, who administer, who judge, who reign: their arms in gold up to the elbows, their legs in blood up to the knees!
And now, to have done with it, let us make a concession to M. Bonaparte. No more quibbling. His ballot of the 20th of December was free; it was intelligent; all the newspapers printed whatever they pleased; he who says the contrary is a slanderer; electoral meetings were held; the walls were hidden beneath placards; the promenaders in Paris swept with their feet, on the boulevards and on the streets, a snow of ballots, white, blue, yellow, red; everybody spoke who chose, wrote who chose; the figures were accurate; it was not Baroche who counted, it was Bareme; Louis Blanc, Guinard, Felix Pyat, Raspail, Caussidiere, Thorne, Ledru-Rollin, Etienne Arago, Albert, Barbes, Blanqui, and Gent, were the inspectors; it was they themselves who announced the seven million five hundred thousand votes. Be it so. We concede all that. What then? What conclusion does the coup d'etat thence derive?
What conclusion? It rubs its hands, it asks nothing further; that is quite sufficient; it concludes that all is right, all complete, all finished, that nothing more is to be said, that it is "absolved."
The free vote, the actual figures—these are only the physical side of the question; the moral side remains to be considered. Ah! there is a moral side, then? Undoubtedly, prince, and that is precisely the true side, the important side of this question of the 2nd of December. Let us look into it.
THE MORAL SIDE OF THE QUESTION
First, M. Bonaparte, it is expedient that you should acquire a notion what the human conscience is.
There are two things in this world—learn this novelty—which men call good and evil. You must be informed that lying is not good, treachery is evil, assassination is worse. It makes no difference that it is useful, it is prohibited. "By whom?" you will add. We will explain that point to you, a little farther on; but let us proceed. Man—you must also be informed—is a thinking being, free in this world, responsible in the next. Singularly enough—and you will be surprised to hear it—he is not created merely to enjoy himself, to indulge all his fancies, to follow the hazard of his appetites, to crush whatever he finds before him in his path, blade of grass or plighted oath, to devour whatever presents itself when he is hungry. Life is not his prey. For example, to pass from nothing a year to twelve hundred thousand francs, it is not permitted to take an oath which one has no intention to keep; and, to pass from twelve hundred thousand francs to twelve millions, it is not permitted to crush the constitution and laws of one's country, to rush from an ambuscade upon a sovereign assembly, to bombard Paris, to transport ten thousand persons, and to proscribe forty thousand. I continue your initiation into this singular mystery. Certes, it is agreeable to give one's lackeys white silk stockings; but, to arrive at this grand result, it is not permitted to suppress the glory and the thought of a people, to overthrow the central tribune of the civilized world, to shackle the progress of mankind, and to shed torrents of blood. That is forbidden. "By whom?" you repeat, who see before you no one who forbids you anything. Patience: you shall know presently.
What!—here you begin to be disgusted, and I can understand it—when one has, on the one hand, one's interest, one's ambition, one's fortune, one's pleasures, a fine palace to maintain in Faubourg Saint-Honore; and, on the other side, the jeremiads and whining of women from whom one takes their sons, of families from whom one tears their fathers, of children from whom one takes their bread, of the people whose liberty one confiscates, of society from whom one takes its support, the laws; what! when these clamours are on one side and one's own interest on the other, is it not permitted to contemn the uproar, to let all these people "vociferate" unheeded, to trample on all obstacles, and to go naturally where one sees one's fortune, one's pleasures, and the fine palace in Faubourg Saint-Honore? A pretty idea, truly! What! one is to trouble one's self to remember that, some three or four years ago, one cannot now say when or where, one day in December, when it was very cold, and rained, and one felt it desirable to leave a chamber in an inn for a better lodging, one pronounced, one no longer knows in relation to what, in an indifferently lighted room, before eight or nine hundred imbeciles who chose to believe what one said, these eight letters, "I swear it!" What! when one is meditating "a great act," one must needs waste one's time asking one's self what will be the result of the course that he is taking! must worry because one man may be eaten up by vermin in the casemates, or another rot in the hulks, or another die at Cayenne; or because another was killed with bayonets, or another crushed by paving-stones, or another idiot enough to get himself shot; because these are ruined, and those exiled; and because all these men whom one ruins, or shoots, or exiles, or massacres, who rot in the hulks, or die in the hold, or in Africa, are, forsooth, honest men who have done their duty! Is one to be stopped by such stuff as that? What! one has necessities, one has no money, one is a prince, chance places power in one's hands, one makes use of it, one authorizes lotteries, one exhibits ingots of gold in the Passage Jouffroy; everybody opens his pocket, one takes all one can out of it, one shares what one gets with one's friends, with the devoted comrades to whom one owes gratitude; and because there comes a moment when public indiscretion meddles in the matter, when that infamous liberty of the press seeks to fathom the mystery, and justice fancies that it is its business, one must needs leave the Eysee, lay down the power, and take one's seat, like an ass, between two gendarmes on the prisoners' bench in the sixth chamber! Nonsense! Isn't it much more simple to take one's seat on the throne of the emperor? Isn't it much more simple to destroy the liberty of the press? Isn't it much more simple to crush justice? Isn't it a much shorter way to trample the judges under foot? Indeed, they ask nothing better! they are quite ready! And this is not permitted! This is forbidden!
Yes, Monseigneur, this is forbidden!
Who opposes it? Who does not permit it? Who forbids it?
Monsieur Bonaparte, you are master, you have eight millions of votes for your crimes, and twelve millions of francs for your pleasures; you have a Senate, with M. Sibour in it; you have armies, cannon, fortresses, Troplongs flat on their bellies, and Baroches on all fours; you are a despot; you are all-potent; some one lost in the obscurity, unknown, a mere passer-by, rises before you, and says to you: "Thou shalt not do this."
This some one, this voice that speaks in the darkness, not seen but heard, this passer-by, this unknown, this insolent intruder, is the human conscience.
That is what the human conscience is.
It is some one, I repeat, whom one sees not, and who is stronger than an army, more numerous than seven million five hundred thousand votes, more lofty than a senate, more religious than an archbishop, more learned in law than M. Troplong, more prompt to anticipate any sort of justice than M. Baroche, and who thee-and-thous your majesty.
AN EXPLANATION FOR M. BONAPARTE'S BENEFIT
Let us go a little deeper into all these novelties.
Pray learn this also, M. Bonaparte: that which distinguishes man from brute, is the notion of good and of evil—of that good and that evil of which I was speaking to you just now.
There is the abyss.
