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Hugo, Victor / The History of a Crime The Testimony of an Eye-Witness
Produced by Stan Goodman, Beth Trapaga and PG Distributed Proofreaders




Translated by T.H. JOYCE and ARTHUR LOCKER.




I. "Security"
II. Paris sleeps--the Bell rings
III. What had happened during the Night
IV. Other Doings of the Night
V. The Darkness of the Crime
VI. "Placards"
VII. No. 70, Rue Blanche
VIII. "Violation of the Chamber"
IX. An End worse than Death
X. The Black Door
XI. The High Court of Justice
XII. The Mairie of the Tenth Arrondissement
XIII. Louis Bonaparte's Side-face
XIV. The D'Orsay Barracks
XV. Mazas
XVI. The Episode of the Boulevard St. Martin
XVII. The Rebound of the 24th June, 1848, on the 2d December 1851
XVIII. The Representatives hunted down
XIX. One Foot in the Tomb
XX. The Burial of a Great Anniversary


I. They come to Arrest me
II. From the Bastille to the Rue de Cotte
III. The St. Antoine Barricade
IV. The Workmen's Societies ask us for the Order to fight
V. Baudin's Corpse
VI. The Decrees of the Representatives who remained Free
VII. The Archbishop
VIII. Mount Valérien
IX. The Lightning begins to flash among the People
X. What Fleury went to do at Mazas
XI. The End of the Second Day


I. Those who sleep and He who does not sleep
II. The Proceedings of the Committee
III. Inside the Elysée
IV. Bonaparte's Familiar Spirits
V. A Wavering Ally
VI. Denis Dussoubs
VII. Items and Interviews
VIII. The Situation
IX. The Porte Saint Martin
X. My Visit to the Barricades
XI. The Barricade of the Rue Meslay
XII. The Barricade of the Mairie of the Fifth Arrondissement
XIII. The Barricade of the Rue Thévenot
XIV. Ossian and Scipio
XV. The Question presents itself
XVI. The Massacre
XVII. The Appointment made with the Workmen's Societies
XVIII. The Verification of Moral Laws


I. What happened during the Night--the Rue Tiquetonne
II. What happened during the Night--the Market Quarter
III. What happened during the Night--the Petit Carreau
IV. What was done during the Night--the Passage du Saumon
V. Other Deeds of Darkness
VI. The Consultative Committee
VII. The Other List
VIII. David d'Angers
IX. Our Last Meeting
X. Duty can have two Aspects
XI. The Combat finished, the Ordeal begins
XII. The Exiled
XIII. The Military Commissions and the mixed Commissions
XIV. A Religious Incident
XV. How they came out of Ham
XVI. A Retrospect
XVII. Conduct of the Left
XVIII. A Page written at Brussels
XIX. The Infallible Benediction






On December 1, 1851, Charras[1] shrugged his shoulder and unloaded his
pistols. In truth, the belief in the possibility of a _coup d'état_ had
become humiliating. The supposition of such illegal violence on the part
of M. Louis Bonaparte vanished upon serious consideration. The great
question of the day was manifestly the Devincq election; it was clear
that the Government was only thinking of that matter. As to a conspiracy
against the Republic and against the People, how could any one
premeditate such a plot? Where was the man capable of entertaining such a
dream? For a tragedy there must be an actor, and here assuredly the actor
was wanting. To outrage Right, to suppress the Assembly, to abolish the
Constitution, to strangle the Republic, to overthrow the Nation, to sully
the Flag, to dishonor the Army, to suborn the Clergy and the Magistracy,
to succeed, to triumph, to govern, to administer, to exile, to banish, to
transport, to ruin, to assassinate, to reign, with such complicities that
the law at last resembles a foul bed of corruption. What! All these
enormities were to be committed! And by whom? By a Colossus? No, by a
dwarf. People laughed at the notion. They no longer said "What a crime!"
but "What a farce!" For after all they reflected; heinous crimes require
stature. Certain crimes are too lofty for certain hands. A man who would
achieve an 18th Brumaire must have Arcola in his past and Austerlitz in
his future. The art of becoming a great scoundrel is not accorded to the
first comer. People said to themselves, Who is this son of Hortense? He
has Strasbourg behind him instead of Arcola, and Boulogne in place of
Austerlitz. He is a Frenchman, born a Dutchman, and naturalized a Swiss;
he is a Bonaparte crossed with a Verhuell; he is only celebrated for the
ludicrousness of his imperial attitude, and he who would pluck a feather
from his eagle would risk finding a goose's quill in his hand. This
Bonaparte does not pass currency in the array, he is a counterfeit image
less of gold than of lead, and assuredly French soldiers will not give us
the change for this false Napoleon in rebellion, in atrocities, in
massacres, in outrages, in treason. If he should attempt roguery it would
miscarry. Not a regiment would stir. Besides, why should he make such an
attempt? Doubtless he has his suspicious side, but why suppose him an
absolute villain? Such extreme outrages are beyond him; he is incapable
of them physically, why judge him capable of them morally? Has he not
pledged honor? Has he not said, "No one in Europe doubts my word?" Let us
fear nothing. To this could be answered, Crimes are committed either on a
grand or on a mean scale. In the first category there is Caesar; in the
second there is Mandrin. Caesar passes the Rubicon, Mandrin bestrides the
gutter. But wise men interposed, "Are we not prejudiced by offensive
conjectures? This man has been exiled and unfortunate. Exile enlightens,
misfortune corrects."

