The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon/Chapter V
The strife immediately broke out again between the National Assembly and Bonaparte, so soon as the revolutionary crisis was weathered, and universal suffrage was abolished.
The Constitution had fixed the salary of Bonaparte at 600,000 francs. Barely half a year after his installation, he succeeded in raising this sum to its double: Odillon Barrot had wrung from the constitutive assembly a yearly allowance of 600,000 francs for so-called representation expenses. After June 13, Bonaparte hinted at similar solicitations, to which, however, Barrot then turned a deaf ear. Now, after May 31, he forthwith utilized the favorable moment, and caused his ministers to move a civil list of three millions in the National Assembly. A long adventurous, vagabond career had gifted him with the best developed antennae for feeling out the weak moments when he could venture upon squeezing money from his bourgeois. He carried on regular blackmail. The National Assembly had maimed the sovereignty of the people with his aid and his knowledge: he now threatened to denounce its crime to the tribunal of the people, if it did not pull out its purse and buy his silence with three millions annually. It had robbed three million Frenchmen of the suffrage: for every Frenchman thrown "out of circulation," he demanded a franc "in circulation." He, the elect of six million, demanded indemnity for the votes he had been subsequently cheated of. The Committee of the National Assembly turned the importunate fellow away. The Bonapartist press threatened: Could the National Assembly break with the President of the republic at a time when it had broken definitely and on principle with the mass of the nation? It rejected the annual civil list, but granted, for this once, an allowance of 2,160,000 francs. Thus it made itself guilty of the double weakness of granting the money, and, at the same time, showing by its anger that it did so only unwillingly. We shall presently see to what use Bonaparte put the money. After this aggravating after-play, that followed upon the heels of the abolition of universal suffrage, and in which Bonaparte exchanged his humble attitude of the days of the crisis of March and April for one of defiant impudence towards the usurping parliament, the National Assembly adjourned for three months, from August 11, to November 11. It left behind in its place a Permanent Committee of 18 members that contained no Bonapartist, but did contain a few moderate republicans. The Permanent Committee of the year 1849 had numbered only men of order and Bonapartists. At that time, however, the party of Order declared itself in permanence against the revolution; now the parliamentary republic declared itself in permanence against the President. After the law of May 31, only this rival still confronted the party of Order.
When the National Assembly reconvened in November, 1850, instead of its former petty skirmishes with the President, a great headlong struggle, a struggle for life between the two powers, seemed to have become inevitable.
As in the year 1849, the party of Order had during this year's vacation, dissolved into its two separate factions, each occupied with its own restoration intrigues, which had received new impetus from the death of Louis Philippe. The Legitimist King, Henry V, had even appointed a regular Ministry, that resided in Paris, and in which sat members of the Permanent Committee. Hence, Bonaparte was, on his part, justified in making tours through the French Departments, and—according to the disposition of the towns that he happened to be gladdening with his presence—some times covertly, other times more openly blabbing out his own restoration plans, and gaining votes for himself On these excursions, which the large official "Moniteur" and the small private "Moniteurs" of Bonaparte were, of course, bound to celebrate as triumphal marches, he was constantly accompanied by affiliated members of the "Society of December 10" This society dated from the year 1849. Under the pretext of founding a benevolent association, the slum-proletariat of Paris was organized into secret sections, each section led by Bonapartist agents, with a Bonapartist General at the head of all. Along with ruined roues of questionable means of support and questionable antecedents, along with the foul and adventures-seeking dregs of the bourgeoisie, there were vagabonds, dismissed soldiers, discharged convicts, runaway galley slaves, sharpers, jugglers, lazzaroni, pickpockets, sleight-of-hand performers, gamblers, procurers, keepers of disorderly houses, porters, literati, organ grinders, rag pickers, scissors grinders, tinkers, beggars—in short, that whole undefined, dissolute, kicked-about mass that the Frenchmen style "la Boheme" With this kindred element, Bonaparte formed the stock of the "Society of December 10," a "benevolent association" in so far as, like Bonaparte himself, all its members felt the need of being benevolent to themselves at the expense of the toiling nation. The Bonaparte, who