'Here,' said the Avis, 'is the true cause of the prostration of our rural interests.' They proposed to apply a remedy by recasting the representation in the Provincial Estates, and giving 'two deputies out of three to the rural population.'
This having been done, so that agriculture might get in Artois the voice which the author of the Avis believed it to have in England, they then proposed a reconstruction of the system of taxation. On this point they inclined to adopt, from the South of France, the system of paying the taxes not in money but in kind. The system of the tithes, too, needed a complete overhauling, not with the mere object of abolishing the tithes, but in order that the gross inequalities which the Avis sets forth as existing, in regard to the impact of the tithes, both territorial and personal, might be done away with, and the support of religion put upon a sound basis. This led naturally to a demand for the release of great areas of valuable soil in Artois from the control of religious communities, like the Abbey of St.-Waast, not a few of which were no longer in a condition to put these possessions to the best uses, either for the Church or for the country. In Artois, as in French Flanders, the extent of these ecclesiastical domains which had once been an advantage to the people, is admitted to have become disadvantageous to French agriculture with the decline of the feudal aristocracy and the growth of the royal power. Short leases only were granted in general by the Church and the monasteries, and under these short leases the farmers hesitated to improve their holdings.
The authors of the Avis desire that it may be made possible to obtain leases of even twenty-five years which should not be treated by the Treasury as an 'alienation' of the property leased. With such leases, they say, 'the farmer would not hesitate to lay out money upon his land, because he would feel sure of getting the benefit of the outlay. This,' they add, 'is one of the principal means which the English Government has employed in bringing agriculture to the state of perfection in which we now see it in that monarchy.'
As the greater part of the cahiers of grievances prepared by the Tiers-Etat of Artois for the States-General of 1789 have been lost, this Avis is of great value, as setting before us the real objects of that order in Artois. The cahiers of the Artesian noblesse and the clergy for the States-General are all preserved, and in respect of the general objects to be aimed at in the States-General, these cahiers go much farther than the Avis. They seem to show that in Artois, as throughout the kingdom, the noblesse and the clergy were much more enamoured of what are now called the 'principles of 1789' than were the body of the agricultural population.
The noblesse and the clergy of Artois wished to see the States-General called at regular intervals, like the English Parliament. They wished the Provincial Estates to be maintained and to be convened annually, and they wished a provincial administration to be established under a system which should give the Tiers-Etat a representation equal to that of both the other orders united, and in which decisions should be reached not by a vote of the orders collectively, but by the members of the whole body voting individually, so that a measure as to which all the members for the Tiers-Etat should be of one mind, might at any time be carried if they could secure the adhesion of even a small number of the members from either of the other orders. Clearly it was not necessary, in the case of Artois, that the Tiers-Etat should be declared to be 'everything,' in order that justice might there be done to the wishes and the interests of the Tiers-Etat! And if not in the case of Artois, why in the case of any other French province?
The Avis shows that in Artois before 1789 the representatives of the Tiers-Etat had confidence in the liberality and the common sense of the noblesse and of the clergy, and that they were disposed to consider all the abuses there needing reformation in the spirit of practical compromise which had presided over and made possible the development of liberty and of progress in Holland and in England, but of which no traces are to be found in the chaotic history of the 'National Assembly' of 1789. The authors of the Avis, for example, point out, in dealing with the questions of the tithes and of the seignorial dues in Artois, that it is the unequal and irregular impact, above all, of those impositions to which most of the evils flowing from them must be imputed; the ill-feeling they engender between the farmer and his landlord or his pastor, the bad blood they breed between the different orders. If the charges of one sort and another upon one field of a farmer's holding amounted, as was sometimes the case, to one-fifth of the value of the crop, while upon other fields of his holding the charges amounted to no more than one-thirtieth of the value of the crop, the farmer not unnaturally gave his chief care to the fields which were least heavily encumbered, without much troubling himself as to their agricultural merits relatively to the other fields.
But while the authors of the Avis earnestly desired to see all this changed, and called for the most complete revision and re-organisation of the agricultural system in Artois, they raised no philosophical clamour against privileges as privileges, and they had sense enough to see that no community could afford to bring about the abolition of the most obnoxious 'privileges' at the cost of any flagrant violations of the Rights of Property. 'Whatever may have been the origin of these rights,' say the authors of the Avis, 'their antiquity has made them property to be respected in the hands of those who possess it. To deprive these owners of these rights would be an injustice and an act of violence of which no citizen can possibly dream. The privileged orders must be asked to divest themselves of their privileges.'
Here is a recognition of 'vested interests' for which we may look in vain from the motley mob of the 'National Assembly' into which the States-General of 1789 so rapidly resolved, or—to speak more exactly—dissolved, themselves! With men of the Tiers-Etat, in a province like Artois, who could see things so plainly and state them so fairly before the convocation of the States-General, what became the French Revolution, plunging the whole realm into anarchy, might surely have been made a reasonable and orderly evolution of liberty. Such a document goes a good way in support of the contention that with ordinary firmness, consistency, and courage on the part of the luckless Louis XVI., the convocation of the States-General in 1789, instead of leading France, as it actually led her, through a quagmire of blood and rapine, into what George Sand felicitously called the 'merciless practical joke of the Consulate,' and the stern reality of the despotic First Empire, might easily have resulted in converting the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV. into such a limited and constitutional monarchy as France really enjoyed under Louis XVIII. The pathway to the Inferno of the Terror was really paved with the good intentions of the king.
Beyond St.-Waast lies the considerable town of St.-Amand-aux-Eaux, to which General Dumouriez transferred himself, on the pretence of taking the waters there, while he was working out his plans for saving France by marching on Paris and upsetting the Assembly. The plans miscarried mainly through his own fault, but it is a curious vindication of the patriotism of Dumouriez in making them that, while he was explaining to the lunatics in Paris, in January 1793, the absurdity of attempting to overthrow the English power in India, and the German empire in Europe, before feeding and clothing their armies on the frontier, de Beurnonville, whom Dumouriez was destined to seize and arrest at St.-Amand, was himself writing from the headquarters at Sarrelouis to Cochon Lapparent at Paris that everything was going to the dogs, and that the Government was mad about chimeras. 'We think of nothing,' he said, 'but giving liberty to people who don't ask us to do it, and with all the will in the world to be free ourselves, we don't know how to be!'
St.-Amand now has a population of ten or twelve thousand souls. Part of the Anzin property lies within the communal limits, but the place is a busy place and has industries of its own. It is connected with Anzin and with Valenciennes by a steam tramway, and I went there with M. Guary one fine summer morning to see what is left of the once magnificent Benedictine monastery of the seventeenth century, which was the great feature of St.-Amand a hundred years ago. A picture preserved in the collection at Valenciennes gives a fair notion of the extent and magnificence of the abbey, the demolition of which has been going on from 1793 to this day. M. Guary remembers the stately ruins as much more extensive in his youth than they now are, and as the good people of St.-Amand have very recently allowed the local architect to put up, under the very shadow of the exquisitely beautiful belfry still standing, one of the most dismal and commonplace brick school-houses I have seen in France, it is to be presumed that a few more years will see everything pulled down, and replaced, perhaps, by a miniature reproduction in steel and iron of the Eiffel Tower.
Before the deviltries of 1789 began, the marketplace of St.-Amand must have been one of the most picturesque in Northern Europe. The market is still held there, and the place was full when we crossed it of peasant women and peasants, carts laden with vegetables, tables set out with all manner of utensils, with fruits, with knicknacks. All was bustle and animation. It was the old picture, save for the uncomely modifications of our modern costume. But of the splendid architectural frame in which that picture once was set, how little now is left!
Beside the lofty belfry, one of the most graceful seventeenth-century buildings now to be anywhere seen, a few arches of one of the cloisters and one of the great abbatial gatehouses converted into a town-hall! The Vandal Directory of Chauny dealt more rationally with Premontre than the 'patriots' of St.-Amand with their superb abbey. Had they preserved it, their town would now have possessed not only an architectural monument of interest and importance, but ample space and the best possible 'installations' for all its public uses and offices.
