The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter xvi.

A Retrospect

Louis Bonaparte had tested the majority as engineers test a bridge; he had loaded it with iniquities, encroachments, enormities, slaughters on the Place du Havre, cries of “Long live the Emperor,” distributions of money to the troops, sales of Bonapartist journals in the streets, prohibition of Republican and parliamentary journals, reviews at Satory, speeches at Dijon; the majority bore everything.

“Good,” said he, “It will carry the weight of the coup d’état.”

Let us recall the facts. Before the 2d of December the coup d’état was being constructed in detail, here and there, a little everywhere, with exceeding impudence, and yet the majority smiled. The Representative Pascal Duprat had been violently treated by police agents. “That is very funny,” said the Right. The Representative Dain was seized. “Charming.” The Representative Sartin was arrested. “Bravo.” One fine morning when all the hinges had been well tested and oiled, and when all the wires were well fixed, the coup d’état was carried out all at once, abruptly. The majority ceased to laugh, but the trick, was done. It had not perceived that for a long time past, while it was laughing at the strangling of others, the cord was round its own neck.

Let us maintain this, not to punish the past, but to illuminate the future. Many months before being carried out, the coup d’état had been accomplished. The day having come, the hour having struck, the mechanism being completely wound up, it had only to be set going. It was bound not to fail, and nothing did fail. What would have been an abyss if the majority had done its duty, and had understood its joint responsibility with the Left, was not even a ditch. The inviolability had been demolished by those who were inviolable. The hand of gendarmes had become as accustomed to the collar of the Representatives as to the collar of thieves: the white tie of the statesman was not even rumpled in the grasp of the galley sergeants, and one can admire the Vicomte de Falloux — oh, candor! — for being dumfounded at being treated like Citizen Sartin.

The majority, going backwards, and ever applauding Bonaparte, fell into the hole which Bonaparte had dug for it.

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