CHAPTER III. LOUIS NAPOLEON'S EARLY CAREER. - STRASBURG, BOULOGNE, HAM.

But though Louis Blanc is right in saying that the evil that Napoleon did, lived after him in the memories of thinking men, it is also true that those born since the fall of the Second Empire can have no idea of the general enthusiasm that still lingered in France in Louis Philippe's reign, round memories of the glories of Napoleon. Men might not wish him back again, but they worshipped him as the national demigod. After Sedan he was pulled down literally and metaphorically from his pedestal; and the old feelings about him which half a century ago even foreign nations seemed to share, now seem obsolete and extravagant to readers of Lanfrey and the books of Erckmann-Chatrian.

Even in 1836, when Louis Napoleon in secret entered Strasburg, he was surprised and disappointed to find that those on whom he had counted to assist him in making the important "first step" in his career, were very doubtful of its prudence. He had counted on the co-operation of General Voirol, an old soldier of the Empire who was in command of the Department in which Strasburg was situated; but when he wrote him a letter, in the most moving terms appealing to his affection for the emperor, the old general not only declined to join the plot, but warned the Prefect of Strasburg that mischief was on foot, though he did not mention in what quarter. The Government in Paris seems, however, to have concluded that it would be best to let a plot so very rash come to a head. There was a public singer, calling herself Madame Gordon, at Baden, who flung herself eagerly into the conspiracy. Louis Napoleon on quitting Arenenberg had expected to meet several generals of distinction, who had served under his uncle, at a certain trysting-place between Arenenberg and Strasburg. He waited for them three days, but they never came. He then resolved to continue his campaign without their aid or encouragement, and entered Strasburg secretly on the night of Oct. 28, 1836. The next morning he had an interview with Colonel Vambery, who endeavored to dissuade him from his enterprise.

Vambery's prudent reasons made no impression on the prince, and he then promised his assistance. Having done so, Louis Napoleon offered him a paper, securing a pension of 10,000 francs to each of his two children, in case he should be killed. The colonel tore it up, saying, "I give, but do not sell, my blood." Major Parquin, an old soldier of the Empire, who was in the garrison, had been already won. On the night of the prince's arrival the conspirators met at his lodging.

Three regiments of infantry, three regiments of artillery, and a battalion of engineers formed the garrison at Strasburg. The wisest course would have been to appeal first to the third regiment of artillery; but other counsels prevailed. The fourth artillery, whose adhesion to the cause was doubtful, was chosen for the first attempt. All depended upon the impression made upon this regiment, which was the one in which Napoleon had served when captain of artillery at Toulon.

The night was spent in making preparations. Proclamations were drawn up addressed to the soldiers, to the city, and to France; and the first step was to be the seizure of a printing-office.

At five o'clock in the morning the signal was given. The soldiers of the fourth regiment of artillery were roused by the beating of the assemblee. They rushed, half-dressed, on to their parade-ground. Louis Napoleon, whose fate it was never to be ready, was not prompt even on this occasion; he was finishing two letters to his mother. One was to be sent to her at once if he succeeded, the other if he failed.

On entering the barrack-yard he found the soldiers waiting, drawn up in line. On his arrival the colonel (Vambery) presented him to the troops as the nephew of Napoleon. He wore an artillery uniform. A cheer rose from the line. Then Louis Napoleon, clasping a gilt eagle brought to him by one of the officers, made a speech to the men, which was well received. His cause seemed won.

Next, followed by the troops, but exciting little enthusiasm in the streets of Strasburg as he passed along them in the gray dawn of a cloudy day, Louis Napoleon made his way to the quarters of General Voirol. The general emphatically refused to join the movement, and a guard was at once set over him.

Up to this moment all had smiled upon the enterprise. The printing of the proclamations was going rapidly on, the third regiment of artillery was bringing out its guns and horses, and the inhabitants of Strasburg, roused from their beds, were watching the movement as spectators, prepared to assist it or to oppose it, according as it made its way to success or failure.

The prince, and the troops who supported him, next marched to the barracks of the infantry. On their road they lost their way, and approached the barracks in such a manner that they left themselves only a narrow alley to retreat by, in case of failure.

On the prince presenting himself to the guard, an old soldier of the army of Napoleon kneeled and kissed his hand, when suddenly one of the officers, who had his quarters in the town, rushed upon the scene with his sword drawn, crying: "Soldiers, you are deceived! This man is not the nephew of the Emperor Napoleon, he is an impostor, - a relative of Colonel Vambery!"

This turned the tide. Whilst the soldiers stood irresolute, the colonel of the regiment arrived. For a few moments he was in danger from the adherents of the prince. His own soldiers rushed to his rescue. A tumult ensued. The little band of Imperialists was surrounded, and their cause was lost.

Louis Napoleon yielded himself a prisoner. One or two of the conspirators, among them Madame Gordon, managed to escape; the rest were captured.