For his part Louis Bonaparte protested energetically. Facts abounded in
his favor. Why should he not act in good faith? He had made remarkable
promises. Towards the end of October, 1848, then a candidate for the
Presidency, he was calling at No. 37, Rue de la Tour d'Auvergne, on a
certain personage, to whom he remarked, "I wish to have an explanation
with you. They slander me. Do I give you the impression of a madman? They
think that I wish to revivify Napoleon. There are two men whom a great
ambition can take for its models, Napoleon and Washington. The one is a
man of Genius, the other is a man of Virtue. It is ridiculous to say, 'I
will be a man of Genius;' it is honest to say, 'I will be a man of
Virtue.' Which of these depends upon ourselves? Which can we accomplish
by our will? To be Genius? No. To be Probity? Yes. The attainment of
Genius is not possible; the attainment of Probity is a possibility. And
what could I revive of Napoleon? One sole thing--a crime. Truly a worthy
ambition! Why should I be considered man? The Republic being established,
I am not a great man, I shall not copy Napoleon; but I am an honest man.
I shall imitate Washington. My name, the name of Bonaparte, will be
inscribed on two pages of the history of France: on the first there will
be crime and glory, on the second probity and honor. And the second will
perhaps be worth the first. Why? Because if Napoleon is the greater,
Washington is the better man. Between the guilty hero and the good
citizen I choose the good citizen. Such is my ambition."

From 1848 to 1851 three years elapsed. People had long suspected Louis
Bonaparte; but long-continued suspicion blunts the intellect and wears
itself out by fruitless alarms. Louis Bonaparte had had dissimulating
ministers such as Magne and Rouher; but he had also had straightforward
ministers such as Léon Faucher and Odilon Barrot; and these last had
affirmed that he was upright and sincere. He had been seen to beat his
breast before the doors of Ham; his foster sister, Madame Hortense
Cornu, wrote to Mieroslawsky, "I am a good Republican, and I can answer
for him." His friend of Ham, Peauger, a loyal man, declared, "Louis
Bonaparte is incapable of treason." Had not Louis Bonaparte written the
work entitled "Pauperism"? In the intimate circles of the Elysée Count
Potocki was a Republican and Count d'Orsay was a Liberal; Louis
Bonaparte said to Potocki, "I am a man of the Democracy," and to
D'Orsay, "I am a man of Liberty." The Marquis du Hallays opposed the
_coup d'état_, while the Marquise du Hallays was in its favor. Louis
Bonaparte said to the Marquis, "Fear nothing" (it is true that he
whispered to the Marquise, "Make your mind easy"). The Assembly, after
having shown here and there some symptoms of uneasiness, had grown calm.
There was General Neumayer, "who was to be depended upon," and who from
his position at Lyons would at need march upon Paris. Changarnier
exclaimed, "Representatives of the people, deliberate in peace." Even
Louis Bonaparte himself had pronounced these famous words, "I should see
an enemy of my country in any one who would change by force that which
has been established by law," and, moreover, the Army was "force," and
the Army possessed leaders, leaders who were beloved and victorious.
Lamoricière, Changarnier, Cavaignac, Leflô, Bedeau, Charras; how could
any one imagine the Army of Africa arresting the Generals of Africa? On
Friday, November 28, 1851, Louis Bonaparte said to Michel de Bourges,
"If I wanted to do wrong, I could not. Yesterday, Thursday, I invited to
my table five Colonels of the garrison of Paris, and the whim seized me
to question each one by himself. All five declared to me that the Army
would never lend itself to a _coup de force_, nor attack the
inviolability of the Assembly. You can tell your friends this."--"He
smiled," said Michel de Bourges, reassured, "and I also smiled." After
this, Michel de Bourges declared in the Tribune, "this is the man for
me." In that same month of November a satirical journal, charged with
calumniating the President of the Republic, was sentenced to fine and
imprisonment for a caricature depicting a shooting-gallery and Louis
Bonaparte using the Constitution as a target. Morigny, Minister of the
Interior, declared in the Council before the President "that a Guardian
of Public Power ought never to violate the law as otherwise he would
be--" "a dishonest man," interposed the President. All these words and
all these facts were notorious. The material and moral impossibility of
the _coup d'état_ was manifest to all. To outrage the National Assembly!
To arrest the Representatives! What madness! As we have seen, Charras,
who had long remained on his guard, unloaded his pistols. The feeling of
security was complete and unanimous. Nevertheless there were some of us
in the Assembly who still retained a few doubts, and who occasionally
shook our heads, but we were looked upon as fools.

