M. Grevy, thought the incarnation of thrift, of peace at any price, and of commercial development, was elected President in 1879. M. Leon Say, a man of wealth and of business, from whom more circumspection might have been expected, lent himself, as Minister of the Finances, in combination with the rather visionary M. de Freycinet, to a grand scheme devised by M. Gambetta 'in a single night,' like Aladdin's Palace, for spending indefinite millions of money upon docks, railways and ports all over France, wherever there was a seat in the Chamber to be kept or won. The 'true Republicans,' as they call themselves, must be kept in power, the Republicans who hold it to be their mission—no, not their mission, for that word smacks of a Deity—but their proud prerogative, to rid France and the world of the Christian religion, to abolish all forms of worship and of monarchy from off the face of the earth, and generally to fashion the felicity of mankind, in and out of France, after their own mind. They went to work without delay. Having made the Executive, in the person of M. Grevy, a puppet, they began at once, in 1879, to pour out the money of the taxpayers like water, for what we know in the United States as 'purposes of political irrigation'; to 'purge' the public service, in all its branches, from the highest to the lowest, of all men not ready to swear allegiance to their creed; to create new posts and to fill them with the dependents and parasites of the Republican party chiefs.
The balance of 98,291,105 fr. 28 c. (to be exact!) with which the Republic of Thiers and Macmahon had closed the year 1876, rapidly vanished.
On April 20, 1878, M. Leon Say announced to the Chamber of Deputies that he expected the country to spend for 1879 a sum of 3,173,820,114 francs, and to meet this expenditure with an estimated income of 2,698,622,014 francs!
In 1876 the expenditure of France had reached 2,680,146,977 francs, and the income of France had reached 2,778,438,082 fr. 66 c. Two years had sufficed to reverse the situation, and to convert an excess of receipts over expenditure under the Government of the Marechal-Duc, amounting to more than 98,000,000 francs, into an excess of expenditure over receipts under his 'truly Republican' successor amounting to 475,148,100 francs!
From that moment to this the Third Republic has been steadily expending for France year after year at least five hundred millions of francs, or twenty millions of pounds sterling, more than it has been able to collect from the French people in the way of normal revenue. The exact amount of this monstrous deficiency it is not easy to state with precision. So distinguished an economist as M. Leroy-Beaulieu, a Republican of the moderate type, puts it at the sum I have stated, of five hundred millions a year for ten years. At the elections of last year the Carnot Government ordered, or encouraged, the Prefect of the Herault, M. Pointu-Nores, to oppose openly and energetically the election of M. Leroy-Beaulieu as a deputy for the district of Lodeve in that department. Why? M. Leroy-Beaulieu is one of the few really able and distinguished Frenchmen, known beyond the limits of France, who may be regarded as sincere believers in the possibility of founding a substantial and orderly French Republic. But M. Leroy-Beaulieu, when he sees a deficiency in the public accounts, calls it a deficiency, and lifts up his voice in warning against a policy which accepts an annual deficiency of five hundred millions of francs as natural, normal, and to be expected in the administration of a great Republic.
Therefore, the presence of M. Leroy-Beaulieu in the Chamber of Deputies is a thing to be prevented at any price. The 'Republicans' of the Herault this year tried to prevent it not only by treating 'informal' ballots thrown for him as invalid, and accepting 'informal' ballots thrown against him as valid, but, as the report of a Committee of the Chamber admits, by 'irregularities' which in other countries would be described in harsher terms.
Yet the majority of the new Chamber has postponed action upon this report of its own Committee till after the recess, and M. Leroy-Beaulieu is not yet allowed to occupy the seat which the voters of Lodeve undoubtedly chose him to fill.
If we accept M. Leroy-Beaulieu's estimate of the average annual deficiency in the French budget as correct, it is clear that the 'true Republicans' have mulcted France since 1879 in the round sum of five milliards of francs—or, in other words, of a second German War Indemnity!
But a banker of eminence, thoroughly familiar with the French finances, tells me that M. Leroy-Beaulieu has underestimated the amount. He puts it himself at an annual average for the past decade of 700,000,000 francs. Thanks to the device adopted, I am sorry to say, by M. Leon Say, in 1879, of transferring to what is called the 'extraordinary budget' of each year numerous items which should properly find a place in the 'ordinary budget' of each year, it is not very easy to get at a precise and definite basis for estimating the real amount of these annual deficiencies.
M. Amagat, a Republican deputy for the Department of the Cantal, who has distinguished himself and earned the hostility of the Carnot Government by his cool and methodical treatment of these financial matters, denounces this device as 'deplorable,' and as keeping alive the most strange 'illusions' among well-meaning French Republicans about the real condition of the national finances.
Precisely! But the device was adopted expressly to keep alive these 'illusions,' in order that the 'illusions' might keep alive the politicians who adopted the device.
It served M. Leon Say, who knew better, in 1879. It serves M. Rouvier, who, perhaps, does not know better, in 1890. The new Chamber met on November 12, 1889. A fortnight had hardly passed when M. Rouvier, as Minister of the Finances, the 'Minister of ill-omen' as M. Amagat calls him, rose in his place and, without a blush, affirmed that the budget for 1889 showed an excess of receipts over expenditure of 'forty millions of francs!' This bold statement was promptly telegraphed from Paris, by the correspondents of the foreign press in that city, to the four corners of the globe. What did it mean? It meant simply this: that, thanks to the financial success of the Government investment of the public money in a grand raree show at Paris, called a 'Universal Exposition,' such an excess of income over outlay appeared in what is called the 'ordinary budget.' As to the 'extraordinary' budget—oh! that is quite another matter.
It is as if an English householder should divide his yearly accounts into 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary' accounts, putting under the 'ordinary' accounts his cab and railway fares, his club expenses, his transactions on the turf, and his ventures at Monte Carlo, but remitting to the 'extraordinary' accounts such unconsidered trifles as house-rent, domestic expenses, the bills of tailors and milliners, and taxes, local and imperial. For 1879, for example, M. Leon Say, as Finance Minister, gave in his 'ordinary' budget at 2,714,672,014 francs, which showed a reduction of 78,705,790 francs from the 'ordinary' budget of 1878; but with this cheerful statement M. Leon Say gave in also his 'extraordinary' budget at 460,674,566 francs, the whole of which rather important sum was to be raised, not out of the revenue, but by a loan!
This system has been carried on ever since 1877, when the 'true Republicans' got possession of the legislature, two years before they put M. Grevy into the Elysee as President.
On July 22, 1882, M. Daynaud, an authority on questions of finance, summed up the results in a speech delivered in the Chamber of Deputies. The Government in 1877 spent, in round numbers, 3,177,000,000 francs. In 1883 it spent 4,040,000,000 francs. All this without including what are called 'supplementary credits.' So that, putting these aside, it appears from the speech of M. Daynaud that, in seven years, between 1877 and 1883, the 'true Republicans' subjected the people of France to an increase of no less than 863,000,000 francs in their annual public expenditure.
Meanwhile these same 'true Republicans,' who were thus adding hundreds of millions yearly to the public debt, struck hundreds of thousands out of the lawful income of the clergy of France. They ordered the dispersion by Executive decrees, and 'if necessary by military force,' of all religious orders and communities not 'authorised' by the Government. They drove nuns and Sisters of Charity, with violence and insult, out of their abodes. They expelled the religious nurses from the hospitals and the priests from the prisons and the almshouses. They 'laicised' the schools of France, throwing every symbol of religion—in many cases literally—into the street, forbidding, literally, the name of God to be mentioned within the walls of a school, and striking out every allusion to the Christian faith from the text-books supplied at the cost of the Christian parents of France to their children in the schools supported out of taxes paid by themselves.
It is simply impossible to overstate the virulence and the violence of this official Republican war against religion which began under the Waddington Ministry almost as soon as it took possession of the government in 1879. It was formally opened under the leadership of M. Ferry. M. Ferry is admitted to be the ideal statesman of the Opportunist Republicans now in power. To him M. Carnot owes his Presidency of the Republic. In March 1879 M. Jules Ferry asked the Republican majority of the House to pass a law concerning the 'higher education,' in the draft of which he had inserted a clause ever since famous as 'Article 7,' depriving any Frenchman who might be a member of any religious corporation 'not recognised by the State' of the right to teach. This 'Article 7' was a revival of an amendment offered to but not carried by the Legislative Assembly of the Second Republic in 1849. The principle of it is as old as the Emperor Julian, who forbade Christians to teach in the schools of the Empire.
M. Ferry's law was intended to repeal a previous law adopted in 1875, and which had not been then three years in operation. By the Law of July 12, 1875, the Republic of Thiers and Macmahon had modified, in the interest of liberty, the monopoly of higher education in France enjoyed by the State. It was an essentially wise, liberal, and 'progressive' law. But the Republicans of Gambetta could not endure it, for it gave the Christians of France the right to provide for the higher education of their children in their own way; so it must be abolished.
It was abolished; and though the Senate, making a partial stand for law and for the equal rights of French citizens, struck out 'Article 7,' M. Ferry and his friends, who controlled the President, caused him to issue an Executive decree, to which I have already referred, breaking up the religious orders aimed at in 'Article 7.' This was in 1880. In 1882 the Chamber adopted a law proposed by M. Paul Bert, confirming to the State the monopoly of secondary education; and to-day we see M. Clemenceau, the avowed enemy of M. Jules Ferry and of the Opportunists, shaking hands with them in public, after the elections of 1889, on this one question of deadly hostility to all religion in the educational establishments of France. At a banquet given on December 3 by certain anti-Boulangist students in Paris to the Government deputies for the Seine, M. Clemenceau declared himself in favour of 'the union of all Republicans'—upon what lines and to what end?—'To prepare the Grand Social Revolution and make war upon the theocratic spirit which seeks to reduce the human mind to slavery!'
