The feeling of the Norman Catholics after Pacy and the miserable failure of the Girondist resistance to the Mountain took the form of silent disgust with the Republic and all its works. The Norman heroine in whose heart this silent disgust named up till it made her the avenger of innocent blood upon the most noisome reptile of the Revolution, had ceased to be a Catholic before the shame of her country moved her to her glorious and dreadful deed. But if the Catholics of the Calvados are less intense, they are not less sincere, than the Catholics of Brittany or Poitou. It is no indifference in matters of religion which makes them co-operate so cordially with their Protestant friends and representatives. It is because they value their religion, and mean that it shall be respected, that they honour the memory of the great minister who held sacred and inviolable the right of the parent to be heard and obeyed in the matter of the religious education of his children. The two daughters of M. Guizot married two brothers, the heirs of one of the most illustrious names in the annals of European liberty. One of these brothers, M. Conrad de Witt, now lives at Val Richer, and administers his large agricultural property lying there in the commune of St.-Ouen-le-Pin. Many years ago he won the gold medal of the French Society of Agriculture, and for twenty years past he has been President of the Agricultural Society of Pont-l'Eveque. In 1861, under the Empire, his fellow-citizens made him a Councillor-General for the Canton of Cambremer, in the Department of the Calvados, and he has kept his seat in that body ever since, until he last year declined a re-election, and made way for the candidacy of his nephew, M. Pierre de Witt. It was my good fortune to be at Val Richer when the election came off. The canvass had been carefully pushed; for, although the Republicans ostentatiously announced their intention not to make a contest in which they were sure to be beaten, M. Conrad de Witt and his nephew are not men to take anything for granted where serious interests are concerned. There were symptoms, too, that the Prefect of the Calvados, the Comte de Brancion, a newcomer (as all prefects now are in France, the average tenure of a prefect's official life since 1879 rarely exceeding eighteen months in one place), had been advised from Paris to show his zeal by contriving in some way to thwart, or at least to dampen, the victory of the nephew in July, as a preliminary to prevent the victory of the uncle in September. For M. Conrad de Witt was not only a Councillor-General of the Calvados, and Mayor of his own commune of St.-Ouen-le-Pin, he was sent to the Chamber of Deputies in 1885 as a Monarchist by the voters of the Calvados by a majority of 13,722 on a total poll of 89,064, and when he declined a re-nomination for the Council-General, he accepted a re-nomination for the Chamber.
It was delightful to see the zealous interest taken in these contests, not only by the family at Val Richer, but by all the countryside. The elections for the Councils-General were held on Sunday, July 28, 1889. All through the preceding Saturday scouts kept coming in to Val Richer with the latest reports as to the state of things in the various communes of the canton.
The tenor of these was uniform: 'There would be no contest; the only possible Republican candidate, a respectable physician who had some local strength in the commune in which he lived, founded upon his habit of gratuitously attending the poor of that commune, had positively declined to enter the field.' 'All the same,' said one energetic volunteer from this very commune, 'we don't mean to let a single honest voter stay at home. We understand this game. They want to make out that we are lukewarm about the battle that is to come off in September. That won't go!'
'Furthermore,' said another stalwart, keen-eyed, fresh-faced young farmer, who might have passed as a Yorkshire yeoman, 'furthermore, I don't trust this Republican cock till he's dead! I believe he's shamming, but he shan't catch us asleep. This Prefect at Caen is as busy as the Evil One. He means to play us a trick.'
The shrewd young farmer was right. Early, very early, on Sunday morning, long before daybreak, indeed, there came hastening over to Val Richer from the commume of Bonnebosq, some miles away, a spirited young fellow, heart and soul in the fight, with the news that a story was putting about all over the canton that M. Pierre de Witt had decided, at the last moment, not to stand, and that, on the strength of this invention, the nomination of Dr. —— would be urged.
The polling had been fixed by the Prefect to begin in all the communes at 7 A.M., and to close at 6 P.M. No time was, therefore, to be lost in getting out a formal contradiction of this invention of the enemy, and the vigorous young volunteer from Bonnebosq had lost no time. He roused the candidate, got his instructions, and, before the polls were opened, his men were all over the canton at work. In the course of the day I drove over with M. Pierre de Witt to Bonnebosq, where we found the mother of this energetic young politician, a typical Norman mother, full of sense and fire, quietly proud of the activity and intelligence of her son, and quite as much in the day's work as he. 'Not a pretty trick,' she said, 'to play with Dr.——. He ought to be ashamed of it—and I am sure he is,' she added, with a droll twinkle in her eye, 'for it has turned out very badly! He will just be beaten like plaster. It would have been cleverer to behave like a decent man!' Bonnebosq had a very lively, cheery aspect on that Sunday afternoon. It is a busy prosperous little place, with about a thousand inhabitants. The village church, a new and very handsome French ogival building, most creditable to the architect, has just been built at an expense of several hundred thousand francs by a Catholic lady of the canton, and the people are very proud of it. It struck me that at Bonnebosq the outlook for a moral harmony between Frenchmen of divers religious communions contending together for equal rights and well-ordered liberty was decidedly better than the outlook for a 'moral unity' of France to be promoted by the authoritative suppression of all private initiative in the education of the French people. The traditions of the Norman race do not tend kindly towards a system under which the individual is to wither that the State may be more and more!
As Mayor of the commune of St.-Ouen-le-Pin, M. Conrad de Witt had a busy day of it on Sunday, July 28. The holding of elections on Sunday is a tradition in France. Two elections were to be made—one of a Councillor-General and the other of a District Councillor. Under the laws of 1871 and 1874, these elections must be held in separate though adjoining buildings wherever this is practicable. Where the commune is too small to furnish these facilities, the two elections may be held in one place; but the votes for the two officers must be deposited in two different urns. These urns are placed upon a table, at which the Mayor of the commune presides with four assessors and a secretary, chosen by them from among the electors. As the electors have the day before them, the Mayor and the assessors are kept close prisoners at their posts till the polls are closed. Nor is their work over then. As soon as the clock strikes 6 P.M. the doors of the bureau close. But the Mayor and the assessors must then proceed 'immediately' to examine and establish the results of the voting. They choose from among the electors present a certain number of 'scrutineers' knowing how to read and write. These scrutineers take their seats at tables prepared for the purpose. At each table there must be at least four scrutineers. The Mayor and the assessors then empty the urns and count the votes, the secretary drawing up a proces-verbal the while. If there are more or fewer votes than there were voters registered during the day as voting, this fact is stated and affirmed. Blank or illegible votes, votes which do not accurately give the name of the candidate voted for, or on which the voters have put their own names, are not counted as valid, but they are annexed to the proces-verbal. Votes not written on white paper, or which bear any external indication of their tenor, are included in the account as votes affecting the majority necessary to a choice, but they are not put to the credit of the candidate whose name they bear; so that, as a matter of fact, they tell against him. Moreover, if there are more votes found in the urns than voters registered as voting, the excess may be deducted from the number of votes given to the candidate who has a majority.
I asked a very bright ruddy farmer in a spotless blue blouse, who was watching the elections with great interest in one of the communes, what he thought of this provision. 'It is a very good reason for watching the mayors,' he said; 'dame! a clever mayor who knows his commune, and has good loose sleeves to his coat, can slip in a good many votes in this way against the candidate who he knows is likely to win!'
I told him that in my own country we guarded the palladium of our liberties (a queer palladium that needs to be guarded) against this peril by using glass globes instead of the 'urns' employed in France, which are in fact wooden boxes. The idea delighted him. He rubbed his hands together with a chuckle, and said 'That would be capital! That would bother them! But for that reason we shall not have your glass urns!'
When the votes have all been emptied out of the urns and verified and counted by the Mayor and the assessors, the Mayor distributes them among the scrutineers. At each table a scrutineer takes the votes up one by one, reads out in a clear voice the name of the candidate inscribed on each vote, and passes it to another scrutineer, who sees it duly registered, the Mayor and assessors the while supervising all the proceeding. In communes containing less than 300 inhabitants the Mayor and assessors themselves may scrutinise and declare the results.
As St.-Ouen-le-Pin falls just two short of this number, M. Conrad de Witt not only lost his luncheon but his dinner. He never got back to the chateau till ten o'clock at night.
