The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon/Chapter VI

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The coalition with the Mountain and the pure republicans, to which the party of Order found itself condemned in its fruitless efforts to keep possession of the military and to reconquer supreme control over the Executive power, proved conclusively that it had forfeited its independent parliamentary majority. The calendar and clock merely gave, on May 29, the signal for its complete dissolution. With May 29 commenced the last year of the life of the National Assembly. It now had to decide for the unchanged continuance or the revision of the Constitution. But a revision of the Constitution meant not only the definitive supremacy of either the bourgeoisie of the small traders' democracy, of either democracy or proletarian anarchy, of either a parliamentary republic or Bonaparte, it meant also either Orleans or Bourbon! Thus fell into the very midst of the parliament the apple of discord, around which the conflict of interests, that cut up the party of Order into hostile factions, was to kindle into an open conflagration. The party of Order was a combination of heterogeneous social substances. The question of revision raised a political temperature, in which the product was reduced to its original components.

The interest of the Bonapartists in the revision was simple: they were above all concerned in the abolition of Article 45, which forbade Bonaparte's reelection and the prolongation of his term. Not less simple seemed to be the position of the republicans; they rejected all revision, seeing in that only a general conspiracy against the republic; as they disposed over more than one-fourth of the votes in the National Assembly, and, according to the Constitution, a three-fourths majority was requisite to revise and to call a revisory convention, they needed only to count their own votes to be certain of victory. Indeed, they were certain of it.

Over and against these clear-cut positions, the party of Order found itself tangled in inextricable contradictions. If it voted against the revision, it endangered the "status quo," by leaving to Bonaparte only one expedient—that of violence and handing France over, on May 2, 1852, at the very time of election, a prey to revolutionary anarchy, with a President whose authority was at an end; with a parliament that the party had long ceased to own, and with a people that it meant to re-conquer. If it voted constitutionally for a revision, it knew that it voted in vain and would constitutionally have to go under before the veto of the republicans. If, unconstitutionally, it pronounced a simple majority binding, it could hope to control the revolution only in case it surrendered unconditionally to the domination of the Executive power: it then made Bonaparte master of the Constitution, of the revision and of itself. A merely partial revision, prolonging the term of the President, opened the way to imperial usurpation; a general revision, shortening the existence of the republic, threw the dynastic claims into an inevitable conflict: the conditions for a Bourbon and those for an Orleanist restoration were not only different, they mutually excluded each other.

The parliamentary republic was more than a neutral ground on which the two factions of the French bourgeoisie—Legitimists and Orleanists, large landed property and manufacture—could lodge together with equal rights. It was the indispensable condition for their common reign, the only form of government in which their common class interest could dominate both the claims of their separate factions and all the other classes of society. As royalists, they relapsed into their old antagonism into the struggle for the overlordship of either landed property or of money; and the highest expression of this antagonism, its personification, were the two kings themselves, their dynasties. Hence the resistance of the party of Order to the recall of the Bourbons.

The Orleanist Representative Creton moved periodically in 1849, 1850 and 1851 the repeal of the decree of banishment against the royal families; as periodically did the parliament present the spectacle of an Assembly of royalists who stubbornly shut to their banished kings the door through which they could return home. Richard III murdered Henry VI, with the remark that he was too good for this world, and belonged in heaven. They declared France too bad to have her kings back again. Forced by the power of circumstances, they had become republicans, and repeatedly sanctioned the popular mandate that exiled their kings from France.

