페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

shabby affair. The newspapers say that it is d'un style sévère, which in plain French means mesquin. It is not unlike the interior of a gigantic omnibus, à stalles, of nine hundred places, rising in tiers one above another, with a raised platform at one end for the conductor or president. Whilst I was there, Lamartine came in to engage his stall, and I had for the first time, a good look at him. He appears completely worn out, and desperately seedy. No wonder, poor man! for he has been very hard-worked the last two months, with the chance, every day, of having his throat cut, or of being strung up to the Lanterne. We are to be treated to a grand fête next Wednesday: one feature in the programme is a dinner of ten thousand covers, in the Champ de Mars. I have promised

an account of it, and I daresay she will send you all the particulars; besides, you will no doubt have a description of it in

the papers.

Paris, May 9th, 1848. I have had no subject of particular interest on which to write, since my last letter reached you. The newspapers have given you a full account of the meeting of the National Assembly, and an analysis of the speeches delivered by the various members of the Provisional Government, on the occasion of the surrender of their dictatorship into the hands of the people's representatives. They are long, inflated, here apologetic, there self-laudatory, and with the single exception of Lamartine's résumé of the foreign relations of the country, utterly unsatisfactory, even in the few cases where they are not decidedly and manifestly false. The Chamber, however, consulting convenience rather than conscience, have solemnly pronounced, that the Provisional Government have deserved well of their country :” and by this solemn fiction, Ledru-Rollin and Louis Blanc are, by anticipation, made “white as wool,” freed from all stains, past, present, and to come, were they “red as blood,” or black as starvation, which may result from the senseless theories of the one, or the capricious despotism of the other.

Whilst matters are proceeding thus in the National Assembly, there are nightly meetings of other assemblies, where a very different judgment is passed. Amongst the chief of these is Blanqui's club, at which I assisted yesterday. Here, Blanqui, with the cold, scientific experience of a dissecting surgeon, unrolls all the bandages which cover the sores and gangrenes which are eating into the living flesh of the working classes, probes them to the very bone, and tells his audience that, in the present state of society, they are beyond cure, scarcely susceptible of mitigation. There, Barbès, assuming as his axiom the rights of man laid down by Robespierre, argues that they must be re-conquered at any cost; that civil war itself is not too dear a stake to risk for such a prize. Between the two there exists an unconscious sympathy, or, more probably, an explicit understanding. At any rate, they are connected by a

train which the slightest spark may fire ; and in the explosion which must ensue, all the misery and degradation of which Blanqui is the expositor, will find vent in the violence and revenge of which Barbès is the avowed organ. With what result ?—God only knows; no miin can tell! So much, however, is certain—that every additional day of stagnation in trade will bring fresh recruits to the standard of anarchy, and render the "culbute généralemore easy of completion. Dieu protège la France ! when, in the coming winter, cold, hunger, and want of employment, will fill up its cup of misery to overflowing!

Perhaps you may be curious to hear some more particular account of Blanqui and his club. Their place of meeting is the concert-room of the Conservatoire, of which they took possession at the time of the revolution. The members of the club occupy the pit; the president and bureau are seated at a table near the front of the stage, and between this table and the place where the foot-lights should be, the orators take their stand to address the meeting. The gallery-stalls and boxes are open to the public on payment of a small entrance fee. I paid a franc for my ticket, which I am to exchange to-day for a card, which will entitle me to assist at the sittings during a month.

The proceedings opened with two speeches in allusion to some doctrine which had been mooted on the previous evening.