The polling place in this commune was a small house opposite the village church. I walked over to it after breakfast through the fields and by lovely green lanes as deep as the lanes of Devonshire, with M. Pierre de Witt and one of his kinsmen. The mass was going on in the village church, and the singing of the choir seemed to me at least as fitting an accompaniment to the expression by the sovereign people of their sovereign will through bits of white paper—Mr. Whittier's 'noiseless snowflakes'—as the braying of a brass band, or the hoarse shouts of a more or less tipsy multitude.
In the Protestant corner of this Catholic churchyard, under some fine trees, M. Guizot sleeps his last sleep in the simple tomb of his family. Here, again, I thought, was a moral harmony better than any 'moral unity'!
We had a merry and an animated dinner that night at Val Richer. Message after message was brought in from the nearest communes, all of one tenor. The Republican 'trick' had evidently exasperated the worthy Norman voters, and brought them up to the polls most effectually! By ten o'clock it was clear that M. Pierre de Witt was elected by a majority too large to be 'whittled' away, and that the surreptitious appearance of the Republicans in the field had served only to emphasize their political weakness. In the canton, Cambremer itself, lying at a distance of eight or ten kilometres, and Beuvron only remained to be heard from. It was possible harm might have been done there. For a law passed under the Empire in 1852, and undisturbed for obvious reasons by the Third Republic, allows the prefect of a department to determine into what sections he will divide a large commune for the purpose, according to the law, of 'bringing the electors nearer to the electoral urn.' This opens the way, of course, to a good deal of what in America would be known as official 'gerrymandering.' The thing may be of any country. The name we owe to Mr. Elbridge Gerry, once Vice-President of the United States; who, when his party controlled Massachusetts, devised a scheme for so framing the electoral districts of that State as to get his scattered party minorities together, and convert them thus into majorities. An outline map of the State thus districted was declared by one of his opponents to 'look like a salamander.' 'No! not like a salamander,' said another; 'it is a gerrymander.'
Val Richer was full of little fairies in that bright summer weather. The Pied Piper of Hamelin must have passed that way, losing some stragglers of his army as he moved along. Wherever you strolled in the park you came unexpectedly upon little blonde heads and laughing eyes peering through the shrubbery, and saw small imps scampering madly off across the meadows. On the Sunday night of the election, music and mirth chased the hours away, till, just after midnight, a joyous clamour in the outer hall announced some event of importance. From the far-off Cambremer and Beuvron-sur-Auge a delegation of staunch electors had arrived to announce the crowning victory. Thanks to the distance and the 'sections,' the votes had been long in counting, but they had been counted, and not found wanting. One of these bringers of good tidings might have sat or stood for a statue of William the Conqueror preparing to make France pay dearly for the jest of the French King anent his colossal bulk. He was a man in the prime of life, but he cannot possibly have weighed less than 400 pounds. Yet he moved about alertly, and he had driven over in a light wagon at full speed (the Norman horses are very strong) to congratulate his candidate on the issue of a fray in which he had borne his own part most manfully. M. Pierre de Witt had received 1,042 votes as Councillor-General, against no more than 140 given to his medical competitor!
One bold voter had deposited a single vote for General Boulanger! 'Had there been any disturbances anywhere?' No, none at all. 'We cheered when we got the returns,' said the giant; 'we cheered for M. de Witt, and we cried "Vive le Roi!" They didn't like it, but they were so badly beaten, they kept quiet. I believe though,' he added, 'they would have arrested us if we had cried "Vive Bocher!" That is more than they can bear!' and therewith he laughed aloud, a not unkindly, but formidable laugh.
M. Bocher, who was made Prefect of the Calvados by M. Guizot, and who is now a senator for that department, is, I am assured, the special bete noire of the Third Republic in Normandy. His long and honourable connection with the public service has won for him the esteem of all the people of the Calvados, while his thorough knowledge of the political history of the country and of his time, his cool clear judgment, his temperate but fearless assertion through good and evil report of his political convictions, and his keen insight into character, must give him long odds in any contest with the ill-trained and miserably-equipped political camp-followers who have been coming of late years into the front of the Republican battle.
They gave M. Bocher a banquet not long ago at Pont-l'Eveque, at which he made a very telling speech, and brought down the house by inviting his hearers to contemplate M. Grevy and M. Carnot as typical illustrations of the great superiority of a republic over a monarchy, and of the elective over the hereditary principle! The Republicans, he said, had twice elected to the chief magistracy an austerely virtuous Republican whom they had finally been compelled to throw out at the window of the Elysee, as 'the complaisant and guilty witness, if not the interested accomplice, of scandals which revolted the public conscience!' And whom had the elective principle put into his place, under the pressure of irreconcilable personal rivalries, and of a threatened popular outbreak? A man whose recommendations were his own relative personal obscurity and the traditional reputation of his grandfather!
With M. Grevy and M. Carnot the Norman farmers have a special quarrel which gave zest to the caustic periods of M. Bocher. The all-powerful son-in-law of M. Grevy, M. Wilson, proposed in the National Assembly in 1872, and with the influence of M. Thiers, then President, succeeded in passing a law heavily taxing, and in an inquisitorial fashion, the domestic fabrication of spirits. This is an old and prosperous industry in Normandy. It is carried on, according to an official estimate made in 1888, by above five hundred thousand farmers in France; and in Normandy particularly, a land of apples and pears, it is a great resource of the farmers. They make here a liquor called Calvados, which when it attains a certain age is much more drinkable and much less unwholesome than most of the casual cognac of our times. After three years this very unpopular law was repealed in 1875, mainly through the efforts of M. Bocher. It had plagued the farmers more than it benefited the Treasury.
The bouilleurs de cru, as these domestic distillers are called, had made during the three years 1869-72, 1,199,000 hectolitres of spirits which paid excise duties. During the three years 1872-75 under the Wilson law the production fell to about 165,000 hectolitres a year. In the first year, 1875-76, after the repeal of the law it rose to 301,000 hectolitres.
The sale of crosses of the Legion, official contracts and other operations not consistent with that virtue on which alone Montesquieu tells us a republic can safely repose, made an end of M. Wilson and of his father-in-law. But the enormous Republican deficit kept on increasing, and in 1888, under the presidency of M. Carnot, the Republicans revived a project formed by M. Carnot when Minister of Finance, in 1886, for imposing upon the bouilleurs de cru anew the severe and inquisitorial taxation of 1872. Under the law introduced to effect this, January 12, 1888, the whole of the buildings in which any part of the processes of this production may be carried on must be open to the tax-officers at all hours of the day or night. As many of the bouilleurs de cru are small farmers who use part of their houses for some of these processes, it may be imagined how bitterly they oppose such a law. They have no more love for tax-gatherers than the people of other countries have; but the English maxim that every man's house is his castle is a distinctly Norman maxim, and this menace offered to the sanctity and privacy of the domicile has profoundly exasperated the Norman populations. It is of a piece, they think, with the arbitrary school system and with the elaborate contrivances devised to deprive the communes of the right finally to certify and give effect to the returns of their own elections. Above all, it is an interference with an ancient and customary right. 'What business have these lawyers and doctors at Paris,' said a farmer here to me, 'to be meddling with our usages and ways here on our lands in Normandy? Let them fix general taxes, and leave us to pay them in our own way!'
The war against the Church affects these Normans in the same way. It does not seem to rouse them into a kind of fanatical fervour, such as blazes up here and there in other parts of France, but it angers them as a disturbance of their settled habits and convictions. 'The Church,' said one of these Calvados farmers to M. de Witt; 'the Church is the key of our trade. They must not touch it!'
What he meant was, that on Sunday at the village church the farmers, after the mass, are in the habit of talking over all their affairs together. It is a kind of social exchange for men whose calling in life keeps them far apart during the week.
Is it to be supplanted for the benefit of the France of the future by cockpits and cabarets, or courses of lectures delivered in 'scholastic palaces,' by spectacled and decorated professors, on the 'struggle for life,' and the 'survival of the fittest'?
The victory of M. Pierre de Witt in July was too complete to leave any pretext for meddling with its results of which the authorities liked to avail themselves. The law, however, gives abundant opportunities for such meddling wherever a plausible pretext can be found. After the votes of a commune have been verified and counted, two of the assessors start off at once with all the votes and papers for the chief town of the canton. The bureau of this chief town has power to 'verify and, if need be, remake the calculations which show the majority. It may modify the decisions of the communal bureaux as to the candidate to whom certain votes properly belong, may decide what votes are to be treated as entirely null, or to be counted in estimating the majority without being held as given to either candidate. It may also decide what votes belong to a candidate. It may also take away from the candidates elected, or claiming to have been elected, all votes found in the urn or urns in excess of the number of electors actually tallied as voting.'