here constitutes himself Chief of the Slum-Proletariat; who only here finds again in plenteous form the interests which he personally pursues; who, in this refuse, offal and wreck of all classes, recognizes the only class upon which he can depend unconditionally;—this is the real Bonaparte, the Bonaparte without qualification. An old and crafty roue, he looks upon the historic life of nations, upon their great and public acts, as comedies in the ordinary sense, as a carnival, where the great costumes, words and postures serve only as masks for the pettiest chicaneries. So, on the occasion of his expedition against Strassburg when a trained Swiss vulture impersonated the Napoleonic eagle; so, again, on the occasion of his raid upon Boulogne, when he struck a few London lackeys into French uniform: they impersonated the army; and so now, in his "Society of December 10," he collects 10,000 loafers who are to impersonate the people as Snug the Joiner does the lion. At a period when the bourgeoisie itself is playing the sheerest comedy, but in the most solemn manner in the world, without doing violence to any of the pedantic requirements of French dramatic etiquette, and is itself partly deceived by, partly convinced of, the solemnity of its own public acts, the adventurer, who took the comedy for simple comedy, was bound to win. Only after he has removed his solemn opponent, when he himself takes seriously his own role of emperor, and, with the Napoleonic mask on, imagines he impersonates the real Napoleon, only then does he become the victim of his own peculiar conception of history—the serious clown, who no longer takes history for a comedy, but a comedy for history. What the national work-shops were to the socialist workingmen, what the "Gardes mobiles" were to the bourgeois republicans, that was to Bonaparte the "Society of December 10,"—a force for partisan warfare peculiar to himself. On his journeys, the divisions of the Society, packed away on the railroads, improvised an audience for him, performed public enthusiasm, shouted "vive l'Empereur," insulted and clubbed the republicans,—all, of course, under the protection of the police. On his return stages to Paris, this rabble constituted his vanguard, it forestalled or dispersed counter-demonstrations. The "Society of December 10" belonged to him, it was his own handiwork, his own thought. Whatever else he appropriates, the power of circumstances places in his hands; whatever else he does, either circumstances do for him, or he is content to copy from the deeds of others, but he posing before the citizens with the official phrases about "Order," "Religion," "Family," "Property," and, behind him, the secret society of skipjacks and picaroons, the society of disorder, of prostitution, and of theft,—that is Bonaparte himself as the original author; and the history of the "Society of December 10" is his own history. Now, then, it happened that Representatives belonging to the party of order occasionally got under the clubs of the Decembrists. Nay, more. Police Commissioner Yon, who had been assigned to the National Assembly, and was charged with the guardianship of its safety, reported to the Permanent Committee upon the testimony of one Alais, that a Section of the Decembrists had decided on the murder of General Changarnier and of Dupin, the President of the National Assembly, and had already settled upon the men to execute the decree. One can imagine the fright of Mr. Dupin. A parliamentary inquest over the "Society of December 10," i. e., the profanation of the Bonapartist secret world now seemed inevitable. Just before the reconvening of the National Assembly, Bonaparte circumspectly dissolved his Society, of course, on paper only. As late as the end of 1851, Police Prefect Carlier vainly sought, in an exhaustive memorial, to move him to the real dissolution of the Decembrists.
The "Society of December 10" was to remain the private army of Bonaparte until he should have succeeded in converting the public Army into a "Society of December 10." Bonaparte made the first attempt in this direction shortly after the adjournment of the National Assembly, and he did so with the money which he had just wrung from it. As a fatalist, he lives devoted to the conviction that there are certain Higher Powers, whom man, particularly the soldier, cannot resist. First among these Powers he numbers cigars and champagne, cold poultry and garlic-sausage. Accordingly, in the apartments of the Elysee, he treated first the officers and under-officers to cigars and champagne, to cold poultry and garlic-sausage. On October 3, he repeats this manoeuvre with the rank and file of the troops by the review of St. Maur; and, on October 10, the same manoeuvre again, upon a larger scale, at the army parade of Satory. The Uncle bore in remembrance the campaigns of Alexander in Asia: the Nephew bore in remembrance the triumphal marches of Bacchus in the same country. Alexander was, indeed, a demigod; but Bacchus was a full-fledged god, and the patron deity, at that, of the "Society of December 10."
