The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter vi.

The Decrees of the Representatives who Remained Free

The text of the judgment which was believed to have been dawn up by the High Court of Justice had been brought to us by the ex-Constituent Martin (of Strasbourg), a lawyer at the Court of Cassation. At the same time we learned what was happening in the Rue Aumaire. The battle was beginning, it was important to sustain it, and to feed it; it was important ever to place the legal resistance by the side of the armed resistance. The members who had met together on the preceding day at the Mairie of the Tenth Arrondissement had decreed the deposition of Louis Bonaparte; but this decree, drawn up by a meeting almost exclusively composed of the unpopular members of the majority, might have no effect on the masses; it was necessary that the Left should take it up, should adopt it, should imprint upon it a more energetic and more revolutionary accent, and also take possession of the judgment of the High Court, which was believed to be genuine, to lend assistance to this judgment, and put it into execution.

In our appeal to arms we had outlawed Louis Bonaparte. The decree of deposition taken up and counter-signed by us added weight to this outlawry, and completed the revolutionary act by the legal act.

The Committee of Resistance called together the Republican Representatives.

The apartments of M. Grévy, where we had been sitting, being too small, we appointed for our meeting-place No. 10. Rue des Moulins, although warned that the police had already made a raid upon this house. But we had no choice; in time of Revolution prudence is impossible, and it is speedily seen that it is useless. Confidence, always confidence; such is the law of those grand actions which at times determine great events. The perpetual improvisation of means, of policy, of expedients, of resources, nothing step by step, everything on the impulse of the moment, the ground never sounded, all risks taken as a whole, the good with the bad, everything chanced on all sides at the same time, the hour, the place, the opportunity, friends, family, liberty, fortune, life — such is the revolutionary conflict.

Towards three o’clock about sixty Representatives were meeting at No. 10, Rue des Moulins, in the large drawing-room, out of which opened a little room where the Committee of Resistance was in session.

It was a gloomy December day, and darkness seemed already to have almost set in. The publisher Hetzel, who might also be called the poet Hetzel, is of a noble mind and of great courage. He has, as is known, shown unusual political qualities as Secretary–General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Bastide; he came to offer himself to us, as the brave and patriotic Hingray had already done in the morning. Hetzel knew that we needed a printing-office above everything; we had not the faculty of speech, and Louis Bonaparte spoke alone. Hetzel had found a printer who had said to him, “Force me, put a pistol to my throat, and I will print whatever you wish.” It was only a question, therefore, of getting a few friends together, of seizing this printing-office by main force, of barricading it, and, if necessary, of sustaining a siege, while our Proclamations and our decrees were being printed. Hetzel offered this to us. One incident of his arrival at our meeting-place deserves to be noted. As he drew near the doorway he saw in the twilight of this dreary December day a man standing motionless at a short distance, and who seemed to be lying in wait. He went up to this man, and recognized M. Yon, the former Commissary of Police of the Assembly.

“What are you doing there?” said Hetzel abruptly. “Are you there to arrest us? In that case, here is what I have got for you,” and he took out two pistols from his pocket.

M. Yon answered smiling —

“I am in truth watching, not against you, but for you; I am guarding you.”

M. Yon, aware of our meeting at Landrin’s house and fearing that we should be arrested, was, of his own accord, acting as police for us.

Hetzel had already revealed his scheme to Representative Labrousse, who was to accompany him and give him the moral support of the Assembly in his perilous expedition. A first rendezvous which had been agreed upon between them at the Café Cardinal having failed, Labrousse had left with the owner of the café for Hetzel a note couched in these terms:—

“Madame Elizabeth awaits M. Hetzel at No. 10, Rue des Moulins.”

In accordance with this note Hetzel had come.

We accepted Hetzel’s offer, and it was agreed that at nightfall Representative Versigny, who performed the duties of Secretary to the Committee, should take him our decrees, our Proclamation, such items of news as may have reached us, and all that we should judge proper to publish. It was settled that Hetzel should await Versigny on the pavement at the end of the Rue de Richelieu which runs alongside the Café Cardinal.

