[Illustration: COLUMN DE PLACE VENDOME.]
When I was first in Paris, Louis Napoleon was president, but he was preparing for the empire, and there was in reality no more liberty in France than now, and in many respects a residence in Paris was then more uncomfortable than at present. Everybody was expecting a change, and Louis Napoleon, as president, was actually more despotic in little things than he is as emperor. He was then ready to hunt down any man against whom a suspicion could lie, while now his rule is, after a manner, established. He has as fair prospects to remain emperor of France till he dies, for aught that I can see, as any European monarch has of retaining his throne.
When I entered Paris, under the presidency, I was more closely watched than under the empire. As an American, from a republic, I was, perhaps, naturally an object of suspicion to the spies of a man who was planning a coup d’etat; at any rate I was tracked everywhere I stirred, by the police, while on my last visit I experienced nothing of the sort.
The people of Paris are divided into many classes in politics—some are the friends of Louis Napoleon, while others are his enemies. But he has few distinguished friends in Paris. The shop-keepers are pleased with the pomp and magnificence of his court, for it gives them custom and money. Many of the wealthy business men desire him to live and rule because they want a stable government, and they deprecate above all things else, change. They are more for money, as we may expect, than for freedom. Then there are the partisans of the Orleans and Bourbon families, who fear the republicans and accept Napoleon as a temporary ruler, and who much prefer him to anarchy. So that there is a strong body of men in Paris and in France—a majority of the people—who upon the whole prefer that the rule of a man they all dislike should be perpetuated for years to come.
And there is something in the character of Louis Napoleon which excites admiration. He is intensely selfish, but he is a very capable man. He understands the French people thoroughly, and rules them shrewdly. He is one of the ablest statesmen in Europe, and the world knows that he lead England in the late war with Russia. Yet he possesses some ridiculous qualities, as his conduct previous to his last entrance into France shows. He relies upon his destiny in the blindest manner, and is not possessed of genuine courage of the highest character. He is so reckless that he will never flinch from the prosecution of any of his schemes, either from personal danger or the dread of shedding human blood. He seems to have no heart, and his countenance is like adamant, for it gives no clue to the thoughts which fill his brain. He is certainly a very remarkable character and one worth studying. His early history is laughable. His various descents upon France were too ridiculous for laughter, and they only excited the pity of the