Obrazy na stronie

and the downfall of the papal government. His eldest brother was killed, and he himself narrowly escaped the same fate. Five years later, the Prince made an attempt to overthrow the government of Louis Philippe-failed, and was captured at Strasbourg—was pardoned, and conveyed to America. He wrote a letter extolling the generosity of the King, and his gratitude for it. Four years had not elapsed, when he made another attempt against Louis Philippe's throne and government. The 6th of August, 1840, he made a descent on Boulogne with about sixty followers, disguised as French soldiers, who were very much the worse for excessive tossing the previous night; the Prince fired a single shot at an officer, wounded another person, and then fled.

The fugitive prince was taken, tried by the Chamber of Peers, and condemned to perpetual imprisonment. He was contined in the fortress of Ham for five years, and finally escaped from it disguised as a stone-mason, and sought refuge in England in 1845. During his captivity, the prince composed some works that manifested sympathy with the labouring classes and the progress of industrial pursuits.

In the various political escapades which made it necessary for the prince to seek a refuge in England, the house of Lady Blessington-her much-needed, but most ill-requited hospitality—her most useful influence in his favour with the persons of the first importance in political circles and in the government—the unfailing friendship of Count D'Orsay-hisuntiring exertions for the prince and his cause—in the press, in the clubs, in all quarters where an impression was to be made for him— were to be counted on, and were made use of by this refugee. The return which Louis Napoleon made for these generous services will be found noticed elsewhere in this work and in the minds of many, his ungrateful and ungracious conduct to D'Orsay in his latter days, when the Count had lost fortune, friends, health and spirits—will appear as dark a stain on his private character as any that attaches to his public conduct, except that which has been left by blood.

In February, 1848, Louis Philippe's throne was swept away, the Republic substituted for the Monarchy of 1830; and among the foremost to hail the young giant of democracy was the Prince Louis Napoleon. In the following September he was elected a deputy, took his seat in the National Assembly, not without much distrust of his intentions, and abundant cause for suspicion in his speeches and public communications.

The 20th December, 1848, the Constituent Assembly of the French Republic declared Prince Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte duly elected President of the Republic from that date until the second Sunday in May, 1852.


The new President, not content with the oath he had just taken, added to it a voluntary declaration of fealty to the Republic : he addressed the Assembly, and the last sentence of his speech was to this effect :-“ I shall regard as the enemies of the country, all who seek to change by illegal means, that which entire France has established.

The new constitution to which the President swore fidelity, guaranteed the inviolability of the persons of representatives of the people, and declared it to be high treason for the President to abrogate, annul, or suspend the privileges and functions of the National Assembly. In three years, less by three weeks or thereabouts, on the 2nd of December, 1851, the Prince President absolved himself from his oath, dissolved the Assembly and Council of State, arrested the principal deputies, substituted a military government, administered by

himself, for that of the Republic, under the regime of a popular representation.

Two days later, the Prince President at the Elysée pronounced these decisive words to General Roquet: “Q’uon exècute mes ordres,” to put an end to all hesitation or remonstrance on the part of his generals; and, on the 4th December, when barricades began to be thrown up in some parts of the city, eight hundred people were butchered by his orders, in cold blood, in the streets of Paris, by the troops of the Republic; and the great majority of the slain were persons who had taken no part whatever in the barricades, while a vast number of people were slaughtered in their own houses-old men, women, and children, who were indiscriminately sabred and shot down.