Meanwhile Jules Favre, Michel de Bourges and myself had drawn up a final decree, which was to combine the deposition voted by the Right with the outlawry voted by us. We came back into the large room to read it to the assembled Representatives, and for them to sign it.

At this moment the door opened, and Emile de Girardin appeared. We had not seen him since the previous evening.

Emile de Girardin — after dispersing from around him that mist which envelopes every combatant in party warfare, and which at a distance changes or obscures the appearance of a man — Emile de Girardin is an extraordinary thinker, an accurate writer, energetic, logical, skilful, hearty; a journalist in whom, as in all great journalists, can be seen the statesman. We owe to Emile de Girardin this great work of progress, the cheap Press. Emile de Girardin has this great gift, a clearheaded stubbornness. Emile de Girardin is a public watchman; his journal is his sentry-box; he waits, he watches, he spies out, he enlightens, he lies in wait, he cries “Who goes there?” at the slightest alarm, he fires volleys with his pen. He is ready for every form of combat, a sentinel to-day, a General to-morrow. Like all earnest minds he understands, he sees, he recognizes, he handles, so to speak, the great and magnificent identity embraced under these three words, “Revolution, Progress, Liberty;” he wishes for the Revolution, but above all through Progress; he wishes for progress, but solely through Liberty. One can, and according to our opinion sometimes rightly, differ from him as to the road to be taken, as to the attitude to be assumed, and the position to be maintained, but no one can deny his courage, which he has proved in every form, nor reject his object, which is the moral and physical amelioration of the lot of all. Emile de Girardin is more Democratic than Republican, more Socialist than Democratic; on the day when these three ideas, Democracy, Republicanism, Socialism, that is to say, the principle, the form, and the application, are balanced in his mind the oscillations which still exist in him will cease. He has already Power, he will have Stability.

In the course of this sitting, as we shall see, I did not always agree with Emile de Girardin. All the more reason that I should record here how greatly I appreciate the mind formed of light and of courage. Emile de Girardin, whatever his failings may be, is one of those men who do honor to the Press of to-day; he unites in the highest degree the dexterity of the combatant with the serenity of the thinker.

I went up to him, and I asked him —

“Have you any workmen of the Presse still remaining?”

He answered me —

“Our presses are under seal, and guarded by the Gendarmerie Mobile, but I have five or six willing workmen, they can produce a few placards with the brush.”

“Well then,” said I, “print our decrees and our Proclamation.” “I will print anything,” answered he, “as long as it is not an appeal to arms.”

He added, addressing himself to me, “I know your Proclamation. It is a war-cry, I cannot print that.”

They remonstrated at this. He then declared that he for his part made Proclamations, but in a different sense from ours. That according to him Louis Bonaparte should not be combated by force of arms, but by creating a vacuum. By an armed conflict he would be the conqueror, by a vacuum he would be conquered. He urged us to aid him in isolating the “deposed of the Second December.” “Let us bring about a vacuum around him!” cried Emile de Girardin, “let us proclaim an universal strike. Let the merchant cease to sell, let the consumer cease from buying, let the workman cease from working, let the butcher cease from killing, let the baker cease from baking, let everything keep holiday, even to the National Printing Office, so that Louis Bonaparte may not find a compositor to compose the Moniteur, not a pressman to machine it, not a bill-sticker to placard it! Isolation, solitude, a void space round this man! Let the nation withdraw from him. Every power from which the nation withdraws falls like a tree from which the roots are divided. Louis Bonaparte abandoned by all in his crime will vanish away. By simply folding our arms as we stand around him he will fall. On the other hand, fire on him and you will consolidate him. The army is intoxicated, the people are dazed and do not interfere, the middle classes are afraid of the President, of the people, of you, of every one! No victory is possible. You will go straight before you, like brave men, you risk your heads, very good; you will carry with you two or three thousand daring men, whose blood mingled with yours, already flows. It is heroic, I grant you. It is not politic. As for me, I will not print an appeal to arms, and I reject the combat. Let us organize an universal strike.”

