A couple of years before the débâcle --- as implicit within --- Louis-Napoléon meditated, which is what he was best at, some wish-fulfilment . An accomplished author, his only known fiction had been, in hereditary fashion, official pronouncements.
'Plot of a Novel by the Emperor'
"M. Benoît, an honest grocer, residing tn the Rue de la Lune, left, in 1847, for America. After having travelled in the countries extending from Hudson's Bay to the Mississippi, he returned to France in April, 1868, having been nearly nineteen years out of the country. He had been only vaguely informed as to the events which had taken place in France since 1848. Some French refugees had told him that, if he visited France, he would find it crushed under a system of despotism, with poverty abounding everywhere; a France, in fact, very different from that he left flourishing under the reign of Louis Phillippe. Our friend Benoît arrives at Brest in a trans-Atlantic steamer, full of uncertainties, regrets, and apprehensions. 'What are those black-looking vessels, so ugly when compared with the beautiful sailing vessels that I have left behind me ?' he asks of the first sailor he meets. 'Why,' replies the sailor, 'they are iron-clad men-of-war, the Emperor's invention; covered in iron, they are impregnable; and this transformation has destroyed, to a certain extent, the supremacy of the English fleet on the seas.' 'That may be possible; but I am sorry for our old ships, with their poetical masts and sails.' [ On the margin, opposite the latter phrase, are written these words : "Passports suppressed." ] He sees the crowd rushing to the Court-house to record their votes. Astonishment at witnessing the existence of universal suffrage; astonishment at the railways which run throughout the whole of the country, and at the telegraph. Arrived in Paris; embellishments. The Octroi ( city dues ) carried to the fortifications. He wishes to make some purchases, which are cheaper, in consequence of the Treaty of Commerce; some half-price, &c. He fancies that there are a number of writers in prison. Error. No disturbances; no political prisoners; no exiles. No more preventative detentions; acceleration of trial; branding suppressed; civil death suppressed; Society for Assistance to the Aged; asylums at Vincennes; coalitions; Police de Roulage suppressed; military service shortened, pay increased, medal instituted, pension augmented, reserve increasing the regular force; funds for infirm priests; arrest for debt; brokers; a tradesman who sent his assistant to buy and sell goods was arrested; Councils-General."
The Secret Documents of the Second Empire. Pub. by the Commission of the Govt. of National Defence. L. 1871 Translated from the French by T. Curry.