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first object is to carry it out in practice: since this was in reality the object of the Holy Alliance, now, fortunately, numbered among the follies of the past, its efficacy during its existence having been on a par with its sanctity. This fact however, instead of confirming the theory, only supplies an additional proof, if any were wanting, of the utter unfitness of these rulers for the positions in which, as they say, the wisdom of God, but as some persons uncharitably believe, the folly of man permits them to remain.
There are doubtless times when men are so excited that they do reject the control of reason, and when repression by force is absolutely necessary; but, unless a man be so unreasonable as to believe this to be the permanent condition of the French, he cannot believe that the only system possible for permanently governing France is a military despotism; and if any other systems are possible, all are better than this, which has now been definitively adopted: whence we arrive at the serious and significant conclusion that France is governed on the very worst possible principle.
To turn from principle to practice: let us look for example at some of the measures that have marked the last four months; the most important of them is the “ Law of Public Safety," which provides, among other unjust regulations, that anybody who has been interné or expulsé for political causes during the last ten years shall be liable to be so treated again, without trial, at the discretion of the Government; a law which has not been allowed to remain a dead letter, but has been enforced in very many cases: its injustice, although obvious enough, and its virtual effect upon society, will be more fully appreciated if we make a historical comparison regarding it. In 1495 it was enacted as a law of England that, “no man should suffer forfeiture or attainder for taking arms in the service of the King for the time being;” the principle of the law evidently being that men should not be punished for actions, which at the time of their commission were legal; which principle, having been adopted by the good-sense of the nation, was, when the time arrived for a decision on the subject, embodied in the above law: now many persons in France who have fallen under the ban of the “ Law of Public Safety" were originally maltreated for resistance to a change of Government, which resistance was, of course, quite legal; nevertheless this law punishes them; so that we learn that at the point where England 360 years ago paused to decide, and whence she advanced to civilization by the path of justice, France, having now paused in her turn, has positively retrograded, and taken a step which conducts her back to the errors of the Middle Ages. This achievement she owes to the “august mind” of Napoleon III.
And to us it seems also most lamentable that this law was carried in the French Senate by an overwhelming majority; that educated men were content to make themselves the instruments of this grievous oppression. Armies indeed, bodies of ignorant men, are ready, when guided by practised and unscrupulous hands, to be made the means of enslaving their countrymen; but that men of education and refinement should help to commit this great crime, that they should add to the physical force of military power the moral force of the apparent assent of the educated classes, was hardly to be expected. We had indeed thought that the descendants of Mirabeau and Roland possessed some of the wisdom and courage of their ancestors; that they had hearts and hands capable of doing something for their country's liberty: we find that we had forgotten that they have names capable of being buttered with titles, and pockets capable of being filled with Imperial gold.
The restrictions on the Press correspond in severity with the other repressive measures; no paper is allowed to be published or read in France which contains statements unfavourable to the Government: now either such statements are false or true; if they are false the Government can easily contradict them, and, since it is far wiser under the circumstances to refute than to prevent criticism even if unfair, in adopting a different course is guilty of folly; if they are true, as many of them certainly must be, they ought to be known, and the Government in suppressing them is guilty of dishonesty: it cannot avoid being charged with one of these alternatives. Thus we see too clearly that in France there now really exists neither liberty of person nor of speech.
Now so severely is this oppression felt, and so great is the impatience of it on the part of society at large, that we believe that if the French had now to vote whether the Emperor should continue on his throne or not, the majority would be against him, and would welcome on the spur of the moment almost any ruler, even a Bourbon : yet one of the worst things that could happen to France would be the return of the Bourbons, who would most probably give rise ere long to further troubles by their misgovernment; for the later descendants of Henri Quatre, though they failed to imitate his noble conduct in adversity, most religiously followed his example, in forgetting in their prosperity the severe lessons which they had received; Charles the Tenth and Louis Philippe each had a fair opportunity, but the incorrigible perversity of their race proved their ruin ; so that, judging from these failures, we believe that few occurrences could take place, less likely to conduce towards the establishment of permanent order in France, than the return to power of this family, which, imprudent by nature, has ever shown itself incapable of being either taught by experience, or convinced by adversity, and which, soured by long exile, and irritated by continual reverses, would now be more likely than ever obstinately to persevere in that traditional policy, which has so often proved fatal to it, and most injurious to France.
