Prosperity is the measure or touchstone of virtue, for it is less difficult to bear misfortune than to remain uncorrupted by pleasure. — Tacitus

Louis Philippe - John S. C. Abbott




The Throne Demolished


1848


In the mean time the king formed a new and liberal ministry, consisting of MM. Thiers, Odillon Barrot, and Duvergier de Hauranne, hoping thus to conciliate the populace. The fact was placarded, at six o'clock in the morning, all over Paris. But the act of appointing Marshal Bugeaud to command the troops was a declaration of war—the formation of this ministry was a supplication for peace. The one act was defiance, the other capitulation. Thus, while General Bugeaud was loading his cannon to the muzzle, and marshalling his troops for battle, he received an order, to his inexpressible chagrin, from the new ministry directing him to cease the combat and to withdraw the troops, while at the same time an announcement was made, by a proclamation to the people, that the new ministry had ordered the troops everywhere to cease firing, and to withdraw from the menacing positions which they occupied. The indignant marshal for a time refused to obey the order until it should be ratified by the sign-manual of the king. He soon, however, received a dispatch from the Duke de Nemours which rendered it necessary to submit. Thus the new ministry rejected the policy of resistance, and inaugurated that of conciliation.

The king, worn out by excitement and fatigue, at four o'clock in the morning retired to his chamber for a few hours of sleep. He was so far deceived as to flatter himself that, through the measures which had been adopted, all serious trouble was at an end. He slept soundly, and did not rise until eleven o'clock, when he came down to the breakfast-room in morning-gown and slippers, and with a smiling countenance. Here appalling tidings met him. The exasperated populace were tearing down and trampling under foot the conciliatory proclamation of M. Thiers. The national troops, disgusted with the contradictory orders which had been issued, were loud in their clamor against the king. The National Guard was everywhere fraternizing with the people. The frenzy of insurrection was surging through all the thoroughfares of Paris.

The king was silent in consternation. Immediately repairing to his chamber, he dressed himself in the uniform of the National Guard, and returned to his cabinet, where he was joined by two of his sons, the Duke de Nemours and the Duke de Montpensier. All night long the dismal clang of the tocsin had summoned the fighting portion of the population to important points of defense. Nearly all the churches were in the hands of the insurgents. Under cover of the darkness, barricades had been rising in many of the streets. The national troops had retired, humiliated, to the vicinity of the Tuileries and Palais Royal. Many of the soldiers, in their disgust, had thrown away their muskets, while some of the officers, under similar feelings, had broken their swords and cast them away upon the pavement.

Affairs made such rapid progress that by ten o'clock M. Thiers became fully convinced that he had no longer influence with the people. He accordingly resigned the ministry, and M. Odillon Barrot, a man far more democratic in his principles, was appointed prime-minister in his stead. The Palais Royal, the magnificent ancestral abode of the Duke of Orleans, being left unguarded, the mob burst in, rioted through all its princely saloons, plundering and destroying. Its paintings, statuary, gorgeous furniture, and priceless works of art were pierced with bayonets, slashed with sabre-strokes, thrown into the streets, and consumed with flames. In less than half an hour the magnificent apartments of this renowned palace presented but a revolting spectacle of destruction and ruin.

The king, the queen, the Duchess of Orleans, and the Duke de Montpensier, with several distinguished friends, were still in the breakfast-room—the Gallery of Diana, in the Tuileries. The mob, their hands filled with the plunder of the Palais Royal, were already entering the Carrousel. Loud shouts announced their triumph to the trembling inmates of the royal palace, and appalled them with fears of the doom which they soon might be called to encounter. Two of the gentlemen, M. Remusat and M. de Hauranne, stepped out into the court-yard of the Tuileries to ascertain the posture of affairs. Speedily they returned, pale, and with features expressive of intense anxiety.

