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Champs Elysées to the Hôtel de Ville. Among them were men and women with red caps, emblems of the saturnalia of the Reign of Terror. After an hour's hesitation, a deputation was admitted before the Provisional Government, sitting in the Hôtel de Ville. Among them, besides Blanqui and his satellites, were Barbés, Sobrier, Cabet, Raspail
, and others of less notoriety. Blanqui addressed the government, and demanded, in the name of the clubs, that the elections should be postponed ; that government should obey the clubs implicitly; and that all that was not the mob of Paris should be without the law, and the army for ever banished from the capital. Blanqui, in making these wild propositions, went in advance of his colleagues, and Louis Blanc and Ledru Rollin were the first to repudiate such extravagant notions. All except a few grouped around Blanqui expressed acquiescence ; but the followers of Blanqui insisted upon open and instant deliberation, and declared themselves violently against Lamartine. Barbés, Sobrier, Cabet, and Raspail, among the Ultra-Republicans, supported Lamartine and the Provisional Government, and ultimately the vast assemblage retired without disturbing the peace.
But Lamartine, who saw in the domination of Red Republicanism nothing but a reign of terror and crime, determined to conquer or to perish in the attempt. He was the more encouraged in the determination, as he tells us, that he had a final resource in the army of the North and of the Rhine, which was kept under General Negrier, in readiness to march upon Paris, and to “drown in their own blood the dictators and committees of public safety, who meditated the renewal of the tyrannies of 1793.” Thus confident in his resources without, Lamartine began his task by personal interviews with some of the leaders of the Opposition, more especially with Raspail, Cabet, Barbés, and Sobrier; and he endeavoured to impress them with a sense of the advantages of law and order in a young republic. The celebrated meeting with Blanqui, when Lamartine exposed his breast, and asked his opponent if he came to stab him, appears from Lamartine's account to have had no reference to the immediate conduct of Blanqui on that occasion, but to the unusual hour at which the visit was made, the suspicious looks of those by whom he was accompanied, and to the rumours that were abroad at the time. The account of the conversation held with the conspirator and convict is, however, picturesque and dramatic, and we regret that our space will not enable us to give it at length.
Notwithstanding Lamartine’s exertions with the heads of the clubs, and the influence of his arguments and reasoning, the nearer the time of the elections approached, the more threatening and violent did the factions become, because they were fearful of losing their power. They rose up, in their irritation, even against their own leaders. Lamartine, foreseeing an inevitable collision, secretly brought the army nearer to Paris. Cavaignac was, it appears, won over to take the command of this anti-revolutionary army by his mother, a woman, Lamartine tells us, of intelligence, heart, and patriotism.
On the 14th of April, the two leaders at the Luxembourg, Louis Blanc and Albert, avowed that on the 16th another monster meeting was to take place to oppose the elections. As on the former occasion, Lamartine employed emissaries innumerable to calm the minds of the public; and Flocon, Louis Blanc, Albert, and others promised, that although they
could not prevent the meeting, they would do everything in their power to impart moderation to it, and to diminish the chances of violence. All good citizens were warned at the same time to arm themselves, and to march to the assistance of the Hôtel de Ville at the first gun-shot, or the tolling of the alarm-bell. So great were the apprehensions of government, that all secret papers were destroyed, not to implicate names. The rendezvous of the meeting was, this time, in the Champ de Mars. Lamartine relates that at this crisis Ledru Rollin came to see him, repudiated all connexion with the factions who had usurped his name, and declared that he was ready to die with his colleagues rather than betray them. This, it will be seen, explains what before appeared so extraordinary--the pertinacity of Lamartine in holding by the ultra-republican minister of the interior.
But," added Ledru Rollin, “in a few hours we shall be attacked here by 100,000 men.
What is to be done ?” “ There is only one step to be taken,” replied Lamartine; "we must fight, or give up the country to anarchy. You are Minister of the Interior. Order the general to be beaten, to summon forth the National Guard. I will summon the Garde Mobile, and resist the insurrection at the Hôtel de Ville."
Ledru Rollin acceded, and Lamartine repaired to General Duvivier. The general ordered his horse, to put himself at the head of his young soldiers ; but there were no cartridges. Lamartine went himself to fetch them, at head-quarters. Meantiine Madame de Lamartine had won over General Changarnier to lend his name and countenance to her husband in peril at the Hôtel de Ville. On his arrival at the latter place, the general recommended that the 1600 young guards which occupied the square should be sheltered within the walls of the Hôtel de Ville. Lamartine at once acceded to the arrangement.
“ If we can only hold out three hours," said Lamartine, “I will answer for the better disposed coming to our assistance.”
“ I will answer for seven hours," the general replied.