Like all the Benedictine abbeys, St.-Amand was a home of letters and of arts. What remains of its noble library is to be found, as I have said, in the collection at Valenciennes. Of the treasury which the abbey contained in the way of sculpture, painting, brass and iron work, carving in wood, no such account can be given. Such of these as escaped destruction were looted, sold, and dispersed. There is a tradition, well or ill-founded, that some exceedingly fine sixteenth-century monuments executed by Guyot de Beaugrant, the sculptor of the matchless chimney-piece which, in the Chambre Echevinale at Bruges, commemorates the expulsion of the French under Francis I. from Flanders, were brought here and set up in the abbey. If so, no trace of them remains. In the gatehouse, of which the local authorities have taken possession, a few fine old books, relics of the abbatial library, are still kept, and the vaulted chapter-room on the upper floor, used now as a council chamber, contains four interesting dessus de porte painted here by Watteau. The subjects are scriptural, of course; but as, in spite of all her efforts, the obliging damsel who acted as our cicerone could not possibly manage the blinds and sashes of the lofty window in the octagonal room which they adorn, it was impossible to make out to what period of the artist's career they belong. Upon one of them—the 'Woman taken in Adultery'—we got light enough thrown to show that its colouring is admirable. It can hardly have been painted while Watteau was at work in Paris on his endless reproductions of the then popular St.-Nicholas, but must probably have been executed after his study of Rubens in the Luxembourg, and his failure to win the first prize at Rome had opened to him his true path to fame, and carried him into the French Academy of Fine Arts as 'the painter of festivals and of gallantry.'
The fine old church of St.-Amand has fared better than the abbey. It has been judiciously restored, and the third Napoleon made it an historical monument. Despite the Radicalism of the place, we found it thronged with people of both sexes—the men, indeed, almost in a majority—attending a high mass. It was rather startling, as we emerged from this service on our way back to Anzin, to come upon a large cabaret which bore for its sign the words, in glaring gilt letters, 'Au Nouveau Bethlehem, Estaminet Barbes.' Whether this is the conventicle of a sect of believers in the revolutionary Barbes I could not learn. But it is just possible that the Barbes, whom it celebrates, may be the enterprising proprietor of the place, and that the sacred name he has given it is a relic of that familiar use of holy things which never scandalised the good people of the Middle Ages, particularly in Flanders and in France. Does not the best old inn in the comfortable town of Chalons-sur-Marne to this day bear the name of 'La Haute Mere de Dieu'?
I have already said that the miners of Anzin have been practically enjoying all the advantages of co-operation, while the 'true Republicans' of M. Doumer have been 'studying' and going to sleep over that 'beautiful and generous idea.' As a matter of fact, the 'Co-operative Society of the Anzin Miners,' now known in commerce as 'Leon Lemaire et Cie of Anzin,' was founded, I find, even before the Co-operative Association of the Glass-workers at St.-Gobain.
It was organised in 1865, two years before the passage of the Imperial law affecting co-operation.
M. Casimir Perier, a son of the Minister of Louis Philippe, and the father of the present Republican deputy of the same name, was then a director of the Anzin Company. He had seen what M. Doumer fantastically imagines to be the purely French and republican 'idea' of co-operation carried out in England, the 'beautiful and generous idea,' as even every French schoolboy ought to know, being of English and not of French origin.
M. Perier had been particularly struck by the great success of the Rochdale experiment—an experiment begun and carried out, as Mr. Holyoake has set forth at length, by weavers, who, being nearly at the end of their tether, and worn out with distress, had associated themselves into a company under the name of the 'Equitable Pioneers of Rochdale.' He looked thoroughly into the history of this experiment, and having convinced himself that the 'beautiful and generous' idea might bear as good fruit at Anzin as at Rochdale, he went to work in earnest, got the society organised, accepted the honorary chairmanship of it, and set it on its feet on February 21, 1865. M. Cochin took the same matter up at St.-Gobain, and in 1867 the Imperial law, about which M. Doumer and his 'true Republicans' have been cackling and dabbling for ten consecutive years, was enacted, and the co-operative associations became legally constituted bodies. The statutes which now govern the Anzin Association were adopted on December 8, 1867, and the Association was formally launched.
The authorities at first could not be made to understand that a co-operative association was not a mercantile speculation, and for some time the Anzin Association was compelled to pay a regular fee for a licence, or 'patent,' as it is called in France. This exaction, however, was long ago given up.
Under the original statutes the profits derived from the sale to the members of the Association, and to them only (a rule never departed from), of all the goods purchased by the Association, were to be divided into a hundred parts. Of these, seventy parts were to be distributed at the end of each year to the members, proportionally to the sales and deliveries made to each of them. Twenty parts were to be set aside for a reserve fund; and the remaining ten parts were to be used by the governing committee chiefly in paying the salaries of the manager and employees of the Association.
Such was the success from the outset of the Anzin experiment that within six years, at a general meeting held on April 24, 1872, the Association adopted a resolution suspending the payment over into the reserve fund of the twenty parts of the profits set aside to be so paid, and ordering these twenty parts also to be paid over to the members semi-annually. The reserve fund had already reached proportions which made it unnecessary and even undesirable to increase it.
The Association was originally constituted for a term of twenty years, from December 10, 1867. At a general meeting held on March 27, 1887, its life was prolonged for another twenty years, or to December 10, 1907.
It might edify M. Doumer as to the nationality of the 'beautiful and generous' idea which his 'true Republicans' find it so difficult to 'study,' if he would take the trouble to visit this Anzin region. He would find the establishments of the Association currently known by the English name of 'stores.' I found one of them flourishing in every commune which I visited in the vicinity of Anzin; at St.-Waast, where the experiment was first made, at Denain, where during the past year it has been found necessary to establish two stores instead of one—at Anzin, at Fresnes, at Thiers, at Abscon, at Vieux-Conde! The Association, indeed, which began in 1865 with fifty-one members and a subscribed capital of 2,150 francs, now conducts no fewer than fifteen 'stores,' and now consists of no fewer than 3,118 families.
The capital of the Association, originally fixed at 30,000 francs, in 600 shares of fifty francs each, was increased by a vote of a general meeting in April 1882 to 250,000 francs. The 'firm-name' is now 'Lemaire and Company,' the present manager being M. Leon Lemaire, who can use this 'firm-name' only for the affairs of the Association. The manager (or gerant) is elected at a general meeting to serve for three years, but he is always re-eligible. His salary is fixed by the governing committee, and the amount of it is charged to the general expenses. The governing committee has power also to present the manager, if it thinks proper, with a certain sum each year taken from the ten parts of the profits which are set apart by the statutes of the Association to be used for such purposes by the Committee. All the persons employed by the Association in various capacities are taken, as far as is found compatible with the interests of the business, from among the families of the members. This is particularly the case with regard to the young girls, of whom forty-eight are now employed in the different drapery and mercery stores, and an excellent practice has been adopted of calling in a certain number of girls when there is a special pressure of business to serve for a short period, these girls being regularly registered, and thus constituting a sort of reserve corps, from which the permanent employees are taken as vacancies are made.
The operations of the Association cover all manner of commodities excepting butcher's meat, it having been found that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of dealing in butcher's meat over so wide an area. These difficulties do not exist in the case of what the French call charcuterie. A central pork butchery has been established just outside the octroi at Anzin, and the business done in that line now averages about 30,000 kilogrammes a year, the difference per kilogramme between the buying and the selling prices averaging about eighteen francs. It is the iron rule of the Association never to sell at a figure beyond the average ruling retail prices in the shops, it being quite clear that if it should now and then be necessary, in order to cover the Association, to sell at prices equivalent with the shop prices, the members would still have a real advantage in the eventual distribution of the profits.
It is impossible to examine the statutes, and the rules adopted under them, without being struck by the precision, clearness, and efficiency of the methods prescribed to keep the accountability of all the different agents of the Association within easily definable limits, and to simplify, in the final adjustment, the necessarily complicated accounts of so many stores dealing with customers many of whom must, from the force of circumstances, be allowed a credit of a fortnight as cash. The proof of all such methods, of course, is the net result. In the case of the Co-operative Association of Anzin this proof is conclusive in favour both of the methods and of the men by whom they have for now more than twenty years been administered.
