The Brave Archbishop
As you have read, the Parisians, fickle as they were, were never long without a hero whom they worshipped.
When their country now, for the second time, became a republic. Lamartine was the idol of the day, and accordingly he became the leader of the new Government.
Lamartine who was a poet and an orator, was also a brave man After the abdication of Louis Philippe he faced the excited mob, and spent more than three days trying to soothe its angry passions. Until the city was quiet he did not dare to snatch time either for food or sleep, but at length his eloquence prevailed and the people went away peaceably to their homes.
France was again a republic. Yet the Democrats were still dissatisfied.
Work was hard to find, people were starving The Democrats would fain have seen the rich forced to divide their money and their goods with the poor.
Even the Tricolour, which now waved from all the public buildings gave these Republicans no joy. They longed to see the red flag. the badge of the fiercest Democrats, hoisted all over France.
When the mob again rose, clamouring that the red flag should replace the Tricolour, Lamartine would not yield an inch to the voice of the people.
"Citizens," he said, and there was no quaver of uncertainty in his voice, "Citizens, neither I nor any member of the Government will adopt the red flag. We would rather adopt that other flag which is hoisted in a bombarded city to mark to the enemy the hospitals of the wounded." The flag of which Lamartine spoke was that of the Red Cross.
"I will tell you," he went on, "in one word why I will oppose the red flag. It is, citizens, because the Tricolour has made the tour of the world with the republic and the empire, with your liberties and your glory; the red flag has only made the tour of the Champ de Mars, dragged through the blood of citizens."
Brave words these to speak in the face of an angry mob! But by such words, and also because the Parisians were nothing if not fickle, Lamartine soon began to lose his hold upon the people, his popularity began to wane.
The second republic had been proclaimed in February 1848; by June the people had become so dissatisfied that again they were up in arms, and street-fighting grew daily more dangerous. At length the Government ordered General Cavaignac, the Minister of War, to take troops and clear the streets.
For three days a terrible slaughter followed, the troops finding the mob armed and desperate.
At the end of three days the heart of the Archbishop of Paris could no longer bear to see the sufferings of his flock. Going to General Cavaignac he begged to be allowed to go to the headquarters of the rebels.
His wish was granted, and the brave archbishop set out, carrying in his hand naught save a cross.
Many of the soldiers, believing he was going to certain death, begged him to return. But he refused, saying, "It is my duty. A good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
It was evening when the holy man reached the spot where the battle was raging.
"Holding the cross aloft," he went toward the foot of the barricade, a servant carrying before him a green branch, at that time the sign of truce.
The soldiers drew close to the archbishop as he approached the mob. Even with the man of God standing between them, the two parties scowled fiercely upon one another.
Suddenly, from an unknown quarter, a shot was fired. Without pausing to find out who had fired, the rebels, shouting, "Treason! treason!" sped back to their guns, and the fight was soon raging as fiercely as ever.
Undismayed, the archbishop walked slowly toward the barricade which the rebels had set up. As he reached the top a storm of balls swept over his head, yet he, as by a miracle, was untouched.
Slowly he began to descend, meaning to join the rebels on the other side. But at that moment a chance shot from a window struck him and he fell to the ground.
Then in horror the rebels laid down their arms, and staunching his wound they carried the brave archbishop to the hospital.
He lived only for a few moments. With his last breath he cried, "O God, accept my life as an offering for the salvation of this poor misguided people!"
After the archbishop's death the rebels offered to surrender on condition of a general pardon. But General Cavaignac refused to accept any condition, so again the rebels flew to arms. Many thousands of them lost their lives.
When at length peace was restored to the city, the Chamber of Deputies determined to have a president at the head of the republic. The president was to be chosen by the vote of the people.
Their choice was unexpected. Lamartine, being no longer their idol, was set aside. General Cavaignac, who had served his city bravely, was ignored. But Louis Napoleon, the nephew of the great Napoleon, who had been forced to fly from France during the reign of Louis Philippe, was now chosen to be the President of the French Republic.
If the people dreamed that the nephew of Napoleon would be content with the title of President, they soon found out their mistake.
Three years after his election, in 1851, he made secret arrangements to become emperor. As Napoleon's little son had sometimes been called Napoleon ii., Louis determined to call himself Napoleon iii.
That neither the minister Thiers nor General Cavaignac might thwart his plans, Louis Napoleon ordered them to be imprisoned. He then caused placards to be posted all over Paris, saying, not that he intended to be emperor, but that he meant to remain president of the republic for ten years.
The mob, indignant with the president's ambition, flew to arms. But Louis Napoleon was prepared for this. His soldiers had received orders to patrol the streets and shoot all those who would not agree to his plan.
A sudden stroke of policy such as this by which Louis Napoleon became master of France, is called a coup d'état. Before another year had passed Louis Napoleon's coup d'état had proved so successful that he was proclaimed emperor by the vote of the people.
In the following year—1858—a great war broke out between Russia and Turkey. France and England sided with Turkey, and this was the beginning of the Crimean War.
To tell you of this war makes our story seem very near its close, for we still read in the newspapers of old soldiers who fought in this great campaign and yet are alive to-day.