The 'Titanic' and 'transcendental' Faubourg remained as mute as a mouse!
In no French city are the memories of the Revolutionary orgie more offensively out of key with the actual aspect and the great associations of the place than in Reims. Whatever may have been the ways of the working people here forty years ago, I have always been struck by their quiet and orderly demeanour, as well as by the general air of prosperity and animation which pervades the city. Its grand Cathedral, the most consummate type which exists of the great ogival architecture of the thirteenth century, stands, the archaeologists tell us, on the spot where the Romans planted their citadel sixteen centuries ago. Like a citadel, it dominates the whole city to-day; a fortress no longer, like the Roman citadel, of armed force, but of faith, charity, and hope. Seven centuries have not shaken the solidity of its massive fabric. They who built it 'dreamt not of a perishable home.' But only a year ago a serious dislocation appeared in the framework of the stupendous rose-window over the grand entrance, and this, with other unsatisfactory symptoms observable here and there in the building, lend colour to the theory that the great chalk bed upon which the Cathedral stands may have been affected by the percolation of water from some deep trenches which, it seems, were dug near the northern and southern towers at the entrance of the Cathedral, during the year 1879, and unfortunately left open during the very inclement winter which followed.
This is a rather alarming theory, particularly if it be true, as it is said to be, that since 1880 the towers have perceptibly come out of plumb.
Fortunately the see of Reims is now in the charge of a prelate who fully appreciates the value to art and to civilisation, as well as to France and to the Church, of this magnificent edifice. When he came here from the bishopric of Tarbes, his first episcopate, in November 1874, one of the earliest steps taken by the present Cardinal Langenieux was to get a full report on the condition of the Cathedral from M. Millet, the accomplished successor of M. Viollet-le-Duc in the great work of the conservation and restoration of the historical monuments of France. M. Millet, on August 25, 1875, reported that the flying buttresses needed immediate attention, and that 'the gables and vaults of the western facade were seriously damaged, so that the rain water was penetrating the masonry and threatening the destruction of the numerous statues and sculptured ornaments of the grand western portal.' This portal, as every traveller knows, is simply matchless in the world. The Archhishop thereupon invited four of his personal friends, all at that time members of the Ministry—MM. Dufaure, Leon Say, Wallon, and Caillaux—to Reims, to see for themselves the state of the Cathedral. They came and inspected the building, and after their return to Paris prepared a bill, which became a law in December 1875, appropriating a sum of 2,033,411 francs in ten yearly instalments to the restoration of the Cathedral. The work began at once under the direction of M. Millet, who unfortunately died in 1879.
It was prosecuted after his death by another able architect, M. Brugere, and is now in the hands of M. Darcy, who has shown by his work at Evreux and St.-Denis that he is no unworthy successor of Viollet-le-Duc. The appropriation made in 1875 has been expended, but I am glad to find, on looking into the Budget for 1890 of the Ministry of Public Worship, that a sum of 301,508 fr. 26 c. is still available for the works at Reims. This budget, by the way, is an instructive document. It shows that the whole outlay of the State in France upon all objects connected with public worship and religion in France and Algiers, excepting the service of the chaplains in the army and the navy, amounted in 1889 to a little more than one franc per head of the population! The whole expense in connection with the Catholic Church, the Calvinist and Lutheran confessions, the Israelitish religion and the Mussulmans, was no more than 45,337,145 francs, a sum less than the amount annually expended by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the single State of New York upon keeping up its churches, colleges, and clergy! What proportion this sum bears to the present annual income of the Church property confiscated under the first Republic it would be interesting to ascertain. A Protestant friend of mine in the south of France, who has made some investigations into this subject, tells me that it cannot possibly represent above ten per cent. of the present actual product of the former property of the Church. Of the whole sum, 228,000 francs were spent on the civil servants of the ministry. There are seven sub-chiefs of bureaux in this ministry, all of them now doubtless good atheists, who receive salaries of from 3,400 to 5,400 francs a year. The highest salary paid to a Protestant pastor even in Paris is 3,000 francs, or 120l. a year. The cure of Notre-Dame de Paris receives 2,400 francs, or less than 100l. a year. There are 580 cures of the first class who receive from 1,500 to 1,600 francs a year; 275 cures of the second class receiving 1,500 francs a year, and 2,527 cures of the third class receiving from 1,200 to 1,300 francs a year. The thirty-one clerks in the Ministry receive from 1,800 to 4,500 francs a year. The Vicar-General of Paris receives no more than 4,500 francs a year. The Archbishop of Paris receives, like all the other archbishops, 15,000 francs, or 600l., a year, which is the salary paid to the Director of the Ministry! The Grand Rabbi of the Central Consistory receives 12,000 and the Grand Rabbi of Paris 5,000 francs a year, and the salaries paid to the Israelitish ministers of religion range from 2,500 down to 600 francs, the latter amount being less by 300 francs than the wages of the servants in the Ministry. The Muftis and Imams in office receive from 300 to 1,200 francs a year. All these salaries, with the outlay on the construction, rent, or maintenance of buildings of all kinds used for religious purposes, pensions, and travelling expenses, are comprised in the total appropriation of 45,337,145 francs, or a little more than 1,800,000l. for the year 1889. During the same year 12,760,745 francs were appropriated for the Fine Arts service. I do not say that the sum thus devoted to the Fine Arts out of the pockets of the taxpayers of France was at all too large. But I do say that it is out of all proportion large as compared with the sum voted out of the pockets of the taxpayers to the maintenance of religious institutions, which an overwhelming majority of the people of France regard, and rightly regard, as essential to the stability of law and order. Furthermore, this Budget of 1889 shows the spirit in which the fanatics of 'moral unity' are prosecuting their war against all religions in France. In 1883 the Government's budget amounted to 53,528,206 francs. Here we have a reduction within six years of more than 8,000,000 francs. In 1883 M. Jules Roche, now a deputy for the first district of Chambery and an ally of M. Clemenceau, proposed to reduce the Budget of Public Worship to 4,588,800 francs! The Third Republic, it will be seen, is getting on towards the proposition of M. Jules Roche—a proposition which clearly combines everything that is most open to objection in a legal connection between the State and religion with everything that is most odious and dangerous in an open war of the State against religion.
During these six years the leaders of this war against religion have never dared to draw up a statistical account of the strength of the various religious bodies in France. In 1882 one of their followers, M. Alfred Talandier, on February 13, rashly proposed that a table should be officially prepared of the state of religious opinions in France; but the managers of the cause of 'moral unity' were too wily to walk into that trap; they quietly stifled the proposition. It really might be a little awkward, even for a Parliamentary oligarchy with a strongly-bitted Executive well in hand, to confront, let us say, 37,500,000 of Catholics, Protestants, Israelites, not to mention the Mussulmans in Africa, with a proposition to abolish a Budget of Worship amounting to a little over a franc a head, for the purpose of reducing France to a complete 'moral unity' of absolute unbelief in God and in the immortality of the human soul!
Cardinal Langenieux took possession, as I have said, of the Archi-episcopal See of Reims in November 1874. Seldom has the right man been put into the right place more exactly at the right moment. It was in September 1874 that M. Challemel-Lacour unfolded the Republican programme of war to the knife against all religion. In September 1874, too, as I have mentioned, the burning of the factory at Val-des-Bois called out a general demonstration of sympathy from the Catholic working-men's clubs all over France, which attracted public attention to the movement; and in October 1874 Pius IX. issued a brief recognising its importance and earnestly commending it.
The new Archbishop of Reims was exceptionally fitted by his training and his experience to promote such a movement.
He was a Benedictine of the school of Cluny, bred in the traditions of that illustrious Order, to which, without exaggeration, it may be said that we owe almost everything that is best worth having in our Western civilisation. For upon what does human society rest in the last resort if not upon the two great pillars of the rule of St. Benedict—Obedience and Labour? As a priest, the new Archbishop had successively and successfully administered two of the most important parishes in Paris, one in the workmen's quarter of the Faubourg St.-Antoine, the other in the quarter of the noblesse, in the Faubourg St.-Germain.
