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certain extent, an ungracious necessity of overwhelmed me with questions. His obsocial order. Modern detectives, especially ject was to sift out my present mode of existin this country, only too often fail to follow ence, what papers I had about me, &c. His up a great crime as the interests of the curiosity appeared insatiable; and in order to common safety demand; but that the detec- satisfy it, I contrived, either by a positive tive system has become, as it were, a science falsehood or an equivocation, to lead him in its
way is a fact pregnant with many sug- to suppose me a brother thief. At last, as gestions. The French police have long if he had guessed my meaning, he exbeen famous for their skill in hunting down claimedreal or supposed offenders against the law, “Come, do not beat about the bush any and to our Continental neighbours must longer. I see how it is. I know you are a be accorded the ambiguous distinction of prig.' having inaugurated as a professed art the "I feigned not to understand the words; work of the detective. The organization of he repeated them; and I, affecting to take the system may be said to date from the offence, assured him that he was greatly year 1810, and is due mainly to Vidocq, a mistaken, and that if he indulged in similar galley slave, who offered to act as a spy jokes I should be compelled to withdraw upon his comrades, gain their confidence, from his company. Joubert was silenced, and then betray them to the authorities. and nothing further was said till the next
Some robbers having been arrested by his day at ten o'clock, when Gueuvive came to means, he was set at liberty on condition awaken us. that he should act as denouncer, and supply “It was agreed that we should go and the Prefecture with a settled minimum of dine at La Glacière. On the road, Gueuvive criminals, under penalty of being sent back took me aside, and said, to the galleys; and as he had a salary of “ Hark ye! I see you are a good fellow, four pounds a-month, and a premium for and I am willing to do you a good service each arrest, it may be imagined that he took if I can. Do not be so reserved, then, but care that the number should not fall short. tell me who and what you are.'
One of his first victims was a leather- "Some hint I had purposely thrown out dresser. The poor tradesman had once having induced him to believe that I had given him shelter. As a return for his escaped from the Bagne at Toulon, he rekindness and hospitality, Vidocq laid an in-commended me to observe a cautious pruformation against him, and charged him as dence with my companions. a coiner. Upon the evidence which Vidocq, “For though they are the best creatures in however villainous a manner, managed living,' said he, 'yet they are fond of chatterto bring together against his old friend, ing.' the leather-seller, together with one of his "Oh,' replied I, 'I shall keep a sharp friends, a surgeon, was condemned and look-out, I promise you; besides, Paris will executed.
never do for me. I must be off. There are too This French Jonathan Wild has given, in many sneaking informers about for me to be an autobiography of himself, which enjoys safe in it.'” in its own line an almost European reputa- This last sentence is exceedingly rich, but tion, a lengthened and minute account of the continuation is equally suggestive. the endless shifts and stratagems resorted “That's true,' added he; but if you can to by himself in the work of detection, for keep Vidocq from guessing at your business, which he was so peculiarly fitted.
you are safe enough with me, who can smell His favourite scheme was to mix himself those beggars as easily as a crow scents up with thieves and criminals as one of powder.' themselves. Vidocq was anxious to arrest “Well,' said I, 'I cannot boast of so a well-known chief of the thieving order, much penetration; yet I think, too, that named Gueuvive. This man had for his from the frequent description I have heard trusty coadjutor a certain Joubert, into of this Vidocq, his features are so well enwhose good graces Vidocq managed to graved in my recollection, that I should work himself.
pretty soon recognize him if I came unex“We conversed together for some time,” pectedly in his way.' says the famous detective in his autobio- "God bless you!' cried he, 'it is easy to graphy, “and before we fell asleep, Joubert | perceive you are a stranger to the vagabond.
Just imagine, now, that he is never to be crime, we are not forced to admire the duseen twice in the same dress; that he is in bious qualities of head and heart almost inthe morning, perhaps, just such another look- dispensable as the attributes of the informer. ing person; well, the next hour so altered Yet even Vidocq, the father of the dethat his own brother could not recognize tective system, has had his apologists. him; and by the evening, I defy any man Eugene François Vidocq-as his biograto remember ever having seen him before.'” phers love to call him—was a native of
And, proceeds the poor thief, with charm- Arras, and was born in July, 1775, in a ing confidence
house adjoining that in which Robespierre "Only yesterday, I met him disguised in was born. His father kept a baker's shop a manner that would have deceived any in the lowest street in the town, and in this eye but mine; but he must be a deep hand continental St. Giles's the youthful Vidocq if he gets over me. I know these sneaks had full play for all the bad qualities which at the first glance, and if my friends were as seem to have been inherent-or, at least, knowing as myself, his business would have very readily implanted-in him. been done long ago.'