[1] Colonel Charras was Under-Secretary of State in 1848, and Acting
Secretary of War under the Provisional Government.



On the 2d December, 1851, Representative Versigny, of the Haute-Saône,
who resided at Paris, at No. 4, Rue Léonie, was asleep. He slept
soundly; he had been working till late at night. Versigny was a young
man of thirty-two, soft-featured and fair-complexioned, of a courageous
spirit, and a mind tending towards social and economical studies. He had
passed the first hours of the night in the perusal of a book by Bastiat,
in which he was making marginal notes, and, leaving the book open on the
table, he had fallen asleep. Suddenly he awoke with a start at the sound
of a sharp ring at the bell. He sprang up in surprise. It was dawn. It
was about seven o'clock in the morning.

Never dreaming what could be the motive for so early a visit, and
thinking that someone had mistaken the door, he again lay down, and was
about to resume his slumber, when a second ring at the bell, still
louder than the first, completely aroused him. He got up in his
night-shirt and opened the door.

Michel de Bourges and Théodore Bac entered. Michel de Bourges was the
neighbor of Versigny; he lived at No. 16, Rue de Milan.

Théodore Bac and Michel were pale, and appeared greatly agitated.

"Versigny," said Michel, "dress yourself at once--Baune has just been

"Bah!" exclaimed Versigny. "Is the Mauguin business beginning again?"

"It is more than that," replied Michel. "Baune's wife and daughter came
to me half-an-hour ago. They awoke me. Baune was arrested in bed at six
o'clock this morning."

"What does that mean?" asked Versigny.

The bell rang again.

"This will probably tell us," answered Michel de Bourges.

Versigny opened the door. It was the Representative Pierre Lefranc. He
brought, in truth, the solution of the enigma.

"Do you know what is happening?" said he.

"Yes," answered Michel. "Baune is in prison."

"It is the Republic who is a prisoner," said Pierre Lefranc. "Have you
read the placards?"


Pierre Lefranc explained to them that the walls at that moment were
covered with placards which the curious crowd were thronging to read,
that he had glanced over one of them at the corner of his street, and
that the blow had fallen.

"The blow!" exclaimed Michel. "Say rather the crime."

Pierre Lefranc added that there were three placards--one decree and two
proclamations--all three on white paper, and pasted close together.

The decree was printed in large letters.

The ex-Constituent Laissac, who lodged, like Michel de Bourges, in the
neighborhood (No. 4, Cité Gaillard), then came in. He brought the same
news, and announced further arrests which had been made during the

There was not a minute to lose.

They went to impart the news to Yvan, the Secretary of the Assembly, who
had been appointed by the Left, and who lived in the Rue de Boursault.

An immediate meeting was necessary. Those Republican Representatives who
were still at liberty must be warned and brought together without delay.

Versigny said, "I will go and find Victor Hugo."

It was eight o'clock in the morning. I was awake and was working in bed.
My servant entered and said, with an air of alarm,--

"A Representative of the people is outside who wishes to speak to you,

"Who is it?"

"Monsieur Versigny:"

"Show him in."

Versigny entered, and told me the state of affairs. I sprang out of bed.

He told me of the "rendezvous" at the rooms of the ex-Constituent

"Go at once and inform the other Representatives," said I.

He left me.