This point of view was haughty and superb, but unfortunately I felt it to be unattainable. Two aspects of the truth seized Girardin, the logical side and the practical side. Here, in my opinion, the practical side was wanting.

Michel de Bourges answered him. Michel de Bourges with his sound logic and quick reasoning put his finger on what was for us the immediate question; the crime of Louis Bonaparte, the necessity to rise up erect before this crime. It was rather a conversation than a debate, but Michel de Bourges and Jules Favre, who spoke next, raised it to the highest eloquence. Jules Favre, worthy to understand the powerful mind of Girardin would willingly have adopted this idea, if it had seemed practicable, of the universal strike, of the void around the man; he found it great, but impossible. A nation does not pull up short. Even when struck to the heart, it still moves on. Social movement, which is the animal life of society, survives all political movement. Whatever Emile de Girardin might hope, there would always be a butcher who would kill, a baker who would bake, men must eat! “To make universal labor fold its arms is a chimera!” said Jules Favre, “a dream! The People fight for three days, for four days, for a week; society will not wait indefinitely.” As to the situation, it was doubtless terrible, it was doubtless tragical, and blood flowed, but who had brought about this situation? Louis Bonaparte. For ourselves we would accept it, such as it was, and nothing more.

Emile de Girardin, steadfast, logical, absolute in his idea, persisted. Some might be shaken. Arguments, which were so abundant in this vigorous and inexhaustible mind, crowded upon him. As for me, I saw Duty before me like a torch.

I interrupted him. I cried out, “It is too late to deliberate what we are to do. We have not got to do it. It is done. The gauntlet of the coup d’état is thrown down, the Left takes it up. The matter is as simple as this. The outrage of the Second December is an infamous, insolent, unprecedented defiance to Democracy, to Civilization, to Liberty, to the People, to France. I repeat that we have taken up this gauntlet, we are the Law, but the living Law which at need can arm itself and fight. A gun in our hands is a protest. I do not know whether we shall conquer, but it is our duty to protest. To protest first in Parliament; when Parliament is closed, to protest in the street; when the street is closed, to protest in exile; when exile is fulfilled, to protest in the tomb. Such is our part, our office, our mission. The authority of the Representatives is elastic; the People bestow it, events extend it.”

While we were deliberating, our colleague, Napoleon Bonaparte, son of the ex-King of Westphalia, came in. He listened. He spoke. He energetically blamed, in a tone of sincere and generous indignation, his cousin’s crime, but he declared that in his opinion a written protest would suffice. A protest of the Representatives, a protest of the Council of State, a protest of the Magistracy, a protest of the Press, that this protest would be unanimous and would enlighten France, but that no other form of resistance would obtain unanimity. That as for himself, having always considered the Constitution worthless, having contended against it from the first in the Constituent Assembly, he would not defend it at the last, that he assuredly would not give one drop of blood for it. That the Constitution was dead, but that the Republic was living, and that we must save, not the Constitution, a corpse, but the Republic, the principle!

Remonstrances burst forth. Bancel, young, glowing, eloquent, impetuous, overflowing with self-confidence, cried out that we ought not to look at the shortcomings of the Constitution, but at the enormity of the crime which had been committed, the flagrant treason, the violated oath; he declared that we might have voted against the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly, and yet defend it to-day in the presence of an usurper; that this was logical, and that many amongst us were in this position. He cited me as an example. Victor Hugo, said he, is a proof of this. He concluded thus: “You have been present at the construction of a vessel, you have considered it badly built, you have given advice which has not been listened to. Nevertheless, you have been obliged to embark on board this vessel, your children and your brothers are there with you, your mother is on board. A pirate ranges up, axe in one hand, to scuttle the vessel, a torch in the other to fire it. The crew are resolved to defend themselves and run to arms. Would you say to this crew, ‘For my part I consider this vessel badly built, and I will let it be destroyed’?”

“In such a case,” added Edgar Quinet, “whoever is not on the side of the vessel is on the side of the pirates.”

They shouted on all sides, “The decree! Read the decree!”

I was standing leaning against the fire place. Napoleon Bonaparte came up to me, and whispered in my ear —

“You are undertaking,” said he, “a battle which is lost beforehand.”

