The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter vi.


On leaving these brave men I could read at the corner of the Rue de la Tour d’Auvergne and the Rue des Martyrs, the three infamous placards which had been posted on the walls of Paris during the night.

Here they are.


Appeal to the People.

“FRENCHMEN! The present situation can last no longer. Every day which
passes enhances the dangers of the country. The Assembly, which ought
to be the firmest support of order, has become a focus of conspiracies.
The patriotism of three hundred of its members has been unable to check
its fatal tendencies. Instead of making laws in the public interest it
forges arms for civil war; it attacks the power which I hold directly
from the People, it encourages all bad passions, it compromises the
tranquillity of France; I have dissolved it, and I constitute the whole
People a judge between it and me.

“The Constitution, as you know, was constructed with the object of
weakening beforehand the power which you were about to confide to me.
Six millions of votes formed an emphatic protest against it, and yet
I have faithfully respected it. Provocations, calumnies, outrages,
have found me unmoved. Now, however, that the fundamental compact is
no longer respected by those very men who incessantly invoke it, and
that the men who have ruined two monarchies wish to tie my hands in
order to overthrow the Republic, my duty is to frustrate their
treacherous schemes, to maintain the Republic, and to save the Country
by appealing to the solemn judgment of the only Sovereign whom I
recognize in France — the People.

“I therefore make a loyal appeal to the whole nation, and I say to
you: If you wish to continue this condition of uneasiness which
degrades us and compromises our future, choose another in my place,
for I will no longer retain a power which is impotent to do good,
which renders me responsible for actions which I cannot prevent, and
which binds me to the helm when I see the vessel driving towards the

“If on the other hand you still place confidence in me, give me the
means of accomplishing the great mission which I hold from you.

“This mission consists in closing the era of revolutions, by satisfying
the legitimate needs of the People, and by protecting them from
subversive passions. It consists, above all, in creating institutions
which survive men, and which shall in fact form the foundations on
which something durable may be established.

“Persuaded that the instability of power, that the preponderance of a
single Assembly, are the permanent causes of trouble and discord, I
submit to your suffrage the following fundamental bases of a
Constitution which will be developed by the Assemblies later on:—

“1. A responsible Chief appointed for ten years.

“2. Ministers dependent upon the Executive Power alone.

“3. A Council of State composed of the most distinguished men, who shall
prepare laws and shall support them in debate before the Legislative

“4. A Legislative Body which shall discuss and vote the laws, and which
shall be elected by universal suffrage, without scrutin de liste,
which falsifies the elections.

“5. A Second Assembly composed of the most illustrious men of the
country, a power of equipoise the guardian of the fundamental compact,
and of the public liberties.

“This system, created by the first Consul at the beginning of the
century, has already given repose and prosperity to France; it would
still insure them to her.

“Such is my firm conviction. If you share it, declare it by your votes.
If, on the contrary, you prefer a government without strength,
Monarchical or Republican, borrowed I know not from what past, or from
what chimerical future, answer in the negative.

“Thus for the first time since 1804, you will vote with a full knowledge
of the circumstances, knowing exactly for whom and for what.

“If I do not obtain the majority of your suffrages I shall call together
a New Assembly and shall place in its hands the commission which I have
received from you.

“But if you believe that the cause of which my name is the symbol — that
is to say, France regenerated by the Revolution of ‘89, and organized by
the Emperor, is to be still your own, proclaim it by sanctioning the
powers which I ask from you.

“Then France and Europe will be preserved from anarchy, obstacles will
be removed, rivalries will have disappeared, for all will respect, in
the decision of the People, the decree of Providence.

“Given at the Palace of the Elysée, 2d December, 1851.



“Soldiers! Be proud of your mission, you will save the country, for I
count upon you not to violate the laws, but to enforce respect for the
first law of the country, the national Sovereignty, of which I am the
Legitimate Representative.

“For a long time past, like myself, you have suffered from obstacles
which have opposed themselves both to the good that I wished to do and
to the demonstrations of your sympathies in my favor. These obstacles
have been broken down.

“The Assembly has tried to attack the authority which hold from the
whole Nation. It has ceased to exist.

“I make a loyal appeal to the People and to the Army, and I say to them:
Either give me the means of insuring your prosperity, or choose another
in my place.

“In 1830, as in 1848, you were treated as vanquished men. After having
branded your heroic disinterestedness, they disdained to consult your
sympathies and your wishes, and yet you are the flower of the Nation.
To-day, at this solemn moment, I am resolved that the voice of the Army
shall be heard.

“Vote, therefore, freely as citizens; but, as soldiers do not forget
that passive obedience to the orders of the Chief of the State is the
rigorous duty of the Army, from the general to the private soldier.

“It is for me, responsible for my actions both to the People and to
posterity, to take those measures which may seem to me indispensable for
the public welfare.

“As for you, remain immovable within the rules of discipline and of
honor. By your imposing attitude help the country to manifest its will
with calmness and reflection.

“Be ready to repress every attack upon the free exercise of the
sovereignty of the People.

“Soldiers, I do not speak to you of the memories which my name recalls.
They are engraven in your hearts. We are united by indissoluble ties.
Your history is mine. There is between us, in the past, a community of
glory and of misfortune.

“There will be in the future community of sentiment and of resolutions
for the repose and the greatness of France.

“Given at the Palace of the Elysée, December 2d, 1851.

“(Signed) L.N. BONAPARTE.”


“The President of the Republic decrees:—

“ARTICLE I. The National Assembly is dissolved.

“ARTICLE II. Universal suffrage is re-established. The law of May 31
is abrogated.

“ARTICLE III. The French People are convoked in their electoral
districts from the 14th December to the 21st December following.

“ARTICLE IV. The State of Siege is decreed in the district of the
first Military Division.

“ARTICLE V. The Council of State is dissolved.

“ARTICLE VI. The Minister of the Interior is charged with the execution
of this decree.

“Given at the Palace of the Elysée, 2d December, 1851.


“DE MORNY, Minister of the Interior.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56