After a single year passed in the Episcopate at Tarbes, that pleasant city on the Adour which all the winds of the Pyrenees have not yet quite disinfected of the memory of Barere, he was translated to this great historic see in the prime of his vigour. For fifteen years he has so ruled it that the Christians of Reims and of the Marne now seize with delight upon every opportunity of manifesting their incorrigible indifference to the 'moral unity of France.' You meet workmen in the streets going about their work with religious medals openly displayed. The churches of Reims are filled with men on great Church festivals. Taking all the districts of the Marne together, the Revisionists and Monarchists at the elections of 1889 outnumbered considerably the Government Republicans. These latter polled 35,046 votes in the Marne, against 40,287 polled by the former. The Radicals, who are very strong in the first district of Reims, polled 11,037 votes there against a Revisionist vote of 9,230. Do not these figures show, what I believe to be the truth, that the 'true Republican' policy of reducing France to 'moral unity' by trampling on the traditions and coercing the consciences of the French people is steadily dividing the French people into two great camps—the camp of the Social and Radical revolution and the camp of the Monarchy? That there was no necessity for this is illustrated by what I have said as to the relations between the Cardinal Archbishop of Reims and the Republican Ministers of 1875 who came here on his invitation, and then took steps to secure the preservation and restoration of the Cathedral. One of these Republican Ministers, M. Leon Say, who is largely responsible for clothing the present Government with the power which it abuses, has just been signally humiliated by the present Government and the dominant majority.
In the second district of Bergerac in the Dordogne, the Monarchist candidate for the Chamber, M. Thirion Montauban, received 6,708 votes, against 6,439 given to his Republican competitor. I took a special interest in this election, because M. Thirion-Montauban is the present proprietor of the house of Michel de Montaigne, which came into his possession through his marriage with the daughter of M. Magne, the eminent Finance Minister of Napoleon III. I made a visit there late in the summer, and found him busy with his canvass, on lines of respect for personal liberty and the right of men to think their own thoughts as to life and death, which would have commanded the cordial sympathy of the great Gascon sceptic. The tower, the study, the bedroom of Montaigne are preserved by him with religious care. The inscriptions on the walls which John Sterling copied so lovingly half a century ago are there still, and if indeed there be a life of faith as Tennyson says, 'in honest doubt,' the Pyrrhonist seigneur who thought before Pascal that the true philosophy was to laugh at philosophy, would not find himself a stranger in his old haunt to-day because its lower hall has been consecrated as a chapel.
The opponents of M. Thirion-Montauban behaved throughout the contest with extraordinary violence, and on one occasion put him into serious personal peril. However, he was elected. When the Chamber met in November his election was contested. M. Leon Say took an active part in maintaining the validity of the returns which gave the seat to M. Thirion-Montauban, and the evidence in the case was overwhelmingly in his favour. Nevertheless after the Report of the Committee was made, the majority of the Chamber coolly invalidated the choice of the electors, and seated the candidate who had not been elected. It was an open secret that this was done quite as much to punish M. Leon Say as to exclude M. Thirion-Montauban.
Intolerant as the 'true Republicans' are towards their political opponents, they are still more intolerant towards those 'false Republicans' who hesitate at framing the policy of a French Republic in the nineteenth century upon the principles which led to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Were Socrates alive and a Frenchman, he would stand no chance for a government chair of philosophy in a competition with the little atheist Aristodemus, and were David Hume to reappear at Reims, where he got his early schooling, he would certainly find himself treated by the authorities as no better than a Catholic.
The irreligion of the Third Republic is a dogmatic irreligion. Bayle would find no favour in its eyes, because protesting, as he said he did 'from his inmost soul protest, against everything that was ever said or done,' he must of course protest against the Nihilism of M. Marcou and M. Paul Bert.
Unfortunately for the 'true Republicans,' it is essential to their success that with the religious faith they should also abolish the patriotic traditions of France. M. Jules Simon, a Republican and a Republican Minister of Public Instruction, has found himself compelled to denounce in the clearest and strongest language the deliberate attempt which these 'true Republicans' are making 'to teach the children of France that the glory of France began with 1789, and that it was never so great as under the Convention.'
Stuff like this is actually taught in the schools into which it is the object of the present French Government to drive by statute all the children of the country.
'These men,' says M. Jules Simon, 'who proscribe the name of Jesus Christ and forbid it to be mentioned in the schools of France, on the pretext that public education must be neutral in such matters, do not hesitate to have children compelled to attend schools in which they are taught that Louis XIV. was a tyrant without greatness or ability, and that Louis XVI. was an enemy of his country justly condemned and executed.'
Of the great historic France—the France which aided the American colonies to establish their independence, after contesting with England the dominion of North America and of India for more than a century—the France of Montesquieu and of Rabelais, of Henri IV. and Sully, of Francois I. and St.-Louis, of Chivalry and of the Crusades, the coming generation of Frenchmen, if these fanatics can get their way, will know no more than their Annamite fellow-citizens in Asia. It is not surprising that a Government controlled by such men with such objects should have amnestied the criminals of the Commune. The petroleurs who destroyed the Tuileries and the Hotel de Ville were only trying in their practical way to abolish the history of France before 1789.
Here at Reims the history of France, I think, will die very hard. No one could doubt this who visited the Department of the Marne in the month of July 1887.
When the 'moral unity' men began their sinister work in 1880, the Cardinal Archbishop of Reims was earnestly urging upon the Holy See the beatification of the great French pontiff, Urban II., the disciple, friend and successor of Hildebrand, and the canonisation of Jeanne d'Arc, 'that whitest lily in the shield of France, with heart of virgin gold.'
On July 14, 1881, Leo XIII. confirmed the beatification of Urban II. and fixed of course the date of his death, July 29, as his place in the calendar of Church festivals. In July 1882 a solemn Triduum appointed by a Papal Rescript was celebrated with extraordinary pomp in the Cathedral of Reims.
Two Cardinals, one the special Legate of the Pope, more than twenty bishops, several abbots of the great Benedictine Order of which Urban II. was a member, and hundreds of the clergy from all parts of France, were present. The Cardinal Legate was attended by Monsignor Cataldi, so long and so well known to all foreigners in Rome as the master of the ceremonies to the Pope. The Cathedral was crowded. 'What I should like to know,' said a quiet shrewd master workman who described to me the effect produced by the scene in the Cathedral, 'what I should like to know is why the Catholics of Reims have not the right upon such occasions to escort the Legate of the Head of the Church from the railway station to the Cathedral with a procession and with music and with banners? Is that liberty I ask you?'
The question seems to me natural enough, particularly as I see that only the other day the Freemasons at Grenoble were permitted to force themselves, marching in a body with all their regalia and their emblems, into the funeral procession of a Prefect who was not a member of their order at all, and against the protest of the Bishop of Grenoble, who had been asked by the family of the dead man to give him the burial rites of the Church. That the Freemasons like other citizens should attend the funeral as individuals the Bishop was ready to admit, but he not unnaturally declined to acquiesce in the deliberate parade on such an occasion of a body openly and undisguisedly hostile to Christianity in all its forms.
Without a procession, however, the Triduum of the great Pope of the Crusades was a great success in 1882. It led to the organisation of a movement for erecting a magnificent monument to the memory of Urban II. at his native place. Chatillon-sur-Marne, one of the loveliest little towns in the valley of the Marne, situated about twenty miles from Reims. Early in 1887 this monument was completed, and on July 21 in that year it was unveiled with a solemn ceremonial in the presence of the Cardinal Archbishop of Reims, of the Papal Nuncio at Paris, and of many French bishops, among them the great orator of the Chamber of Deputies, Monseigneur Freppel, Bishop of Angers. He delivered a most impressive discourse on the significance of the Crusades, every sentence of which was weighted with pregnant allusions to the actual condition of religious liberty in France. These allusions were curiously emphasised by the absence of the Bishop of Orleans, detained at his post in the city of 'Jeanne d'Arc' by the sudden 'laicisation' of the schools in his diocese!
The day was what a perfect day in the summer of Northern France can be. The scene might have been planned by a poet or a painter. There are other Chatillons in France more famous in history, and held in higher honour therefore by those useful men the makers of guide-books, than Chatillon-sur-Marne; and it is in the nature of all castles to stand on picturesque sites, as of great rivers to flow by large towns. But neither the Chatillon which saw the birth of the Admiral de Coligny, nor the Chatillon which saw Napoleon throw away his sceptre with his scabbard, stands more beautifully than the quiet little town which nestles on its green plateau beneath the still majestic ruins of the chateau in which the great Pope of the Crusades was born. It overlooks, in the verdant valley of the Marne, the ancient priory of Binson, superbly renovated now, and restored in great measure through the zeal and energy of the Benedictine Archbishop of Reims. Around it sweeps a great circle of green and wooded hills, dotted over with fair mansions and lordly parks. For this province of Champagne is a land of wealth as well as of labour.
