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the hands of a new Assembly, whose task should be to develope and strengthen the work of national redemption and regeneration, and rally around the great citizen, who would have in history the proud honour of associating his name with the definitive foundation of the French Republic."
The Assembly was prorogued on the 4th of August; and the day afterwards M. Thiers went to seek repose and the refreshment of sea-breezes at Trouville. Everywhere on his route he was received with loud acclamations. And indeed, however uncertain the prospects of the future might be, his reflections at this moment could scarcely fail to be those of self-gratulation and complacency. But in his hour of triumph the veteran statesman could spare sympathy for one of the competing political leaders around him, over whom a heavy cloud had just fallen : one of the house whose trusted follower he had himself been in days gone by. The Duc d'Aumale was bereaved, on the 25th of July, of his only surviving son, François, Duc de Guise, a promising youth of eighteen, who died, after a short attack of scarlet fever, at Paris, his father having left him for the baths of Aix, in Savoy, only a few days previously. This much-lamented scion of the House of Orleans was consigned to the tomb at Dreux, in presence of various members of his family, and of the Duc d'Aumale himself, now, at the age of fifty, a childless widower. Great commiseration was felt on all sides for the sorrowing prince. To a deputation which visited him with a message of condolence, he replied that all ambition was over for him henceforward, but that he would never be deaf to the voice of his country as long as she should see fit to demand his services.
Inquiry into the Insurrection of March 18, 1871–Council of Capitulation-Trocha's
Libel Case-Trials of Blanqui and other Communists—Executions at SatoryRépublique de M. Thiers—Gambetta-Republican banquets—Gambetta at Grenoble-Alarm of the Conservatives—Pilgrimages in the South of France Permanent Committee on 10th of October—Expulsion of Prince Napoleon–M. Thiers at Trouville-His visit to M. Guizot-Political Manifestoes-Elections of 20th October-Royalist banquet at Bordeaux-Meeting of the Assembly_Thiers' Message_General Changarnier's Interpellation-Thiers' threatened Resignation -Kerdrel Commission-M. de Batbie's Report-Speech of M. Thiers Dufaure Commission-Resignation of M. Lefranc-Official Appointments—Debate on Petitions for Dissolution Minor Measures-Committee of Pardons.
MEANWHILE public opinion had continued to occupy itself with the events of the past two years. A commission appointed to inquire :
into the circumstances of the Communist Insurrection of March 18th, 1871, published its Report before the Easter recess, in three bulky quarto volumes, The strongly Conservative and alarmist tone of the Report may be sufficiently indicated by the following somewhat magniloquent passage :
“We presence of a new invasion of barbarians. They are not at our gates, but in the midst of us, in our cities, seated at our hearths. They do not come, like their forerunners of the fourth and fifth centuries, to bring to a worn-out world regenerating blood. It is with murder and fire that they advance, and it is not so much the stone fabric as the moral fabric that they seek to destroy. Denying the truths which hitherto have been the honour of the human race, they attack not only property, the family, those secular bases of all society; they arraign the existence of God, the immortality of the soul. Rejecting the distinction between good and evil, the freedom and the moral value of human actions, they parade in full day the corruptions, the basenesses, the savage appetites which till now remained unavowed in the lowest depths of society. ... The ideas in the name of which the insurrection of the 18th of March was made are not new. They have arisen in all the great crises of humanity, in the East as in the West. They are to be found in Egypt in the third and fourth centuries. ... That which is new is the organized and truly formidable army which is put at their service by the Internationale."
Such were the sentiments of the majority in the Commission, representing accurately the reactionary element of the Versailles Assembly; but a minority of five entered their protest against the strength of the language employed, and also against the severe strictures which the Report contained against the Government of the 4th September.