The operations of the Association for the first semester of its existence closed on February 22, 1866, with sales amounting to 71,020 fr. 10 c., and with the payment to the members of an 8 per cent. dividend, amounting in all to 8,228 francs. From that day to this, the semi-annual dividend has never fallen below eight per cent., excepting for the half-year ending August 22, 1868, when it was declared at 7-1/2 per cent. By August 1872 it readied 12 per cent. and stood there for three semesters. It then fell to 10 per cent., and stood there from February 28, 1874, to August 28, 1878, when it rose to 11. By August 31, 1879, it rose to 12, and by February 29, 1884, to 13 per cent., at which figure it has stood ever since down to February 28, 1889, with two exceptions—August 31, 1884, when it rose to 14, and February 28, 1887, when it fell to 12-1/4.
The total amount of sales made to the members between February 1866 and February 1889 was 38,864,999 francs; and the total amount of dividends paid to the members during that period has been 4,585,557 fr. 69 c., showing an average dividend during these twenty-three years of 11.80 per cent.
It appears to me that this is a very good account rendered of a very good stewardship, and involves, for the workmen interested, a number of useful practical lessons on the true relations of capital to labour, including the relations of their own capital to their own labour. There are now about 800 Co-operative Associations of Consumers in France; but the Anzin Association is by far the most important of them all. As the existing associations are estimated to consist on an average of 550 members each, we have 440,000 heads of families, and a total presumable population, therefore, of not far from 2,000,000, more or less successfully availing themselves of the co-operative principle in France. The net profits vary greatly in the returns of these associations, from 1 to 14 per cent. The Co-operative Coal Association of Roubaix shows a net profit of 21 per cent., and the Co-operative Bakery of the same busy and thriving city a profit of 23 per cent. But the Anzin Association not only covers more ground than any of the rest: it covers it in a more equably satisfactory fashion. During the past year, on an employed capital of 156,150 francs, it made sales amounting to 2,303,836 francs, with a gross profit of 450,497 fr. 61 c., and a net profit of 310,106 fr. 30 c. Each man had spent an average of 738 fr. 28 c., and received a net profit of 99 fr. 45 c. In other words, every holder of a 50 franc share paid for his share out of a single year's net profit, and pocketed 49 francs to boot!
As indicating the scale of comfort attained in their daily life by these miners and their families, it is of interest to glance over the schedule of the goods and commodities supplied by these co-operative stores, it being premised that the stores do not keep or sell what are regarded as 'articles of luxury,' so that in these schedules we have the present scale of the necessaries and comforts of ordinary life among the more industrious and thrifty of the French working-classes. That even in the seventeenth century the French artisans, and the more prosperous of the French peasants, lived much more comfortably than one would infer from the pictures usually painted even by such historians as Michelet, who, with all his theories and all his imagination, took more trouble than M. Thiers to keep within hailing distance of the facts, would seem to be shown by the inventories and the wills of artisans and peasants disinterred during the last quarter of a century from the local archives of Troyes and other important towns.
Here, in the Anzin district, to-day, we find these co-operative stores supplying to 3,000 families of the working-class 12,000 metrical quintals or bales of the finest quality of wheat flour, 3,000 of these going to the houses of the members, and 9,000 to the bakery of the Association, which turns out, on an average, 1,100 loaves, of 3 kilos each, per day. With this bread the members take from the stores annually 110,000 kilos of the best butter, 50,000 kilos of coffee, 37,000 kilos of chicory, 4,000 kilos of chocolate, 13,000 Marolles cheeses from the land of Bretigny—where Edward III. was scared by a tremendous thunderstorm, which made him 'think of the day of judgment,' into giving peace to France and liberty to her captive king—200,000 kilos of potatoes, 6,000 kilos of prunes d'Ente, 11,000 kilos of rice, 15,000 bottles of wine, 12,000 bottles of vinegar, 33,000 bottles of spirits of various sorts, 45,000 kilos of salt, 6,000 boxes of sardines, 100,000 kilos of maize and corn, 34,000 kilos of bran, 90,000 kilos of sugar, 20,000 kilos of beans, 30,000 kilos of ham, sausages, and other products of the pork-butchery. That butcher's meat, which, for the reasons I have mentioned, the stores cannot supply, plays a large proportional part in the obviously good dietary of these families, may, I think, be inferred from the fact that the stores annually dispose of 10,000 pots of the best French mustard, and of 1,000 kilos of white pepper. Vegetables and fruits are supplied in abundance by the country, and in many cases by the allotments of the workmen themselves, while beer, as I have said, is everywhere abundant and cheap.
That the miners and working-people of Anzin are well lodged and well fed may be considered to be beyond a doubt. Let us now see what they do in the way of clothing themselves, and of furnishing their houses.
They buy from the stores annually 30,000 francs'-worth of kitchen and household utensils, which are both well made and cheap in all this part of France, 600 kilos of mattrass wool, 4,400 yards of sheeting, 500 wool and cotton blankets and bedspreads, 9,000 towels, 44,000 pairs of sabots, 10,000 pairs of shoes, 4,600 caps and hats, 2,200 pairs of stockings, 3,700 shirts and 6,000 metres of shirting, 17,000 metres of pique, 2,000 undervests and 2,000 metres of flannel, 6,000 handkerchiefs, 52,000 metres of linen goods, 17,000 metres of lustrines; 7,200 metres of merinos, 7,000 metres of muslins, 14,000 metres of Indiennes, 57,000 francs'-worth of mercers' wares, 24,000 metres of calicoes, and, finally, 3,100 yards of velvet. When we remember that this is the annual outlay for keeping up the household wardrobe, not the original outlay in establishing it, it seems to me that the workpeople of Anzin ought to be, and indeed one need only walk and drive about the region to see that they are, at least as well clothed as they are housed and fed.
Umbrellas even have come to be regarded as 'necessities' here, and the stores annually supply 1,300 of these useful but essentially fugitive articles. The men are clothed by their village tailors and bootmakers chiefly, so that the masculine wardrobe is represented in the accounts of the stores less extensively than the feminine. But the Anzin miners nevertheless annually invest in scarves and cravats to the number of more than 4,000. Each man on going into the employ of the company receives, as I have said, a complete mining outfit, the cost of which is not defrayed out of his wages. But the miners annually buy, on an average, 500 new mining-suits for themselves.
Tables, chairs, bedsteads, bureaux, well made and often handsome, are to be had in all these communes at very low prices; and I went into no house in any of them which did not seem to me well equipped in these particulars. Engravings, coloured and plain and lithographs, are to be found in them all, and though the people are obviously not much addicted to literature, I found in one miner's house at Thiers quite a collection of books, and most of them good, sensible, and instructive books, installed in an upper chamber, in which the housewife said, her 'man' liked to sit and read when it was too hot out of doors in the garden.
This good dame, by the way, was of the opinion that 'the house gives you the character of the wife,' and that 'the conduct of the husband depends upon the character of the wife.' Her own 'man' was evidently an excellent and orderly person, so I considered it a legitimate compliment to assure her that I entirely agreed with her.
I hope, for the future of France, that she may be right. For there seems to be a tendency here, as there certainly is in other parts of France, to insist on sending their girls to the religious schools, even when they allow their boys to attend the lay schools, where they are exposed to having the 'true Republican' deputies and functionaries of the time get up—as M. Doumer did the other day, at the opening of a new lay school in the Aisne—and propound the doctrine that 'morals have nothing to do with religion.'
The lay schools are attended, for example, in Anjou by 22,451 boys, and only 3,562 girls: while the free congreganist schools are attended by 25,360 girls, and only 5,232 boys.
Adding the number together, this gives us a total of 30,592 children in the religious, as against 26,013 in the anti-religious or irreligious schools of one province.
If my good housewife at Thiers is right as to the influence of the character of the women in France upon the conduct of the men, there is hope in these figures, which I am assured pretty fairly represent the state of things in Flanders as well as in Anjou, with the difference that the proportion of boys attending the religious schools is probably larger in Flanders than in Anjou. M. Doumer's doctrine that 'morals should be taught independently of religion' certainly did not commend itself to all his constituents. The Journal de St.-Quentin, commenting upon it, plainly said, 'The verdicts of our assize courts show us every day the result of the atheistic instructions recommended by M. Doumer and the rest of the Masonic Brothers. The truth simply is that if some remedy be not soon found for the situation created by these people, who are as stupid as they are mischievous, in a few years we shall be obliged either to decuple the gendarmerie, or to allow every citizen to go about armed with a revolver, in order to protect himself against our much too liberally emancipated young scolos!'
