The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter iii.

What had Happened During the Night

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 42d.

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 lose.”

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 Jerusalem.

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 chariots.

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. He regarded these policemen with contempt, and did not speak to them, but when he recognized Colonel Espinasse, his military and Breton heart swelled with indignation.

“Colonel Espinasse,” said he, “you are a villain, and I hope to live long enough to tear the buttons from your uniform.”

Colonel Espinasse hung his head, and stammered, “I do not know you.”

A major waved his sword, and cried, “We have had enough of lawyer generals.” Some soldiers crossed their bayonets before the unarmed prisoner, three sergents de ville pushed him into a fiacre, and a sub-lieutenant approaching the carriage, and looking in the face of the man who, if he were a citizen, was his Representative, and if he were a soldier was his general, flung this abominable word at him, “Canaille!”

Meanwhile Commissary Primorin had gone by a more roundabout way in order the more surely to surprise the other Questor, M. Baze.

Out of M. Baze’s apartment a door led to the lobby communicating with the chamber of the Assembly. Sieur Primorin knocked at the door. “Who is there?” asked a servant, who was dressing. “The Commissary of Police,” replied Primorin. The servant, thinking that he was the Commissary of Police of the Assembly, opened the door.

At this moment M. Baze, who had heard the noise, and had just awakened, put on a dressing-gown, and cried, “Do not open the door.”

He had scarcely spoken these words when a man in plain clothes and three sergents de ville in uniform rushed into his chamber. The man, opening his coat, displayed his scarf of office, asking M. Baze, “Do you recognize this?”

“You are a worthless wretch,” answered the Questor.

The police agents laid their hands on M. Baze. “You will not take me away,” he said. “You, a Commissary of Police, you, who are a magistrate, and know what you are doing, you outrage the National Assembly, you violate the law, you are a criminal!” A hand-to-hand struggle ensued — four against one. Madame Baze and her two little girls giving vent to screams, the servant being thrust back with blows by the sergents de ville. “You are ruffians,” cried out Monsieur Baze. They carried him away by main force in their arms, still struggling, naked, his dressing-gown being torn to shreds, his body being covered with blows, his wrist torn and bleeding.

The stairs, the landing, the courtyard, were full of soldiers with fixed bayonets and grounded arms. The Questor spoke to them. “Your Representatives are being arrested, you have not received your arms to break the laws!” A sergeant was wearing a brand-new cross. “Have you been given the cross for this?” The sergeant answered, “We only know one master.” “I note your number,” continued M. Baze. “You are a dishonored regiment.” The soldiers listened with a stolid air, and seemed still asleep. Commissary Primorin said to them, “Do not answer, this has nothing to do with you.” They led the Questor across the courtyard to the guard-house at the Porte Noire.

This was the name which was given to a little door contrived under the vault opposite the treasury of the Assembly, and which opened upon the Rue de Bourgogne, facing the Rue de Lille.

Several sentries were placed at the door of the guard-house, and at the top of the flight of steps which led thither, M. Baze being left there in charge of three sergents de ville. Several soldiers, without their weapons, and in their shirt-sleeves, came in and out. The Questor appealed to them in the name of military honor. “Do not answer,” said the sergent de ville to the soldiers.

M. Baze’s two little girls had followed him with terrified eyes, and when they lost sight of him the youngest burst into tears. “Sister,” said the elder, who was seven years old, “let us say our prayers,” and the two children, clasping their hands, knelt down.

Commissary Primorin, with his swarm of agents, burst into the Questor’s study, and laid hands on everything. The first papers which he perceived on the middle of the table, and which he seized, were the famous decrees which had been prepared in the event of the Assembly having voted the proposal of the Questors. All the drawers were opened and searched. This overhauling of M. Baze’s papers, which the Commissary of Police termed a domiciliary visit, lasted more than an hour.

M. Baze’s clothes had been taken to him, and he had dressed. When the “domiciliary visit” was over, he was taken out of the guard-house. There was a fiacre in the courtyard, into which he entered, together with the three sergents de ville. The vehicle, in order to reach the Presidency door, passed by the Cour d’Honneur and then by the Courde Canonis. Day was breaking. M. Baze looked into the courtyard to see if the cannon were still there. He saw the ammunition wagons ranged in order with their shafts raised, but the places of the six cannon and the two mortars were vacant.