After the review of October 3, the Permanent Committee summoned the Minister of War, d'Hautpoul, before it. He promised that such breaches of discipline should not recur. We have seen how, on October 10th, Bonaparte kept d'Hautpoul's word. At both reviews Changarnier had commanded as Commander-in-chief of the Army of Paris. He, at once member of the Permanent Committee, Chief of the National Guard, the "Savior" of January 29, and June 13, the "Bulwark of Society," candidate of the Party of Order for the office of President, the suspected Monk of two monarchies,—he had never acknowledged his subordination to the Minister of War, had ever openly scoffed at the republican Constitution, and had pursued Bonaparte with a protection that was ambiguously distinguished. Now he became zealous for the discipline in opposition to Bonaparte. While, on October 10, a part of the cavalry cried: "Vive Napoleon! Vivent les saucissons;" Changarnier saw to it that at least the infantry, which filed by under the command of his friend Neumeyer, should observe an icy silence. In punishment, the Minister of War, at the instigation of Bonaparte, deposed General Neumeyer from his post in Paris, under the pretext of providing for him as Commander-in-chief of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Military Divisions. Neumeyer declined the exchange, and had, in consequence, to give his resignation. On his part, Changarnier published on November 2, an order, wherein he forbade the troops to indulge, while under arms, in any sort of political cries or demonstrations. The papers devoted to the Elysee interests attacked Changarnier; the papers of the party of Order attacked Bonaparte; the Permanent Committee held frequent secret sessions, at which it was repeatedly proposed to declare the fatherland in danger; the Army seemed divided into two hostile camps, with two hostile staffs; one at the Elysee, where Bonaparte, the other at the Tuileries, where Changarnier resided. All that seemed wanting for the signal of battle to sound was the convening of the National Assembly. The French public looked upon the friction between Bonaparte and Changarnier in the light of the English journalist, who characterized it in these words: "The political servant girls of France are mopping away the glowing lava of the revolution with old mops, and they scold each other while doing their work."
Meanwhile, Bonaparte hastened to depose the Minister of War, d'Hautpoul; to expedite him heels over head to Algiers; and to appoint in his place General Schramm as Minister of War. On November 12, he sent to the National Assembly a message of American excursiveness, overloaded with details, redolent of order, athirst for conciliation, resignful to the Constitution, dealing with all and everything, only not with the burning questions of the moment. As if in passing he dropped the words that according to the express provisions of the Constitution, the President alone disposes over the Army. The message closed with the following high-sounding protestations:
"France demands, above all things, peace . . . Alone bound by an oath, I shall keep myself within the narrow bounds marked out by it to me . . . As to me, elected by the people, and owing my power to it alone, I shall always submit to its lawfully expressed will. Should you at this session decide upon the revision of the Constitution, a Constitutional Convention will regulate the position of the Executive power. If you do not, then, the people will, in 1852, solemnly announce its decision. But, whatever the solution may be that the future has in store, let us arrive at an understanding to the end that never may passion, surprise or violence decide over the fate of a great nation. . . . That which, above all, bespeaks my attention is, not who will, in 1852, rule over France, but to so devote the time at my disposal that the interval may pass by with-out agitation and disturbance. I have straightforwardly opened my heart to you, you will answer my frankness with your confidence, my good efforts with your co-operation. God will do the rest."
The honnete, hypocritically temperate, commonplace-virtuous language of the bourgeoisie reveals its deep meaning in the mouth of the self-appointed ruler of the "Society of December 10," and of the picnic-hero of St. Maur and Satory.
The burgraves of the party of Order did not for a moment deceive themselves on the confidence that this unbosoming deserved. They were long blase on oaths; they numbered among themselves veterans and virtuosi of perjury. The passage about the army did not, however, escape them. They observed with annoyance that the message, despite its prolix enumeration of the lately enacted laws, passed, with affected silence, over the most important of all, the election law, and, moreover, in case no revision of the Constitution was held, left the choice of the President, in 1852, with the people. The election law was the ball-and-chain to the feet of the party of Order, that hindered them from walking, and now assuredly from storming. Furthermore, by the official disbandment of the "Society of December 10," and the dismissal of the Minister of War, d'Hautpoul, Bonaparte had, with his own hands, sacrificed the scapegoats on the altar of the fatherland. He had turned off the expected collision. Finally, the party of Order itself anxiously sought to avoid every decisive conflict with the Executive, to weaken and to blur it over. Fearing to lose its conquests over the revolution, it let its rival gather the fruits thereof. "France demands, above all things, peace," with this language had the party of Order been apostrophizing the revolution, since February; with this language did Bonaparte's message now apostrophize the party of Order: "France demands, above all things, peace." Bonaparte committed acts that aimed at usurpation, but the party of Order committed a "disturbance of the peace," if it raised the hue and cry, and explained them hypochrondriacally. The sausages of Satory were mouse-still when nobody talked about them;—France demands, above all things, "peace." Accordingly, Bonaparte demanded that he be let alone; and the parliamentary party was lamed with a double fear: the fear of re-conjuring up the revolutionary disturbance of the peace, and the fear of itself appearing as the disturber of the peace in the eyes of its own class, of the bourgeosie. Seeing that, above all things, France demanded peace, the party of Order did not dare, after Bonaparte had said "peace" in his message, to answer "war." The public, who had promised to itself the pleasure of seeing great scenes of scandal at the opening of the National Assembly, was cheated out of its expectations. The opposition deputies, who demanded the submission of the minutes of the Permanent Committee over the October occurrences, were outvoted. All debate that might excite was fled from on principle. The labors of the National Assembly during November and December, 1850, were without interest.
