The funds for current expenses of the society can never exceed 1,500 francs. This society, as I have said, was founded in 1880. Its success has been really phenomenal.
On January 1, 1882, it comprised 757 members, and its capital amounted to 6,237 francs. On January 18, 1886, it consisted of 15,008 members, and had a capital invested in French consols of 361,003 fr. 99 c. On April 1, 1889, it numbered 59,932 members, divided into 340 sections, and it possessed an invested capital of 1,541,868 fr. 26 c.! Of course the Tontine principle enters into the system, and it would be interesting to compute the probable pensions in 1902 of so many of the 757 persons who were members of the society in 1882 as may then be living to claim their share of the interest then earned by the then capital of the society. The minuteness, precision, and practical common sense with which the statutes of this organisation have been drawn up and provision made in its regulations against all the probable difficulties to be encountered in carrying it on, gives one a very favourable notion of the business capacity and of the character of the French working classes. No conditions as to sex or nationality are imposed upon membership, the only necessary qualification being that the person applying to be admitted shall be actively employed in some way, be domiciled in France, and be sixteen full years of age. It strikes me that organisations of this sort are more likely to promote a practical solution of the Labour question than combinations to secure the passage of laws fixing the number of hours for which a man shall be allowed to work.
The Church has taken an active part in fostering the development of these mutual aid societies throughout this great department, and particularly in Lille and Roubaix. The disasters of the Franco-German war gave a great impulse to them. These disasters did more to strengthen and deepen than all the vulgar violence of the pseudo-scientific and pseudo-literary atheism of parliamentary Paris has yet done to weaken the religious sentiment in France, and the French Catholics cannot be cited to illustrate Aubrey de Vere's noble saying that 'worse than wasted weal is wasted woe.'
I spent a most interesting morning at Lille with M. Grimbert in visiting the buildings and the collections of the great Catholic University which has been founded here to meet the assault of M. Ferry and his allies on the higher education in France. This Catholic University has been endowed and is maintained entirely by the private liberality of the Catholics of the Department of the Nord, and by the revenues it derives from the students who attend its courses. It is a thoroughly equipped university of the first rank. The Rector, Monseigneur Baunard, is a Roman prelate, and of the two vice-rectors, one is a prelate and the other a canon. These, with the Deans of the Faculties, and five professors elected from the corps of instructors, constitute the Academic Senate. The Administrative Council comprises the Archbishop of Cambrai, the Bishop of Arras (to the benevolence of one of whose predecessors France is indebted for the education which enabled Robespierre to avenge upon the Church and upon his country what in one of his letters he calls 'the intolerable slavery of an obligation received'), the Bishop of Lydda, the Chancellor of the University, and the Rector. The Theological Faculty comprises a dean and nine professors; the Law Faculty a dean, the Comte de Vareilles-Sommieres, and thirteen professors. One of these gentlemen, M. Arthaut, was so kind as to receive M. Grimbert and myself, and to show us over the whole institution. The Medical Faculty comprises a dean, Dr. Desplats, and twenty-three professors; the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, a dean, Dr. Margerie, and seven professors; the Faculty of Sciences, a dean, Dr. Chautard, and nine professors.
The buildings of the University now occupy two sides of an immense square in one of the finest quarters of Lille, and when fully completed will occupy the whole square. As they now stand they are by far the most striking edifices in Lille, and would do honour to any city in Europe. The area covered by them, I should say, is larger than that covered by the University of London, and certainly, from the architectural point of view, they need fear no comparison with the London establishment. The library, which is admirably arranged, already contains about 80,000 volumes, and the apparatus of the scientific schools is admittedly better than that of any institution in France. The outlay already made here exceeds 11,000,000 fr., or about 240,000l. sterling, all of which has been contributed freely by the Catholics of this region.
On the face of things it appears to me that the existence of this University is somewhat inconsistent with the notion that 'the religious sentiment is dead in France.' The classes are now attended by between four and five hundred students, for whose accommodation three 'family houses' have been already built, in which students are lodged at an expense of from 1,000 to 1,400 fr. a year, and when the academic buildings now in process of construction are completed, more than a thousand students can be thus lodged. Two dispensaries, a Maternity Hospital, under the charge of Sisters of Charity of St.-Vincent de Paul, together with the large Hospital de la Charite, are directly connected with the clinical service of the medical faculty, and are so administered as to render the most important services to the industrious population of the city. The Electrical Department of the Faculty of Sciences is particularly well equipped, and one of the assistants in charge of this department, who showed us some improvements recently devised here in the working apparatus, surprised me by the extent and minute accuracy of his information as to all the most recent progress made in the applications of electricity to machinery, and to the arts on both sides of the Atlantic.
I was not surprised, however, to learn from M. Arthaut that the astonishing prosperity of this great institution is viewed with extreme dissatisfaction by the authorities at Paris, and particularly by the University of France, which has been confirmed again under the Third Republic in the monopoly of academic privileges, of which it was very sensibly deprived by the Assembly under the Government of the Marshal-Duke of Magenta. By way of expressing this dissatisfaction with dignity and emphasis, the Government of the Third Republic actually forbids free Catholic universities to use the title of universities. M. Ferry's Article 7 not being yet law in this best of all possible French Republics, Catholics cannot be prevented from spending their own money in founding institutions which are really universities. But, at all events, they can be forbidden to give any one of them the title of a university, that being reserved for the State establishment, which, from Paris, extends its academic sway all over France.
I called the attention of M. Arthaut to the fact that a great Catholic University has been this year founded in the capital of the Republic of the United States, and that the President of the Republic, himself a Protestant, not only attended the ceremonies of the foundation, but made a brief speech, in which he expressed his best wishes for its progress and prosperity. 'That, I am afraid,' said M. Arthaut, 'is a kind of republic which we are not likely to see established in France.'
To measure the significance of this Catholic work in behalf of liberty and religion here at Lille, it must be borne in mind that the very men who are building it up with such splendid liberality and enterprise are compelled by the iniquitous laws of the Third Republic to bear their own share as taxpayers in supporting here at Lille another academic institution of a similar scope, but of less importance, under the direct control of the University of France, from all share in the administration of which religion and the ministers of religion are as rigidly excluded as that refugee of the First French Revolution, Stephen Girard, intended they should be from the college which he founded at Philadelphia. Of course the same thing is true of the Catholics all over France. Out of their pockets must come nine-tenths of the enormous sum, as yet quite incalculable, but certainly running far up in the hundreds of millions of francs which is still to be expended by the Third Republic upon its 'scholastic palace,' and the ever-increasing army of 'lay teachers,' male and female, whom it is yearly turning out of the educational institutions of France to seek the employment which a vast majority of them cannot possibly hope to find in the public schools, the lyceums and 'faculties' of the nation.
On this point a Councillor-General whom I met here at Lille dwelt with very grave emphasis. 'We are educating here in France,' he said to me, 'hundreds of young men and young women every year under false pretences to enter a profession already overcrowded. For every post which now exists or which can be created within the next ten years in the educational system of these revolutionists at Paris, we are turning out at least a hundred applicants each year of each sex, who must necessarily be thrown upon the public. What will become of them? The young men will go into Nihilism, as young men of the same sort do in Russia; the young women will go upon the street. Only the other day at Paris, the Government advertised a competition for about 70 positions in the telegraphic service. How many young women applied? More than 800! What is to become of the 730 unsuccessful competitors? And what right has the State to flood the market thus, in advance of the necessities of the country, and at the cost of the taxpayers, with male and female teachers, any more than with carpenters, or with surgeons, or with confectioners?'
One circumstance connected with the development of this great Catholic University at Lille (as an American I permit myself to give the institution its proper title) is of special significance. It is not the only institution of the kind which has been called into existence in France since the Third Republic began its war against religion in 1880. There is a Free Catholic institution at Lyons, which consists of three faculties under the administration of a company founded to receive and administer all sums given or bequeathed to organise the institutes. The Archbishop of Lyons is Chancellor of this institution, which has a dean and seven professors of theology, a dean and eighteen professors of law, with a secretary and librarian of that faculty, a dean and seven professors of letters, a dean and nine professors of science. There are similar institutions also at Angers and at Toulouse. All of these are freely supported by the private subscriptions of Catholic France, as is also the great Catholic Institute of Paris in the Rue Vaugirard, so admirably conducted by Monseigneur d'Hulst, the Vicar-General of Paris. Thanks to the law of July 12, 1875, and to the stand made by the friends of liberty and religion when the law of March 18, 1880, was finally enacted, the students of the Faculty of Law in these Catholic institutes still have the right to present themselves with the certificates of their several institutes at the public examinations for the diplomas of the baccalaureate, the licentiate and the doctorate in law, and for the certificate of capacity in the law, necessary to enable the successful candidates to practise the legal profession in France. To maintain the efficiency of the free Catholic institutions, the Catholics of France have spared during the last few years neither labour nor money. More than 17,000,000 francs have been contributed during that period to establish the Catholic educational system in Paris alone, and more than 2,000,000 francs are yearly subscribed there to keep it up. As I have already said, the University here at Lille represents an expenditure during the same period of more than 11,000,000 francs and a still larger prospective expenditure.