Curiously enough this voice from St.-Quentin in France substantially echoes another voice from another St. Quentin in California—the seat of the State Penitentiary in that young and active and opulent American commonwealth. In California the plan of giving instruction in morality, independently of religion, has been tried much longer than in France, and certainly in circumstances much more favourable to its success. The result, as set forth in an Official Report of the resident director, cited by Mr. Montgomery, ex-assistant Attorney-General of the United States, in his treatise on 'The School Question,' is that, while the illiterate convicts in the California penitentiary, at the date of the report, numbered 112, against 985 who could read and write, 'among the younger convicts they could all read and write'.
I have already spoken of many of the advantages offered by the Anzin Company to its workmen and miners, as amounting really to a kind of participation in the profits of the company. This, I think, must be admitted to be clearly the case with regard to certain regulations affecting workmen's pensions, established here by the governing council of the company in December 1886.
These regulations are to affect workmen who contribute to what is known as the 'National Retiring Fund for Old Age.' This fund was established originally in 1850 under the presidency of Louis Napoleon. It was re-organised by a law passed in July 1886, and by a decree issued in December 1886. It is under the guarantee of the State, and is administered by a committee co-operating with the Ministry of Commerce. Its object is to enable working-men and others to secure annuities up to the amount of 1,200 francs a year, at or after the age of fifty, by the payment of small regular assessments on their wages. The smallest sums are received by the fund, which of course is managed on principles not unlike those of the great life insurance companies. A running account is kept with the treasury to meet the current expenses of the fund, but all the rest of the money received by it is invested in the French public funds, or in securities guaranteed by the State. No part of the compound interest received by the fund is deducted to meet the expenses of administration. It all goes to the account of the depositors, the current expenses being met by the Deposit Fund, which manages the Retiring Fund. If at any time before that fixed for his enjoyment of the retiring pension, the depositor should be made incapable of work by some illness or accident, he is at once put into possession, without awaiting the age fixed in the original agreement, of a pension or annuity proportioned to the amount of his actual payments and to his age at the time when the incapacity is medically and legally established.
Every year a certain amount is voted by the Chamber as a subvention to this fund, and out of this annual appropriation these 'premature pensions' may be increased by the committee in charge of the fund. This is a sort of practical State socialism beyond a doubt. But it is at least as respectable as the expenditure made in this year's budget of 6,500,000 francs, or about one fifth of the whole amount of the French naval pension list, on annuities of indemnification 'to the victims of the coup d'etat of 1851,' the coup d'etat of 1851 having been simply a collision between the Legislature of that year, trying to suppress the Executive, with the Executive trying to suppress the Legislature, with the result that the Executive carried the day, and that the French people, by an overwhelming majority, approved the victory of the Executive.
Why the socialistic principles at the bottom of the National Retiring Fund for workmen should not be extended to others than working-men it is not easy to see. The French pension-list is now very heavy. It figures in this year's budget at nearly a hundred millions of francs, exclusive of the military and naval pensions, which amount to about one hundred and twenty-five millions more, and without counting the debits de tabac, which are in fact a kind of pensions used freely by deputies and other functionaries of influence to reward services of all sorts. Of these about two hundred were given away in 1888, the list filling five pages of the huge reports of the Finance Ministry.
The National Retiring Fund for Old Age is managed by a high committee of sixteen, which must include two deputies, two state councillors, two presidents of mutual aid societies, and one manufacturer. Workmen who choose to avail themselves of the fund may break off and renew their payments into it as they like, and increase or diminish the amount of their annual deposits without affecting by any interruption the value of their previously acquired interest in the fund. Deposits may be made in the name of any person at or after the age of three years, so that a father may in this way, if he likes, form a small property for his children. The authorisation of the father, however, is not required to validate deposits made in the name or for the benefit of a child, unless these deposits are made by the children themselves, in which case they merely show the authority of their parents as guardians until they have attained the age of sixteen. Married women may make deposits independently of their husbands, but unless these deposits are gifts to them, they are held to be equally the property of the husband and wife where these are not legally separated. In case of the absence either of the husband or of the wife for more than a year, a justice of the peace may authorise the deposit of money to the exclusive benefit of the partner on the spot. Deposits of one franc are received from one person, but in no case can one person deposit more than one thousand francs a year. The capital deposited may be alienated to the fund or reserved. In the latter case the capital may be returned, but without interest, to the representatives of the depositor in case of death. Any reserved capital may be alienated for the purpose of increasing the income at a certain age, to be named by the depositor when he signs the alienation.
The pension incomes are guaranteed by the State. They become payable at any full year of age selected by the depositor between fifty and sixty-five years. After sixty-five the pension-income is paid to the depositor from and after the first quarter-day following the deposit. Up to 360 francs the pension-incomes are not liable to be seized for debt. If they accrue from a capital presented to the depositor the donor may have them declared unsellable to their full amount.
Funds deposited in the National Sayings Bank may be transferred in whole, or in part, to the National Retiring Fund for Old Age.
Under the conditions of this fund an annual alienated deposit of 10 francs, begun at the age of thirty years, will secure the depositor at fifty an annuity of 28 fr. 62 c., at fifty-five of 47 fr. 89 c., at sixty of 81 fr. 43 c., and at sixty-five of 145 fr. 97 c.
The regulations adopted by the Anzin Council in 1886 are intended to duplicate the results of this system of the National Retiring Fund for the benefit of any workman who chooses to make himself a depositor in the National Fund to the amount of 1-1/2 per cent. of his annual wages.
Suppose, for example, a miner earning 1,500 francs a year chooses to deposit in the National Retiring Fund 22 fr. 50 c. a year. Upon verification of this the Anzin Company will pay into the same fund for him annually an equal sum. This would give the miner who began his deposit of 22 fr. 50 c. a year at the age of thirty, a pension-income at the age of fifty of 128 fr. 74 c., or just about the pension-income which he would draw at the age of sixty-five from the National Fund if he began a payment of 10 francs a year into that fund at the age of thirty-two. A miner who began his annual deposit of 22 fr. 50 c. in the National Fund at the age of twenty-one, taking advantage then of the regulations of the Anzin Council, would enjoy at fifty a pension-income of very nearly 250 francs a year.
Under the Anzin regulations, the two payments made by and for the workmen concerned are inscribed in an individual bank-book which becomes his property. The sums paid in by the company are alienated, and to the exclusive advantage of the workman, while he is left at liberty to alienate or reserve his own payments. If he is married, of course his personal payments are held to be made one-half for the benefit of his wife.
In the case of subterranean miners, the company will begin to carry out this system as soon as they enter its service, and without regard to their nationality. In the case of the surface workmen, they must be eighteen years of age, and must have been in the service of the company for at least three years without interruption. The reasons for the difference are obvious.
The payments of the company cease at fifty years, but the workman is not obliged to draw his pension-income then, as by continuing his personal payments he can put it off, thereby increasing it until he attains the age of 55, 60, or 65.
To meet the case of miners drawn into the army, the company, as long as the miner so drawn and returning to its service shall remain in its service, will pay in fractions, and within a period equal to that of his military service, into the National Fund for his benefit a sum equal to the percentage he would himself have paid into the National Fund upon his wages, calculating them as being the same during the period of his military service that they would have been had he remained there at work in the mine.
In the case of a workman who falls ill or is injured, the company, if he is a member of a mutual aid society, which will make his personal percentage payments for him, will pay itself an equal sum during his illness or incapacity for at least one calendar year. After that each case must be separately dealt with.
Furthermore, and in addition to these general conditions, the company will grant to workmen long in its service, who shall have made their regular payments to the National Retiring Fund under these regulations, when they give up work, supplementary pensions calculated at the rate of 3 francs a year for fifteen years of service for the miners, and of 1 fr. 50 c. a year for fifteen years for the surface workmen. These supplementary pensions are doubled for married workmen, so that they may amount to 90 francs a year for miners, and to 45 francs a year for surface workmen.
On the whole, I think the miners of Anzin knew what they were about when they stood aloof from the 'strike' in the Pas-de-Calais. To do this was to aid the 'strikers' themselves much more effectually than by joining in the strike. For surely the spectacle of such an orderly prosperity as exists at Anzin, the result of equitable relations maintained for years between Capital and Labour, is the strongest possible argument in support of the reasonable demands of Labour. But what are the reasonable demands of Labour?