I answered him, “I do not look at success, I look at duty.”

He replied, “You are a politician, consequently you ought to look forward to success. I repeat, before you go any further, that the battle is lost beforehand.”

I resumed, “If we enter upon the conflict the battle is lost. You say so, I believe it; but if we do not enter upon it, honor is lost. I would rather lose the battle than honor.”

He remained silent for a moment, then he took my hand.

“Be it so,” continued he, “but listen to me. You run, you yourself personally, great dancer. Of all the men in the Assembly you are the one whom the President hates the most. You have from the height of the Tribune nicknamed him, ‘Napoleon the Little.’ You understand that will never be forgotten. Besides, it was you who dictated the appeal to arms, and that is known. If you are taken, you are lost. You will be shot on the spot, or at least transported. Have you a safe place where you can sleep to-night?”

I had not as yet thought of this. “In truth, no,” answered I.

He continued, “Well, then, come to my house. There is perhaps only one house in Paris where you would be in safety. That is mine. They will not come to look for you there. Come, day or night, at what hour you please, I will await you, and I will open the door to you myself. I live at No. 5, Rue d’Alger.”

I thanked him. It was a noble and cordial offer. I was touched by it. I did not make use of it, but I have not forgotten it.

They cried out anew, “Read the decree! Sit down! sit down!”

There was a round table before the fire place; a lamp, pens, blotting-books, and paper were brought there; the members of the Committee sat down at this table, the Representatives took their places around them on sofas, on arm-chairs, and on all the chairs which could be found in the adjoining rooms. Some looked about for Napoleon Bonaparte. He had withdrawn.

A member requested that in the first place the meeting should declare itself to be the National Assembly, and constitute itself by immediately appointing a President and Secretaries. I remarked that there was no need to declare ourselves the Assembly, that we were the Assembly by right as well as in fact, and the whole Assembly, our absent colleagues being detained by force; that the National Assembly, although mutilated by the coup d’état, ought to preserve its entity and remain constituted afterwards in the same manner as before; that to appoint another President and another staff of Secretaries would be to give Louis Bonaparte an advantage over us, and to acknowledge in some manner the Dissolution; that we ought to do nothing of the sort; that our decrees should be published, not with the signature of a President, whoever he might be, but with the signature of all the members of the Left who had not been arrested, that they would thus carry with them full authority over the People, and full effect. They relinquished the idea of appointing a President. Noël Parfait proposed that our decrees and our resolutions should be drawn up, not with the formula: “The National Assembly decrees,” etc.; but with the formula: “The Representatives of the People remaining at liberty decree,” etc. In this manner we should preserve all the authority attached to the office of the Representatives of the People without associating the arrested Representatives with the responsibility of our actions. This formula had the additional advantage of separating us from the Right. The people knew that the only Representatives remaining free were the members of the Left. They adopted Noël Parfait’s advice.

I read aloud the decree of deposition. It was couched in these words:—

“DECLARATION.

“The Representatives of the people remaining at liberty, by virtue of
Article 68 of the Constitution, which runs as follows:—

“‘Article 68. — Every measure by which the President of the Republic
dissolves the Assembly, prorogues it, or obstructs the exercise of
its authority, is a crime of High Treason.

“‘By this action alone the President is deposed from his office; the
citizens are bound to refuse him obedience; the executive power
passes by right to the National Assembly; the judges of the High
Court of Justice should meet together immediately under penalty of
treason, and convoke the juries in a place which they shall appoint
to proceed to the judgment of the President and his accomplices.’

“Decree:—

“ARTICLE I. — Louis Bonaparte is deposed from his office of President
of the Republic.

“ARTICLE II. — All citizens and public officials are bound to refuse
him obedience under penalty of complicity.

“ARTICLE III. — The judgment drawn up on December 2d by the High Court
of Justice, and which declares Louis Bonaparte attainted with the
Crime of High Treason, shall be published and executed. Consequently
the civil and military authorities are summoned under penalty of
Treason to lend their active assistance to the execution of the said
judgment.

“Given at Paris, in permanent session, December 3d, 1851.”