The decisions reached by the bureau are next to be collated with the proces-verbaux of the communal bureaux—after which all the documents connected with the election, including the tally-lists of the voters, are to be sent to the prefect of the department.
When the legislative elections came on in September the authorities of the Calvados made desperate efforts to break the solid front of the Monarchist deputation from this department. In the arrondissement of Pont-l'Eveque, where M. Conrad de Witt stood as the Monarchist candidate, the official interference against him was so open that the Prefect, M. de Brancion, did not hesitate to sign and circulate a letter intended to affect the elections, though by Article 3 of the law of November 30, 1875, regulating elections, all agents of the Government are expressly forbidden to distribute ballots, professions of faith, or circulars affecting the candidates. M. de Witt had cited to the electors a remarkable declaration made in the Senate by M. Leon Say as to the inevitable increase of local taxation which must be expected from the development and enforcement of the Government policy in regard to education.
M. Leon Say resigned his seat in the Senate last year that he might enter the Chamber, his friends having convinced themselves, on no very apparent grounds, that his appearance in the Chamber would rally around him the support of Conservative men of all shades of opinion, and make him master of the situation. He was a candidate in the Hautes Pyrenees. The quotation made by M. de Witt from his sensible speech in the Senate much disturbed the Republicans in the Calvados, and some official application was evidently made to him on the subject; for, without denying that he had said in the Senate what was imputed to him, he seems to have assured the Republicans of the Calvados that it was absurd to suppose he would so speak of the Government policy when he was standing as a Government candidate for election to the Chamber. This obvious but quite irrelevant statement was instantly circulated all over the department by the Prefect himself. As it was very easily disposed of, it did no great harm. But it is a curious illustration of the way in which these election matters are managed now in France. M. de Witt was triumphantly re-elected, receiving 6,972 votes against 5,189 in the arrondissement of Pont-l'Eveque. The Monarchists also carried every other seat for the Calvados, making seven in all.
In 1885, under the scrutin de liste, the votes given to M. de Witt show a Conservative majority in the Calvados of 13,722 in a total poll of 89,064. In 1889, taking all the districts together, the Calvados showed a Monarchist majority of 19,868 in a total poll of 82,216. This gives us a falling off in the total poll of 6,848, and an increase in the Monarchist majority of 6,497 votes!
I called M. Conrad de Witt's attention, after the legislative elections were over, to an article in an English periodical by a French Protestant writer, M. Monod, in which the Monarchist majority of 1889 in the Calvados was attributed to the bad harvest of pears and apples. The veteran Protestant President of the Society of Agriculture in the Calvados smiled in a quiet and significant way, and simply said, 'Ah! I think we are more solid than that!'
So indeed it would seem!
The 'apple-blight' of the Calvados must obviously have extended into the neighbouring department of the Eure, or at least into the great and busy arrondissement of Bernay, which gave the Monarchist candidate in September 1889 the tremendous majority of 5,550 votes in a total poll of 12,772. Possibly, too, there may be some occult relation between this remarkable result and the presence in this arrondissement of one of the most distinguished of living Frenchmen, and one of the most outspoken champions of the Constitutional Monarchy. An able man with a mind of his own, and the courage to speak it, is a force in any country at any time. In France at this time such a man is a determining force. The obvious weakness of the Monarchical party in France was touched by the Committee of the Catholic Association in their report to which I have alluded in another chapter. It is the association in the popular mind of the monarchical idea with the traditions of Versailles and with the 'pomps and vanities' of what is ridiculously called 'le high-life' of modern Paris. As a matter of fact, all that was silliest and most scandalous in the Court life of France in the eighteenth century was reproduced and exaggerated under the Directory. What is there to choose between Louis XV. doffing his hat beside the coach of Madame Du Barry, and Barras ordering Ouvrard to keep Madame Tallien in diamonds, opera-boxes, coaches and villas, out of the profits of public loans and contracts for the service of the 'Republic one and indivisible'? Formula for Formula (to speak after the manner of Mr. Carlyle), is not the Republican Formula of the two the more demoralizing, dismal, degraded, and altogether hopeless? What is called 'le high-life' of Paris is neither Royalist nor Republican. It is merely shallow and vulgar, like the 'high-life' of sundry other places ruled by governments of divers forms. But when young men born to names which in the popular mind represent the history of France show themselves as athletes in a Parisian circus, or appear as grooms on the carriages of cocottes in the Bois de Boulogne, their folly naturally damages more or less in the public estimation the principles with which the names they bear are associated.
Under the Empire the Legitimists, as a body, really played the game of the Emperor by holding themselves aloof from public life in all its departments, in accordance with the policy adopted by the Comte de Chambord. The inevitable effect of this policy was to widen the gulf between them and the body of the French people. It tended to bring about in France results like those aimed at by the National League in Ireland, and to prevent a gradual and wholesome reconciliation between the heirs of the class which was exiled and plundered during the Revolution, and the heirs of the classes which eventually profited by the proscriptions and confiscations of that unhappy time. The disastrous war of 1870-71 did much to counteract the social mischief thus wrought. The French Legitimists came forward in all parts of France to the defence of their country. They were brought thus into contact with the people and the people with them. They ceased to be a caste and began to be citizens. The way was thus prepared, too, for that fusion of the two great Royalist camps, the camp of the Legitimists and the camp of the Orleanists, which has since taken place. A very intelligent young officer of Engineers, himself the heir of an ancient name, told me at Dijon that there are at this time more men of the old families of France on the rolls of the army than ever before since 1789. Instead of rejoicing in this as the wholesome sign of a growing moral harmony between all classes of Frenchmen, the leaders of the Republican party have been incensed by it. Doubtless they regard it as an obstacle to the development of their idea of 'moral unity.' Under President Grevy, the Minister of War actually drove one of the best soldiers in France, General Schmidt, out of his command at Tours by insisting that he should forbid his officers to accept invitations from their friends who lived in the chateaux which are the glory of Touraine, the traditional garden of France. Imagine a High Church secretary-at-war in England issuing an order that no officer in a garrison corps should dine with a Catholic or a Dissenter.
This was not a freak. It was a policy. It was in perfect keeping with an amazing attack made by the Republican press of Paris not long afterwards upon the then American Minister in France, Mr. Morton, now Vice-President of the United States, for giving a dinner in honour of the Comte de Paris. The Comte de Paris and his brother, the Duc de Chartres, had served with distinction on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Union armies in America. They were the sons of a French sovereign, with whose government the government of the United States had long held close and friendly relations. The Comte de Paris is the author of the most careful, thorough, and impartial history yet written of the American Civil War of 1861-65. Yet, for showing his personal and official respect for a French prince possessing such claims upon the respect of Frenchmen as well as of Americans, the diplomatic representative of the United States was assailed with coarse and vulgar violence in the columns of journals assuming to represent the civilization of the capital of France!
Some time after the incident to which I have referred at Tours occurred, I drove from St.-Malo to La Basse Motte, the charming and picturesque house of General de Charette, in the Ille-et-Vilaine, with the Marquis de la Roche-Jaquelein. The autumn manoeuvres of the French army were then going on. On the way he told me among other things that the officers of a cavalry brigade encamped for two or three days in the neighbourhood of his chateau had been forbidden by their brigade commander to accept a dinner to which he had invited, not only them, but their commander also! The general in command of the cavalry division fortunately happened to arrive before the day fixed for the dinner, and, having been informed of this state of affairs, quietly authorized the officers to attend the dinner, and attended it himself.
Can anything be more absurd than to attempt to naturalize a Republic in France by identifying Republican institutions with such tyrannical interference as this in the private and social relations of French officers and citizens?
The Third Republic has improved upon Cambon's piratical watchword, Guerre aux chateaux; paix aux chaumieres. It makes war socially upon the chateaux, and it makes war religiously and financially upon the chaumieres.