It would be interesting, if it were possible, to learn how much out of their own pockets the propagandists of unbelief have expended during this same decade upon the irreligious education of the children of their countrymen! Were the truth attainable, the amount expended by them would be found to bear to the amount received by them from their propaganda of unbelief much less than the proportion of Falstaff's 'pennyworth of bread' to his 'intolerable deal of sack!' While the Catholics of France have been giving millions to defend the right of the French people to protect the faith of their children, these men have been expending hundreds of millions of the money of Catholic taxpayers upon school buildings, the contracts for erecting which have been controlled by themselves for their friends; they have been finding places in the public educational service for their friends, dependants and allies, and they have been comfortably drawing large salaries themselves from the Treasury.
Set over against these incontrovertible facts, the fact, as incontrovertible, for which I am indebted here to M. Grimbert, that of the millions expended in defence of liberty and religion here at Lille, a very large proportion has been contributed by one single Catholic citizen of this ancient Flemish city, who has consecrated his life and his fortune to his faith in the spirit of the earliest Christian times, and I think my readers will agree with me, not only that the religious sentiment is not dead in France, but that it never was more living and more active in France, nor more full of promise for the social and political regeneration of this great people.
I shall not run the risk of offending this good Catholic by naming him, though his name and his work are an open secret for every intelligent person in Lille. Suffice it that, coming of an old Flemish stock and bearing an old Flemish name, this citizen (the title of citizen means something respectable in these staunch old free cities) of Lille years ago insisted to his brother, who was his associate in the ownership and management of one of the largest commercial houses of this region, that they should take regularly into the partnership account of their business, for one-third of their annual profits, 'the work of God.' This was done; and from that day to this the proportion thus set apart of their profits has been regularly devoted to the service of the Church and of charity. But this is not all. The brother, of whom I speak with the reticence and the reverence due to a type of character not absolutely common in this age of the Golden Calf, has systematically limited his own personal expenses during the whole of these years to a few thousands of francs, devoting all the rest of his income to religious and benevolent objects.
I should really like to see a calm business-like estimate made of the economical advantages likely to result to a country from extinguishing at an expense of several hundreds of millions of francs a year the faith which gives birth to characters such as this.
I visited, in one of the suburbs of Lille, the extensive manufactories of another well-known house, the heads of which have worked out and established an excellent system of 'mutual assistance' among their employees, and built up a large and well-ordered cite ouvriere on a plan substantially resembling that of those which I saw at St.-Gobain and at Anzin. A house for young girls established by this firm, very near their main factory, struck me as particularly admirable. It is under the management of the Sisters of St.-Vincent de Paul, who fill the place with a pervading spirit of cheerfulness and animation, quite indescribable. The dormitories were the perfection of neatness. The gymnastic hall and the grounds were in apple-pie order, and as the lower part of the large and airy building erected by the firm for this domicile is used during the day as a kind of creche by the married women who leave their young children here while they are busy in the factory, the whole place was alive with merry and laughing little imps. I heard of other establishments of the same kind at and near Roubaix on a still larger scale. These I unfortunately had not time to visit. Under the Empire in 1865 a few energetic citizens of Lille induced the municipality to guarantee five per cent, interest on a capital of 2,000,000 francs for the establishment of a company to construct, let and sell houses for working-men under certain conditions as to the isolation of each house and as to its proper ventilation and drainage. The rental of these houses can never exceed eight per cent, on the cost of erection, those of one story never to cost more than 2,400 francs, and those of two stories more than 3,000 francs, including the cost of the land. The houses are built of brick with foundations and sills of Soignies stone. These were the original statutes, but the company is now allowed to build single-story houses on a larger scale with cellars, which may be rented for 400 francs a year or bought for 5,000 francs—a first payment in the case of purchase to be made of 500 francs, and after that the money to be paid in instalments of 40 francs a month over thirteen years. All the wells and pumps are supplied by the municipality.
The municipality also makes an annual grant in aid of a very useful charity, founded under the Empire, and largely developed by private gifts and legacies, called the 'Invalids of Labour.' This now secures pensions to nearly a hundred workmen, disabled by serious accidents incurred in their labour or through some effort to help others in peril. It also gives temporary assistance in less severe cases. But the most characteristic institution which I found flourishing at Lille has a history worth telling. It strikingly illustrates the development under the old regime in France and Flanders of those public works of benevolence of which we are so often and so audaciously asked to believe that they had no existence before the benign 'principles of 1789' bedewed the hearts of men, and it not less strikingly illustrates the demoralising and destructive influence upon all manner of sound and useful establishments throughout France of the headlong and reckless administration of public affairs by the successive 'governments' of the First Republic.
In the year 1607, on September 27, a worthy Catholic citizen, Bartholomew Masurel, bourgeois et manant of the city of Lille, came before two notaries, and declared 'that to succour the poor people of Lille in their necessities, and also for the salvation of his own soul and the souls of his predecessors and successors, he wished to establish a Mont-de-Piete, where money loans should be made without usury or interest, and not as they were made by the Lombards.'
To this end Bartholomew Masurel gave, by a donation between living persons, and irrevocable, to take effect after his death, all his lands, fiefs, and houses which he owned at Lille, and in his country place, and the value of which might be estimated at a hundred and fifty thousand livres parisis, or in money of our day nominally 300,000 francs. In fact, the gift, I am told, represented about half a million francs of our days.
But the good 'bourgeois et manant' could not hold out till his death against the appeal which the sight of 'the poor people of Lille in their necessities' daily made to his kindly heart. So in 1609 he agreed with the Mayor, that he would turn over all these possessions at once to the magistrates to be applied to the purpose he meant to effect, the magistrates agreeing to secure to him an annuity out of the funds of the city of 1,200 florins, or about 1,562 francs of our time. Thereupon he went to work with the authorities to found his charity. From his statutes we learn that foundations of this kind were then common in French Flanders. He models them, as he says, upon 'those of similar foundations in our neighbouring towns and elsewhere.'
No loans were to be made except to 'manants et habitants de la Ville Taille et Banlieue de Lille,' and only to 'poor and necessitous persons who, not being able to gain their livelihood, were forced to borrow money;' nor were loans to be made to 'persons prodigal, of evil life, and accustomed to squander their goods.' For this due order was to be taken by the magistrates. At first the loans were limited to 24 florins (30 francs) to one person; the lowest sum loaned being 20 patars, or 1 fr. 25 c. of our times. So well had Bartholomew Masurel organised his charity, and so many good Christian souls swelled its funds by gifts and bequests, that within a year the maximum loan was raised to 50 florins, in 1669 to 100 florins, and in 1745 it was fixed at 120 florins, or 150 francs. At this figure it stood when the First Republic began its experiments. The fund was then known as 'the true Mont-de-Piete,' and was carried on under letters patent granted in 1609 by the Archduke Albert of Austria. When Lille became French in 1667, Louis XIV had to recognise and confirm all the rights and titles of this benevolent institution.
It had rendered great service to the industries of Lille during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the growth of the funds enabling the managers to lend sums to weavers on their goods when trade fell off, and so relieving them from the necessity of parting with them for less than their value. Just before the Revolution the Masurel Fund amounted to 455,454 francs, of which 256,627 francs were in cash or in loans, and the rest in state funds and houses, yielding a revenue of 8,307 francs.
On January 23, 1794, the National Convention coolly ordered that all 'objects of necessity deposited in any Mont-de-Piete for an amount not exceeding 20 francs should be at once restored without payment to their owners, and all such objects deposited for amounts below 50 and above 20 francs on payment, without interest, of the amount beyond 20 francs!'
This 'liberal' legislation had been preceded on August 24, 1793, by another act of spoliation which ordered 'the payment of the capital of all sums at interest to be made in assignats, and the conversion of all the debts of the Communes, and of the suppressed public organisations throughout France into State debts.
In consequence of these measures the whole property of the Masurel fund was found in 1803, when Napoleon began to overhaul the chaos to which the lunatics and plunderers of the Republic had reduced France, to amount to no more than 10,408 francs in real estate. This was the way in which the 'principles of 1789' developed the benevolent institutions of France, and introduced a new era!
The authorities of Lille had the good sense and forecast thereupon to suspend the operations of the true Mont-de-Piete, and to set about restoring the fund as far and as fast as was possible. The Christian institution of Masurel had fared better than the 'Lombards.' This latter establishment had to be formally closed in 1796, as it was then found to have no more than 86,000 francs in its treasury, and this in assignats!
In 1857 the Prefect of the Nord reported that the Masurel fund might be safely devoted anew to the purposes of its founder. It then amounted to 249,644 fr. By an imperial decree of 1860, all that remained of the property of the 'Lombards' was amalgamated with the Masurel fund, and the institution was put under the direction of the official Mont-de-Piete of Lille, but with a separate system of accounts, and began its operations again on the lines laid down by its founder in 1607. It has since worked so well that the maximum of the loans reimbursable, without interest, has risen from 30 francs in 1860 to 200 francs.