Previous to the fatal days of June, 1848, the esplanade of the Invalides
was divided into eight huge grass plots, surrounded by wooden railings
and enclosed between two groves of trees, separated by a street running
perpendicularly to the front of the Invalides. This street was traversed
by three streets running parallel to the Seine. There were large lawns
upon which children were wont to play. The centre of the eight grass
plots was marred by a pedestal which under the Empire had borne the
bronze lion of St. Mark, which had been brought from Venice; under the
Restoration a white marble statue of Louis XVIII.; and under Louis
Philippe a plaster bust of Lafayette. Owing to the Palace of the
Constituent Assembly having been nearly seized by a crowd of insurgents on
the 22d of June, 1848, and there being no barracks in the neighborhood,
General Cavaignac had constructed at three hundred paces from the
Legislative Palace, on the grass plots of the Invalides, several rows of
long huts, under which the grass was hidden. These huts, where three or
four thousand men could be accommodated, lodged the troops specially
appointed to keep watch over the National Assembly.

On the 1st December, 1851, the two regiments hutted on the Esplanade were
the 6th and the 42d Regiments of the Line, the 6th commanded by Colonel
Garderens de Boisse, who was famous before the Second of December, the
42d by Colonel Espinasse, who became famous since that date.

The ordinary night-guard of the Palace of the Assembly was composed of a
battalion of Infantry and of thirty artillerymen, with a captain. The
Minister of War, in addition, sent several troopers for orderly service.
Two mortars and six pieces of cannon, with their ammunition wagons, were
ranged in a little square courtyard situated on the right of the Cour
d'Honneur, and which was called the Cour des Canons. The Major, the
military commandant of the Palace, was placed under the immediate control
of the Questors.[2] At nightfall the gratings and the doors were secured,
sentinels were posted, instructions were issued to the sentries, and the
Palace was closed like a fortress. The password was the same as in the
Place de Paris.

The special instructions drawn up by the Questors prohibited the entrance
of any armed force other than the regiment on duty.

On the night of the 1st and 2d of December the Legislative Palace was
guarded by a battalion of the 42d.

The sitting of the 1st of December, which was exceedingly peaceable,
and had been devoted to a discussion on the municipal law, had finished
late, and was terminated by a Tribunal vote. At the moment when M.
Baze, one of the Questors, ascended the Tribune to deposit his vote, a
Representative, belonging to what was called "Les Bancs Elyséens"
approached him, and said in a low tone, "To-night you will be carried
off." Such warnings as these were received every day, and, as we have
already explained, people had ended by paying no heed to them.
Nevertheless, immediately after the sitting the Questors sent for the
Special Commissary of Police of the Assembly, President Dupin being
present. When interrogated, the Commissary declared that the reports of
his agents indicated "dead calm"--such was his expression--and that
assuredly there was no danger to be apprehended for that night. When
the Questors pressed him further, President Dupin, exclaiming "Bah!"
left the room.

On that same day, the 1st December, about three o'clock in the afternoon,
as General Leflô's father-in-law crossed the boulevard in front of
Tortoni's, some one rapidly passed by him and whispered in his ear these
significant words, "Eleven o'clock--midnight." This incident excited but
little attention at the Questure, and several even laughed at it. It had
become customary with them. Nevertheless General Leflô would not go to
bed until the hour mentioned had passed by, and remained in the Offices
of the Questure until nearly one o'clock in the morning.

The shorthand department of the Assembly was done out of doors by four
messengers attached to the _Moniteur_, who were employed to carry the
copy of the shorthand writers to the printing-office, and to bring back
the proof-sheets to the Palace of the Assembly, where M. Hippolyte Prévost
corrected them. M. Hippolyte Prévost was chief of the stenographic staff,
and in that capacity had apartments in the Legislative Palace. He was at
the same time editor of the musical _feuilleton_ of the _Moniteur_. On
the 1st December he had gone to the Opéra Comique for the first
representation of a new piece, and did not return till after midnight.
The fourth messenger from the _Moniteur_ was waiting for him with a proof
of the last slip of the sitting; M. Prévost corrected the proof, and the
messenger was sent off. It was then a little after one o'clock, profound
quiet reigned around, and, with the exception of the guard, all in the
Palace slept. Towards this hour of the night, a singular incident
occurred. The Captain-Adjutant-Major of the Guard of the Assembly came to
the Major and said, "The Colonel has sent for me," and he added according
to military etiquette, "Will you permit me to go?" The Commandant was
astonished. "Go," he said with some sharpness, "but the Colonel is wrong
to disturb an officer on duty." One of the soldiers on guard, without
understanding the meaning of the words, heard the Commandant pacing up
and down, and muttering several times, "What the deuce can he want?"

