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NAPOLEON, in one of his familiar conversations with Bourrienne, observed, “A revolution in France is a revolution in Europe”—a remark abundantly verified by recent events. The truth of this proposition being incontestibly established by experience, all political changes in France, however trivial they may at first appear, are invested with a certain degree of interest and importance.
In almost every European state, but more especially in France, doctrines have latterly been freely promulgated, advising the dissolution of the present laws that hold together the social compact, and purposing to re-construct them upon entirely novel principles. This proposed reform is termed Communism, and the disciples of the school are familiarly known as the Socialists.“ Liberty, equality, and fraternity,” the motto adopted by these visionary enthusiasts, describes with remarkable brevity the anticipated reward of their labours; and as the school is almost wholly recruited from the needy and dissolute classes of society, the three words may be translated into plain English, as Everything to gain, having nothing to lose.” For liberty, we may read—an abolition of all law; for equality—a spoliation of the rich; for fra
t ternity-any brotherly association to perform these highly commendable purposes.
The supporters of this miserable scheme for the regeneration of society, are composed of three classes—a few speculative
philanthropists, who are foolish enough to believe they have discovered the philosopher's stone, for removing evil from the world, and converting it into a boundless Arcadia; a number of well-intentioned ouvriers, who embrace the views of the school without either perceiving the dangers of its pernicious principles, or being able to detect its fallacious sophisms; and the whole of that worthless part of the community, who from indolence or crime are unable to compete with the more honest and industrious citizens of the state.
Upon the present occasion we shall limit our observations to the Communists of France. Socialism, at its origin in that country, commenced by professing not to interfere with, or take any interest in the political affairs of the state; but its success was so entirely dependent upon some fundamental change being effected in the nature of the government, that this mask became at length laid aside. As obedience is always more or less synonymous with the idea of a monarchy, and as this virtue is wholly at variance with the cardinal points of Socialism, nothing appeared more certain than that such a form of government must be got rid of, before the least prospect of success could be entertained for the new opinions. A Republic offered every advantage for the propagation of the Socialist doctrines, as under that most indefinite term any schemes, however monstrous, might be set in action without appearing to be inconsistent. Hence, the Socialist was virtually if not ostensibly a Republican from his cradle.
Upon the occurrence of the Revolution of 1830,
the French Communists were very limited and insignificant in point of number; and as they strictly preserved the visionary theories of their philosophical conceptions free from all contact with the political controversies then pending, their existence was scarcely recognised amidst the turbulent changes which raised the Orleans dynasty to power. Saint Simon, an enthusiast, was the leader and acknowledged founder of the school; but at this period both he and his disciples appeared doomed to that garret kind of obscurity which is the usual fate of philosophers. In those glorious days which placed Louis Philippe upon a throne, and converted him into a Citizen King, the Republican party were far more numerous and better organized than the generality of politicians suspected; but, conceiving“ the pear not ripe,” their banners were never very conspicuously displayed upon the barricades of July. Scarcely, however, had the new dynasty been congratulated upon its successful elevation to power, than the Republican party issued forth into the streets with an armed force to dispute the validity of the Charter. Several coups de main, attempted both in Paris and Lyons, were not suppressed by the government without considerable difficulty and loss of life. Lyons, more than once, required placing in a state of siege; and the massacre of the Cloitre de St. Mery showed the determined character of the new opponents with which the Bourgeois monarchy had to contend.
In spite of plots, of attempted assassinations, and infernal machines, the royalty of the Hotel de Ville