Front Page Titles (by Subject) I: GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT'S VERSION OF THE 24TH OF FEBRUARY. - The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
I: GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT’S VERSION OF THE 24TH OF FEBRUARY. - Alexis de Tocqueville, The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville 
The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville, edited by the Comte de Tocqueville and now first translated into English by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. With a portrait in Heliogravure (New York: Macmillan, 1896).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT’S VERSION OF THE 24TH OF FEBRUARY.
I have to-day (24 October 1850) had a conversation with Beaumont which is worth noting. This is what he told me:
“On the 24th of February, at seven o’clock in the morning, Jules Lasteyrie and another [I have forgotten the name which Beaumont mentioned] came to fetch me to take me to M. Thiers, where Barrot, Duvergier, and several others were expected.”
I asked him if he knew what had passed during the night between Thiers and the King. He replied:
“I was told by Thiers, and especially by Duvergier, who had at once taken a note of Thiers’ narrative, that Thiers had been summoned at about one o’clock; that he had found the King in an undecided frame of mind; that he had at once told him that he could only come in with Barrot and Duvergier; that the King, after raising many objections, had appeared to yield; that he had put off Thiers till the morning; that nevertheless, as he showed him to the door, he had told him that as yet no one was bound one way or the other.”
Evidently the King reserved the right of attempting to form another combination before the morning.
“I must here,” continued Beaumont, “tell you a curious anecdote. Do you know how Bugeaud was occupied during that decisive night, at the Tuileries itself, where he had just received the command-in-chief? Listen: Bugeaud’s hope and ambition was to become Minister of War when Thiers should come into power. Things were so turning out, as he clearly saw, as to make this appointment impossible; but what preoccupied him was to assure his preponderance at the War Office even if he was not at the head of it. Consequently, on the night of the 24th of February, or rather in the early morning, Bugeaud with his own hand wrote to Thiers from the Tuileries a letter of four pages, of which the substance was:
“ ‘I understand the difficulties which prevent you from making me your Minister of War; nevertheless I have always liked you, and I am sure that we shall one day govern together. However, I understand the present reasons, and I give way before them; but I beg you, at least, to give M. Magne, who is my friend, the place of Under-Secretary of State at the War Office.’ ”
Resuming his general narrative, Beaumont continued:
“When I arrived at the Place Saint-Georges, Thiers and his friends had already left for the Tuileries. I hastily followed them, and arrived at the same time as they did. The appearance of Paris was already formidable; however, the King received us as usual, with the same copious language and the same mannerisms that you know of. Before being shown in to him [at least, I believe it was here that Beaumont placed this incident], we talked about affairs among ourselves. I insisted urgently upon Bugeaud’s dismissal. ‘If you want to oppose force to the popular movement,’ I said, ‘by all means make use of Bugeaud’s name and audacity; but if you wish to attempt conciliation and you suspend hostilities1 . . . then Bugeaud’s name is a contradiction.’ The others seconded me, and Thiers reluctantly and with hesitation gave way. They compromised the matter as you know: Bugeaud nominally retained the command-in-chief, and Lamoricière was placed at the head of the National Guard. Thiers and Barrot entered the King’s closet, and I do not know what happened there. The order had been given to the troops everywhere to cease firing, and to fall back upon the Palace and make way for the National Guard. I myself, with Rémusat, hurriedly drew up the proclamation informing the people of these orders and explaining them. At nine o’clock it was agreed that Thiers and Barrot should personally attempt to make an appeal to the people; Thiers was stopped on the staircase and induced to turn back, but with difficulty, I am bound to admit. Barrot set out alone, and I followed him.”
Here Beaumont’s account is identical with Barrot’s.
“Barrot was wonderful throughout this expedition,” said Beaumont. “I had difficulty in making him turn back, although when we had once arrived at the barricade at the Porte Saint-Denis, it would have been impossible to go further. Our return made the situation worse: we brought in our wake, by effecting a passage for it, a crowd more hostile than that which we had traversed in going; by the time we arrived at the Place Vendôme, Barrot feared lest he should take the Tuileries by assault, in spite of himself, with the multitude which followed him; he slipped away and returned home. I came back to the Château. The situation seemed to me very serious but far from desperate, and I was filled with surprise on perceiving the disorder that had gained all minds during my absence, and the terrible confusion that already reigned at the Tuileries. I was not quite able to understand what had happened, or to learn what news they had received to turn everything topsy-turvy in this fashion. I was dying of hunger and fatigue; I went up to a table and hurriedly took some food. Ten times, during this meal of three or four minutes, an aide-de-camp of the King or of one of the Princes came to look for me, spoke to me in confused language, and left me without properly understanding my reply. I quickly joined Thiers, Rémusat, Duvergier, and one or two others who were to compose the new Cabinet. We went together to the King’s closet: this was the only Council at which I was present. Thiers spoke, and started a long homily on the duties of the King and the paterfamilias. ‘That is to say, you advise me to abdicate,’ said the King, who was but indifferently affected by the touching part of the speech and came straight to the point. Thiers assented, and gave his reasons. Duvergier supported him with great vivacity. Knowing nothing of what had happened, I displayed my astonishment and exclaimed that all was not lost. Thiers seemed much annoyed at my outburst, and I could not prevent myself from believing that the secret aim of Thiers and Duvergier had, from the first, been to get rid of the King, on whom they could no longer rely, and to govern in the name of the Duc de Nemours or the Duchesse d’Orléans, after forcing the King to abdicate. The King, who had struck me as very firm up to a certain moment, seemed towards the end to surrender himself entirely.”
Here there is a void in my memory in Beaumont’s account, which I will fill up from another conversation. I come to the scene of the abdication, which followed:
“During the interval, events and news growing worse and the panic increasing, Thiers had declared that already he was no longer possible (which was perhaps true), and that Barrot was scarcely so. He then disappeared—at least, I did not see him again during the last moments—which was very wrong of him, for although he declined the Ministry, he ought not, at so critical a juncture, to have abandoned the Princes, and he should have remained to advise them, although no longer their Minister. I was present at the final scene of the abdication. The Duc de Montpensier begged his father to write and urged him so eagerly that the King stopped and said, ‘But look here, I can’t write faster.’ The Queen was heroical and desperate: knowing that I had appeared opposed to the abdication at the Council, she took my hands and told me that such a piece of cowardice must not be allowed to be consummated, that we should defend ourselves, that she would let herself be killed, before the King’s eyes, before they could reach him. The abdication was signed nevertheless, and the Duc de Nemours begged me to run and tell Marshal Gérard, who was at the further end of the Carrousel, that I had seen the King sign, so that he might announce officially to the people that the King had abdicated. I hastened there, and returned; all the rooms were empty. I went from room to room without meeting a soul. I went down into the garden; I there met Barrot, who had come over from the Ministry of the Interior, and was indulging in the same useless quest. The King had escaped by the main avenue; the Duchesse d’Orléans seemed to have gone by the underground passage to the water-side. No necessity had compelled them to leave the Château, which was then in perfect safety, and which was not invaded by the people until an hour after it had been abandoned. Barrot was determined at all costs to assist the Duchess. He hurriedly had horses prepared for her, the young Prince and ourselves, and wanted us to throw ourselves all together into the midst of the people—the only chance in fact, and a feeble one at that, that remained to us. Unable to rejoin the Duchess, we left for the Ministry of the Interior. You met us on the road; you know the rest.”
This clearly shows, independently of what Beaumont told me positively, how absolutely the new Cabinet had made up its mind to yield.