The revision of the Constitution, and circumstances compelled its consideration, at once made uncertain not only the republic itself, but also the joint reign of the two bourgeois factions; and it revived, with the possibility of the monarchy, both the rivalry of interests which these two factions had alternately allowed to preponderate, and the struggle for the supremacy of the one over the other. The diplomats of the party of Order believed they could allay the struggle by a combination of the two dynasties through a so-called fusion of the royalist parties and their respective royal houses. The true fusion of the restoration and the July monarchy was, however, the parliamentary republic, in which the Orleanist and Legitimist colors were dissolved, and the bourgeois species vanished in the plain bourgeois, in the bourgeois genus. Now however, the plan was to turn the Orleanist Legitimist and the Legitimist Orleanist. The kingship, in which their antagonism was personified, was to incarnate their unity, the expression of their exclusive faction interests was to become the expression of their common class interest; the monarchy was to accomplish what only the abolition of two monarchies—the republic could and did accomplish. This was the philosopher's stone, for the finding of which the doctors of the party of Order were breaking their heads. As though the Legitimate monarchy ever could be the monarchy of the industrial bourgeoisie, or the bourgeois monarchy the monarchy of the hereditary landed aristocracy! As though landed property and industry could fraternize under one crown, where the crown could fall only upon one head, the head of the older or the younger brother! As though industry could at all deal upon a footing of equality with landed property, so long as landed property did not decide itself to become industrial. If Henry V were to die tomorrow, the Count of Paris would not, therefore, become the king of the Legitimists, unless he ceased to be the King of the Orleanists. Nevertheless, the fusion philosophers, who became louder in the measure that the question of revision stepped to the fore, who had provided themselves with a daily organ in the "Assemblee Nationale," who, even at this very moment (February, 1852) are again at work, explained the whole difficulty by the opposition and rivalries of the two dynasties. The attempts to reconcile the family of Orleans with Henry V., begun since the death of Louis Philippe, but, as all these dynastic intrigues carried on only during the vacation of the National Assembly, between acts, behind the scenes, more as a sentimental coquetry with the old superstition than as a serious affair, were now raised by the party of Order to the dignity of a great State question, and were conducted upon the public stage, instead of, as heretofore in the amateurs' theater. Couriers flew from Paris to Venice, from Venice to Claremont, from Claremont to Paris. The Duke of Chambord issues a manifesto in which he announces not his own, but the "national" restoration, "with the aid of all the members of his family." The Oleanist Salvandy throws himself at the feet of Henry V. The Legitimist leaders Berryer, Benoit d'Azy, St. Priest travel to Claremont, to persuade the Orleans; but in vain. The fusionists learn too late that the interests of the two bourgeois factions neither lose in exclusiveness nor gain in pliancy where they sharpen to a point in the form of family interests, of the interests of the two royal houses. When Henry V. recognized the Count of Paris as his successor—the only success that the fusion could at best score—the house of Orleans acquired no claim that the childlessness of Henry V. had not already secured to it; but, on the other hand, it lost all the claims that it had conquered by the July revolution. It renounced its original claims, all the title, that, during a struggle nearly one hundred years long, it had wrested from the older branch of the Bourbons; it bartered away its historic prerogative, the prerogative of its family-tree. Fusion, accordingly, amounted to nothing else than the resignation of the house of Orleans, its Legitimist resignation, a repentful return from the Protestant State Church into the Catholic;—a return, at that, that did not even place it on the throne that it had lost, but on the steps of the throne on which it was born. The old Orleanist Ministers Guizot, Duchatel, etc., who likewise hastened to Claremont, to advocate the fusion, represented in fact only the nervous reaction of the July monarchy; despair, both in the citizen kingdom and the kingdom of citizens; the superstitious belief in legitimacy as the last amulet against anarchy. Mediators, in their imagination, between Orleans and Bourbon, they were in reality but apostate Orleanists, and as such were they received by the Prince of Joinville. The virile, bellicose part of the Orleanists, on the contrary—Thiers, Baze, etc.—, persuaded the family of Louis Philippe all the easier that, seeing every plan for the immediate restoration of the monarchy presupposed the fusion of the two dynasties, and every plan for fusion the resignation of the house of Orleans, it corresponded, on the contrary, wholly with the tradition of its ancestors to recognize the republic for the time being, and to wait until circumstances permitted I the conversion of the Presidential chair into a throne. Joinville's candidacy was set afloat as a rumor, public curiosity was held in suspense, and a few months later, after the revision was rejected, openly proclaimed in September.

Accordingly, the essay of a royalist fusion between Orleanists and Legitimists did not miscarry only, it broke up their parliamentary fusion, the republican form that they had adopted in common, and it decomposed the party of Order into its original components. But the wider the breach became between Venice and Claremont, the further they drifted away from each I other, and the greater the progress made by the Joinville agitation, all the more active and earnest became the negotiations between Faucher, the Minister of Bonaparte, and the Legitimists.

The dissolution of the party of Order went beyond its original elements. Each of the two large factions fell in turn into new fragments. It was as if all the old political shades, that formerly fought and crowded one another within each of the two circles—be it that of the Legitimists or that of the Orleanists—, had been thawed out like dried infusoria by contact with water; as if they had recovered enough vitality to build their own groups and assert their own antagonisms. The Legitimists dreamed they were back amidst the quarrels between the Tuileries and the pavilion Marsan, between Villele and Polignac; the Orleanists lived anew through the golden period of the tourneys between Guizot, Mole, Broglie, Thiers, and Odillon Barrot.

That portion of the party of Order—eager for a revision of the Constitution but disagreed upon the extent of revision—made up of the Legitimists under Berryer and Falloux and of those under Laroche Jacquelein, together with the tired-out Orleanists under Mole, Broglie, Montalembert and Odillon Barrot, united with the Bonapartist Representatives in the following indefinite and loosely drawn motion:

"The undersigned Representatives, with the end in view of restoring to the nation the full exercise of her sovereignty, move that the Constitution be revised."

