BARROT'S VERSION OF THE 24TH OF FEBRUARY.
(_10 October 1850._)
"I believe that M. Mole only refused the Ministry after the firing had commenced on the Boulevard. Thiers told me that he had been sent for at one in the morning; that he had asked the King to appoint me as the necessary man; that the King had at first resisted and then yielded; and that at last he had adjourned our meeting to nine o'clock in the morning at the Palace.
"At five o'clock Thiers came to my house to awake me; we talked; he went home, and I called for him at eight. I found him quietly shaving. It is a great pity that the King and M. Thiers thus wasted the time that elapsed between one and eight o'clock. When he had finished shaving, we went to the Chateau; the population already was greatly excited; barricades were being built, and even a few shots had already been fired from houses near the Tuileries. However, we found the King still very calm and retaining his usual manner. He addressed me with the commonplaces which you can imagine for yourself. At that hour, Bugeaud was still general-in-chief. I strongly persuaded Thiers not to take office under the colour of that name, and at least to modify it by giving the command of the National Guard to Lamoriciere, who was there.
Thiers accepted this arrangement, which was agreed to by the King and Bugeaud himself.
"I next proposed to the King that he should dissolve the Chamber of Deputies. 'Never, never!' he said; he lost his temper and left the room, slamming the door in the faces of Thiers and me. It was quite clear that he only consented to give us office in order to save the first moment, and that he intended, after compromising us with the people, to throw us over with the assistance of Parliament. Of course, at any ordinary time, I should at once have withdrawn; but the gravity of the situation made me stay, and I proposed to present myself to the people, myself to apprise them of the formation of the new Cabinet, and to calm them. In the impossibility of our having anything printed and posted up in time, I looked upon myself as a walking placard. I must do Thiers the justice to say that he wished to accompany me, and that it was I who refused, as I dreaded the bad impression his presence might make.
"I therefore set out; I went up to each barricade unarmed; the muskets were lowered, the barricades opened; there were cries of 'Reform for ever! long live Barrot!' We thus went to the Porte Saint-Denis, where we found a barricade two stories high and defended by men who made no sign of concurrence in my words and betrayed no intention of allowing us to pass the barricade. We were therefore compelled to retrace our steps. On returning, I found the people more excited than when I had come; nevertheless, I heard not a single seditious cry, nor anything that announced an immediate revolution. The only word that I heard of grave import was from etienne Arago. He came up to me and said, 'If the King does not abdicate, we shall have a revolution before eight o'clock to-night.' I thus came to the Place Vendome; thousands of men followed me, crying, 'To the Tuileries! to the Tuileries!' I reflected what was the best thing to do. To go to the Tuileries at the head of that multitude was to make myself the absolute master of the situation, but by means of an act which might have seemed violent and revolutionary.
Had I known what was happening at the moment in the Tuileries, I should not have hesitated; but as yet I felt no anxiety. The attitude of the people did not yet seem decided. I knew that all the troops were falling back upon the Chateau; that the Government was there, and the generals; I could not therefore imagine the panic which, shortly afterwards, placed it in the hands of the mob. I turned to the right and returned home to take a moment's rest; I had not eaten anything yet and was utterly exhausted. After a few minutes, Malleville sent word from the Ministry of the Interior that it was urgent that I should come and sign the telegrams to the departments. I went in my carriage, and was cheered by the people; from there, I set out to walk to the Palace. I was still ignorant of all that had happened. When I reached the quay, opposite the garden, I saw a regiment of Dragoons returning to barracks; the colonel said to me, 'The King has abdicated; all the troops are withdrawing.' I hurried; when I reached the wicket-gates, I had great difficulty in penetrating to the court-yard, as the troops were crowding out through every opening. At last I reached the yard, which I found almost empty; the Duc de Nemours was there; I entreated him to tell me where the Duchesse d'Orleans was; he replied that he did not know, but that he believed that at that moment she was in the pavilion at the water-side.
I hastened there; I was told that the Duchess was not there. I forced the door and went through the rooms, which were, in fact, empty. I left the Tuileries, recommending Havin, whom I met, not to bring the Duchess, if he found her, to the Chamber, with which there was nothing to be done. My intention had been, if I had found the Duchess and her son, to put them on horseback and throw myself with them among the people: I had even had the horses got ready.
