Ah! and the guns of the National Guard that frown from their embrasures on the top of the hill, have they been made use of against the Prussians? No! they have made no report during the siege, and were only heard on the days on which they were christened and paid for; elegant things, hardly to be blackened with powder, that it was always hoped would be pacific and never dangerous to the capital. Cruel irony! those guns for which Paris paid, and those American mitrailleuses, made out of the savings of both rich and poor, the farthings of the frugal housewife, and the napoleons of the millionaires; the contributions of the artists who designed, and the poets who pen’d, are ruining Paris instead of protecting it. The brass mouths that ate the bread of humanity are turned upon the nation itself to devour it also.
But, to return to the 88th Regiment of Line, did they take the guns? Yes, but they gave them up again, and to whom? why, to a crowd of women and children; and as to the chiefs, no one seemed to know what had become of them. It is related, however, that General Lecomte had been made a prisoner and led to the Chateau-Rouge, and that at nine o’clock some Chasseurs d’Afrique charged pretty vigorously in the Place Pigalle a detachment of National Guards, who replied by a volley of bullets. An officer of Chasseurs was shot, and his men ran away, the greater part, it is said, into the wine-shops, where they fraternised with the patriots, who offered them drink. I was told on the spot that General Vinoy, who was on horseback, became encircled in a mob of women, had a stone and a cap thrown at him, and thought it prudent to escape, leaving the National Guards and linesmen to promenade in good fellowship three abreast, dispersing themselves about the outer boulevards and about Paris. Indeed, I have just seen a drunken couple full of wine and friendship, strongly reminding one of a duel ending in a jolly breakfast. And who is to blame for this? Nobody knows. All agree that it is a bungle,—the fault of maladministration and want of tact. Certainly the National Guards at Montmartre had no right to hold the cannons belonging to the National Guards, as a body, or to menace the reviving trade and tranquillity of Paris, by means of guns turned against its peaceful citizens and Government officials; but was it necessary to use violence to obtain possession of the cannons? Should not all the means of conciliation be exhausted first, and might we not hope that the citizens at Montmartre would themselves end by abandoning the pieces of artillery which they hardly protected. In fact, they were encumbered by their own barricades, and they might take upon themselves to repave their streets and return to order.
Monsieur Thiers and his ministers were not of that opinion. They preferred acting, and with vigour. Very well! but when resolutions are formed, one should be sure of fulfilling them, for in circumstances of such importance failure itself makes the attempt an error.