In 1869, the maximum being 100 francs, the number of engagements and renewals was 10,933—the money loaned amounted to 75,460 fr. 50 c., in loans averaging 9fr. 14 c., and the capital of the fund to 257,231 fr. 27 c. In 1888, the maximum being 200 fr., there were 16,000 engagements and renewals, the loans amounted to 136,663 francs in average loans of 8 fr. 54 c., and the capital of the fund to 334,726 fr. 57 c.
Of the 'similar foundations in other towns' which moved the pious emulation of Bartholomew Masurel nearly three centuries ago, how many, I wonder, still exist!
And with them how many other monuments of the Christian civilisation of Flanders and of France were 'improved' off the face of the earth by the 'regenerators' of 1792?
It was not by accident that I learned of the Masurel Mont-de-Piete; but when I went to the Municipal Secretary to ask him for some official account of its condition and its operation, that courteous functionary looked at me for a moment with astonishment and then said, 'I am delighted to give you what you want, and I assure you that, with one exception, you are the only foreigner who has ever asked for this information in the last seven years! The other was the English Protestant clergyman here in Lille, who happens to live or has his chapel, I am not sure which, just opposite the Mont-de-Piete!'
I ought not to speak however of the Masurel foundation as 'unique.' I hope there may be many more men like the good Bartholomew Masurel in our time, and in other countries besides France, than we wot of. But the only modern institution of a kindred spirit with this of which I have any present cognisance began its career in England only fifteen years ago, and was founded curiously enough like the Masurel fund by men of the Low Countries. This is the 'Koning Willem's Fonds,' of the Netherlands Benevolent Society of London. At a dinner given at the Cannon Street Hotel on May 12, 1874, to celebrate the twenty-fifth year of the accession of King William III under the presidency of the Dutch Minister in England, the Count de Bylandt, the guests in a glow of loyalty and good-fellowship proposed to raise a contribution to be spent in the purchase of some handsome memorial of the occasion. A happy inspiration came to the Chairman, and he suggested to his countrymen that the best of all possible memorials of such an occasion would be to establish a fund for the relief of poor and worthy Netherlanders in London and to give it the name of their King. The suggestion was adopted by acclamation, and the result the 'Koning Willem's Fonds,' from which, as I find by examining its statutes and its records, gratuitous loans, precisely identical in their object and under conditions not essentially different, are made to deserving Hollanders in London.
The 'fonds' is connected with a society doing the usual work of all such foreign benevolent societies in London. But it is a special fund, and as I learn from the Annual Report of the Society for January 1889, it has so far been administered with entire success, and with the result of enabling not a few honest and industrious Hollanders stranded in London to make a fair and prosperous start in life. That the fund is administered in the true practical spirit of the old Low Country benevolence, and its advantages appreciated as they ought to be, appears from the statement made by the Treasurer, Mr. Maas, in the Report for 1889, that the number of loans is increasing and the number of donations decreasing. In 1888 371l. were loaned as against 185l. in 1887, and 247l. given away as against 382l. in 1887. I observe, too, that the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Polydore de Keyser, gave at this annual meeting as his reason for joining the society which administers this fund that it had the courage to spend 251l. in excess of its assured income rather than send away the good which came to its door to be done.
IN THE MARNE
No city in France has more to lose and less to gain from the triumph of the Third Republic over historic France than this ancient, rich, and royal city of Reims.
The triumph of the Third Republic on the lines laid down by M. Challemel-Lacour in 1874 and re-affirmed at the elections of 1889, means the extinction of the religious sentiment in France. To extinguish the religious sentiment in France would be to empty the history of Reims of all its significance. It would be to filch from the city of St.-Remi and of Clovis, of Urban II. and of Jeanne d'Arc, its great name—a robbery that surely would not enrich the Third Republic, but that would leave Reims poor indeed!
Of course it is possible that the laicised, unbaptized, and atheistic French citizen of the future may come to regard the hegira of M. Gambetta from Paris to Tours in a balloon, and the occupation of Tonkin, as events of greater importance to mankind than the creation of France by Clotilde and Clovis, or the rescue of France from conquest and dismemberment by the pious peasant-girl of Domremy, or the rolling back of Islam from the domination of the world by Urban II. Heaven forbid that I should assume to set any limit to the things which a truly scientific unbeliever is likely to believe!
But while men still abide in the thick darkness of the Catholic faith, or even in the penumbral twilight of Protestant Christianity, I do not see how Reims is to be one bit the better, materially or morally, for the extinction of the religious sentiment in France.
The arrondissement of Reims contains very nearly 200,000 people, of whom considerably more than one-third inhabit the city itself. A very large proportion of these are employed in the numerous factories which flourish here, and many more in the various industries connected with the incessantly growing commerce in those sparkling wines which have made the name of this ancient province synonymous with luxury and gaiety in the remotest corners of the world. Though Epernay is the real headquarters of this commerce, two or three of the most important houses connected with it are, and long have been, established at Reims, and some of the most remarkable of the vast cellars excavated in the chalk, in which these sparkling wines are stored throughout the Department of the Marne, are here to be seen. Here too, at least as well as at Epernay or Chalons, acquaintance may be made, at the right time and in the right places, with certain vintages of Champagne which seldom or never find their way into the channels of trade, not so much because of their rarity and high cost as because of their exceeding delicacy. It is almost impossible, for example, to find even at Paris the finest quality of the red vin de cave of Bouzy. This is illustrated by the fact that the only samples of this exquisite wine sent to Paris for the Universal Exposition of 1889 were those sent by Bouche Fils at Mareuil-sur-Ay, and these represented only three vintages, the earliest being that of 1884. The daintily aromatic bouquet of this wine is seldom unaffected even by the short railway journey to the capital. Of course I know that by speaking of this or of any other still wine of Champagne, I put myself under the ban of Mr. Canning's famous declaration, so often cited by Lord Beaconsfield, that 'the man who says he likes still champagne will say anything.' Nevertheless what I have written, I have written—and I shall not take it back. This the less, that I cannot allow myself even to enter upon this theme of the vineyards of the chalky Marne and the cellars of Champagne. Were I to do this, I should have a tale to unfold, much too long, and involving too many points of controversy with the accepted gastronomic authorities in my own country, in England, and in Russia, to be brought within the compass of this volume. Suffice it that the great wine-growers of Champagne do not seem to me to be infidels, or to neglect the due provision of their own households in their philanthropic anxiety to promote the convivial happiness of the four quarters of the globe. The extent to which the syndication of vineyards for the production of the wines most in demand in one or another part of the world, has been developed of late years in Champagne is a noteworthy phenomenon. Not less noteworthy is the growing attention paid throughout this Department of the Marne of late years to scientific methods in agriculture, and the steady improvement in the condition of the rural population.
Whether a similar improvement can be shown in the general condition of the urban population is not so clear as might be wished. That within certain limits such an improvement has taken place, is however undeniable; and this is of great interest, because it is distinctly due to the energy and decision with which the challenge flung down to the Christianity of this historic Christian heart of France has been taken up by the Catholics of Reims.
In the course of a most interesting visit which I made in August to the Cardinal Archbishop of Reims, His Eminence was good enough to put me in the way of measuring for myself the work done among the factory people of this region by a great Christian organization, the centre and pivot of which was established here, but which is mow extending itself all over the country. Most assuredly there is nothing in the story of this work to indicate either the approaching death or the decay of the religious sentiment in France.
This work rests, like all great works, upon certain principles. But these principles were worked out, not through any theoretical inquisition into the possibilities of society, but through a direct personal practical experience of the relations between an employer of labour and his employees. It is known now throughout France as the work of the 'Christian Corporations,' and it includes, as a part of its machinery, the 'Catholic Workmen's Clubs,' which are increasing and multiplying throughout France. Its founder, M. Leon Harmel, is at the head of an important manufactory at the Val-des-Bois near Reims. This manufactory was established here half a century ago by the father of M. Harmel, and the great social work which the son is now doing is the coming to fruit, after many years, of the virtues and the experience of his father. The Ardennes is the northernmost of the four Departments into which the wise men of 1790 divided the ancient province of Champagne, and M. Harmel, the father, had inherited a manufactory in that department. This he gave up to his brother, and removing to the Marne in 1840 he founded here the establishment of the Val-des-Bois. He was a devout and sincere Catholic, and he had lived all his life among a quiet and Catholic population in the Ardennes. He found himself surrounded in his new home by a totally different people. His new employees were amazed when they saw him attending mass at the parish church on Sunday. A few of their wives and daughters went there irregularly, but the men, as a rule, were 'total abstainers.'