In other words, the Third Republic is to combine the Socialism of 1848 with the Atheism of 1793, the National workshops with the worship of Reason, and to join hands, I suppose, with the extemporised 'Republic of Brazil' in a grand propaganda which shall secure the abolition, not only of all the thrones in Europe, but of all the altars in America. If language means anything and facts have any force, this is the inevitable programme of the French Republic of 1890, and this is the entertainment to which the Christian nations of the New World and the Old were invited at Paris in the great 'centennial' year 1889.
Believing this to be the inevitable programme of the Republic, as represented by the Government of President Grevy so long ago as 1880, I was yet surprised, as 1 have said, to see the strength of the protest recorded against it by the voters of France at the Legislative elections in 1885, because the Republic of Thiers and Macmahon had made, and deservedly, so much progress in the confidence of the French people, that I had hardly expected to see the essentially conservative heart of France startled, even by three or four years' experience of the Government of M. Grevy, into an adequate sense of the perils into which these successors of the Marechal-Duc were leading the country.
'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' is an essentially French proverb. Seven years of peace, liberty, and financial prosperity under the Conservative Republic should have gone far, I thought, to convince the average French peasant that he might, after all, be safe under a republic. Doubtless this impression of mine was not wholly unfounded. Yet, in spite of this important check upon the headway of the reaction against Republicanism provoked by the fanaticism and the financial extravagance of the Government of President Grevy—and in spite, too, of the open official pressure put upon the voters of France by the then Minister of the Interior, M. Allain-Targe, who issued a circular commanding all the prefects in France to stand 'neutral' between Republican candidates of all shades, but to exert themselves for the defeat of all 'reactionary' candidates; in spite of all this, the elections of October and November 1885 sent up about two hundred monarchical members, whose seats could by no trick or device be stolen from them, to the Chamber of Deputies, and pitted a popular vote of 3,608,578 declared enemies of the existing Republic against a popular vote of 4,377,063 citizens anxious to maintain or willing to submit to it.
From that time to the present day the Government of the Third French Republic has been standing on the defensive. It has steadily lost ground, with every passing year, in the confidence and respect of the French people. The financial scandals, amid which President Grevy and his son-in-law, M. Wilson, disappeared and President Carnot was 'invented,' simply revealed a condition of things inherent in the very nature of the political organisation of France under the parliamentary revolutionists who came into power in 1879.
The Third French Republic, such as these men have made it, is condemned, hopelessly and irretrievably condemned, by its creed to be a government of persecution and by its machinery to be a government of corruption. There is no escape for it.
It has made the Government of France—not the Administration, but the form, the constitution of the Government—a party question, and it has organised the party which insists that France shall be a Republic, openly and avowedly upon the maxim of Danton that 'to the victors belong the spoils.' What has come of this maxim in the United States, where the form and constitution of the Republic are accepted by all political parties, and the administration of the Government alone is a party question, I need not say.
There are 'black points' even on the horizon of the American Republic, as all Americans know. But there is no point blacker than this, as to which, however, it is possible with us that good men of all political parties may act together in the future as they have acted together in the past for Civil Service Reform. But what is possible with us is not possible with the party of the Republic in France. For, by making the Republic a republic of religious persecution, the Republicans of the Republic of Gambetta, Jules Ferry, Carnot, and Clemenceau have made it necessarily a republic of political proscription, and political proscription inevitably means political corruption.
If any man needs to learn this, let him study the story of the establishment of the Protestant Succession in England by Walpole, and the story of the overthrow of the United States Bank by President Jackson, in America. He may think the Protestant Succession in England, and the overthrow of the United States Bank in America, worth the price paid for each. But he will learn at least what the price was.
It will not be the fault of the Carnot Government—certainly not of the most energetic member of that Government, M. Constans, Minister of the Interior—if the French people fail to learn this.
A very much higher price will have to be paid for the extirpation of religion out of France, and the education of the French people into what M. Jules Ferry fantastically supposes to be 'Herbert Spencer's' gospel, identifying duty with self-indulgence!
The late Chamber, doubtless having the then impending elections in view, voted to abolish the Secret Service Fund of the Ministry of the Interior. It was a Platonic vote, referring only to the Budget of 1890, nor did it take effect. But on December 14, 1889, M. Constans, having made the re-establishment of this fund a cabinet question, got up in the Chamber and boldly declared that he wanted a Secret Service Fund of 1,600,000 fr., or about 64,000l. sterling; that he did not care what the Right thought about such a fund; that he meant to use it to 'combat conspiracies against the Republic,' and that he expected the majority to give it to him as a mark of their personal confidence.
That the War Office, in a country like France, should need a Secret Service Fund, is intelligible. It is intelligible that a Secret Service Fund should be legitimately required, perhaps, by the Foreign Office of a country like France. But why should a Secret Service Fund of more than 60,000l. sterling be required by the Home Secretary of a French Republic which is supposed to be 'a government of the people, by the people, for the people'?
I have an impression, which it will require evidence to remove, that no such Secret Service Fund as this is at the disposal of the Chancellor of the German Empire; and I find the whole expense of the Home Office of the monarchy of Great Britain set down at less than half the amount which, after a brief debate, the Republicans of the new Chamber in France, by a majority of a hundred votes, quietly put under the control of the French Home Secretary, to show their 'confidence' in the excellent man to whose unhesitating manipulation, through his prefects, of the votes cast in September and October last, so many of them are universally believed in France to be really indebted for their seats!
In the year 1889 the British budget shows an outlay on the Home Office of 29,963l.
More than this, the 'Secret Service Fund' voted out of the pockets of the taxpayers of France into the strong box of the Minister of the Interior, considerably exceeds the cost of the British Treasury Office! In 1888 the British budget gave the First Lord of the Treasury, to cover the expenses of that great and important department of the British monarchical government, 60,222l., or nearly 4,000l. less than the Republicans of the Third French Republic have generously put at the disposal of M. Constans to 'combat conspiracies' against the life of a Republic of which in the same breath we are asked to believe that it has just been acclaimed with enthusiasm by the masses of the French people, as the fixed, final, and permanent government of their deliberate choice!
At this rate it will actually cost the taxpayers of Republican France more than two-thirds as much merely to keep the Republic from being suddenly done to death some fine day between breakfast and dinner, as it costs the taxpayers of Great Britain to keep up the state and dignity of the British sovereign from year to year! The total annual amount, I find, of the Civil List of Great Britain annually voted to the Queen, of the annual grants to other members of the Royal Family, and of the Viceroyalty of Ireland is 557,000l. Of this amount the Hereditary Revenues, surrendered to the nation, cover 464,000l. This leaves an annual charge upon the taxpayers of 93,000l. sterling, or only 29,000l. more than the sum deliberately voted by the Republican Chamber at Paris into the hands of M. Constans to be by him used in 'combating conspiracies' against the Republic!—or, in other words and in plain English, in making things comfortable for his political friends, and uncomfortable for his political enemies!
And this, observe, is a mere supplementary adjunct to the budget of this energetic and admirable minister, that budget having been fixed by the late Chamber for 1890 at 61,291,256 francs—or, in round numbers, 2,451,650l. sterling—of which handsome amount 13,059,570 francs, or 522,383l. sterling, being the outlay on the Central Administration and the prefectures, must be added to the 1,200,000 francs, or 48,000l. sterling, of the Presidential salary and allowances, in order to give us a basis for a fair approximate comparison of the cost to republican France of her executive President and prefects with the cost to monarchical Great Britain of her executive Sovereign, lords-lieutenant, and Viceroy of Ireland. Stated in round numbers, the result appears to be that for their republican President and their eighty-three republican prefects, the taxpayers of France pay annually out of their own pockets 570,383l. against 93,000l. paid annually out of their own pockets by the taxpayers of Great Britain for their monarchical sovereign, eighty-six lords-lieutenant, a Viceroy of Ireland, and thirty-two lieutenants of the Irish counties. From the point of view of the taxpayers, this would seem to lend some colour to Lord Beaconsfield's contention, that economy is to be found on the side of the system which rewards certain kinds of public service by 'public distinction conferred by the fountain of honour.'
The threadbare witticism about the Bourbons of 1815, who had learned nothing and forgotten nothing, may well be furbished up for the benefit of the Republicans who now control the Third French Republic. However true it may, or may not, have been of the Comte de Provence and the Comte d'Artois, Henri IV., who was certainly a Bourbon of the Bourbons, had a quick wit at learning, and upon occasion also a neat knack of forgetting. He thought Paris well worth a mass, heard the mass, and got Paris.
It was not necessary for the Republicans of the Third Republic, after the formidable lesson which France read them at the elections in 1885, to hear mass themselves. They were perfectly free to persist and to perish in their unbelief, and, like the hero of Sir Alfred Lyall's 'Land of Regrets,'
'Get damned in their commonplace way.'