All this must bring out into clearer relief before the French people the unquestionable personal superiority of the Monarchist over the Republican leaders and representatives. It is undeniable that an overwhelming majority of the ablest and most influential men in France, of all classes and conditions, are to-day in open opposition either to the policy or to the constitution of the existing Republic, or to both. Many—I think most of them—are agreed that the Monarchy must be restored if France is to be saved from anarchy and dismemberment. The rest of them are agreed that the Republic must be so remodelled as to become in fact, if not in name, a monarchy. In this condition of the country, the avowed Monarchists must inevitably draw to themselves the support of all who differ from them, not as to the end, but as to the means only. For the logic of events is steadily strengthening the verdict uttered by the Duc de Broglie three years ago on the Republican experiments, in a speech made by him before the Monarchist Union at Paris on May 29, 1887. 'All these political ghosts must go flitting by, but France will endure and remain, forced to pay the price of their follies in the form of interest on their loans!'
There is no war now between the Chateau de Broglie and the cottages of the Eure; certainly no war between the chateau and the town of Broglie. The town is bright, pretty and prosperous. The park gates open into it as the park gates of Arundel Castle open into Arundel, but without even the semblance of a fortification.
The park is very extensive and nobly planned, with a certain stateliness rather Italian than English. The ground undulates beautifully, and from its great elevation above the river and the town commands in all directions the most charming views. The roads and walks are admirably laid out, the trees well grown and lofty. The chateau itself dates back, as to its earlier portions, to the Hundred Years' War. It was more than once besieged by the English, and some of the ivy-grown walls and towers which overlook the town take you back to Edward III. and the Black Prince. But the long facade and the main buildings are of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, during which the De Broglies made so much French history. Within, the spacious saloons, the grand vestibule and hall, and the delightful library are in perfect keeping with the traditions of a family which for generations has given soldiers and statesmen to the service of a great people. Of course the chateau has been much restored during the present century, but its general disposition is what it was in 1789, and, like that of all the French chateaux of the eighteenth century, it attests the friendly relations which must have existed before the Revolution between the chateau and the chaumiere. The English mansions even of the time of Queen Anne are more defensible than these chateaux. The windows, of the sort which to this day are called French windows in England and America, are long windows opening like doors. On the ground floor they come down, indeed, nearly to the level of the lawn. It is perfectly obvious that no thought of a war of classes can have entered the minds of the architects who planned these edifices or of the owners for whom they were planned. Yet the problems of government which we imagine to be of our own times had been hotly discussed and were hotly discussing when these edifices were built. The ideas, not of Villegardelle only, but of Proudhon, were put forth in germ by De la Jonchere in 1720, in his 'Plan of a New Government.' The Chateau de Broglie resembles a feudal castle of the fourteenth or even of the sixteenth century no more than it resembles a Roman villa of the first century. The magnificent liberality with which the Vicomte de Noailles, himself a younger son, gave away all the feudal rights and privileges of the noblesse on the night of August 4, 1789, has always, I am sorry to say, reminded me irresistibly of the patriotic ardour with which Mr. Artemus Ward devoted to the battle-field of freedom the remotest cousins of his wife. The evidence is overwhelming which goes to show that these feudal rights and privileges were practically no more oppressive in the France of 1789 than they were in the England of 1830. It is not even clear that the New York anti-renters of our time had not as good a case for ridding themselves of 'feudal' rights and privileges by storming the Capitol at Albany as the people of France for ridding themselves of those rights and privileges by storming the practically defenceless Bastille. The Bastille interfered no more with the liberty of Paris in 1789 than the Tower with the liberty of London. The only people in any particular peril of it were the 'black sheep' of the noblesse, as to whom even Jefferson, in the sketch of a charter of French Rights which he drew up in June 1789 and sent to Lafayette and the bookseller St.-Etienne, proposed that their personal liberty should be subject to a special kind of imprisonment at the prayer of their relations, or in other words to a regular 'lettre de cachet.'
It is a curious illustration, by the way, of the incapacity of this National Assembly that in July 1789 its Committee for framing a Constitution actually invited a foreign envoy, Jefferson, to take part with them in their work. Jefferson had sense enough to decline the invitation; but what gleam of sense, political or other, had the blundering tinkers who gave it? The outcome of their gabble was that mob violence destroyed for Paris in the Bastille what London possesses in the Tower, an 'architectural document' of the highest authenticity and importance. To talk of French feudalism as having been overthrown by such men is absurd. If it had existed when they met, it would have very soon sent them about their business. But it did not exist when they met. The author of the curious Precis d'une Histoire Generale de la Vie Privee des Francais, published in 1779, treats the whole subject of the private life, homes, manners, and fortunes of the French people expressly from the point of view of the great change which had come over them, 'since the abolition of feudalism.' The magnanimous achievement of the Vicomte de Noailles ought to rank in history with the victory of Don Quixote over the wine-skins, or with the revolutionary feat of that drum-major of the National Guard who slashed with his sabre the corpse of the unfortunate procureur-syndic Bayeux, lying battered to death in the Place des Tribunaux at Caen, on September 6, 1792, and whom the honest Normans of the Calvados afterwards kicked out of the city as 'fit only for killing dead men.'
Even in the chateaux of the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth we get unanswerable architectural evidence to show a steady improvement in the social relations of the people with the noblesse. The Chateau d'Eu, for example, in the Seine-Inferieure, in which Louis Philippe entertained Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, and from which the Comte de Paris and his family were so lawlessly expelled in 1886, was a true fortress in the days when the Norman princes and their armies went and came between England and France, and Treport saw many an armada. But in the fourteenth century we find Raoul de Brienne, Comte d'Eu, confirming to the people of Eu the immunity of their cattle, binding himself not 'to make any man work save for good wages and of his own good will,' not to requisitionise bread or wine but for money paid, not to seize any man's horses, and not 'to compel any man to seize and hale another man to prison except in cases of crime or of invasion.' When the great Duke of Guise rebuilt the chateau of brick in the sixteenth century, he put down most of the outer fortifications. Without these the chateau is as much a part of the town of Eu as Buckingham Palace is of St. James's Park. Catherine of Cleves, the widow of the great Duke of Guise, lived at Eu through her long widowhood in the friendliest relations with the good people of the town, while the architects were erecting for herself and her murdered husband, 'the nonpareil of the world,' as she called him (notwithstanding his admiration of Mme. de Noirmoutiers), the beautiful monuments which still adorn the collegiate church. Her daughter, the lovely and lively Princesse de Conti, gathered a gay and gallant company of friends about her, and lived an open-air life of hunting, promenades, and after-dinner 'games of wit,' upon the terraces, as unconcernedly at the end of the sixteenth century, I was about to say, as such a life could be lived here now. But I have to remember that at the end of the eighteenth century, and under the illumination of the 'ideas of 1789,' the tomb of this Princess in the chapel of Ste-Catherine was broken into, and her bones flung about on the floor of the mortuary vault, while at the end of this nineteenth century the legitimate owners of the chateau which has replaced the home of Louise de Lorraine et de Conti have been driven into exile for no other crime but that of their birth by a Government which professes to be a Government of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
In the middle of the seventeenth century the Chateau d'Eu, with the whole domain, was sold on behalf of the Duc de Joyeuse et d'Angouleme, the ruined heir of the Guises, to 'La Grande Mademoiselle,' the restless and ambitious daughter of Gaston d'Orleans, brother of Louis XIV. Her relations with the people of Eu were more than cordial. History concerns itself with her as the Bellona of the Fronde, and Court chronicles as the wife of that eminent scamp Lauzun. But at Eu she was the Providence of the poor and the helpless. She founded hospitals and charities of all sorts. The endowments of most of these were calmly confiscated during the Revolution. One hospital, so well endowed that, in spite of the assignats and of dilapidation, it still had a revenue of 10,000 francs, was suppressed in 1810, and the building turned into a barrack, despite the remonstrances of a worthy Mayor who still lives in the local traditions of Eu. This functionary confronted Napoleon more creditably than the Mayor of Folkestone confronted Queen Elizabeth. He received the Emperor and began his harangue. Presently he stammered, hesitated, and broke down. 'What!' said Napoleon, 'Mr. Mayor, a man like you!' 'Ah! sire!' responded the quick-witted magistrate, 'in the presence of a man like your Majesty, I cease to be a man like myself!' Another of the foundations of the 'Grande Mademoiselle' still exists in the chief hospital of Eu, now become the property of the town. The treasurer and the physician of this hospital, both of them citizens of the highest character, who have filled their respective posts for years, are outspoken Royalists. At the elections of last year they voted as usual with their own party. When the elections were over, the Prefect of the Seine Inferieure requested the Municipal Council of Eu to remove both of them. This the Councillors, though Republicans, declined to do. Whereupon the Prefect removed them by a decree of his own!