At the same time, however, they unanimously declared through their spokesman, Tocqueville, that the National Assembly had not the right to move the abolition of the republic, that right being vested only in a Constitutional Convention. For the rest, the Constitution could be revised only in a "legal" way, that is to say, only in case a three-fourths majority decided in favor of revision, as prescribed by the Constitution. After a six days' stormy debate, the revision was rejected on July 19, as was to be foreseen. In its favor 446 votes were cast, against it 278. The resolute Oleanists, Thiers, Changarnier, etc., voted with the republicans and the Mountain.

Thus the majority of the parliament pronounced itself against the Constitution, while the Constitution itself pronounced itself for the minority, and its decision binding. But had not the party of Order on May 31, 1850, had it not on June 13, 1849, subordinated the Constitution to the parliamentary majority? Did not the whole republic they had been hitherto having rest upon the subordination of the Constitutional clauses to the majority decisions of the parliament? Had they not left to the democrats the Old Testament superstitious belief in the letter of the law, and had they not chastised the democrats therefor? At this moment, however, revision meant nothing else than the continuance of the Presidential power, as the continuance of the Constitution meant nothing else than the deposition of Bonaparte. The parliament had pronounced itself for him, but the Constitution pronounced itself against the parliament. Accordingly, he acted both in the sense of the parliament when he tore up the Constitution, and in the sense of the Constitution when he chased away the parliament.

The parliament pronounced the Constitution, and, thereby, also, its own reign, "outside of the pale of the majority"; by its decision, it repealed the Constitution, and continued the Presidential power, and it at once declared that neither could the one live nor the other die so long as itself existed. The feet of those who were to bury it stood at the door. While it was debating the subject of revision, Bonaparte removed General Baraguay d'Hilliers, who showed himself irresolute, from the command of the First Military Division, and appointed in his place General Magnan, the conqueror of Lyon; the hero of the December days, one of his own creatures, who already under Louis Philippe, on the occasion of the Boulogne expedition, had somewhat compromised himself in his favor.

By its decision on the revision, the party of Order proved that it knew neither how to rule nor how to obey; neither how to live nor how to die; neither how to bear with the republic nor how to overthrow it; neither how to maintain the Constitution nor how to throw it overboard; neither how to co-operate with the President nor how to break with him. From what quarter did it then, look to for the solution of all the existing perplexities? From the calendar, from the course of events. It ceased to assume the control of events. It, accordingly, invited events to don its authority and also the power to which in its struggle with the people, it had yielded one attribute after another until it finally stood powerless before the same. To the end that the Executive be able all the more freely to formulate his plan of campaign against it, strengthen his means of attack, choose his tools, fortify his positions, the party of Order decided, in the very midst of this critical moment, to step off the stage, and adjourn for three months, from August 10 to November 4.

Not only was the parliamentary party dissolved into its two great factions, not only was each of these dissolved within itself, but the party of Order, inside of the parliament, was at odds with the party of Order, outside of the parliament. The learned speakers and writers of the bourgeoisie, their tribunes and their press, in short, the ideologists of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie itself, the representatives and the represented, stood estranged from, and no longer understood one another.

The Legitimists in the provinces, with their cramped horizon and their boundless enthusiasm, charged their parliamentary leaders Berryer and Falloux with desertion to the Bonapartist camp, and with apostacy from Henry V. Their lilymind[1] believed in the fall of man, but not in diplomacy.

More fatal and completer, though different, was the breach between the commercial bourgeoisie and its politicians. It twitted them, not as the Legitimists did theirs, with having apostatized from their principle, but, on the contrary, with adhering to principles that had become useless.

I have already indicated that, since the entry of Fould in the Ministry, that portion of the commercial bourgeoisie that had enjoyed the lion's share in Louis Philippe's reign, to-wit, the aristocracy of finance, had become Bonapartist. Fould not only represented Bonaparte's interests at the Bourse, he represented also the interests of the Bourse with Bonaparte. A passage from the London "Economist," the European organ of the aristocracy of finance, described most strikingly the attitude of this class. In its issue of February 1, 1851, its Paris correspondent writes: "Now we have it stated from numerous quarters that France wishes above all things for repose. The President declares it in his message to the Legislative Assembly; it is echoed from the tribune; it is asserted in the journals; it is announced from the pulpit; it is demonstrated by the sensitiveness of the public funds at the least prospect of disturbance, and their firmness the instant it is made manifest that the Executive is far superior in wisdom and power to the factious ex-officials of all former governments."

