No. 65.
Mr. Washburne to Mr. Fish.

No. 1296.]

Sir: The “second tour de scrutin” to fill the vacancies in the Chamber of Deputies took place on Sunday last, with the following result: Republicans, 60; constitutionalists, 8; conservatives, 6; monarchists, 8; Bonapartists, 25: total, 107. This classification differs somewhat from others which have been made; but I think it is substantially correct. The Assembly is now full, with the exception of four members, to be elected by the colonies, who will all be republicans except one.

Yesterday was the day for the opening of the two legislative bodies, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Though considered an occasion of a good deal of importance, there seemed to be much less interest than I had expected. Desirous of obtaining a coup d’œil of these two new bodies, I went to Versailles, first to the opening of the Chamber of Deputies and then to the Senate. Everything proceeded according to the rules established in such cases, and there was no excitement of any kind in either branch attendant upon the provisional organization of the two bodies.

The Chamber was called to order in conformity with the precedent which prevails in all similar cases in France, by the doyen d’ áge, who was, in this case, Dr. Raspail, a man 82 years of age, who played a prominent part in the revolution of 1848, and has been widely known as an [Page 108] extreme radical for more than a quarter of a century. He was in prison for a political offence at the time of the fall of the empire.

It was thought that his appearance in the fauteuil on this occasion would create a certain excitement, and that he might make a foolish and irritating speech. Whoever expected anything of the kind must have been grievously disappointed, for his appearance in the chair was very creditable for an old man, and his speech was short, sensible, and in good taste, containing nothing to wound the susceptibilities of any one present. When the provisional president had been elected, and he proposed to yield the chair to him, the Chamber insisted that he should continue to preside until the end of the sitting. The Chamber of Deputies met in the new building constructed recently for the purpose. It is in a narrow street, and has no pretensions to architectural beauty. The hall is pleasant and well arranged. There is much more room for spectators in the galleries than there was in the Palais de Bourbon in his city, or in the old theater at Versailles, where the last Assembly sat. The diplomatic tribune is much larger than in either of the old halls.

The Senate met in the hall which was vacated by the last Assembly, which, as you are aware, was the Salle du Spectacle of the Palace of Versailles in the age of Louis XIV. This body was temporarily organized in the same manner as the Chamber of Deputies, and after a very short session adjourned. It is well understood that the Duc d’Audiffret Pasquier will be elected permanent president of the Senate, and that Mr. Jules Grêvy will be the permanent president of the Chamber of Deputies. Mr. Grêvy, as you will recollect, was the president of the old Chamber until he felt himself compelled to resign by what he conceived to be the indignities put upon him by the majority. After the organization of the Assemblies a ceremony which is very much at variance with our political usages, and which, I think, has no parallel in any other country, took place in the salon d’Hercule of the Palace of Versailles. It is what the French call la Transmission des pouvoirs.

There met the president of the late National Assembly, the Duke d’Audiffret Pasquier, followed by the members of the commission de permanence and the whole cabinet. At three o’clock all the officers of the two newly elected bodies, headed on one side by old Raspail, on the other by Mr. Gaulthier de Rumilly, were introduced. The Duke d’Audiffret Pasquier then rose and addressed those gentlemen for the purpose of handing over to them the powers vested in the old Assembly. “I have the honor,” said he, “to transmit to you in the name of the National Assembly the sovereign power with which it was clothed by the nation.”

Alter a reply from the president pro tem. of the Senate, Mr. Dufaure, the head of the cabinet rose at his turn and said:

“My colleagues and myself have been designated by the President of the republic to receive from your hands the executive power, with all its duties and prerogatives as they are determined by the constitution.”

This custom, which has long prevailed in legislative bodies in France, and which seems curious and unnecessary to a republican trained in the United States, is manifestly a vestige in a modified form of the ancient ceremonies at the death of the king, when, at the moment he breathed his last, the doors of the chamber of death were thrown wide open, the highest ecclesiastics, nobles, and functionaries of state appeared, and with the announcement, “le roi est mort,” proclaimed “vive le roi.

I have, &c.,