All that Christian France asked of them in 1885 was that they would leave their fellow-citizens as free to hear mass as they themselves were free not to hear it. They had only to let the religion of the French people alone, to respect the consciences and the civil liberty of their countrymen, and the tides that were rising against them, and the Republic because of them, must inevitably have begun to subside.
The hostility between the Church and the Republic in France is absolutely, in its origin, one-sided. The Church is no more necessarily hostile to the Republic as a Republic in France, than it is to the Republic as a Republic in the United States or in Chile, or in Catholic Switzerland. The Church can be made hostile to a Republic by persecution and attack just as it can he made hostile in the same way to a monarchy. Neither Philippe le Bel nor Henry the Eighth was much of a Republican.
But the Republicans of the Third Republic, in 1885, would learn nothing and forget nothing. They met the protest of millions of voters in France with a renewed virulence of Anti-Catholic and of Anti-Christian legislation, with an increased public expenditure, and with fresh political proscriptions.
Their purpose and their programme were succinctly and clearly summed up in the explicit declaration of M. Brisson, one of the most conspicuous leaders of the Republican party, that 'the Republic should be established in France, if necessary, by arms!'
What is the difference in principle between such a declaration as this and the attempt of the third Napoleon to establish an empire in Mexico by arms? In the one case we have a proselytising, atheistic Republic bent on abolishing the religion of an unquestionable majority of the French people; in the other, we have a proselytising emperor bent on organizing empire in Mexico. In the light of the doctrine that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, the one undertaking is as monstrous as the other. The undertaking of the Emperor failed disastrously in Mexico; I do not believe, and for many reasons, that the undertaking of the Republic will succeed in France.
One, and the chief of these reasons, is, that I believe the hold of the Christian religion upon the body of the French people to be stronger, and not weaker, than it was before the propaganda of atheism began. In some of the chapters of this volume evidence, I think, will be found to show this. Under the plan which I have adopted in constructing the book, I have not attempted to marshal and co-ordinate the evidence. I have simply presented it, where it presented itself, either in conversations had by me at one or another place with persons qualified, as I thought, to speak with some authority, or in observations made by me in passing through one or another region. It was a part of my plan too, as I have said, to register, under the general heading of one or another department, not only what struck me most while visiting that department in the way of things seen or heard there, but also such conversations bearing on general subjects as I there had, and such notes as I there made from the books bearing on French history, which I took with me wherever I went. As this book is not a treatise but a record, as it is not intended to maintain a preconceived thesis, but simply to indicate the grounds on which I have myself come to certain conclusions and convictions, I thought the method I have adopted the fairest, both to my readers and to myself, that I could pursue.
But as the point I have now touched, of the religious condition of France, is a specially grave and important point, I must ask my readers to pause with me upon it for a moment here in this Introduction. I am especially moved to do this because I have reason to think that very serious and very extraordinary delusions on this point exist outside of France, and especially in England. This is not unnatural when we remember that nine foreigners in ten take their impressions of France as a nation, not only from the current journalism and literature of Paris alone, but from a very limited range of the current literature and journalism even of Paris. Most Americans certainly, and I am inclined to think most Englishmen, who visit Paris, and see and know a good deal of Paris, are really in a condition of penumbral darkness as to the true social, religious, and intellectual life of the vast majority of the population even of Paris. We see the Paris of the boulevards, the Champs-Elysees, the first nights at the theatres, the restaurants, and the fashionable shops; the Tout Paris of the gossips of the press, representing, possibly, one per cent. of the population of the French capital! Of the domestic, busy, permanent Paris, which keeps the French capital alive from year to year and from generation to generation—the Paris of industry and of commerce, of the churches, of the charities, of the schools, of the convents—how much do we see? There are a number of prosperous foreign colonies living in London now, most of whose leading members maintain business or social relations, more or less active, with one or another section of the English population of the great British metropolis. Perhaps, if we could get a plain, unvarnished account from some member of one of these colonies, of England and English life as they appear to him and to his compatriots, Englishmen might be as much confounded as I have known very intelligent and well-informed Frenchmen to be, by the notions of French life and of the condition of the French people, really and seriously entertained, not by casual foreign tourists, but by highly educated foreigners who really wished to know the truth.
Not long after the Legislative Elections of 1885, the results of which astonished public men in England at the time as much almost as they did the satellites of the Government in Paris, I met at the house of a friend in London a very eminent English public man, whose name I do not feel quite at liberty to mention, but who is certainly regarded by great numbers of Englishmen as an authority without appeal, not only in regard to questions of English domestic policy, but in regard to European affairs in general. In the course of a general conversation—there were ten or twelve well-known people in the company—this distinguished public man expressed to me his great surprise at the importance which I 'seemed to attach to the religious sentiment in France.'
I assured him that I not only 'seemed' to attach, but did in fact attach very serious importance to it, and I ventured to ask him why this should 'surprise' him.
To this he replied textually—for I noted down the remark afterwards that evening—that he was 'under the impression that the religious sentiment was dead in France!'
'May I ask,' I replied, 'what can possibly have given you such an impression as this?'
'Oh, many things,' he answered with great emphasis, 'but particularly a statement which I saw in a statistical work of much authority, not very long ago, to the effect that there are in France five millions of professed atheists!'
All who heard this amazing assertion were, I think, as completely taken aback by it as I was. Courtesy required that I should beg the distinguished man who made it to give me, if he could, the title of the work in which he had found it. This he promptly replied that he was at the moment unable to do. He, however, very nearly asphyxiated a very quiet and well-bred young Frenchman attached to the French Embassy in London, who was present, by appealing to him on the subject. 'No, no!' exclaimed the alarmed attache, 'I dare say there is such a book, no doubt—no doubt—but I have never heard of it.'
I have never been able to find this valuable work. When I do find it I shall institute a careful inquiry into the reasons which could have led five millions of French persons, or about one-seventh of the whole population of France, to take the pains to register themselves as 'atheists.' Presumably they must all have been adults, as the declaration, on such a subject, of infants, would scarcely, I take it, be collected, even by M. Jules Ferry, as evidence of the success of his great scheme for 'laicising' religion out of France.
Meanwhile, I find it set down in the usual statistical authorities accessible in 1884, that out of the 36,102,021 inhabitants of France, 35,387,703 registered themselves, or were registered, as Catholics, 580,707 as Protestants, 40,439 as Israelites, and 81,951 as 'not professing any form of religion.'
Yet I suppose that, if the eminent public man who saw, as in a vision, these five millions of registered atheists marching to the assault of Christianity in France were to announce their existence as a fact to a large public meeting in some great English provincial city to-morrow, we should have leaders in some of the English journals a day or two afterwards prognosticating the immediately impending downfall of all religion in France. Our modern democracies on both sides of the Atlantic have made such rapid and remarkable progress of late years in the art of forming opinions, that if Isaac Taylor could come back to the earth he left, not so very long ago, he would hardly, I think, recognise the planet.
The fashion of taking it for granted that the whole world is fast going over to the gospel of ganglia and bathybius, of vox populi et praeterea nihil, is not confined to the 'fanatics of impiety' in France. I have heard it seriously stated in a London drawing-room by another public man of repute within the last year, that he believed 'Mr. John Bright and Mr. Gladstone were the last two men who would ever cite the Christian Scriptures as an authority in the House of Commons.'
The uncommonly good English of the Christian Scriptures may perhaps constitute an objection to their free use in addressing popular political assemblies. But, admitting this, I hesitate to accept the statement. That it should have been made however, and made by a man of more than ordinary ability, is perhaps a thing to be noted.
But I revert to France.
As the time drew near for the Legislative elections of 1889, the Republicans in power began to perceive that their methods had not been crowned with absolute success. The awkward corner caused by the enforced resignation of President Grevy had indeed been turned, because the Constitution of the Third Republic provides for the election of the President by the Assembly. But it is one thing to play a successful comedy in the Assembly with the help of what in America is called 'the cohesive power of the public plunder,' and quite another thing to get a satisfactory Chamber of Deputies re-elected by the people of France after four years of irritating and exasperating misrule. Much was expected from the dazzling effect upon the popular mind of the Universal Exposition at Paris—so much, indeed, that I have had the obvious incongruity of selecting for the celebration of the French Revolution by a French Republic the centennial of a year in which no French Republic existed, accounted for to me by a French Republican on the express ground that the legislative elections were fixed for 1889! There may have been some truth in this. For nothing could be more preposterous than the pretext alleged for the selection by the French Government.
This or that thing which occurred at a particular time in a particular year may reasonably be made the occasion of a centennial or a semi-centennial celebration. But how is anybody to fix and celebrate the 'centennial' of a set of notions called 'the principles of 1789'?
In the United States we have celebrated the 'Centennial' of the Declaration of Independence, and the Centennial of the first Inauguration of the first President.
Did the French Government intend to invite the monarchies of Europe to celebrate the destruction by a mob of the Bastille on July 14, 1789? Hardly, I suppose! Or the Convocation of the States-General at Versailles on May 5, 1789? Certainly not—for the States-General were convoked, not under the 'principles of 1789,' but in conformity with an ancient usage and custom of the French monarchy.
What are the 'principles of 1789'?
And why should anybody in or out of France celebrate them?