M. Harmel made no attempt to preach to his people otherwise than by his example. But the employer being regarded, in the light of modern progress, as the natural enemy of the employee, this example had little effect. M. Leon Harmel tells a delightful story of his father's first success in inducing some of his workmen, with whom he had fallen incidentally into conversation on the subject, to go over to Reims in the early morning at the beginning of Lent, and confess to an excellent priest there who was one of his friends. He spake with the men separately, and said nothing to any one of them of his conversations with the others. Meeting one of his converts on his return, M. Harmel asked him about his experience. 'Ah, sir!' the man replied, 'it is all very well, but I shall never be caught there again!' 'And, pray, why not?' 'Why I thought I was the only man going to confess. I saw no one when I went into the confessional, and the good priest was very good, and I was glad I went. But when I came to commune in the church, there were three of my comrades! How I looked at them, and how they looked at me! It will be all over the factory to-night, and we four will have no peace for six months! No! I shall not do this again!'
The manufactory prospered. If the example of M. Harmel availed little against the public sentiment of the workpeople educated in utter indifference to all religion, in the way of inducing them to attend to their religious duties, his unvarying justice and benevolence, his readiness to succour and to advise them in all straits, and his unobtrusive devotion to his faith, at least exerted a wholesome effect upon their general conduct; and the factory of the Val-des-Bois earned a high reputation for its freedom from flagrant scandals and disorders. But this did not satisfy M. Harmel. After twenty years of single-handed and uphill work, he determined to seek help. On February 28, 1861, he established three Sisters of St.-Vincent de Paul in a small house which had been a wayside inn, and set about Christianising his people in earnest. There was no pomp or parade about the matter. The good Sisters were quite content to establish an asylum for the little children in what had been the stable of the inn, and to open their school in two little upper chambers. Two Jesuit Fathers came and devoted a month to a regular mission. Processions were organised and lectures given, some in the factory, others at the little inn. The novelty of the enterprise excited the attention of the people, and when a decided movement at last of interest in the mission made itself clearly felt, M. Harmel took advantage of it, with the help of the Sisters, to form Christian associations, first among the young girls, then among the young men, and then among the workmen themselves. The first young girl who gave an effectual impulse to the work, was a girl selected by the Sisters, with their usual sound instinct, because they found her capable of absolute devotion to a not by any means estimable mother, and to a decidedly reprehensible sister. She was a peasant-girl, brought up in a disorderly family, by no means choice or refined in her language; but the Sisters, for whom she conceived a great affection, saw that she was generous, fearless, and determined, and that was enough.
With the girls, with the young men, with the workmen, no sort of direct or indirect pressure was ever for a moment employed. The associations which they formed were managed by themselves, M. Harmel, the priest whom he finally brought to Val-des-Bois, and for whom he built a chapel, and the missionary brethren, giving advice and aid only when and as it was asked. One excellent workman, who had been in the factory for many years, and who was much esteemed by M. Harmel, was asked one day by the priest why he had never taken any interest in the religious associations. 'I do take an interest in them,' he replied, 'and they are doing a great deal of good. I don't feel moved to join them, but I do them a great service often. Many a time in the cabarets I hear a man say, "Oh, the papa Harmel is a good man, no doubt; they are right to call him there 'the good father.' He is all that, but nobody can get any work there unless he is a little saint!" Then I get up and say, "Don't talk like a fool! You see me; I have worked for 'the good father' thirty-five years. I have never done my religious duties, but nobody treats me the worse for that! That shuts them up!"'
One great obstacle, at the outset, to the success of these associations, out of which the 'Christian Corporations' were eventually to grow, was the hostility of the elder married women to the 'Enfans de Marie,' and the other societies of young girls. They objected that these societies broke up the Sunday balls, and when they were asked whether these Sunday balls did not lead to a good many scandals, they replied, 'Oh, young people must amuse themselves; we used to amuse ourselves!' They insisted too, that the girls would neglect their home duties to attend mass and the meetings of their new societies. One particularly recalcitrant dame made her husband's life a burden to him, because he not only encouraged his daughters in going to the Sisters, but actually went to mass himself. Finally, one day the poor man came to see the Sisters. He was evidently much exercised in his mind, and showing the Sisters a small sum of money he had, he said, 'I have saved this up to bring my old woman to a better mind, and I want you to help me.' They asked him how. 'Why, you see, all the trouble comes because she don't know you, and won't know you, and thinks everything wrong about you. Now if one of you will just take this money, and buy her a new Sunday gown, and take it to her as if it was a gift you wanted to make her, that will bring her all right, I know, and we shall have peace in the house!'
What Sister could resist such an appeal? The pious fraud was perpetrated, and the worthy dame gave way along the whole line!
This working population of Val-des-Bois, when M. Harmel began his work among them, it will be seen, was a fair type of the average working populations of France in those parts of France where the influence of Radicalism has been most potent, and the influence of the Church weakest. There is another factory in the same commune now. There are sixteen others within a radius of three French leagues, and the city of Reims, with its population of nearly a hundred thousand souls, is within half an hour of the place. All the disturbing currents of socialism, of agrarianism, of indifferentism play about and upon the place constantly. The Sunday ball is an institution still. The influence of the local authorities during the last ten years has been thrown against the Catholic associations, and therefore, from the nature of the case, in favour of dissipation, debauchery, and disorder.
To see his work prosper in a soil so unpropitious and amid such hostile circumstances might well have quickened the faith of a man much colder and more sceptical than M. Harmel.
In 1861, as I have said, not one workman could be found at Val-des-Bois who dared to go to mass. In 1867, at the request of forty of his workmen, M. Harmel assisted them in drawing up the statutes and arranging the programme of a Catholic Working-Men's Club. The initiative came from them. No pressure of any sort or kind was put upon them to take it. It was the free outcome of the influence exerted upon them by the example of the Harmel family and by the religious and charitable work which the Sisters and the priests had been doing at Val-des-Bois. Within a year the club doubled its membership. When the invasion came, in 1870, it was an established institution.
'M. Harmel planted his Christians at Val-des-Bois,' said to me one of the most interesting men I met at Reims, 'as our vine-growers in Champagne plant their vines. It is one of the mysteries of our viticulture that the grapes which yield our most delicate and exquisite wines of Ay, all sparkle and sunshine, can only be made to yield those wines when they are planted in our poorest and most chalky soil, and in regions where the climate is so ungenial that the plants have to be set as closely as possible together in the ground. We really huddle them together, as we do sheep in the hurdles in winter, to keep one another warm. This M. Harmel did with his converts. He taught his workmen to associate more closely with one another, he brought their minds and their hearts together, and let them act one upon another. He lived and moved and had his own being among them like a father, and in this way insensibly they came by degrees to regard each other as members of a family. He has always felt, and his whole life has shown it, that the "Declaration of the Rights of Man," whatever the motives of its authors may have been, put the weak of this world at the mercy of the strong, and set Capital free to deal with Labour as a mere matter of bargain and sale. The dominant idea in his mind has always been, as it was in the mind of his father before him—the "good father" of Val-des-Bois—not how to get the most work out of his workmen, but how best to do his own duty to his workmen, thinking that the best way to get them, on their part, to do their duty to him. All this, you see, is quite mediaeval and Christian, not in the least modern and scientific! But has the modern and scientific way of looking at the relations of capital and labour, so far, been what may be called a great success? Do we seem to be in the way of organizing a solid modern society on the principles of the "struggle for life" and of the "survival of the fittest"? Certainly these principles are a logical outcome of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man," and of such legislation as that which in 1791 shattered to pieces at a blow the whole ancient and Christian organization of industry in our unhappy land of France! As certainly too, they are admirably fitted to secure either the complete subjugation of labour by capital or the relapse of France and of Europe into barbarism. Is not universal suffrage a natural and easy weapon of capital in any "struggle for life" with labour? Is it not clear that, in losing the notion of duty to his employer, the workman has necessarily lost the idea also of duty to his fellow-workmen? "Every man for himself" is the motto of modern democracy, and do we not see that the syndicates of workmen which it was the object of the Radicals to establish by their law of March 1884 concerning "professional syndicates," in order to facilitate and promote "strikes," are only kept together and made to work by sheer terrorism? What is the sanction of the measures ordered by such syndicates excepting the fear in which every member goes of his fellow-members? Does not that take us a long way on towards savage life? Does not that tend directly to build up a subterranean machinery of despotism which will be at the service of the shrewdest head and the longest purse whenever any real and decisive issue arises between organised capital and organised labour?
'Look at the part which money played in our first unhappy revolution!
'It is the most instructive part of that whole sad history, and yet, for a hundred different reasons, it is the part which from the beginning has been most obscured by a miscellaneous conspiracy of silence. Some day perhaps it will be possible to get a true life written of Le Pelletier de Saint-Fargeau, the millionaire Mephistopheles of Philippe Egalite. The hand that struck him to death in the very centre of the scene of his long machinations, there in the Palais Royal, with his vote, dooming the king to death, still as it were on his lips, did not strike at random. There was no such bit of dramatic justice done in those dark days as the killing of that man in that place between the giving of that vote and the murder of the king that followed it next day!
'But the story cannot be written yet. They were much more concerned about the death of Le Pelletier next day in the Convention, you will see if you look into the true records of the session, than they were about the murder of the king, which was then going on in the Place de la Revolution. They gave him—why not?—(the most active of them and the deepest in the plot were his property, bought and paid for)—they gave him a national funeral, and made his heiress—the greatest heiress she was in France—the ward of the nation.
