Paris in December, 1851, or the Coup d'État of Napoleon Iii
By Hurd and Houghton., Editor of the Siècle (Paris), and Author of “ La Province en Décembre, 1851.” Translated from the Thirteenth French Edition, with many Marginal Notes. By S. W. ADAMS and A. H. BRANDON. New York :
AT any other moment than the present it would be hardly endurable to read of the accumulated crimes of Louis Napoleon ; but now, when by the blessing of Heaven he has worked out his own ruin, we may with some patience turn to the story of his guilty success. M. Ténot tells it in the best manner, — which, in the circumstances in which he wrote, was the only possible manner ; for his book had to be published by permission of the usurper himself,—and confines himself to the effective representation of facts, and while he never leaves his own feeling to conjecture, his comment is sparing and unimpassioned. Compared to Mr. Kinglake’s history of the same events, — which people now perceive gave not only the most terrible but the most subtile and truthful characterization of Napoleon, —M. Ténot’s work is as a diagram to a finished picture ; but the reader easily supplies the passion which the author represses ; and we hardly know whether it is better to have help in one’s indignation or not. Whichever history you read, you cannot fail to see that if Louis Napoleon had bestowed upon France all the material happiness which his admirers (they have dwindled of late) claim that she has received from him, the first process towards these benefactions was a crime for which nothing could atone ; for which, humanly speaking, there is no forgiveness. There is nothing to say in expression of your feeling about this crime, if you happen to believe that the prosperity of the Empire was as great a fraud upon the imagination of mankind as its military efficiency, or the generalship of its head ; if you believe that the Emperor was, as far as action went, in great degree the guilty instrument of St. Arnaud, Moray, Persigny, and the rest, whose death left him a badly puzzled automaton ; if you believe that the spectacle of his success has had the most disastrous and demoralizing effect, has everywhere offered a premium to falsehood and unscrupulousness, and has tended to make the whole world vulgar, vicious, and expensive.
The translators’ notes usefully supplement M. Ténot’s work with biographical sketches of all the principal persons named, and with explanations of events incidentally referred to.