In its issue of November 29, 1851, the "Economist" declares editorially: "The President is now recognized as the guardian of order on every Stock Exchange of Europe." Accordingly, the Aristocracy of Finance condemned the parliamentary strife of the party of Order with the Executive as a "disturbance of order," and hailed every victory of the President over its reputed representatives as a "victory of order." Under "aristocracy of finance" must not, however, be understood merely the large bond negotiators and speculators in government securities, of whom it may be readily understood that their interests and the interests of the Government coincide. The whole modern money trade, the whole banking industry, is most intimately interwoven with the public credit. Part of their business capital requires to be invested in interest-bearing government securities that are promptly convertible into money; their deposits, i. e., the capital placed at their disposal and by them distributed among merchants and industrial establishments, flow partly out of the dividends on government securities. The whole money market, together with the priests of this market, is part and parcel of this "aristocracy of finance" at every epoch when the stability of the government is to them synonymous with "Moses and his prophets." This is so even before things have reached the present stage when every deluge threatens to carry away the old governments themselves.

But the industrial Bourgeoisie also, in its fanaticism for order, was annoyed at the quarrels of the Parliamentary party of Order with the Executive. Thiers, Anglas, Sainte Beuve, etc., received, after their vote of January 18, on the occasion of the discharge of Changarnier, public reprimands from their constituencies, located in the industrial districts, branding their coalition with the Mountain as an act of high treason to the cause of order. Although, true enough, the boastful, vexatious and petty intrigues, through which the struggle of the party of Order with the President manifested itself, deserved no better reception, yet notwithstanding, this bourgeois party, that expects of its representatives to allow the military power to pass without resistance out of the hands of their own Parliament into those of an adventurous Pretender, is not worth even the intrigues that were wasted in its behalf. It showed that the struggle for the maintenance of their public interests, of their class interests, of their political power only incommoded and displeased them, as a disturbance of their private business.

The bourgeois dignitaries of the provincial towns, the magistrates, commercial judges, etc., with hardly any exception, received Bonaparte everywhere on his excursions in the most servile manner, even when, as in Dijon, he attacked the National Assembly and especially the party of Order without reserve.

Business being brisk, as still at the beginning of 1851, the commercial bourgeoisie stormed against every Parliamentary strife, lest business be put out of temper. Business being dull, as from the end of February, 1851, on, the bourgeoisie accused the Parliamentary strifes as the cause of the stand-still, and clamored for quiet in order that business may revive. The debates on revision fell just in the bad times. Seeing the question now was the to be or not to be of the existing form of government, the bourgeoisie felt itself all the more justified in demanding of its Representatives that they put an end to this tormenting provisional status, and preserve the "status quo." This was no contradiction. By putting an end to the provisional status, it understood its continuance, the indefinite putting off of the moment when a final decision had to be arrived at. The "status quo" could be preserved in only one of two ways: either by the prolongation of Bonaparte's term of office or by his constitutional withdrawal and the election of Cavaignac. A part of the bourgeoisie preferred the latter solution, and knew no better advice to give their Representatives than to be silent, to avoid the burning point. If their Representatives did not speak, so argued they, Bonaparte would not act. They desired an ostrich Parliament that would hide its head, in order not to be seen. Another part of the bourgeoisie preferred that Bonaparte, being once in the Presidential chair, be left in the Presidential chair, in order that everything might continue to run in the old ruts. They felt indignant that their Parliament did not openly break the Constitution and resign without further ado. The General Councils of the Departments, these provisional representative bodies of the large bourgeoisie, who had adjourned during the vacation of the National Assembly since August 25, pronounced almost unanimously for revision, that is to say, against the Parliament and for Bonaparte.

Still more unequivocally than in its falling out with its Parliamentary Representatives, did the bourgeoisie exhibit its wrath at its literary Representatives, its own press. The verdicts of the bourgeois juries, inflicting excessive fines and shameless sentences of imprisonment for every attack of the bourgeois press upon the usurping aspirations of Bonaparte, for every attempt of the press to defend the political rights of the bourgeoisie against the Executive power, threw, not France alone, but all Europe into amazement.

While on the one hand, as I have indicated, the Parliamentary party of Order ordered itself to keep the peace by screaming for peace; and while it pronounced the political rule of the bourgeoisie irreconcilable with the safety and the existence of the bourgeoisie, by destroying with its own hands in its struggle with the other classes of society all the conditions for its own, the Parliamentary regime; on the other hand, the mass of the bourgeoisie, outside of the Parliament, urged Bonaparte—by its servility towards the President, by its insults to the Parliament, by the brutal treatment of its own press—to suppress and annihilate its speaking and writing organs, its politicians and its literati, its orators' tribune and its press, to the end that, under the protection of a strong and unhampered Government, it might ply its own private pursuits in safety. It declared unmistakably that it longed to be rid of its own political rule, in order to escape the troubles and dangers of ruling.