The disasters of the late war also were passed under official review. A Council of Inquiry, with Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers at its head, had been appointed to investigate the circumstances of those successive capitulations which had delivered so many French fortresses and battalions into the hands of the enemy. Its decisions were given in early in May. In consequence of them some of the commanding officers were dismissed the service; some were severely censured, some were reserved for trial by court-martial. Of the catastrophe of Sedan it was decided that the whole blame rested with the exile of Chiselhurst, a culprit beyond reach of the national vengeance. The ex-Emperor himself accepted the responsibility and defended the issue in the following letter addressed to the generals who had served under him on the fatal 2nd of September :
“General,—I am responsible to the country, and I can accept no other judgment but that of the nation regularly consulted. Nor is it for me to pass an opinion on the report of the commission on the capitulation of Sedan. I shall only remind the principal witnesses of that catastrophe of the critical position in which we found ourselves. The army commanded by the Duke of Magenta nobly did its duty, and fought heroically against an enemy of twice its numbers. When driven back to the walls of the town and into the town itself, 14,000 dead and wounded covered the field of battle, and I saw that any longer to contest the position was an act of desperation. The honour of the army having been saved by the bravery which had been displayed, I then exercised my sovereign right, and gave orders to unfurl a flag of truce. I claim the entire responsibility of that act. The immolation of 60,000 men could not have saved France, and the sublime devotion of her chiefs and soldiers would have been uselessly sacrificed. We obeyed a cruel but inexorable necessity. My heart was broken, but my conscience was tranquil. “Camden Place, May 12, 1872.
NAPOLEON." With regard to the surrender of Paris the Council of Inquiry declined to pronounce any judgment, alleging evasively that being a military commission, it was incompetent to pass sentence on the acts of a civil government. The Report on the capitulation of Strasburg, on the other hand, was a melancholy commentary on the transitory nature of popular fame. All the sentimental admiration that had once been lavished on the fortress and its defender when the statue on the Place de la Concorde was decked with immortelles and Uhrich's name was paraded on a leading thoroughfare, was now treated as mythical delusion. Bad discipline, corruption, want of foresight, of spirit, and of integrity were considered as established by the evidence. General Uhrich, stung to the quick, requested to be tried by a Council of War.
But the chief interest of the inquiry was concentrated on the story of the capitulation of Metz. The public feeling against the Imperialist Marshal who put his hand to that deed of military shame was very strong. It was the favourite theory, cherished the more because it provided a balm for national self-love, that treason was at the bottom of his conduct; and no favourable issue to his trial was expected. It was surmised, indeed, that if the finding of the Council should be what appearances made probable, nothing short of a capital sentence would be held sufficient retribution. But Bazaine, instead of waiting to be inculpated or exculpated by the committee of inquiry, chose to offer himself as an accused man for trial by court martial. He first published, early in May, his own narrative of the transactions in which he had been concerned as commander of the Army of the Rhine, and then constituted himself a prisoner at Versailles, where a small house was assigned to him near the prison of St. Pierre. His trial was postponed from time to time, while legal investigations continued to be made ; and it was still outstanding when the year came to an end.
General Trochu fought his own battle against popular imputations of treason and mismanagement by prosecuting for libel Messrs. Villemessant and Vitu, the one the Editor of the Figaro, and the other a writer in that journal. The cause came on in March, in the Assize Court of the Seine. The jury, though fining the defendants for wantonly abusive language, acquitted them on the main charge, thus disappointing the gallant general, who had set bis heart on having his honour made as clear to the public eye as-making due abatement for his tendency to chivalrous fanfaronnade-it undoubtedly was to all who knew the sterling merits of his character.