It appeared from an inquiry made by the 'Society of Mineral Industries' after the great strike of 1883, that, out of ten coal-producing companies in the North of France which maintained Assistance Funds for the miners, the Anzin Company alone did this entirely at the expense of the company. The nine other companies reported a joint revenue of 821,133 francs in 1882 for these Assistance Funds, of which amount the workmen furnished 603,097 francs. The outlay for 1882 exceeded the revenues and amounted to 849,839 fr. 49 c. But, in addition to the 603,097 francs furnished by the workmen to these funds, the nine companies in question expended themselves, in pensions, medical service, school subventions, free fuel, hospitals and other contributions to the welfare of these 32,849 miners and workmen, no less than 2,942,694 fr. 91 c. So that while the workmen expended on an average 3 per cent. of their wages in maintaining Assistance Funds, these nine companies (excluding Anzin, where no demand was made on the workmen) expended for the benefit of the workmen and their families an amount equal to 9 per cent. of the wages paid by them, and to 24 per cent. of the interest and dividends paid to the stockholders. On the average the companies thus spent about 50 c. for every ton of coal extracted.
Could labour reasonably demand more than this of capital?
Under the leadership of deputies like MM. Basly and Camelinet, backed by the revolutionary press of Paris, the miners in another part of France, at Decazeville, went on 'strike' in January 1888. They began by brutally murdering M. Watrin, one of the best managers in the country. They kept the whole region idle and in terror for three months and a half. They inflicted great loss on the company and disturbed all the industries of France. They themselves lost 630,427 francs of wages. The company finally granted an increase of wages representing only 1-1/2 per cent. of the wages sacrificed by the strike. The Municipal Council of Paris, which had fomented the strike, magnificently gave the miners 10,000 francs of money which did not belong to them. All the Radical press together subscribed 70,000 more. The Decazeville charities gave 2,231! And the next year all the miners testified that they had been quite content with the wages before the strike, and gave a banquet to the chief engineer!
IN THE NORD—continued
Thanks to Louis XIV., French Flanders became politically French more than two centuries ago. But it still remains essentially Flemish. The land has a life and a language of its own, like Brittany or Alsace. The French Fleming is rarely as haughty in his assertion of his nationality as the French Breton; but when a Monsieur de Paris, or any other outer barbarian, comes upon a genuine Flamand flamingant, there is no more to be made of him than of a Breton bretonnant, standing calmly at bay in a furrow of his field, or of the bride of Peter Wilkins enveloped in her graundee.
Even in the great and busy cities of Lille and Roubaix, the Flemish tongue holds its own against the French with astonishing pertinacity. But if French Flanders is still more Flemish than French, the Flemings, I believe, are very good Frenchmen, just as I imagine the most enthusiastic Welshmen of Mr. Gladstone's beloved little principality, would be, after all, found, at a pinch, to be very good Englishmen.
Architecturally, their ancient Flemish capital, Lille, now the chief town of the great Department of the Nord, is decidedly more French than Flemish.
The seven sieges it has sustained have left it quite bare of great historic monuments, and during the past thirty years millions of francs have been spent upon its streets, squares, and boulevards, with the result of giving it the commonplace and comfortable look of a growing quarter of Paris. Its famous old walls have been improved off the face of the earth; and I am glad to say that few if any of the noisome cellars seem still to exist in which, when I first knew the place, not so very long ago, thousands of its industrious working people used to dwell like troglodytes.
Marlborough's cannon spared the fine seventeenth-century Spanish Lonja, and there are traces still to be discerned about the modernised mairie of the ancient palace of Jean Sans Peur and Charles the Fifth. But there is no Flemish building here comparable with the Hotel de Ville and the Beffroi of Douai. Of old Flemish customs and traditions, however, there is no lack in Lille, and I came upon a curious proof of the vitality of its local patriotism. This was the regular publication, in the most widely circulated morning newspaper, of a series of carefully prepared articles on the archaeology and antiquities, the legends and the archives of the old Flemish capital. One of the editors of this journal showed me in his office a collection of these articles, reprinted from the newspaper, and now filling some twenty volumes.
I spent my first midsummer morning at Lille in the Musee which has been installed in the Hotel de Ville. The Wicar collection of drawings there, I need hardly say, is of itself a 'liberal education' in art. During his long residence at Rome in the Via del Vantaggio, the Chevalier Jean-Baptiste Wicar wasted neither his time nor his money. What treasures were then to be picked up by such a man—for Wicar died not long after the Revolution of July 1830! Where he found his Masaccios, Robert Browning told me that he knew; but where did he find that incomparable bust in wax which charms with all the mystic feminine grace and more than all the feminine beauty of the Mona Lisa? Possibly M. Carolus Duran may be able to throw light upon this; for he was one of the earliest beneficiaries who profited by the fund which the Chevalier Wicar founded for the purpose, as he says in his will, of 'giving to young men, natives of Lille, who devote themselves to the fine arts, the means of sojourning at Rome for four years, under certain conditions.'
The Chevalier Wicar was a good Catholic, and he gave to his fund the title of the 'pious foundation of Wicar.'
I suppose that under the Third Republic this monstrous recognition of an unscientific emotion would have sufficed to vitiate the scheme, in which case France would have lost the artistic achievements of M. Carolus Duran.
The house in the Via del Vantaggio I believe still makes a part of the 'pious foundation,' and the municipality of Lille has very sensibly added a yearly sum of 800 francs to the 1,600 francs allotted under the will of the Chevalier Wicar to each beneficiary, together with a travelling outfit of 300 francs.
Coming back from the Musee to breakfast in my very comfortable hotel near the gare, I found there awaiting me M. Grimbert of Douai, who had most obligingly come over to show me what the friends of religion and of liberty are doing in Lille to prove that the religious sentiment is not 'dead' in this part of France, and that the Christians of French Flanders do not intend to let their children be 'laicised' into the likeness of M. Jules Ferry and M. Paul Bert, without an effort to prevent it.
The Department of the Nord has long been conspicuous in France for the number and the excellence of its educational institutions. The statistics collected by M. Baudrillart show that it stands side by side, in this respect, with the Department of the Seine. Of the 663 communes which make up the Department of the Nord, only three in 1881 were without a school. The department contains 1,680,784 inhabitants. Of these, considerably more than one-third, or 680,951, live in the 17 cantons and 129 communes of the arrondissement of Lille, which includes of course the city, and here we find 340 public schools, 1,038 classes for instruction, and 116 free educational establishments. Over against this organisation of education must be set a very notable development of intemperance. I do not infer this from the extraordinary amount of beer-drinking which goes on in the Nord, to the extent, according to M. Baudrillart, of 220 bottles a year to every man, woman, and child in the department, against 170 in the Ardennes and 153 in the Pas-de-Calais. For, after all, it may be doubted whether habitual drunkenness is much more common in beer-drinking than in wine-drinking countries; and there can be no question, I think, that it is much less common in countries in which wine is abundant and cheap, than in countries in which wine is an imported luxury. But the consumption of alcoholic liquors is apparently on the increase in this great department.
At the beginning of this century, long before Lille and Roubaix had begun to draw into their factories such great numbers of the rural population as now yearly throng into these prosperous cities, a prefect of the department, M. Dieudonne, declared that it was not an unusual thing to see workmen in Lille who worked only three days in the week and spent the other four in drinking corn brandy and Hollands gin. At that time the workpeople of the sister city of Roubaix had a much better reputation, while of the rural populations of French Flanders Dr. Villerme then affirmed, after a careful study of their habits, that nothing was to be seen among them of the 'debauchery and the daily and disgusting drunkenness prevalent in the large towns.'