Half an hour afterwards the Adjutant-Major returned. "Well," asked the
Commandant, "what did the Colonel want with you?" "Nothing," answered the
Adjutant, "he wished to give me the orders for to-morrow's duties." The
night became further advanced. Towards four o'clock the Adjutant-Major
came again to the Major. "Major," he said, "the Colonel has asked for
me." "Again!" exclaimed the Commandant. "This is becoming strange;
nevertheless, go."

The Adjutant-Major had amongst other duties that of giving out the
instructions to the sentries, and consequently had the power of
rescinding them.

As soon as the Adjutant-Major had gone out, the Major, becoming uneasy,
thought that it was his duty to communicate with the Military Commandant
of the Palace. He went upstairs to the apartment of the Commandant--
Lieutenant Colonel Niols. Colonel Niols had gone to bed and the attendants
had retired to their rooms in the attics. The Major, new to the Palace,
groped about the corridors, and, knowing little about the various rooms,
rang at a door which seemed to him that of the Military Commandant. Nobody
answered, the door was not opened, and the Major returned downstairs,
without having been able to speak to anybody.

On his part the Adjutant-Major re-entered the Palace, but the Major did
not see him again. The Adjutant remained near the grated door of the
Place Bourgogne, shrouded in his cloak, and walking up and down the
courtyard as though expecting some one.

At the instant that five o'clock sounded from the great clock of the
dome, the soldiers who slept in the hut-camp before the Invalides were
suddenly awakened. Orders were given in a low voice in the huts to take
up arms, in silence. Shortly afterwards two regiments, knapsack on back
were marching upon the Palace of the Assembly; they were the 6th and the

At this same stroke of five, simultaneously in all the quarters of Paris,
infantry soldiers filed out noiselessly from every barrack, with their
colonels at their head. The _aides-de-camp_ and orderly officers of Louis
Bonaparte, who had been distributed in all the barracks, superintended
this taking up of arms. The cavalry were not set in motion until
three-quarters of an hour after the infantry, for fear that the ring of
the horses' hoofs on the stones should wake slumbering Paris too soon.

M. de Persigny, who had brought from the Elysée to the camp of the
Invalides the order to take up arms, marched at the head of the 42d, by
the side of Colonel Espinasse. A story is current in the army, for at the
present day, wearied as people are with dishonorable incidents, these
occurrences are yet told with a species of gloomy indifference--the story
is current that at the moment of setting out with his regiment one of the
colonels who could be named hesitated, and that the emissary from the
Elysée, taking a sealed packet from his pocket, said to him, "Colonel, I
admit that we are running a great risk. Here in this envelope, which I
have been charged to hand to you, are a hundred thousand francs in
banknotes _for contingencies_." The envelope was accepted, and the
regiment set out. On the evening of the 2d of December the colonel said
to a lady, "This morning I earned a hundred thousand francs and my
General's epaulets." The lady showed him the door.

Xavier Durrieu, who tells us this story, had the curiosity later on to
see this lady. She confirmed the story. Yes, certainly! she had shut the
door in the face of this wretch; a soldier, a traitor to his flag who
dared visit her! She receive such a man? No! she could not do that,
"and," states Xavier Durrieu, she added, "And yet I have no character to

Another mystery was in progress at the Prefecture of Police.

Those belated inhabitants of the Cité who may have returned home at a
late hour of the night might have noticed a large number of street cabs
loitering in scattered groups at different points round about the Rue de

From eleven o'clock in the evening, under pretext of the arrivals of
refugees at Paris from Genoa and London, the Brigade of Surety and the
eight hundred _sergents de ville_ had been retained in the Prefecture. At
three o'clock in the morning a summons had been sent to the forty-eight
Commissaries of Paris and of the suburbs, and also to the peace officers.
An hour afterwards all of them arrived. They were ushered into a separate
chamber, and isolated from each other as much as possible. At five
o'clock a bell was sounded in the Prefect's cabinet. The Prefect Maupas
called the Commissaries of Police one after another into his cabinet,
revealed the plot to them, and allotted to each his portion of the crime.
None refused; many thanked him.