"Sire," said M. Remusat to the king, "it is necessary that your majesty should know the truth! To conceal it at this moment would be to render ourselves implicated in all that may follow. Your feelings of security prove that you are deceived! Three hundred feet from here the dragoons are exchanging their sabres, and the soldiers their muskets with the people!"

"It is impossible!" exclaimed the king, recoiling with astonishment.

"Sire," added an officer, M. de l'Aubospere, who was present, "it is true. I have seen it."

The queen, re-enacting the heroism of Maria Antoinette on a similar occasion, said to her faint-hearted husband, "Go, show yourself to the discouraged troops, to the wavering National Guard. I will come out on the balcony with my grandchildren and the princesses, and I will see you die worthy of yourself, of your throne, and of your misfortunes."

The king descended the stairs, while the queen and the princesses went upon the balcony. He passed through the court-yard of the Tuileries into the Carrousel. If any shouts were uttered of "Vive le Roi," they were drowned in the cry which seemed to burst from all lips, "Vive la Reforme! a bas les Ministres!"

All hope was now gone! The king, in despair, returned to the royal family. The panic was heart-rending—the ladies weeping aloud. The shouts which filled the air announced that the mob was approaching, triumphant, from all directions, while a rattling fire of musketry was heard, ever drawing nearer. Marshal Bugeaud did what he could to arrest the advance of the insurgents, but his troops were sullen, and but feebly responded to any of his orders.

In the midst of this terrible scene, the king took his pen to appoint another ministry, still more radically democratic than Barrot and Hauranne. As he was writing out the list, M. de Girardin entered the apartment. He was editor of the Times newspaper, and one of the most uncompromising Republicans in the city. Approaching the king, he said to him firmly, yet respectfully,

"Sire, it is now too late to attempt to form a new ministry. The public mind can not be tranquilized by such a measure. The flood of insurrection, now resistless, threatens to sweep away the throne itself. Nothing short of abdication will now suffice."

Upon the utterance of that fatal word, the king inquired anxiously, "Is there no other alternative?"

M. Girardin replied, "Sire, within an hour, perhaps, there will be no such thing as a monarchy in France. The crisis admits of no third alternative. The king must abdicate, or the monarchy is lost."

The Duke de Montpensier, fully comprehending the peril of the hour, earnestly entreated his father to sign the abdication. But, on the other hand, there were those who entreated the king, with equal fervor, not to sign it. M. Piscatory and Marshal Bugeaud urged that abdication would inflict a Republic upon France, with no end to anarchy and civil war; that the only way to meet the insurrection was to crush it by military power.

The king hesitated. The clamor and the rattle of musketry increased and drew nearer. Messengers came in breathless, announcing that all was lost. The Duke de Montpensier, trembling in view of the irruption of the mob, and of the dreadful consequent doom of the royal family, with renewed earnestness entreated his father to abdicate. Thus influenced, the king took his pen and wrote:

"I abdicate this crown, which I received from the voice of the nation, and which I accepted only that I might promote the peace and harmony of the French.

"Finding it impossible to accomplish this endeavor, I bequeath it to my grandson, the Count de Paris. May he be more happy than I have been."

It is said that the excitement and hurry of the occasion were so great that the king neglected to sign the abdication. Girardin, however, took the paper and went out into the stormy streets to announce the important event. But Paris was now in a state of ferment which nothing could immediately appease. The rush and roar of the storm of human passion in the streets seemed still to increase, and to approach nearer to the doors of the palace. Danger of violence and death was imminent. Nearly all had withdrawn from the Tuileries except the royal family. Louis Philippe now thought only of escape. Surrounded as the palace was by the mob, this was no easy task to accomplish. The king disguised himself in citizen's dress. The queen was almost frantic with terror.

The king, having abdicated in favor of his grandson, the Count de Paris, was disposed to leave the child-monarch with his mother in the palace. He flattered himself that the innocence of the child and the helplessness of the mother would prove their protection. But when the Duchess of Orleans perceived that no arrangements were being made for her escape and that of her children, she exclaimed in anguish,

"Are you going to leave me here alone, without parents, friends, or any to advise me? What will become of me?"