The French Government has lately laid its financial reports before the world, and to us they seem very unsatisfactory : the permanent annual expenditure has during the last few years been increased by £3,000,000, while the debts incurred by the Empire amount to £60,000,000. Any department of Government which finds itself in difficulties, through its extravagance or other causes, borrows at its own discretion; and in the beginning of 1857 the amount due for debts incurred in this
unauthorized manner was £38,000,000. It certainly seems not unlikely that financial operations conducted in so reckless a manner will be brought before long, and with very little notice, to a complete standstill
. This, although awkward enough as a reality, may be looked upon as also not a little ominous by a people so impressible as the French: for it would remind them vividly of something not easily to be forgotten; it would remind them that, in the reign of Louis XVI. this very system of reckless borrowing did result in bringing the whole administration of State to a deadlock; and so proved the immediate cause of the summoning of the Tiers état, which in its turn produced the most tremendous convulsion chronicled in Modern History. It is often prudent to pay regard to precedent, and it would therefore be wiser to prevent the possibility of the renewal even of the first link of so mighty a chain. Some of the causes of this extraordinary expenditure are declared, lest others be suspected; the late war of course bears all the burden which the extravagant Executive could succeed in laying to its charge; no slight one indeed, since in 1855 the public expenditure exceeded the receipts by £40,000,000. But there is another cause, all allusion to which in France is prevented by politeness, if not by necessity, to which we however wilt venture to allude—the exorbitant salaries received by some of the servants of the State: for instance, the Duke of Malakhoff is said to receive from his different offices under Government £20,000. a-year; and the salaries of some higher functionaries, relations of the Emperor, are on far too extravagant a scale. When the exchequer was so much overtaxed, ordinary prudence might have induced the Emperor to moderate his expenses in this particular, to decide, upon inquiry into the practice of his predecessors or of other nations, what sum is a fair remuneration to his ministers for the work which they do: this amount would be justly due to them, and would-of course-content them.
But still, profuse largesses to some of these gentlemen, though to be regretted, were to be expected, for we might easily have known that it was not for nothing that needy adventurers, hangers-on of an unscrupulous family, undertook to assist their leader in any attempt that seemed good to him; whether in organizing piratical expeditions or coups d'état, or in kindly taking charge of the welfare and the purse of France. Yet if these ministers were really first-rate men their high salaries, although not to be justified, might be tolerated; but on the contrary they are of very inferior capacity: the only man of ability ever in the Cabinet, Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys, retired from it long ago, fatigued by his differences with Count Walewski; the two could not remain in the Ministry, one must leave it; so mark what happened; Count Walewski triumphed over his superior,-unscrupulous devotion to the Emperor over honesty to France,relationship to him over ability to serve her well. For a ruler indeed such as Lamartine, France might now well afford to pay any price, but he is in that condition so pathetically described in the Works of the Emperor, the condition of an exile, and some of the most eminent Citizens of France bear him company:
There is still one consideration which touches England more nearly than any other; the probability of a war with France : now although no prudent Frenchman would desire a war with England, it is certainly not very improbable that the French Army will become so unruly as to force the Emperor into such a war; not at his desire, or with his permission would this take place,-far from it;-he is sagacious enough to see the probable results of such a course, but he may, and, if the Army choose, will be forced into it against his wish: this would be a great misfortune, both for France and him; but for her only, and not for him, should we feel pity, for it would be his own fault; he has determined from the beginning to rule by means of the Army, and he therefore made it as powerful as was possible; he was once its master, it may ere long become his, and he, like Frankenstein, will be destroyed by the monster of his own creation. We are thus forced to the final conclusion that France is mistress neither of her internal administration nor her external political relations.
Having then thus briefly observed the aspect of the three important features which virtually determine the character of that great Country, its condition, social, financial, and political, we regret to find that the ruin of the first has been consummated, -of the second is far advanced, -and of the third is impending