The Chateau d'Eu came into the possession of Louis Philippe through his mother, who was the daughter of the Duc de Penthievre, and of whose admirable character and exemplary patience with her impossible husband Philippe Egalite, Gouverneur Morris paints so lively a picture. The Duke was so much beloved at Eu, where he habitually lived, that no personal harm came to him during the first years of the Revolution. He died at Vernon, on the eve of the Terror, and so was spared the pain of witnessing the excesses perpetrated at Eu as elsewhere, not only during that period but under the Directory. An accomplished resident of Eu showed me a decree of the Directory, issued in 1798, and ordering the people to meet on January 21: 'the anniversary of the just punishment of the last French King, and swear hatred to the Monarchy!' 'What has come of all that fury and folly?' he said. 'For years since then the people of Eu have not only "sworn," but shown, genuine affection and respect to two French Kings, Louis XVIII. and Louis Philippe. They didn't care much about Charles X., but they were contented under his reign. Eu owes the restoration of our noble churches and monuments to these kings, and to their representative the Comte de Paris. One of these kings brought the sovereign of England and her husband to visit Eu, and made us feel in our little Norman town that the great days of Normandy were not over. Of that fine collection of pictures and of portraits you have been admiring in the chateau, a great proportion belonged to the Duc de Penthievre, and these, with many other valuable things in the chateau, were quietly taken out and saved when the robberies and blasphemies began here, by the Mayor of Eu of that day, who risked his life by doing that good deed. When the Comte and the Comtesse de Paris lived here, the park and the gardens were the pride and pleasure of the people. Those fountains are fed by water which the Comte de Paris had brought to Eu for the service of the town, and the town is served by it now. Every year Eu was filled with people who came and lived here because the Comte and the Comtesse de Paris were here. What good has their exile done to Eu? Here in Eu we know them. It is not they who are responsible for the local debt of Eu, of which we who have to pay it can get no account at all from our precious authorities, except in the form of a demand for more taxes!
'As to the last century, you are quite right. Here, in this part of Normandy, there were no such grievances then as we have now. There were troubles with bad roads and bad agriculture. There were quarrels about this right and that privilege. The cures didn't like the grand airs of the Church dignitaries. The squires (hobereaux) were conceited very often and ignorant and arrogant. We have not got rid of conceit and ignorance and arrogance, though, by cutting off the heads of a few squires a hundred years ago! No! as to Eu, at least, take my word for it, the happiest day we can see will be the day when we can welcome back here the Prince and the Princess who lived so pleasantly and so usefully with us and among us, as King and Queen of the French! We are royalists here because we know the Comte de Paris, and know that he would do his duty as the king of a free people, and be something better than the tool of a swarm of needy and self-seeking adventurers. There is a strong feeling here, too, about the intolerant interference of those atheists at Paris with the rights of parents and with freedom of conscience. Yet we are not in the least a priest-ridden people. On the contrary! I can show you a commune where the people, vexed with the charges of their cure, have deliberately organized a Protestant chapel. They sent to the Consistory at Paris, and got a minister, and they are doing very well! What we want here is private liberty and public economy. The Republic gives us neither. The Monarchy, we believe, will give us both!'
Broglie in the Eure, like La Brede in the Gironde, and Val Richer in the Calvados, has associations of special interest to Americans. At La Brede was born a gallant grandson of Montesquieu, De Secondat, who earned high promotion by his valour and his conduct in the American War of Independence, side by side with Custine, who took Speier and Metz for the Republic, and for his guerdon got the guillotine, and with Viomenil, who died bravely defending his King and the law in the palace of the Tuileries. Val Richer was the home of the great French statesman to whom we owe the best delineation of Washington we possess, and of whom Mr. Bancroft, the historian of the American Constitution, bears witness that, as premier of France, he unreservedly threw open to his researches all the archives of France in any way bearing upon the history of the United States. 'Nothing was refused me for examination,' he says, 'nor was one line of which I desired a copy withheld.'
Broglie was the birthplace of another French soldier who learned in America to venerate the character of Washington, and whose life paid the forfeit under the first despotic French Republic of his loyalty to liberty and the law. Victor Charles de Broglie was a son of the veteran Marshal of France, 'cool and capable of anything,' whom Mr. Carlyle perorates about as the 'war-god.' As the Chief of Staff of Biron, in the army of the Rhine, he refused to recognise the usurpers of August 10, 1792, in a letter to his commander which is a model of common sense and military honour. Upon this letter Carnot, then a legislative Commissioner, or, in plain English, inspector and informer of the Convention, on duty with the army, made a report far from creditable either to his head or his heart. Victor Charles de Broglie was eventually guillotined. Taking farewell of his son, a child nine years old, he bade him 'never allow himself to believe that it was liberty which had taken his father's life.' The child grew to manhood and to fame, for ever mindful of this brave injunction. He was the Minister of Louis Philippe when the claims arising out of the lawless depredations of the First Republic and the Empire upon American commerce were finally recognised and settled by France, and Mr. Bancroft pays him a high and well-deserved tribute for the courage with which he insisted on keeping faith with the United States 'at the risk of his popularity and of his place.' Are we to think it a mere effect of chance, or only a coincidence, that the flag of the Constitutional Monarchy, as the sole alternative of anarchy in France, is supported by the descendants of Montesquieu, by the heirs of Guizot, and by the son of this Duc de Broglie to whose courage and integrity France and America were indebted for the equitable settlement of an international dispute originally provoked by the vulgar folly and impertinence of the first French Republic and of the disreputable envoys, Genet and Fauchet, whom it sent one after the other to the United States with orders to appeal from the Government of President Washington to the American people?
It was by the 'Military Council' made up of officers trained in the school of the great Marechal de Broglie, and not by the vapouring and venal demagogues of the Convention, that France was successfully organised to resist the Austro-Prussian invasion of 1792; and it was by the government of which the present Duc de Broglie was a leading member under the Marechal Duc de Magenta, not by M. Gambetta and M. Jules Ferry, that the Third Republic was so administered when the fortunes of France were at their lowest ebb as to re-establish the finances, restore the credit, and renew the military strength of the French nation.
For now more than two centuries the name of De Broglie has been made historical in France, not by the favour of princes—for neither in the camp nor in the cabinet have the De Broglies ever been courtiers—nor yet by the applause of the populace, but by the personal ability, the personal character, and the public services of the men who have borne it. If ever a man died for his loyalty to liberty and the law, it was Victor Charles de Broglie in 1794. His son, the earliest and most faithful ally in France of Clarkson and Wilberforce in their long crusade against negro slavery, never sought, but accepted his place among the peers of France after the Restoration. Such was his absolute independence that his first act in the Upper Chamber under Louis XVIII. was to record his solitary but emphatic protest against the condemnation of Marshal Ney. His political career recalls Seneca's theory of Ulysses—'nauseator' but fulfilling his Odyssey. He disliked but never shirked the responsibilities which were pressed upon him. It used to be said of M. Thiers that whenever Louis Philippe wished to get an unpopular measure carried, he contrived to make M. Thiers oppose it violently, upset the government upon it, come into power upon his victory, and then take the measure up himself and carry it through. The Duc de Broglie was not a politician of this adroit and acrobatic type. His yea was yea and his nay, nay in politics as in private life. He kept aloof from the Second Empire, as his grandfather, Mr. Carlyle's 'War-god Broglie,' had kept aloof from the first. But he never fell into the Republican folly of pretending to regard the Second Empire as a tyranny imposed upon the people of France against their will. On the contrary, he saw things not as he wished them to be, but as they were, and so he said of the Second Empire, 'It is the government which the masses of the people in France desire and which the upper classes of France deserve.'