And this bourgeoisie, that had rebelled against even the Parliamentary and literary contest for the supremacy of its own class, that had betrayed its leaders in this contest, it now has the effrontery to blame the proletariat for not having risen in its defence in a bloody struggle, in a struggle for life! Those bourgeois, who at every turn sacrificed their common class interests to narrow and dirty private interests, and who demanded a similar sacrifice from their own Representatives, now whine that the proletariat has sacrificed their idea-political to its own material interests! This bourgeois class now strikes the attitude of a pure soul, misunderstood and abandoned, at a critical moment, by the proletariat, that has been misled by the Socialists. And its cry finds a general echo in the bourgeois world. Of course, I do not refer to German crossroad politicians and kindred blockheads. I refer, for instance, to the "Economist," which, as late as November 29, 1851, that is to say, four days before the "coup d'etat" pronounced Bonaparte the "Guardian of Order" and Thiers and Berryer "Anarchists," and as early as December 27, 1851, after Bonaparte had silenced those very Anarchists, cries out about the treason committed by "the ignorant, untrained and stupid proletaires against the skill, knowledge, discipline, mental influence, intellectual resources an moral weight of the middle and upper ranks." The stupid, ignorant and contemptible mass was none other than the bourgeoisie itself.

France had, indeed; experienced a sort of commercial crisis in 1851. At the end of February, there was a falling off of exports as compared with 1850; in March, business languished and factories shut down; in April, the condition of the industrial departments seemed as desperate as after the February days; in May, business did not yet pick up; as late as June 28, the reports of the Bank of France revealed through a tremendous increase of deposits and an equal decrease of loans on exchange notes, the standstill of production; not until the middle of October did a steady improvement of business set in. The French bourgeoisie accounted for this stagnation of business with purely political reasons; it imputed the dull times to the strife between the Parliament and the Executive power, to the uncertainty of a provisional form of government, to the alarming prospects of May 2, 1852. I shall not deny that all these causes did depress some branches of industry in Paris and in the Departments. At any rate, this effect of political circumstances was only local and trifling. Is there any other proof needed than that the improvement in business set in at the very time when the political situation was growing worse, when the political horizon was growing darker, and when at every moment a stroke of lightning was expected out of the Elysee—in the middle of October? The French bourgeois, whose "skill, knowledge, mental influence and intellectual resources," reach no further than his nose, could, moreover, during the whole period of the Industrial Exposition in London, have struck with his nose the cause of his own business misery. At the same time that, in France, the factories were being closed, commercial failures broke out in England. While the industrial panic reached its height during April and May in France, in England the commercial panic reached its height in April and May. The same as the French, the English woolen industries suffered, and, as the French, so did the English silk manufacture. Though the English cotton factories went on working, it, nevertheless, was not with the same old profit of 1849 and 1850. The only difference was this: that in France, the crisis was an industrial, in England it was a commercial one; that while in France the factories stood still, they spread themselves in England, but under less favorable circumstances than they had done the years just previous; that, in France, the export, in England, the import trade suffered the heaviest blows. The common cause, which, as a matter of fact, is not to be looked for with-in the bounds of the French political horizon, was obvious. The years 1849 and 1850 were years of the greatest material prosperity, and of an overproduction that did not manifest itself until 1851. This was especially promoted at the beginning of 1851 by the prospect of the Industrial Exposition; and, as special causes, there were added, first, the failure of the cotton crop of 1850 and 1851; second, the certainty of a larger cotton crop than was expected: first, the rise, then the sudden drop; in short, the oscillations of the cotton market. The crop of raw silk in France had been below the average. Finally, the manufacture of woolen goods had received such an increment since 1849, that the production of wool could not keep step with it, and the price of the raw material rose greatly out of proportion to the price of the manufactured goods. Accordingly, we have here in the raw material of three staple articles a threefold material for a commercial crisis. Apart from these special circumstances, the seeming crisis of the year 1851 was, after all, nothing but the halt that overproduction and overspeculation make regularly in the course of the industrial cycle, before pulling all their forces together in order to rush feverishly over the last stretch, and arrive again at their point of departure—the General Commercial Crisis. At such intervals in the history of trade, commercial failures break out in England, while, in France, industry itself is stopped, partly because it is compelled to retreat through the competition of the English, that, at such times becomes resistless in all markets, and partly because, as an industry of luxuries, it is affected with preference by every stoppage of trade. Thus, besides the general crisis, France experiences her own national crises, which, how-ever, are determined by and conditioned upon the general state of the world's market much more than by local French influences. It will not be devoid of interest to contrast the prejudgment of the French bourgeois with the judgment of the English bourgeois. One of the largest Liverpool firms writes in its yearly report of trade for 1851: "Few years have more completely disappointed the expectations entertained at their beginning than the year that has just passed; instead of the great prosperity, that was unanimously looked forward to, it proved itself one of the most discouraging years during the last quarter of a century. This applies, of course, only to the mercantile, not to the industrial classes. And yet, surely there were grounds at the beginning of the year from which to draw a contrary conclusion; the stock of products was scanty, capital was abundant, provisions cheap, a rich autumn was assured, there was uninterrupted peace on the continent and no political and financial disturbances at home; indeed, never were the wings of trade more unshackled. . . . What is this unfavorable result to be ascribed to? We believe to excessive trade in imports as well as exports. If our merchants do not themselves rein in their activity, nothing can keep us going, except a panic every three years."