Persons familiar with the rural aspects of the Nord assure me that this can no longer be said with truth of the rural farm-labourers. It is, probably, more true of the farmers and of their families than it was fifty years ago, but it is, unfortunately, also less true than it then was of the rural labourers. The number of small cabarets has quadrupled during the last quarter of a century in the arrondissement of Douai alone, which contains 6 cantons, 66 communes, and 131,278 inhabitants, the majority of them occupied in agriculture; and, taking the whole department, it appears that the consumption of spirits represents an increase of 100 per cent. in the average consumption of pure alcohol in the last forty years. It rose from 2.52 litres, in 1849, for every man, woman, and child, to 4.65 litres, in 1869, and it is now estimated to reach 6 litres, which would represent an annual consumption of about 16 bottles of brandy at 42 degrees, for every man, woman, and child in the department. I did not happen to see any drunken women or children in the department, but M. Jules Simon, in his work, L'Ouvriere, gives an uncanny account of feminine drunkenness at Lille, where there are special cabarets, it seems, for women. I believe no special estaminets have yet been set up there for women addicted to tobacco, and, indeed, I do not know that the civilisation of French Flanders has yet reached the point of treating the question 'whether women ought to smoke' as a practical question, worthy the grave attention of savants and philosophers. Possibly, if England, like France, had enjoyed the advantage of sixteen changes in her form of government, and of three successful foreign invasions, during the past century, questions of this sort might now subtend no greater an arc in England than they now subtend in France. And it certainly ought to interest Englishmen to know that the example of England is freely cited in Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing, and other centres of Flemish life and activity, to support the 'noble and military' amusement of cock-fighting, to which the good people of these regions are extraordinarily addicted. A law was passed against this practice under the presidency of Prince Louis Napoleon in 1850, and many attempts have since been made to suppress it—but with small success. A Republican prefect of the Nord, some years ago, actually wrote to the President of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that he would not hesitate to 'enforce the provisions of the law against cock-fighting whenever the practice seemed to be likely to become too general!' I do not know that I ever stumbled on a more delightful recognition of the Eleventh Commandment of demagogism, 'vox populi vox Dei!' Naturally, with such encouragement as this, the sport of late years has been assuming, I am told, a recognised place among the amusements of the people. Fighting-cocks go into the arena as champions of the towns in which their owners dwell; and if the feathered Achilles of Roubaix does the feathered Hector of Tourcoing to death, the spectators not unfrequently take up the quarrel, divide into two camps, and have it out handsomely on the spot. These things I note because they tend to show how difficult it is to develop an ideal civilisation in a few years by the simple process of forbidding men to teach, or to believe in, the existence of a Divine Ruler of the Universe.
For the same reason, and without unduly dwelling upon it, I may here record the statement made to me by an editor of an influential journal in Lille, that in no city in France has the evil of juvenile prostitution taken such root as here. When I expressed my surprise at this, the French law as to the detournement de mineures being at least as stringent as the English, he replied: 'How can you expect such a law to be enforced under this Government?' and he then went on to show me in an old file of his journal an account, now some years old, of the adventures of a deputy from Versailles in the Palais Royal at Paris. 'Our Republicans,' he said, 'are firm believers in the great principle of the solidarity of all the party with all the haps and mishaps of every member of the party.'
A more confirmed pessimist, by the way, than this journalist I have not seen in France. He was quite convinced that the Republicans would show a majority in the seven circumscriptions or districts of Lille at the elections in the autumn, and he criticised very severely the attitude of the Catholics at Lille in regard to politics. 'They are excellent people,' he said, 'but they think too much of the souls of the people and not enough of their votes.'
I ventured to suggest that perhaps the picture which he had himself set before me of the moral condition of the city of Lille, at least, might be thought to afford some excuse for this preoccupation of the Catholics with the spiritual rather than the political interests of the people.
But to this he would not listen for a moment.
'No, no!' he said; 'the first thing to be done for the souls of the people is to get rid of these fellows at Paris! Are they not paganizing the country? Here is this new law which is demoralising the army. Why do they wish to force the seminarists into the service? Is it not avowedly because they think this will stop the recruiting for the ranks of the clergy? Why are they attacking the foundations of the magistracy? Is it not because the French magistrates stand between them and the rights of the French clergy as French citizens? How far off are we from a revival of Danton's beautiful doctrine that, in order to consummate the regeneration of society, all conditions imposed upon the eligibility of citizens to act as judges ought to be immediately abolished, so that a tinker, or a butcher, or a bootblack, or a chiffonnier might be made a French magistrate just as well as a trained student of the laws? As you know, one of the first things Danton, as Minister of Justice, did was to carry through the Convention his famous decree making this doctrine law in France!
'I am worn out,' he said, 'with trying to make our good people here understand that they must go into the battle-field of politics and put these fellows out of power at Paris if they mean to prevent France from falling into absolute anarchy once more. I cannot make them move, and I believe we shall be beaten in all the seven districts of Lille.'
I am glad to say the event proved that my pessimistic friend was by far too pessimistic. Of the seven seats to which the arrondissement of Lille is entitled, four were carried by the Monarchists—in two cases without an attempt seriously to contest them; and if the seven candidates had been voted for on a single list, that list would have been elected by the arrondissement.
The Monarchists threw in the whole arrondissement 53,135 votes, the Opportunist Republicans 31,019, the Radicals 9,191, and the Socialists 1,011. So that the Monarchists had a clear majority of 11,814 votes over all the factions of the Republican party put together. In one district of Lille, the 1st, the Boulangists threw 4,376 votes. If we put these down, which we have no right to do, as Republican votes, the Monarchists still show a clear majority of 7,438 in the whole arrondissement of Lille, and, as I have said, if the representation of France by arrondissements were really a representation by arrondissements and not by circumscriptions, the seven hundred thousand people of this great and prosperous department of North-Eastern France would now be represented at Paris not by four Monarchists and three Republicans, but by seven Monarchists. This may serve to show how exceedingly unsafe it is to assume that the nominal party complexion of the majority in a Chamber elected as the present French Chamber has been really gives foreign observers anything like an accurate notion of the state of public opinion and the drift of popular feeling in France at this time.
A friend to whom I am indebted for an analysis made with great care of the electoral results, not in this very important department alone, but throughout France, points out to me the exceedingly significant difference between the majorities given to the Monarchists and to the Republican deputies. In the 4th District of Lille, for example, M. des Rotours, the Monarchist candidate, received 10,555 votes, being the largest poll by far given to any candidate in the whole arrondissement, and not one vote was thrown against him. In the 6th District the Republican candidate was declared to be elected by no more than 199 majority in a total poll of 14,833 votes. In the 3rd District the Monarchist was elected by a majority of 1,441 votes, in a total poll of 16,081 votes. In the 5th District the Republican was returned by a majority of 281 votes in a total poll of 15,321 votes. In the 7th District the Monarchist was returned by a majority of 237 in a total poll of 14,463 votes. In the 1st District of Hazebrouck the Monarchist was returned by a majority of 6,861, in a total poll of 11,129 votes, and in the 2nd District of Hazebrouck by a majority of 5,269 in a total poll of 10,291!
Hazebrouck is an essentially Flemish town of some 10,000 inhabitants, and the arrondissement, which comprises 7 cantons and 53 communes, contains 112,921 inhabitants, is absolutely Flemish. The early sixteenth-century church of St.-Nicholas at Hazebrouck, with its lofty and graceful spire, was begun about the time of the first voyage of Columbus, and is one of the most beautiful extant Flemish buildings of that time. The people of this arrondissement and their neighbours in the arrondissement of Dunkirk were almost as famous before 1789 as the Dutch for their skill as florists and their success in developing all manner of eccentric varieties of roses, tulips, primroses, and pinks. I do not know that they ever managed to produce a blue rose, but they came very near it, and at the present time their rich and level country is gay with cottage gardens. They are given to sociability also, for the arrondissement possesses, I am told, at least one cabaret for every 70 inhabitants. But then the cabarets in the department at large average 1 to every 61 inhabitants, and in the thoroughly agricultural arrondissement of Avesnes they number 1 for every 38 inhabitants. In the arrondissement of Avesnes, a property of from five to twenty hectares is called a small farm. In the arrondissement of Hazebrouck, a farmer cultivating from six to fifty hectares passes for an agriculturist of the middle class. The people are prosperous, and their hostility to the Republic seems to have its origin chiefly in the intolerance and extravagance of the Government. This is the case too, apparently, with their neighbours in the arrondissement of Dunkirk. The 1st District of Dunkirk elected a Boulangist Revisionist by a solid vote of 7,821 against 4,806 votes, given not to a Government Republican but to a Radical, while the 2nd District of Dunkirk elected a Monarchist by a majority of 5,036 votes in a poll of 11,168.