The sting of this saying was given to it by the acquiescence of the 'upper classes' in the blow struck by the Second Empire at the rights of property in France when it confiscated in 1852 the estates of the House of Orleans. This blow was aimed, of course, by Napoleon III. at the Monarchy of July; just as the blow struck by Napoleon at the Duc d'Enghien was aimed at the ancient monarchy. But in the one case as in the other, the iniquity of the blow affected the fundamental conditions of social order and peace in France. In the one case as in the other, an Imperial Government, assuming to be a government of law, committed itself to the most outrageous and despotic practices of the 'Terror' of 1793. In the charter of 1814, Louis XVIII. had abolished confiscation. In the Charter of 1830, Louis Philippe had re-affirmed this abolition. By the decrees of 1852, seizing the property of the House of Orleans, Napoleon III. re-established confiscation. In principle these decrees of 1852 were no better than the Jacobin decrees of September 1793, which fixed the proportion of his own income to be enjoyed by every citizen in France. Real, the chairman, as we should call him, of the Finance Committee of the Convention of 1793, who calmly divided the income of every citizen into three categories: 'the necessary' not to exceed, in the case of a bachelor, 1,000 francs a year; 'the abundant' not to exceed 9,000 francs, of which one-half should go to the State; and the 'superfluous,' the whole of which must be paid into the public treasury, was a good Jacobin when he made this classification. He lived to become a good Imperialist, and to accept from the Emperor the title of Count, with a very large 'superfluous' income, of which he made very good use for his own private pleasure and satisfaction. The question as to these decrees of 1852 was brought up before the National Assembly on September 15, 1871, by the Comte de Merode, who, 'in the name of justice and of common honesty,' insisted that the Treasury should cease to receive for public uses the income of the private property of the Orleans family, illegally confiscated by the decrees of January 22, 1852.
The Government of the Republic at once responded that 'the responsibility of this act of spoliation belonged exclusively to its author; and the subject was referred to a Committee. This Committee reported in 1872 a law founded, in the plain language of the Committee 'upon that principle of common honesty which forbids' man to enrich himself at the 'expense of his neighbour.' The Report states that of the 'fifty-one direct descendants then living of King Louis Philippe, not one, to their honour be it said, had addressed any request on the subject, either to the Government or to the Assembly.' It states also, that having examined the subject carefully, the Committee were unanimously of the opinion that it was the duty of France 'to restore to the owners of this property what belonged to them; no longer to keep in the hands of the State what had never belonged to the State.' The Committee, considering the frightful disasters brought upon France by the war of 1870-71, could not recommend, said the Report, 'that the Treasury should now undertake absolutely to repair the consequences of an act repudiated by France. What it recommended was, that the Orleans family should be put into possession of all that was left of its own property, not that it should receive back the equivalent of the sums already consumed and dissipated.' At that time the Treasury had alienated under the decrees of 1852 no less than 70,000,000 francs of this lawful property of the Orleans family, unlawfully seized and confiscated. The whole property, when seized in 1852, was estimated by the Committee of 1872 at 80,000,000 francs. Between 1853 and 1870 the Treasury had received and spent 35,892,849 francs from sales of this property. It had also received and spent, from the sale of timber cut in the forests belonging to the property, 18,601,019 francs. Putting this large sum aside, it is obvious that in the shape of property actually sold, to the amount in round numbers of 36,000,000 francs, between 1853 and 1870, and of the interest on this amount during the same time, the Imperial Government had really converted to its own uses 70,000,000 francs which did not belong to it. Not one penny of these millions of francs was restored to its owners by the decrees of 1872. What the decrees of 1872 accomplished, with the approval of such extreme Republicans as M. Henri Brisson, was to put a stop to this public robbery of private owners. The Orleans estates not yet sold in 1872 were then estimated to yield an income of 1,200,000 francs. Before final action was taken by the Assembly, the Orleans princes voluntarily came forward and announced that they would accept no 'restitution' at the expense of the taxpayers of France of their property sold and alienated under the spoliation of 1852; and the text of the law as finally passed in 1872 expressly ordains that 'conformably to the renunciation offered before the presentation of the bill by the heirs of King Louis Philippe, and since renewed,' their unsold property, 'real and personal, seized by the State and not alienated before this date, be immediately restored to its owners.' As a matter of fact, therefore, under this law, the heirs of King Louis Philippe actually made the French Government a present in 1872 of many millions of francs, which belonged to them and did not belong to France or to the French Government. By doing this, they co-operated most creditably with every man of common honesty in the French Assembly in repairing the wrong done to every French citizen by the decrees of January 22, 1852, decrees justly described by M. Pascal Duprat in the Chamber, on November 22, 1872, as 'decrees of flat spoliation which had violated the sacred right of property, disregarded the fundamental rules of law, and profoundly wounded the public conscience.' However profoundly wounded the public conscience may have been by these decrees in 1852, the scornful words of the Duc de Broglie attest that it suffered in silence and for twenty years made no adequate outward sign!
This cool and caustic statesman was born and brought up in the Catholic Church. He married a Protestant lady, one of the most charming and brilliant women of her time, the daughter of Madame de Stael, and he was the intimate friend and associate throughout his public life of M. Guizot. His son, the present duke, grew up in an atmosphere of practical religious liberality. It was the law of 1875 restricting the State monopoly of the higher branches of public education in France which concentrated against the present duke, under the Marechal Duc de Magenta, the whole strength of the anti-religious elements in France. It was not to prevent the restoration of the monarchy by men like the Duc de Magenta and the Duc de Broglie, whom he well knew to be incapable of conspiring for any object whatever, that M. Gambetta uttered his war-cry: 'Le clericalisme c'est l'ennemi!' It was to rally behind himself and his own associates in the Republican party the great army of the Socialistic Radicals in France. It was to make the Conservative Republic of the Duc de Magenta and the Duc de Broglie impossible, that the Parliamentary conspirators of 1877 conceived and carried out, under cover of this war-cry, their scheme for suppressing the Executive in France. They have, as I believe, succeeded. They have made the Conservative Republic impossible. What is the result? The result is that no alternative of anarchy is left to sensible and moderate men in France but the Monarchy.
This has been growing more and more apparent ever since 1885. In that year the Legislative elections were made under the scrutin de liste; and when the Government rallied after the shock of the first Conservative attack, almost all the seats left in peril by that attack were 'saved' at the supplementary election by surrendering them to Radical candidates. In 1889, under the fear of Boulanger, the scrutin de liste was suddenly abandoned for the scrutin d'arrondissement, and the same thing happened again.
At the first election, on September 22, 384 candidates of all parties were chosen in the 83 departments of France. Of these, 164 were Government Republicans and 44 Radicals. At the second election, on October 8, the remaining 177 seats were filled. Of these, 66 were carried by the Government Republicans, and no fewer than 57 surrendered to the Radicals. In other words, at the first election the Radicals secured just about a quarter of the 208 seats carried by the Republicans. At the second election they secured very nearly one half of the 123 seats carried by the Republicans. So that the Radicals finally muster 101 out of the 331 Republican home members of the present Chamber, and are, therefore, practically masters of the situation so far as the Republic is concerned. They made this perfectly clear as soon as the Chamber met by insisting upon and securing the election of M. Floquet, a Radical of the advanced left wing, as President of the Chamber. Were the Radicals to withdraw their support from the Government on any issue, it would be left with 254 members to face a combined opposition vote of 229 members, which might at any moment be converted into a hostile majority by the action of less than a third of the Radicals. When we remember that these 101 Radicals are represented in the Chair of the Chamber by a leader who was locked up for a year in 1871 for his participation in the revolt of the Commune, and who voted in 1876 for the full pardon of the convicts of the Commune, it will be obvious, I think, that the Republicans 'have committed suicide to save themselves from slaughter.'
M. Floquet, imprisoned in 1871 for complicity with the Commune, was made Prefect of the Seine in 1882 by the men who have since made M. Carnot President of the Republic. As President of the Chamber, M. Floquet, under the existing regime in France, is now the superior of M. Carnot. Can there be any mistake as to the meaning of this? In 1882, as Prefect of the Seine, M. Floquet maintained the closest relations with the Municipal Council of Paris. M. Ferry's bill making primary education obligatory, and 'laicizing' that education, finally became law on July 26, 1881. The war against God in the schools began at once vigorously, and nowhere more vigorously than in Paris. M. Paul Bert had insisted, in his Report of 1879, upon the importance of protecting teachers who were scientific and philosophical Atheists against the pangs their consciences would suffer were they obliged to read or to hear recited passages from 'what is called Sacred History, that is to say, a mixture of positive history, with legends which have no value except in the eyes of believers.' In this spirit of the peddler who tried to 'scrub out the blood-stains' at Holyrood the law of 1881 was conceived. How it was executed we learn from M. Zevort, a distinguished inspector of the Academy of Paris, and by no means a Catholic. In some places the authorities ordered the words 'Love God, respect your parents,' to be effaced from the school-house walls. In others, children were compelled to give up the Catechisms which they had brought with them to school, intending to go on after school hours to the parish church. In this same year M. Fournier stated in the Senate that persons appointed by the Minister of Public Instruction to distribute prizes in the schools had made speeches to the children in which they spoke of all religion as mere superstition. He cited one such orator as contrasting 'scientific education, the only true education, which gives man the certainty of his own value and urges him onward to progress and to the Light,' with 'religious education which fatally plunges him into a murky night, and an abyss of deadly superstitions.' Another luminary of the State exclaimed in a burst of eloquence, 'Young citizenesses and young citizens! We have been accused of banishing God from the schools! It is an error! Nothing can be driven out which does not exist. Now God does not exist. What we have suppressed is only a set of emblems!'