The king sadly replied, "My dear Helen, the dynasty must be saved, and the crown preserved to your son. Remain here, then, for his sake. It is a sacrifice you owe your son."

Seldom has a woman and a mother been called to pass through a more severe ordeal than this. The peril was awful. In a few moments a mob of countless thousands, composed of the dregs of the populace of Paris, inflamed with intoxication and rage, might be surging through all the apartments of the Tuileries, while the duchess and her children were entirely at their mercy. No ordinary heroism could be adequate to such a trial. The duchess threw herself at the feet of the king, and entreated permission to accompany him in his flight. The king was firm, cruelly firm. Leaving the widow of his son, with her two children, all unprotected, behind him, he withdrew, to effect his own escape with the queen and the princesses, under the guidance of his son, the Duke de Nemours, who displayed the utmost heroism during all the scenes of that eventful day. As the party was in disguise, and the whole city was in a state of indescribable tumult, the fugitives succeeded in traversing, without being recognized, the broad central avenue of the garden of the Tuileries. Emerging by the gate of the Pont Tournant, they reached the foot of the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde. It was one o'clock in the afternoon; the duke had ordered the carriages to be ready for them there. But the mob, recognizing the carriages as belonging to the royal family, had dashed them to pieces.

The embarrassment and peril were terrible. There was momentary danger of being recognized. Then death and being trampled beneath the feet of the mob were almost inevitable. An agitated throng of countless thousands was surging through the Place. Already some began to suspect them as belonging to the court, and they were rudely jostled. But providentially there were two hackney-coaches near by. These were hurriedly engaged, the royal family thrust into them, and a guard of cuirassiers, previously stationed near for the occasion by the Duke de Nemours, gathered around the carriages as an escort, and at a quick trot swept along the banks of the Seine by the Quai de Billi, and escaped from Paris. That night they reached Dreux, one of the country-seats of the king.

Their peril still was great. The small escort at their disposal was by no means sufficient to protect them, should there be any uprising of the people to arrest their progress. It was, therefore, deemed best to dismiss their guard, and proceed to the sea-coast in disguise, by unfrequented routes, as simple travellers. They were, however, in great want of money. The king, in the confusion of his departure, had left seventy thousand dollars in banknotes upon his bureau. He had but a small supply in his pocket.

Resuming their journey the next morning, they reached Evreux, and were entertained for the night by a farmer in the royal forest, who had no idea of the distinguished character of the guests to whose wants he was ministering. Early in the morning of the third day they set out again in a rude cart, called a Berlin, drawn by two cart-horses. They had many strange adventures and narrow escapes, even performing a portion of their journey on foot. At length they reached the sea-coast at Honfleur, near the mouth of the Seine, on the southern bank. Here they embarked, still under the assumed name of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, for Havre, from which port they crossed over to New Haven, on the southern coast of England, leaving behind them their crown and their country forever. They reached this land of refuge for dethroned kings on the 4th of March, and took up their abode at Claremont, formerly the residence, and perhaps then the property of their son-in-law, Leopold, king of Belgium.

[Illustration] from Louis Philippe by John S. C. Abbott
LOUIS PHILIPPE LEAVING FRANCE.


And now let us return to the Princess Helen, who was left with her two children in one of the apartments of the palace. Immediately upon the withdrawal of the king, the troops in the Carrousel, who were then retreating into the court-yard of the Tuileries, retired through the palace into the garden. The princess, a very heroic woman, had entirely recovered her self-possession, and awaited her doom with the serenity of a martyr. As the shouting mob rushed into the Carrousel, and the windows of the palace were rattling from the explosions of the artillery, M. Dupin, president of the Chamber of Deputies, entered the room, and, much agitated with both fear and hope, said,

"Madame, I have come to tell you that perhaps the role of Maria Theresa is reserved for you."

"Lead the way," replied the heroic woman; "my life belongs to France and to my children."