We find him, as a mere child, robbing “Nonsense, cried I, everybody says first the till at a neighbouring fencing-room, the same thing of him; and yet, you see, and next his father's—his elder brother havthere is no getting rid of him.'
ing been previously sent about his business “You are right,' replied he; “but to for similar weaknesses. Antecedents such as prove that I can act as well as talk, if you these could only lead to one sort of career. will lend me a helping hand, this very even- He fled the paternal roof, and joined a band ing we will waylay him at his door, and I of the most reckless vagabonds to be found warrant we'll settle the job so as to keep in any civilized country. He was everything him from giving any of us further uneasi- by turns, and nothing long. In prison and ness.”
out again, with the most certain regularity; The helping hand was lent; but of course until, being treated to a longer spell of no Vidocq issued from the house. As a “durance vile” than was to his taste, he assalve to his disappointment, Gueuvive next sumed the role of the penitent. He was disinvited his new ally to join in a projected gusted with crime and criminals, and henceplan.
forth his life should be devoted to the noble “I agreed to join the party," says Vidocq, mission of benefiting society by unearthing “but declared that I neither could nor the vermin that preyed upon its good things. would venture out in the night without first Under the weight of these convictions, he going home for the necessary papers which offered his services to the police as an agent would save me in case of our scheme failing, Lor, as we should say in England, common and our getting into the hands of the police.” informer; and we have seen how admirably
The rest may be easily imagined. The he went to work in his new vocation. robbery takes place. The burglars are at But the remarkable part is the refreshing home seated round a lamp to examine and air of injured self-innocence with which he divide their booty, when suddenly a loud relates his own exploits. knocking is heard at the door.
His success was so great that he was made, “Constantin then, by a sign commanding in 1810, chief of the Police de Sureté, under silence, said
Delavau and Franchet. He had under him ««'Tis the police, I am sure of it.' a dozen agents of his own stamp, the num
“ Amidst the confusion occasioned by ber being afterwards increased to twentythese words, and the increased knocking at one. Vidocq had, moreover, secret funds the gate, I contrived unobserved to crawl at his disposal, for which he was not required under a bed, where I had scarcely concealed to account. myself when the door was burst open, and a In 1827, he retired with a fortune; but swarm of inspectors and other officers of the his active mind still wanted some employpolice entered the room."
ment. He built, therefore, a paper manuStories such as these, with which the au- factory at St. Mandé, about two leagues tobiography of Vidocq abounds, prove him from Paris; and here, it is said, he employed to have had all the cunning and duplicity as his workpeople a number of ex-convicts necessary for success as a first-class detec- on the pious but economical principle of tive; but, while we cannot sympathize with giving work to people who might find their
old reputations somewhat a bar to progress decided that they should be retained as inwith more fastidious employers.
dicators"-(in plain English, police spies) In 1832, however, he resumed his old “have a room in town at which to meet, and office. In a book published a few years receive—in addition to a salary of fifty francs ago, entitled “Autobiography of a French a-month-a reward for every arrest effected Detective, from 1815 to 1858, by M. Canler, through their exertions. Only fourteen acAncien Chef du Service de Sureté,” the re- cepted this offer." sult of Vidocq's return to his former func- As a rider to this brief sketch of Vidocq's tions is thus stated in the words of the exploits as a detective, we append the folEnglish translator; and with this we leave lowing from M. Canler's book, to show the M. Vidocq to later historians:
manner in which the detective system, thus "From the moment that Vidocq resumed so skilfully organized by Vidocq, was afterhis duties, the judges were continually an- wards turned to later purposes. noyed by the objections of the prisoners to M. Canler joined the force shortly after the evidence of the detectives, and such re- the assassination of the Duc de Berry, when criminations produced the worst effects upon political agitation was at its height—the sothe spectators. In fact, the depositions of ciety called the “Congregation ” employing the agents called as witnesses were constantly every effort to induce Louis XVIII. to reinterrupted by the prisoners, who accused voké the Charter, and re-establish an absothem of being their old comrades at the lute Government. This society worked, it hulks, or even accomplices in the robbery seems, by means of that branch of the to which they bore witness. In spite of police called "provocative agents,” whose these recriminations and this scandal, how-office it was to lead the unwary to commit ever, matters went on the same way, until themselves to words and acts which might extraneous circumstances put an end to this be construed into treason. Nor did their police system, which was universally disap- zeal end there. They fabricated evidence proved. The revolution of 1830 produced without scruple, when convenient, as the freedom of the press, and the newspapers following instance, cited by M. Canler, freely made use of it by inserting caricatures shows. He remarks that such a system in which Vidocq was represented side by could only excite the evil passions of certain side with an august personage. Insulted agents, for there was but one way of attractby these odious comparisons, for which the ing the notice of the superior officers-disofficial position of the ex-convict furnished a covering a conspiracy or a plot; or if, after pretext, the Minister of the Interior ordered any lengthened search, nothing were disthe Prefect of Police to dissolve the detec-covered, cleverly forming some infamous tive brigade, and recompose it, on an en- machination, inculpating in some pretended tirely new basis, of men bearing an irre-plot an honest father of a family, who had proachable character.