The animal is a complete being. That which constitutes the grandeur of man is the being incomplete; it is the feeling one's self to be many degrees removed from completion; it is the perceiving something on that side of one's self, something on this side. This something is mystery; it is—to make use of those feeble human expressions which always come one by one, and never express more than one side of things—the moral world. This moral world man bathes in, as much as, more than, in the material world. He lives in what he feels, more than in what he sees. Creation may beset him, want may assail him, pleasure may tempt him, the beast within him may torment him, but all in vain; a sort of incessant aspiration toward another world impels him irresistibly beyond creation, beyond want, beyond pleasure, beyond the beast. He glimpses everywhere, at every moment, the upper world, and he fills his soul with that vision, and regulates his actions by it. He does not feel complete in this life on earth. He bears within him, so to speak, a mysterious pattern of the anterior and ulterior world—the perfect world—with which he is incessantly, and despite himself, comparing the imperfect world, and himself, and his infirmities, and his appetites, and his passions, and his actions. When he perceives that he is approaching this ideal pattern, he is overjoyed; when he sees that he is receding from it, he is sad. He understands thoroughly that there is nothing useless or superfluous in this world, nothing which does not proceed from something, and which does not lead to something. The just, the unjust, good, evil, good works, evil deeds, fall into the abyss, but are not lost there, passing on into the infinite, for the benefit or the burden of those who have accomplished them. After death they are collected, and the sum-total cast up. To disappear, to vanish, to be annihilated, to cease to be, is no more possible for the moral atom than for the material atom. Hence, in man, that great twofold sense of his liberty and of his responsibility. It is given him to be good or to be bad. It is an account that will have to be settled. He may be guilty, and therein—a striking circumstance upon which I dwell—consists his grandeur. There is nothing similar for the brute. With the brute it is all instinct: to drink when thirsty, to eat when hungry, to procreate in due season, to sleep when the sun sets, to wake when it rises, or vice versa, if it be a beast of night. The brute has only an obscure sort of ego, illumined by no moral light. Its entire law, I repeat, is instinct: instinct, a sort of railway, along which inevitable nature impels the brute. No liberty, therefore, no responsibility, and consequently no future life. The brute does neither evil nor good; it is wholly ignorant. Even the tiger is innocent.
If, perchance, you were innocent as the tiger!
At certain moments one is tempted to believe that, having no warning voice within, any more than the tiger, you have no more sense of responsibility.
Really, at times I pity you. Who knows? perhaps after all, you are only a miserable blind force!
Louis Bonaparte, you have not the notion of good and evil. You are, perhaps, the only man of all mankind who has not that notion. This gives you a start over the human race. Yes, you are formidable. It is that which constitutes your genius, it is said; I admit that, at all events, it is that which at this moment constitutes your power.
But do you know what results from this sort of power? Possession, yes; right, no.
Crime essays to deceive history as to its true name; it says, "I am success."—Thou art crime!
You are crowned and masked. Down with the mask! Down with the crown!
Ah! you are wasting your trouble, you are wasting your appeals to the people, your plebiscites, your ballots, your footings, your executive committees proclaiming the sum total, your red or green banners, with these figures in gold paper,—7,500,000! You will derive no advantage from this elaborate mise-en-scene. There are things about which universal sentiment is not to be gulled. The human race, taken as a whole, is an honest man.
Even by those about you you are judged. There is not one of your domestics, whether in gold lace or in embroidered coat, valet of the stable, or valet of the Senate, who does not say beneath his breath that which I say aloud. What I proclaim, they whisper; that is the only difference. You are omnipotent, they bend the knee, that is all. They salute you, their brows burning with shame.
They feel that they are base, but they know that you are infamous.
Come, since you are by way of hunting those whom you call "the rebels of December," since it is on them you are setting your hounds, since you have instituted a Maupas, and created a ministry of police specially for that purpose, I denounce to you that rebel, that recusant, that insurgent, every man's conscience.
You give money, but 'tis the hand receives it, not the conscience. Conscience! while you are about it, inscribe it on your lists of exiles. It is an obstinate opponent, pertinacious, persistent, inflexible, making a disturbance everywhere. Drive it out of France. You will be at ease then.
Would you like to know what it calls you, even among your friends? Would you like to know in what terms an honourable chevalier of Saint-Louis, an octogenarian, a great antagonist of "demagogues," and a partisan of yours, cast his vote for you on the 20th of December? "He is a scoundrel," said he, "but a necessary scoundrel."
No! there are no necessary scoundrels. No! crime is never useful! No! crime is never a good. Society saved by treason! Blasphemy! we must leave it to the archbishops to say these things. Nothing good has evil for its basis. The just God does not impose on mankind the necessity for scoundrels. There is nothing necessary in this world but justice and truth. Had that venerable man thought less of life and more of the tomb, he would have seen this. Such a remark is surprising on the part of one advanced in years, for there is a light from God which enlightens souls approaching the tomb, and shows them the truth.
Never do crime and the right come together: on the day when they should meet, the words of the human tongue would change their meaning, all certainty would vanish, social darkness would supervene. When, by chance, as has been sometimes seen in history, it happens that, for a moment, crime has the force of law, the very foundations of humanity tremble. "Jusque datum sceleri!" exclaims Lucan, and that line traverses history, like a cry of horror.
Therefore, and by the admission of your voters, you are a scoundrel. I omit the word necessary. Make the best of this situation.
"Well, be it so," you say. "But that is precisely the case in question: one procures 'absolution' by universal suffrage."
Yes, impossible. I will put your finger on the impossibility.
You are a captain of artillery at Berne, Monsieur Louis Bonaparte; you have necessarily a smattering of algebra and geometry. Here are certain axioms of which you have, probably, some idea.
Two and two make four.
Between two given points, the straight line is the shortest way.
A part is less than the whole.
Now, cause seven million five hundred thousand voters to declare that two and two make five, that the straight line is the longest way, that the whole is less than a part; cause eight millions, ten millions, a hundred millions of voters so to declare, and you will not have advanced a single step.
Well—you will be surprised to hear it—there are axioms in probity, in honesty, in justice, as there are axioms in geometry; and moral truth is no more at the mercy of a vote than is algebraic truth.
The notion of good and evil is insoluble by universal suffrage. It is not given to a ballot to make the false true, or injustice just. Human conscience is not to be put to the vote.
Now, do you understand?
Look at that lamp, that little obscure light, unnoticed, forgotten in a corner, lost in the darkness. Look at it, admire it. It is hardly visible; it burns in solitude. Make seven million five hundred thousand mouths breathe upon it at once, and you will not extinguish it. You will not even cause the flame to flicker. Cause a hurricane to blow; the flame will continue to ascend, straight and pure, towards Heaven.
That lamp is Conscience.
That flame is the flame which illumines, in the night of exile, the paper on which I now write.
WHEREIN M. BONAPARTE HAS DECEIVED HIMSELF
Thus then, be your figures what they may, counterfeit or genuine, true or false, extorted or not, it matters little; they who keep their eyes steadfastly on justice say, and will continue to say, that crime is crime, that perjury is perjury, that treachery is treachery, that murder is murder, that blood is blood, that slime is slime, that a scoundrel is a scoundrel, that the man who fancies he is copying Napoleon en petit, is copying Lacenaire en grand; they say that, and they will repeat it, despite your figures, seeing that seven million five hundred thousand votes weigh as nothing against the conscience of the honest man; seeing that ten millions, that a hundred millions of votes, that even the whole of mankind, voting en masse, would count as nothing against that atom, that molecule of God, the soul of the just man; seeing that universal suffrage, which has full sovereignty over political questions, has no jurisdiction over moral questions.