Imagine now the French bourgeois, in the midst of this business panic, having his trade-sick brain tortured, buzzed at and deafened with rumors of a "coup d'etat" and the restoration of universal suffrage; with the struggle between the Legislature and the Executive; with the Fronde warfare between Orleanists and Legitimists; with communistic conspiracies in southern France; with alleged Jacqueries[2] in the Departments of Nievre and Cher; with the advertisements of the several candidates for President; with "social solutions" huckstered about by the journals; with the threats of the republicans to uphold, arms in hand, the Constitution and universal suffrage; with the gospels, according to the emigrant heroes "in partibus," who announced the destruction of the world for May 2,—imagine that, and one can understand how the bourgeois, in this unspeakable and noisy confusion of fusion, revision, prorogation, constitution, conspiracy, coalition, emigration, usurpation and revolution, blurts out at his parliamentary republic: "Rather an End With Fright, Than a Fright Without End."

Bonaparte understood this cry. His perspicacity was sharpened by the growing anxiety of the creditors' class, who, with every sunset, that brought nearer the day of payment, the 2d of May, 1852, saw in the motion of the stars a protest against their earthly drafts. They had become regular astrologers The National Assembly had cut off Bonaparte's hope of a constitutional prolongation of his term; the candidature of the Prince of Joinville tolerated no further vacillation.

If ever an event cast its shadow before it long before its occurrence, it was Bonaparte's "coup d'etat." Already on January 29, 1849, barely a month after his election, he had made to Changarnier a proposition to that effect. His own Prime Minister. Odillon Barrot, had covertly, in 1849, and Thiers openly in the winter of 1850, revealed the scheme of the "coup d'etat." In May, 1851, Persigny had again sought to win Changarnier over to the "coup," and the "Miessager de l'Assemblee" newspaper had published this conversation. At every parliamentary storm, the Bonapartist papers threatened a "coup," and the nearer the crisis approached, all the louder grew their tone. At the orgies, that Bonaparte celebrated every night with a swell mob of males and females, every time the hour of midnight drew nigh and plenteous libations had loosened the tongues and heated the minds of the revelers, the "coup" was resolved upon for the next morning. Swords were then drawn, glasses clinked, the Representatives were thrown out at the windows, the imperial mantle fell upon the shoulders of Bonaparte, until the next morning again drove away the spook, and astonished Paris learned, from not very reserved Vestals and indiscreet Paladins, the danger it had once more escaped. During the months of September and October, the rumors of a "coup d'etat" tumbled close upon one another's heels. At the same time the shadow gathered color, like a confused daguerreotype. Follow the issues of the European daily press for the months of September and October, and items like this will be found literally:

"Rumors of a 'coup' fill Paris. The capital, it is said, is to be filled with troops by night and the next morning decrees are to be issued dissolving the National Assembly, placing the Department of the Seine in state of siege restoring universal suffrage, and appealing to the people. Bonaparte is rumored to be looking for Ministers to execute these illegal decrees."

The newspaper correspondence that brought this news always close ominously with "postponed." The "coup" was ever the fixed idea of Bonaparte. With this idea he had stepped again upon French soil. It had such full possession of him that he was constantly betraying and blabbing it out. He was so weak that he was as constantly giving it up again. The shadow of the "coup" had become so familiar a spectre to the Parisians, that they refused to believe it when it finally did appear in flesh and blood. Consequently, it was neither the reticent backwardness of the chief of the "Society of December 10," nor an unthought of surprise of the National Assembly that caused the success of the "coup." When it succeeded, it did so despite his indiscretion and with its anticipation—a necessary, unavoidable result of the development that had preceded.

