Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

But the Duc de Broglie, though a person of great knowledge, and indeed of great ability, was too much of the “ grand seigneur,” and too much of the “ sçavant,” to conduct an administration which was to be perpetually dealing with the casual views, and the passing passions, which a representative system will be perpetually bringing into play.

A man of views, he was not a man of expedients. He could plan his voyage, but he could not set his sails quick enough to catch the favouring shists of every

breeze. He could see the port he was to arrive at, but he could not steer with sufficient adroitness through the creeks, and by the rocks near which the course of the French government is destined for many years to run.

He was succeeded nominally by Maréchal Soult, and Maréchal Soult is succeeded nominally by Maréchal Gérard ; but M. Thiers is the person who, as well for his ability as his influence, is really to be considered the chief of the present ministry. If any man can maintain the existing monarchy, and the system of the existing monarchy, it is M. Thiers. Sprung from the revolution of July, he knows its men ; he understands its passions; he has no prejudices separate from it. With an intelligence which must give him a general plan for his career, he has a peculiar quickness for seeing, a peculiar facility for adopting and adapting himself to the events of the day. He looks around him with at once the eyes of the journalist and the statesman; he projects for distant times ; he acts for the present; and, instead of despising, profits by the daily prejudice and opinion. Ready, bold, adventurous; revolving great schemes, and possessing an extraordinary facility in elucidating and arranging intricate details, carrying to the tribune what is remarkable in his character; never hesitating for an argument or a word, but seizing the first that occurs, and caring less for its accuracy than its force; supporting his party or his principle with a

* The king himself is no inconsiderable person in his own cabinet.

popular on dit ; attacked on all sides, and not troubling himself with a defence, but carelessly attacking; an excellent parliamentary leader, for the courage he gives, in spite of the animosities he excites, sound, I believe, in his views; not so scrupulous, it is said, as to his means ; talking of the English revolution of 1688, but knowing, and studying, and calculating upon the dispositions of the French in 1834; wishing to improve their history, but remembering that he cannot alter their character; an advocate of education, but a strong upholder of the executive power; if the present government is to be maintained, M. Thiers, I repeat, is the best man to maintain it.

Yes; you, M. Thiers, are the man of the present monarchy; and to you I address myself; Nam quid ordinatione civilius ? Quid libertate pretiosius ? Porro quàm turpe si ordinatio ; eversione, libertas servitute mutetur ? Accedit, quod tibi certamen est tecum : onerat questuræ tuæ fama.

But what are the difficulties you will have to contend against ?

The present government of France is, as I have said, a government of peace, a government without pretension abroad, a government that is to please the Bourgeois at home; it is a government essentially based on the “bourgeoisie,” and on the character of the

bourgeoisie.” In England, this foundation for a government would be solid, because it is just 'the qualities which distinguish the “ bourgeoisie” as class, which distinguish England as a nation. It is thie “ bourgeoisie” which in England is the class most national, in its seriousness and thoughtfulness, in its industry, in its morality, in its love of order. These qualities, the characteristics of the “ bourgeoisie” of every country, are, reader, the peculiar characteristics of our country. But what is the case in France ? Are seriousness, and thoughtfulness, and industry, and morality, and a love of order—are these the characteristics of the French people ? As in England the “ bourgeoisie" represents the character of the English,

a

so in France the character of the “bourgeoisie” is most antipathetic to the character of the French.

The French are gay, are gallant, are witty, are vain. This is what the French are most especially—and this is what the “bourgeoisie” is less than any other part of the French nation. So much for the character of France—then for the history-What does the history of France show us? The reign of a courtthe reign of philosophers—the reign of a mob—the reign of an army—the reign of priests and a provincial gentry-a revolution effected at once by the populace, by the soldiery, and by the journalists--have any one of these epochs sown the seeds for a government of the “ bourgeoisie ?" Then there are influences arising out of the combination of the character and the history of a nation. What are these in France ?-female influence --military influence--literary influence-are any of these influences favourable to a government of the " bourgeoisie ?"