I put aside for the moment, as I said just now, your process of ballotting, with eyes bandaged, gag in mouth, cannon in the streets and squares, sabres drawn, spies swarming, silence and terror leading the voter to the ballot-box as a malefactor to the prison; I put these aside; I assume (I repeat) genuine universal suffrage, free, pure, real; universal suffrage controlling itself, as it ought to do; newspapers in everybody's hands, men and facts questioned and sifted, placards covering the walls, speech everywhere, enlightenment everywhere! Very good! to universal suffrage of this sort submit peace and war, the strength of the army, the public credit, the budget, the public aid, the penalty of death, the irremovability of judges, the indissolubility of marriages, divorce, the civil and political status of women, free education, the constitution of the commune, the rights of labour, the payment of the clergy, free trade, railways, the currency, colonisation, the fiscal code,—all the problems, the solution of which does not involve its own abdication—for universal suffrage may do everything except abdicate; submit these things to it and it will solve them, not without error, perhaps, but with the grand total of certitude that appertains to human sovereignty; it will solve them masterfully. Now, put to it the question whether John or Peter did well or ill in stealing an apple from an orchard. At that, it halts; it is at fault. Why? Is it because this question is on a lower plane? No: it is because it is on a higher plane. All that constitutes the proper organization of societies, whether you consider them as territory, commune, state, as country, every political, financial, social matter, depends on universal suffrage and obeys it; the smallest atom of the smallest moral question defies it.
The ship is at the mercy of the ocean, the star is not.
It has been said of M. Leverrier and of yourself, Monsieur Bonaparte, that you were the only two men who believed in your star. You do, in fact, believe in your star; you look for it above your head. Well, that star which you seek outside of yourself, other men have within themselves. It shines beneath the vaulted roof of their brain, it enlightens and guides them, it shows them the true outlines of life; it exhibits to them, in the obscurity of human destiny, good and evil, the just and the unjust, the real and the false, ignominy and honour, honesty and knavery, virtue and crime. This star, without which the human soul is but darkness, is moral truth.
Wanting this light, you have deceived yourself. Your ballot of the 20th of December is, in the eyes of the thinker, merely a sort of monstrous simplicity. You have applied what you call "universal suffrage" to a question to which universal suffrage did not apply. You are not a politician, you are a malefactor. The question what is to be done with you is no concern of universal suffrage.
Yes, simplicity; I insist on the term. The bandit of the Abruzzi, his hands scarcely laved of the blood which still remains under his nails, goes to seek absolution from the priest; you have sought absolution from the ballot, only you have forgotten to confess. And, in saying to the ballot, "Absolve me," you put the muzzle of your pistol to its forehead.
Ah, wretched, desperate man! To "absolve you," as you call it, is beyond the popular power, is beyond all human power.
Nero, who had invented the Society of the Tenth-of-December, and who, like yourself, employed it in applauding his comedies, and even, like you again, his tragedies,—Nero, after he had slashed his mother's belly a hundred times with a dagger, might, like you, have appealed to his universal suffrage, which had this further resemblance to yours, that it was no more impeded by the license of the press; Nero, Pontiff and Emperor, surrounded by judges and priests prostrate at his feet, might have placed one of his bleeding hands on the still warm corpse of the Empress, and raising the other towards Heaven, have called all Olympus to witness that he had not shed that blood, and have adjured his universal suffrage to declare in the face of gods and of men that he, Nero, had not killed that woman; his universal suffrage, working much as yours works, with the same intelligence, and the same liberty, might have affirmed by 7,500,000 votes that the divine Caesar Nero, Pontiff and Emperor, had done no harm to that woman who lay dead; understand, monsieur, that Nero would not have been "absolved;" it would have sufficed for one voice, one single voice on earth, the humblest and most obscure, to lie raised amid that profound night of the Roman Empire, and to cry: "Nero is a parricide!" for the echo, the eternal echo of the human conscience to repeat for ever, from people to people, and from century to century: "Nero slew his mother!"
Well, that voice which protests in the darkness is mine. I exclaim to-day, and, doubt not that the universal conscience of mankind repeats with me: "Louis Bonaparte has assassinated France! Louis Bonaparte has slain his mother!"
THE ABSOLUTION:—SECOND PHASE: THE OATH
FOR AN OATH, AN OATH AND A HALF
What is Louis Bonaparte? He is perjury personified; he is mental reservation incarnate, felony in flesh and bone; he is a false oath wearing a general's hat, and calling himself Monseigneur.
Well! what is it that he demands of France, this man-ambuscade? An oath.
Indeed, after the 20th of December, 1848, and the 2nd of December, 1851, after the inviolate representatives of the people had been arrested and hunted down; after the confiscation of the Republic, after the coup d'etat, one might have expected from this malefactor an honest cynical laugh at the oath, and that this Sbrigani would say to France: "Oh, yes! it is true! I did pledge my word of honour. It is very funny. Let us say no more about such nonsense."
Not so: he requires an oath.
And so, mayors, gendarmes, judges, spies, prefects, generals, sergents-de-ville, gardes champetres, commissaries of police, magistrates, office-holders, Senators, Councillors of State, legislators, clerks, it is said, it is his will, this idea has passed through his head, he will have it so, it is his good pleasure; lose no time, start off, you to the registrar, you to a confessional, you under the eye of your brigadier, you to the minister, you, Senators, to the Tuileries, to the salon of the marshals, you, spies, to the prefecture of police, you, first presidents and solicitors-general to M. Bonaparte's ante-chamber; hasten in carriages, on foot, on horseback, in gown, in scarf, in court dress, in uniform, gold-laced, bespangled, embroidered, beplumed, with cap on head, ruff at the neck, sash around the waist, and sword by the side; place yourselves, some before the plaster bust, others before the man himself; very good, there you are, all of you, none are missing; look him well in the face, reflect, search your conscience, your loyalty, your decency, your religion; take off your glove, raise your hand, and take oath to his perjury, swear fealty to his treason.
Have you done it? Yes! Ah, what a precious farce!
So Louis Bonaparte takes the oath au serieux. True, he believes in my word, in yours, in ours, in theirs; he believes everybody's word but his own. He demands that everybody about him shall swear, and he orders them to be loyal. It pleases Messalina to be surrounded by virgins. Capital!
He requires all to be honourable; you must understand this, Saint-Arnaud, and you, Maupas, must look upon it as final.
But let us sift things to the bottom; there are oaths and oaths. The oath which freely, solemnly, before the face of God and man, having received a note of confidence from 6,000,000 of citizens, one swears before the National Assembly, to the constitution of his country, to the law, to the people, and to France, that is nothing, it is not binding, one can trifle with it, laugh at it, and some fine day trample it under foot; but the oath that one swears before the cannon's mouth, at the sword's point, under the eye of the police, in order to retain the employment that gives one food, to preserve the rank which is one's property; the oath which, to save one's daily bread and that of one's children, one swears to a villain, a rebel, the violator of the laws, the slaughterer of the Republic, a fugitive from every court, the man who himself has broken his oath—oh! that oath is sacred! Let us not jest.
