« AnteriorContinuar »
root in her soil, or in the attachment of her sons. Can anything be more disheartening than to see a noble man-of-war betrayed by her officers? Yet such will be the spectacle offered by the Republic of France, unless some means can be found to frustrate the combination formed against it by every cluster of parties engaged in public life. It is not difficult to specify in what consists the disposition to abolish this government. Every attentive observer can see that it is not rich enough to corrupt the hungry harpies who supported the late system. Their support is withdrawn, whilst that of no other party can be relied on; simply because they desire and hope to establish each their own idol, on the ruins of the Republic. The President, weak in his personal following, is thus obliged to play the game of attracting the favour of the working classes and of the army. And a game more destructive, in respect to permanent popularity with the nation at large, there cannot be. With Mr. Wikoff's aid we may recur to the leading points which bear upon the difficulties of the French nation in getting even a good constitution into work. Meanwhile, let us refrain from those too common accusations against the people, as such, for allowing no government to stand, whilst as yet they have destroyed none which has deserved to endure. Should the present one perish, it would certainly owe its destruction, not to the “Republicans of the streets,” but to the conspirators of the salons; to the very class from whom we have heard such unmeasured revilings against the “restless discontents” of the lower orders. The Republic, it is manifest, suits neither the aristocracy nor the office-seekers; the Monarchy did not satisfy the people. Shall we
never get beyond a choice between one class interest
and another? The third letter addressed by Mr. Wikoff, the Ameri.
can, to the Paris journal La Presse, deals in a sort of historical résumé of French internal changes, from an early period; the drift of which would seem to be the illustration of Mr., Wikoff's favourite dogma, that without a due proportion of the three elementary principles—monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical—no nation can expect to flourish, or even to avoid political tempests. We suspect that a good many other reasons, besides the defective operation of “the balance,” may be assigned for the frequent intestine commotions of our neighbours; and what is more, we doubt whether “the balance” has been the secret of our own tranquil progress since the expulsion of the last Stuart. It is true that a belief in the theory of mutual checks in the English constitution has been widely circulated, and treated as a reality by eminent publicists and professors of jurisprudence. De Lolme, for instance, built a name upon an elaborate exposition of its admirable structure, which for years served for a text-book on Government. But whoever studies the operation of English institutions attentively, seldom fails to discover that there are, in fact, only two forces at work,+the monarch and the aristocracy, covertly united, on one side; the popular will on the other. Even the memorable project of the Reform Bill was but a sacrifice on the part of one section of aristocracy to gain the advantage over a rival section, in which the reigning monarch lent them his aid. The pure element of aristocratical power, the House of Lords, was then seen to exert its separate will and interest. But the “balance” was, like the scales of Brennus, falsified by an unscrupulous use of the royal prerogative. The king, having the people at his back, for once showed the value of the pretended “balance,” when compared with the reality of a popular determination: an instructive lesson, not often permitted to the lookers-on, so plausible is the fiction, and so useful to the governing powers, After all, we have no objection to the theory, as such; and if Mr. Wikoff succeed in engrafting it upon the French mind, it is quite conceivable that he may be doing them a service. For as the Democratic party in the French Chamber seeks to render itself predominant by means unbecoming a deliberative assembly, it would seem but fitting that those members who belong to a class habituated to the restraints of genteel life should be allowed to exercise the function of legislators in peace and with decorous forms. And to this end, as Mr. Wikoff urges, two Chambers are indispensable, a bear-garden for the “Montagne;” and a Senate (or “House of Lords”) for educated men of business, where public discussion should be carried on with some chance of profit to the country, by those who under an unitary representative system would be condemned to inaction. But in order that a nation should consolidate its public institutions, it must positively resist wanton changes. “Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien,” it has been happily said; and the existing French constitution, with all its faults, offers so much of what is essential to a good one, that, having got it into
operation, the nation ought to endeavour to keep it
have proved that they could resent the faults of bad governments, and also that, sixty years ago, they could be led to commit furious excesses in their vengeance: but what centuries of oppression had they not endured? Now, however, the nation, as such, is disposed to check all, attempts at violence, and might be readily brought to co-operate in the organization of provincial and local systems of government, were its rulers but honest enough to afford it the means. We fear, however, that the passion for centralization, so rife among political leaders, will continue to paralyze a tendency which, if encouraged, might beyond all else promote the internal tranquillity of France, as well as afford a counterpoise to the mischievous ascendancy of its metropolis,