Like the vaudeville featured on 12 April, 'Cadet Buteux législateur ou la constitution en vaudevilles' sets new words to pre-existing melodies to create a narrative. Published anonymously in May 1815, we have no record of its performance, though it may have been put on in one on Paris's private singing societies, where writers would try out new material.
Cadet Buteux is a character who appears in a number of vaudevilles from this period; generally an 'everyman', his songs here are written in an approximation of colloquial French. He was often used to give a satirical and cynical take on current affairs, and this vaudeville has him deciding to run the country himself. While outlining his constitution, Cadet Buteux mocks the idea that new constitutions are ever different from old ones. His own plan is for two chambers in government: one of representatives, the other of people prepared to turn a blind eye, with his friends as ministers. His new constitution will be put to the people of France to ratify, but he predicts their apathy, and will in any case guarantee their approval with soldiers if necessary.
The text expresses the powerlessness of ordinary individuals subjected to regime change, and mocks the revisions to the constitution proposed by Napoleon in May 1815: it's easy to see why it wasn't performed in public....
For translations and recordings of four extracts from the vaudeville, see 'Further Information'.
Cadet Buteux législateur ou la constitution en vaudevilles (Paris: Libraires du Palais-Royal, 1815)
To listen to a recording of these extracts, please go to the Echoes of 1815 website.
1. D’puis long-temps chacun s’pique,
Pour accrocher d’zemplois,
D’régler la politique
Et d’fabriquer des lois.
Moi, qu’ai de l’ambition,
De l’adresse et d’l’audace,
J’vas bacler un’constitution;
Ça décid’ra p’t-êt’ la nation
A m’donner zun’ bonn’ place.
1. For a long while, every one’s been getting in a tizzy,
To hook a job,
To sort out politics
And to make laws.
I, who have ambition,
Skill and audacity,
I am going to knock up a constitution;
Maybe it will make up the nation’s mind
To give me a good position.
20. Si j’demand’ l’approbation
De tous les habitans d’la France
Sur cett’ nouvell’ Constitution,
C’est pour la frim’, car j’trouv’rai, j’pense,
Pus d’un normand, pus d’un gascon
Qui n’voudra dir’ni oui ni non.
20. If I ask for approval
From all the inhabitants of France
On this new Constitution,
It’s just for show, ‘cause I’ll find, I think,
No more Normans, no more Gascons
Who will want to say either yes or no.
21. Mais je m’pass’rai d’leur suffrage,
Et pour prév’nir les débats
Adroitement j’me ménage,
L’zhomm’s en place et les soldats;
J’f’rons approuver mon ouvrage
Par ceux qui n’ s’raient rien sans moi
Les plus forts feront la loi.
21. But I can manage without their votes,
And to forestall the debates
Skillfully I’ll make sure there are
The right men in place and soldiers too;
We will have my work approved
By those who would be nothing without me
The strongest will make the law.
26. J’ pouvons répondr’ stapendant
Au critiqu’ qui nous sermonne
Qu’ ma constitution s’ra bonne
Si j l’observons fidèl’ment;
J’avons vu tant d’fois en France
Des promess’s de c’t’ importance!
Avec la dernier’, quand j’pense,
On nous a tant fait aller,
Que j’dis qu’un’ charte est l’image
D’un’ bell’ fill’ qui reste sage
Tant qu’ell’ n’ se laiss’ pas violer.
26. We will be able to reply however
To the critic who lectures us
That my constitution will go well
If we observe it faithfully;
We have seen so many times in France
Promises of this importance!
With the last one, now I think about it,
We were strung so far along,
That I say that a charter is the image
Of a beautiful girl who stays good,
As long as she doesn’t let herself be raped.