If by 'the principles of 1789' we are to understand the principles of modern constitutional government—and I know no other intelligible interpretation of the phrase—there is certainly no reason why anybody out of France should particularly concern himself with celebrating the adoption of these principles in France any more than with celebrating the adoption of them in England, or the United States, or Germany, or Spain, or Italy. The principles of modern constitutional government were certainly not intelligently adopted, and certainly not loyally carried out in France, by any of the governments which tumbled over one another in rapid succession in that distracted country between 1789 and 1815. Have they been intelligently adopted and loyally carried out in that distracted country to-day? That is a question, I think, not hastily to be answered!
To ask the people of England, of the United States, of Germany, of Spain, of Italy, to unite in celebrating the principles of modern constitutional government, under the name of the 'principles of 1789,' at Paris, as if the world were indebted to Paris or to France for the discovery, and the promulgation, and the adoption of those principles, was really a piece of presumption which might have been pardoned to the fatuity of the Abbe Sieyes a hundred years ago, but was hardly to have been expected from educated Frenchmen in the year 1889.
This was stated, with great good sense and commendable courtesy towards the French Government responsible for the absurdity, by the Italian Premier, Signor Crispi, in the Chamber of Deputies at Borne, on June 25, 1887.
In reply to an interpellation of Signor Cavalotti, addressed to the then Foreign Minister of Italy, Signor Depretis, as to the intentions of the Italian Government with regard to the Universal Exposition of 1889 at Paris, Signor Crispi, then Minister of the Interior, made a striking speech (Signor Depretis being then ill of the disease of which he eventually died), in which he lucidly and forcibly gave the reasons of the Italian Government for declining to take any official part in the matter. He plainly intimated his conviction (which is the conviction, by the way, of a great many sensible people not premiers of Italy) that the business of Universal Expositions has been possibly overdone. But, without dwelling upon that point, he went on to show that it would be foolish for Italy to isolate herself from the other great powers by taking an official part in this particular 'Universal Exposition.' To the plea of Signor Cavalotti that liberated Italy ought to unite with France to celebrate 'the principles of 1789,' Signor Crispi thus replied; 'I agree with the honourable member that we are sons of 1789. But I must remind him that 1789 was preceded by the glorious English Revolution, and by the great American Revolution, in both of which had been manifested and established the principles which have subsequently prevailed throughout the world.'
Whether the treatment of the Sovereign Pontiff at Rome by the government of United Italy, since 1871, has been entirely consistent with the principles of the 'glorious English Revolution,' or of the 'great American. Revolution,' I need not now consider. But that all the living political doctrines of which intelligent Frenchmen mean to speak when they talk about the 'principles of 1789' are the American political doctrines of 1776, and the English political doctrines of 1688, admits of no question. As to this, Signor Crispi was absolutely right, and it is creditable to him, as an Italian statesman and an Italian patriot, that he should have thus early and publicly declined to attach the liberty and the independence of Italy as a bob to the tail of an electioneering Exposition kite at Paris in 1889. To France and to the French Republics—first, second, and third—Italy owes a good deal less than nothing. To two rulers of France, both of them of Italian blood, the first and third Napoleon, she owes a great deal. But her chief political creditor, and her greatest statesman, Cavour, drew his political doctrines, not from the muddy French pool of the 'principles of 1789,' but from the original fountains of 1776 and 1688. Had Cavour been living in 1887, to answer the interpellation of Signor Cavalotti, he might, perhaps, have defined more sharply than it was given to Signor Crispi to do, the real relations between the French Revolution of 1789 and the national developments of modern Italy. Had the French Revolution of 1789 been left to exhaust itself within the limits of France, it would probably have ended—as the friends of the misguided Duc d'Orleans almost from the first expected to see it end—in the substitution of a comparatively capable for a positively incapable French king upon a constitutional French throne. In that event it would have interested Europe and the world no less, and no more, than the Fronde or the religious wars which came to a close with the coronation of Henry of Navarre. It was the fear of this, unquestionably, which drove the conspirators of the Gironde into forcing a foreign war upon their unfortunate country. The legend of Republican France marching as one man to the Rhine to liberate enslaved Europe has much less foundation in fact than the legend of Itsatsou and the horn of Roland. It is a pity to disturb historical fables which have flowered into immortal verse, but really there was not the slightest occasion, so far as Europe was concerned, for France in 1790 to 'stamp her strong foot and swear she would be free.' M. de Bourgoing's admirable diplomatic history of those days makes this quite clear. No power in Europe objected to her being as free as she liked. On the contrary, England, even in 1792, was both ready and anxious to recognise the insane French republic of that day, and to see the French royal family sent away to Naples or to Madrid.
Pitt was too far-sighted a statesman not to be well aware that the commerce and the colonies of such a French republic were the natural prizes of English common sense and English enterprise. Nor was Austria indisposed to see the House of Bourbon, which had successfully disputed the supremacy of Europe with the Hapsburgs, humiliated and cast down.
The French Revolution became Titanic only when it ceased to be a Revolution and ceased to be French. The magnificent stanzas of Barbier tell the true story of the riderless steed re-bitted, re-bridled, and mounted by the Italian master of mankind, the Caesar for whom the eagle-eyed Catherine of Russia had so quietly waited and looked when the helpless and hopeless orgie of 1789 began. The Past from which he emerged, the Future which he evoked, both loom larger than human in the shadow of that colossal figure. What a silly tinkle, as of pastoral bells in some Rousseau's Devin du Village, have the 'principles of 1789,' when the stage rings again with the stern accents of the conqueror, hectoring the senators of the free and imperial city of Augsburg, for example, on his way to Wagram and to victory twenty years afterwards!
'Your bankers are the channel through which the gold of the eternal enemy of the Continent finds its way to Austria. I have made up my mind that I will give you to some king. To whom I have not yet settled. I will attend to that when I come back from Vienna.'
And, as the faithful record of the Drei Mohren tells us, 'Messieurs the senators withdrew, much mortified, and not at all pleased.'
Nevertheless, when the conqueror kept his word, and having made a king of Bavaria to give them to, gave them to the king of Bavaria, Messieurs the senators, with a suppleness and a docility which would have done credit to Debry (who after proposing, as a republican, to organise 1,200 'tyrannicides' and murder all the kings and emperors of the earth, begged Napoleon to make him a baron), made haste to come and prostrate themselves before the new Bavarian Majesty and to protest that until the fortunate day of his arrival to reign over them they had never known what real happiness was.
If there is one thing more certain than another in human history, it is that but for the English Revolution of 1688 and the American Revolution of 1776 the world in general would know and care to-day very little more about the French 'principles of 1789,' and the French Revolution, and the First French Republic, than the world in general knows or cares to-day about the wars in the Cevennes or the long conflict between the Armagnacs and the Bourguignons.
Napoleon crumpled up the 'principles of 1789' and the Revolution and the Republic in his iron hand, and flung them all together into a corner. He meant that France and the world should think of other things. In 1810 Paganel, who, having been a 'patriot' of the Convention, had naturally become a liveried servant of the Emperor and King, thought he might venture to compose a 'Historical Essay on the French Revolution.' He dedicated it to the Imperial Chancellor of the Legion of Honour, and he wound up his preface with these words: 'And thus at last we see without astonishment, after this long series of errors, misfortunes, and crimes, the Republic disappear, and France implore the Supreme Being to vouchsafe to her the one great and potent genius who in these difficult circumstances was able to lift her up, to defend her, and to govern her!' The heart of Louis XVIII. would have been touched by the grateful humility of this repentant wretch. But the Emperor simply kicked him downstairs. He forbade the book to be published. The whole edition was put under lock and key, and never saw the light till liberty came back to France, with the white nag and the Bourbon lilies, in 1815. Surely here is a fact worth noting!
Had this first history of the French Revolution, written as Paganel, a member of the Revolutionary Convention, wrote it, been published under the First Republic, the author would infallibly have been sent to the guillotine. Writing it under the First Empire he was merely snubbed, despite his fulsome adulation of the Emperor. His book was finally given to the world under the restored historic monarchy in 1818!
In 1811, Chateaubriand, having been elected to succeed Marie-Joseph Chenier, the brother of the republican poet Andre, murdered by the First Republic, as a member of the Institute, prepared a speech on the Convention, to be read before that august body. Napoleon heard of it and, without troubling himself to look at it, forbade it to be delivered. 'It is well for M. de Chateaubriand,' he said, 'that it was suppressed. If he had read it before the Institute, I would have flung him into the bottom of a dungeon, and left him there the rest of his natural life!'
Napoleon knew the First Republic thoroughly. He had measured all its men, and all its records were in his hand. He could not get into or out of his carriage without treading on some incorruptible 'patriot' prostrate between its wheels with a petition for a prefecture, a title or a pension. The crimes and follies of the First Republic had made France and the world sick of its name. Its true story was a tale of shame and humiliation, not fit to be dragged out into the blaze of the glory of Imperial France.
The First Republic was the deadly enemy both of liberty and of law. The conduct of its first envoy to the United States would have justified Washington in locking him up. When a stop was put to his mischievous impertinences, he preferred exile in America to the chance of the guillotine at Paris, and his name died out, I believe, curiously enough, with one of the chief instruments of the notorious Tweed Ring in New York.
The first shots fired in anger under the American flag after the peace of 1783 were fired against cruisers of the French Republic captured in the West Indies by American men-of-war, to put an end to the ignorant and insolent attempt of what called itself a government at Paris to issue letters of marque on American soil against English commerce.
