CHAPTER XX. GENERAL BOULANGER.
He spoke no more till they returned to the house where they had left the dinner-party. The discussion was going on as before, only M. Clemenceau had made up his mind that he would not undertake to form a ministry, and M. Andrieux had been summoned from his bed to know if he would do so. He expressed his willingness to undertake the task, but said frankly that he could not offer the War Office to General Boulanger. "Anything else, my dear general, you shall have," he said, "and in a few months probably you may have that also; but if you formed part of the Cabinet at first, I could not conciliate the Chamber. You shall be military governor of Paris, - the noblest military post in the world."
But this offer was incompatible with the secret engagements that the general had entered into not an hour before. The conference, therefore, broke up at five in the morning without a decision having been reached.
The next morning the two gentlemen who had been charged by M. Grevy to procure him a prime minister, and if possible a cabinet, reported the failure of their mission. "Then all is over for me," said M. Grevy; "I shall at once send in my resignation."
The resignation was accepted, and greatly to the surprise of the general public, - for already the streets were full of excited citizens, - M. Sadi-Carnot was elected president, almost without discussion, and without disorder. His election put an end to the secret arrangement between Boulanger and the Royalists, and appeared likely to give France a more settled government than it had enjoyed since the Republic came into existence. The Exposition of 1889, too, was at hand, and Paris was very anxious that no political convulsions should frighten away strangers.
The general was deeply hurt by his unpopularity in the Chamber, and by the way in which his former friends had thrown him over; but he still had the mob, the army, and the peasantry for his partisans, nor was he without the sympathy of the Bonapartists.
It was not long before he got into trouble with the War Department for coming to Paris without leave. It had not been usual for a general of division to ask leave of the Minister of War for a brief absence, nor could General Boulanger forget that he himself had been War Minister not many months before.
The general complained bitterly of the way he had been followed up by the police, as if he had been a criminal. "From the time I left the Ministry of War," he said, "I have been spied upon and shadowed like a thief. Even my orderly has been bribed to report facts and falsehoods concerning me. My letters have been opened, and copies of my telegrams lie on every minister's table." He was deprived of his command, and retired from active service.
[Footnote 1: To a reporter for "Figaro."]
This measure, so far from rendering him innocuous to the Opportunist party, brought him into Parliament (as the French Chambers are now called) and increased his popularity. He had been already elected deputy both from the Department of the Aisne and the Department of the Dordogne, - the latter without his proposing himself as a candidate, although he was ineligible, and could not take his seat, since at the time of his election he was an officer of the Government, holding a command. Having now retired into private life, he stood for the Department of Le Nord, where he was received with enthusiasm and elected by an immense majority. From all quarters came telegraphic messages to him from candidates for parliamentary honors, offering to resign their seats in favor of the popular hero. Even Corsica was anxious to have him for her deputy. But it was not only his own election which concerned General Boulanger; he wished to secure the election of his followers. For that purpose election funds were needed, and the alliance with the Royalists was renewed. Whenever a Royalist candidate had a certainty of election, no Boulangist candidate was to contend against him. In other cases the agents of the Comte de Paris were openly to encourage their followers to vote for the nominee of the ally who was to assist the Monarchists to oppose the Government. There would have been great difficulty in raising the money needed for this electoral campaign, had it not been for a lady of high rank, the Duchesse d'Uzes, of unspotted reputation, and of great enthusiasm for the cause of royalty, who poured her whole fortune (over three million francs) into the joint treasury. The alliance between Boulanger and the Royalists was a profound secret. Very few Boulangists suspected that their election expenses were being paid by funds drawn from the purses of the supporters of monarchy.
[Footnote 2: Parliament before this time meant in French history the Provincial Courts, that had chiefly legal functions.]