In the face of such figures as these it seems to me that the friends of religion and of liberty in the Department of the Nord hardly merit the reproach put upon them by my pessimistic journalist at Lille of lukewarmness in the political battle of 1889.
Neither he nor any one can well accuse them of lukewarmness in any other matter affecting the interests either of religion or of liberty. And I cannot help hoping that my Northern pessimist may perhaps have over-estimated the prevalence of juvenile prostitution in Lille as much as he certainly underestimated the devotion of the Monarchists of Lille to their political flag. His gloomy prognostications as to the issue at the polls were probably enough inspired by his thorough knowledge of the extraordinary preparations made by the authorities for manipulating the returns. On this point he gave me some particulars which appear to be borne out by subsequent events. It is curious for example to learn from the analytical table to which I have already referred in connection with the elections at Lille, that of the 164 Government candidates returned as elected at the first balloting of September 23, 87 were returned as elected by majorities of less than 1,000 votes, while of the 147 Monarchists returned as elected on the same day, only 48 were returned as elected by majorities of less than 1,000 votes. Of the 164 Republicans, 20, or about one in eight, were returned as elected by majorities of less than 200 votes; while of the 147 Monarchists, only 11, or about one in thirteen, were returned as elected by similar majorities. When we remember that the machinery of these elections was absolutely controlled by the prefects under instructions from M. Constans, the Minister of the Interior, which were not made public, this circumstance is certainly very significant. Some of the details sent me by my analytical correspondent make it still more significant. In the 2nd District of St.-Nazaire, for example, the Monarchist candidate was elected without a competitor, receiving 16,084 votes. In the 1st District of St.-Nazaire the Government candidate was returned by a majority of no more than 6 votes, the returns giving him 8,458 votes to 8,452 for his Monarchist opponent. This margin is almost as suggestive as the majority of 9 votes by which M. Razimbaud, a Government candidate for the district of St.-Pars, in the Department of the Herault, was declared three days after the balloting of October 6 to have been returned over his Monarchist opponent, the Baron Andre Reille. In this same Department of the Herault, the Prefect and the Councillors-General returned M. Menard-Dorian, the Government candidate, as elected, at Lodeve, over M. Leroy-Beaulieu, the distinguished political economist, by a majority of 67 votes. In this case it seems a certain number of votes thrown in one commune for both candidates were set aside, to be annulled for informality. When the returns went up to the Council for revision, the informal votes cast for M. Leroy-Beaulieu were declared invalid, the informal votes cast for M. Menard-Dorian were declared good and valid, and M. Menard-Dorian was proclaimed to have been elected. The Committee of the Chamber reported against the seating of M. Menard-Dorian, and tried to have this report accepted, but as I write the Chamber has not accepted it, and the odds are that M. Leroy-Beaulieu, who, though a Moderate Republican, has made himself obnoxious to the Government by telling the truth about the financial condition of France, will be kept out of the seat which it is tolerably plain that he was elected to fill.
It is difficult for an Englishman, even for an American, to understand the cynical coolness with which things of this sort are done in the French Republic of the present time, and not very easy to understand the apathetic way in which, when done, they are accepted by the French public. There seems to be little doubt that in England of late years ballot-boxes have been 'stuffed' only by the stupidity of the voters, and not by the ingenious rascality of the political managers. I wish I could with an easy conscience say the same thing of my own country. But even in the United States deliberate tampering with the returns of a political election has not, I think, been practised since the evil days of Reconstruction at the South with the calm disregard of appearances shown by the Government managers during the legislative contest of this year, 1889, in France; and certainly there has been nothing known in the Congress of the United States, since the days of Reconstruction, at all comparable with the systematic invalidation by the majority in the French Chamber of the elections of troublesome members since it assembled on November 12. In the cases of General Boulanger and of M. Naquet, the latter of whom resigned his seat in the Senate to stand as a Boulangist candidate for the Chamber, this invalidation was carried out openly as a party measure and precisely in the spirit of the famous or infamous resolution which Robespierre made the 'Section of the Pikes' adopt, to the effect that the electors of Paris must be protected against their own incapacity to choose 'true patriots' by having the 'true patriots' chosen for them. If this be one of the 'principles of 1789,' it must be admitted that the Third Republic is consistently and courageously acting upon it. It has undoubted advantages, but it has a tendency, perhaps, to put in question the value of what are commonly called representative institutions. Strike out of the theory of representative institutions the right divine of the people to choose the wrong men, and what is left of it?
At the close of the election of September 22, 1889, in Paris, the major of the 2nd or Clignancourt District of the eighteenth arrondissement of the Department of the Seine declared that General Boulanger had received 7,816 votes out of 13,611 cast, and that he was therefore elected. Of his competitors, one M. Joffrin, described as a 'Possibilist,' had received 5,507 votes; M. Jules Roques, a Socialist, had received 359 votes, and for a citizen bearing the gloomy but respectable name of M. Cercueil, or 'M. Coffin,' one vote had been cast. Obviously General Boulanger was the man whom a majority of the voters of Clignancourt desired to represent them. If General Boulanger for their own sake could not be allowed to represent them, why not M. Cercueil? They certainly did not choose M. Cercueil to represent them. But as certainly they did not choose M. Joffrin to represent them.
What really happened? The Prefect of the Seine, on hearing the result at Clignancourt, notified the Minister of the Interior, and orders were at once given to correct this egregious error into which the voters of Clignancourt had fallen as to what their true interest required. It was probably found that an 'informality' had occurred in certain communes, and that through this 2,494 votes must be annulled. News of this discovery was instantly sent to the Parisian newspapers. As it was supposed that they would give M. Joffrin a plurality of the votes to be recognised, sundry newspapers actually printed the name of M. Joffrin at the head of the list of candidates in the place usually accorded by a really enlightened press to the elect of universal suffrage. Unfortunately the official calculator is not of the blood of Bidder. It was found at the last moment that enough votes had not been 'annulled' to put M. Joffrin at the head of the poll, so that his name actually appears in sundry Parisian morning papers of September 23, first indeed in position, but over against it are recorded 5,500 votes, while the name of General Boulanger comes second with 5,880 votes! Clearly an awkwardness! In the Journal des Debats, which is a serious Republican journal of character, the election of General Boulanger by 7,816 votes was quietly announced, with a postscript to the effect that 'the Prefecture of the Seine' gave a different result, 'arising from the circumstance that in certain sections 2,494 votes bearing the name of General Boulanger had been asserted to be null and void,' and that, therefore, there would be a second election, or 'ballottage,' on October 6!
There could hardly be a more pregnant commentary than this upon the candid admission made by the most respectable and influential Republican journal in Paris, the Temps, on October 17, 1885, that these 'second elections,' or 'ballottages,' are simply a device by which the Central Government at Paris is enabled to 'correct' the errors perpetrated by the voters of France at the elections which precede them. 'To learn the true sentiments of the country,' said the Temps, 'we must consult the elections of the 4th. On that day universal suffrage was allowed to choose freely between the opposing parties and policies. The vote of to-morrow will not be as clear and precise, for it will be determined by tactical necessities and by all sorts of combinations.'
Perfectly true! But, this being true, what becomes of 'popular sovereignty' and of the divine quality of the rights derived from universal suffrage as contrasted with rights derived from inheritance, or, for that matter, with rights derived from a dice-box or the shuffling of a pack of cards? Considering what the usual origin is of 'tactical necessities' in politics, and what forces determine political 'combinations of all sorts,' is it going too far to say that the odds, so far as public interests are concerned, are in favour of the dice-box or the pack of cards—provided the dice be not loaded or the cards specially packed?
Some years ago, in my own country, a well-known Austrian dined with me one night, just before he sailed for Europe after a tour in the United States. We spoke of a public man just then filling a very responsible position at Washington, to which he had been named after a severely contested and very costly election. 'I thought him a very pleasant, intelligent man,' said my Austrian guest, 'but it struck me that you spend too much time and trouble and money on getting just such men into such places. We get very much the same calibre of men for the same kind of work much more economically and easily by the simple process of marrying a prince to a princess.'