The decree having been read, and voted unanimously, we signed it, and the Representatives crowded round the table to add their signatures to ours. Sain remarked that this signing took time, that in addition we numbered barely more than sixty, a large number of the members of the Left being at work in the streets in insurrection. He asked if the Committee, who had full powers from the whole of the Left, had any objection to attach to the decree the names of all the Republican Representatives remaining at liberty, the absent as well as those present. We answered that the decree signed by all would assuredly better answer its purpose. Besides, it was the counsel which I had already given. Bancel had in his pocket on old number of the Moniteur containing the result of a division.

They cut out a list of the names of the members of the Left, the names of those who were arrested were erased, and the list was added to the decree.11

The name of Emile de Girardin upon this list caught my eye. He was still present.

“Do you sign this decree?” I asked him.

“Unhesitatingly.”

“In that case will you consent to print it?”

“Immediately.”

He continued —

“Having no longer any presses, as I have told you, I can only print it as a handbill, and with the brush. It takes a long time, but by eight o’clock this evening you shall have five hundred copies.”

“And,” continued I, “you persist in refusing to print the appeal to arms?”

“I do persist.”

A second copy was made of the decree, which Emile de Girardin took away with him. The deliberation was resumed. At each moment Representatives came in and brought items of news: Amiens in insurrection — Rheims and Rouen in motion, and marching on Paris — General Canrobert resisting the coup d’état— General Castellane hesitating — the Minister of the United States demanding his passports. We placed little faith in these rumors, and facts proved that we were right.

Meanwhile Jules Favre had drawn up the following decree, which he proposed, and which was immediately adopted:—

“DECREE.

“FRENCH REPUBLIC.

“Liberty — Equality — Fraternity.

“The undersigned Representatives remaining at liberty, assembled in
Permanent Session —

“Considering the arrest of the majority of our colleagues, and the
urgency of the moment:

“Considering that for the accomplishment of his crime Louis Bonaparte
has not contented himself with multiplying the most formidable means of
destruction against the lives and property of the citizens of Paris,
that he has trampled under foot every law, that he has annihilated all
the guarantees of civilized nations:

“Considering that these criminal madnesses only serve to augment the
violent denunciation of every conscience and to hasten the hour of
national vengeance, but that it is important to proclaim the Right:

“Decree:

“ARTICLE I. — The State of Siege is raised in all Departments where it
has been established, the ordinary laws resume their authority.

“ARTICLE II. — It is enjoined upon all military leaders under penalty
of Treason immediately to lay down the extraordinary powers which
have been conferred upon them.

“ARTICLE III. — Officials and agents of the public force are charged
under penalty of treason to put this present decree into execution.

“Given in Permanent Session, 3d December, 1851.”

Madier de Montjau and De Flotte entered. They came from outside. They had been in all the districts where the conflict was proceeding, they had seen with their own eyes the hesitation of a part of the population in the presence of these words, “The Law of the 31st May is abolished, Universal Suffrage is re-established.” The placards of Louis Bonaparte were manifestly working mischief. It was necessary to oppose effort to effort, and to neglect nothing which could open the eyes of the people. I dictated the following Proclamation:—

“PROCLAMATION.

“People! you are being deceived.

“Louis Bonaparte says that he has re-established you in your rights,
and that he restores to you Universal Suffrage.

“Louis Bonaparte has lied.

“Read his placards. He grants you — what infamous mockery! — the right
of conferring on him, on him alone, the Constituent power; that is
to say, the Supreme power, which belongs to you. He grants you the
right to appoint him Dictator for ten years. In other words, he
grants you the right of abdicating and of crowning him. A right which
even you do not possess, O People! for one generation cannot dispose
of the sovereignty of the generation which shall follow it.

“Yes, he grants to you, Sovereign, the right of giving yourself a
master, and that master himself.

“Hypocrisy and treason!

“People! we unmask the hypocrite. It is for you to punish the traitor!

“The Committee of Resistance:

“Jules Favre, De Flotte, Carnot, Madier de Montjau, Mathieu (de la
Drôme), Michel de Bourges, Victor Hugo.”