In the avenue of the Presidency the fiacre stopped for a moment. Two lines of soldiers, standing at ease, lined the footpaths of the avenue. At the foot of a tree were grouped three men: Colonel Espinasse, whom M. Baze knew and recognized, a species of Lieutenant–Colonel, who wore a black and orange ribbon round his neck, and a Major of Lancers, all three sword in hand, consulting together. The windows of the fiacre were closed; M. Baze wished to lower them to appeal to these men; the sergents de ville seized his arms. The Commissary Primorin then came up, and was about to re-enter the little chariot for two persons which had brought him.

“Monsieur Baze,” said he, with that villainous kind of courtesy which the agents of the coup d’état willingly blended with their crime, “you must be uncomfortable with those three men in the fiacre. You are cramped; come in with me.”

“Let me alone,” said the prisoner. “With these three men I am cramped; with you I should be contaminated.”

An escort of infantry was ranged on both sides of the fiacre. Colonel Espinasse called to the coachman, “Drive slowly by the Quai d’Orsay until you meet a cavalry escort. When the cavalry shall have assumed the charge, the infantry can come back.” They set out.

As the fiacre turned into the Quai d’Orsay a picket of the 7th Lancers arrived at full speed. It was the escort: the troopers surrounded the fiacre, and the whole galloped off.

No incident occurred during the journey. Here and there, at the noise of the horses’ hoofs, windows were opened and heads put forth; and the prisoner, who had at length succeeded in lowering a window heard startled voices saying, “What is the matter?”

The fiacre stopped. “Where are we?” asked M. Baze.

“At Mazas,” said a sergent de ville.

The Questor was taken to the office of the prison. Just as he entered he saw Baune and Nadaud being brought out. There was a table in the centre, at which Commissary Primorin, who had followed the fiacre in his chariot, had just seated himself. While the Commissary was writing, M. Baze noticed on the table a paper which was evidently a jail register, on which were these names, written in the following order: Lamoricière, Charras, Cavaignac, Changarnier, Leflô, Thiers, Bedeau, Roger (du Nord), Chambolle. This was probably the order in which the Representatives had arrived at the prison.

When Sieur Primorin had finished writing, M. Baze said, “Now, you will be good enough to receive my protest, and add it to your official report.” “It is not an official report,” objected the Commissary, “it is simply an order for committal.” “I intend to write my protest at once,” replied M. Baze. “You will have plenty of time in your cell,” remarked a man who stood by the table. M. Baze turned round. “Who are you?” “I am the governor of the prison,” said the man. “In that case,” replied M. Baze, “I pity you, for you are aware of the crime you are committing.” The man turned pale, and stammered a few unintelligible words.

The Commissary rose from his seat; M. Baze briskly took possession of his chair, seated himself at the table, and said to Sieur Primorin, “You are a public officer; I request you to add my protest to your official report.” “Very well,” said the Commissary, “let it be so.” Baze wrote the protest as follows:—

“I, the undersigned, Jean–Didier Baze, Representative of the People,
and Questor of the National Assembly, carried off by violence from my
residence in the Palace of the National Assembly, and conducted to this
prison by an armed force which it was impossible for me to resist,
protest in the name of the National Assembly and in my own name against
the outrage on national representation committed upon my colleagues and
upon myself.

“Given at Mazas on the 2d December 1851, at eight o’clock in the
morning.

“BAZE.”

While this was taking place at Mazas, the soldiers were laughing and drinking in the courtyard of the Assembly. They made their coffee in the saucepans. They had lighted enormous fires in the courtyard; the flames, fanned by the wind, at times reached the walls of the Chamber. A superior official of the Questure, an officer of the National Guard, Ramond de la Croisette, ventured to say to them, “You will set the Palace on fire;” whereupon a soldier struck him a blow with his fist.

Four of the pieces taken from the Cour de Canons were ranged in battery order against the Assembly; two on the Place de Bourgogne were pointed towards the grating, and two on the Pont de la Concorde were pointed towards the grand staircase.

As side-note to this instructive tale let us mention a curious fact. The 42d Regiment of the line was the same which had arrested Louis Bonaparte at Boulogne. In 1840 this regiment lent its aid to the law against the conspirator. In 1851 it lent its aid to the conspirator against the law: such is the beauty of passive obedience.

2 The Questors were officers elected by the Assembly, whose special duties were to keep and audit the accounts, and who controlled all matters affecting the social economy of the House.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hugo/victor/history_of_a_crime/chapter3.html

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