The oath that we take on the 2nd of December, nephew of the 18th Brumaire, is sacrosanct!
What I admire most is its ineptitude. To receive as so much ready money and coin of good alloy, all those "I swear" of the official commons; not even to think that every scruple has been overcome, and that there cannot be in them all one single word of pure metal! He is both a prince and a traitor! To set the example from the summit of the State, and to imagine that it will not be followed! To sow lead, and expect to reap gold! Not even to perceive that, in such a case, every conscience will model itself on the conscience at the summit, and that the perjury of the prince transmutes all oaths into counterfeit coin.
DIFFERENCE IN PRICE
And from whom, then, are oaths required? From that prefect? he has betrayed the state. From that general? he has betrayed his colours. From that magistrate? he has betrayed the law. From all these office-holders? they have betrayed the Republic. A strange thing, and calculated to make the philosopher reflect, is this heap of traitors from which comes this heap of oaths!
Let us, then, dwell upon this charming feature of the 2nd of December:—
M. Bonaparte Louis believes in men's oaths! he believes in the oaths that one takes to him! When M. Rouher takes off his glove, and says, "I swear;" when M. Suin takes off his glove, and says, "I swear;" when M. Troplong places his hand upon his breast, on that spot where is placed the third button of a senator, and the heart of other men, and says, "I swear," M. Bonaparte feels tears in his eyes; deeply moved, he foots up all these loyalties, and contemplates all these creatures with profound emotion. He trusts! he believes! Oh, abyss of candour! Really, the innocence of rogues sometimes elicits the wonder of honest men.
One thing, however, must astonish the kindly-disposed observer and vex him a little; that is, the capricious and disproportionate manner in which oaths are paid for, the inequality of the prices that M. Bonaparte places on this commodity. For example, M. Vidocq, if he were still chief of police, would receive six thousand francs per annum, M. Baroche receives eighty thousand. It follows, then, that the oath of M. Vidocq would bring him in but 16 francs 66 centimes per day, while the oath of M. Baroche brings him in 222 francs 22 centimes. This is evidently unjust; why such a difference? An oath is an oath; an oath consists of a glove removed and six letters. How much more is there in M. Baroche's oath than in M. Vidocq's?
You will tell me that it is owing to the difference of their functions; that M. Baroche presides in the Council of State, and that M. Vidocq would be merely the chief of police. My answer is, that it is but chance; that probably M. Baroche might excel in directing the police, and that M. Vidocq might very well be President of the Council of State. This is no reason.
Are there then several sorts of oaths? Is it the same as with masses? Are there, in this business also, masses at forty sous, and masses at ten sous, which latter, as the priest said, are but "rubbish?" Does the quality of the oath vary with the price? Are there in this commodity of the oath, superfine, extra-fine, fine, and half-fine? Are some oaths better than others? Are they more durable, less adulterated with tow and cotton, better dyed? Are there new oaths, still unused, oaths worn at the knees, patched oaths and ragged oaths? Is there any choice? Let us know it. The thing is worth while. It is we who pay. Having made these observations in the interest of those who are contributors, I humbly beg pardon of M. Vidocq for having made use of his name. I admit that I had no right to do so. Besides, M. Vidocq might possibly have refused the oath!
OATHS OF SCIENTIFIC AND LITERARY MEN
Here is a priceless detail: M. Bonaparte was desirous that Arago should take the oath. Understand,—astronomy must swear fealty. In a well-regulated state, like France or China, everything is bureaucracy, even science. The mandarin of the Institute depends upon the mandarin of the police. The great parallactic telescope owes homage to M. Bonaparte. An astronomer is a sort of constable of the heavens. The observatory is like any sentry-box. It is necessary to keep an eye on the good God up yonder, who seems sometimes not to submit absolutely to the Constitution of the 14th of January. The heavens are full of unpleasant allusions, and require to be kept in order. The discovery of a new spot on the sun is evidently a case for the censorship. The prediction of a high tide may be seditious. The announcement of an eclipse of the moon may be treason. We are a bit moonstruck at the Elysee. Free astronomy is almost as dangerous as a free press. Who can tell what takes place in those nocturnal tete-a-tetes between Arago and Jupiter? If it were M. Leverrier, well and good!—but a member of the Provincial Government! Beware, M. de Maupas! the Bureau of Longitude must make oath not to conspire with the stars, and especially with those mad artisans of celestial coups d'etats which are called comets.
Then, too, as we have already said, one is a fatalist when one is a Bonaparte. Napoleon the Great had his star, Napoleon the Little ought surely to have a nebula; the astronomers are certainly something of astrologers. So take the oath, gentlemen. It goes without saying that Arago refused.
One of the virtues of the oath to Louis Bonaparte is that, according as it is refused or taken, that oath gives you or takes from you merits, aptitudes, talents. You are a professor of Greek or Latin; take the oath, or you are deprived of your chair, and you no longer know Greek or Latin. You are a professor of rhetoric; take the oath, or tremble; the story of Theramenes and the dream of Athalie are interdicted; you shall wander about them for the rest of your days, and never again be permitted to enter. You are a professor of philosophy; take the oath to M. Bonaparte,—if not, you become incapable of understanding the mysteries of the human conscience, and of explaining them to young men. You are a professor of medicine; take the oath,—if not, you no longer know how to feel the pulse of a feverish patient. But if the good professors depart, will there be any more good pupils? Particularly in medicine, this is a serious matter. What is to become of the sick? The sick? as if we cared about the sick! The important thing is that medicine should take the oath to M. Bonaparte. For it comes to this: either the seven million five hundred thousand votes have no sense, or it is evident that it would be better to have your leg amputated by an ass who has taken the oath, than by a refractory Dupuytren.
Ah! one would fain jest, but all this makes the heart sad. Are you a young and generous spirit, like Deschanel; a sane and upright intellect, like Despois; a serious and powerful mind, like Jacques; an eminent writer, a popular historian, like Michelet—take the oath, or die of hunger.
They refuse! The darkness and silence, in which they stoically seek refuge, know the rest.
CURIOSITIES OF THE BUSINESS
All morality is denied by such an oath, the cup of shame drained to the dregs, all decency outraged. There is no reason why one should not see unheard-of things, and one sees them. In some towns, Evreux for example, the judges who have taken the oath sit in judgment on the judges who have refused it; dishonour seated on the bench places honour at the bar; the sold conscience "reproves" the upright conscience; the courtesan lashes the virgin.
 The President of the Tribunal of Commerce at Evreux refused to take the oath. Let us listen to the Moniteur:
"M. Verney, late President of the Tribunal of Commerce at Evreux, was cited to appear, on Thursday last, before the correctional judges of Evreux, on account of facts that took place on the 29th of April last, within the consular auditory.
"M. Verney is accused of inciting to hatred and treason against the Government."