It was a question of arresting at their own homes seventy-eight Democrats
who were influential in their districts, and dreaded by the Elysée as
possible chieftains of barricades. It was necessary, a still more daring
outrage, to arrest at their houses sixteen Representatives of the People.
For this last task were chosen among the Commissaries of Police such of
those magistrates who seemed the most likely to become ruffians. Amongst
these were divided the Representatives. Each had his man. Sieur Courtille
had Charras, Sieur Desgranges had Nadaud, Sieur Hubaut the elder had M.
Thiers, and Sieur Hubaut the younger General Bedeau, General Changarnier
was allotted to Lerat, and General Cavaignac to Colin. Sieur Dourlens
took Representative Valentin, Sieur Benoist Representative Miot, Sieur
Allard Representative Cholat, Sieur Barlet took Roger (Du Nord), General
Lamoricière fell to Commissary Blanchet, Commissary Gronfier had
Representative Greppo, and Commissary Boudrot Representative Lagrange.
The Questors were similarly allotted, Monsieur Baze to the Sieur
Primorin, and General Leflô to Sieur Bertoglio.

Warrants with the name of the Representatives had been drawn up in the
Prefect's private Cabinet. Blanks had been only left for the names of the
Commissaries. These were filled in at the moment of leaving.

In addition to the armed force which was appointed to assist them, it had
been decided that each Commissary should be accompanied by two escorts,
one composed of _sergents de ville_, the other of police agents in plain
clothes. As Prefect Maupas had told M. Bonaparte, the Captain of the
Republican Guard, Baudinet, was associated with Commissary Lerat in the
arrest of General Changarnier.

Towards half-past five the _fiacres_ which were in waiting were called
up, and all started, each with his instructions.

During this time, in another corner of Paris--the old Rue du Temple--in
that ancient Soubise Mansion which had been transformed into a Royal
Printing Office, and is to-day a National Printing Office, another
section of the Crime was being organized.

Towards one in the morning a passer-by who had reached the old Rue du
Temple by the Rue de Vieilles-Haudriettes, noticed at the junction of
these two streets several long and high windows brilliantly lighted up,
These were the windows of the work-rooms of the National Printing Office.
He turned to the right and entered the old Rue du Temple, and a moment
afterwards paused before the crescent-shaped entrance of the front of the
printing-office. The principal door was shut, two sentinels guarded the
side door. Through this little door, which was ajar, he glanced into the
courtyard of the printing-office, and saw it filled with soldiers. The
soldiers were silent, no sound could be heard, but the glistening of
their bayonets could be seen. The passer-by surprised, drew nearer. One
of the sentinels thrust him rudely back, crying out, "Be off."

Like the _sergents de ville_ at the Prefecture of Police, the workmen had
been retained at the National Printing Office under plea of night-work.
At the same time that M. Hippolyte Prévost returned to the Legislative
Palace, the manager of the National Printing Office re-entered his
office, also returning from the Opéra Comique, where he had been to see
the new piece, which was by his brother, M. de St. Georges. Immediately
on his return the manager, to whom had come an order from the Elysée
during the day, took up a pair of pocket pistols, and went down into the
vestibule, which communicates by means of a few steps with the courtyard.
Shortly afterwards the door leading to the street opened, a _fiacre_
entered, a man who carried a large portfolio alighted. The manager went
up to the man, and said to him, "Is that you, Monsieur de Béville?"

"Yes," answered the man.

The _fiacre_ was put up, the horses placed in a stable, and the coachman
shut up in a parlor, where they gave him drink, and placed a purse in his
hand. Bottles of wine and louis d'or form the groundwork of this hind of
politics. The coachman drank and then went to sleep. The door of the
parlor was bolted.

The large door of the courtyard of the printing-office was hardly shut
than it reopened, gave passage to armed men, who entered in silence, and
then reclosed. The arrivals were a company of the Gendarmerie Mobile, the
fourth of the first battalion, commanded by a captain named La Roche
d'Oisy. As may be remarked by the result, for all delicate expeditions
the men of the _coup d'état_ took care to employ the Gendarmerie Mobile
and the Republican Guard, that it is to say the two corps almost entirely
composed of former Municipal Guards, bearing at heart a revengeful
remembrance of the events of February.

Captain La Roche d'Oisy brought a letter from the Minister of War, which
placed himself and his soldiers at the disposition of the manager of the
National Printing Office. The muskets were loaded without a word being
spoken. Sentinels were placed in the workrooms, in the corridors, at the
doors, at the windows, in fact, everywhere, two being stationed at the
door leading into the street. The captain asked what instructions he
should give to the sentries. "Nothing more simple," said the man who had
come in the _fiacre_. "Whoever attempts to leave or to open a window,
shoot him."