"Not finding the Princess, I returned to the Ministry of the Interior; I met you on the road, you know what happened there. I was sent for in haste to go to the Chamber. I had scarcely arrived when the leaders of the Extreme Left surrounded me and dragged me almost by main force to the first office; there, they begged me to propose to the Assembly the nomination of a Provisional Government, of which I was to be a member. I sent them about their business, and returned to the Chamber. You know the rest."
SOME INCIDENTS OF THE 24TH OF FEBRUARY 1848.
_M. Dufaure's efforts to prevent the Revolution of February--Responsibility of M. Thiers, which renders them futile._
To-day (19 October 1850), Rivet recalled and fixed with me the circumstances of an incident well worth remembering.
In the course of the week preceding that in which the Monarchy was overthrown, a certain number of Conservative deputies began to feel an anxiety which was not shared by the Ministers and their colleagues. They thought that it was more advisable to overthrow the Cabinet, provided that this could be done without violence, than to risk the adventure of the banquets. One of them, M. Sallandrouze, made the following proposal to M. Billault (the banquet was to take place on Tuesday the 22nd) that on the 21st M. Dufaure and his friends should move an urgent order of the day, drawn up in consultation with Sallandrouze and those in whose name he spoke, some forty in number. The order of the day should be voted by them on condition that, on its side, the Opposition should give up the banquet and restrain the people.
On Sunday, the 20th of February, we met at Rivet's to discuss this proposal. There were present, as far as I am able to remember, Dufaure, Billault, Lanjuinais, Corcelles, Ferdinand Barrot, Talabot, Rivet, and myself.
Sallandrouze's proposal was explained to us by Billault; we accepted it at once, and drafted an order of the day in consequence. I myself drafted it, and this draft, with some modifications, was accepted by my friends. The terms in which it was couched (I no longer remember them) were very moderate, but the adoption of this order of the day would inevitably entail the resignation of the Cabinet.
There remained to be fulfilled the condition of the vote of the Conservatives, the withdrawal of the banquet. We had had nothing to do with this measure, and consequently we were not able to prevent it. It was agreed that one of us should at once go in search of Duvergier de Hauranne and Barrot, and propose that they should act according to the condition demanded. Rivet was selected for this negociation, and we adjourned our meeting till the evening to know how he had succeeded.
In the evening he came and reported to us as follows:
Barrot had eagerly entered into the opening offered him; he effusively seized Rivet's hands, and declared that he was prepared to do all that he was asked in this sense; he seemed relieved of a great weight on beholding the possibility of escaping from the responsibility of the banquet. But he added that he was not engaged in this enterprise alone, and that he must come to an understanding with his friends, without whom he could do nothing. How well we knew it!
Rivet went on to Duvergier's, and was told that he was at the Conservatoire of Music, but that he would return home before dinner.
Rivet waited. Duvergier returned. Rivet told him of the proposal of the Conservatives and of our order of the day. Duvergier received this communication somewhat disdainfully; they had gone too far, he said, to draw back; the Conservatives had repented too late; he, Duvergier, and his friends could not, without losing their popularity and perhaps all their influence with the masses, undertake to make the latter give up the proposed demonstration. "However," he added, "I am only giving you my first and personal impression; but I am going to dine with Thiers, and I will send you a note this evening to let you know our final decision."
This note came while we were there; it said briefly that the opinion expressed by Duvergier before dinner was also that of Thiers, and that the idea which we had suggested must be abandoned. We broke up at once: the die was cast!
I have no doubt that, among the reasons for Thiers' and Duvergier's refusal, the first place must be given to this, which was not expressed: that if the Ministry fell quietly, by the combined effect of a part of the Conservatives and ourselves, and upon an order of the day presented by us, we should come into power, and not those who had built up all this great machinery of the banquets in order to attain it.
_Dufaure's conduct on the 24th of February 1848._
Rivet told me to-day (19 October 1850) that he had never talked with Dufaure of what happened to him on the 24th of February; but that he had gathered the following from conversation with members of his family or of his immediate surroundings:
On the 23rd of February, at about a quarter past six, M. Mole, after concerting with M. de Montalivet, sent to beg Dufaure to come and see him. Dufaure, on his road to M. Mole's, called on Rivet and asked him to wait for him, because he intended to come back to Rivet on leaving M.