These emblems were the religious inscriptions, and the crucifixes, taken out of the school-houses. Of these emblems the Prefect of the Seine, in 1882, carelessly observed in the course of an enquiry before the Senate, that the removal of them was 'only a question of school furniture!' And the Municipal Council of Paris, with which M. Floquet in 1882 so cordially co-operated, formally adopted resolutions calling for the complete suppression in all the primary schools 'of all theological instruction whatsoever.' 'No one,' said one councillor, M. Cattiaux, with much solemnity, 'can prove the existence of God, and our teachers must not be compelled to affirm the existence of an imaginary being.'
With M. Floquet as President of the Chamber, M. Carnot and his Ministers are at the mercy not of the Radicals only, but of the Radical allies of the Commune. The French Monarchists to-day are fighting out the battle of religion and of civilization for every country in Christendom.
Though the Calvados was the chosen home of M. Guizot, it was not his birthplace. Like M. Thiers, whom he so little resembled in other particulars, M. Guizot was a son of the South. He was born at Nimes, in the Gard, a city rather Republican than Royalist by its traditions, even under the old Monarchy. His father was an advocate, and by the charter of Nimes, which organized in 1476 the 'consular' government of the city, it was provided that the first consul of Nimes should always be taken from among 'the advocates graduated and versed in the law,' the second consulate only being left open to 'citizens, merchants, and graduated physicians.'
As the fifteenth century is commonly admitted to have been a 'feudal' century, this provision attests the power of the robe as against the sword in a very interesting way, and at an interesting point in French history. The local nobility felt the slight put upon them very strongly, and made great efforts to have the system changed. These efforts were not successful till the end of the sixteenth century. In 1588 the Duc de Montmorency, Governor of Languedoc, issued a decree convoking the Council-General to consider the subject, and this assembly, after a stormy session, decided that 'the noblemen and gentlemen of the province should hold the first consulate alternately with the advocates.' The first nobleman of Languedoc who profited by this decision was Louis de Montcalm, an ancestor of the illustrious defender of Quebec. He became first consul of Nimes in 1589, the year after the defeat of the great Spanish Armada against England. He was a Huguenot, and Nimes in the days of the great Religious Wars had become a Protestant stronghold after its capture by the Huguenots on November 15, 1569. The Huguenot de Calviere, Baron de St.-Cosme, who took a leading part in that military adventure, was made Governor of Nimes and a gentleman of the King's bedchamber by Henry of Navarre.
As a Protestant and as an advocate, the father of M. Guizot naturally inclined to the Republican theory of Government in 1789. He very soon and as naturally opened his eyes to the abominations of the Republican practice, and in due course came to the guillotine under the Terror. To the day of her death his widow wore the deepest mourning for him, and his son, like the son of the murdered Victor Charles de Broglie, honoured his memory by an inflexible loyalty to the principles of justice and of liberty for which his father had died.
I was not surprised, therefore, to find M. Guillaume Guizot, the Protestant son of the great Protestant statesman, at his pleasant rural home near Uzes as earnest and active in the summer of 1889 in organizing the monarchical party for the Legislative elections, as the staunchest Catholics of the Morbihan or of Champagne. Uzes, which gives a ducal title to the family of Crussol, is a picturesque and interesting town, and its electoral district made a gallant stand for liberty and order in the elections. It gave nearly 9,000 Monarchist against about 11,000 Republican votes, and the returns of the whole Department of the Gard, when compared with those of 1885, show a marked change to the disadvantage of the powers that be. In the first place the total of the votes polled fell off more than 10 per cent. in 1889 from the total in 1885. In 1885, 110,786 were polled. In 1889, 97,828. In the next place the Republican votes in the whole department fell off in 1889 nearly 20 per cent. from the Republican total in 1885, or from 58,328 to 46,323. In the third place the Republican majority over the Monarchists fell off more than 60 per cent. from the majority in 1885, or from 5,910 to 2,062. In the fourth place the Monarchists in the first district of Nimes had a majority of more than 1,500 votes over the Government Republicans. And in the fifth place the Republicans, who in 1885 secured the whole delegation of six members from the Gard, in 1889 lost the seat for the second district of Alais, which the Monarchists carried by a majority of 1,305 votes over the combined strength of the Government Republicans and the Boulangist Revisionists. This district is a coal and iron-mining as well as a silk-growing district. It is fall of workmen, and it has been a point of attack for the Socialist and subversive leaders in France for many years past. All the traditions of Alais itself are strongly Protestant. The fortifications of the town were destroyed by Louis XIV. at the end of the seventeenth century, and at no great distance is the Tour du Bellot, the lonely spot which witnessed one of the most desperate conflicts between Cavalier and the royal troops. The slaughter of the Camisards, shut up in their burning tower, is a tale of horror still in the countryside. At Nimes the memories of the long and merciless strife between the Catholics and the Protestants of Southern France are fresher still and more intense. M. Guillaume Guizot well remembers the bitterness of the passions roused at Nimes by the local struggles between the 'two Religions' which followed the Restoration. His father was one day reasoning on the subject with a Protestant citizen of Nimes, who suddenly pointed to a man passing on the other side of the street, and said: 'That man had a hand in the killing of my father here in the streets of Nimes. How can you ask me to forget that?'
The Republicans of the Third Republic, bent on coercing France into a 'moral unity' of Atheism, are fast making both Catholics and Protestants forget such things in the imminence of a new and common peril to the liberties and the rights of both. The two daughters of M. Guizot, as is well known, married two brothers, the heirs and representatives of the great Protestant and Republican family of De Witt. One of these brothers, M. Conrad de Witt, just re-elected a deputy for the Calvados, was my host at Val Richer. The other, M. Cornelis de Witt, the namesake of the statesman for whom his illustrious brother the Grand Pensionary of Holland sacrificed his own life in a vain effort to save him from the brutal fury of an ignorant and frantic multitude at the Hague, has just been taken, in the full force of his energies and his great ability, from the love of his friends and from the cause of liberty in France. As a deputy and a member of the Government he took an active part in the re-establishment of the finances and the public organisation of France after the disasters of 1870-71. As a director of the great mines at Auzin, and as Vice-President of the Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean Railway Company, he was in close and constant touch with the working classes of France and with the great material interests of a country which he loved as his ancestors loved Holland. This is not the place in which to speak of the personal gifts and graces which will keep the name of M. Cornelis de Witt green in the memory of all who knew him. But of his great qualities as a citizen, and of the judgment absolutely unwarped by passion or by prejudice which gave weight to all his political convictions, it is the place to speak. After a fair and serious experiment, in which he took his part loyally, at founding in France the 'Conservative Republic' of M. Thiers, he thought that outlook for the future completely and hopelessly closed; and as it was neither in the traditions of Netherlandish liberty nor in his own virile and courageous temper to acquiesce in the domination of a political oligarchy ready, like Carrier and the Jacobins of 1792, to 'make France one vast cemetery rather than not regenerate it after their own minds!' M. Cornelis de Witt looked about him calmly for a way of escape.