From a shattered tower of the old feudal fortress floated side by side the flags of France and of the Holy See. Beside the ruins rose, sharply defined and well detached against the summer sky, the colossal statue of Urban II. upon its lofty pedestal of granite. About it were arrayed in a pomp of colour and of flowing vestments, the host of ecclesiastics drawn together to do homage and honour in the sight of all men to the illustrious French pontiff, whom the Church found not unworthy in days of great stress and sore trial to take up and carry forward the work of his friend and teacher and predecessor, Hildebrand. One need not be a Catholic to recognise the debt of mankind to Gregory VII., of whom, dying in exile and in seeming defeat at Salerno, Sir James Stephen has truly said that he has 'left the impress of his gigantic character upon all succeeding ages.' One need only be a moderately civilised man of common sense to recognise the debt of mankind to Odo de Chatillon, known in the pontificate as Urban II. Wherever in the world the evensong of the Angelus breathes peace on earth to men of good-will, it speaks of the great pontiff and of the Truce of God which he founded, that the races of Christian Europe, suspending their internecine strife, might unite to roll back into Asia once for all the threatening invasion of Islam.
But the thousands upon thousands of people of both sexes and of all conditions in life who filled the vast plateau of Chatillon on that summer day in July 1887, and hailed with tumultuous shouts the monument of this great Frenchman and great Pope, visibly took a more than historic interest in the occasion. They were moved not only by those 'mystic chords of memory' of which President Lincoln knew the social and political value much better than the French fanatics of 'moral unity,' but by a vivid consciousness of the present peril of their country, their homes and their faith. Once more, as in the eleventh century and in the eighteenth, France needs to-day 'an invincible champion of the freedom of the Church, a defender of public peace, a reformer of morals, a scourge of corruption.'
This was the true significance of this memorable scene in the Marne. It was in the minds of that whole multitude, and it stirred them all with a common impulse when the eloquent Bishop of Angers, after sketching in a bold and striking outline the career of Urban II., thus drove its lesson home:—'Urban II. and the Popes of the Middle Ages have made for evermore impossible any return to the pagan theory of the omnipotence of the State. Ah, no doubt, despite that signal defeat, despotism will return to the charge. More than once in the course of the ages we shall see fresh appeals to violence against a power which can defend itself only by appealing to moral authority. We shall see, as we saw under Henry of Germany, emperors, kings, and republics strive to forge chains for the Church by their laws and their decrees. But the memory of the heroic struggles of the eleventh century will not pass out of the minds of the people. Canossa will remain for ever an inevitable stage in the progress of every power which undertakes to suppress religion and the Church.'
This festival of Urban II. fell in the week which includes the anniversary of the coronation of Charles VII. at Reims in the presence of Jeanne d'Arc, and the Cardinal Archbishop availed himself in July 1887 of this circumstance to crown the manifestation at Chatillon by a solemn commemoration in the Cathedral at Reims of the triumph of the peasant-girl of Domremy. He was a schoolfellow at St.-Sulpice and has been a lifelong friend of Gounod, and upon his suggestion the great French composer produced for the commemoration his Mass of Jeanne d'Arc. He came from Paris himself to superintend the execution of the music. Simple, grand, choral, in the manner of Palestrina, music of the cathedral, not of the concert, I must leave my readers to imagine what its effect was beneath those vast and magnificent arches which had looked down four centuries ago upon the Maid of Orleans kneeling with her banner in her hand before the newly-anointed King who owed his crown to Heaven and to her, and praying that, now her mission was fulfilled, 'the gentle prince would let her go back to her own people and to tend her sheep.'
I do not think it would be easy to convince anyone who that day witnessed the profound and silent emotion of those assembled thousands in the Cathedral of Reims that the religious sentiment is either dead or dying in France! In the evening of the same day the Cathedral was thronged again, and thousands of men stood there for an hour, as I saw men stand in Rome last year under the preaching of Padre Agostino, to listen to a very remarkable sermon from one of the most eloquent preachers in France, Canon Lemann of Lyons. In the course of this sermon the preacher incidentally, but with an obvious and courageous purpose, dwelt at some length upon the energy with which Urban II. had denounced and repressed the 'false Crusaders' who, under cover of the uprising of Christendom against the infidel, fell upon, persecuted, and massacred the Jews in Europe. This quiet and earnest protest against the 'Jew-baiting' tendency which is showing itself in France, as well as in Germany, was plainly understood, and as plainly commanded the sympathy of his hearers. This was the case also with his admirable treatment of the international aspects of the story of the Maid of Orleans. There was not a trace of Chauvinism in his citation of the simple and downright message sent by the Pucelle to the English before Orleans. 'I have been sent by God to throw you out of France.' Out of France she did throw them. 'In this,' said the preacher, 'Jeanne d'Arc did a great service to England as well as to France. The fair-haired nation of the North had fought side by side with France, Coeur de Lion with Philip Augustus, in the Crusades. When, therefore, the destined queen of the seas sought to establish herself as a Continental power in the heart of Europe, the Lord put in her way that grain of star-dust from Domremy, forced her back to her vocation, and bade her content herself with being sovereign on the ocean.'
I spoke of this allusion to the Jews with a most accomplished ecclesiastic who dined at the Archi-episcopal palace. He was very much pleased with it. 'One of the most mischievous things done,' he said, 'by the present Government is that it is certainly fomenting—I cannot say whether ignorantly or wilfully—a great deal of popular hostility to the Jews by giving important official positions to men who, though Israelites by blood, are in most cases no better Israelites than they are Christians. Very nearly half the prefectures in France are filled by such persons. When, as is too often the case, they carry out offensive and tyrannical measures against the Catholic schools and congregations in an unnecessarily offensive and tyrannical manner, it is very easy, as you must see, for hasty or malevolent persons to persuade the people that they do this because they are Jews, and as Jews hate the Christians. I know that the best Israelites in France regret this as much as I do. The policy of this Government is aimed as clearly at the extinction of the Jewish as of the Christian faith; at the Grand Rabbis as mercilessly as at the Archbishops of France.'
This same ecclesiastic gave me some particulars of the virulence with which the anti-religious war is waged. He told me of one case of recent date in Paris in which the authorities of a hospital neglected for two days to pay any heed to the entreaties of a poor patient that they would send for a priest to attend him, the doctors having given him to understand that for him the end was near. The chaplains, it will be remembered, have been expelled from all the public hospitals. Finally some person in charge of the place, more humane than his fellows, sent out to a Lazarist house in the neighbourhood and asked the Lazarists to send a priest. The priest came. He was received very rudely, kept waiting a long time in an ante-room, and when he was finally conducted through the wards to the dying man, all sorts of vulgar and foolish jeers were uttered about his mission as he passed along; and it was with the greatest trouble that he finally succeeded in imposing some sort of decent respect for the death-bed of this poor sufferer upon the hospital attendants.
'This is the spirit,' said the priest who told me the tale, 'of the Commune, or rather of those Communards who murdered the hostages. These murderers simply put this spirit into deeds instead of words. They made the name of the Commune so odious that when Victor Hugo in 1876 proposed a general amnesty of the condemned Communards, the Chamber rejected it without taking a vote.
'In 1880 the same general amnesty was proposed, and the Chamber adopted it by a very large majority. Do you wonder that thoughtful men look with horror on the current which is carrying us in such a direction as that? At this moment two men of high personal character, Admiral Krantz and M. Casimir Perier, are lending their support to a Government which represents this current, and yet Admiral Krantz and M. Casimir Perier have recorded their deliberate conviction that the men who clamoured for an unconditional, indiscriminate amnesty for the Communards were simply abusing the name of clemency for the rehabilitation of crime.
