The Second Empire

By Octave Aubry; Arthur Livingston | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIX
The Republican Revenge

PALIKAO RECEIVED A DISPATCH FROM GENERAL VINOY, WHOM HE had sent to Mézières with the XIIIth army corps, during the afternoon of September 1st. It reported that MacMahon's army was surrounded at Sedan. The Minister of War said nothing. Rumors of a very favorable character were in circulation, arousing false hopes in the public. At six o'clock on the 2nd, Jérôme David received a private message from Brussels.

"Great disaster. MacMahon killed. The Emperor a prisoner."

He made haste to inform the Empress. She only half believed him. He went on to the room where the Committee of Defense was sitting. Thiers was making a forceful plea for MacMahon's return to the neighborhood of Paris. Jérôme David whispered to him:

"Don't go on -- I have something to tell you."

Thiers followed him out of the room and Jérôme David imparted his news. They walked the hundred yards across the Solferino bridge in silence. Those two men so opposite in political beliefs were as one in the same anguish.

David pleaded with Thiers:

"You can render great services to the country in this crisis. You must!"

"I can do nothing," answered Thiers. "There is no remedy for such a catastrophe. Where will we be a week from now?"

Rumors of the defeat reached Paris generally through travellers coming from Brussels. It spread like wildfire, gaining headway as it progressed. Official circles knew no more than anybody else, but they foresaw the worst. At the Legislative Body the republican leaders, Jules Favre, Garnier-Pagès, Jules Simon, Ernest Picard, Jules Ferry, Gambetta, dragged Thiers into an office. A revolution, they said, could not be avoided. They intended to move the depo-

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