Finally, toward the end of December, began a guerilla warfare about certain prerogatives of the parliament. The movement sank into the mire of petty chicaneries on the prerogative of the two powers, since, with the abolition of universal suffrage, the bourgeoisie had done away with the class struggle.
A judgment for debt had been secured against Mauguin, one of the Representatives. Upon inquiry by the President of the Court, the Minister of Justice, Rouher, declared that an order of arrest should be made out without delay. Manguin was, accordingly, cast into the debtors' prison. The National Assembly bristled up when it heard of the "attentat." It not only ordered his immediate release, but had him forcibly taken out of Clichy the same evening by its own greffier. In order, nevertheless, to shield its belief in the "sacredness of private property," and also with the ulterior thought of opening, in case of need, an asylum for troublesome Mountainers, it declared the imprisonment of a Representative for debt to be permissible upon its previous consent. It forgot to decree that the President also could be locked up for debt. By its act, it wiped out the last semblance of inviolability that surrounded the members of its own body.
It will be remembered that, upon the testimony of one Allais, Police Commissioner Yon had charged a Section of Decembrists with a plan to murder Dupin and Changarnier. With an eye upon that, the questors proposed at the very first session, that the parliament organize a police force of its own, paid for out of the private budget of the National Assembly itself, and wholly independent of the Police Prefects. The Minister of the Interior, Baroche, protested against this trespass on his preserves. A miserable compromise followed, according to which the Police Commissioner of the Assembly was to be paid out of its own private budget and was to be subject to the appointment and dismissal of its own questors, but only upon previous agreement with the Minister of the Interior. In the meantime Allais had been prosecuted by the Government. It was an easy thing in Court, to present his testimony in the light of a mystification, and, through the mouth of the Public Prosecutor, to throw Dupin, Changarnier, Yon, together with the whole National Assembly, into a ridiculous light. Thereupon, on December 29, Minister Baroche writes a letter to Dupin, in which he demands the dismissal of Yon. The Committee of the National Assembly decides to keep Yon in office; nevertheless, the National Assembly, frightened by its own violence in the affair of Mauguin, and accustomed, every time it has shied a blow at the Executive, to receive back from it two in exchange, does not sanction this decision. It dismisses Yon in reward for his zeal in office, and robs itself of a parliamentary prerogative, indispensable against a person who does not decide by night to execute by day, but decides by day and executes by night.
We have seen how, during the months of November and December, under great and severe provocations, the National Assembly evaded and refused the combat with the Executive power. Now we see it compelled to accept it on the smallest occasions. In the affair of Mauguin, it confirms in principle the liability of a Representative to imprisonment for debt, but to itself reserves the power of allowing the principle to be applied only to the Representatives whom it dislikes,-and for this infamous privilege we see it wrangling with the Minister of Justice. Instead of utilizing the alleged murder plan to the end of fastening an inquest upon the "Society of December 10," and of exposing Bonaparte beyond redemption before France and his true figure, as the head of the slum-proletariat of Paris, it allows the collision to sink to a point where the only issue between itself and the Minister of the Interior is. Who has jurisdiction over the appointment and dismissal of a Police Commissioner? Thus we see the party of Order, during this whole period, compelled by its ambiguous position to wear out and fritter away its conflict with the Executive power in small quarrels about jurisdiction, in chicaneries, in pettifogging, in boundary disputes, and to turn the stalest questions of form into the very substance of its activity. It dares not accept the collision at the moment when it involves a principle, when the Executive power has really given itself a blank, and when the cause of the National Assembly would be the cause of the nation. It would thereby have issued to the nation an order of march; and it feared nothing so much as that the nation should move. Hence, on these occasions, it rejects the motions of the Mountain, and proceeds to the order of the day. After the issue has in this way lost all magnitude, the Executive power quietly awaits the moment when it can take it up again upon small and insignificant occasions; when, so to say, the issue offers only a parliamentary local interest. Then does the repressed valor of the party of Order break forth, then it tears away the curtain from the scene, then it denounces the President, then it declares the republic to be in danger,—but then all its pathos appears stale, and the occasion for the quarrel a hypocritical pretext, or not at all worth the effort. The parliamentary tempest becomes a tempest in a tea-pot, the struggle an intrigue, the collision a scandal. While the revolutionary classes gloat with sardonic laughter over the humiliation of the National Assembly—they, of course, being as enthusiastic for the prerogatives of the parliament as that body is for public freedom—the bourgeoisie, outside of the parliament, does not understand how the bourgeoisie, inside of the parliament, can squander its time with such petty bickerings, and can endanger peace by such wretched rivalries with the President. It is puzzled at a strategy that makes peace the very moment when everybody expects battles, and that attacks the very moment everybody believes peace has been concluded.