'Look again,' he said, 'at the spirit in which the laicization of the schools is conducted. There are a hundred families we will say in a village. Ninety-nine of these families are Christian families, not families of saints—I wish I knew such a village as that!—but Christian families. Go into their homes, and you will see the crucifix hanging in the chambers, religious prints upon the walls. One family is a family of atheists. I suppose the case, for as a matter of fact I know no such family. But I will suppose it. There is a school in the village, and in that school there hangs a crucifix, the gift of some pious resident. Ninety-nine fathers and mothers of the village desire that crucifix to be respected. One father and one mother (a bold supposition this!) desire it to be removed. The authorities send in a man who plucks it down, before the children, and throws it out of the door. I simply state what has happened over and over again! Is there any respect for equal rights—for the rule of the majority, for freedom of conscience in such proceedings? Take the case of the Virgin of Beziers. In that ancient city stood two statues of the Virgin, one in bronze and one in marble. The civil authorities called upon the Church to suppress them. The Church authorities of course declined to do this. Thereupon the civil authorities take the money of the taxpayers and expend it in depriving the city of these two monuments. Suppose the Turkish authorities were to do a thing like this in a town full of Christians under their dominion, what would all the civilised world say about the Turks?
'And it is done in a French city by Frenchmen either to carry out their own self-will or to exasperate and insult their fellow-citizens, or for both reasons at once!
'Still another case you can see for yourself at Domremy. There under a pious and patriotic foundation to which Louis XVIII largely contributed the home of Jeanne d'Arc, religiously preserved in its original state, was confided to the keeping of some Sisters. They dwelt in a neat edifice constructed on the grounds purchased to secure the house of the Pucelle, and there the children of Domremy and the neighbouring communes came to school and were gratuitously taught. Only the other day the local authorities were instigated, I know not by whom—perhaps by the friends of M. Ferry at St.-Die, which is not very far off—to "laicize" instruction in Domremy. To this end they turn the Sisters out, put the home of Jeanne d'Arc under the charge of a lay guardian, who has to be paid by the State, of course, tax the commune to pay a lay teacher, and make the school a lay school at the very door of the home of the village maiden to whose religious faith France owes her freedom and her national existence!'
I made a visit to Nancy and the Department of the Meurthe et Moselle not long after I had this conversation in Reims. The Mother Superior of the great Sisterhood of Christian Doctrine at Nancy confirmed this amazing story of the performances at Domremy, and gave me many particulars of the petty persecutions to which the Sisters who conduct schools all over France are subjected. The schools are open at all hours to the invasion of Inspectors, who magnify their office too often in the eyes of the children by treating the teachers (lay as well as religious) with the sort of amiable condescension which marks the demeanour of an agent of the octroi overhauling the basket of a peasant-woman at a barrier. If a Sister has a religious book, her own property, lying on her desk, it is violently snatched up, and the children are invited to say whether it has been used to poison their young minds with religious ideas. 'In short,' said the Mother Superior very quietly, 'our Sisters are really much better treated in Protestant countries than in Catholic France.'
Domremy-la-Pucelle is a typical agricultural village of Eastern France. It is in the Department of the Vosges and in the verdant valley of the Meuse. I drove to it on a lovely summer's morning after visiting Vaucouleurs, where the Pucelle came before the stout Captain Robert de Beaudricourt and said to him, 'You must take me to the King. I must see him before Mid Lent, and I will see him if I walk my legs off to the knees!' This interview began her marvellous career.
From certain articles in newspapers about a drama of Jeanne d'Arc, now performing at Paris, I gather that Jeanne's moral conquest of France which preceded and led to her material victory over the English invaders, has at last been satisfactorily explained by the scientific believers in hypnotism! Of this I can only say, with President Lincoln on a memorable occasion, 'for those who like this kind of explanation of historical phenomena, I should suppose it would be just the kind of explanation they would like.'
The country between Vaucouleurs and Domremy is agreeably diversified, well wooded in parts, and rich in fair meadow-lands. At Montbras a little old lady dwells and looks after her affairs in one of the most picturesque chateau of the sixteenth century to be seen in this part of France, machicolated, crenellated, and dominated by lofty towers. We passed, too, through Greux, a small village on the Meuse, the dwellers in which were astute enough to get themselves exempted by Charles VII from all talliages and subsidies 'by fabricating documents' to prove that Jeanne d'Arc was born there. The incident is curious as going to show that the 'downtrodden serfs' and 'manacled villeins' of the middle ages had their wits about them, and could take care of themselves when an opportunity offered, as well as the 'oppressed tenantry' of modern Ireland. Domremy, which is no bigger than Greux, neither of them having three hundred inhabitants, straggles along the highway. The houses are well built—the church is a handsome, ogival building of the fifteenth century, restored in our day, but quite in keeping with the place and its associations. Within it, under a tomb built into the wall, lie the two brothers Tiercelin, sons of the godmother of Jeanne, who bore their testimony manfully to the character of the deliverer of France, when the Church was at last compelled to intervene in the interest of truth and justice between the French Catholics who had worshipped her as a 'creature of God,' and the English Catholics who had burned her as an emissary of the Evil One.
Almost under the shadow of the church tower stands the house in which Jeanne was born and bred. A charming, old-fashioned garden, very well kept, surrounds it. If when you leave the church you pass around by the main street of the village, you soon find yourself in front of a neat iron railing which connects two modern buildings of no great size, but neat and unpretending. Entering the gateway of this railing you see before you, shaded by well-grown trees, one or two of which may possibly be of the date of the house, the quaint fifteenth-century facade of the house of Jacques d'Arc, and his wife Isabelle Vouthon, called Romee because she had made a pilgrimage to the Eternal City. A curious demi-gable gives the house the appearance of having been cut in two. But there is no reason to suppose it was ever any larger than it is now. Probably, indeed, this facade was erected long after the martyrdom of Jeanne. Over the ogival doorway is an escutcheon showing three shields, and the date, 1480, with an inscription, 'Vive Labeur, Vive le Roy Louys!' This goes to confirm a local tradition that the facade was built at the cost of Louis XI., who understood much better than his father the political value to the crown and to the country of France of the marvellous career of the peasant girl of Domremy. The date of this inscription is particularly significant. In 1479 was fought the battle of Guinegate, which was lost to France by the headlong flight of the French chivalry from the field. Louis XI. turned this disaster to good account. He made it the excuse for founding, in 1480, his regular army of mercenaries, liberating the peasants from the burden of personal military service to the lords, and drawing to himself the power of the State through taxation. 'Vive Labeur, Vive le Roy Louys!' was a popular cry throughout France in 1480; for Labeur in those days meant what it means now in the Terra di Lavoro—the tilling of the fields. One of the three shields above this doorway has a similar significance. It is a bearing of three ploughshares. With it are emblazoned on the house of the Pucelle two other shields, one bearing the three royal fleurs-de-lys of France, and the other the arms granted to the family of the heroine—azure, a sword argent pommelled and hilted or, and above a crown supported by two fleurs-de-lys. With these arms, as we know, the family took the name of De Lys. The name, the arms, and the inscription over the doorway were a perpetual witness to the peasants of Champagne and Lorraine of the unity of interests established by King Louis between the spade and the sceptre. With the help of an inspired daughter of the people, King Charles had driven the English into the sea, and delivered the land. With the help of the people, King Louis had broken the power of Burgundy, and put the barons under his foot. 'Vive Labeur, Vive le Roy Louys!' I do not wonder this skilful craftsman 'of the empire and the rule' lamented on his death-bed in 1483, at Plessis-les-Tours, that he could not live to crown the edifice he had so well begun. We in England and America know him only in the magic mirror of the Wizard of the North. But France owes him a great debt. He was cruel, but in comparison with the cruelty of Lebon, of Barere, of Billaud-Varennes, his cruelty was tender mercy, He was a hypocrite, but his hypocrisy shows like candour beside the perfidy and the cant of Petion and of Robespierre, while in the great 'art and mystery' of government he was a master where these modern apes of despotism were clumsy apprentices.
The interior of the house of Jeanne is probably in the main what it was when Jeanne dwelt here with her parents, her sister and her brothers. The ground floor contains a general living-room, the large chimney-place of which may perhaps be of the time of Jeanne, and three bedrooms, one of which, a chamber measuring three metres by four, and lighted only by a small dormer window looking out upon the garden, tradition assigns to Jeanne and to her sister. Here, the people of Domremy believe, the maiden sate almost within the shadow of the old church-tower, and heard the voices of St. Catherine and St. Margaret, and Michael the Archangel, patron and defender of France, mingling with the sound of the church bells, and calling upon her to arise, and leave her village home and the still forests of Domremy and her silly sheep, and go out into a world of war and confusion and violence, and rally the broken armies of her people, and lead them, like another Deborah or Judith, to victory.