Mole. Dufaure did not return, and Rivet did not see him till some time after, but he believed that, on arriving at Mole's, Dufaure had a rather long conversation with him, and then went away, declaring that he did not wish to join the new Cabinet, and that, in his opinion, circumstances called for the men who had brought about the movement, that is to say, Thiers and Barrot.
He returned greatly alarmed at the appearance of Paris, found his wife and mother-in-law still more alarmed, and, at five o'clock in the morning of the 24th, set out with them and took them to Vauves. He himself came back; I saw him at about eight or nine o'clock, and I do not remember that he told me he had taken this morning journey. I was calling on him with Lanjuinais and Corcelles; but we soon separated, arranging to meet at twelve at the Chamber of Deputies. Dufaure did not come; it seems that he started to do so, and in fact arrived at the Palace of the Assembly, which had, doubtless, been just at that moment invaded. What is certain is that he went on and joined his family at Vauves.
MY CONVERSATION WITH BERRYER, ON THE 21ST OF JUNE, AT AN APPOINTMENT WHICH I HAD GIVEN HIM AT MY HOUSE. WE WERE BOTH MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR THE REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
I thus opened the conversation:
"Let us leave appearances on one side, between you and me. You are not making a revisionist but an electoral campaign."
He replied, "That is true; you are quite right"
"Very well," I replied; "we shall see presently if you are well advised.
What I must tell you at once is that I cannot join in a manoeuvre of which the sole object is to save a section only of the moderate party at the next elections, leaving out of the calculation many others, and notably that to which I belong. You must either give the moderate Republicans a valid reason for voting for the Revision, by giving it a republican character, or else expect us to do our best to spike your guns."
He agreed, but raised difficulties that originated with the passions and prejudices of his party. We discussed for some time what was to be done, and at last we came to the policy which he was following.
This is what I said to him on this subject, of which I particularly wish to retain the impression. I said:
"Berryer, you are dragging us all, in spite of ourselves, into a plight for which you will have to bear the sole responsibility, you may be quite sure of that. If the Legitimists had joined those who wished to fight against the President, the fight might still be possible. You have dragged your party, in spite of itself, in an opposite direction; henceforth, we can no longer resist; we cannot remain alone with the Montagnards; we must give way, since you give way; but what will be the consequence? I can see your thought, it is quite clear: you think that circumstances render the President's ascendancy irresistible and the movement which carries the country towards him insurmountable. Unable to fight against the current, you throw yourselves into it, at the risk of making it more violent still, but in the hope that it will land you and your friends in the next Assembly, in addition to various other sections of the party of order, which is not very sympathetic with the President.
There alone you think that you will find a solid resting-place from which to resist him, and you think that, by working his business to-day, you will be able to keep together, in the next Assembly, a group of men able to cope with him. To struggle against the tide which carries him at this moment is to make one's self unpopular and ineligible and to deliver the party to the Socialists and the Bonapartists, neither of whom you wish to see triumph: well and good! Your plan has its plausible side, but it fails in one principal respect, which is this: I could understand you if the election were to take place to-morrow, and if you were at once to gather the fruits of your manoeuvre, as at the December election; but there is nearly a year between now and the next elections. You will not succeed in having them held in the spring, if you succeed in having them held at all. Between now and then, do you imagine that the Bonapartist movement, aided, precipitated by you, will cease? Do you not see that, after asking you for a Revision of the Constitution, public opinion, stirred up by all the agents of the Executive and led by our own weakness, will ask us for something more, and then for something more still, until we are driven openly to favour the illegal re-election of the President and purely and simply to work his business for him? Can you go as far as that? Would your party be willing to, if you are? No! You will therefore come to a moment when you will have to stop short, to stand firm on your ground, to resist the combined effort of the nation and the Executive Power; in other words, on the one hand to become unpopular, and on the other to lose that support, or at least that electoral neutrality, of the Government which you desire. You will have enslaved yourselves, you will have immensely strengthened the forces opposed to you, and that is all. I tell you this: either you will pass completely and for ever under the President's yoke, or you will lose, just when it is ripe for gathering, all the fruit of your manoeuvre, and you will simply have taken upon yourself, in your own eyes and the country's, the responsibility of having contributed to raise this Power, which will perhaps, in spite of the mediocrity of the man, and thanks to the extraordinary power of circumstances, become the heir of the Revolution and our master."
Barrot seemed to me to rest tongue-tied, and the time having come to part, we parted.