On October 10, Bonaparte announced to his Ministers his decision to restore universal suffrage; on the 16th day they handed in their resignations; on the 26th Paris learned of the formation of the Thorigny Ministry. The Prefect of Police, Carlier, was simultaneously replaced by Maupas; and the chief of the First Military Division Magnan, concentrated the most reliable regiments in the capital. On November 4, the National Assembly re-opened its sessions. There was nothing left for it to do but to repeat, in short recapitulation, the course it had traversed, and to prove that it had been buried only after it had expired. The first post that it had forfeited in the struggle with the Executive was the Ministry. It had solemnly to admit this loss by accepting as genuine the Thorigny Ministry, which was but a pretence. The permanent Committee had received Mr. Giraud with laughter when he introduced himself in the name of the new Ministers. So weak a Ministry for so strong a measure as the restoration of universal suffrage! The question, however, then was to do nothing in, everything against the parliament.

On the very day of its re-opening, the National Assembly received the message from Bonaparte demanding the restoration of universal suffrage and the repeal of the law of May 31, 1850. On the same day, his Ministers introduced a decree to that effect. The Assembly promptly rejected the motion of urgency made by the Ministers, but repealed the law itself, on November 13, by a vote of 355 against 348. Thus it once more tore to pieces its own mandate, once more certified to the fact that it had transformed itself from a freely chosen representative body of the nation into the usurpatory parliament of a class; it once more admitted that it had itself severed the muscles that connected the parliamentary head with the body of the nation.

While the Executive power appealed from the National Assembly to the people by its motion for the restoration of universal suffrage, the Legislative power appealed from the people to the Army by its "Questors' Bill." This bill was to establish its right to immediate requisitions for troops, to build up a parliamentary army. By thus appointing the Army umpire between itself and the people, between itself and Bonaparte; by thus recognizing the Army as the decisive power in the State, the National Assembly was constrained to admit that it had long given up all claim to supremacy. By debating the right to make requisitions for troops, instead of forthwith collecting them, it betrayed its own doubts touching its own power. By thus subsequently rejecting the "Questors' Bill," it publicly confessed it impotence. The bill fell through with a minority of 108 votes; the Mountain had, accordingly, thrown the casting vote It now found itself in the predicament of Buridan's donkey, not, indeed, between two sacks of hay, forced to decide which of the two was the more attractive, but between two showers of blows, forced to decide which of the two was the harder; fear of Changarnier, on one side, fear of Bonaparte, on the other. It must be admitted the position was not a heroic one.

On November 18, an amendment was moved to the Act, passed by the party of Order, on municipal elections to the effect that, instead of three years, a domicile of one year should suffice. The amendment was lost by a single vote—but this vote, it soon transpired, was a mistake. Owing to the divisions within its own hostile factions, the party of Order had long since forfeited its independent parliamentary majority. It was now plain that there was no longer any majority in the parliament. The National Assembly had become impotent even to decide. Its atomic parts were no longer held together by any cohesive power; it had expended its last breath, it was dead.

Finally, the mass of the bourgeoisie outside of the parliament was once more solemnly to confirm its rupture with the bourgeoisie inside of the parliament a few days before the catastrophe. Thiers, as a parliamentary hero conspicuously smitten by that incurable disease—Parliamentary Idiocy—, had hatched out jointly with the Council of State, after the death of the parliament, a new parliamentary intrigue in the shape of a "Responsibility Law," that was intended to lock up the President within the walls of the Constitution. The same as, on September 15, Bonaparte bewitched the fishwives, like a second Massaniello, on the occasion of laying the corner-stone for the Market of Paris,—though, it must be admitted, one fishwife was equal to seventeen Burgraves in real power—; the same as, after the introduction of the "Questors' Bill," he enthused the lieutenants, who were being treated at the Elysee;—so, likewise, did he now, on November 25, carry away with him the industrial bourgeoisie, assembled at the Circus, to receive from his hands the prize-medals that had been awarded at the London Industrial Exposition. I here reproduce the typical part of his speech, from the "Journal des Debats":

"With such unhoped for successes, I am justified to repeat how great the French republic would be if she were only allowed to pursue her real interests, and reform her institutions, instead of being constantly disturbed in this by demagogues, on one side, and, on the other, by monarchic hallucinations. (Loud, stormy and continued applause from all parts of the amphitheater). The monarchic hallucinations hamper all progress and all serious departments of industry. Instead of progress, we have struggle only. Men, formerly the most zealous supporters of royal authority and prerogative, become the partisans of a convention that has no purpose other than to weaken an authority that is born of universal suffrage. (Loud and prolonged applause). We see men, who have suffered most from the revolution and complained bitterest of it, provoking a new one for the sole purpose of putting fetters on the will of the nation. . . . I promise you peace for the future." (Bravo! Bravo! Stormy bravos.)