That Jeanne heard these voices or believed she heard them, the documentary evidence unearthed by Quicherat abundantly proves. It proves, too, that she was cool, clear-headed, self-possessed, thoroughly honest, and absolutely trustworthy in every relation of life. This being her character, what did she do? She made her way from her solitude in Lorraine to the court of the King at Chinon, with nothing but her faith in her voices and her mission to sustain her; put herself into the forefront of the battle of France, threw the English back into England, and saw the successor of St.-Remi put the crown of Clovis upon the head of a prince whom nobody but herself could have led or driven to Reims.
If anybody in Paris or elsewhere knowing all this feels quite sure that Jeanne did not hear the voices which she believed herself to have heard, he certainly is to be pitied. It may do him good to consider in his closet what Lord Macaulay has said in a certain celebrated essay concerning Sir Thomas More and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
A man may intelligently believe or disbelieve in the reality of the voices heard by Jeanne, but no man who intelligently disbelieves in them can need to be told that his disbelief rests upon no better scientific ground than the belief of the man who believes in them.
To take the home of Jeanne d'Arc out of the keeping of devout women who share the faith of Jeanne, that faith which, well or ill founded, unquestionably saved France, was simply a stupid indecency. In the keeping of the Sisters the home of Jeanne was a shrine. In any other keeping it becomes a show.
The essential vulgarity of the performance is bad enough. But a sharp-witted Domremy man who took me on to Bourlemont in his 'trap' assured me, in a matter-of-fact way, that in the village the chief mover in the affair was commonly believed to have got a good pot-de-vin for securing the position of keeper of the house for a person of his acquaintance. This may have been a bit of village scandal, but such performances naturally breed village scandals. Whether it was or was not a 'job' in this sense, it certainly marks as low a level of taste and education as the pillage by Barere and his copper 'Syndicate' of the historic tombs of France at St.-Denis in 1793.
Some years ago all France was incensed by a nocturnal desecration of the statue of Duguesclin which stands at Dinan in the very lists in which five hundred years ago the Breton hero met and vanquished 'Sir Thomas of Canterbury.' The indignation of France was righteous, and if there was any foundation for the popular impression that the outrage was perpetrated by some English lads on a vacation tour, no language could well be too strong to apply to it. But I did not observe that any Parisian journalist alluded at that time to the way in which the ashes of Duguesclin himself were treated in 1795 at St.-Denis, by Frenchmen decked in tri-coloured scarves! It did not even occur to them to remember how long ago and by what hands the column of the Grand Army was pulled down in the very heart of Paris!
While the force of Philistine fatuity can no further go than it has gone in the 'laicization' of the home of Jeanne d'Arc, I ought to say that the actual keeper of the place seemed to me to be a decent sort of fellow, not wholly destitute of respect for its traditions and its significance. The house and the garden are neatly kept. In the centre of the main room stands a fine model in bronze of the well-known statue of Jeanne d'Arc, by the Princess Mary of Orleans, with an inscription stating that it was given by the King, her father, to the Department of the Vosges, to be placed in the house where Jeanne was born. Commemorative tablets are set here and there in the walls; and in one of the modern buildings in front of the house a collection is kept of objects illustrating the life of the Pucelle.
The most interesting of these is a banner given by General de Charette, to the valour of whose Zouaves the French are indebted for one of the few gleams of victory which brighten up the dark record of 1870 It was at Patay that in June 1429 the English, under Sir John Fastolf, for the first time broke in a stricken field and fled under the onset of the French, led by the Maid of Orleans, leaving the great Talbot to fall a prisoner into the hands of his enemies. And at Patay, again in December 1870, the German advance was met and repulsed by the 'Volunteers of the West,' that being the name under which the silly and intolerant 'Government of the National Defence' actually compelled the Catholic Zouaves to fight for their country, just as they forced the Duc de Chartres to draw his sword and risk his life for France as 'Robert Lefort.' These puerilities really almost disarm contempt into compassion. At Patay in 1870 the Zouaves saw three of their officers, all of one family, struck down in succession, two of them to death, as they advanced on the lines of the enemy, bearing a banner of the Sacre-Coeur, which had been presented to General de Charette by some nuns of Brittany only a few days before the battle. The banner, now at Domremy, is a votive offering of General de Charette and his Zouaves in commemoration of the field on which they were permitted thus, after four centuries, to link the piety and the patriotic valour of modern France with the deathless traditions of Domremy, of Orleans, and of Reims.
This little museum contains, too, a picture given by an Englishman, of Jeanne binding up the wounds of an English soldier after the repulse of one of the English attacks. The soil has risen about the house of Jeanne, and this may have made the interior seem more gloomy than it once was. But the house is well and solidly built, and if it may be thought a fair specimen of the abodes of the well-to-do peasantry of Lorraine in the fifteenth century, they were as well lodged relatively to the general average of people at that time as those of the same class in Eastern France now on the average appear to be. Charles de Lys in the early seventeenth century seems to have been a man of note and substance. But the parents of Jeanne were simply peasant proprietors. At the entrance of the village church there is a statue of Jeanne, the work of a native artist, in which she appears kneeling in her peasant's dress, one hand pressed upon her heart and the other lifted towards Heaven. And in a little clump of fir-trees near her house stands a sort of monumental fountain, surmounted by a bust of the Pucelle. The house itself remained in the possession of the last descendant of the family, a soldier of the Empire named Gerardin, down to the time of the Restoration. Some Englishman, it is said, then offered him a handsome price for the cottage, with the object of moving it across the Channel, as an enterprising countryman of mine once proposed to carry off the house of Shakespeare to America. Gerardin, though a poor man, or perhaps because he was a poor man, refused. The department thereupon bought the house, the King gave Gerardin the cross of the Legion, and he was made a garde forestier.
Upon the expulsion of the Sisters from the home of La Pucelle, some of the most respectable people in the department at once organized a fund, and built for them a very neat edifice in the village in which they are now installed. Fully four-fifths of the children of the country round about, I was told, still attend their free school. 'Ah! Sir,' said a cheery solid farmer of Domremy to me, while I stood waiting for my 'trap,' to continue my journey, 'it does not amuse us at all to pay for the braying of all these donkeys! Do you know, it costs Domremy, such as you see it, twelve hundred francs a year, this nonsense about the Sisters and the house of La Pucelle! And to what use? What harm did the Sisters do there? It is not the Pucelle who would have put them out, do you think? In the old time Domremy paid no taxes because of the Pucelle. Now because of the Pucelle we must pay twelve hundred francs a year for what we don't want!'
Some of my readers may thank me—as the guide-book gives no very accurate information on the subject—for telling them that Domremy-la-Pucelle may be very easily, and in fine weather very pleasantly, visited from Neufchateau on the railway line between Paris and Mirecourt. Neufchateau itself is an interesting and picturesque town. It suffered severely from the religious wars, but two of its churches, St. Christopher and St. Nicholas, are worth seeing. There are two very good statues of Jeanne d'Arc, and the Hotel de la Providence, kept by a most attentive dame, is a very good specimen of a small French provincial inn. There a carriage can be had for Domremy, and with a luncheon-basket a summer's day may be most agreeably spent between Neufchateau and the little station of Domremy-Maxey-sur-Meuse, at which point, about three miles beyond Domremy-la-Pucelle, you may strike the railway which leads to Nancy. The old capital of Lorraine, though not nearly so trim and well kept as it used to be, is still one of the most characteristic and interesting cities in France.
Very near Domremy-la-Pucelle, a resident of the country, M. Sedille, has built, on a fine hill overlooking the valley of the Meuse, a small chapel adorned with a group representing the Maiden kneeling before her Saints and the Archangel. This chapel stands on the place where, as tradition tells us, Jeanne first heard the heavenly 'voices.' It was then in the heart of a great forest, long since thinned away. It now commands a wide and beautiful view of a finely varied country. There, driving from Bourlemont on a lovely summer afternoon, I found a young pilgrim from the Far West of the United States doing homage to the memory of the Maid of Orleans. He had made his way here from Paris and the Exposition. 'I got enough of that,' he said, 'in about three days, with the help of a French conversation book.' His method was to look up a phrase as nearly as possible expressing what he wanted to say, and then to submit this phrase in the book to his interlocutor. 'How do you find the plan work?' I asked him. 'Oh, very well,' he replied; 'the French are so very obliging. I'm afraid it wouldn't work as well the other way, on our side of the pond.' His worship, not of heroes, but of heroines, was most simple and downright. 'I consider Joan of Arc,' he said, 'the greatest woman that ever walked the earth, and next to her Charlotte Corday. And these miserable Englishmen burnt one,' he added scornfully, 'and these miserable Frenchmen guillotined the other. I don't wonder this Old World is played out if they can't treat such women better than that!'