'It was quite another vision he had in his mind for her! I will show you some day a curious letter of hers written after she became a duchess, about the Empress Josephine. It is very instructive. She grew up a lovely, untameable, unmanageable young person, made a love-match, as you know, and with whom you know, broke her husband's heart, got a divorce and married again. To go into all this now would disturb the peace of families in no way responsible for her career or for the plots and schemes of her father. It would be like "flushing" the ghost of that monster Carrier who drowned the poor and the priests at Nantes, only to plague his descendants. His son was an excellent person who very properly changed his name. The most malicious thing I ever knew one woman say of another, was said of one of his grand-daughters at a foreign court by another Frenchwoman, jealous of her social success. "She is very charming, no doubt; but look at her mouth, and you will see she has carious teeth—des dents Carrier!" But when, if ever, the truth about that dark episode of Le Pelletier and his schemes is told, it will be seen how much more gold and private ambitions had to do with the final fatal drift of things after the destiny of France fell into the swirl of Paris, than all the howlings and ravings of the philosophers and the patriots. What happened in the last century will happen again whenever and wherever human society ceases to be held together by the idea of Duty. It is not the discontent of Labour which makes me most anxious as to the future. It is the egotism of Capital, educated and encouraged into egotism by the false doctrines of what is called Liberalism in this country, and provoked into egotism by the equally egotistic discontent of Labour. What I most value in the work of M. Harmel is the courage and precision with which he has from the first insisted upon the Duty of the employer to the employed. You have seen, of course, his Catechisme du Patron?'
The Cardinal Archbishop had given me a copy of this book, which is really one of the most remarkable contributions ever made to the practical study of the relations between Capital and Labour. In it M. Harmel has condensed, in the catechetical form of questions and answers, his lifelong experience in the work of ascertaining and fulfilling all the duties incumbent, from the point of view of Christian duty, upon the capitalist who employs the labour of his fellow-men in putting his capital into use and making it profitable. It would be very interesting merely as a theory of the true relations between Labour and Capital. It is more than interesting as the ripe expression of an experiment faithfully and successfully carried out by a man of resolute will and great practical ability for more than a quarter of a century in a field which, when he entered upon it, was certainly one of the most unpromising in the world.
The 'Christian Corporation' was an established institution, as I have said, at Val-des-Bois, in 1870, when the war with Germany broke out. In 1871, after the storm of the invasion had been followed by the horrors of the Commune of Paris, the principles on which the industrial family at Val-des-Bois had been organised began to attract attention all over France. A club of Catholic working-men was opened at Paris in 1871, and a movement began in earnest for extending these institutions throughout France. It made rapid progress. In September 1874 a great disaster occurred at Val-des-Bois. The factory buildings took fire during the night of the 12th of that month, and despite the efforts of the whole population they were all in ashes when the morning broke. Before noon of the next day M. Harmel announced to his workmen that he had leased, at no small sacrifice of his immediate pecuniary interests, another factory at some distance from the Val-des-Bois, called La Neuville, and that the 'Christian Corporation' of Val-des-Bois might at once be transferred thither, and carried on as before until the reconstruction of its original site. The tidings of this calamity brought substantial succour from Catholic clubs all over France, from Marseilles to Nantes, and from Bordeaux to Lille. More than a hundred clubs were represented in this outburst of sympathy, and the disaster led, not indirectly, to a formal approval of the work in a brief issued by His Holiness Pius IX. on October 2, 1874.
In 1878 there were more than four hundred clubs in France, with a membership of nearly a hundred thousand persons. Concurrently with the development of these clubs a movement went on for establishing an organisation of honorary members, not belonging to the working classes, who should co-operate with the clubs in promoting the principles represented by the 'Christian Corporations.' In 1875 a parliamentary inquiry was made into the condition of Labour in France; and on behalf of the committee which conducted this inquiry, the deputy, M. Ducarre, who drew up the report, declared it to be the opinion of the committee that all the syndicating movements of modern times point to the necessity of re-establishing the corporate system of labour which was destroyed by the First Republic in 1791. The language used in this Report is worth citing.
'All the remedies suggested for the existing state of things,' said M. Ducarre, 'may be summed up in this conclusion; there must be an end of the isolation of the individual labourer. This must be replaced by the action of collectivities, associations, or syndicates, whose duty it shall be to watch over the interests of every calling. In a word we must go back to the system of corporations of the trades, maitrises, and jurandes, under which labour was so long carried on in France.' This Report found no favour in the eyes of the Radicals because it aimed at a good understanding and practical co-operation between Labour and Capital. Nine years afterwards, on March 21, 1884, a law was carried through the French Parliament authorising the establishment of 'professional syndicates.' The object of the Republicans, then as now controlling a majority of the Chamber, in passing this law, was to strengthen the trades unions as against the employers of France. The law, it will be observed, was passed at the time when a syndicate of miners in the North, which had no legal right to exist before the passage of the law, was actively promoting, under its leader, M. Basly, the great strike at Anzin of which I have spoken in a preceding chapter. But while the law of March 1884 legalised 'syndicates' of this aggressive, and in the nature of things tyrannical, type, it also necessarily legalised precisely such Christian corporations as those contemplated in the Report of 1875, and long before organised on the lines laid down by M. Harmel. A great and visible responsibility was thus thrown upon the employers of France and upon what are called the upper classes generally in that country. It was clear that, if they would energetically and systematically throw themselves into the work of bringing about a reconstruction of social order on the principles of co-operation and sympathy as opposed to the principle of antagonism between Capital and Labour, the law of 1884, intended to widen, might be effectually used to close the threatening breach between the employers and the employed. There seems to be little doubt that down to that time the promoters of the Christian Corporation movement in France had made greater headway with the working classes than with the employers. A Report presented in 1885 by the general committee of the Catholic clubs of France to the French bishops states this very plainly. This report was signed by the Marquis De La-Tour-du-Pin-Chambly, who from the beginning of M. Harmel's experiment at Val-des-Bois had been one of his most earnest and active coadjutors, by the Comte de la Bouillerie, Treasurer of the General Society, by the Comte de Mun, and by the Comte Albert de Mun, the moving spirit now of the whole work, who resigned his commission in the army to devote himself to it, and who went up from the Morbihan to Paris as a deputy in 1885, elected by 60,341 votes, to demand not only the restoration of the monarchy but a property restriction upon the suffrage. In 1889, under the scrutin d'arrondissement readopted by the terrified Republicans to defeat 'Boulangism,' Count Albert de Mun was re-elected without opposition for the 2nd division of Pontivy. In no part of France is the passion of equality stronger than in the Morbihan; and the contempt of the people there for 'universal suffrage' is extremely instructive.
'Of the Christian Corporations,' says this Report of 1885, 'as of the working-men's clubs, it is proper to say that never in any place or at any time has any obstacle been offered to them by the working classes. On the contrary, there is plainly going on among the working classes, under the influence of the deplorable crises which affect the industrial world, an instinctive and ever-increasing movement towards this association of common and professional interests, the notion of which is suggested by the natural sentiment of right and wrong, as well as by some confused memory, obscured by revolutionary doctrines, of the traditions of Labour in France, which predisposes the working-man to seek safety in a return to the old system of the Corporations. A similar feeling exists among the employers, who desire, though they too often despair of seeing, a closer union of interests between themselves and their working-men. Wherever the movement languishes, one of the chief causes will be found to be the apathy, the discouragement, and the frivolity of the upper classes.'
In the case of great factories like that of the Val-des-Bois, the Christian Corporations naturally are sufficient unto themselves. There the employer and the employed between them constitute a small world, which can take care of itself and carry out the numerous subsidiary features of the system, such as the promotion of domestic economy, the establishment of savings-funds, the organisation of festivals and of courses of instruction, without relying much, or at all, upon any co-operation from without. It is in the development of the system for the benefit of working-men who are isolated in their work, or employed in small establishments, that the co-operation of the upper classes is needed; and while I incline to think that there is still much ground for the strong language on this point employed in the Report of 1885, there appears to be no doubt that a great improvement has taken place during the last three or four years. In 1884 the efforts of the Cardinal Archbishop of Reims, the Bishop of Angers, and of other energetic prelates, secured the active participation of the Holy See in the promotion of this work. In February of that year a pilgrimage to Rome of members of the Catholic Clubs of France was organised. The pilgrims were received in special audience by Leo XIII., and he gave his Papal approbation and benediction to the work in a very remarkable address which produced a deep and widespread impression throughout Catholic France. Similar pilgrimages were made in 1887 and in 1889.
One very important effect of this has been to bring about a better understanding between the parochial clergy of France in general and these steadily increasing lay organisations. It is in the nature of things that the clergy should be slow in giving their unreserved aid to any movement, no matter how admirable in itself, which involves a good deal of extra-clerical activity in matters religious. This was illustrated in the attitude of the English Protestant clergy towards Wesley and Whitfield, and there are some curious coincidences—of course absolutely undesigned—between some of the methods of the great and powerful Protestant sect of the Wesleyans and those of M. Harmel's Catholic Clubs.