Baudin had fallen heroically. It was necessary to let the People know of his death, and to honor his memory. The decree below was voted on the proposition of Michel de Bourges:—

“DECREE.

“The Representatives of the People remaining at liberty considering
that the Representative Baudin has died on the barricade of the
Faubourg St. Antoine for the Republic and for the laws, and that he
has deserved well of his country, decree:

“That the honors of the Panthéon are adjudged to Representative Baudin.

“Given in Permanent Session, 3d December, 1851.”

After honor to the dead and the needs of the conflict it was necessary in my opinion to enunciate immediately and dictatorially some great popular benefit. I proposed the abolition of the octroi duties and of the duty on liquors. This objection was raised, “No caresses to the people! After victory, we will see. In the meantime let them fight! If they do not fight, if they do not rise, if they do not understand that it is for them, for their rights that we the Representatives, that we risk our heads at this moment — if they leave us alone at the breach, in the presence of the coup d’état— it is because they are not worthy of Liberty!”

Bancel remarked that the abolition of the octroi duties and the duty on liquors were not caresses to the People, but succor to the poor, a great economical and reparatory measure, a satisfaction to the public demand — a satisfaction which the Right had always obstinately refused, and that the Left, master of the situation, ought hasten to accord. They voted, with the reservation that it should not be published until after victory, the two decrees in one; in this form:—

“DECREE.

“The Representatives remaining at liberty decree:

“The Octroi Duties are abolished throughout the extent of the
territory of the Republic.

“Given in permanent Session, 3d December, 1851.”

Versigny, with a copy of the Proclamations and of the Decree, left in search of Hetzel. Labrousse also left with the same object. They settled to meet at eight o’clock in the evening at the house of the former member of the Provisional Government Marie, Rue Neuve des Petits Champs.

As the members of the Committee and the Representatives withdrew I was told that some one had asked to speak to me. I went into a sort of little room attached to the large meeting-room, and I found there a man in a blouse, with an intelligent and sympathetic air. This man had a roll of paper in his hand.

“Citizen Victor Hugo,” said he to me, “you have no printing office. Here are the means which will enable you to dispense with one.”

He unfolded on the mantel-piece the roll which he had in his hand. It was a species of blotting-book made of very thin blue paper, and which seemed to be slightly oiled. Between each leaf of blue paper there was a sheet of white paper. He took out of his pocket a sort of blunt bodkin, saying, “The first thing to hand will serve your purpose, a nail or a match,” and he traced with his bodkin on the first leaf of the book the word “Republic.” Then turning over the leaves, he said, “Look at this.”

The word “Republic” was reproduced upon the fifteen or twenty white leaves which the book contained.

He added, “This paper is usually used to trace the designs of manufactured fabrics. I thought that it might be useful at a moment like this. I have at home a hundred books like this on which I can make a hundred copies of what you want — a Proclamation, for instance — in the same space of time that it takes to write four or five. Write something, whatever you may think useful at the present moment, and to-morrow morning five hundred copies shall be posted throughout Paris.”

I had none of the documents with me which we had just drawn up. Versigny had gone away with the copies. I took a sheet of paper, and, leaning on the corner of the chimney-piece, I wrote the following Proclamation:—

“TO THE ARMY.

“Soldiers!

“A man has just broken the Constitution. He tears up the oath which
he has sworn to the people; he suppresses the law, stifles Right,
stains Paris with blood, chokes France, betrays the Republic!

“Soldiers, this man involves you in his crime.

“There are two things holy; the flag which represents military honor
and the law which represents the National Right. Soldiers, the
greatest of outrages is the flag raised against the Law! Follow no
longer the wretched man who misleads you. Of such a crime French
soldiers should be the avengers, not the accomplices.

“This man says he is named Bonaparte. He lies, for Bonaparte is a
word which means glory. This man says that he is named Napoléon. He
lies, for Napoléon is a word which means genius. As for him, he is
obscure and insignificant. Give this wretch up to the law. Soldiers,
he is a false Napoléon. A true Napoléon would once more give you a
Marengo; he will once more give you a Transnonain.