On December 20, Pascal Duprat interpellated the Minister of the Interior on the "Goldbar Lottery." This lottery was a "Daughter from Elysium"; Bonaparte, together with his faithful, had given her birth; and Police Prefect Carlier had placed her under his official protection, although the French law forbade all lotteries, with the exception of games for benevolent purposes. Seven million tickets, a franc a piece, and the profit ostensibly destined to the shipping of Parisian vagabonds to California. Golden dreams were to displace the Socialist dreams of the Parisian proletariat; the tempting prospect of a prize was to displace the doctrinal right to labor. Of course, the workingmen of Paris did not recognize in the lustre of the California gold bars the lack-lustre francs that had been wheedled out of their pockets. In the main, however, the scheme was an unmitigated swindle. The vagabonds, who meant to open California gold mines without taking the pains to leave Paris, were Bonaparte himself and his Round Table of desperate insolvents. The three millions granted by the National Assembly were rioted away; the Treasury had to be refilled somehow or another. In vain did Bonaparte open a national subscription, at the head of which he himself figured with a large sum, for the establishment of so-called "cites ouvrieres." The hard-hearted bourgeois waited, distrustful, for the payment of his own shares; and, as this, of course, never took place, the speculation in Socialist castles in the air fell flat. The gold bars drew better. Bonaparte and his associates did not content themselves with putting into their own pockets part of the surplus of the seven millions over and above the bars that were to be drawn; they manufactured false tickets; they sold, of Number 10 alone, fifteen to twenty lots—a financial operation fully in the spirit of the "Society of December 10"! The National Assembly did not here have before it the fictitious President of the Republic, but Bonaparte himself in flesh and blood. Here it could catch him in the act, not in conflict with the Constitution, but with the penal code. When, upon Duprat's interpellation, the National Assembly went over to the order of the day, this did not happen simply because Girardin's motion to declare itself "satisfied" reminded the party of Order of its own systematic corruption: the bourgeois, above all the bourgeois who has been inflated into a statesman, supplements his practical meanness with theoretical pompousness. As statesman, he becomes, like the Government facing him, a superior being, who can be fought only in a higher, more exalted manner.
Bonaparte-who, for the very reason of his being a "bohemian," a princely slum-proletarian, had over the scampish bourgeois the advantage that he could carry on the fight after the Assembly itself had carried him with its own hands over the slippery ground of the military banquets, of the reviews, of the "Society of December 10," and, finally, of the penal code-now saw that the moment had arrived when he could move from the seemingly defensive to the offensive. He was but little troubled by the intermediate and trifling defeats of the Minister of Justice, of the Minister of War, of the Minister of the Navy, of the Minister of Finance, whereby the National Assembly indicated its growling displeasure. Not only did he prevent the Ministers from resigning, and thus recognizing the subordination of the executive power to the Parliament; he could now accomplish what during the vacation of the National Assembly he had commenced, the separation of the military power from the Assembly—the deposition of Changarnier.
An Elysee paper published an order, issued during the month of May, ostensibly to the First Military Division, and, hence, proceeding from Changarnier, wherein the officers were recommended, in case of an uprising, to give no quarter to the traitors in their own ranks, to shoot them down on the spot, and to refuse troops to the National Assembly, should it make a requisition for such. On January 3, 1851, the Cabinet was interpellated on this order. The Cabinet demands for the examination of the affair at first three months, then one week, finally only twenty-four hours' time. The Assembly orders an immediate explanation Changarnier rises and declares that this order never existed; he adds that he would ever hasten to respond to the calls of the National Assembly, and that, in case of a collision, they could count upon him. The Assembly receives his utterances with inexpressible applause, and decrees a vote of confidence to him. It thereby resign its own powers; it decrees its own impotence and the omnipotence of the Army by committing itself to the private protection of a general. But the general, in turn, deceives himself when he places at the Assembly's disposal and against Bonaparte a power that he holds only as a fief from that same Bonaparte, and when, on his part, he expects protection from this Parliament, from his protege', itself needful of protection. But Changarnier has faith in the mysterious power with which since January, 1849, he had been clad by the bourgeoisie. He takes himself for the Third Power, standing beside the other Powers of Government. He shares the faith of all the other heroes, or rather saints, of this epoch, whose greatness consists but in the interested good opinion that their own party holds of them, and who shrink into every-day figures so soon as circumstances invite them to perform miracles. Infidelity is, indeed, the deadly enemy of these supposed heroes and real saints. Hence their virtuously proud indignation at the unenthusiastic wits and scoffers.