"There is not a moment to lose," M. Dupin rejoined. "Let us go instantly to the Chamber of Deputies."

As he was speaking these words, the Duke de Nemours returned. Peril was indeed imminent. The mob was already surging in at the court of the Tuileries, and thundering against the gates of the palace.

The princess and her few companions immediately set out on foot, to pass through the garden of the Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, and to cross the river, to obtain the protection of the Chamber of Deputies. Scarcely had they emerged from the portals into the garden ere the roaring mob burst from the court-yard into the palace, and surged through the saloons with the destruction of consuming flame. Shouts seemed to burst from all lips, "Down with the Throne!" "Long live the Republic!" Every vestige of royalty was torn to shreds. The rich drapery which canopied the throne was rent into scarfs, or formed into cockades, with which the mob decorated their persons.

With hurried steps and anxious hearts the royal party pressed on through the throng which choked all the avenues to the palace. They seem to have been partially recognized, for a noisy crowd followed their footsteps. The princess led her eldest son, the Count de Paris, by the hand. The youngest, the Duke de Chartres, was carried in the arms of an aid-de-camp. M. Dupin walked upon one side of the princess, and the Duke de Nemours upon the other. Safely they crossed the bridge and entered the hotel of the Deputies. All was agitation and confusion there. M. Dupin repaired to the hall of session, and, ascending the tribune, announced that the king had abdicated in favor of his grandson. In a brief, earnest speech he urged the claims of the Count de Paris as king, under the regency of the Duchess of Orleans, his mother. This speech created a momentary enthusiasm. By acclamation it was voted that the resignation of the king should be accepted, and that the Count de Paris should be recognized as lawful sovereign, under the regency of the duchess. Just then Lamartine came in.

Lamartine, notwithstanding the brilliance of his talents and the purity of his character, was by no means insensible to flattery, or to the suggestions of ambition. It is said that a group of Republicans had but a moment before met him at the entrance of the building, with the assurance that a Republic was inevitable, and that all the Republicans were looking to him as their leader and future President. These assurances may not have swayed his judgment. But many who had supposed that his strong predelictions were for royalty were not a little surprised when he ascended the tribune, and said,

"There is but one way to save the people from the danger which a revolution, in our present social state, threatens instantly to introduce, and that is to trust ourselves to the force of the people themselves—to their reason, their interests, their aims. It is a republic which we require. Yes, it is a Republic which alone can save us from anarchy, civil war, foreign war, spoliation, the scaffold, destruction of property, the overthrow of society, the invasion of foreigners. The remedy is heroic. I know it. But there are occasions, such as those in which we live, when the only safe policy is that which is grand and audacious as the crisis itself."

As Lamartine left the tribune, M. Thiers entered, flushed with excitement. All eyes were anxiously fixed upon him. Taking his place in the tribune, he simply remarked, "The tide is rising," at the same time, with dramatic gesture, lifting his hat above his head. As he again disappeared in the crowd, there was a general increase of alarm. It was manifest to all that affairs were now sweeping along in a swollen current which human sagacity could but feebly control. The roar of the throng surging around the hall filled the air. The strongest minds were appalled.

Just then the folding-doors of the Chamber were thrown open, and the Duchess of Orleans, leading the Count de Paris by one hand and the Duke de Chartres by the other, was ushered in. Lamartine, an eye-witness, gives the following account of the scene: "A respectful silence immediately ensued. The Deputies, in deep anxiety, crowded around the august princess, and the strangers in the gallery leaned over, hoping to catch some words which might fall from her lips. She was dressed in mourning. Her veil, partially raised, disclosed a countenance the emotion and melancholy of which enhanced the charms of youth and beauty. Her pale cheeks were marked by the tears of the widow, the anxieties of the mother. No man could look on her countenance without being moved. Every feeling of resentment against the monarchy faded away before the spectacle. The blue eyes of the princess wandered over the hall as if to implore aid, and were, for a moment, dazzled. Her slight and fragile form inclined before the sound of the applause with which she was greeted. A slight blush, the mark of the revival of hope in her bosom, tinged her cheeks. The smile of gratitude was already on her lips. She felt that she was surrounded by friends. In her right hand she held the young king, in her left the Duke of Chartres—children to whom their own catastrophe was a spectacle. A white collar was turned down the neck of each, on his dark dress—living portraits of Vandyck, as if they had stepped out of the canvas, of the children of Charles I."