This man, who, in fact, was De Béville, orderly officer to M. Bonaparte,
withdrew with the manager into the large cabinet on the first story, a
solitary room which looked out on the garden. There he communicated to
the manager what he had brought with him, the decree of the dissolution
of the Assembly, the appeal to the Army, the appeal to the People, the
decree convoking the electors, and in addition, the proclamation of the
Prefect Maupas and his letter to the Commissaries of Police. The four
first documents were entirely in the handwriting of the President, and
here and there some erasures might be noticed.

The compositors were in waiting. Each man was placed between two
gendarmes, and was forbidden to utter a single word, and then the
documents which had to be printed were distributed throughout the room,
being cut up in very small pieces, so that an entire sentence could not
be read by one workman. The manager announced that he would give them an
hour to compose the whole. The different fragments were finally brought
to Colonel Béville, who put them together and corrected the proof sheets.
The machining was conducted with the same precautions, each press being
between two soldiers. Notwithstanding all possible diligence the work
lasted two hours. The gendarmes watched over the workmen. Béville watched
over St. Georges.

When the work was finished a suspicious incident occurred, which greatly
resembled a treason within a treason. To a traitor a greater traitor.
This species of crime is subject to such accidents. Béville and St.
Georges, the two trusty confidants in whose hands lay the secret of the
_coup d'état_, that is to say the head of the President;--that secret,
which ought at no price to be allowed to transpire before the appointed
hour, under risk of causing everything to miscarry, took it into their
heads to confide it at once to two hundred men, in order "to test the
effect," as the ex-Colonel Béville said later on, rather naïvely. They
read the mysterious document which had just been printed to the Gendarmes
Mobiles, who were drawn up in the courtyard. These ex-municipal guards
applauded. If they had hooted, it might be asked what the two
experimentalists in the _coup d'état_ would have done. Perhaps M.
Bonaparte would have waked up from his dream at Vincennes.

The coachman was then liberated, the _fiacre_ was horsed, and at four
o'clock in the morning the orderly officer and the manager of the
National Printing Office, henceforward two criminals, arrived at the
Prefecture of Police with the parcels of the decrees. Then began for
them the brand of shame. Prefect Maupas took them by the hand.

Bands of bill-stickers, bribed for the occasion, started in every
direction, carrying with them the decrees and proclamations.

This was precisely the hour at which the Palace of the National Assembly
was invested. In the Rue de l'Université there is a door of the Palace
which is the old entrance to the Palais Bourbon, and which opened into
the avenue which leads to the house of the President of the Assembly.
This door, termed the Presidency door, was according to custom guarded by
a sentry. For some time past the Adjutant-Major, who had been twice sent
for during the night by Colonel Espinasse, had remained motionless and
silent, close by the sentinel. Five minutes after, having left the huts
of the Invalides, the 42d Regiment of the line, followed at some distance
by the 6th Regiment, which had marched by the Rue de Bourgogne, emerged
from the Rue de l'Université. "The regiment," says an eye-witness,
"marched as one steps in a sickroom." It arrived with a stealthy step
before the Presidency door. This ambuscade came to surprise the law.

The sentry, seeing these soldiers arrive, halted, but at the moment when
he was going to challenge them with a _qui-vive_, the Adjutant-Major
seized his arm, and, in his capacity as the officer empowered to
countermand all instructions, ordered him to give free passage to the
42d, and at the same time commanded the amazed porter to open the door.
The door turned upon its hinges, the soldiers spread themselves through
the avenue. Persigny entered and said, "It is done."

The National Assembly was invaded.

At the noise of the footsteps the Commandant Mennier ran up.
"Commandant," Colonel Espinasse cried out to him, "I come to relieve your
battalion." The Commandant turned pale for a moment, and his eyes
remained fixed on the ground. Then suddenly he put his hands to his
shoulders, and tore off his epaulets, he drew his sword, broke it across
his knee, threw the two fragments on the pavement, and, trembling with
rage, exclaimed with a solemn voice, "Colonel, you disgrace the number of
your regiment."

"All right, all right," said Espinasse.

The Presidency door was left open, but all the other entrances remained
closed. All the guards were relieved, all the sentinels changed, and the
battalion of the night guard was sent back to the camp of the Invalides,
the soldiers piled their arms in the avenue, and in the Cour d'Honneur.
The 42d, in profound silence, occupied the doors outside and inside, the
courtyard, the reception-rooms, the galleries, the corridors, the
passages, while every one slept in the Palace.