So grateful was France to the Emperor for restoring the reign of law, that she never troubled herself about liberty, and but for the indomitable defence of constitutional liberty and national independence which England maintained, often single-handed, from the rupture of the peace of Amiens to the victory of Waterloo, the very names of the chief actors in the odious and ridiculous dramas of the Revolution would have long since faded, as Napoleon intended they should fade, out of the memory of the masses of mankind.
How little confidence the Government of the Third Republic really felt in the efficacy of the 'principles of 1789,' and of the 'Centennial Exposition,' to save it at the polls in 1889 from the natural consequences of its intolerance and its corruption, was instructively shown by the absolute panic into which it was thrown by the election at Paris of General Boulanger on January 27. Here, at the very threshold of the great electoral year, rose the spectre of the 'man on horseback'!
Certainly General Boulanger was not Napoleon Bonaparte. The Government, which had itself put General Boulanger on horseback, knew the strength and the weakness of the man himself. But it was the legend, not the man, they dreaded. If the French people, or even if Paris, really believed in the legend of Boulanger—and this tremendous vote of January 27 looked very much like it—it mattered little what the real value of the man might be, the legend would make him master of France. That would mean for the Third Republic the fate of the First Republic and of the Second, and for the men who had identified it with their own fanaticism and folly, and greed, and incapacity, a long farewell to all their greatness!
As for the eventual results, what mattered these to them?
The Universal Exposition might collapse, or it might be opened by General Boulanger on his black horse, instead of President Carnot in his landau. What did that signify? But it signified much that the men who had invented President Carnot were not likely to make part of the cortege of General Boulanger.
It is no exaggeration to say that from January 27, 1889, the Government of the Third French Republic was openly and visibly given up by night and by day to one great purpose alone—and that purpose was, not to glorify the 'principles of 1789,' not to celebrate the Republic—the grand statue of the Triumph of the Republic, destined to be set up with great pomp in the sight of the assembled human race, was actually left to be cast in plaster of Paris, no functionary caring to waste a sou on putting it into perennial bronze or enduring marble—no! the great dominant, unconcealed purpose of all the leaders of the Republic was, in some way—no matter how, by hook or by crook—to conjure that spectre of the First Consulate, riding about, awful and imminent, on the black horse of General Boulanger!
Perhaps the high-water mark of this quite unparalleled and most instructive panic was the appearance, towards the end of the last parliamentary session, of M. Jules Ferry, the author of the odious 'Article 7,' the man who after hesitating—to his credit be it said—originally to propose that ministers of religion should be absolutely forbidden to teach the children of France in her public schools, at last succumbed to the vehemence of Paul Bert, the Condorcet of this modern persecution, and became the acknowledged leader of the war against Liberty and Religion—in the tribune of the Deputies, there to urge, and indeed to implore, the Conservative members to make peace with the persecutors, and save them from the peril of Boulanger!
The scene of that day in the Chamber of Deputies was not one to be forgotten. The aspect and the accents of the Republican leader were at times absolutely pathetic with the pathos of unaffected terror. It was difficult to believe, whilst listening to him, that he could really have 'five millions of professed atheists' at his back, encouraging him to extirpate Christianity, root and branch, out of the land of France!
Not less striking, in quite another sense, was the grim and stony silence with which the appeal of the Republican leader was received by the Right, representing, as the Third Republic has chosen to make the Right represent, the Religion, and with the Religion the Liberty, of France.
It reminded me, I am sorry to say, of the way in which a naturally amiable and considerate householder might be expected to listen to the arguments of an adroit and accomplished burglar showing cause why he should be locked into the plate-closet to protect him from the police.
M. Jules Ferry's offer was to suspend the application to certain religious bodies of the interdict fulminated against them by himself and the Republican Government. At last he paused, evidently oppressed by the steady, unresponsive gaze of his hearers.
Then the silence was broken!
'Do you speak for the Government?' called out a fiery deputy of the Right.
M. Jules Ferry hesitated a moment and then replied, 'No! I speak for myself; but there are many who think as I do!'
'You!' came back the hot response. 'You! bah!—you are nothing!'
The real response came later, on September 22, when, in his own town of St.-Die, the chief of the Opportunists, despite all the efforts of the prefect of the department and of the local authorities to carry him through, was beaten by a Monarchist. Obviously M. Ferry had heard how things looked from his committee at St.-Die when he made his fruitless appeal to the Eight in the Chamber!
Finding that nothing was to be expected from any cajolery of the Right, or any transactions with the outraged and awakened Christianity of France, the Government at last gave up the control of the impending elections unreservedly into the hands of M. Constans of Toulouse, of whom I have already spoken. To him, as Minister of the Interior, all the machinery of politics was abandoned. Every prefect in France became an electoral agent to do his bidding.
For the first time too, I believe, even in French administrative history, all the employees of the post-offices and the telegraph offices were transferred from the control of the Director of Posts and Telegraphs to the direct control of the Minister of the Interior.
Under his control they still remain, and it is now proposed to attach these services permanently to the Ministry which manages the elections. Can anybody fail to see what this means?
At the suggestion of M. Constans, too, the Government resolved to attack the spectre. It determined to drive General Boulanger out of France. It is not easy to feel much sympathy with General Boulanger, who while Minister of War put into execution against the Comte de Paris and his family a most iniquitous decree, exiling them—for no other cause than the fact that they come of the family which made France a nation—from their country and their homes. But the proceedings which the Government of President Carnot took against General Boulanger were of such a character that the Procureur de la Republique, who was first directed to carry them out, withdrew from his post. Before they could be consummated by the arrest of General Boulanger, he suddenly left France. Into the subsequent action of the Senate, constituted as a 'High Court of Justice' to try him, I need not here enter.
Suffice it that after a canvass organized in this fashion and in this spirit, and prosecuted by the Government with remorseless energy, the elections held on September 22 and October 6 have left the relative strength of the Government and of the Opposition in the new Chamber substantially what it was in the Chamber of 1885. This, in the circumstances, can only be described, in the language of one of the ablest Republican journalists in Paris, M. Jules Dietz of the Journal des Debats, as 'an escape from a disaster.'
The repulse of the assailants at the Redan did not save Sebastopol for the Russians. The margin of the proclaimed majorities by which many of the Government members of the new Chamber were returned, is so very small as to suggest of itself the pressure, in a very practical and concrete form, of the hand of authority on the returns at the polls. In twenty cases these majorities ranged from 6 to 200 votes.
In one case, in the Seine Inferieure, the details of which were given to me by persons of the highest character, with perfect liberty to use their names, the Government member was declared by the prefect, after two adjournments of the counting, to have been returned by a majority of 173 votes on a total poll, which proved upon examination to very considerably exceed the total number of voters registered in the district!
But, taking the general return of the votes cast at these elections as authentic, it is perfectly plain that the Monarchical party in France is stronger to-day than it was in 1885, and that the Republican party is weaker in France to-day than it was in 1885.
In 1885 the strength of the two parties stood as follows:—
Republicans of all shades 4,377,063 Conservatives and Monarchists 3,608,578 Republican majority 768,485
In 1889 the strength of the two parties stands as follows:—
Conservative Monarchists 3,144,978 Boulangists 629,955 3,774,933
Opportunist Republicans 2,980,540 Radicals 981,809 Socialists 90,593 4,052,542
Republican majority 277,609
Here at once we see a falling off in the Republican majority, between 1885 and 1889, of no less than 490,876 votes. This is certainly significant enough when we remember that in 1885 the Monarchists did not everywhere and openly attack the Republic as a form of government, while in 1889 the issue was admitted on both sides to involve the existence of the Republic as a form of government.
But this is not all.
When we compare the total of the votes cast in 1885 and 1889, we find a diminution of no fewer than 788,821 votes. If this proves anything, it proves that the voters of France care very much less about the stability of the Republic in 1889 than they did in 1885. And this farther appears from the further fact that the falling off in the total of votes cast affected the Republican vote of 1889 much more seriously than it affected the Monarchical vote. Indeed it did not affect the Monarchical vote at all. On the contrary, while there was a positive falling off from the Republican vote of 324,521 between 1885 and 1889, there was a positive increase of the Monarchical vote, between 1885 and 1889, of 166,355.
How is it possible to weigh the meaning of these figures fairly without seeing that a form of government which exists in France only in virtue of a majority which a change of 140,000 votes in a total poll of 7,827,475 would have turned into a minority, can hardly be said to rest upon as firm a basis, for example, as that of the Third Empire, with its plebiscitary majority of seven millions in 1870 responding to its majority of seven millions in 1852?
Take away from the narrow Republican majority of 1889 the public functionaries, high and low, now counted in France by tens of thousands, with all who depend upon and are connected with them; give to the ballot in France the sanctity, freedom, and security which it has in England; compel the public authorities in France to abstain, as they are compelled in England to abstain, from direct interference with the exercise by the voters of the right of suffrage, and the evidence is overwhelming which goes to show that the Third Republic would be voted into limbo to-morrow!
To say this is to say that the Third Republic does not exist in France by the will of the French people; and this I believe to be absolutely true. The Third Republic exists by virtue of the control which its partisans have acquired of the administrative machinery of the Government, or, in other words, by virtue of political corruption and intimidation. So great has been the multiplication of functionaries great and small under the Third Republic, that it is not easy to get at an accurate estimate of their numbers. The best information I have been able to obtain leads me to believe that, exclusive of the military and naval forces, not less than two hundred thousand adult French citizens now draw their subsistence from the public treasury. This represents a population of at least a million of souls, so that we have nearly one in thirty of the inhabitants of France subjected to a direct or indirect pecuniary pressure from the central authorities at Paris. So openly is this pressure exerted under the Third Republic, that the Government of M. Carnot did not hesitate, during the Universal Exposition, and not long before the Legislative Elections began, to bring up no fewer than some thirteen thousand of the mayors of France to Paris at the public expense. There they were entertained—still at the public expense—with a sumptuous hospitality, which proves that, however orthodox the Republican Atheism may be of M. Constans, the Minister of the Interior, he has not yet struck the blessed St. Julian out of his calendar, at least when he is spending the money of the French taxpayers on his guests.