What I have seen and learned this year of the working of the electoral machinery in France under the Third Republic inclines me, as I have already said, to think that the Catholic children of light in Lille and in French Flanders generally may be doing better work both for Religion and for Liberty than my pessimistic journalist was disposed before the elections to believe. If they had given more time and thought and money to 'tactical necessities' and 'political combinations,' and less to the social and spiritual interests of the land in which they live, the results even of the elections might perhaps have been less satisfactory to them. For, as I have shown, the strength of the Monarchist vote in this region proved to be much greater than my pessimist thought it would be; and the Republicans of the Third Republic did a deal of canvassing for the Monarchists by making it very hard for men who love religion and liberty to vote for Republican candidates.
Lord Beaconsfield's saying, that the world is governed by the people of whom it hears the least, is certainly not less true of the Catholic Church than it is of the world. The Catholic stock in French Flanders is as vigorous and full of sap as in Belgium or in Holland. It is interesting to hear educated people talking glibly in London or Paris about the decay of the Christian religion in the same breath in which they profess their unbounded admiration of the heroism of Father Damien. It was through no act or wish of Father Damien that the world at large came to know his name, or to take account of a work which was done not to be seen of men. He was simply a Flemish Catholic, doing what he believed to be the will of God.
Throughout the broad rich plains of the great Department of the Nord, and in its crowded busy towns and cities, this Catholic faith is everywhere to be seen and felt—to be felt rather than to be seen in its fruits of charity, self-denial, and devout self-sacrifice.
Nowhere in France is public charity, I am told, so extensively and efficiently organised, and the demands upon public charity are exceptionally great. The department is very rich and very prosperous, but it contains, like all frontier regions, a large floating population; and one of the best-informed men I met in Lille, a large landed proprietor in one of the wealthiest communes of the department, told me that there are probably more families or tribes of hereditary mendicants scattered over French Flanders than are to be found in any other French province.
These are not nomads addicted to wandering off into other regions, but rather a kind of Northern lazzaroni. They do a little work occasionally, but as little and as seldom as possible. They are inveterate poachers, and the more industrious of them are habitual smugglers. In their way of prosecuting this industry, however, they show their fine natural instinct for avoiding labour. The most profitable trade they drive is in tobacco. This they get over the frontier from Belgium, and to get it they train a certain breed of dogs. They tie parcels of tobacco around the throats of these dogs, and then proceed to have the dogs well thrashed by one of their number dressed in the Custom-house uniform. A few lessons of this sort suffice to develop in the dogs a strong association of ideas between the odour of tobacco and the thwacks of a cudgel, and a dog well educated in this way may be trusted, after he has got his cargo in Belgium, to reach his master's den unvisited by the French douane. Baudrillart confirms this account. He puts the number of habitual applicants, largely from this mendicant class, for public relief in the department at from two hundred to two hundred and fifty thousand a year. Out of the 662 communes in the department there were only twenty in 1888 without a 'Bureau de Bienfaisance,' and the department spends five millions of francs a year on its charities, independently of nearly twice that amount expended upon hospitals, asylums, dispensaries, and the like, by private benevolence. Under the French law, private donors can found charities to be attached to the public 'Bureau de Bienfaisance,' and administered by the public officers, and one of the many evil effects of the war declared against Catholic France by the Third Republic is that it affects such charities very seriously.
Even under the Empire trouble came of the occasional division of one commune into two or more communes, a question then arising as, for example, in a famous case of the communes of St.-Joseph and St.-Martin in the Loire, about the division between the poor of the two communes of three hospital beds left to the 'Bureau de Bienfaisance' of the original commune of St.-Martin. It was easier for the military saint himself to divide his cloak with the shivering beggar than for the commune which bore his name to divide three beds into two equal portions! At Lille, two or three years ago, a lady, Mme. Austin Laurand, the widow of M. Laurand, in accordance with her husband's will, gave 30,000 francs to the 'Bureau de Bienfaisance' of the city, the income thereof to be applied, under the supervision of three commissioners, to encouraging habits of thrift among the apprentices of Lille. Two hundred bank-books of five francs each are annually given to apprentices in the first two years of their apprenticeship, and the rest of the income is to be given in prizes each year to those of the bank-book holders who shall be shown to have been the most careful and thrifty in managing the results of their labour during the year.
A law passed in 1874, before the 'true Republicans' of Gambetta and Ferry came into power, provides for a medical inspection and record of newly-born children, and this law puts infants, whenever it may be found necessary, under proper hygienic conditions. It has been nowhere so energetically carried out as in the Nord. Of course, such a law as this flies directly in the face of the great gospel of the 'survival of the fittest.' But though that gospel was introduced to Paris on the stage as one of the curiosities of the Centennial Exposition of 1889, it has made little progress as yet in Catholic France. Even at the theatres in Paris, I am glad to say, the popular instinct still regulates the queue on principles quite inconsistent with the Darwinian maxims of 'every man for himself,' and 'the devil take the hindmost.' It will be an evil day for invalids and cripples bitten with the drama when the 'struggle for life' comes to be logically developed into the right of the strongest men to get first to the ticket office!
Throughout the Department of the Nord, primary schools exist for the children who are taken in charge at their birth by public benevolence, and those to whom they are confided are obliged to see that the children attend these schools from the age of six to the age of twelve years.
Under the influence of the Church acting upon the naturally sociable and gregarious temperament of the Flemish race, mutual aid societies have become very numerous of late years in the Nord. A hundred and fifty-two such societies now exist in the arrondissement of Lille alone. These numbered, in 1888, 7,249 honorary members and 35,270 paying members, and their assets were stated at about 3,000,000 francs. Only 3,649 women, however, were enrolled on their lists. Is this a confirmation, I wonder, of the theory entertained by Mr. Emerson and other philosophers, that woman is not a 'clubbable' animal?
Putting this aside, however, for the moment as a more or less 'academic' question, it is of interest to note the very considerable development during the last few years of the principle of association among the working-men and producers of France, under the influence of the Church and of Conservative public men like M. Welche, one of the extra-parliamentary Ministers of the Marshal-Duke of Magenta, who did good service here at Lille as Prefect of the Department of the Nord, and who has made the French law of 1881 affecting 'professional syndicates,' so useful throughout the agricultural world of France.
It is one of the organic statutes of the Society of 'Foreseers of the Future,' or 'Prevoyants de l'Avenir,' that all political and religious discussions are forbidden at the meetings of the society.'
This society was established at Paris on December 12, 1880. On February 23, 1881, it was authorised to act as a 'Civil Society,' by the Minister of the Interior and the Prefect of Police. Its object is to 'ensure to all its members who shall have co-operated in maintaining it for twenty years, the first necessaries of life.' I shall not attempt here to go in detail into the statutes and organisation of the society. Suffice it to say that the statutes are brief, clear, and sensible, and that the organisation appears to be eminently practical. The members, to the number of whom no limit is set, the only indispensable condition being that they shall be in good health and actively employed in some trade or calling, pay an entrance fee of two francs, and a monthly due of one franc. This monthly due must be paid in advance, and a fine of 25 centimes is imposed for every month in arrears. Each member receives a book containing the statutes, which establishes his title to its benefits, and for which he pays 50 centimes. Donations may be received, and under the authority of the officers entertainments may be given, the profits of which go to the general fund. Any respectable person, no matter what may be his calling, may become a member, if he has attained the age of fifteen years, and women are not excluded. 'Having the same duties,' say the statutes, 'they have the same rights,' but, despite this, it is provided that women who are members shall not be fined if they fail to attend the general meeting on the second Sunday in January in each year, whereas men in the same case shall be mulcted in the sum of one franc, unless they shall have previously by letter excused themselves.
Every member at the expiration of twenty full years of membership shall be entitled to his share of the interest earned during the twentieth year of his membership by the property of the society, the funds of which can only be invested in the three or five per cent. funds of the French nation. His regular contribution to the society will still go on, but he will receive his share of the interest earned thereafter regularly every three months. Should a pensioner die, the year's interest due to him shall be paid over to his heirs or assigns. The pension cannot be transferred or alienated, and the relations of a pensioner have no claim upon the amount of the payments made by him to the society. Should a member become an invalid, incapable of work, after fully paying up his dues to the society during five years, he may demand to be kept upon the books as a full member, and as such he will be entitled to his pension at the end of twenty years. The society can only be dissolved by a unanimous vote of the members at a general meeting; and if so dissolved the members must choose another society as nearly as possible resembling this, to which the property of the dissolved society shall be transferred.