This way he found where the sagacious Netherlanders of the seventeenth century found it after the hard-won liberties of Holland had been prostrated by the mad revolt of a misled multitude against the Government of the Grand Pensionary, who had held his own against Cromwell and against Louis XIV., made Holland the first naval power of the world, and scared London with the thunder of the Dutch cannon in the Thames. Nothing but the restoration of the hereditary principle in the person of William of Orange saved Amsterdam and Rotterdam from falling at the end of the seventeenth century, as they fell at the end of the eighteenth, under the dominion of an invader. When the hereditary principle was again abandoned after the death of William of Orange, the domestic peace as well as the national prestige of Holland vanished with it, and though the Dutch people in the middle of the eighteenth century insisted upon seeing it for a time restored, the power of the Dutch Executive towards the end of the century was so much hampered and weakened by the local jealousies of the provinces, that in the Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States, Mr. Butler, who had travelled much in the Low Countries, successfully enforced the necessity of making the American Executive monarchical by a vivid description of the evils inflicted upon Holland by her departures from that principle. We took warning as to the perils of the Union from the example of the Low Countries, and as to the importance of the Executive from the example of Great Britain. There were many Americans indeed in 1788, men of worth and of weight both in private and in public affairs, who rather than accept Edmund Randolph's plan of confiding the Executive authority to a triumvirate, would have given their adhesion to the seriously mooted project of making the American Executive absolutely hereditary, and inviting the Prince-Bishop of Osnaburg to accept the office.
The convictions of M. Cornelis de Witt are represented now with equal energy and determination in Normandy by his brother, M. Conrad de Witt, and by his son, M. Pierre de Witt, just elected a Councillor-General of the Calvados, and in Languedoc by his brother-in-law, M. Guillaume Guizot, and by his son, M. Cornelis Henri de Witt.
The home of M. Cornelis Henri de Witt, near Tonneins, in the Lot-et-Garonne, stands in the heart of a land of fruits and vines. From the terrace of his chateau of Peyreguilhot, the eye ranges over a fine expanse of the valley of the Garonne, which at no great distance from Tonneins mingles with the Lot beneath the promontory of Nicole. The landscape is rich in colour. Great fields of tobacco alternate with extensive orchards. It is a land to be seen in the season of blossoms. The world-famed prunes of Bordeaux come mainly from about Agen, and the pleasant little commune of Nicole probably draws a much larger tribute to-day from London, in exchange for its precocious apricots, than it ever paid to London when the Plantagenet eaglets were rending the eagle of Winchester. The old traditions of Guienne seem to be much less vivid than those of Normandy or Brittany. I have heard Bretons speak of the Duchess Anne as the Scotch Jacobites still speak of the Stuarts. But though Coeur de Lion is still a popular hero in the land of Bertrand de Born, there is nothing there like the Provencal feeling in Provence. At St. Remy, the beautiful birthplace of Nostradamus, a lively waiter in the excellent hotel of the 'Cheval Blanc,' taking me for a Frenchman of the north, contrived very skilfully to let me know that the Provencals do not hold themselves responsible for the failure of Northern France to repulse the Germans. 'If the Comte de Paris had not got the better long ago of the Comte de Provence,' he informed me, 'France would have been Provencal and not Provence French, and then things would have gone differently altogether.' But all Languedoc is as proud of its language as Wales. A youth who took me at Agen to see the shop and house of the 'barber-bard' was clearly of the opinion that the poetry of Lamartine and Victor Hugo would have been as fine as the poetry of Jasmin had they been so fortunate as to use his mother-tongue. 'The French language was a kind of Gallic patois mixed with German, while the true langue d'Oc, as I must know, was the language of the Romans.' This same philologist took me also to the little valley of 'Verona,' where he showed me not only a small vineyard, the property of Jasmin, but the house, the fountain, and the huge stone chair of Scaliger, 'a great philosopher descended from Julius Caesar.' Joseph Scaliger, I believe, was really born in this house, which was given to his illustrious father by the Bishop of Agen; and Joseph with his own eyes saw some three hundred Huguenots burnt alive in Agen on the great Place du Gravier, where now the annual fairs of Agen are held under the stately elms.
The lands of the Lot-et-Garonne are full of memories of the English wars, of the Albigensian crusade, of the long duel between the Church and the Calvinists. Tonneins, once a curious 'double city' of the middle ages, was destroyed in the seventeenth century by Louis XIII. for its fidelity to the Huguenot cause. Nerac, where Jeanne d'Albret and the two Margots held their gay and gallant courts, and Henry of Navarre established his headquarters during 'the Lovers' War,' suffered as severely for the like cause under Louis XIV. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes sent its most industrious inhabitants into exile, not a few of them crossing the Atlantic to join the Huguenot colonies in New York and in the Carolinas. 'But the Revolution of 1789 did Nerac more harm,' said an intelligent tradesman of the picturesque little city to me, 'than the Revocation. The Revocation drove away many honest people from Nerac, but the Revolution brought here a great many rogues.' The country around Nerac is extremely fertile, and great prizes were to be picked up here during the decade of proscription and confiscation. The Garenne, one of the loveliest public parks in France, in which a beautiful fountain sparkles and murmurs beneath two lofty elms planted by Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois, was actually bought during the First Consulate by the city for a little over five thousand francs, or two hundred pounds sterling. The war of 1791 against 'privileges' soon became in Nerac, as elsewhere in France, a war against property. The immediate effect of this was not, what we are constantly told it was, to increase the wealth of France by 'redistributing' it amongst the active and industrious classes. It was, on the contrary, to diminish the wealth of France by lowering the real value of property. This is clearly shown by the extraordinary pains which Napoleon took to enforce respect for the rights of property as soon as he grasped the supreme power in the State. But one comes everywhere upon striking local proofs of it. At Najac in the Department of the Aveyron, for example, the obliging hotel-keeper will give you the key of one of the most magnificent ruined castles in Southern France, which, with its grand donjon, and all the massive circle of its walls and ramparts, was seized and sold, during the Terror, for twelve francs. The purchaser made a deal of money by converting the castle into a quarry, and when law and order were restored, he gladly parted with his very dubious title for the highly respectable advance on his investment of 1,500 francs. As a piece of successful 'gerrymandering' the Republican treatment of this Department of the Aveyron, by the way, in the elections of 1889, is worth mentioning. In 1885, under the scrutin de liste, the Aveyron was entitled to six deputies. It elected a solid Conservative representation. In 1889, under the scrutin d'arrondissement, the Government carved out seven seats for the Aveyron, and the electoral districts were so ingeniously framed as to secure two out of these seven seats for the Republicans—though the total of the votes cast in the department showed a clear majority for the Monarchists of 5,582!
We had a banquet of Mayors while I was at Peyreguilhot; not such a Belshazzar's feast as M. Constans gave at Paris to the thirteen thousand, but a simple and interesting gathering of about a dozen intelligent and active elective magistrates. Under a recent law all Mayors, except in Paris, are now chosen by the Councils, but the Government can revoke their commissions. Our guests at Peyreguilhot were all shrewd, quiet, active men of the country. 'We shall be beaten in September,' said one of them to me, 'because the Government employs men enough to beat us. Moreover, our farmers say, "Why vote at all, for the Mayors and the Prefect throw our votes out and cheat us?" Then, too, we must have a man to vote for before we can make them move. They will not vote for the Monarchy as a principle. But give them a man who touches their imaginations and they will make him a Monarch.' They voted for Louis Napoleon as soon as they saw him take the Assembly resolutely by the throat. They would have voted, overwhelmingly, for Boulanger on September 22 had he suddenly reappeared in Paris, demanding a revision of the verdict of the High Court.
This is true, I think, not of the Lot-et-Garonne alone, but of all France. It has been signally illustrated since the elections of 1889 by what Stendhal would have called the rapid 'crystallization' of public sympathy around the young Duc d'Orleans when he suddenly appeared in Paris. The Government was completely bewildered and demoralized by this 'bolt out of the blue.' Instead of quietly reconducting the prince to the frontier with a reprimand for his inconsiderate and unconventional patriotism, it stupidly locked him up in a prison haunted by legends disgraceful to the Republic, proceeded against him with clumsy vehemence, gave him time to show himself to the French people, in the words of the Duc d'Aumale, as a 'pur sang,' a straightforward, dashing young French prince demanding the right of performing his military duty to the State, had him condemned, tardily resolved to pardon him, and wound up finally by sending him to Clairvaux to placate the criminal bullies of the Commune!
What has been the result? It cannot be more exactly stated than in the words of the official organ of the Russian Empire at Brussels, Le Nord, a journal certainly not predisposed in favour of the House of Orleans by the success of the Orleanist Prince Ferdinand in Bulgaria. 'The appearance of this young exile,' said Le Nord, 'on the soil of France, not as a pretender or with political ideas, but simply as a Frenchman coming to establish his moral rights as a citizen by claiming to be allowed to perform his civic duties, and this with a rare combination of youthful dash, irreproachable modesty, and skilful self-possession was admirably fitted to awaken, and it has awakened, the sympathy of all who are politically disinterested.'