“Look towards the true function of the French army; to protect the
country, to propagate the Revolution, to free the people, to sustain
the nationalities, to emancipate the Continent, to break chains
everywhere, to protect Right everywhere, this is your part amongst
the armies of Europe. You are worthy of great battle-fields.

“Soldiers, the French Army is the advanced guard of humanity.

“Become yourselves again, reflect; acknowledge your faults; rise up!
Think of your Generals arrested, taken by the collar by galley
sergeants and thrown handcuffed into robbers’ cells! The malefactor,
who is at the Elysée, thinks that the Army of France is a band of
mercenaries; that if they are paid and intoxicated they will obey.
He sets you an infamous task, he causes you to strangle, in this
nineteenth century, and in Paris itself, Liberty, Progress, and
Civilization. He makes you — you, the children of France — destroy all
that France has so gloriously and laboriously built up during the
three centuries of light and in sixty years of Revolution! Soldiers!
you are the ‘Grand Army!’ respect the ‘Grand Nation!’

“We, citizens; we, Representatives of the People and of yourselves;
we, your friends, your brothers; we, who are Law and Right; we, who
rise up before you, holding out our arms to you, and whom you strike
blindly with your swords — do you know what drives us to despair? It
is not to see our blood which flows; it is to see your honor which
vanishes.

“Soldiers! one step more in the outrage, one day more with Louis
Bonaparte, and you are lost before universal conscience. The men who
command you are outlaws. They are not generals — they are criminals.
The garb of the galley slave awaits them; see it already on their
shoulders. Soldiers! there is yet time — Stop! Come back to the
country! Come back to the Republic! If you continue, do you know
what History will say of you? It will say, They have trampled under
the feet of their horses and crushed beneath the wheels of their
cannon all the laws of their country; they, French soldiers, they
have dishonored the anniversary of Austerlitz, and by their fault,
by their crime, the name of Napoléon sprinkles as much shame to-day
upon France as in other times it has showered glory!

“French soldiers! cease to render assistance to crime!”

My colleagues of the Committee having left, I could not consult them — time pressed — I signed:

“For the Representatives of the People remaining at liberty, the
Representative member of the Committee of Resistance,

“VICTOR HUGO.”

The man in the blouse took away the Proclamation saying, “You will see it again to-morrow morning.” He kept his word. I found it the nest day placarded in the Rue Rambuteau, at the corner of the Rue de l’Homme–Armé and the Chapelle–Saint-Denis. To those who were not in the secret of the process it seemed to be written by hand in blue ink.

I thought of going home. When I reached the Rue de la Tour d’Auvergne, opposite my door, it happened curiously and by some chance to be half open. I pushed it, and entered. I crossed the courtyard, and went upstairs without meeting any one.

My wife and my daughter were in the drawing-room round the fire with Madame Paul Meurice. I entered noiselessly; they were conversing in a low tone. They were talking of Pierre Dupont, the popular song-writer, who had come to me to ask for arms. Isidore, who had been a soldier, had some pistols by him, and had lent three to Pierre Dupont for the conflict.

Suddenly these ladies turned their heads and saw me close to them. My daughter screamed. “Oh, go away,” cried my wife, throwing her arms round my neck, “you are lost if you remain here a moment. You will be arrested here!” Madame Paul Meurice added, “They are looking for you. The police were here a quarter of an hour ago.” I could not succeed in reassuring them. They gave me a packet of letters offering me places of refuge for the night, some of them signed with names unknown to me. After some moments, seeing them more and more frightened, I went away. My wife said to me, “What you are doing, you are doing for justice. Go, continue!” I embraced my wife and my daughter; five months have elapsed at the time when I am writing these lines. When I went into exile they remained near my son Victor in prison; I have not seen them since that day.

I left as I had entered. In the porter’s lodge there were only two or three little children seated round a lamp, laughing and looking at pictures in a book.

11 This list, which belongs to History, having served as the base of the proscription list, will be found complete in the sequel to this book to be published hereafter.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hugo/victor/history_of_a_crime/chapter26.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38