That same evening the Ministers were summoned to the Elysee; Bonaparte presses the removal of Changarnier; five Ministers refuse to sign the order; the "Moniteur" announces a Ministerial crisis; and the party of Order threatens the formation of a Parliamentary army under the command of Changarnier. The party of Order had the constitutional power hereto. It needed only to elect Changarnier President of the National Assembly in order to make a requisition for whatever military forces it needed for its own safety. It could do this all the more safely, seeing that Changarnier still stood at the head of the Army and of the Parisian National Guard, and only lay in wait to be summoned, together with the Army. The Bonapartist press did not even dare to question the right of the National Assembly to issue a direct requisition for troops;—a legal scruple, that, under the given circumstances, did not promise success. That the Army would have obeyed the orders of the National Assembly is probable, when it is considered that Bonaparte had to look eight days all over Paris to find two generals—Baraguay d'Hilliers and St. Jean d'Angley—who declared themselves ready to countersign the order cashiering Changamier. That, however, the party of Order would have found in its own ranks and in the parliament the requisite vote for such a decision is more than doubtful, when it is considered that, eight days later, 286 votes pulled away from it, and that, as late as December, 1851, at the last decisive hour, the Mountain rejected a similar proposition. Nevertheless, the burgraves might still have succeeded in driving the mass of their party to an act of heroism, consisting in feeling safe behind a forest of bayonets, and in accepting the services of the Army, which found itself deserted in its camp. Instead of this, the Messieurs Burgraves betook themselves to the Elysee on the evening of January 6, with the view of inducing Bonaparte, by means of politic words and considerations, to drop the removal of Changarnier. Him whom we must convince we recognize as the master of the situation. Bonaparte, made to feel secure by this step, appoints on January 12 a new Ministry, in which the leaders of the old, Fould and Baroche, are retained. St Jean d'Angley becomes Minister of War; the "Moniteur" announces the decree cashiering Changarnier; his command is divided up between Baraguay d'Hilliers, who receives the First Division, and Perrot, who is placed over the National Guard. The "Bulwark of Society" is turned down; and, although no dog barks over the event, in the Bourses the stock quotations rise.
By repelling the Army, that, in Changarnier's person, put itself at its disposal, and thus irrevocably stood up against the President, the party of Order declares that the bourgeoisie has lost its vocation to reign. Already there was no parliamentary Ministry. By losing, furthermore, the handle to the Army and to the National Guard, what instrument of force was there left to the National Assembly in order to maintain both the usurped power of the parliament over the people, and its constitutional power over the President? None. All that was left to it was the appeal to peaceful principles, that itself had always explained as "general rules" merely, to be prescribed to third parties, and only in order to enable itself to move all the more freely. With the removal of Changarnier, with the transfer of the military power to Bonaparte, closes the first part of the period that we are considering, the period of the struggle between the party of Order and the Executive power. The war between the two powers is now openly declared; it is conducted openly; but only after the party of Order has lost both arms and soldier. With-out a Ministry, without any army, without a people, without the support of public opinion; since its election law of May 31, no longer the representative of the sovereign nation sans eyes, sans ears, sans teeth, sans everything, the National Assembly had gradually converted itself into a French Parliament of olden days, that must leave all action to the Government, and content itself with growling remonstrances "post festum."