The object of the orators was to impress upon the minds of the citizens in the pit, that the presentation of petitions to the National Assembly was in no way derogatory to the sovereignty of the people. Then followed two distinct reports of the day's sitting at the Assembly, by delegates who had been commissioned for that purpose. These were listened to with intense disgust and indignation. Next Blanqui rose, but he had hardly pronounced the word “ Citoyens !

when a voice from the boxes shouted, " Je démande la parole," and a farceur descended to the stage, amidst curiosity and laughter, accompanied by cries from the pit of " Take care he does not run away.” This he had not the slightest intention of doing, and he gave us a humorous account, in the style of Hoffman or Hyacinthe, of the infamous treatment which industry is experiencing at the hands of capital in some of the western departments. The scene was evidently prepared beforehand, as this was exactly the text upon which Blanqui purposed to hold forth. When he had finished, and the general merriment had subsided, Blanqui resumed. I will endeavour to give you a slight summary of his address.' He spoke for a full hour; but as he twisted and turned his arguments into every possible shape and position, I think I may give the substance-matter of his discourse in a shorter compass. He began thus: “Citizens! you have just listened to a very light-hearted account of a matter which makes all our hearts very heavy. It is sadly out of character to treat so ominous a subject with levity. And yet I can hardly blame the citizen who has done so, since he has, for a moment, cheated you into forgetfulness of the weight of wretchedness with which you are so

overladen by social tyranny. You have also heard the report of this day's sitting in the National Assembly. It is still the same story, so often told by every government under which the people have groaned and suffered for centuries past. All their sounding phrases and long-winded paragraphs are to us but as the mountainbrook, swollen by rain and storns to the dimensions of a torrent. They obstruct our path for a moment; but the next, they shrink to their usual insignificant proportions, and we cross them dry.shod, to pursue our appointed course. The real subject of interest to us is the relation of labour to capital. This is the momentous problem upon which depends, not the welfare only, but the very existence of ourselves, our wives, our children, and of the generations yet un. born. What is our position in the present social crisis ? We are deprived of the exercise of that industry on which our very animal subsistence hangs And why is this? Because capital keeps aloof, and refuses succour to industry and nourishment to labour. It keeps aloof from timidity, says one ; from greediness and hope of greater gain, says another; from want of sympathy with the republic, and hatred of equality, says a third; from the hope of reducing labour to submission to its tyranny, says a fourth ; and they all, in their several proportions, speak truly. Where, then, are we to find the remedy? I own, in sadness of heart, that I cannot point it out. There is but one, and that, from the nature of the case, will not be applied spontaneously. It is this: devotion on the part of capital. You are in the position of a beseiged army, from whom the enemy has cut off all communication, all means of subsistence. Capital has but to draw tight its purse strings, and you are forced, by starvation, to capitulate. You have no tangible enemy, and yet you mus: succumb to an invisible but invincible force. You are masters of the city; you may sally out and sweep the streets; yet, when you return home, there is no bread on your shelf, there is no work in your shop. You may give up the town to pillage, yet the relief would be but momentary; for pillage and waste go hand in hand. and 100,000 francs of plunder are not of equal value to 10,000 francs of the wages of honest labour. What, then, is to be done? This should be your thought by day, and your dream by night. For myself, I am at sea, without compass or pole-star, and the only prospect before me is misery, degradation, starvation, and shipwreck.”

And so he dismissed them. He spoke throughout in a tone of sad conviction and heartfelt sympathy. He may be true or he may

be false. No man can judge him; but his influence must be great, must every day become greater, and it cannot, I fear, turn to good.

*

Paris, May 13th, 1848. The course of affairs in Paris is taking a peaceable turn. The new ministry, le comble de l'absurdité, instead of causing an explosion of indignant reproof, has been received with

peals of irrepressible merriment. As I said in one of my former letters) of the Provisional Government, so I may now repeat of the Republic itself

, that, impervious to the artillery of Reason, it will be stung to death by the archery of Ridicule. I heard a report yesterday, through the Countess M. A. G., that the Carlists, convinced of the impossibility of success for their party, have thrown up the cards, and are quite ready, if not to second, at any rate to acquiesce in, a reactionary movement in favour of the regency. There is a long list of names given, but which, for obvious reasons, I abstain from quoting, as the leaders and subalterns of the reactionary force. It embraces many of the most able men in France, and the most experienced, whether in the civil or military departments of governinent. And liere we find the answer to the riddle which has puzzled so many of the (self-styled) logical heads in this country :Why the Republic, which has succeeded so well in the United States, should be a failure in France ? The reason is simply this, that in America all the moral force and all the talents were on the side of the republicans ; whilst in France, the same influence and the same capacities are monopolised by the partisans of monarchy. They may be forced to bend to the storm as it rushes by, but their heads will rise to the same height as before, so soon as the hurricane

is past.