The Methodist 'class-leader,' for example, reappears in a modified form in the zelateurs and zelatrices of the Harmel Clubs and fraternities. These are members, working-men and working-women, who are willing to devote themselves to promoting religious sentiments and practices among their comrades, and who hold regular meetings to consider and work out the best and most practical way of doing this.
It is not surprising that in many cases the cures should have looked with a little uneasiness upon the development of such a system until it had been fully considered and formally approved by the highest authority in the Church. Of its efficacy from the point of view of M. Harmel there can be no doubt.
Something not wholly unlike the 'exclusive dealing' which contributes so much to the strength of Methodism in America has also been established for the benefit of the members of M. Harmel's Christian Corporation. This is 'exclusive dealing 'of an honest and honourable sort, and must not be confounded with the rascally 'exclusive dealing' known in Ireland as 'boycotting.' It combines a system of 'privileged purveyors' with an accumulative savings fund.
The firm of Harmel Brothers, acting for the Corporation, makes contracts with tradesmen at Val-des-Bois—grocers, butchers, bakers, and the like—by which the tradesmen bind themselves to sell certain wares to members of the Christian Corporations, and to them only, at a fixed discount below the lowest current rate of prices—the wares to be of the best quality, under a penalty—and the lowest current rate to be fixed by an average taken from the current rates as given to Harmel Brothers by four dealers in such wares in the city of Reims, of whom two are to be named by them and two by the 'privileged purveyor.' Each member of the Corporation receives certificates, of one franc, ten sous, or ten centimes in value, from the office of Harmel Brothers, and these are taken by the 'privileged purveyor' in payment at their face value.
For him they are each week cashed in money at the office of Harmel Brothers. If the members prefer to pay the 'privileged purveyor' in cash, or in orders upon their wages, the sums so paid are inscribed on the account of the Corporation. When the weekly or fortnightly accounts are made up, a certain percentage of the differences between the current market-price of the purchases made and the actual price so paid by the purchasers goes to what is called the 'Corporation profit,' the residue of the difference being paid over to the member with his or her wages. The 'Corporation profit' is a savings fund. Each member has a book showing—with his or her number, and with the full name of the head of the family to which he or she may belong—the amount of this fund standing each quarter to his or her credit, with interest at 5 per cent.
This can only be drawn out by the member, on leaving the employment of the firm, in case of illness or incapacity, or at the age of fifty years.
An actuary's estimate shows that the share of the Corporation profit accruing to each member in twenty-five years on an annual estimated average Corporation profit of 70 francs a member, with five per cent. interest, would be 3,300 francs. And this, be it observed, will have cost the member nothing, being simply a result of the union of employer and employed in a corporate dealing with the purveyors. In 1879 the annual budget of a hundred families at Val-des-Bois, earning among them 249,242 francs, showed an actual 'Corporation profit' of 91,319.05 francs, which ought to have been much larger had Val-des-Bois then possessed more than one butcher, baker, grocer, and tailor. These hundred families comprised 496 members, 279 of them employed in the factory and 217 occupied at home.
During the last ten years, and especially since the passage of the law of March 1884, the scope of these Christian Corporations, not only at Val-des-Bois and at Reims, but all over France, has been considerably extended. Many of them have now the character of true guilds, as at Poitiers, for example, where there is a Corporation of the Builders under the invocation of St-Radegonda, another—Our Lady of the Keys—founded upon a syndicate of clothiers, and a third, of St.-Honore, founded upon a syndicate of provision-dealers. At Lille I found a typical Corporation, that of the spinners and weavers, known as the Christian Corporation of St.-Nicholas. This was founded in May 1885. This Corporation admits workmen and workwomen, employees and manufacturers, belonging, either by residence or by connexion with the industry named, to the commune of Lille or to one of the adjoining communes. It had last year a membership of 887 persons, of whom 26 were master manufacturers and 37 employees, the rest being workmen and workwomen. Five large firms were represented in it. The Syndical Council was made up of a syndic employer, a syndic employee, and a syndic workman from each of these firms, and of a syndic workman, M. Courtecuisse, representing the members who were employed in other establishments. The directing bureau consisted of seven members, including the chaplain. It was presided over by one of the great manufacturers of Lille, M. Feron-Vrau, and the two vice-presidents were M. Edouard Bontry, of the house of Bontry-Droullers, and M. Courtecuisse already named.
This Corporation, under the law of 1884, can own the buildings necessary for its meetings, its libraries, and its lecture-courses; it can establish among its members special savings funds, mutual assistance and pension funds; found and conduct offices for information bearing on the business of its members, and it may be consulted, under Article 6 of the Law of 1884, on 'all difficulties and misunderstandings and questions arising out of its specialty.' This provision—specially intended by the authors of the law to arm the 'strikers' of France against French employers—may thus, it will be seen, be turned quite as effectually to purposes of concord and harmony as to purposes of discontent and strife. The Corporation of St.-Nicholas may receive gifts and legacies in aid of its Corporation funds and purposes, and generally take an active part, like all these Corporations, as was pointed out by Leo XIII. in his 'Encyclical of April 20, 1884,' in protecting, under the 'guidance of the Faith, both the interests and the morals of the people.'
It already has within its sphere of action a Confraternity of Our Lady of the Factory, comprising 548 members, a Mutual Aid Society with 218 members, an Assistance Fund with 409 members; and a Domestic Economy Fund, the principle of which is that certain dealers make a discount on their wares to members of the Corporation which is certified to by them in counters of different values. These counters are receivable by the Corporation in payment of the assessments and subscriptions of the members.
The steady development of these institutions during the last four or five years has led to the organisation by them of a complete general system of administration, provincial and national. The Corporations are grouped not by departments but by provinces.
Provincial assemblies are held, by which delegates are named to attend an annual general assembly at Paris. At the general assembly of 1889, held on June 24, 350 delegates were present, and the session of the assembly was opened by the delegation from Dauphiny, the chair being taken by one of its members, M. Roche, in virtue, as he explained to the crowded audience in the large hall of the Horticultural Society in the Rue de Grenelle, of his descent 'from a representative of the Estates of Dauphiny in 1789.' The work of the assembly was divided between four committees, one on moral and religious interests, one on public interests, one on commercial and industrial interests, and one on agricultural and rural interests.
From this it will be seen that the principles of the movement are being systematically applied to the whole field of active life in France. The general maxim of the organisation is the sound, sensible, and military maxim, of St.-Vincent de Paul, 'let us keep our rules, and our rules will keep us,' and I think there can be no doubt that the French freemasons, and the fanatics of unbelief generally who have launched the government of the Third Republic upon its present course, will find this new Christian organisation of Capital and Labour a troublesome factor in the political field.
We have seen what came in Germany of the Cultur-Kampf, and there are curious analogies between the work and the spirit of the Catholic Clubs in France to-day, and the ideas of Monseigneur von Ketteler, which gave vigour and vitality to the great 'party of the Centre,' in the contest with the Chancellor. Where the giant of Berlin had the wisdom to give way, the pigmies of Paris are likely to persist until they are crushed. For they have burned their ships, as the Chancellor never burned his, and they are dogmatists, while he is a statesman. He sought to control and use the Catholic Church in Germany. Their object is, as one of the ablest Republicans in France, Jules Simon, long ago told them, to supplant a State Church of belief by a State church of unbelief. In America and in England when men talk of 'religious freedom,' they mean the freedom of a man to profess and practise his own religion. What the Third French Republic means by 'religious freedom' is freedom from religion. Their legislation has tended, ever since 1877, not indirectly nor by implication, but directly and avowedly, to establish in France a state of things in which, not Catholics only, but all men who profess any form of religion, shall be treated as Protestants were in France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, or as Catholics were in Ireland under William III. This is the meaning of M. Gambetta's war-cry 'Clericalism is the enemy.' The phrase was his, but the policy was announced by his party long before he invented the phrase in 1877. It was distinctly formulated in 1874 by a Republican leader much better equipped for dealing with such questions than M. Gambetta, who was the Boanerges not the Paul of the French gospel of unbelief.
