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Fifth Series, Volume XLIX.
No. 2123.- February 28, 1885.
I. SECRET PAPERS OF THE SECOND EMPIRE, . Edinburgh Review,
II. A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITself. By
5141" DEAR WIFE AND PERFECT FRIEND," 514
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ON AN OLD SONG. LITTLE snatch of ancient song What has made thee live so long? Flying on thy wings of rhyme Lightly down the depths of time, Telling nothing strange or rare, Scarce a thought or image there, Nothing but the old, old tale Of a hapless lover's wail; Offspring of some idle hour, Whence has come thy lasting power? By what turn of rhythm or phrase, By what subtle, careless grace, Can thy music charm our ears After full three hundred years?
Little song, since thou wert born
Wisest schemes by statesmen spun,
There were mighty scholars then
Art thou weary, little song,
The pulse of thought is beating quicker,
And old beliefs grow faint and few
Landmarks of the human mind,
From The Edinburgh Review. SECRET PAPERS OF THE SECOND
By a decree published in the Journal Officiel of the French Republic on Sep tember 7, 1870, the minister of the interior appointed a commission charged with the collection, classification, and publica tion of the papers and correspondence of the imperial family which had been seized at the Tuileries on the overthrow of the empire, three days before. The president of this commission was M. André Lavertujon, who, on October 12, addressed a report to M. Jules Favre, then interim minister of the interior, indicating the progress made up to that date by the commission, and suggesting the appointment of M. Taxile Delord, Laurent-Pichat, and Ludovic Lalaune, to replace MM. de Kératry, Estancelin, and André Cochut,
who had been called to the exercise.of
other functions, the first-named of the three being made prefect of police. This report, approved and countersigned by M. Jules Favre, states that on September 24, the first fasciculus of the papers in question had been published; that fasciculi, composed each of two octavo leaves, had succeeded nearly every other day; and that the contents of a volume of five hundred pages had been already passed through the press. Copies of each number, as they appeared, had been sent to the public prints; and not only had most of the documents been republished by them in entirety, but counterfeits had been circulated among the public, with which the commission had not regarded it as any part of their duty to interfere. The commission insist, in a brief preface, that the publication of these papers has an absolutely official and impersonal character, the work having been undertaken in the sole interest of the truth. The commission, according to the preface, did not judge it simply drew up an inventory; it attempted no polemical work, but impartially prepared the materials of history. The documents, copied under the responsibility of the secretaries to the commission, were examined by the president, and
submitted to the control of the government of the national defence. After publication the original documents, carefully catalogued, were deposited in the national archives.
Such is the account, given with all the dry precision of an official report, of a publication of a more startling nature than often comes within the purview of the historian. Amid the portentous echoes of the time, when the ears of men were stunned by such tidings as those of the capitulation of Sedan, the collapse of the empire, the siege of Paris, and the deathstruggle of France, it might well be the case that items of what might almost be called personal gossip, which in less tempestuous times would have rung through Europe, would appear dwarfed to undue proportions by the terrible news of each day. We are not prepared to say that any effort was made by those who were most compromised by the papers in ques tion to collect and to destroy the published copies. But the rarity of the volume — only one other copy than the one before us having met our eyes, and that on the table of an ambassador - certainly tends to confirm that not unnatural supposition. At all events it will be, as the commission has said, "in the interest of truth" to adduce a few of the proofs thus unexpectedly furnished of what the second empire cost France.
It is difficult to approach an enquiry of the kind without a strong sense of the grim humor of the event. The ink will hardly run from the pen without leaving traces of a certain amount of malice, using the word in its French, and not in its En. glish, sense. That those very documents which, by reason of their intimately private nature, should be entrusted to no minister, secretary, or archivist, but kept in the personal custody of the sovereign himself, should be thus collected, kept, and at last made public for the special service and delectation of King Mob, is a new incident of the drama of la République dans les carrosses du Roi.* The
A similar incident had, however, twice before occurred in the course of the French Revolution, when
• Papiers et Correspondance de la Famille Im- the mob broke into the Tuileries, and pillaged the périale. Paris: 1870.
private papers of the sovereign. The documents found
which | They commence with the brief announcement, as an excuse for failing to come to dinner with Barras: "Bonaparte est arrivé cette nuit," written by Josephine, who signs herself Lapagerie Bonaparte, to Botot, secretary to Barras, then director, at the Luxembourg, on December 5, 1797. Of this curious letter, containing the words, "Vous connaissez mieux que per. sonne, mon cher Botot, ma position," a facsimile is given in the volume. The last entry is a despairing telegram, headed "Maire à Guerre, Paris ” (“ Guerre" being the minister for war), dated SainteMarie, September 3, 1870, 4.30 P.M., to the following effect: "In a few days Strasburg will be nothing but a heap of ruins. Schlestadt, which has just been invested, will doubtless share the same fate. Have we no one to come to the succor of our unhappy Alsace?" Later in actual time, though earlier in the book, comes a despatch from the director of the telegraph at Lyons to the director general at Paris, dated 1.50 P.M. on September 4: despatch: "French Republic, Commune of I am compelled to transmit the following
scene in fiction if it be fiction
Lyons. The Provisional Committee of Public Safety of Lyons to the Municipal Council of Marseilles: Republic proclaimed at Lyons. Immediate organization of a Republican Gov. ernment, and of necessary measures for the defence of the country." A commissary of the Provisional Committee is in permanence in my cabinet. Armed men guard the entry of the post. What are your orders?