The duchess had but just entered when the doors were burst open by the pressure of the crowd, and the mob rushed in. They were coarse, brutal men, armed with every conceivable weapon, and immediately they inundated the hall. Clamorously they demanded the rejection of the throne, which had, thus far, ever trampled upon their rights, and for the establishment of a republic, from which alone they hoped for redress. A scene of indescribable confusion ensued, cries rising upon all sides. The duchess endeavored to speak. Her tremulous feminine voice was heard exclaiming, "I have come with all I hold dear in the world," but the remainder of her words were drowned in the universal clamor.

The sympathies of Lamartine, notwithstanding his republican speech, were deeply moved by the presence of the princess. Taking advantage of a slight lull in the storm, when his voice could be heard, he said, "Mr. President, I demand that the sitting should be suspended, from the double motive, on the one hand, of respect for the national representation; on the other, for the august princess whom we see before us."

But Marshal Oudinot, the Duke de Nemours, and other friends who surrounded the duchess, deemed it essential to the success of her cause that she should not withdraw from the Chamber. The human heart is often swayed by influences stronger than argument. A young and beautiful woman, heroically facing the most terrible dangers in advocacy of the claims of her child to the throne, appealed more persuasively to many chivalric hearts than the most cogent logic. Every one in the room trembled for the life of the princess and her children. They were surrounded by a mob of scowling, ferocious men, who held possession of the hall. The blow of a club, the thrust of a dagger, might at any instant be given, and there was no possibility of protection.

The friends who endeavored to surround the princess and the children with the shield of their bodies gradually crowded them along to a higher portion of the house near the door, through which they could more easily effect their escape in case of necessity. The confusion and clamor which now filled the hall can scarcely be imagined. Scarcely the semblance of a deliberative assembly was maintained. The triumphant mob was holding there its wildest orgies. In vain Lamartine, Ledru Rollin, and others endeavored to make themselves heard, calling for a provisional government. The howling of the mob drowned every voice.

The members, in confusion, rose from their seats. The president fled from his chair. Some ferocious wretches, upon whose countenances brutality was imprinted, clambered over the benches and leveled their muskets at the head of the princess. Her friends, terror-stricken, hurried her and her children through the door. The moment she disappeared there was a general cry for a provisional government, as the first step towards the establishment of a Republic. This call was made, not only by the mob, but by that large portion of the Deputies who thought that a Republic alone could save France from anarchy, and restore to the people their long withheld rights.

Lamartine succeeded in obtaining the tribune. For a moment he was popular, the representative of Republicanism. There was a brief lull in the tempest as the throng listened to what he had to say. The following list of names of those proposed to constitute the Provisional Government was then read off: Lamartine, Marie, Ledru Rollin, Cremieux, Dupont de l'Eure, Arago, and Garnier Pages. Some of these names were received with cheers, others with hisses. It was impossible to take any formal vote. The voices of the Deputies were lost in the clamor of the mob. Still, the general assent seemed to be in their favor. These were all good men. They were deemed moderate Republicans.

But there was another portion of the Republican party, the radical, so called, who would by no means be satisfied with such an administration as these calm, deliberate men would inaugurate, with their lingering adhesion to the rights of wealth and the dignity of rank. There might have been possibly a thousand people crowded into the hall of the Chamber of Deputies, who thus, self-appointed, were forming a government for a nation numbering thirty-five millions.