If I may believe what I afterwards heard in more than one provincial town, these worthy mayors (every one of whom, let me observe, exercises a direct personal and official authority over the elections) carried back to his astonished and envious fellow-citizens tales of Arabian, Tunisian, Algerian, and Annamite nights at the Exposition, and on the Champs-Elysees, to which no pen but that of Diderot or of the younger Crebillon could do adequate justice. 'I do not believe the Sultan,' said a clever and amusing lady to me at Toulouse, 'threw open the doors of Paradise so wide to the German Kaiser, at Constantinople, as did our more than liberal M. Constans to the married Mayors of France at Paris!'
On the other hand, at Honfleur, in the Calvados, it came to my knowledge that the local authorities, on the morning of the first Legislative Elections, brought over from another port on the Norman coast, a number of sailors, residents of Honfleur, and entitled to vote there, but absent in the pursuit of their calling. These honest Jack Tars came to Honfleur by the railway, in a kind of brigade, accompanied by a Government agent, who marched them up to the polls, and, having seen their votes safely deposited for the Government candidate, gave each man his return ticket for the next day, and set them all free to spend the interval in the bosom of their astonished and, I hope, delighted families.
From the point of view of the domestic peace of France, this proceeding was perhaps less reprehensible than the Belshazzar's Feast of M. Constans and the thirteen thousand mayors. But from the point of view of the relations between the Third Republic and the deliberate independent electoral will of France, I think it must be admitted that they are, as the people say in the Western States of America, 'very much of a muchness!'
I ought to add that in France the mayors of the chief towns (or chefs-lieux), the arrondissements, and the cantons are nominated by the Government at Paris. The mayors of the communes which owe their corporate freedom to the monarchy are elected, but the Third Republic has taken from them the control of their local taxation for purposes of the highest local interest. I should say also that all the sailors in France are obliged to be inscribed upon lists kept and controlled by the maritime prefects for the Ministry of the Marine, so that their whereabouts may be known or ascertainable at all times.
Americans who understand the institutions of their own country find the true measure of the fitness of a people for self-government in their respect for the authority of a lawful Executive. The fatal mistake has been made by the Third as it was by the First French Republic of confounding respect for a lawful Executive with submission to an Executive controlled by a majority of the Legislature. The fact that the power of the public purse, in a constitutional government, is necessarily confided to the Legislature, makes this mistake fatal—fatal at once to the liberty of the taxpayers who supply the public purse, and of whom the members of the Legislature are simply the agents and trustees, and to the efficiency and integrity of the Executive. I see with much interest, while the sheets of this book are going through the press in London, that this very grave point emerges from a brief correspondence published in the English newspapers between the Chancellor of the British Exchequer, Mr. Goschen, and Lord Lewisham. Lord Lewisham, acting, it would appear, on behalf of a number of English Civil Servants, wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer concerning certain complaints of these servants, embodied in a memorial. In his reply, the Chancellor of the Exchequer alludes to an intimation which seems to have been made by the authors of this memorial of their intention to put a kind of pressure upon the Minister of the Crown through the House of Commons. Upon this Mr. Goschen observes: 'the memorialists should be reminded that their reference to an appeal to their representatives in Parliament, involving, as it would seem, a personal parliamentary canvass to determine the relations between the State and its employes, contemplates a course of action not only injurious to the public interests, but opposed to the best traditions of the Civil Service.'
What the English Chancellor of the Exchequer here most wisely and properly condemns as a mischief a-brewing, has become the jus et norma of 'the relations between the State and its employes' in France under the Third Republic.
The persons charged to execute and enforce the laws in France have come, under the Third Republic, from the President downwards throughout the Civil Service, to regard themselves, and to be regarded by the people, as the mere servants and instruments of the persons deputed by the people to consider what the laws shall be, and to adjust the public taxation to the necessities of the public service. The result necessarily is that the majority of the French Chamber of Deputies under the Third Republic has visibly become an irresponsible oligarchy of a kind most dangerous to liberty and the public weal.
By calling themselves, as they do, the 'party of the appeal to the people,' the French Imperialists show their doubtless well-founded conviction that the masses of the French people are essentially monarchical in their ideas as to the best tenure by which the Executive authority can be held. To believe this, is to believe that the masses of the French people are essentially lovers of order, not of disorder; that they instinctively put the executive above the legislative function in their conceptions of a political hierarchy, and therefore that they are essentially fitted for self-government. In this I am sure the Imperialists are right. But, unfortunately for them, the centralised administrative machinery of government in France by which the French people are now and have for a century past been prevented from governing themselves, though not indeed of Imperial origin, was so developed and perfected by the genius of the first Napoleon as to become identified in a sense with the Napoleonic dynasty.
It is a great misfortune of the French people that all great changes in their political system, no matter how promoted or in what spirit, must be wrought out within the vicious circle of this centralized administrative machinery. The initiative in liberating France from this centralized administrative machinery can only come from within the vicious circle itself. An independent Executive of France made Chief of the State by the popular will, and protected, as the Executive of Great Britain is protected, in the interest of liberty and of the people, by the hereditary principle, might take this initiative and begin the great work of so distributing throughout France the administrative responsibilities and powers now concentrated at Paris as to make the French people for the first time really their own masters.
Certainly no executive holding power by any tenure less independent and secure can ever effect this. That a real basis exists upon which this great work might be carried out in the local life, traditions, ideas and sympathies by which the widely different populations of what used to be known as the different provinces of the Kingdom of France are united among themselves and discriminated from one another, many able and well-informed Frenchmen believe. One of the most hasty and mischievous things done by the infatuated political tinkers of 1790 was to cut and carve up France into arbitrary political departments for the express purpose of disintegrating and destroying those ancient social and political organisms.
This purpose has not been effectually accomplished. What has been accomplished is to superpose upon the ancient organic France another arbitrary and administrative France. This latter arbitrary and administrative France controlled by a legislative oligarchy, which first makes and then uses the French Executive for its own purposes, it is which now calls itself the Third French Republic.
The traits and the tendencies as well as the origin of the Third Republic can be thoroughly studied at Paris. Without Paris the Third Republic never could have existed. It exists now in virtue of the political machinery of which Paris is the centre. That it could not withstand for a day any severe shock given to that machinery was confessed, as I have said, by its own government in the abject panic which followed the victory of General Boulanger at the polls of the capital on January 27, 1889.
The traits and the tendencies of France, on the contrary, must be studied in the provinces. There was always more wit than wisdom in the famous saying of Heine—that to talk about the opinion of the provinces in France was like talking about the opinion of a man's legs—the head being the seat of thought, and Paris being the head. But the saying was uttered during the reign of Louis Philippe, and long before the establishment of universal suffrage by the Second Empire. With universal suffrage and with the development during the past twenty years of the railway and of the telegraphic system throughout France, the importance of the provinces relatively to Paris has greatly and steadily increased. While steam and electricity have, of course, increased the strength of the pressure which an aggressive oligarchy controlling the centralised administrative machinery of the Government at Paris can put upon the opinions and the interests of France, they have also, it must be remembered, increased the power of France to resist and to resent that pressure. They have established return currents, the force of which grows visibly greater every year. The great provincial towns and cities of France, for example, are ceasing to be dependent, as they formerly were, upon the press of Paris for their news and views of which passes in the capital.
There are no such journals yet in any of the French provinces as the powerful newspapers which are to be found throughout the United Kingdom; but there is a steady and very notable growth in the circulation of the more important local journals, and the telegraph brings them the news of the day from Paris long before the Parisian papers can reach their readers. The development of these influences has been checked, and is still checked, by the official control at Paris of the telegraphic system, and it is worth noting here that, just before the legislative elections, the Minister of the Interior, to whom the control of the post office and of the telegraphs had been transferred, caused the telephone offices throughout France to be taken possession of by the officials of the Government, though the negotiations with the private companies owning the telephones for the purchase of them were still incomplete, and though the private owners formally protested against the act.
But though the Government may check and retard, it cannot prevent the development of these influences. France, such as I have found it, full of activity, full of energy, leavened with a genuine leaven of religious faith, irritated by a persistent mockery of the forms of liberty into prizing and demanding the realities of liberty, must grow steadily stronger. The Republic condemned to a policy of persecution and of financial profligacy must grow steadily weaker.
Instead of trying to develop France, or letting France develop herself into a republic, the partisans of a Republic have invented successive republics, each more grotesque and uncomfortable than its predecessor, and insisted on cramming France into them. So far the republics have gone to pieces and France has survived. So intense is her vitality, so tough appears to me to be the old traditional fibre in many parts of the French body politic, that before the great chapter of the Gesta Dei per Francos can be safely assumed to be finally closed, a good many more milliards will have to be spent on that State Establishment of Irreligion and Disestablishment of God which the 'true Republicans' of the Third Republic call 'laicisation.' Long before those milliards can be raised and spent, the Third Republic will come to the bottom I believe, if not of the purse, certainly of the patience, of the French people.