Shortly afterwards arrived two of those little chariots which are called
"forty sons," and two _fiacres_, escorted by two detachments of the
Republican Guard and of the Chasseurs de Vincennes, and by several squads
of police. The Commissaries Bertoglio and Primorin alighted from the two

As these carriages drove up a personage, bald, but still young, was seen
to appear at the grated door of the Place de Bourgogne. This personage
had all the air of a man about town, who had just come from the opera,
and, in fact, he had come from thence, after having passed through a den.
He came from the Elysée. It was De Morny. For an instant he watched the
soldiers piling their arms, and then went on to the Presidency door.
There he exchanged a few words with M. de Persigny. A quarter of an hour
afterwards, accompanied by 250 Chasseurs de Vincennes, he took possession
of the ministry of the Interior, startled M. de Thorigny in his bed, and
handed him brusquely a letter of thanks from Monsieur Bonaparte. Some
days previously honest M. De Thorigny, whose ingenuous remarks we have
already cited, said to a group of men near whom M. de Morny was passing,
"How these men of the Mountain calumniate the President! The man who
would break his oath, who would achieve a _coup d'état_ must necessarily
be a worthless wretch." Awakened rudely in the middle of the night, and
relieved of his post as Minister like the sentinels of the Assembly, the
worthy man, astounded, and rubbing his eyes, muttered, "Eh! then the
President _is_ a ----."

"Yes," said Morny, with a burst of laughter.

He who writes these lines knew Morny. Morny and Walewsky held in the
quasi-reigning family the positions, one of Royal bastard, the other of
Imperial bastard. Who was Morny? We will say, "A noted wit, an intriguer,
but in no way austere, a friend of Romieu, and a supporter of Guizot
possessing the manners of the world, and the habits of the roulette
table, self-satisfied, clever, combining a certain liberality of ideas
with a readiness to accept useful crimes, finding means to wear a
gracious smile with bad teeth, leading a life of pleasure, dissipated but
reserved, ugly, good-tempered, fierce, well-dressed, intrepid, willingly
leaving a brother prisoner under bolts and bars, and ready to risk his
head for a brother Emperor, having the same mother as Louis Bonaparte,
and like Louis Bonaparte, having some father or other, being able to call
himself Beauharnais, being able to call himself Flahaut, and yet calling
himself Morny, pursuing literature as far as light comedy, and politics,
as far as tragedy, a deadly free liver, possessing all the frivolity
consistent with assassination, capable of being sketched by Marivaux and
treated of by Tacitus, without conscience, irreproachably elegant,
infamous, and amiable, at need a perfect duke. Such was this malefactor."

It was not yet six o'clock in the morning. Troops began to mass
themselves on the Place de la Concorde, where Leroy-Saint-Arnaud on
horseback held a review.

The Commissaries of Police, Bertoglio and Primorin ranged two companies
in order under the vault of the great staircase of the Questure, but did
not ascend that way. They were accompanied by agents of police, who knew
the most secret recesses of the Palais Bourbon, and who conducted them
through various passages.

General Leflô was lodged in the Pavilion inhabited in the time of the Duc
de Bourbon by Monsieur Feuchères. That night General Leflô had staying
with him his sister and her husband, who were visiting Paris, and who
slept in a room, the door of which led into one of the corridors of the
Palace. Commissary Bertoglio knocked at the door, opened it, and together
with his agents abruptly burst into the room, where a woman was in bed.
The general's brother-in-out sprang out of bed, and cried out to the
Questor, who slept in an adjoining room, "Adolphe, the doors are being
forced, the Palace is full of soldiers. Get up!"

The General opened his eyes, he saw Commissary Bertoglio standing beside
his bed.

He sprang up.

"General," said the Commissary, "I have come to fulfil a duty."

"I understand," said General Leflô, "you are a traitor."

The Commissary stammering out the words, "Plot against the safety of the
State," displayed a warrant. The General, without pronouncing a word,
struck this infamous paper with the back of his hand.

Then dressing himself, he put on his full uniform of Constantine and of
Médéah, thinking in his imaginative, soldier-like loyalty that there were
still generals of Africa for the soldiers whom he would find on his way.
All the generals now remaining were brigands. His wife embraced him; his
son, a child of seven years, in his nightshirt, and in tears, said to the
Commissary of Police, "Mercy, Monsieur Bonaparte."

The General, while clasping his wife in his arms, whispered in her ear,
"There is artillery in the courtyard, try and fire a cannon."

The Commissary and his men led him away.

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Main -> Hugo, Victor -> The History of a Crime The Testimony of an Eye-Witness