The judges of first instance discharged M. Verney, and "reproved" him. Appeal a minima by the "procureur of the Republic." Sentence of the Court of Appeal of Rouen:—
"Whereas the prosecution has no other object than the repression of the crime of inciting to hatred and scorn of the Government;
"Whereas that offence would result, according to the prosecution, from the last paragraph of the letter of M. Verney to the procureur of the Republic at Evreux, on the 26th of April last, which is thus worded:—
"'But it would be too serious a matter to barter any longer what we conceive to be right. The magistracy itself will owe us thanks for not exposing the ermine of the judge to succumb under the formality which your dispatch announces.'
"Whereas, however blamable the conduct of Verney has been in this affair, the Court cannot see in that portion of the letter, the offence of inciting to hatred and contempt of the Government, since the order by which force was to be employed to prevent the judges from taking their seats who had refused to take the oaths, did not emanate from the Government;
"Whereas there is no ground, therefore, for applying to him the penal code;
"For these reasons,
"Confirms the judgment without costs."
The Court of Appeal at Rouen has for its first President, M. Franck-Carre, formerly procureur-general to the Court of Peers in the prosecution at Boulogne; the same who addressed to M. Louis Bonaparte these words: "You have caused corruption to be employed and money to be distributed to buy treason."
With this oath one journeys from surprise to surprise. Nicolet was but a booby compared to M. Bonaparte. When M. Bonaparte had had the circuit made of his valets, his accomplices, and his victims, and had pocketed all their oaths, he turned good-naturedly to the valiant chiefs of the African army, and "spoke to them nearly in these words:" "By the bye, you are aware I caused you to be arrested at night, by my men, when you were in your beds; my spies broke into your domiciles, sword in hand; I have in fact decorated them for that feat of arms; I caused you to be threatened with the gag if you uttered a cry; my agents took you by the collar; I have had you placed in a felon's cell at Mazas, and in my own dungeon at Ham; your hands still bear the marks of the cords with which I bound you. Bonjour, messieurs, may God have you in his keeping; swear fealty to me." Changarnier fixed his eyes upon him, and made answer: "No, traitor!" Bedeau replied: "No, forger!" Lamoriciere replied: "No, perjurer!" Leflo answered: "No, bandit!" Charras struck him in the face.
At this moment M. Bonaparte's face is red, not from shame, but from the blow.
There is one other variety of the oath. In the fortresses, in the prisons, in the hulks, in the jails of Africa, there are thousands of prisoners. Who are those prisoners? We have said,—republicans, patriots, soldiers of the law, innocent men, martyrs. Their sufferings have already been proclaimed by generous voices, and one has a glimpse of the truth. In our special volume on the 2nd of December, it shall be our task to tear asunder the veil. Do you wish to know what is taking place?—Sometimes, when endurance is at an end and strength exhausted, bending beneath the weight of misery, without shoes, without bread, without clothing, without a shirt, consumed by fever, devoured by vermin, poor artisans torn from their workshops, poor husbandmen forcibly taken from the plough, weeping for a wife, a mother, children, a family widowed or orphaned, also without bread and perhaps without shelter, overdone, ill, dying, despairing,—some of these wretched beings succumb, and consent to "ask for pardon!" Then a letter is presented for their signature, all written and addressed: "To Monseigneur le Prince-President." We give publicity to this letter, as Sieur Quentin Bauchart avows it.
"I, the undersigned, declare upon my honour, that I accept most thankfully the pardon offered me by Prince Louis-Napoleon, and I engage never to become a member of any secret society, to respect the law, and be faithful to the Government that the country has chosen by the votes of the 20th and 21st of December, 1851."
Let not the meaning of this grave performance be misunderstood. This is not clemency granted, it is clemency implored. This formula: "Ask us for your pardon," means: "Grant us our pardon." The murderer, leaning over his victim and with his knife raised, cries: "I have waylaid you, seized you, hurled you to the earth, despoiled and robbed you, passed my knife through your body, and now you are under my feet, your blood is oozing from twenty wounds; say you repent, and I will not finish you." This repentance exacted by a criminal from an innocent man, is nothing else than the outward form which his inward remorse assumes. He fancies that he is thus safeguarded against his own criminality. Whatever expedient he may adopt to deaden his feelings, although he may be for ever ringing in his own ears the seven million five hundred thousand little bells of his plebiscite, the man of the coup d'etat reflects at times; he catches vague glimpses of a tomorrow, and struggles against the inevitable future. He must have legal purgation, discharge, release from custody, quittance. He exacts it from the vanquished, and at need puts them to the torture, to obtain it. Louis Bonaparte knows that there exists, in the conscience of every prisoner, of every exile, of every man proscribed, a tribunal, and that that tribunal is beginning his prosecution; he trembles, the executioner feels a secret dread of his victim; and, under pretext of a pardon accorded by him to that victim, he forces his judges to sign his acquittal.
Thus he hopes to deceive France, which, too, is a living conscience and a watchful tribunal; and that when the hour for passing sentence shall strike, seeing that he has been absolved by his victims, she will pardon him. He deceives himself. Let him cut a hole in the wall on another side, he will not escape through that one.
THE 5TH OF APRIL, 1852
On the 5th of April, 1852, this is what was witnessed at the Tuileries. About eight in the evening, the ante-chamber was filled with men in scarlet robes, grave and majestic, speaking with subdued voices, holding in their hands black velvet caps, bedecked with gold lace; most of them were white-haired. These were the presidents and councillors of the Court of Cassation, the first presidents of the Courts of Appeal, and the procureurs-general: all the superior magistracy of France. These persons were kept waiting in the ante-chamber. An aide-de-camp ushered them in and left them there. A quarter of an hour passed, half an hour, an hour; they wandered up and down the room, conversing, looking at their watches, awaiting the ringing of the bell. After more than an hour of tedious waiting they perceived that they had not even chairs to sit upon. One of them, M. Troplong, went to another room where the footmen were, and complained. A chair was brought him. At last a folding-door was thrown open; they rushed pell-mell into a salon. There a man in a black coat was standing with his back against the chimney-piece. What errand summoned these men in red robes to this man in a black coat? They came to tender him their oaths. The man was M. Bonaparte. He nodded, and, in return, they bowed to the ground, as is meet. In front of M. Bonaparte, at a short distance, stood his chancellor, M. Abbattucci, late a liberal deputy, now Minister of Justice to the coup d'etat. The ceremony began. M. Abbattucci delivered a discourse, and M. Bonaparte made a speech. The Prince drawled a few contemptuous words, looking at the carpet; he spoke of his "legitimacy;" after which the magistrates took the oath. Each in turn raised his hand. While they were swearing, M. Bonaparte, his back half turned to them, laughed and chatted with his aides-de-camp, who were grouped behind him. When it was over he quite turned his back upon them, and they departed, shaking their heads, humbled and ashamed, not for having done a base deed, but because they had had no chairs in the ante-chamber.
As they were departing, the following dialogue was overheard:—"That," said one of them, "was an oath it was necessary to take." "And," said another, "which it will be necessary to keep." "Yes," said a third, "like the master of the house."
All this is pure servility. Let us proceed.