He was charmed with the story of Adam Lux (caricatured by Mr. Carlyle), who (like Andre Chenier) invited death by his defiant homage to Charlotte Corday. 'Well now, I suppose,' he said, 'that if there had been fifty more men in Paris then as brave as that Adam Lux, they could have taken all those cowards and murderers and chucked them into the Seine!' He rejoiced over the Bishop of Verdun's projected monument to Jeanne, and I sent him to Chatillon by telling him that the statue of Urban II. stands third in height among the religious monuments of Europe after the Virgin of Le Puy and the St.-Charles of Arona.
Bourlemont before the Revolution must have been one of the finest chateaux in France. It stands superbly on the plateau of a lofty hill. The park which surrounds it is very extensive and full of noble trees. The chateau was sacked and pillaged, and one great wing destroyed. This the Prince d'Henin is now rebuilding on the original scale, and in the most perfect keeping with the stately and picturesque main body of the edifice. The whole of the interior, with the great hall and the chapel, has been restored and refurnished with admirable taste. Carved oak wainscotings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, antique armoires and cabinets and tables, mediaeval tapestries—nothing is wanting. But the thoroughness of the reconstruction emphasizes the wanton folly and wickedness of the devastation which made it necessary.
The Princesse d'Henin of the Revolutionary time narrowly escaped the guillotine. She was one of many women of rank and worth who owed their lives to the courage and ability and generosity of Madame de Stael. After taking refuge in Switzerland, Madame de Stael organised a complete system for bringing away her imperilled friends from Paris. She gathered about her a small corps of clever and determined Swiss girls. These she sent one by one as occasion served, or circumstances required, into France, equipped with Swiss passports. On reaching Paris one of these girls would find a lady waiting to escape, change wardrobes with her, give her a Swiss passport properly vised by the Swiss representative in Paris, furnish her with money if necessary, and set her safely on her way to the Cantons. When news came that she had arrived, the Swiss damsel in her turn would get a new passport from her Minister and return to Switzerland. Of course, such a system as this could not have been carried out so successfully as it was without more or less co-operation on the part of the 'incorruptible' Republican functionaries in France, and there can be little doubt that, under the regime of the scoundrels who made up the Committee of Public Security—Lebon, Panis, Drouet, Ruhl, and the rest—a regular traffic in passports and protections went on during the worst times of the Terror. It is remembered to the credit of an unhappy woman, who was born in the town of Vaucouleurs, and for whom nobody finds a good word, Madame Du Barry, that she deliberately gave up the certainty of securing her own escape from Paris, in 1793, in order to save Madame de Mortemart. The Duchesse de Mortemart was in hiding on the Channel coast, when Madame Du Barry, for whom a safe-conduct under an assumed name had been bought from one of the Terrorist 'Titans,' insisted that this safe-conduct should be sent from Paris to the Duchesse. The Duchesse used it and reached England in safety. Madame Du Barry remained to perish on the scaffold, leaving her goods and chattels to be stolen by the ruffians who sent her to the guillotine, just as the goods and chattels, the money and equipments and horses of the Duc de Biron were stolen by the Republican 'General' Rossignol, his successor.
Domremy is in the electoral district of Neufchateau, and the elections of 1889 do not show that the 'laicization' policy has given the Republican cause a great impulse in this region. The Monarchist candidate in the Neufchateau district received in September 1889 6,571 votes, and the Republican 6,590. This is one of the microscopic majorities which were so common in 1889, and which conclusively show what a difference in the general result was made by the open pressure of the Government on the electors. The Department of the Vosges sends up six deputies to the Chamber. In 1885 it sent up a solid Republican Deputation, including M. Meline, who was so conspicuous in 1889 in the matter of General Boulanger and M. Jules Ferry, the standard-bearer of 'laicization' and irreligion. In 1885 the Deputies were chosen by the scrutin de liste. The Republican majority shown by the vote for M. Meline was 6,949 on a total poll of 87,635. M. Meline, who headed the poll, received 47,292 votes. His Conservative opponent received 40,343. In 1889 the elections were made by the scrutin d'arrondissement. Five Republicans, not six, were chosen, and the defeated Republican candidate was no less a person than M. Jules Ferry himself! The first district of St.-Die gave him 6,192 votes, and elected a Monarchist to replace him by 6,403 votes. It is not easy to overestimate the significance of this change. Probably enough the majority will emphasize it by 'invalidating' the election of the Monarchist!
A comparison of the total votes in the Vosges of the two parties in 1889 with those of 1885 is instructive. In 1885 the strength, of the two parties respectively (the Conservatives not having then openly declared for the Monarchy) was, as I have said, 47,292 and 40,343. In 1889 the Republicans polled in all the districts of the department 47,116 votes, and their opponents 42,124. Here we have a falling off of 176 votes in the highest Republican strength against an increase of 1,781 in the highest Opposition strength, or, in other words, a falling off of 1,957 votes in the aggregate Republican majority, together with the defeat in his own district of the recognised leader of the Republican Government party. And yet the total of the votes polled rose from 87,635 in 1885 to 89,240 in 1889. The inference is obvious: that the Monarchists are on the upgrade, and the Republicans on the downgrade. If, with such results in such a region and in the face of such a contest as that of 1889, the Monarchists do not in the long run win, it will clearly be nobody's fault but their own!
IN THE CALVADOS
Perhaps the most striking illustration that can be given of the true nature of the contest now waging between the Third Republic and France, is the share taken in it by the family and the representatives of the great Protestant statesman, who, under Louis Philippe, laid down the lines in France of a truly free and liberal system of public education. In the matter of education France was undoubtedly thrown backward and not forward by the First Republic. The number of illiterates—that is, of persons unable to read and write—naturally increased between 1789 and 1799 as the educational foundations which existed all over the kingdom shared the fate of the religious and charitable foundations. There was an abundance of ordinances and decrees about public education. But the chief practical work done was to confiscate the means by which the ancient system had been carried on. Baudrillart mentions educational foundations made by the great abbeys as early as in the seventh century. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Councils of the French Church created in each cathedral chapter a special prebend, the holder of which was to look after the education not only of clerical persons, but 'of all poor scholars,' and this 'gratuitously.'
In the fourteenth century lay foundations for free public education are found, one in particular of importance established by a rich citizen, Jean Rose, for promoting the general education of the people at Meaux, the diocese afterwards of Bossuet, who under Louis XIV. was so active in promoting 'the moral unity' of France from his point of view.
The long English wars interrupted the development of education, and many instances are found during that dismal period in which persons who had bought legal positions had to employ professional scribes to do their writing. In the sixteenth century schools increased and multiplied all over France. Rich citizens founded them for 'the instruction of all the children,' as at Provins in 1509, and at Roissy-en-Bue in 1521. In the rural regions the schoolmaster often received his pay in grain; he was sometimes attached to some public office. In many places he taught the children only for six months in each year. In short, education was carried on in France at that time very much as it was in the rural regions of the United States down to the second quarter of the current century. In many French parishes of the sixteenth century the schoolmaster 'boarded around' in the different families of the parish, just as he did in New England. The religious wars again disturbed the development of education. At Nimes, where the archives I found had been carefully investigated by M. Puech, more than a third of the artisans could read, write, and keep their accounts at the end of the fifteenth century. After the close of the religious wars, it was no uncommon thing to find fathers signing their names in a very clerkly fashion, while their sons were forced to 'make their marks,' as being unable to write. Like causes produced like effects at the end of the eighteenth century. Not content with disestablishing the Church, the legislative tinkers of 1791, by a law passed on June 27 in that year, struck out of existence at a blow all the great industrial associations and corporations of France. These had provided for the education of the children of their members for centuries; but all the educational foundations were swept away with the hospitals and the charities. The men who grew to man's estate between 1793 and 1813 in France grew up in greater ignorance than their fathers.
The worst national effects of the Terror did not disappear with the disappearance of the guillotine. Before the fall of Robespierre, the guillotine had come to be a financial expedient. 'We are coining money on the Place de la Revolution,' said the estimable Barere to his colleagues, and he counted that a poor week's work which yielded less 'than three millions of francs' from the confiscation of the property of the victims. When under the Directory fusillades took the place of the too conspicuous guillotine, the confiscation still went on. The Directory did no more for education than the Terror had done. The five directors had other matters on their minds.