On September 4, 1874, M. Challemel-Lacour, in a remarkable speech, laid it down as a fundamental principle of the Republican policy that the State should so control all the higher branches of education as to secure what he called 'the moral unity of France.' It was on this principle that Napoleon in 1808 had re-organised the University of France. M. Challemel-Lacour unhesitatingly called upon the Republicans to adopt it. If Catholics or Protestants or Israelites were allowed to found universities of their own and confer degrees and diplomas, what would become of the 'moral unity of France'? The duty of the Republicans was to protect and develop this 'moral unity.' So long as one Frenchman could be found in France who believed anything not believed by every other Frenchman, so long this 'moral unity' would be imperfect. The French Liberals of 1830 obviously made a great mistake when they put 'freedom of education' as a right of Frenchmen in the charter. M. Guizot, the great Protestant Minister of Louis Philippe, obviously made a great mistake when he established the principles of free primary education in 1833. The Republicans of 1848 obviously made a great mistake when they proclaimed 'freedom of education' as a Republican principle. The Jacobins of 1792 were the true 'children of light,' and they alone understood how really to achieve the 'moral unity of France,' M. Challemel-Lacour did not say this in so many words; but he did say in so many words that he objected to see any bill passed which should establish 'freedom of education,' and permit clerical persons to found universities, because, 'instead of establishing the moral unity of France, this newfangled liberty would only aggravate the division of Frenchmen into two sets of minds moving upon different lines to different conclusions. The young men educated in these universities,' he said, 'will become zealous apostles of Catholicism. The more ardour they put into their proselytism the more antagonism they will excite!' At this passage in M. Challemel-Lacour's extraordinary speech, according to the official report, a member of the Right broke in with the very natural exclamation, 'And why not? Is not that liberty? liberty for all?' To which M. Challemel-Lacour discreetly made no reply, but went on to say, 'Instead of establishing our moral unity, you will heap up combustibles in the country until shocks are produced and perhaps cataclysms!'
This is the doctrine of the worthy Lord Mayor in 'Barnaby Rudge' who querulously exclaims to Mr. Harwood when that gentleman came to him asking for protection against the Gordon rioters, 'What are you a Catholic for? If you were not a Catholic the rioters would let you alone. I do believe people turn Catholics a-purpose to vex and worrit me!' 'Moral unity' would have saved the good Lord Mayor a great deal of trouble. 'Moral unity' would have kept things quiet and comfortable throughout the Roman Empire under Diocletian, and throughout the Low Countries under Phillip II. and Alva, and throughout England under Henry VIII. The Jacobins of 1792 did their best to organise 'moral unity' in France with the help of the guillotine, and of the Committee of Public Safety and of the hired assassins who butchered prisoners in cold blood.
Here, at Reims, in September 1792, while Marat 'the Friend of the People' and Danton the 'Minister of Justice' were employing Maillard the 'hero of the Bastile' and his salaried cut-throats to promote public economy and private liberty by emptying the prisons of Paris, certain agents of Marat made a notable effort in behalf of the 'moral unity of France.' To this effort the melodramatic historians of the French Revolution have done scant justice. Mr. Carlyle, for example, alludes to it only in a casual half-disdainful way, which would be almost comical were the theme less ghastly. 'At Reims,' he observes, 'about eight persons were killed—and two were afterwards hanged for doing it.' The contest of this curious passage plainly shows that he imagined these 'eight persons' (more or less) to have been "killed" by the people of Reims, roused into a patriotic frenzy by the circular which Marat, Panis and Sergent sent out to the provinces calling upon all Frenchmen to imitate the 'people of Paris,' and massacre all the enemies of the Revolution at home before marching against the foreign invaders. That the 'people' of Reims thus aroused should only have killed 'about eight persons' really seemed to him, one would say, hardly worthy of a truly 'Titanic' and 'transcendental' epoch. There is something essentially bucolic in the impression which mobs and multitudes always seem to make upon Mr. Carlyle's imagination. Of what really happened at Reims in September 1792 he plainly had no accurate notion. He obviously cites from some second-hand contemporary accounts of the transactions there this statement, that 'about eight persons were killed,' because, as it happens, we have a full precise and official Report of the killing of all these persons, with their names and details of the massacre, drawn up on September 8, 1792, by the municipal authorities of Reims and signed by all the members of the Council General. Had Mr. Carlyle seen this Report, it would have shown him that Marat, Panis and Sergent knew what they were about when they sent out their famous or infamous circular, just as Marat and Danton knew what they were about when they organised the massacres of September in the prisons of Paris. The 'people' of Reims had no more to do with the killing of 'about eight persons' in the streets and squares of this historic city in September 1792 than the 'people' of Paris had to do with the atrocious butcheries at the Abbeys and Bicetre and La Force and the Conciergerie. Mr. Carlyle ought to have learned even from the 'Histoire Parlementaire' of Buchez and Roux, which he seems to have freely consulted, that 'the days of September were an administrative business.'
What actually happened at Reims in September 1792 is worth telling. It does not prove, as Mr. Carlyle almost dolefully takes it to prove, that in the provinces the 'Sansculottes only bellowed and howled but did not bite.' It does prove that when they bit, they bit to order, and under impulses no more 'Titanic' or 'transcendental' than those which in our own time lead active politicians to invent lies about the character of their opponents, and to manufacture emotional issues on the eve of a sharp political contest.
The subsidised Parisian insurrection of August 10, 1792, prostrated the monarchy, but it did not found the Republic. It was the death knell both of Petion and of the Girondists, who had been most active in secretly or openly promoting it. The Constitution having been torn into shreds, power became a prize to be fought for by all the demagogues and all the factions in Paris. The Legislative Assembly fell into the trough of the sea. The sections of Paris supported Marat in calmly laying hands on the printing-presses and material of the royal printing-office, and converting his abominable newspaper into a 'Journal of the Republic.' He was voted a special 'tribune of honour' in the hall of the Council. On August 19 he openly called upon the 'people' to 'march in arms to the prison of the Abbaye, take out the prisoners there, especially the officers of the Swiss Guard and their accomplices, and put them to the sword.' This was an electoral proceeding. The members of the National Convention were then about to be chosen. Under a law passed by the expiring legislature, electors of the members were first to be chosen by the voters on August 26, and the electors thus chosen were to meet on September 2, and choose the members of the Convention. It was in view of this second and decisive election day that Marat and Danton settled the date at which the great patriotic work of 'emptying the prisons' should begin, and it was in view of this day also that the circular already mentioned of Marat, Panis and Sergent was sent forth to all places at which a lively administration of murder and pillage would be most likely to conduce to the choice by the electors of deputies agreeable to the authors of the circular.
The electors for the Department of the Marne chosen on August 26 were to meet in Reims on September 2, and choose the Deputies for that department to sit in the Convention.
In Reims Marat had a faithful personal ally in the person of the Procureur-Syndic, the most important national functionary in the city. This man, Couplet, called Beaucourt, was a disreputable and apostate ex-monk who had married an ex-nun. His position, of course, gave him a great influence over the least respectable part of the population, and with Marat and Danton at his back in Paris he cared nothing for the mayor and the municipal authorities. From August 19 to August 31 he kept issuing incendiary placards and making inflammatory speeches in Reims. On August 31 he received an intimation from Paris that a column of so-called 'Volunteers' was in motion for Reims, and that he must have things ready for them. To this end he caused the arrest of the postmaster, M. Guerin, and of a poor young letter-carrier named Carton, on a charge of sequestrating and burning 'compromising letters' which ought to have been turned over to him and the 'justice of the Republic.'
On the morning of the election day there marched into Reims the expected 'Volunteers,' who carried banners proclaiming them to be 'Men of the 10th of August.' Couplet received them and feasted them. They broke up into squads and went roaring about Reims denouncing 'the aristocrats' and demanding 'justice upon all public enemies.' They finally broke open the prison, and dragging out the unfortunate postmaster, cut him to pieces in front of the Hotel de Ville. Some courageous citizens contrived to smuggle out of their reach the young letter-carrier, and took him for safety into the hall of the Municipal Council.
There the murderers followed him, excited by a speech from the Procureur-Syndic, who knowing that no trial had been had, did not scruple to say that 'nothing could excuse the unfaithful letter-carrier.'
The town officers tried to get Carton out by a back door, but Marat's murderers were too quick for them, and the poor youth was torn to pieces. While this was doing the Procureur-Syndic provided another victim. He arrested on some pretext a retired officer of the army, M. de Montrosier, ex-commandant of Lille, then in the house of his father-in-law, M. Andrieux, one of the first magistrates of Reims. M. de Montrosier being taken to prison, the Maratist mob broke again into the prison, dragged him out, killed him, and carried his head all over Reims on a pike. Meanwhile a detachment went out to a neighbouring village in quest of two of the canons of Reims, who had taken refuge there, brought them back to the city, and shot them dead in the street. Night now coming on, the apostles of the 'moral unity of France,' many of them by this time being exceedingly drunk, kindled a huge bonfire in front of the Hotel de Ville, flung into it the mutilated corpses of their victims, and towards midnight laying hands upon two priests, MM. Romain and Alexandre, threw them into the flames! Another band during the evening broke into the venerable church of St.-Remi, and tearing down the shields and banners which for fourteen centuries had hung above the tomb of the great Archbishop who made France a Christian kingdom, brought these to the bonfire and consumed them.
During this day of horrors, the electors of the department had been in session. As the news reached them of what was going on in the streets, one thought came into the minds of all the decent men among them, to get through as fast as possible and quit the city. At the first ballot 442 electors were present. At the seventh only 203 remained. Of these 135, being the compact 'Republican' minority, gave their votes on that ballot to Drouet, the postmaster's son of Ste-Menehould, Mr. Carlyle's 'bold old dragoon,' who stopped the carriage of Louis XVI. at Varennes. He was one of the special adherents of Marat, and a most vicious and venal creature, as his own memoirs, giving among other matters an account of his grotesque attempt to fly down out of his Austrian prison with a pair of paper wings, abundantly attest. He escaped the guillotine, and naturally enough turned up under the empire as an obsequious sub-prefect at Ste-Menehould. The whole of the elections, which in normal circumstances would have occupied at least three days, were hurried through before midnight of the first day.