Among these first presidents who swore fidelity to Louis Bonaparte, were a certain number of former peers of France, who, as such, had passed upon Louis Bonaparte the sentence of perpetual imprisonment. But why should we look back so far? Let us still proceed; here is something even better. Among these magistrates, there were seven individuals, by name, Hardouin, Moreau, Pataille, Cauchy, Delapalme, Grandet, and Quesnault. Prior to the 2nd of December these seven men composed the High Court of Justice; the first, Hardouin, was president, the last two, deputy-presidents, the other four, judges. These men had received and accepted from the Constitution of 1848 a mandate thus conceived:—
"Article 68. Every measure by which the President of the Republic shall dissolve the National Assembly, prorogue it or impede the performance of its decrees, is high treason.
"The judges of the High Court shall thereupon immediately assemble, under penalty of forfeiture; they shall convoke the jurors in such place as they shall appoint, to proceed to the trial of the President and his accomplices; they shall themselves appoint magistrates to perform the functions of the national administration."
On the 2nd of December, in the face of the flagrant felony, they had begun the trial, and appointed a procureur-general, M. Renouard, who had accepted the office, to proceed against Louis Bonaparte on the charge of high treason. Let us add the name of Renouard to the seven. On the 5th of April, they were, all eight, present in the antechamber of Louis Bonaparte; we have just seen what was their business there.
Here it is impossible not to pause.
There are certain melancholy thoughts upon which one must have the strength to insist; there are sinks of ignominy we must have the courage to sound.
Cast your eyes upon that man. He was born at hazard, by misfortune, in a hovel, in a cellar, in a cave, no one knows where, no one knows of whom. He came out of the dust to fall into the mire. He had only so much father and mother as was necessary for his birth, after which all shrank from him. He has crawled on as best he could. He grew up bare-footed, bare-headed, in rags, with no idea why he was living. He can neither read nor write, nor does he know that there are laws above him; he scarcely knows there is a heaven. He has no home, no family, no creed, no book. He is a blind soul. His intellect has never opened, for intellect opens only to light as flowers open only to the day, and he dwells in the dark. However, he must eat. Society has made him a brute beast, hunger makes him a wild beast. He lies in wait for travellers on the outskirts of a wood, and robs them of their purses. He is caught, and sent to the galleys. So far, so good.
Now look at this other man; it is no longer the red cap, it is the red robe. He believes in God, reads Nicole, is a Jansenist, devout, goes to confession, takes the sacrament. He is well born, as they say, wants nothing, nor has ever wanted anything; his parents have lavished everything on his youth—trouble, instruction, advice, Greek and Latin, masters in every science. He is a grave and scrupulous personage; therefore he has been made a magistrate. Seeing this man pass his days in meditating upon all the great texts, both sacred and profane; in the study of the law, in the practice of religion, in the contemplation of the just and unjust, society placed in his keeping all that it holds most august, most venerable—the book of the law. It made him a judge, and the punisher of treason. It said to him: "A day may come, an hour may strike, when the chief by physical force shall trample under his foot both the law and the rights of man; then you, man of justice, you will arise, and smite with your rod the man of power."—For that purpose, and in expectation of that perilous and supreme day, it lavishes wealth upon him, and clothes him in purple and ermine. That day arrives, that hour, unique, pitiless, and solemn, that supreme hour of duty; the man in the red gown begins to stutter the words of the law; suddenly he perceives that it is not the cause of justice that prevails, but that treason carries the day. Whereupon he, the man who has passed his life in imbuing himself with the pure and holy light of the law, that man who is nothing unless he be the contemner of unmerited success, that lettered, scrupulous, religious man, that judge in whose keeping the law has been placed, and, in some sort, the conscience of the state, turns towards triumphant perjury, and with the same lips, the same voice in which, if this traitor had been vanquished, he would have said:
"Criminal, I sentence you to the galleys," he says:
"Monseigneur, I swear fealty to you."
Now take a balance, place in one scale the judge, in the other the felon, and tell me which side kicks the beam.
EVERYWHERE THE OATH
Such are the things we have beheld in France, on the occasion of the oath to M. Bonaparte. Men have sworn here, there, everywhere; at Paris, in the provinces, in the north, in the south, in the cast, and in the west. There was in France, during a whole month, a tableau of hands raised, of arms outstretched, and the final chorus was: "We swear," etc. The ministers placed their oaths in the hands of the President, the prefects in those of ministers, and the mob in those of the prefects. What does M. Bonaparte do with all these oaths? Is he making a collection of them? Where does he put them? It has been remarked that none but unpaid functionaries have refused the oath, the councillors-general, for instance. The fact is, that the oath has been taken to the budget. We heard on the 29th of March a senator exclaim, in a loud voice, against the omission of his name, which was, so to speak, vicarious modesty. M. Sibour, Archbishop of Paris swore; M. Frank Carre, procureur-general to the Court of Peers in the affair of Boulogne, swore; M. Dupin, President of the National Assembly on the 2nd of December, swore—O, my God! it is enough to make one wring one's hands for shame. An oath, however, is a sacred obligation.
 As Senator.
 As First President of the Court of Appeal at Rouen.
 As a member of his Municipal Council.
The man who takes an oath ceases to be a man, he becomes an altar, upon which God descends. Man, that infirmity, that shadow, that atom, that grain of sand, that drop of water, that tear dropped from the eye of destiny; man, so little, so weak, so uncertain, so ignorant, so restless; man, who lives in trouble and in doubt, knowing little of yesterday, and nothing of to-morrow, seeing just enough of his road to place his foot before him, and then nothing but darkness; who trembles if he looks forward, is sad if he looks back; man, enveloped in those immensities and those obscurities, time, space, and being, and lost in them; having an abyss within him, his soul; and an abyss without, heaven; man, who at certain hours bows his head with a sacred horror, under every force of nature, under the roar of the sea, under the rustling of the trees, under the shadow of the mountain, under the twinkling of the stars; man, who can not lift his head by day, without being blinded by the light, nor by night, without being crushed by the infinite; man, who knows nothing, who sees nothing, who hears nothing, who may be swept away to-morrow, to-day, now, by the waves that pass, by the breeze that blows, by the pebble that falls, by the hour that strikes; on a certain day, man, that trembling, stumbling being, the plaything of chance and of the passing moment, rises suddenly before the riddle that is called human life, feels that there is within him something greater than this abyss,—honour! something stronger than fatality,—virtue! something more mysterious than the unknown,—faith! and alone, feeble and naked, he says to all this formidable mystery that envelopes him: "Do with me what you will, but I will do this, and I will not do that;" and proud, tranquil, serene, creating by a word a fixed point in the sombre instability that fills the horizon, as the mariner casts his anchor in the sea, he casts his oath into the future.
O plighted oath! admirable confidence of the just man in himself! Sublime permission given by God to man, to affirm! It is all over. There are no more of them. Another of the soul's splendours that has vanished!
PROGRESS CONTAINED IN THE COUP D'ETAT
THE QUANTUM OF GOOD CONTAINED IN EVIL
Among us democrats, many well-meaning minds were stupefied by the event of the 2nd of December. It disconcerted some, discouraged others, and terrified many. I have seen some who cried: Finis Poloniae. As for myself, since at certain times I am obliged to say, I, and to speak in the face of history as a witness, I proclaim that I saw that event without perturbation. I say more than this, that at times, in the face of the 2nd of December, I declare myself satisfied.