May 14th.
I had written thus far, when I was interrupted by a tumult in the
Boulevard, and loud and repeated shouts of Vive la Pologne. I threw
aside

my paper, and, putting on my coat, rushed out to see what was going on. It was a demonstration in favour of Polish nationality, and all the clubs had furnished their quota, to swell the crowd wbich was to march in procession to the Chamber of Deputies, and demand that some decisive steps should be taken in aid of their bro. thers in Poland. They went no further than the Place de la Concorde in a body, but their delegates proceeded to the hall of the Assembly, where they were received by Mons. Vavin, to whom they delivered their petition on behalf of the suffering patriots in Poland. Mons. Vavin having communicated all the circumstances connected with the manifestation to the Assembly, went out, accompanied by the delegates, to address the multitude. After informing them that their petition had been received, he told them that the sentiments it expressed had been his own for many years, and invited the crowd to disperse quietly, which they accordingly did. There was a strong party of National Guards on the bridge, with a company under arms in the president's garden; on the esplanade of the Invalides there were considerable numbers of the Garde Mobile, as also in each of the streets leading to the Chamber.

To-morrow, M. Wolowsky, according to notice given, is to demand explanations from the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the subject of Poland; and M. de Montalambert has also given notice to the same effect. It will be a critical moment for France, and for

[ocr errors]

all Europe. The question is, above all others, popular; perhaps the only one in which all shades of opinion are united. There are, however, two parties upon the mode in which it should be carried out. The one desirous to secure the development of French ideas, both at home and abroad, by peace, moderation, and the example of good government in the republican form; the other, burning to carry everything before them at the point of the bayonet. The former, comprising all the moderate men, appeals to the reason of France ; the latter, recruited from amongst all the reckless and discontented classes, founds its hopes upon her passions and her vanity. Unfortunately, the personal interests of the present government are enlisted on this side." Hear wbat Girardin says on this subject.

The government at its wits’ end, not knowing by what means to re-animate credit by confidence, or trade by credit, would stifle in war the secret of its criminal incapacity.”

Would change the character of the revolution of February ; -would make it warlike and political, instead of social and pacific."

People! what did they tell you? They told you that the working man's lot was hard, and must be ameliorated; that mortality spared the rich, to fatten on the poor. They were indignant at the hard life you led.”

• What are they doing? What is their plan ?" “ Their plan is to have you killed.”

“ Do not believe that it is for the sake of Poland, or of Italy, two names with which they abuse your generosity.”

It is to get rid of you-you are an embarrassment to them. It is to escape from the responsibility of their incapacity; it is to efface all traces of their wasteful expenditure ; it is to find a pretext for suspending all public rights, beginning with the most important, the liberty of the press :- In a word, it is to have a responsible editor on whom to throw the onus of all the disasters which they have not known how to parry, and which they have aggravated.”

They will charge everything to the account of war.” And the unreflecting multitude will repeat: Yes, it is all the fault of war.”

“ They know this, and they reckon upon it."

*

*

Paris, May 16th, 1848. * Yesterday, as I anticipated, was a day of fearful crisis for France, and for the whole world. At ll o'clock, detachments from the Ateliers Nationaux, and from all the Paris clubs, accompanied by the delegates of the discontented and factious parties in the de. partments, commenced their march from the Place de la Bastille, to impose the law of their will upon the National Assembly. Each section was preceded by its banner, and so many of the bands carried branches of trees in their hands, that one was forcibly impressed with the ill-omened idea, that the Birnam wood of the Faubourg St.

« 이전계속 »