It is already admitted on all hands that so slight a thing as the reappearance of General Boulanger at Paris on September 21, 1889, would have completely reversed the general result of the elections of the next day. The birthday of the First Republic would have been celebrated by the funeral of the Third. The failure of General Boulanger then to reappear may have made an end of General Boulanger, but it certainly did not establish the Republic.
On the contrary, here as we see is the Minister of the Interior, who knows the situation better than any of his colleagues, invalidating election after election in the Chamber of Deputies, and beginning the work of financial reform by demanding an enormous Secret Service Fund to protect the Republic against conspirators!
Sooner or later this tragi-comedy must end. It concerns Europe and the world that it should end sooner rather than later, and that it should end with a pacific restoration of France to her proper place in the family of European States. Surely the most imperious necessity of the immediate future in Europe is a general disarmament. No French Republic can possibly propose or accept such a disarmament. No French Empire even could easily propose or accept such a disarmament. For the Republic and the Empire are jointly though not equally responsible for the humiliations and the disasters of the great Franco-German War. The historic French monarchy, restored through a revision of the existing Constitution by the deliberate will of the French people, might propose such a disarmament with a moral certainty that it would be accepted. Would not England necessarily stand by France in such a proposal? And is it not clear that the refusal of Central Europe to accept such a disarmament so proposed and supported would make that alliance with the Russian Empire, which is impossible to a French republic, both easy and natural with a French monarchy?
I should have visited France to small purpose if I could suppose that such considerations as this will much affect the masses of the French people. Their present Minister of Public Instruction, M. Fallieres, gave his measure of their average enlightenment on such points when he actually called upon the electors of the Lot-et-Garonne in September to vote against M. Cornelis Henry de Witt because a monarchical restoration would 'be followed by a revival of the droits des Seigneurs, and—by a Cossack invasion!'
But there are many men in France alive to such considerations as this, and these men have many ways of reaching and influencing the political action of the masses of their countrymen.
Such men see the vital relations of the diplomatic position of France to the grave domestic question of the public expenses. It is difficult to ascertain the actual cost of the military establishment of France on its present footing of an armed peace. But French officers of rank assure me that France is now keeping under arms at least 550,000 men, or more than one in seven of her adult male population available for national defence. 'We have more men under arms than Germany,' said a French general to me at Marseilles, 'which is absurd, because the German army for fighting purposes, in case of any sudden trouble with us, includes the armies of Austria, Hungary and Italy—so Germany saves money on her peace footing which we idly expend on ours.' What this officer did not say to me has been said by many other well-informed Frenchmen, that the recent military legislation of the parliamentary majority is demoralising this great military force and threatens its efficiency. The prominent position taken in the new Chamber since it assembled by M. Raynal, a Radical member for the Gironde who held the portfolio of Public Works under M. Gambetta in 1880 and again under M. Jules Ferry, is not of good omen for the army. It was M. Raynal who brought about the fall of General Gresley as Minister of War by an 'interpellation,' founded on the refusal of the War Minister to remove an officer of the Territorial Army because he was a monarchist. And now M. Raynal appears with a project for more effectually establishing the domination of the parliamentary majority by giving it the right to adjourn once a week for six successive weeks, all debates on any 'interpellation' to which the Government may object on 'grounds of public policy!'
While the costly army of France is at the mercy of legislation under such conditions, the navy of France is managed, as appears from a drastic report presented some time ago by M. Gerville-Reache, an able Republican deputy from Guadeloupe, with at least as much regard to politics as to economy. M. Gerville-Reache showed that contracts were given out so recklessly that a supply of canned provisions, for example, had been laid in at Cherbourg sufficient for five years! At other stations supplies of all kinds were bought at prices ranging far above the market rates, and circulars were produced in which successive Ministers of Marine had ordered the commandants at different naval stations to 'expend every sou in their possession' on no matter what, 'before the expiration of the fiscal year, as any excess remaining in their hands would not only be lost to the Ministry by being ordered back into the Treasury, but would allow opportunities for impugning the forecast and judgment of the ministers!' Under such a system it is not surprising that Admiral Krantz, one of the best naval administrators France possesses, should have been forced to withdraw from the Tirard Government to satisfy a political Under-Secretary, M. Etienne.
Is it possible that in the actual condition of France and of Europe such a system as this should last?
If France drifts or is driven into a great European war, one of two things would seem to be inevitable. If the French armies are victorious, the general who commands them and restores the military prestige of France will be the master of the government and of the country. If the French armies are defeated, the Government will disappear in a whirlwind of national rage and despair. 'In that event,' said a Republican Senator to me, 'in that event—which I will not contemplate—the princes of the House of France would be recalled instantly and by acclamation; we should have nothing left but that or anarchy.'
But putting aside the crisis of a great war, what other alternatives present themselves as the possible issues in peace of the system now dominant at Paris?
Of what weight or avail in the policy of the parliamentary oligarchy which calls itself the Third Republic are the counsels of men like M. Leon Renault, M. Jules Simon, M. Ribot, M. Leon Say, who have tried in vain to constitute in France the Conservative Republic of M. Thiers? M. Leon Say left his seat in the Senate before the recent elections and presented himself in the Pyrenees as a candidate for the Chamber, with the well-understood expectation of finding himself eventually put into the presidency of that body. This was to be a guarantee of the Conservative Republic!
Who actually fills that most important post?
M. Floquet, who first distinguished himself under the Empire by publicly insulting the Emperor of Russia in the Palais de Justice during the visit of that potentate to Paris, and who resigned his seat as a deputy for the Seine in March 1871 to share 'the perils and sufferings,' as he put it, of his constituents, the Communards of Paris! For this M. Floquet was arrested at Biarritz and locked up at Paris till the end of the year 1871.
How can France hope to find liberty within her own borders, or peace with honour abroad, under the domination of such men?
On December 19, 1888, during a discussion of the budget of 1890 in the French Senate, M. Challemel-Lacour, a Republican of the Republicans, who actually allowed the red flag to be hoisted instead of the tricolour on the Hotel de Ville of Lyons while he was prefect of the Rhone, and who represented the Republic for a time as Ambassador in London, made a remarkable speech, in which he warned his colleagues of the fate which they were preparing for the Republic. He is one of the three Senators of the Bouches-du-Rhone, and one of the four Vice-Presidents of a body now controlled by the Government, and therefore virtually by the majority of the Chamber of Deputies. He is more than this. An elaborate speech of his, delivered in the Assembly on September 4, 1874, in which he denied the 'right to teach' as threatening the 'moral unity of France,' was the signal of the deliberate war against all religion afterwards proclaimed by M. Gambetta, and since prosecuted by M. Jules Ferry. Out of that speech grew the policy of the Third Republic. Yet what did he say in 1888? He plainly declared his belief that the policy of the Government was driving the Republic headlong to its ruin. He spoke as a Republican, passionately reaffirming his faith in the Republic, and his desire to see it solidly founded in France. 'I conjure you, therefore,' he said, 'to take order, that the Republic may once more become the reign of law; that all may be protected in their persons, in their property, in their faith, not only against disorder in the streets, but against moral disorder, moral anarchy, defamation, calumny, against the fury of an unbridled, uncontrolled, irresponsible press. It is time to arrest the threatening ruin which must affect the humblest lives, if our sad fate be to witness the catastrophe of liberty!'
M. Challemel-Lacour is an orator. The Senate was shaken and roused by his earnest appeal. A motion was made that his speech be ordered to be printed and posted on the walls of Paris. But the night came, and with the night the pressure of the powers indicted by the speech, and so no more was heard of it, and the budget of 1890 was voted by the outgoing Chamber, and the incoming Chamber has re-established in it a Secret Service Fund of 1,600,000 francs for the Minister of the Interior—and the work of 'invalidating' the elections of troublesome deputies goes merrily on, and in the remote valleys and hills of France poor village curates are mulcted of half their humble stipends for the offence of calling upon their parishioners to vote for the candidates who do not attack their religion.
From this intolerable position there are two obvious ways of escape. One is the familiar Parisian way of the barricades. That way is not likely to be tried in the interest of liberty or of law. The other is the way which France sought to adopt in the recent elections, of a deliberate Revision of the Constitution, now hopelessly perverted into the instrument of a parliamentary oligarchy. The actual Government has just prevented a Revision in the interest of a Republican Dictator, which after all must have been more or less a leap in the dark out of a window.
As between the only available window and the only available doorway of a dwelling in flames, it is intelligible that an emotional inmate, with the smell of the fire on his garments, should make for the window. But, the window being barred, what should restrain him from walking rationally out of the doorway? Any one of a dozen possible emergencies may compel a Revision of the Constitution—and any Revision of the Constitution now must mean either a Radical revolution, or a restoration of the hereditary Executive. Either of these would be a doorway; for France would know whither either of these must lead. M. Thiers, it is said by persons who ought to be well informed, might have led France thus out of a doorway in 1871, and into a restoration of the Monarchy. M. Thiers was an exceedingly able man, but it is hard to see how he could then have gone about to achieve this result. France in 1871 was still a conquered country occupied by the German armies. The Third Napoleon and his son were both then living. The Comte de Chambord was then in the strength of his years. The Comte de Paris had not then taken the steps which he afterwards took with so much wisdom and moral courage, to make an end of the rupture between Henri V. and the House of Orleans.