When I can abstract myself from the present, when for a moment I can turn my eyes away from all the crimes, from all the blood spilt, from all the victims, from all the proscribed, from those hulks that echo the death rattle, from those deadful penal settlements of Lambessa and Cayenne, where death is swift, from that exile where death is slow, from this vote, from this oath, from this vast stain of shame inflicted upon France, which is growing wider and wider each day; when, forgetting for a few moments these painful thoughts, the usual obsession of my mind, I succeed in confining myself within the severe calmness of the politician, and in considering, not the fact, but the consequences of the fact; then, among many results, disastrous beyond doubt, a considerable, real, enormous progress becomes manifest to me, and, from that moment, while I am still of those whom the 2nd of December exasperates, I am no longer of those whom it afflicts.
Fixing my eyes upon certain points in the future, I say to myself: "The deed was infamous, but the result is good."
Attempts have been made to explain the inexplicable victory of the coup d'etat in a hundred ways. A true balance has been struck between all possible resistances, and they are neutralized one by the other: the people were afraid of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie were afraid of the people;—the faubourgs hesitated before the restoration of the majority, fearing, wrongfully however, that their victory would bring back to power that Right which is so thoroughly unpopular; the shopocracy recoiled before the red republic; the people did not understand; the middle classes shuffled; some said, "Whom shall we send to the legislative palace?" others: "whom are we going to see at the Hotel de Ville?" In fine, the rude repression of 1848, the insurrection crushed by cannon-shot, the quarries, the casements, and the transportations—a living and terrible recollection;—and then—Suppose some one had succeeded in beating the call to arms! Suppose a single legion had sallied forth! Suppose M. Sibour had been M. Affre, and had thrown himself in the midst of the bullets of the pretorians! Suppose the High Court had not suffered itself to be driven away by a corporal! Suppose the judges had followed the example of the representatives, and we had seen the scarlet gowns on the barricades, as we saw the scarfs! Suppose a single arrest had miscarried! Suppose a single regiment had hesitated! Suppose the massacre on the boulevards had not taken place, or had turned out ill for Louis Bonaparte! etc., etc., etc. This is all true, and yet what has been, was what was to be. Let us say again, under the shadow of that monstrous victory vast and definitive progress is taking place. The 2nd of December succeeded, because in more than one point of view, I repeat, it was good that it should succeed. All explanations are just, but all are vain. The invisible hand is mingled in all this. Louis Bonaparte committed the crime; Providence brought about the result.
In truth, it was essential that order should come to the end of its logic. It was essential that people should learn, and should learn for all time, that, in the mouths of the men of the past, that word order signifies false oaths, perjury, pillage of the public cash-box, civil war, courts-martial, confiscation, sequestration, deportation, transportation, proscription, fusillades, police, censorship, degradation of the army, disregard of the people, debasement of France, a dumb Senate, the tribune overthrown, the press suppressed, a political guillotine, murder of liberty, garroting of the right, violation of laws, sovereignty of the sword, massacre, treason, ambuscades. The spectacle that we have before our eyes is a profitable spectacle. What we see in France since the 2nd of December is the debauch of order.
Yes, the hand of Providence is in it. Reflect, too, upon this: for fifty years the Republic and the Empire have filled men's imaginations, the one with its souvenirs of terror, the other with its souvenirs of glory. Of the Republic men saw only 1793, that is to say, the terrible revolutionary necessity,—the furnace; of the Empire they saw only Austerlitz. Hence a prejudice against the Republic, and prestige for the Empire. Now, what is the future of France to be? is it the Empire? No, it is the Republic.
It became necessary to reverse that situation, to suppress the prestige of that which cannot be restored, and to suppress the prejudice against that which must be. Providence did it: it destroyed those two mirages. February came and took away from the Republic its terror; Louis Bonaparte came and deprived the Empire of its prestige. Henceforth, 1848, fraternity, is superimposed upon 1793, terror; Napoleon the Little is superimposed upon Napoleon the Great. The two grand things, one of which alarmed and the other dazzled, are receding. We perceive '93 only through its justification, and Napoleon only through his caricature; the foolish fear of the guillotine vanishes, the empty imperial popularity disappears. Thanks to 1848, the Republic no longer terrifies; thanks to Louis Bonaparte, the Empire no longer fascinates. The future has become possible. These are the secrets of the Almighty!
But the word republic is not sufficient; it is the thing republic that is wanting; well, we shall have the thing with the word. Let us develop this thought.
THE FOUR INSTITUTIONS THAT STAND OPPOSED TO THE REPUBLIC
Awaiting the marvellous but tardy simplifications which the union of Europe and the democratic federation of the continent will some day bring forth, what will be in France, the form of the social edifice, of whose ill-defined and luminous outlines the thinking man already has a glimpse, through the darkness of dictatorships?
That form is this:—
The sovereign commune, ruled by an elective mayor; universal suffrage everywhere, subordinate to the national unity only in respect to acts of general concern; so much for the administration. Syndics and upright men arranging the private differences of associations and industries; the jury, magistrate of the fact, enlightening the judge, magistrate of the law; elective judges; so much for justice. The priest excluded from everything except the church, living with his eye fixed on his book and on Heaven, a stranger to the budget, unknown to the state, known only to his flock, no longer possessing authority, but possessing liberty; so much for religion. War confined to the defence of the territory. The whole nation constituting a national guard, divided into three districts, and able to rise as one man; so much for power. The law for ever, the right for ever, the ballot for ever, the sword nowhere.
Now, what were the obstacles to this future, to this magnificent realization of the democratic ideal?
There were four material obstacles, namely:—
The standing army. Centralized administration. The office-holding clergy. The irremovable magistracy.
SLOW MOVEMENT OF NORMAL PROGRESS
What these four obstacles are, what they were even under the Republic of February, even under the Constitution of 1848; the evil they produced, the good they prevented, what sort of past they perpetuated, what excellent social order they postponed, the publicist saw, the philosopher knew, the nation did not know.
These four institutions, immense, ancient, solid, supported one upon another, composite at their base and summit, growing like a hedge of tall old trees, their roots under our feet, their branches over our heads, smothered and crushed on all sides the scattered germs of the new France. Where life and movement, association, local liberty, communal initiative should have been, there was administrative despotism; where there should have been the intelligent vigilance, armed at need, of the patriot and the citizen, there was the passive obedience of the soldier; where the quick Christian faith should have gushed forth, there was the Catholic priest; where there should have been justice, there was the judge. And the future was there, under the feet of suffering generations, which could not rise and were waiting.
Was this known among the people? Was it suspected? Was it divined?
Far from it. In the eyes of the greater part, and of the middle classes in particular, these four obstacles were four buttresses. Army, magistracy, administration, clergy, these were the four virtues of order, the four social powers, the four sacred pillars of the old French structure.
Attack that, if you dare!