In 1815 events marched almost as rapidly, though revolution then lacked the magic aid of the electric telegraph. But we now turn to the papers which relate more especially to the second empire.
The third document printed is a facsimile receipt, dated Elysée National, April 26, 1851, and signed “Louis-Napo léon Bonaparte," acknowledging a loan of five hundred thousand francs from Marshal Narvaez, then chief of the Spanish ministry; a loan repaid on June 2, 1852. This is followed by a series of notes, without either signature or date, but appearing from internal evidence to have been written between the months of July and August, 1852, on the characters of the prefects of the republic after the coup d'état
Sire, It is I again, but I come all in a tremble; for this time I am very frightened. Your Majesty will perhaps weary of his bounty, and send me roughly away. I beg him not to be angry, and to pardon me if I am really tiresome.
I have learned that there are several places of chamberlain vacant at this moment; and as this position was occupied by my grandfather, the Count de - under the Emperor Napoleon I., I have always hoped to obtain one day of your Majesty this great favor for my hus band, who is so ardent in his desire and ambi
favor! My husband is not too young; he is thirty-three, and the livery of your servants would become him so, Sire. It is so easy for you, Sire, to make people happy, and you family. Sire, do not refuse meat once, at know how a charge of this kind flatters a whole all events. I have such an ardent desire to succeed. Pardon me, I conjure you, and give your poor little subject a pretty word of consent. I lay at the feet of your Majesty my tender and respectful homage.
of December, 1851. These functionaries are divided into "prefects to dismiss" (those of whom the dismissal is urgent and indispensable being distinguished by an asterisk); " prefects to change; " "prefects whose situation does not for the moment require either dismissal or change, but with whom one or other measure will soon become proper," and "prefects who can be, for the present, maintained at their posts, some of them being advanced." The first quality which appears to be regarded by the reporter is that of "devotion to obtain it. Sire, pray grant me this tion," a word the use of which is enough to show that the speedy proclamation of the empire was in contemplation in July, 1852. The notes do not err either by circumlocution or by excess of courtesy Thus of Ponsard (Loire) it is written: "Neither brilliant qualities nor prominent defects; has recently committed faults in his department which prove a want of political tact that compromises his situation in the Loire." First for character (such as it is) comes Foy (Ardennes). "Absolute devotion; character frank and loyal; good sense; active and laborious; thoroughly knows his department, where he is loved and esteemed." Another runs thus: "Féart (Gers). Sincere devotion, intelligent and active administrator; of fends by excess of ardor, and by too much care of his personality." At the head of the prefects whom it is urgent to change comes "De Saulxure (Ardèche). Nature mediocre and vulgar; has created, by his maladresse and want of tact, a situation which it will be inconvenient for the government to prolong in the Ardèche." Intended, no doubt, for few eyes but those of the prince president, this cynical and measured document bears the heading "Ministry of General Police." The minister must have required perfect command of his features when politely receiving public officers whose fates were thus indicated, and whose characters were thus dissected and weighed, in a report that may have lain on his desk during the interview.
With unusual gallantry the commission has suppressed the name of a great lady who adopts the coaxing style of mendicancy.
It is not only from poor little subjects of the gentler sex that the cry, "Give, give," eehoes through the imperial correspondence. Not that the ladies had by any means less than their fair share of the bounty. A "note of the sums paid by the emperor to Miss Howard" (created Comtesse de Beauregard), between March 24, 1853, and January 1, 1855, amounts to five million, four hundred and forty-nine thousand francs. On July 24 following, however, we find a letter from this lady to an unnamed friend (probably Mocquard), which she begs him to burn, complaining of the non-fulfilment of engagements to wards her, and apparently wanting two million five hundred thousand francs more. "You know," she says, "my position. I pray God that there may be no more question of money between me and him who has quite another kind of interest in my heart." A brief note sans date runs: "There has been sent into Spain to Madame the Comtesse de Montijo, by the means of MM. de Rothschild, (1) on Feb. ruary 4, six hundred thousand francs; (2) on April 2, eighty-nine thousand seven hundred and thirty-nine francs; (3) on May 27 (Mocquard), six hundred and sixtyeight thousand four hundred and twenty