Couplet, called Beaucourt, was satisfied. But so were not the 'men of the 10th of August,' They got their pay of course, but they wanted more blood. At 9 A.M. the next morning they seized the venerable cure of St.-Jean, the Abbe Paquot, and dragged him before Couplet, insisting that he should take the constitutional oath. Couplet tried to explain that the time for taking it had expired on August 26. But the courageous Abbe, looking his assassins in the face, said to them: 'I will not take it, it is against my conscience. If I had two souls I would gladly give one of them for you. I have but one, and it belongs to my God.' He had hardly uttered the words when he was struck down and cut to pieces. Almost at the same moment another priest more than eighty years of age, the curate of Rilly, refusing to take the oath, was hanged upon the bar of a street lantern before the eyes of the Mayor of Reims, who tried in vain to disperse or control these sans-culottes, who, according to Mr. Carlyle, 'howled and bellowed, but did not bite.'
By this time the news came of the surrender of Verdun to the Prussians, and the tocsin began to sound from the great bells of the cathedral. The citizens of Reims suddenly took courage from the sense of the national peril, not to fall upon and slay helpless and unarmed prisoners, but to make head against the murderers and scoundrels who were domineering over their city. The local National Guards began to appear, and were shortly reinforced by a column of Volunteers from the country armed to meet the invaders. The Mayor took command of them and marched to the Hotel de Ville. There they found that one Chateau, an agent of Couplet, had been secretly denounced by his employer as a spy and promptly hanged by the Parisians on the same lantern-bar from which the night before they had hanged the aged cure of Rilly. His dead body had been flung into the still blazing bonfire kept up all night with woodwork from the pillaged churches of Reims. The champions of 'moral unity' had also laid hands on the wife of this wretched man, and were on the point of throwing her alive into the flames when the Mayor and the troops appeared. The order to 'charge bayonets' was given and the whole brood of scoundrels thereupon broke and fled in all directions.
All these details, with others too loathsome to be here reproduced, are, as I have said, taken from an official proces verbal drawn up at Reims on September 8, 1792, and signed by every member of the Council-General. This record was produced when in 1795, after the fall of Robespierre had opened the way for the great reaction which finally made Napoleon master of France, the tribunals of the Department of the Marne took steps to bring to justice such of the assassins of 1792 as they could lay hands upon. On the 26 Thermidor, An III., two wretches, one a newspaper-vendor and the other a slopshop-keeper, were condemned to death and executed for the murder of the Abbe Paquot and of the cure of Rilly. Two others, a glazier and a shoemaker, were condemned to six years in the chain-gang.
The evidence on which these assassins were convicted in 1795 had then been for two years in the hands of the municipal authorities at Reims. But during these two years France had been the football of the employers and accomplices of these assassins. The municipal authorities had been powerless to prevent these murders, which were committed in the public streets and under the protection of the Procureur-Syndic of the department, the official representative at Reims of the 'Minister of Justice,' Danton, at Paris. They were equally powerless to punish them.
The Mayor of Reims was fortunate to escape denunciation at Paris for his attempt to save the lives of some of the victims. That was an offence against the 'moral unity' which the First Republic tried to establish.
There was a heroic Mayor in those days at Lille named Andre. When the Duke of Saxe-Teschen with his wife, a sister of Marie Antoinette, appeared before Lille at the head of an Austrian army and demanded the surrender of the place, Mayor Andre, who was a Republican but not of the 'moral unity' type, replied that he had sworn to keep the place, and he would keep his oath. With the help of the Ancient Artillery Corporations of the old Flemish city (Corporations of which the 'Honourable Artillery Corps' of London and of Boston are offshoots), Mayor Andre did keep his oath and kept Lille. The Minister Roland, the respectable confederate of the virtuous Petion, sent him promises of help, but no help. Why? Because Mayor Andre had taken the lead in a masculine protest of the honest people of Lille against that ruffianly invasion of the Tuileries by the mob on June 20 which the virtuous Petion, Mayor of Paris, and his respectable confederate Roland had for their own purposes promoted. So Mayor Andre got words and no troops. But Lille took care of herself; bore a tremendous bombardment for days without flinching, and finally, in the early days of October, saw the Saxon Duke and his army march away, Valmy having opened the eyes of Brunswick to the utter futility and fanfaronnade of the French emigrant noblesse and princes, who had drawn up for him and persuaded him against his own better judgment to sign the too famous and fatal proclamation with which he heralded the Austro-Prussian advance into France. Mayor Andre having thus saved the grand North-eastern bulwark of France, his services had to be in some way recognised. But in what way? Paris voted that Lille had deserved well of the nation, which was obvious enough; also that Lille should get a million of francs towards repairing damages, which million of francs, I am assured, never reached Lille; also that a grand monument should commemorate the valour and constancy of Lille. But the grand monument was never erected until half a century afterwards, when King Louis Philippe took the matter up, and carried it through.
With the proclamation of the Republic in September 1792 it ceased to be meritorious in Mayors and other municipal personages to protect life and property, repulse foreign invaders and punish domestic criminals. Varlet, the self-appointed 'Apostle of Liberty,' the man with the camp-chair and the red cap, whom Carnot, the grandfather of the present President, actually insisted that the Assembly should welcome to its floor, gave the keynote of the new order of things. 'We must draw a veil,' he exclaimed, 'over the Declaration of the Rights of Man!' And a veil was indeed drawn over the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Here at Reims, as elsewhere, proscriptions and confiscations were the order of the day. The glorious Cathedral of Reims itself, the Westminster and Canterbury in one of France, was in continual peril. Nothing really saved it and the Archi-episcopal palace but the religious and patriotic reverence of the people of Reims for the memory of Jeanne d Arc. In that Archi-episcopal palace the peasant girl of Domremy, the Virgin saviour of France, had been lodged. In that Cathedral she had stood, her banner in her hand, and watched the solemn consecration of her mission and her triumph. The emissaries of plunder and murder from Paris shrank from driving the Remois to extremities on that issue. But they desecrated the building and defaced it as much as they dared.
I am told that Robespierre during his dictatorship interfered to put a stop to the vandalism of his disciples here, and that we owe to him the preservation of the magnificent groups which still exist of statues representing scenes in the life of the Virgin Mary. The groups above the head of the Virgin on the double lintel had already been dashed to pieces when he was appealed to. The groups below, still unharmed, afford unanswerable proof that the sculptors of this part of Europe in the thirteenth century must have been familiar with the best traditions of their art. If Robespierre preserved these, we may forgive him not only for sending his dear Camille Desmoulins and his detested Danton to the guillotine, but even for replacing the shattered groups of the Nativity, the Presentation, and the Death of the Virgin with this inscription of his own devising: 'The French people believe in the existence of God and in the immortality of the soul!' Under the First Consul this inscription gave place to the Latin dedication now visible.
Pillaging he did not prevent, perhaps could not. One wizened old reprobate, Ruhl, got himself great Republican kudos by persistently putting about a legend that he had successfully stolen the sacred ampulla, from which St.-Remi had anointed Clovis King of France, and had dashed it to pieces in public. That he did indeed dash in pieces publicly a flask of glass is, I am assured, indubitable. But not less indubitable is it that he did not dash in pieces the sacred ampulla. Ruhl was a bit of a scholar, and his legend was obviously suggested to him by the traditional story of the Frankish warrior who smashed a sacred vase at Soissons, and whose own head the stalwart King Clovis afterwards clove in twain with his battle-axe on the Champ de Mars in requital of the deed. Curiously enough, it was written that the head of Ruhl should likewise in the end be smashed, as it was by himself with a pistol at Paris, May 20, 1795, to save it from the guillotine!
All the churches of Reims did not escape so well as the Cathedral. St.-Nicaise, 'the jewel of Reims' and the masterpiece of a famous architect of the thirteenth century, Hues Libergiers, whose name is preserved in that of one of the chief streets of Reims, was pillaged and then pulled down, the materials and the site being sold at a 'mock auction' to Santerre, the enterprising brewer, who 'pulled the wires' of all the patriotic emotions of the Faubourg St.-Antoine from the outset of the Revolution, got himself thereby made a general, and in that capacity conducted Louis XVI. to the scaffold, where, as all the world knows, he ordered the drums to drown the last words of the King. He was an incorrigible and indefatigable speculator, and while he drove a roaring trade at Paris in beer, he was always on the look out for demolished churches and convents in the provinces. Napoleon took his measure promptly, subsidised and used him to good purpose. Hearing once that there was a ferment brewing in St.-Antoine, the Emperor sent an officer to Santerre. 'Go and tell that fellow,' he said, 'that if I hear one word from the Faubourg St.-Antoine I will have him instantly shot.'