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[THE coup d'état took place on the 2nd, and Mr. Senior reached Paris on the 21st of December.-ED.]
Paris, December 23, 1851.--I dined with Mrs. Grote, and drank tea with the Tocquevilles.
This,' said Tocqueville, 'is a new phase in our history, Every previous revolution has been made by a political party. This is the first time that the army has seized France, bound and gagged her, and laid her at the feet of its ruler.'
* Was not the 18th fructidor,' I said, almost a parallel case? Then, as now, there was a quarrel between the executive and the legislature. The Directory, like Louis Napoleon, dismissed the ministers, in whom the legislature had confidence, and appointed its own tools in their places, denounced the legislature to the country, and flattered and corrupted the army. The legislature tried the usual tactics of parliamentary opposition, censured the Government, and refused the supplies. The Directory prepared a coup d'état. The
'I was not able to resist retaining this conversation in the Journals in France. -ED.
legislature tried to obtain a military force, and failed ; they planned an impeachment of the Directory, and found the existing law insufficient. They brought forward a new law defining the responsibility of the executive, and the night after they had begun to discuss it, their halls were occupied by a military force, and the members of the opposition were seized in the room in which they had met to denounce the treason of the Directory
•So far,' he answered, the two events resemble one another. Each was a military attack on the legislature by the executive. But the Directors were the representatives of a party. The Councils and the greater part of the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie, were Bonapartists; the lower orders were Republican, the army was merely an instrument; it conquered, not for itself, but for the Republican party.
• The 18th brumaire was nearer to this for that ended, as this has begun, in a military tyranny. But the 18th brumaire was almost as much a civil as a military revolution. A majority in the Councils was with Bonaparte. Louis Napoleon had not a real friend in the Assembly. All the educated classes supported the 18th brumaire; all the educated classes repudiate the 2nd of December. Bonaparte's Consular Chair was sustained by all the élite of France. This man cannot obtain a decent supporter. Montalembert, Baroche, and Fould-an Ultramontane, a country lawyer, and a Jewish banker-are his most respectable associates. For a real parallel you must go back 1,800 years.”,
Assembly did not conspire.
I said that some persons, for whose judgment I had the highest respect, seemed to treat it as a contest between two conspirators, the Assembly and the President, and to think the difference between his conduct and theirs to be that he struck first.
* This,' said Tocqueville, 'I utterly deny. He, indeed, began to conspire from November 10, 1848. His direct instructions to Oudinot, and his letter to Ney, only a few months after his election, showed his determination not to submit to Parliamentary Government. Then followed his dismissal of Ministry after Ministry, until he had degraded the office to a clerkship. Then came the semi-regal progress, then the reviews of Satory, the
encouragement of treasonable cries, the selection for all the high appointments in the army of Paris of men whose infamous characters fitted them to be tools. Then he publicly insulted the Assembly at Dijon, and at last, in October, we knew that his plans were laid. It was then only that we began to think what were our means of defence, but that was no more a conspiracy than it is a conspiracy in travellers to look for their pistols when they see a band of robbers advancing.
M. Baze's proposition was absurd only because it was impracticable. It was a precaution against immediate danger, but if it had been voted, it could not have been executed. The army had already been so corrupted, that it would have disregarded the orders of the Assembly. I have often talked over our situation with Lamoricière and my other military friends. We
saw what was coming as clearly as we now look back to it; but we had no means of preventing it.'
*But was not your intended law of responsibility,' I said, 'an attack on your part ?'
•That law,' he said, "was not ours It was sent up to us by the Conseil d'État which had been two years and a half employed on it, and ought to have sent it to us much sooner. We thought it dangerous—that is to say, we thought that, though quite right in itself, it would irritate the President, and that in our defenceless state it was unwise to do so. The bureau, therefore, to which it was referred refused to declare it urgent: a proof that it would not have passed with the clauses which, though reasonable, the President thought fit to disapprove. Our conspiracy was that of the lambs against the wolf.
'Though I have said,' he continued, 'that he has been conspiring ever since his election, I do not believe that he intended to strike so soon. His plan was to wait till next March when the fears of May 1852 would be most intense. Two circumstances forced him on more rapidly. One was the candidature of the Prince de Joinville. He thought him the only dangerous competitor. The other was an agitation set on foot by the Legitimists in the Conseils généraux for the repeal of the law of May 31. That law was his moral weapon against the Assembly, and he feared that if he delayed, it might be abolished without him.' * And how long,' I asked, will this tyranny last?' It will last,' he answered, until it is unpopular with