Barras, of whom a not unfriendly historian gently observes that, 'while he lacked no other vice ancient or modern, he was neither very vain nor very cruel;' Mr. Carlyle's 'hungry Parisian pleasure-hunter,' Rewbell, of whom his special friend and colleague, Lareveillere-Lepaux, amiably records in his Memoirs that 'his legs were too small for his body,' and that he had 'a habit of attributing to himself speeches uttered and deeds done by other people;' Letourneur, a corpulent rustic, whose excellent wife loudly exulted over her joy in finding herself 'eating stewed beef out of Sevres porcelain,' and who, being asked when he came back from the Jardin des Plantes whether he had seen Lacepede, innocently replied: 'No; but I saw La giraffe!'—Carnot, 'Papa Victory,' of whom Lareveillere says that 'nobody could endure his vanity and self-conceit;' and, lastly, Lareveillere himself, whom Carnot in his Memoirs, published at London in 1799, compares to a 'viper,' and says, 'after he has made a speech he coils himself up again'—these were hardly the men to give their nights and days to reconstructing the educational system of France!
Merlin (of Douai), Minister of Justice under the quintette, really ruled France for nearly five years. This was Merlin, author of the 'Law of the Suspects,' which Mr. Carlyle, though obviously in the dark as to its real genesis and objects, finds himself constrained to stigmatize as the 'frightfullest law that ever ruled in a nation of men.' Mr. Carlyle does not seem to have observed that the author of this 'transcendental' law, the aim of which was to convert the French people into a swarm of spies and assassins, was not only one of the first of the Republican' Titans' to fall down and kiss the feet of Napoleon, but one of the first also to desert Napoleon, and embrace the knees of the returning King. On April 11, 1814, this creature, who had caused the Convention to reject a petition for a pardon presented by a man condemned for a crime, the real authors of which had confessed his innocence and their own guilt, on the ground that 'every sentence pronounced by the law should be irrevocable,' joined in a most fulsome address of welcome to the legitimate sovereign of France! His namesake Merlin (of Thionville), another 'Titan' whom Mr. Carlyle admires as riding out of captured Mayence still 'threatening in defeat,' was nimbler even than Merlin of Douai. On April 7, 1814, he wrote to King Louis begging to be allowed 'to serve the true, paternal government of France!'
Concerning Merlin (of Douai), Barras, who made him 'Minister of Justice,' placidly says: 'Poltroons are always cruel. Merlin always hid himself in the moment of danger, and came out again only to strike the vanquished party.' Proscription and confiscation kept the Government which this worthy Republican directed much too busy to leave it any time for looking after the schools of France.
When at last Napoleon gathered up the reins, he postponed the interests of public education to other, and from his point of view more pressing, concerns.
The Concordat re-established the Church in France, but it did not re-endow the Church on a scale which would have enabled it at once to reconstruct its own educational system. In fact, the Concordat can hardly be said to have re-endowed the Church at all. Under the thirteenth article the Pope formally recognized the title of the purchasers of 'national property' in France to vast domains, the property through purchase, donations, or bequest of the Church, which had been made 'national property' only by the simple processes of exiling or murdering the owners and confiscating their estates. In consideration of this recognition, the State bound itself by Article XIV. of the Concordat to 'ensure to the bishops and the curates salaries befitting their functions,' and by Article XV. to 'protect the right of the Catholics of France to re-endow the churches.'
As to the 'rising generation' of the French people the government of Napoleon concerned itself much more with the conscription than with the reconstruction of the schools, and though the Churches, both Catholic and Protestant, took this work in hand very early in the century, it was necessarily with inadequate means.
Under the First Consulate a general law regulating public instruction was enacted, on May 1, 1802. Another was enacted shortly afterwards, and in 1808 appeared the famous decree of the Emperor founding the University system of France. Heaven knows how many schemes for founding this University system had been elaborated and submitted to him before, only to be torn up as 'ideological.' Cuvier affirms that he drew up twenty-three such schemes one after another.
This decree of March 17, 1808, forbade the establishment of private schools without the authority of the Government, set up three degrees of public instruction, primary, secondary and superior, organised a body of Inspectors-General, and, in short, 'laicized' public education in France effectually as a machine to be controlled by the Imperial Government.
Under the ancient Monarchy, France possessed twenty-four Universities. The Convention suppressed them all at a blow on September 15, 1793. This was little more than three months after the Convention itself had been 'suppressed' and forced to kiss the hand that smote it by Henriot and his cannoniers on June 28, 1793. A law abolishing the freedom of education was to have been expected from an assembly itself enslaved by an oligarchy of rogues and assassins. And this law left nothing standing in France to impede the execution of the Imperial decree of 1808, the first article of which was:—'Public education in the whole Empire is exclusively confided to the University.' Another article ordained that all the schools in France should take as the basis of their instruction 'fidelity to the Emperor, to the Imperial monarchy, the trustee of the happiness of the people, and to the Napoleonic dynasty, the conservator of the unity of France and of all the liberal ideas proclaimed in the constitutions of France.' The theology of all the French schools was to be in conformity with the Royal edict of Louis XIV., issued in 1682. Furthermore and expressly, 'the members of the University were required to keep the Grand-master and his officers informed of anything that may come to their knowledge contrary to the doctrine and the principles of the educational body in the establishments of public education!'
Here we have the 'moral unity' of France organized by Napoleon in 1808 on the lines in which the Third Republic has been trying ever since 1874 to organize it! Put the word 'Republic' for the word 'Empire,' the phrase 'scientific atheism' for the phrase 'propositions of the clergy of France in 1682,' and you have in the Napoleonic organization of public education the organization controlled by M. Jules Ferry. Of the two despotisms, the despotism of 1808 seems to me the more compatible with public order and public prosperity. With public liberty neither of them is compatible. Under the ancient Monarchy and the clerical system of education liberty existed. The Jesuits and the Jansenists, the Dominicans and the Oratorians and the Benedictines, had their different principles of education, their different traditions, their different text-books. Under the Imperial University, and still more under the University of the Third Republic, differences became disloyalties. Under the University of France in 1808 every young French citizen was to accept the Catholic faith as defined by the clergy of France in 1682, and true allegiance bear to the Napoleonic dynasty. Under the University of France in 1890, every young French citizen is to disbelieve in God and a future life, and true allegiance bear to the Third French Republic.
In 1808 as in 1890 the rights of freemen were first vindicated in this connection by the Catholic Church. On April 9, 1809, the Emperor issued a decree that no one should be admitted to a Catholic theological academy without a bachelor's diploma of the University. The bishops came at once into collision on this point with the Imperial prefects of 1809, as the bishops now came into collision on the decree of 1880 with M. Jules Ferry and the Republican prefects. The Imperial prefects of 1809 (not a few of them rabid Republicans in 1792) were merely the valets of the Emperor, as the prefects of 1890 are the valets of a Parliamentary oligarchy.
The Emperor carried his point. But when the Emperor fell, and the constitutional monarchy was restored, the University of France ceased to be an Imperialist training-school. M. de Fontanes, appointed grand-master by the Emperor in 1809, kept his place under Louis XVIII. To keep it he made the University 'clerical.' Under Napoleon the scholars in the public schools of France had been divided into 'companies.' M. de Fontanes in 1815 ordered them to be divided into 'classes.' Under Napoleon the hours of study and of play were announced by a drum. In 1815 M. de Fontanes ordered them to be announced by a bell. Under Napoleon the boys all wore a uniform. M. de Fontanes in 1815 ordered the uniforms to be no longer of 'a military type.' Then the French Liberals who had not dared to stir under the Emperor began to attack both the clergy and the University. But when the Revolution of 1830 brought these 'Liberals' into power, they ceased at once to attack, and began at once to engineer the Imperial machinery of the University. M. Thiers even proclaimed this machinery to be 'the finest creation of the reign of Napoleon!'
In 1833 the truest Liberal of them all, M. Guizot, struck a strenuous blow at this machinery of despotism. He could not deal with the University as a system, but he framed a law affecting 'primary education,' the principle of winch was that no man should be forced to send his child to school, but that schools should exist all over France to which any man who pleased might send his children if he was too poor to pay for their education.