Marrast and his friend Colonel Rey had also gathered together in the hotel a battalion of volunteers called the Lyonnais. Emissaries were despatched in all directions—to the schools, to the Pantheon, even to the quarriers of Belleville. A delay took place in beating the general. The citizens were not called to arms till after Lamartine, Marrast, and Changarnier had sent forth a new order to that effect. Yet the former perseveres in exculpating his colleague from treachery. Chateau Renand arrived at the Place de la Grève with another battalion of volunteers, just as the column of insurgents were defiling along the quays. A large body of National Guards, under command of General Courtais, had managed, without coming to blows, to divide the main column of insurgents into two bodies as they passed the Louvre, whence they followed them to the Hôtel de Ville. At the moment when the red bonnets were slowly defiling upon the Place de la Grève, a forest of bayonets was seen "rushing over the bridge of St. Michel
. This was a body of from thirty to forty thousand National Guards, which at once arrested the further progress of the insurgents, who, at the same time, could receive no assistance from behind, as the other party had been cut off. In a moment more the National Guards of the Faubourgs du Temple, Saint Antoine, &c., came pouring down in myriads from the
right; and victory was not only no longer possible to the insurgents, but an attack would have been madness. Lamartine received and harangued the deputations, and 20,000 discomfited insurgents defiled in the presence of 200,000 armed men, as they shouted Vive Lamartine ! A bas les Communistes !
The result of the manifestation made by the National Guard on the 16th of April against the Red Republicans gave so much confidence to the Provisional Government, that a grand review was decided upon, and it took place on the 21st of April, under the title of Revue de la Fraternité. From eight o'clock in the morning till eleven at night, soldiers and citizens, men and women, aged and young, people on foot and in cars, kept defiling before the triumphal arch at the head of the Champs Elysées. It was calculated that upon this occasion 350,000 swords or bayonets marched past, and 50,000 had to defer their ovation until the next day.
From the 16th of April, everything had indeed become easy to the government. Lamartine would even have us believe that he became alarmed at the excessive popularity he had attained. At the different reviews he had heard whispered to him words that impelled him to the dictatorship; and he says he felt humiliated by such fanaticism and capriciousness, and by a popularity which was due to his colleagues as well as to himself
. It is certain, however, that a good understanding did not exist in the bosom of government itself. The minority, defeated in the question of the elections, had got up another subject of opposition on the ques. tion of a written constitution, and they were successful in getting it postponed.
On Easter day, the 27th of April, nine hundred representatives of the people were elected, who, Lamartine tells us, with some few exceptions, were “the honesty and patriotism of France resumed in its sovereignty: On the 4th of May the first sitting of the National Assembly was held; the representatives received the members of government with shouts of " Vive la République.” The cannons of the Invalides, and the shouts of the people without, responded to the cry. Buchez was elected to the presidential chair. On the 7th, Lamartine gave an account, in the name of the Provisional Government, of its acts. He was followed by the different ministers in succession. This accomplished, Lamartine laid before the Assembly the position of the new republic in regard to Europe. The Assembly voted unanimously that the Provisional Government had deserved well from the country.
There remained, however, still the delicate question of a constitution. What should be the form of executive ? Was it to be the dictatorship of the clubs, or the votes of the Assembly ? Or would power be delegated to one, or to several ? These questions, Lamartine remarks with his usual candour, interested himself particularly. He was, he says, called to the dictatorship by the voice of an immense majority. It was a struggle in his own mind, in reference both to the republic generally, and to his colleagues in particular. He evidently did not feel strong enough for the responsibility. He felt that all his friends of the day before, as well as his rivals-the whole of the opposition, the clubs, the majority of the press, and the national ateliers, would array themselves against him. The National Guard was itself divided in opinion. He thought for a moment of throwing himself and the Assembly upon the army, but in
Sept.-VOL. LXXXVII. NO. cccxlv.
stantly dismissed the idea. If he retained power, he must be a Cromwell; if he held it for dynastic purposes, he would only be playing the superannuated part of a Monk! Still he felt, that to assume power with the ultra-republican party of the Provisional Government was to sacrifice himself; but he resolved upon that sacrifice, if it would save the National Assembly. Such is Lamartine's own explanation of a step which confounded all Europe by its apparent impolicy and indiscretion. An executive commission of five members was appointed. The very nomination of these members showed how much Lamartine lost by this so-called sacrifice. The names of the commission as they were elected were
- Arago, Garnier Pagés, Marie, Lamartine, and Ledru Rollin.