We may regret it, but I think we must own that a government of the shopkeepers, incorporating the feelings, the wishes, the prepossessions, and the prejudices of the shopkeepers, cannot be popular in France. may be a good government-I think, upon the whole, it would, in time, become a good govenrment for France-but for many years it cannot be a popular one. For many years it must have the wit, and the vanity, and the gallantry of the French-the influence of the women, who are universally fond of letters and arms, and of the military men, and of the literary men, opposed to it. It cannot be a popular governmentbut what are the dangers of an unpopular government ?

One great danger of an unpopular government is, that it never knows what unpopular act it may be obliged to have recourse to on the one hand, nor by what extent of concession it may be obliged to purchase popularity on the other. It cannot pursue a certain course, because it must be regulated, not by what it really intends to do, but by what people suspect it of intending to do. But, if you are suspected of

intending to overturn the liberties of a state, such will be the spirit prevailing, and the resistance prepared, against you, that if you mean to resist, you must resist such violent fears by violent means, and the existence of your power then depends upon the chances of an 6 émeute.” . If, on the contrary, you mean to concede, how extraordinary must be the concessions that satisfy suspicion ! Besides, in France, to what and to whom will the government have to concede? To military influence, to literary influence,-to the military men, to the literary men!

And where would these men, and these influences, if the government must concede to their extremes, lead it? To a war with Europe, and then to a republic—or to a republic, and then to a war with, Europe.

This is the perilous position of the present government in France. It took its origin from a course not natural to the character of the people; it remains based upon conditions to which the character of the people are opposed. Hence, a long series of agitations and the dangers attendant upon a long series of agitations-if its policy be moderate. Hence, the chances of revolution on the one side, if it take a violent course to put down resistance--the chances of war on the other, if it take a violent course to obtain popularity--a war and a revolution both leading to the same result.

Time, however, is the great resource of a state placed in this situation ; for the effect of time is to blend and to harmonize opposing things, to introduce the character of a nation into the institutions--the institutions of a nation into the character of its people ; and for this reason the policy which the present monarchy has to pursue is, and must be, a policy of expedients. A ministry must be formed sufficiently strong to sustain the weakness which exists in the principle of the government itself. This is the best chance, perhaps the only one, for the stability of existing things.

Oh! it is impossible to stand in the spot where I am now standing, with yon splendid confusion of domes

and spires, of palaces and public buildings, stretching out before me--in sight of the altars of Bossuet and Massillon; of the palace of Louis XIV. and Napoléon; of the Quai de Voltaire, and the senate of Foy, without feeling the wish (where all is great in recollections, as in hopes) to unite the past with the future-and from the monarchy of the fleurs-de-lis, and from the empire of the sword, and from the classic eloquence of the theatre, and from the noble reason of the tribune, to see, in letters as in government, a new system arise, with the youth and freshness of which may be blended the venerability and majesty of by-gone years.

And yet is it impossible to see so many of this people ridiculing the past without comprehending its poesy or its power; plunging into the future, too ignorant of its depth ; discontented with the present, without having any hope that satisfies, to supply the reality they would destroy--yet is it impossible to see the strife between the ideas and the habits—the reason and the imagination—the desires and the capabilities—the fanaticism and the irreligion-the loyalty and the republicanism of this doctrinizing, democratizing, romanticizing, classifizing, religionizing, St. Simonizing race,—without doubting, amid the confused and the uncertain shadows which float around you,—which are those of the things that have been, which are those of the things that are to be.

In the present monarchy there is neither the love for the new nor for the old; it rests not on the past, it tents not the future. It was taken by all as an indifferent substitute for something which their theory or their imagination taught them to consider worse. It has no hold on the affections, no root in the habits, no power over the passions, of the people—no magic bridle upon the genius of the time, which it would curb and guide.

Still, let us not forget that the incertitude of its destiny is in the uncertain character of its origin—the blemish which disfigures it seems to have been inflicted at its birth. There is a scar on the rind of the young

con

« VorigeDoorgaan »