I have no hesitation is saying, that in the state of blindness in which are plunged the best minds, with the measured march of normal progress, with our assemblies, of which I shall not be suspected to be the detractor, but which, when they are both honest and timid, as is often the case, are disposed to be led only by their average men, that is, by mediocrity; with the committees of initiative, their delays and ballottings, if the 2nd of December had not brought its overwhelming demonstration, if Providence had not taken a hand, France would have remained condemned for an indefinite term to its irremovable magistracy, to administrative centralization, to the standing army, and to the office-holding clergy.
Surely, the power of the tribune and of the press combined, these two great forces of civilization,—it is not I who seek to deny or belittle them; but see how many efforts of all kinds it would have required, in every direction, and under every form, by the tribune and by the newspaper, by the book and by the spoken word, to succeed even in shaking the universal prejudice in favor of these four fatal institutions! How many to succeed in overthrowing them! to exhibit the evidence to the eyes of all, to overcome selfish, passionate or unintelligent resistance, thoroughly to enlighten public opinion, the consciences of the people, and the ruling powers, to cause this fourfold reform to force its way first into ideas, then into the laws. Reckon up the speeches, the writings, the newspaper articles, the projects of laws, the counter-projects, the amendments, the amendments to amendments, the reports, the counter-reports, the facts, the incidents, the polemics, the discussions, the assertions, the denials, the storms, the steps forward, the steps backward, the days, the weeks, the months, the years, the quarter-century, the half-century!
WHAT AN ASSEMBLY WOULD HAVE DONE
I imagine, on the benches of an assembly, the most intrepid of thinkers, a brilliant mind, one of those men who, when they ascend the tribune, feel it beneath them like the tripod of the oracle, suddenly grow in stature and become colossal, surpass by a head the massive appearances that mask reality, and see clearly the future over the high, frowning wall of the present. That man, that orator, that seer, seeks to warn his country; that prophet seeks to enlighten statesmen; he knows where the breakers are; he knows that society will crumble by means of these four false supports: centralized government, standing army, irremovable judges, salaried priesthood; he knows it, he desires that all should know it, he ascends the tribune and says:—
"I denounce to you four great public perils. Your political system bears that within it that will destroy it. It is incumbent upon you to transform your government root and branch, the army, the clergy, and the magistracy: to suppress here, retrench there, remodel everything, or perish through these four institutions, which you consider as lasting elements, but which are elements of dissolution."
Murmurs. He exclaims: "Do you know what your centralized administration may become in the hands of a perjured executive power? A vast treason, carried into effect at one blow over the whole of France, by every office-holder without exception."
Murmurs break out anew with redoubled violence; cries of "order!" The orator continues: "Do you know what your standing army may become at any moment? An instrument of crime. Passive obedience is the bayonet ever pointed at the heart of the law. Yes, here, in this France, which is the initiatress of the world, in this land of the tribune and the press, in this birthplace of human thought, yes, the time may come when the sword will rule, when you, inviolable legislators, will be collared by corporals, when our glorious regiments will transform themselves, for the profit of one man and to the shame of the nation, into gold-laced hordes and pretorian bands, when the sword of France will become a thing that strikes from behind, like the dagger of a hired assassin, when the life-blood of the first city in the world, done to death, will splash the gold epaulettes of your generals!"
The murmur becomes an uproar, cries of "Order!" are heard from all quarters. The orator is interrupted: "You have been insulting the government, now you insult the army!" The President calls the orator to order.
The orator resumes:
"And if it should happen some day that a man, having in his hand the five hundred thousand officeholders who constitute the government, and the four hundred thousand soldiers composing the army, if it should happen that this man should tear up the Constitution, should violate every law, break every oath, trample upon every right, commit every crime, do you know what your irremovable magistrates, instructors in the right, and guardians of the law, would do? They would hold their tongues."
The uproar prevents the orator from completing his sentence. The tumult becomes a tempest.—"This man respects nothing. After the government and the army, he drags the magistracy in the mire! Censure! censure!" The orator is censured and the censure entered in the journal. The President declares that, if he continues, the Assembly will proceed to a vote, and the floor will be taken from him.
The orator continues: "And your paid clergy! and your office-holding bishops! On the day when a pretender shall have employed in such enterprises the government, the magistracy, and the army; on the day when all these institutions shall drip with the blood shed by and for the traitor; when, placed between the man who has committed the crimes and God who orders an anathema to be launched against the criminal—do you know what these bishops of yours will do? They will prostrate themselves, not before God, but before man!"
Can you form any idea of the frenzied shouts and imprecations that would greet such words? Can you imagine the shouts, the apostrophes, the threats, the whole Assembly rising en masse, the tribune escaladed and with difficulty guarded by the ushers! The orator has profaned every sanctified ark in succession, and he has ended by profaning the Holy of Holies, the clergy! And what does he mean by it all? What a medley of impossible and infamous hypotheses! Do you not hear Baroche growl, and Dupin thunder? The orator would be called to order, censured, fined, suspended from the Chamber for three days, like Pierre Leroux and Emile de Girardin; who can tell, perhaps expelled, like Manuel.
And the next day, the indignant citizen would say: "That is well done!" And from every quarter the journals devoted to order would shake their fist at the CALUMNIATOR. And in his own party, on his usual bench in the Assembly, his best friends would forsake him, and say: "It is his own fault; he has gone too far; he has imagined chimeras and absurdities."
And after this generous and heroic effort, it would be found that the four institutions that have been attacked were more venerable and impeccable than ever, and that the question, instead of advancing, had receded.
WHAT PROVIDENCE HAS DONE
But Providence,—Providence goes about it differently. It places the thing luminously before your eyes, and says, "Behold!"
A man arrives some fine morning,—and such a man! The first comer, the last comer, without past, without future, without genius, without renown, without prestige. Is he an adventurer? Is he a prince? This man has his hands full of money, of bank-notes, of railroad shares, of offices, of decorations, of sinecures; this man stoops down to the office-holders, and says, "Office-holders, betray your trust!"
The office-holders betray their trust.
What, all? without one exception?
He turns to the generals, and says: "Generals, massacre."
And the generals massacre.
He turns towards the irremovable judges, and says: "Magistrates, I shatter the Constitution, I commit perjury, I dissolve the sovereign Assembly, I arrest the inviolate members, I plunder the public treasury, I sequester, I confiscate, I banish those who displease me, I transport people according to my fancy, I shoot down without summons to surrender, I execute without trial, I commit all that men are agreed in calling crime, I outrage all that men are agreed in calling right; behold the laws—they are under my feet."
"We will pretend not to see any thing," say the magistrates.
"You are insolent," replies the providential man. "To turn your eyes away is to insult me. I propose that you shall assist me. Judges, you are going to congratulate me to-day, me who am force and crime; and to-morrow, those who have resisted me, those who are honor, right, and law, them you will try,—and you will condemn them."
These irremovable judges kiss his boot, and set about investigating l'affaire des troubles.
They swear fidelity to him, to boot.
Then he perceives, in a corner, the clergy, endowed, gold-laced, with cross and cope and mitre, and he says:—