The Communist trials proceeded, and the "slow vengeance of Satory” did not cease throughout the year to demand fresh batches of victims on that fatal plain. In the middle of February the arch-conspirator Blanqui was had up for trial before the fourth Council of War at Versailles ;-Louis Auguste Blanqui, the Mephistopheles, as he has been called, to whom the ill-fated Gustave Flourens had played the part of Faust; who had already been five times condemned to death in the course of his turbulent career, who had nevertheless found time to suffer incarceratior. once for the space of twenty-eight years, and then made his escape from what was to have been a perpetual durance. His last capture had been fortunately for him on the day preceding the Communist insurrection; consequently he was not answerable for its special crimes : and the charge now against him only involved the share he had taken in the three different movements against the Government of National Defence, and principally that of October 31st, 1870. Hoary, decrepid, and in failing health, this venerable plotter who had been guarded with more than usual vigilance by the authorities, was brought before a court filled with eager spectators. He rested his defence as to the principal charge, on the promise made to his party by certain members of the Government then in existence, that no reprisals should be taken for the doings of that day; a promise in consequence of which the Hôtel de Ville was given up by the insurgents, and the captive members of Government released. But besides this promise, which the Government advocates at Blanqui's trial made a feeble effort to deny, it was clear that Blanqui, far from being a conspirator on the occasion, really did not know of the movement till late in the day, when it had already assumed such proportions that, as he said, he might fairly have considered it a more bonâ fide revolution than that of the 4th of September which had raised the then rulers of the State to power. It was remarked, indeed, as a proof of the anomalous standard of State right, even at this moment of his trial, that the JudgeAdvocate himself, who conducted the prosecution and was known to have strong Legitimist predilections, spoke of that 4th of September Government as a Government de fait and not de droit, one whose title and legality all honest men knew to be defective. But whatever might be the technical strength of Blanqui's defence, it was felt that he was too dangerous a person to be let loose on society again ; and the Court Martial found him guilty, sentencing him to imprisonment in some fortified place for the rest of his life. The sentence was annulled on a point of law by the Council of Revision a few weeks later; but on a subsequent trial before the sixth Court
Martial, it was re-affirmed, and Blanqui's doom was finally fixed on the 29th of April.
Besides the trial of Blanqui, the chief Communist prosecutions which occupied the Courts at Versailles during the three first months of the year, were successively those connected with the murder of the Archbishop and other hostages at La Roquette, with the massacre of the Dominicans at Arceuil, and with that of the forty-seven hostages in the Rue Haxo, Belleville. The capital sentences were numerous; some of them were afterwards annulled or commuted by the Council of Revision ; but in the course of the year many a victim was dragged forth to receive his bullet at the fatal Butts, after his very existence had been forgotten, and when the length of time between the punishment and the crime had certainly quenched the public desire for retribution. The agonies the victims themselves in many cases went through in the long prospect of death after sentence was pronounced, was itself no small enhancement of their punishment. They met their fates in different moods. Preau de Wedel, convicted of the murder of Gustave Chaudey, the first victim of the Commune, met his death with extraordinary nerve on the 19th of March, confessing himself to his priest, but denying his crimes, and declaring himself a good Christian in articulo mortis. Genton, shot on the 30th of April, tossed his hat into the air as a dozen chassepôts were levelled at his head, and shouted “Vive la Commune !” Rouillac and Baudoin, who suffered on the 6th of July, resisted and swore at the gendarmes who approached to bind them and insulted the chaplain who offered them religious consolation. The last execution of Communist malefactors for the year was that of Lolive, Denivelle, and Deschamps, on September the 18th. A week previously the Government promised that no more arrests should be made in connexion with the Paris Commune, except in the cases of the leaders of the insurrection, or of persons guilty of crimes against the common law. Many, however, still lay in prison awaiting their trial, or awaiting the execution of their sentence.
The narrative of Parliamentary events up to the summer recess, has shown us that while the several fractions of the Right viewed with growing distrust and anxiety the President's disposition to act with the other wing of the Assembly, and his at last declared intention to make the Republican form of government, as far as in him lay, definitive instead of provisional only, the Left, on their part, were constantly on the watch lest the République de M. Thiers should wear too Conservative a colour, and should cease to connect itself with the theories and traditions of the Revolution. Gambetta, the leader of the Radical party considered as a whole-he whom indeed they looked to as the future chief of the State-found himself in an ambiguous position. He was statesman enough to perceive that while on the one hand it would be fatal in the present temper of the public towards the Commune and its works to precipitate any ultra-democratic movement, yet that, on the other, to keep the