The situation now is materially changed. The Imperialists are divided between Jerome the father and Victor the son. The Royalists are united. The France of Henri IV. and of Charles X. is represented to-day by the grandson of Louis Philippe. The vox Dei and the vox Populi meet in him as they met in the Prince of Orange when England, forty years after the criminal catastrophe of 1649, was driven by the flight of James II. into seating William and Mary, the grandson and the granddaughter of Charles I., upon the abdicated throne.
How can an independent Executive ever be restored in France excepting in the person of Philippe VII.? Had the Revolution of 1830 never occurred he would now by the ancient law of succession be King of France and Navarre. Had the Revolution of 1848 never occurred he would now be King of the French under the Charter. If the era of revolutions is ever to be closed in France, must it not be by an Executive who shall be at once King of France and King of the French—King of France, as representing the historic growth into greatness and unity of the French nation; King of the French, as representing the personal liberties and the private rights of every citizen of the French commonwealth?
* * * * *
FRANCE AND THE REPUBLIC
IN THE PAS-DE-CALAIS
The men who, in 1790, brought about the formal division of France into departments, no doubt thereby facilitated the ephemeral transformation, in September 1792, of the ancient French monarchy into a French republic, 'one and indivisible.' But they also put their improvised republic thereby at the mercy of the marvellous Italian who blew its flimsy framework into shreds with his cannon in October 1795.
In working out what George Sand calls 'the great practical joke' of the First Consulate, and the formidable reality of the Empire, Napoleon found, ready-fashioned to his hand and undamaged by the republican tinkers, a system of administration essentially despotic. This system did for him what Charlemagne did for himself when he got rid of the tribal dukes of the Merovingian epoch, and, as Gneist and Sir Robert Morier have shown, gathered into his own control the four unities which make up the unity of the State—the military, the police, the judiciary, and the finances. The counts of Charlemagne, removable at his pleasure, with no root in their comitatus save his sovereign will, were the true prototypes of the modern French prefect. If the old provinces of France, which had a local life, organisation, and spirit of their own, had been taken as the units of government in 1790, the monarchy perhaps might hardly have been abolished in 1792 by a Convention so headlong and tumultuous that for one day it actually forgot, after abolishing the monarchy, to establish any government in its place.
But if a republic had been founded through the action of the provinces of France, it would probably have been harder for Napoleon to make an end of it, than it was for Charlemagne to dispense with the recognition of local rights to which the Merovingian kings had submitted in the appointment of their hereditary subreguli, from among the local magnates of the shires. This, it seems to me, may be inferred from the fact, admitted on all hands in France, that the departments remain to-day what they were at first—mere administrative divisions which have taken no hold on the feelings and sympathies of the people, while the 'local patriotism' of the provinces is still a vivid reality.
Frenchmen are still Gascons and Provencals, Bretons and Normans, Burgundians and Picards, and no country in the world is richer than France in local histories and chronicles. But so late as 1877 the local history of the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, in which I am now writing, could be described as 'unique in France,' and this local history is really a history, not of the department at all, but of the two important and interesting provinces of which it consists—Artois, namely, and the Boulonnais—each of which still preserves, after nearly a century, its own distinctive character in the physiognomy of the people, in their habits, their turn of mind, and their traditions. The attempt to fuse them into a new political entity has completely failed. No more has, apparently, come of it, locally, than would have come of an attempt to fuse Massachusetts and Rhode Island into a Department of Martha's Vineyard, or Kent and Sussex into a Department of New Haven. Possibly even less. For Artois and the Boulonnais never passed definitely under the French crown until the middle of the seventeenth century. Even Calais, after the Duke of Guise had wrested it from England, was conquered for Spain by the Archduke Albert, and a smiling little agricultural commune alone now commemorates, in its name of Therouanne, the once great and flourishing episcopal capital of Morinia in which Clodion began the French monarchy, and which was mercilessly razed to the ground and abolished from off the face of the earth, little more than three hundred years ago, by the victorious emperor Charles the Fifth.
Of this artificial department Calais is neither the chief town nor capital. It has scarcely a third of the population of Boulogne, and not much more than half the population of Arras, which is the seat of the prefecture; and though it is by no means so dreary and uninteresting a place as the casual traveller, seeing only the landing-pier, and the new station, which bears the name of the heroic Eustache de St.-Pierre, is apt to take it to be, it cannot compare, in point of beauty and interest, either with Boulogne or with Arras. But as the French head of the great historic ferry between England and the Continent, and as the seat of sundry thriving factories, it is both a busy and prosperous town. I found its streets swarming with people and its houses a flutter of flags and banners, when I came to it on June 3, 1889, to see the 'inauguration,' by President Carnot, of the works on which the French Government has been spending millions of francs during the past decade, with an eye to deepening and enlarging the harbour. The weather was magnificent. Several men-of-war of the Channel squadron lay off the port. Excursion steamers came in from England, bringing members of Parliament and miscellaneous British subjects, of the sort once indignantly denounced to me by the little old verger of a Midland cathedral as 'them terrible trippers.' The active and good-natured railway porters at the station were worn out with throngs of travellers pouring in from all the country round about. There was much animation everywhere, but nowhere any enthusiasm, though Calais, I suppose, must be a republican town, as at the election of a deputy, held here in 1886, the Government candidate, M. Camescasse, received 5,196 votes against 2,233 given to his Conservative opponent, M. Labitte. I am told, too, there is a good deal of Socialism among the factory workmen; and I can see that the place is full of cabarets and debits, flowing not only with light beer and sour wine, but with spirits of a sort to make the consumers more clamorous about the rights than solicitous about the duties of man.
I heard, in the course of the day, that at some points in his progress, the President was received with cries of 'Vive Boulanger!' but nothing of this sort passed under my own observation. What most struck me was that his presence appeared to be not an event at all, but merely an incident of a general holiday. Nor did the people seem to care much about the real event of the day, the 'inauguration' of the perfected port. Perhaps they knew that the port is not yet perfected. Those of them who went down to the pier at least knew, this—for a steamer of no very great size, the St.-Andre, I believe, trying to come in, grounded on the sand, and lay there thumping herself heavily for I know not how long. I heard this mishap described with much glee by a group of Boulonnais in the main street. 'Ah bah!' said one of them exultingly, 'they may spend what they like, Calais will never be Boulogne!'
I breakfasted with a friend who lives much on a property he has in Picardy, and who came down to Calais to meet me. When I first knew him, years ago, he was a republican of the type of Cavaignac and a bitter enemy of the Empire, some of his kinsfolk in the Gironde having been ill-treated during the persecution which raged against the republicans and the royalists alike, in and around Bordeaux, after the coup d'etat of the Prince President. Of later years he has been growing indifferent to public affairs, and is now, I think, simply a pessimist, whom nothing but a foreign invasion of France is likely to rouse into activity again.
'What is the matter with the people here?' I asked him. 'Are they Boulangists, or do they simply dislike Carnot?'
'No!' he replied, 'I don't think they care much about Boulanger, and why should they dislike Carnot? There is nothing in him to like or to dislike. He is not a personality. He is only a functionary, and Frenchmen care nothing about functionaries. They know that this is an electoral job, and they care nothing about it, one way or the other.'
'But I saw an inscription on a banner in one of the streets,' I said, 'to this effect: "Calais always faithful to the Carnots!" Does that mean that the Carnots are of this country?'
'Not at all! The grandfather of Carnot was born in Burgundy somewhere. He married a young lady of St.-Omer, and in that way came to be sent by the Pas-de-Calais to the "Legislative" and the Convention. The inscription is amusing though,' he added, 'for, like these other inscriptions reciting the names of Lazare Carnot, and Hippolyte Carnot, and Sadi Carnot, it shows how hard some people are trying to work the President up into a personality. They want to make him out the heir of a dynasty—Carnot III.!'
'That is not a very republican way of looking at a President,' I observed.
'Possibly not, but it is a very French way of looking at one! We should be the most monarchical people in Europe if we were not the most anarchical. Give a public man a legend and a grandfather, and he can go a long way with us. I don't know that the grandfather will do without the legend, even when, as in this case, the grandfather has a legend of his own.'
'Is that legend of grandfather Carnot very strong in this region?' I asked.
'Neither in this region nor anywhere else,' he replied. 'I think it is very foolish of the managers in Paris to provoke comparisons by sending a political bagman to Germany to bring back the ashes of Papa Victory, as the Prince de Joinville brought back the dead Emperor from St. Helena. Carnot I., after all, was simply a good war minister, who loomed into greatness only in comparison with the rogue Pache and the phenomenal booby Bouchotte who preceded him. He was certainly no better than his successor Petiet, and it was Petiet, not he, who finally "organised victory" by sending Moreau to the Rhine, and Bonaparte to Italy. Napoleon, who knew them both, made Petiet governor of Lombardy, and chose him, not Carnot, to organise the great camp at Boulogne. When Petiet died, not long after Austerlitz, Napoleon gave him a much grander funeral in the Pantheon than can be got up now for the grandfather of Carnot. Most people have forgotten Petiet, and it is a blunder to remind them of him. But this is a government of blunderers. See what trouble the Ferrys and the Freycinets are taking to unmake the legend Clemenceau made for Boulanger! Do what they may, that black horse is worth more to Boulanger to-day than Carnot's grandfather ever will be to Carnot III.'