Heinrich Heine: French Affairs Pt. 3

Excerpt, Works of Heinrich Heine, Volume 14. Translator Charles Godfrey Leland.

June 10, 1832

Yesterday Paris was perfectly quiet. The rumors of many military executions which were still believed in, the evening before yesterday, by most credible authority, have been contradicted in the most reassuring manner by those who are nearest to the government. A great number of arrests are, however, admitted. Of this, it is easy enough to convince oneself by personal observation, since yesterday, and much more on the day before, arrested persons were being seen conducted by soldiers of the line or communal guards in every part of the city. It seemed sometimes like a procession, old and young men in wretched garments, and accompanied by lamenting friends, being among the prisoners.

The report was that everyone would be at once brought to a military trial, and shot within four and twenty hours at Vincennes. Groups were to be seen everywhere standing before houses where searches were being made. This was chiefly the case in streets where fighting had taken place, and where many of the combatants, despairing of their cause, concealed themselves until some betrayer traced them out.

The greatest crowding was along the quais where they pressed on, staring and gossiping, especially near the Rue Saint-Martin, which is still full of curious lookers-on, and about the Palais de Justice, to which many prisoners were brought. There was also much thronging to La Morgue to see the dead there laid out; there were the most painful scenes of recognition. The city had indeed a sorrowful aspect, everywhere were seen groups of people with grief plainly marked in their faces, patrolling troops and funerals of National Guards who had fallen.

But in society, since the day before yesterday, no one is the least concerned; they know their people and also that the Juste-milieu feels very uncomfortable in its present plenitude of power. It holds the great sword of justice, but wants the strong hand it requires. It is afraid of wounding itself at the slightest blow. Intoxicated at the victory, which was at first ascribed to Marshal Soult, Government let itself be led astray to military measures, proposed by that old soldier, who is still full of the whims of the Empire. Now this man actually stands at the head of the ministerial council, and his colleagues, and the rest of the Juste-Milieu fear lest the Presidency, which he so ardently desired, may devolve upon him.

Therefore, they would like to turn round again and extricate themselves completely from heroism; and it was for this that milder interpretations of the decree as to the state of siege followed its publication.

One can see how the Juste-Milieu is now alarmed at its own power, and in alarm hold it as if in convulsive terror tightly in its hands, and will not give it up until assured of forgiveness. There may be in the confusion a few unimportant victims. Government may lie itself into a ridiculous rage to frighten its enemies, it may commit frightfully stupid errors, it may —-

But it is impossible to foretell what apprehension may do when it is barricaded in the hearts of those in power, and sees itself surrounded by death and mockery. The deeds of a frightened man, like that of a genius, like out of the sphere of conjecture. Meantime the higher public fully understand that the extra-legal condition in which matters are now misplaced is only a formula.

Where laws live in the conscience of the people, Government cannot annul them by a sudden edict. Everyone is here de facto more secure as to his life and property than anywhere else in Europe, excepting in England or Holland. Though military tribunals are instituted, there prevails here continually more practical freedom of the press, and journalists write here more freely on the matters of government than in many states of the Continent where freedom of the press is sanctioned by paper laws.

As the post leaves by noon on Sunday, I can give no news of today. I can only refer you to the newspapers. Their tone is more significant than what they say. Au reste, they are certainly again abundant in lies.

There has been incessant drumming since morning. Today, there is a grand review. My servant says that on the Boulevards the whole extent from the Barriere du Trone to the Barriere de l’Etoile is covered with troops of the line and National Guards. Louis Philippe, the father of his native land, the conqueror of Catiline on June 5, the Cicero on horseback, the preserver of life and of shops, the Citizen-King, will in a few hours show himself to his people. He will be greeted by loud applause; he will press many men’s hands, and the police will see that there are especial precautions taken to ensure safety and an extra enthusiasm.

Paris, June 11, 1832

The review of yesterday was favored by very fine weather. There were on the Boulevards from the Barriere de l’Etoile perhaps fifty thousand National Guards and troops of the line, and a countless multiple of spectators on their feet or at windows , eagerly waiting to see the King, and note how he would be received after such remarkable occurrences. About one o’clock His Majesty with his general staff passed by the Porte Saint-Denis, where I stood on a reversed bath-tub in order to observe him more closely.

The King did not ride in the centre, but at the right side, where the National Guards were ranged, and all along the whole route he was continually bending over sideways from his horse to shake hands with these soldiers. When he returned two hours later, by the same road, he was on the left side, where he continued the same maneuver, so that I should not wonder if in consequence of this oblique position he had today the greatest pain in his heart, if not a dislocated rib.

This extraordinary patience of the King was really incomprehensible. And he was obliged to maintain a constant smile, but I think that under the impervious friendliness of that face there lay hidden much trouble and sorrow. His appearance inspired in me much compassion.

He has changed greatly since I saw him last winter at a ball at the Tuileries. His features, then so plump and rosy, were yesterday yellow and flabby, his black side whiskers were quite grey, so that it seemed as if his very face had meantime grown anxious over present or future blows of fate; it certainly was a sign of grief that he had never thought of dyeing his beard. The three-cornered hat, of which the whole front flap was thrown deeply over his forehead, gave him, moreover, an unfortunate appearance. He seemed to look about as if seeking with his eyes for sympathy and forgiveness. In truth, he had not the appearance of one who had declared us all to be in a state of siege.

Accordingly, there was not the slightest manifestation of ill will towards him, and I must bear witness that great applause greeted him everywhere; those especially with whom he shook hands raised a roaring hurrah, and there rang from a thousand women’s throats a piercing “Vive le Roi!” I saw an old woman who punched her husband in the ribs because he did not cry loud enough. A bitter feeling seized me when I reflected that this mob which now exulted round the poor hand-shaking Louis Philippe are the same Frenchmen who often saw Napoleon ride by with his marble face of Caesar, and his immovable eyes and his “unapproachable” ruler’s hands.

After Louis Philippe had held the review, or, rather, felt the army to make sure that it really existed, the noise of the military continued for several hours. The different corps continually shouted compliments to one another as they marched by. “Viva la ligne!” cried the guards, and “Viva la garde nationale!” replied the line. They fraternised. Some of them would be seen in symbolic embraces; others as symbolically exchanged with their allies their sausage, bread and wine. There was not the slightest disturbance.

I must mention that the cry, “Viva la liberte!” was the one most frequently heard; and when these words were thundered forth in joy from the full hearts of so many thousands of armed men, one must needs feel cheerful despite a condition of military occupation and the court martials. But there we have it; Louis Philippe will never, of free accord, oppose public opinion; he will always find out by crafty means what are its most urgent desires and act accordingly.

That is the important meaning of yesterday’s review. Louis Philippe felt the necessity of assembling the people en masse to convince himself that his cannon shots and proclamations had not been ill-received; that he is not regarded as a harsh tyrant, and that there is no other misunderstanding. The people also wished to see its Louis Philippe, to convince itself that he is always the subject-courtier to its sovereign will, and ever obedient and devoted.

One could therefore say that the people permitted the King his review; there was a king-show held, and they expressed their sublime satisfaction at his maneuvers.

End of this excerpt, but Herr Heine’s narrative continues to intrigue; all twenty volumes of his work truly worthy to be read. 

1830 Potraite of-Louis-Philippe_de_Bourbon

 Louis Philippe de Bourbon