The new government had not long entered upon its functions before the Red Republicans made Poland a pretext to disturb the tranquillity of the capital. A manifestation in favour of that country was resolved upon for the 15th of May by the clubs. Government prepared to oppose what even Republican experience had taught it—that a petition presented by 100,000 men is an oppression, not a vote. Caussidière had been kept by Lamartine in his situation of prefect of police, because to dismiss him would be to throw him into the ranks of the conspirators. It did not, however, require his dismissal to bring about such a result. He was absent and silent alike when summoned to prepare for the demonstration of the 15th of May; but generous-hearted, Lamartine was satisfied that there was no connivance on his part. He could not bring the two or three thousand Montagnards, who had fortified themselves in the prefecture, to act against their comrades ; all he could do, he says, was to insure their neutrality,
On the 15th, the Assembly met at twelve o'clock. Twelve thousand National Guards under General Courtais defended the approaches of the Chambers ; the Garde Mobile under General Tampour, and the artillery, were stationed in the courts and in the Champs Elysées. While the question of Poland was being discussed, the mass of insurgents came down with such impetuosity, that General Courtais, not having his battalions under his hand, allowed them to make their way over the bridge to the peristyle of the Chambers. Lamartine and Ledru Rollin attempted to address them, but they broke down the railings and invaded the Chambers. "The soldiers," says Lamartine, a personal spectator of the scene, “appeared disposed to do their duty, when an order, attributed to General Courtais, made them return their bayonets. Once more Lamartine attempted to stop the insurgents, at the head of whom was his former colleague, Albert ; and he was supported by the gallant aide-de-camp M. de Mornay, and others. In vain. The populace broke into the Assembly, which they filled with “their rags, their noise, and their barbarous and atrocious numbers.” For upwards of an hour, the Chambers and the 900 representatives remained at the mercy of this ferocious mob. A single shot or a single blow might have converted the invasion into a massacre. Louis Blanc was carried in triumph from apartment to apartment, accompanied by Barbés and Albert. The universal apologist, Lamartine, says that the little philosopher was more humbled than gratified by the ovation. He begged his own party to retire, and sided with Lamartine and General Courtais in moderating the excesses of the factions. Blanqui, Barbés, and a still
more resolute conspirator, Huber, disputed with one another the possession of the tribune. The latter proclaimed the dissolution of the national representation and of the revolutionary government. The members of the Assembly withdrew; and the Red Republicans were left at liberty to go to the Hôtel de Ville, as their predecessors had done, to establish a new form of government. Ledru Rollin was invited to join them, but refused. No summons to the National Guard had been beaten. - In three hours, said Lamartine to some friends who had carried himn away to a place of temporary safety, "if we do not hear the rappel on the other side of the river, I shall be conveyed to Vincennes, and there shot." General Courtais came to him at this moment; Lamartine told him to escape by some back way, and put himself at the head of his legion. The attempt, however, did not succeed; but in the mean time the legions themselves had taken up arms, and were about to arrest their own general.
Suddenly the rappel was heard beating along both sides of the river. The Garde Mobile in the gardens took up arms at the martial sound. Lamartine issued from his hiding-place, got out into the gardens by a window, and threw himself into the midst of the troops, who received him with shouts of Vive Lamartine! Backed by the young guard, possession of the Chambers was obtained ; the insurgents retreated before the bayonets, the representatives once more took their places, and the citizen Clement Thomas was appointed to command the National Guard, and to lead the way against the factions at the Hôtel de Ville. Lamartine got upon a dragoon's horse ; that of an officer was brought to Ledru Rollin; young Murat, M. de Mornay, and Falloux formed a staff; and Colonel Goyon's regiment of dragoons headed the column, which advanced along the quays to the shouts of Vive l'Assemblée Nationale ! Guerre aux Factieux ! For a moment the head of the column was thrown back by the mob on the Place de la Grève; but Lamartine, imitating a movement of the 9th Thermidor, sent detachments by the bye-streets, whilst he himself, accompanied by Ledru Rollin, placed himself at the head of the main column, and with the National Guards and Gardes Mobiles rushed at once upon the Hôtel de Ville, which surrendered without a shot. Lamartine was carried in triumph to the scene of his former labours, and the heads of the clubs were arrested and conveyed to Vincennes. The next morning not a trace remained of the revolutionary movement which had filled the capital with consternation.
No sooner had this cloud dispersed, than another and a more significant one appeared on the horizon. General Cavaignac, on his arrival in Paris, had assumed the functions of minister of war, with that firm yet modest assurance which intimated in the man confidence in his aptitude. The assaults to which the Republic had been exposed, indicated the imperious necessity of military aid to protect the Assembly against the factions; and these military precautions, arranged by Lamartine, were received without opposition. A grand military display took place on the 21st of May; 300,000 bayonets and 10,000 swords defiled before the ministers and the government. Lamartine says he also was there, and received many congratulations and a few crowns of oak from the hands of the National Guards and of the people.