31 JANUARY 1852, Page 1


NEVER did usurpation, that encountered so little opposition as Pre- sident Bonaparte's, consolidate itself so rapidly into an organized and ruthless despotism. For anything that relates to action, this is the concern of the French people only. But as a lesson the events now occurring in France have a deep interest for ourselves. We have an opportunity of seeing in our own, day, and at the distance of less than a day's journey, by what means a despotism may be founded ; how a people may be juggled out of its liber- ties and the protection of law ; and what are the woeful conse- quences. In political pathology, France is at this moment a patient, by whoae bedside a clinical lecture is read to us, which it behoves us to ponder. No people has ever been robbed of liberty that did not by weak- ness or worse lend its own aid to the work. By choosing M. Bona- parte to be President of the Republic, the French people almost in- vited him to seize on absolute power. The man's character was well known. The Strasbourg riot of 1836, the Boulogne expedition of 1840, and the books published by M. Bonaparte between these two escapades and after the last of them showed that the idea of his being born with "a mission," destined to attain empire, was with him a monomania. His books and his actions alike betrayed slender powers of reasoning and inability to estimate the means required to attain an end; but they also showed the reckless insa- tiable ambition that devoured him. To elevate such a man to the Presidency, was to communicate to the office much of the ridicu- lous that attached to his personal character, but it was at the same time placing sharp weapons in a madman's hand. The danger necessarily resulting from such an act was at first undervalued by the National Assembly and the leaders of the different parties in that body. The reviews at Satory and St. Denis inspired them with suspicion of his intentions, and induced them to combine on various occasions to limit his authority or arrest his progress ; but they allowed their contempt for his abili- ties to render their opposition desultory and intermitting. Odilon Barrot, Leon Faucher, and others, accepted office under him, flat- tering themselves that they were clever enough to make such a fool work by their guidance. Ms most resolute and uncompro- mising opponents kept but sleeping watch over his movements. Meanwhile, he went on maturing his conspiracy, with that in- veteracy of purpose and skill of low cunning which are often combined with the meanest intellects.

The desultory opposition of the Assembly, the consequence of despising his talents though convinced of his bad intentions, aided the plots of the President. While he plied the soldiery unre- mittingly with his seductions, he played towards the genera public

e part of an innocent person unjustly suspected. The cham- pagne and sausages distributed at the reviews' the luxurious banquets at the ystse and the fawning upon all kinds of no- tonetiea, were attributed by non-politicians to a mere love of dis- play, a harmless weakness in a well-meaning man. The opposition of the Assembly was deemed unreasonable ; the obstructions to public business occasioned by the measures required to check the President's intrigues were attributed to an ambitious desire to encroach upon his province. Sympathy was awakened for M. Bonaparte, and the Assembly lost ground in public esti- mation.

On the 2d of December the great blow was struck with little difficulty. Profound and callous mendacity enabled the Usurper to keep his preparations secret. The bourgeoisie sympathized with him; the political leaders were blinded by their contempt for him ; the ranks of the ementiers had been thinned and their love of fighting damped by Cavaignac in the June insurrection of 1848. The President-Dictator dissolved the Assembly, imprisoned and

dispersed his rivals, and installed himself in an uncontested su- premacy.

Since that usurpation of despotic power, he has not lost a mo- ment in consolidating it. With a hundred thousand bayonets in and around Paris, and with half of the departments in a state of siege, he obtained a vote of the people for a ten-years renewal of his lease of office, and a delegated authority to frame a new constitution. He has promulgated a constitution which places the power of making and administering the laws entirely in his own hands. He has filled up the subordinate bodies who are to execute his will with unscrupulous agents. He is expatriat- ing thousands without trial, sometimes without any definite ac- cusation ; many to a region fatal to European life. In his decree confiscating the Orleans property he has usurped the functions of the courts of law. • One of his principal Ministers of State is a Minister of Police—the head of an organized system of spies, under whose jurisdiction are placed the press and the theatres. In fine, he has established a reign of terror; and the wave admis- sion of his motives for confiscating the Orleans property, in the preamble to his decree, shows that not only are they exclusively personal, but tinged with the deepest malice and vindictiveness.

It was imagined by sanguine optimists, immediately after the 2d of December, that the coup d'etat had averted the social explo- sion apprehended for the year 1852. Present appearances on the

justify ustify fears that it will only occasion a more terrible out- break. Absolute power has been usurped, and is exercised with daily increasing harshness and contempt of law, by a man whose ill-regulated mind defies conjecture as to what course he may pursue, but who can never be diverted from the execution of any of his selfish projects. All that is intellec- tual in France, all that is moral and respectable in France, and tlie real aristocracy, whatever the mere plutocracy and mean fashion of France may do, refuses to associate with the Usurper and his creatures. The mitraille of the Boulevards, the deportations, the ruthless ferocity with which the state of siege has been enforced in the provinces have diffused anguish and exasperation through all ranks of society. The robbery of the Orleans estates has struck terror into the hearts of the selfish wealthy, who were willing to bow to the despot provided their property were safe : it has shown that .he cannot rely even upon the army, so long as a rival dynasty retains its hereditary wealth. The seeds of intestine broils are thus sown broadcast in France. The best hope of the nation is in the patient, self-possessed, passive resistance, that has hitherto been opposed to the Usurper by the respectable and intelligent classes. Should any unforeseen acci- dent shake from off the shoulders of France "the Old Man of the Sea" who has squatted himself there like the tormentor of Sinbad the Sailor, the machinery of a legal government would be found at hand in the members of the dispersed Assembly who on the 2d of December pronounced the traitor's decheance.