The more radical party, perhaps equal in number, and no less tumultuous, composed also of those of the stoutest muscle and most determined will, who could elbow their way through the throng, gathered in the great hall of the Hotel de Ville, proclaimed an antagonistic provisional government, more in accordance with their views. Their list consisted of Marrast, Flocon, Louis Blanc, and Albert. The danger of a conflict, leading to hopeless anarchy, was imminent, as the partisans of each should rally around its own choice.

The first Provisional Government, accordingly, immediately repaired to the Hotel de Ville, followed by a tumultuous crowd which no man could number. The leaders of the two parties soon met upon the stairs of the Hotel de Ville, and a violent altercation ensued, which came near to blows. The Place de Greve, in front of the hotel, was like a storm-tossed ocean of agitated men, "a living sea, madly heaving and tossing about beneath the tempest of revolution."

Both parties were terrified by the menacing aspect of affairs. A compromise was hurriedly agreed to by adding to the six chosen at the Chamber of Deputies six more, chosen from the party at the Hotel de Ville. Lamartine, from the head of the stairs, read off the list to the masses surging below.

In the mean time, the Duchess of Orleans, having escaped from the Chamber of Deputies, and surrounded by friends who were ready to sacrifice their own lives in her defense, was with difficulty rescued from the crowd. Prominent among her protectors was M. de Morny. As the duchess was veiled, her little party was soon lost in the heaving masses, and unrecognized. The terrors of the hour caused fugitives to be struggling wildly through the throng in all directions. The pressure was so great and so resistless that the duchess was torn from the side of her brother, the Duke de Nemours, and from both of her children. A moment after the separation, as the mother, frantic with terror, was groping around in search of her sons, a brutal wretch of gigantic stature recognized the Count de Paris, and, seizing him by the throat, endeavored to strangle him. One of the National Guard who chanced to be near rescued the child, and succeeded in placing him in the hands of his mother. But the younger child, the Duke de Chartres, could nowhere be found. In vain the distracted mother called aloud for her child. The close-packed throng swayed to and fro, and her feeble voice was unheard in the deafening clamor. She was swept along by the flow of a torrent which it was impossible to resist. With exceeding difficulty her friends succeeded in forcing her into a house. She ran to the window of one of the chambers to look down upon the scene of tumult for her lost child. Soon, to her inexpressible joy, she saw him in the arms of a friend. The poor child was faint, and almost lifeless. He had been thrown down and trampled under the feet of the crowd. The day was now far spent. As soon as it was dark, the royal party, all in disguise, engaged a hack, and, passing through the Champs Elysees, escaped from the city. After a short journey of many perils and great mental suffering, they were reunited with the exiled king and court at Claremont.

The night succeeding these scenes in Paris was appalling beyond imagination. There was no recognized law in the metropolis. A population of a million and a half of people was in the streets. The timid and the virtuous were terror-stricken. The drunken, the degraded, the ferocious held the city at their mercy. Radical as was the party which had assembled at the Hotel de Ville, there was another party, composed of the dregs of the Parisian populace, more radical still. This party was ripe for plunder and for unlimited license in every outrage. About midnight, in a desperately armed and howling band, they made an attack upon the Provisional Government at the Hotel de Ville; after a severe struggle, the assailants were repelled. The next morning the Moniteur announced to the citizens of Paris, and the telegraph announced to Europe, that the throne of Louis Philippe had crumbled, and that a Republic was established in France.

We must not forget, in our stern condemnation of the brutality, the ignorance, the ferocity of the mob, that it was composed of men—husbands, brothers, fathers—many of whom had been defrauded of their rights and maddened by oppression. If governments will sow the wind by trampling upon the rights of the people, they must expect to reap the whirlwind when their exasperated victims rise in the blindness of their rage.

Louis Philippe did not long survive his fall. He died at Claremont, in England, on the 26th of August, 1850. The reader, who may be interested to inform himself of the changes in France which followed this Revolution, will find them minutely detailed in the Life of Napoleon III.