This principle of M. Guizot in 1883 was certainly not an outcome of the 'principles of 1789;' for it had been at the foundation of all the free schools of France during the middle ages, and under the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV. Talleyrand recognised it in his plan of 1791, which did not suit Condorcet and his 'ideologists.' It was not in the mere revival of this principle that the true liberalism of M. Guizot manifested itself. In the second article of his law this great statesman provided, in express terms, that 'the wishes of families should always be consulted and complied with in everything affecting the religious instruction of their children.' This was indeed a step far forward in the path of true liberalism. It was a distinct recognition of the rights of the family as against the encroachments of the State. It was the 'liberalism' not of the 'ideologists' of 1790, nor of the Third Republic according to M. Challemel-Lacour, but of the legislators who gave Lower Canada her equitable system of common and of dissident schools. It was the liberalism of those courageous men who, like Montgaillard, Bishop of St.-Pons, had dared, under Louis XIV., and after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, to protest in 1688 against imposing the Catholic communion by force upon the Huguenot ancestors of M. Guizot.
As Minister of Public Instruction under Louis Philippe in 1833, this lover of true liberty simply got enacted into law the principles which had led him as a brilliant and rising young man of letters in 1812 to refuse to adulate the Emperor, and which he had plainly and fearlessly set forth as the necessary conditions of the constitutional government of France in his famous interview with Louis XVIII. three years afterwards.
Under M. Guizot's law of 1833, the primary schools of France were much more than doubled in number during the reign of Louis Philippe.
In the spirit of that law M. Guizot administered the affairs of France during his long tenure of official authority, and to him, more than to any other man, must be attributed the progress which France made under Louis Philippe in the direction of liberty, as Englishmen and Americans understand that much-abused word. That progress might never have been interrupted had the counsels of M. Guizot prevailed over those of M. Thiers with the aged monarch who trusted the one but yielded to the other, in February 1848.
Now that a parliamentary oligarchy has deliberately undertaken, in the name of the 'moral unity of France,' to undo all that was done between 1833 and 1848 for educational liberty in France and to protect the moral independence of Frenchmen, it is in the highest degree interesting to find the principles of M. Guizot energetically maintained by the heirs of his blood and of his name, not only here in the Catholic Calvados which gave the great Protestant statesman so staunch a support through all his years of power, and surrounded him with affection and respect down to the last days of his long and illustrious life, but in Southern France also, and in the home of his Protestant ancestors.
Val Richer will be a place of pilgrimage for lovers of liberty in the twentieth century, as La Brede is in the nineteenth.
But the genius of the spot is more purely personal in the home of Guizot than in the birthplace of Montesquieu.
The stately rectangular library at La Brede with its thousands of soberly-clad volumes, standing as he left them on its shelves, annotated by his own hand; the manuscripts still unfinished of the 'Lettres Persanes; the grave silent cabinet, with his chair beside his study-table, as if he had quitted it a moment before you came—all these are eloquent, indeed, of the great thinker whose 'Esprit des Lois,' too rich in ripe wisdom to be heeded by the headlong and haphazard political 'plungers' of 1789 in his own country, illuminated for Washington the problem of constituting a new nationality beyond the Atlantic.
But La Brede has also a positive physiognomy of its own which takes you back to ages long before his birth. The frowning donjon of the thirteenth century, the machicolated round tower, the moat with its running water, the drawbridge, the vestibule with its columns of twisted oak, even the grand salon with the stately courtiers and captains, the gracious dames and damsels of the family of Secondat gazing down from the walls, all these distract the eye and the mind. The distraction is agreeable, but still it is a distraction. It leads you from the biographical into the social and historical mood. You are delighted as at Meillant or Chenonceaux with a corner of ancient France, marvellously rescued from the red ruin of the Revolution.
Val Richer, on the contrary, like Abbotsford, is the creation of the master whose spirit haunts the place. Like Abbotsford, it has an earlier history and older associations, but of these there are few or no material signs. Here stood the great abbey of which Thomas a-Becket once was abbot, and where he found a refuge during that exile from which, in his own words, he went back to England 'to play a game in which the stakes were heads!' From Bures, near Bayeux, in this department, where Henry was then holding his court, the four knights followed the Primate to Canterbury, sternly bent on showing their lord that they were neither 'sluggish nor half-hearted.' Of the abbatial buildings which stood here then few traces are left. But the handsome modern mansion built here by Guizot rests, I believe, on the massive foundations, and certainly incorporates some of the solid masonry above ground of the ancient abbot's house. The drive to Val Richer from the singularly picturesque old Norman town of Lisieux, within whose cathedral walls Henry of England was married to Eleanor of Guienne, is beautifully shaded all the way with noble trees, and bordered on either hand with parks and gardens. No English county can show a more strikingly English landscape—for this is the mother-country of Norman England, though now one of the main pillars of the nationality of France. The Lady Chapel of the Cathedral at Lisieux, indeed, was founded in the fifteenth century by Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, in express expiation of the 'false judgment on an innocent woman,' by which, as he lamentably confessed in his deed of gift, he had sent the deliverer of France to the stake at Rouen.
The park, like the mansion of Val Richer, is the creation of M. Guizot. The monks of old had prepared the ground—for here, as everywhere, they kept alive the traditions of Roman landscape art. The parks which the Norman nobles made on both sides of the Channel were mainly devoted to the chase, like the 'paradises' of the Persians; but the monasteries possessed pleasure-grounds and gardens of all sorts. The beautifully broken and undulating surface of the park of Val Richer attests, I think, the fashioning hand of human art at more than one point; and M. Guizot, by whom most of the fine trees which now adorn the place were planted, took advantage, with the skill of a professional landscapist, of all the opportunities it offered him.
I can well believe, with the most accomplished and appreciative of his English biographers, that the years which he passed here after his return from the exile into which he was driven by the unhappy interference of M. Thiers at the most critical moment of the disturbances of February 1848, were the happiest of his long and well-filled life.
The halls and corridors of the mansion are tapestried with books. The green secluded alleys, the gentle knolls, the glades, the spacious meadows of the park, recall at every step the younger Pliny's incomparable picture of his Tuscan villa. 'Placida omnia et quiescentia.' 'A spirit of pensive peace broods over the whole place, making it not lovelier only, but more salubrious, making the sky more pure, the atmosphere more clear.'
People who imagine convulsions and cataclysms to be a necessity of political life in France, will find it hard to explain the relations which existed throughout his whole career from the time when he took part in forming the first government of Louis Philippe to the day of his death between this great Protestant statesman and the Catholics of the Calvados. These relations still exist between his representatives at Val Richer and the Catholics of the Calvados.
When the great Chancellor de l'Hopital was using all his influence with Catherine de' Medici to prevent the outbreak of the religious wars of the sixteenth century, the Parisian rabble were set on by the satellites of the House of Guise to attack the house of the Sieur de Longjumeau in the Pre aux Clercs, as being a place of meeting for the Huguenots. The Sieur de Longjumeau had no respect for the 'sacred right of insurrection,' and, getting some of his friends into his house, gave the people risen in their majesty such a thrashing that they speedily disbanded. Upon this the 'moral unity' men of that time induced the Court to banish the Sieur de Longjumeau to his estates, on the ground that 'the most incompatible thing in a State is the existence of two forms of religion.' This is the doctrine of the Third Republic to-day. France cannot live with a mixed population of believers and of unbelievers. All Frenchmen must be Atheists. The political history of the Calvados for the last half-century, and especially of this region about Lisieux and Val Richer, meets this 'moral unity' theory with a practical demonstration of its absurdity. The great Protestant statesman and his Catholic constituents at Lisieux lived and worked together for liberty and for law, not in 'moral unity,' but in moral harmony. In moral harmony his Protestant son-in-law, M. Conrad de Witt, through a quarter of a century past has lived and worked for liberty and for law with his Catholic constituents of Pont-l'Eveque.
The Catholics of the Calvados are not such intense Catholics as the Catholics of Brittany and Poitou. After the Norman rising of 1793 against the tyranny at Paris had collapsed so dismally in the ridiculous 'battle' of Pacy—a battle which began with the flight in a panic from the field of the vanquished Normans, and ended with the flight in a panic from the field of their victorious enemies the Parisians—the indignant Bretons and the Poitevins marched away to wage that contest for their homes and their altars which has immortalized the name of La Vendee. The less impassioned Normans made terms and took things as they were. To this day what is called the 'little Church' exists in Brittany, made up of peasants who regard the Concordat as an unworthy compact made with the persecutors and the plunderers of the Church of their fathers.