The party of Order receives the new Ministry with a storm of indignation. General Bedeau calls to mind the mildness of the Permanent Committee during the vacation, and the excessive prudence with which it had renounced the privilege of disclosing its minutes. Now, the Minister of the Interior himself insists upon the disclosure of these minutes, that have now, of course, become dull as stagnant waters, reveal no new facts, and fall without making the slightest effect upon the blase public. Upon Remusat's proposition, the National Assembly retreats into its Committees, and appoints a "Committee on Extraordinary Measures." Paris steps all the less out of the ruts of its daily routine, seeing that business is prosperous at the time, the manufactories busy, the prices of cereals low, provisions abundant, the savings banks receiving daily new deposits. The "extraordinary measures," that the parliament so noisily announced fizzle out on January 18 in a vote of lack of confidence against the Ministry, without General Changarnier's name being even mentioned. The party of Order was forced to frame its motion in that way so as to secure the votes of the republicans, because, of all the acts of the Ministry, Changarnier's dismissal only was the very one they approved, while the party of Order cannot in fact, condemn the other Ministerial acts which it had itself dictated. The January 18 vote of lack of confidence was decided by 415 ayes against 286 nays. It was, accordingly put through by a coalition of the uncompromising Legitimists and Orleanists with the pure republicans and the Mountain. Thus it revealed the fact that, in its conflicts with Bonaparte, not only the Ministry, not only the Army, but also its independent parliamentary majority; that a troop of Representatives had deserted its camp out of a fanatic zeal for harmony, out of fear of fight, out of lassitude, out of family considerations for the salaries of relatives in office, out of speculations on vacancies in the Ministry (Odillon Barrot), or out of that unmitigated selfishness that causes the average bourgeois to be ever inclined to sacrifice the interests of his class to this or that private motive. The Bonapartist Representatives belonged from the start to the party of Order only in the struggle against the revolution. The leader of the Catholic party, Montalembert, already then threw his influence in the scale of Bonaparte, since he despaired of the vitality of the parliamentary party. Finally, the leaders of this party itself, Thiers and Berryer—the Orleanist and the Legitimist—were compelled to proclaim themselves openly as republicans; to admit that their heart favored royalty, but their head the republic; that their parliamentary republic was the only possible form for the rule of the bourgeoisie Thus were they compelled to brand, before the eyes of the bourgeois class itself, as an intrigue—as dangerous as it was senseless—the restoration plans, which they continued to pursue indefatigably behind the back of the parliament.
The January 18 vote of lack of confidence struck the Ministers, not the President. But it was not the Ministry, it was the President who had deposed Changarnier. Should the party of Order place Bonaparte himself under charges? On account of his restoration hankerings? These only supplemented their own. On account of his conspiracy at the military reviews and of the "Society of December 10"? They had long since buried these subjects under simple orders of business. On account of the discharge of the hero of January 29 and June 13, of the man who, in May, 1850, threatened, in case of riot, to set Paris on fire at all its four corners? Their allies of the Mountain and Cavaignac did not even allow them to console the fallen "Bulwark of Society" with an official testimony of their sympathy. They themselves could not deny the constitutional right of the President to remove a General. They stormed only because he made an unparliamentary use of his constitutional right. Had they not themselves constantly made an unconstitutional use of their parliamentary prerogative, notably by the abolition of universal suffrage? Consequently they were reminded to move exclusively within parliamentary bounds. Indeed, it required that peculiar disease, a disease that, since 1848, has raged over the whole continent, "Parliamentary Idiocy,"—that fetters those whom it infects to an imaginary world, and robs them of all sense, all remembrance, all understanding of the rude outside world;—it required this "Parliamentary Idiocy" in order that the party of Order, which had, with its own hands, destroyed all the conditions for parliamentary power, and, in its struggle with the other classes, was obliged to destroy them, still should consider its parliamentary victories as victories, and imagine it hit the President by striking his Ministers. They only afforded him an opportunity to humble the National Assembly anew in the eyes of the nation. On January 20, the "Moniteur" announced that the whole the dismissal of the whole Ministry was accepted. Under the pretext that none of the parliamentary parties had any longer the majority—as proved by the January 18 vote, that fruit of the coalition between mountain and royalists—, and, in order to await the re-formation of a majority, Bonaparte appointed a so-called transition Ministry, of whom no member belonged to the parliament-altogether wholly unknown and insignificant individuals; a Ministry of mere clerks and secretaries. The party of Order could now wear itself out in the game with these puppets; the Executive power no longer considered it worth the while to be seriously represented in the National Assembly. By this act Bonaparte concentrated the whole executive power all the more securely in his own person; he had all the freer elbow-room to exploit the same to his own ends, the more his Ministers became mere supernumeraries.