This man-mystery, the depths of whose duplicity no Edipus has yet sounded, is a problem even to those who surround him. I watched his pale, corpse-like, imperturbable features, not many months since, for a period of three hours. I saw eighty thousand men in arms pass before him, and I never observed a change in his countenance, or an expression in his look which would enable the bystander to say whether he was pleased or otherwise at the stirring scene that was passing before him, on the very spot where Louis XVI. was put to death. He did not speak to those around him, except at very long intervals, and then with an air of nonchalance, of ennui, and eternal occupation with self: he rarely spoke a syllable to his uncle, Jerome Bonaparte, who was on horseback somewhat behind him. It was the same with his brilliant staff. All orders came from him—all command seemed centred in him. He gave me the idea of a man who had a perfect reliance on himself, and a feeling of complete control over those around him. But there was a weary look about him, an aspect of excessive watchfulness, an appearance of want of sleep, of over-work, of over.indulgence too, that gives an air of exhaustion to face and form, and leaves an impression on

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the mind of a close observer, that the machine of the body will break down soon, and suddenly-or the mind will give way—under the pressure of pent-up thoughts and energies eternally in action, and never suffered to be observed or noticed by friends or followers.

The man who had the shrewdness and discretion to profit by the stupidity of democracy when in power, to avoid the blunder of associating republicanism, with hatred to priests and hostility to religion, who had the astuteness to bear in mind that the masses of the people believe in their religion, that the sacerdotal power was a great element of influence in a state, however disregardless he may be of the true interest of faith and morals, and of the church it is essential for him to make a shew of upholding ; it is in vain, I say, to represent as a

vulgar, common-place personage, puerile, theatrical, and vain," as one “ who loves finery, trinkets, feathers, embroi

, . dery, spangles, grand words, and grand titles—the sounding, the glittering, all the glass-ware of power.

I should be more disposed to regard Louis Napoleon as a man, originally well-intentioned and well-disposed, of good qualities, wrongly directed in his studies, strongly imbued with feelings of veneration for his imperial uncle, taught to conceal them in the times of the reverses of his family; in his tender years, trained to dissimulation—who had grown upto manhood, accustomed to silence, secrecy, and self-communion-peu demonstratif, an ambitious, moody, self-communing man, with a dash of genius in the composition of his mind, and a tinge of superstition in his credence, in the connection of his fortune with the dispensations of divine Providence, that give a permanent colour of fatalism to his opinions, in keeping with the impulses of an immoderate ambition, which may have perturbed to some extent his imagination. But perhaps the strongest evidence of that perturbation is not to be discovered in the profound conviction on his mind that constitutional governments may

* Napoleon le Pétit,


become mere systems of organized hypocrisy, administered by potent oligarchies, for the interest of a class, under the forms of a representative regime. Convictions, however, are no excuse for perjuries or necessities created for shedding blood. Churches, at all events, should stand aloof from the actors in such dramas; for when the tide of reaction sets in, the potent patron and the obsequious protégé are borne down by it.

A man whose life is all interior (not spiritually so, but wholly worldly minded), who lives for himself, in himself, and by himself, whether in a state prison, or on a throne, cannot long remain in a state of mind either safe for himself or the confidence that others may place in his stability of purpose, policy, or promises.

The author of a work on artillery, which Victor Hugo even acknowledges “ well compiled;” of several remarkable treatises, written either in prison or in exile, on “The Extinction of Pauperism," The Analysis of the Sugar Question,”—“ Historical Fragments,” “ Political Reveries,” cannot with justice be regarded as a person of ordinary abilities or acquirements. He is a man of considerable talent, of measureless ambition, and of no moral principles, of one fixed idea—a belief in the destiny of his elevation to supreme power, and the sufficiency of his own abilities to maintain himself in ita fatalist working out a destiny that is desired by him-a projector on a grand scale of plans for the promotion of selfish objects, wrapped up in traditions of the Empire and its glory, without sympathies with other men, without confidence in any man, a speculator on the meanness, the imbecility, and sordid dispositions of all around him, silent, self-sufficient, selfconfident, self-opiniated, self-willed--in the words to me, of one of the deepest thinkers and closest observers of France :-“A man of no convictions of good or evil-all wrapped up in self.”

Let us see how he allows himself to be spoken of by an able writer, who is within reach of his commissaries of police.


« PoprzedniaDalej »