Thus the industrial bourgeoisie shouts its servile "Bravo!" to the "coup d'etat" of December 2, to the destruction of the parliament, to the downfall of their own reign, to the dictatorship of Bonaparte. The rear of the applause of November 25 was responded to by the roar of cannon on December 4, and the house of Mr. Sallandrouze, who had been loudest in applauding, was the one demolished by most of the bombs.

Cromwell, when he dissolved the Long Parliament, walked alone into its midst, pulled out his watch in order that the body should not continue to exist one minute beyond the term fixed for it by him, and drove out each individual member with gay and humorous invectives. Napoleon, smaller than his prototype, at least went on the 18th Brumaire into the legislative body, and, though in a tremulous voice, read to it its sentence of death. The second Bonaparte, who, moreover, found himself in possession of an executive power very different from that of either Cromwell or Napoleon, did not look for his model in the annals of universal history, but in the annals of the "Society of December 10," in the annals of criminal jurisprudence. He robs the Bank of France of twenty-five million francs; buys General Magnan with one million and the soldiers with fifteen francs and a drink to each; comes secretly together with his accomplices like a thief by night; has the houses of the most dangerous leaders in the parliament broken into; Cavalignac, Lamorciere, Leflo, Changarnier, Charras, Thiers, Baze, etc., taken out of their beds; the principal places of Paris, the building of the parliament included, occupied with troops; and, early the next morning, loud-sounding placards posted on all the walls proclaiming the dissolution of the National Assembly and of the Council of State, the restoration of universal suffrage, and the placing of the Department of the Seine under the state of siege. In the same way he shortly after sneaked into the "Moniateur" a false document, according to which influential parliamentary names had grouped themselves round him in a Committee of the Nation.

Amidst cries of "Long live the Republic!", the rump-parliament, assembled at the Mayor's building of the Tenth Arrondissement, and composed mainly of Legitimists and Orleanists, resolves to depose Bonaparte; it harangues in vain the gaping mass gathered before the building, and is finally dragged first, under the escort of African sharpshooters, to the barracks of Orsay, and then bundled into convicts' wagons and transported to the prisons of Mazas, Ham and Vincennes. Thus ended the party of Order, the Legislative Assembly and the February revolution.

Before hastening to the end, let us sum up shortly the plan of its history:

I.—First Period. From February 24 to May 4, 1848. February period. Prologue. Universal fraternity swindle.

II.—Second Period. Period in which the republic is constituted, and of the Constitutive National Assembly.

1. May 4 to June 25, 1848. Struggle of all the classes against the house of Mr. proletariat. Defeat of the proletariat in the June days.

2. June 25 to December 10, 1848. Dictatorship of the pure bourgeois republicans. Drafting of the Constitution. The state of siege hangs over Paris. The Bourgeois dictatorship set aside on December 10 by the election of Bonaparte as President.

3. December 20, 1848, to May 20, 1849. Struggle of the Constitutive Assembly with Bonaparte and with the united party of Order. Death of the Constitutive Assembly. Downfall of the republican bourgeoisie.

III.—Third Period. Period of the constitutional republic and of the Legislative National Assembly.

1. May 29 to June 13, 1849. Struggle of the small traders', middle class with the bourgeoisie and with Bonaparte. Defeat of the small traders' democracy.

2. June 13, 1849, to May, 1850. Parliamentary dictatorship of the party of Order. Completes its reign by the abolition of universal suffrage, but loses the parliamentary Ministry.

3. May 31, 1850, to December 2, 1851. Struggle between the parliamentary bourgeoisie and Bonaparte.

a. May 31, 1850, to January 12, 1851. The parliament loses the supreme command over the Army.

b. January 12 to April 11, 1851. The parliament succumbs in the attempts to regain possession of the administrative power. The party of Order loses its independent parliamentary majority. Its coalition with the republicans and the Mountain.

c. April 11 to October 9, 1851. Attempts at revision, fusion and prorogation. The party of Order dissolves into its component parts. The breach between the bourgeois parliament and the bourgeois press, on the one hand, and the bourgeois mass, on the other, becomes permanent.

d. October 9 to December 2, 1851. Open breach between the parliament and the executive power. It draws up its own decree of death, and goes under, left in the lurch by its own class, by the Army, and by all the other classes. Downfall of the parliamentary regime and of the reign of the bourgeoisie. Bonaparte's triumph. Parody of the imperialist restoration.

  1. #1 An allusion to the lilies of the Bourbon coat-of-arms
  2. #2 Peasant revolts