The party of Order, now allied with the Mountain, revenged itself by rejecting the Presidential endowment project of 1,800.000 francs, which the chief of the "Society of December 10" had compelled his Ministerial clerks to present to the Assembly. This time a majority of only 102 votes carried the day accordingly since January 18, 27 more votes had fallen off: the dissolution of the party of Order was making progress. Lest any one might for a moment be deceived touching the meaning of its coalition with the Mountain, the party of Order simultaneously scorned even to consider a motion, signed by 189 members of the Mountain, for a general amnesty to political criminals. It was enough that the Minister of the Interior, one Baisse, declared that the national tranquility was only in appearance, in secret there reigned deep agitation, in secret, ubiquitous societies were organized, the democratic papers were preparing to reappear, the reports from the Departments were unfavorable, the fugitives of Geneva conducted a conspiracy via Lyons through the whole of southern France, France stood on the verge of an industrial and commercial crisis, the manufacturers of Roubaix were working shorter hours, the prisoners of Belle Isle had mutinied;—it was enough that even a mere Baisse should conjure up the "Red Spectre" for the party of Order to reject without discussion a motion that would have gained for the National Assembly a tremendous popularity, and thrown Bonaparte back into its arms. Instead of allowing itself to be intimidated by the Executive power with the perspective of fresh disturbances, the party of Order should rather have allowed a little elbow-room to the class struggle, in order to secure the dependence of the Executive upon itself. But it did not feel itself equal to the task of playing with fire.
Meanwhile, the so-called transition Ministry vegetated along until the middle of April. Bonaparte tired out and fooled the National Assembly with constantly new Ministerial combinations. Now he seemed to intend constructing a republican Ministry with Lamartine and Billault; then, a parliamentary one with the inevitable Odillon Barrot, whose name must never be absent when a dupe is needed; then again, a Legitimist, with Batismenil and Lenoist d'Azy; and yet again, an Orleansist, with Malleville. While thus throwing the several factions of the party of Order into strained relations with one another, and alarming them all with the prospect of a republican Ministry, together with the there-upon inevitable restoration of universal suffrage, Bonaparte simultaneously raises in the bourgeoisie the conviction that his sincere efforts for a parliamentary Ministry are wrecked upon the irreconcilable antagonism of the royalist factions. All the while the bourgeoisie was clamoring louder and louder for a "strong Government," and was finding it less and less pardonable to leave France "without an administration," in proportion as a general commercial crisis seemed to be under way and making recruits for Socialism in the cities, as did the ruinously low price of grain in the rural districts. Trade became daily duller; the unemployed hands increased perceptibly; in Paris, at least 10,000 workingmen were without bread; in Rouen, Muehlhausen, Lyons, Roubaix, Tourcoign, St. Etienue, Elbeuf, etc., numerous factories stood idle. Under these circumstances Bonaparte could venture to restore, on April 11, the Ministry of January 18; Messieurs Rouher, Fould, Baroche, etc., reinforced by Mr. Leon Faucher, whom the constitutive assembly had, during its last days, unanimously, with the exception of five Ministerial votes, branded with a vote of censure for circulating false telegraphic dispatches. Accordingly, the National Assembly had won a victory on January 18 over the Ministry, it had, for the period of three months, been battling with Bonaparte, and all this merely to the end that, on April 11, Fould and Baroche should be able to take up the Puritan Faucher as third in their ministerial league.
In November, 1849, Bonaparte had satisfied himself with an Unparliamentary, in January, 1851, with an Extra-Parliamentary, on April 11, he felt strong enough to form an Anti-Parliamentary Ministry, that harmoniously combined within itself the votes of lack of confidence of both assemblies-the constitutive and the legislative, the republican and the royalist. This ministerial progression was a thermometer by which the parliament could measure the ebbing temperature of its own life. This had sunk so low by the end of April that, at a personal interview, Persigny could invite Changarnier to go over to the camp of the President. Bonaparte, he assured Changarnier, considered the influence of the National Assembly to be wholly annihilated, and already the proclamation was ready, that was to be published after the steadily contemplated, but again accidentally postponed "coup d'etat." Changarnier communicated this announcement of its death to the leaders of the party of Order; but who was there to believe a bed-bug bite could kill? The parliament, however beaten, however dissolved, however death-tainted it was, could not persuade itself to see, in the duel with the grotesque chief of the "Society of December 10," anything but a duel with a bed-bug. But Bonaparte answered the party of Order as Agesilaus did King Agis: "I seem to you an ant; but shall one day be a lion."
- #1 Under the reign of Louis Philippe, Bonaparte made two attempts to restore the throne of Napoleon: one in October, 1836, in an expedition from Switzerland upon Strassburg and one in August, 1840, in an expedition from England upon Boulogne.
- #2 Long live Napoleon! Long live the sausages!
- #3 Work cities.
- #4 After the act is done; after the fact.