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TABLEAU THE THIRD.
this singular manner, a body of the sympathisers take forcible possession of the Prefecture of Police. Thither they are followed by one General Bedeau, and six thousand brethren intent upon murder, and are fairly besieged. Two hours are granted for surrender. At the last moment, as the drums begin to beat, as the artillery is pointed, and the soldiers stand to their arms, the sympathisers capitulate on condition that they walk out unmolested. The condition is granted; a way is made for them between the ranks, and to warlike music the third act closes. The joke of this particular portion of the drama is that the Prefect of Police, who guaranteed the continuance of tranquillity, got up the whole affair, and that the very men at whose instigation the government was declared extinct, were members of the government themselves, and its most active limbs. There is no end to the intricacies and staggering incidents of this unparalleled performance.
Act the fourth is a somewhat bloody business, but not without fetes and pleasant episodes to relieve the butchery. The amiable Polish sympathisers having been silenced, and the government restored, the National Assembly proceeds once more to the most pressing business of the country, and holds a long discussion upon the point whether it is advisable to establish the effigy of Napoleon on the cross of the Legion of Honour, or simply to engrave upon that ensign the touching and truthful symbol of a liberated nation, now glaring upon every wall, and expressing the “equality, liberty, and fraternity” of this really happy people. The discussion is scarcely over before it is discovered that the axiom hastily laid down in
act the second, to the effect that “the republic owes bread and the provision of labour to all her children," is anything but a self-evident truth or a profitable speculation. The discovery is communicated to the parties chiefly concerned, who get up for the occasion a “ féte des Travailleurs," and try to vent their indignation at a banquet, precisely as ballet dancers relieve themselves of passion in a pas. The fête, however, proved a failure. And no wonder ! Admission to the feast costs just twopence-halfpenny, and whilst each man's share is but a thin slice of roast veal, some salad, cheese, half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, and a small glass of brandy, he is further compelled to bring to the banquet his own bread and knife and fork! The elements of success are absent in such melancholy fare. If this be the feast of labour, we must not be surprised at the sanguinary aspect of its hideous fast that immediately followed it. On the morning of the 22nd of June a decree is published. The unwelcome truth is told, because it can no longer be kept back. Industry cannot support idleness. Mendicancy is social death. Man is born to labour, and no human arrangements can contravene the laws of God. Labour, hitherto pampered by the state, takes alarm, and, well supported, descends into the streets. The clouds never looked so black before, and you perceive that the tragic epoch of this history has come. The dreadful battle, -long postponed—has finally to be fought-foot to foot, and hand to hand; poverty against wealth, despair against content, the reckless spirit of plunder against the tremulous though tenacious spirit of possession. In truth, the fighting is worthy of the
BLOODY CLOSE OF TABLEAU THE FOURTH.
desperate struggle, and denotes the mighty interests bound up in it. There is now no childish and unmeaning invasion of the Hall of Assembly. Poverty knows how much depends upon the conflict, and boldly prepares for victory or death. It raises its barricades, it deliberately provides the arms and ammunition, it makes its plans of attack and defence, and ventures everything, life, limb, wife, and children in the terrible war for social supremacy. The storm breaks on June 23. It is still violent on the 24th. On Sunday the 25th it has reached its climax; on the 26th there is still work to be done, but on that day all is over. Blood of innocent men has been shed; the lives of the unoffending have been sacrificed ; but the interests of society have been vindicated, and the consequences of a huge falsehood palmed upon a credulous people have been once for all brought to naked light. Paris, France, Europe, and civilisation are rescued ; but the lightning that purified the atmosphere has also knocked down the very props upon which the great Republic rested. The self-elected Provisional Government of February has vanished. Liberty with a shriek has quitted the foul soil stained with the blood of fellow citizens. There is a grand moral lesson in Act 4 of our revolutionary drama, and we are sensible of instruction long after the scene closes upon the bloody and humiliating spectacle.
Act 5 begins with a general hornpipe in fetters. The people of Paris are in ecstacies, because they have proclaimed a dictator, established martial law, and see their beautiful city in a state of siege. They could not tolerate the mild yoke of constitutional monarchy; they have lived to ascertain the comforts of unmitigated despotism. On the 27th of June there is but one faith in France, and Cavaignac is its prophet. A Parisian prophet keeps fresh for about six months. Lamartine extinguished Louis Philippe, Cavaignac puts out Lamartine, and, before the play gets very far forward, somebody else no doubt will return the favour to Cavaignac. At the commencement of Act 3 we were shocked to see a Prime Minister doing duty like private Buggins in Birdcage Walk. Act 5 presents us with a demigod, rejected, despised, and forgotten by creatures who were his sworn disciples and worshippers two months before. Don't hiss, we repeat, and say the play 's unnatural ! We have not undertaken to show you Racine and the unities; but the plot is orthodox and natural enough for all that. At this juncture liberty of person in the city may be pronounced perfect. Bayonets bristle in the air, the streets form an encampment, presses inimical to the government are broken up, and the editors of opposition journals are thrown into prison without benefit of habeas corpus. It is a singular fact which philosophers have yet to explain, that every living soul in Paris felt more at his ease, more thoroughly assured of his freedom, and infinitely happier in his mind, whilst submitting to downright slavery, than ever he had been in the heyday of his unquestioned independence. We shall do well to remember the fact when we weep for the blacks. Paris, then, being free to deliberate beyond all doubt, the National Assembly proceeds to arrange the details of the republican constitution. “In the presence of God” (and surrounded by troops) “the Assembly
LA FÊTE DE LA CONSTITUTION.
proclaims and decrees " the national laws, and once more dissolves. The frequent repetition of this incident is faulty in a work of art, but we presume it is unavoidable. The new parliament offers some singular features. Marshal Soult—he who fought Wellington -is a candidate at St. Amas, but is beaten by a journeyman cobbler ; Lamartine is considered without a claim to the suffrages of any portion of the people; whilst the Regent-street special constable, of whom we had an inkling in an earlier act, is returned for five departments. Positively every act of this wonderful drama is a play in itself. There is no limit to invention—no end to surprise. It is decreed by the constitution, amongst other matters, that France should be governed by a President, chosen, like the members, by universal suffrage. A sort of ballet takes place, called La Féte de la Constitution, in which the Statue of the Republic, holding the Constitution in her hand, performs a principal part, and then no time is lost in putting a capital to the shaft of the constitutional column.
We were not wrong just now in warning Cavaignac of his insecurity. He was applauded to the skies in June, adored in July; towards the end of November he sufficiently declined to render a vote of confidence, passed by the Assembly, an agreeable acquisition; and in December he puts up for the Presidency to be signally defeated—and by whom? Behold him as he comes upon the stage ; notice the ingenious tableau as the whole Assembly rises to welcome the tribune, in the person of their constitutional head, -the special constable of Regentstreet!
Our play is not yet over, but we drop the curtain