never dreamed of conspiring, and denounc“ This took place on November 15, 1832, ing him to the police. It was on this latter and the head-quarters of the new force were method that one B-, a peace-officer atestablished at No. 5, Rue de Jerusalem. tached to M. Delavau, decided. This man
“ The new detective brigade consisted of was endowed with remarkable energy. one chief, one principal inspector, four ser- As cunning as he was enterprising, he mageants, twenty inspectors, and five clerks; naged to profit by everything; and as he forming a total of thirty-one members. M. was devoured by an inordinate ambition, he Allard was appointed head of the depart- sought every opportunity to prove his value. ment, and myself principal inspector; and IOne morning he sent for an agent of the was ordered to pick up agents among the name of D- a tailor by trade, and exsergens de ville, and other persons uncon- Garde Royal, who wore the decoration of nected with the service. This measure was the Legion of Honour. healthy; but at the same time an evil result "My good fellow," he said to him, so might be apprehended. Vidocq's agents, soon as they were alone, "they say at the suddenly deprived of their means of live Prefecture that we are doing nothing. It is lihood, might return to their first mode of true that for some time past no important life-namely, robbery; and these half-con-operation has been effected, and so it is inverted men must be prevented at any price dispensable that we should restore ourselves from relapsing into crime. It was, therefore, in the opinion of the authorities, by proving
what we are capable of. I thought of you, blue and red ribbon, and they thus became
I for I knew your skill and intelligence; and tricolour. I am persuaded that if I entrust the affair The next morning he went to M. BM's to you, you will bring it to a successful end." office with the braces. A warrant was issued,
Here D-grinned, and made a polite and M. Burth's shop and house were searched. bow.
This search, of course, led to no discovery; “To-morrow morning,” the head officer but for all that the tradesman was arrested, continued, "you will go to some wholesale and released a few days afterwards for want
а dealer in the Rue St. Denis—being careful of evidence. Some time later, M. Burth to select one well known for his liberal went to the Théâtre Français, where, to his opinions—and order several dozen pairs of surprise, he saw the braces purchaser talktricolour braces. This can easily be passed ing with one of the officials; and D--, on off as a charming little conspiracy, for instead seeing him, in his turn disappeared. The of receiving the braces, we will simply have tradesman, who had a secret grudge against them seized."
the man who had tricked him, and nearly Provided with these instructions, D—- got him into an awkward scrape, inquired strolled about the Rue St. Denis with his who he was, and ascertained that he was hands in his pockets, seeking, among all the D-, the police agent. The next day he
, names above the shop fronts, the one which sent in a complaint, and the public prosehe had better select. The next morning he cutor commenced an inquiry, which led to called upon M. Burth, a manufacturer of no result, as it could not be expected that a braces, who, as he was informed, was a
a police agent would be convicted. In order Liberal.
to satisfy public opinion, which was aroused “I am, sir,” he said to him, “shipping by this trick, the infamy of which the papers agent to several American republics, which described in the fullest manner, Dall require, just at present, tricolour braces." officially discharged, but a short time later
“I sincerely regret,” the tradesman re- restored; and M. Burth was again cheated, plied, “that I cannot supply you. I do not for while he was congratulating himself on sell tricolour braces, and cannot and dare having punished the scoundrelly provoker, not take any such order. I have braces the ex-tailor did not even lose a single day's here of all sorts and sizes; if they suit you, pay. I shall be happy to make a bargain with Such unpleasant revelations as these, with you.”
which M. Canler's book abounded, were D declined, and went with hang-dog naturally distasteful to the late Emperor's look to inform his superior officer of his ill-Government, and the “Autobiography” was
soon suppressed; but the proofs remain that "My good fellow," the latter said, impa- the detective system is as dangerous to the tiently, “I really feel sorry for you; for I en- common safety when used by an arbitrary trusted you with a superb affair, and you Government as a mere political engine, have spoiled it. Well, you must get out of as it is valuable when restricted, as in this the scrape as best you can; for I spoke country, to its proper purpose-namely, that about the matter this very morning, and it of detecting offenders against the obvious must succeed, no matter how."
laws of all civilized society. D—- promised to carry the splendid Before leaving M. Canler's book, we may affair out, and for this purpose returned to remark that his revelations are often as disBurth.
creditable to Republican government as to “I have reflected, sir,” he said to him; more despotic Imperialism. There are some "and as it is impossible for you to execute curious statements, for instance, with regard my order, I shall probably find the same to the Revolution of 1848. The following difficulties elsewhere. I have therefore made will show the modus operandi pursued in buyup my mind to do the best I can with the ing a democrat:braces which you have to sell.”
“Ledru Rollin, the Minister of the InThen he selected and bought several terior, who trembled at Blanqui, expressed dozen pairs of perfectly white braces, which to M. Carlier, at that time head of the police all bore the manufacturer's trademark. to the Ministry of the Interior, his regret that After which he went home, and spent the Caussidière had not effected his arrest. rest of the night in edging these braces with “If you are anxious about it,' said M.