« PreviousContinue »
proceed indeed by deducing the full consequences of my propositions, but that the progress towards those consequences may be as slow, as imperceptible, as you will. The Revolution is with me one thing—its execution another. The former is an irrevocable fact, irretrievably pledged to its consequences; but as to the latter, if I individually think it prudent and useful to accelerate them rapidly, I shall not quarrel with a man who may not be of my opinion.'— Idée Générale de la Révolution, p. 217. And then he proceeds to detail an absurd plan by which property may be distributed, and proprietors compensated. This is but a feeble reassertion-a very dissolving view-of the bold dogma, Property is robbery.'
Again, M. Dehais, in a defence of Socialism and Democracy against M. Guizot, complains that the socialist principle is misrepresented, and that, in truth, it only means that the government should
be incessantly employed in devising all possible ameliorations for the most numerous classes of the community, and thus to realize the principle of public help sanctioned by the Constitution.'-p. 93. But when, by and by, he, in his candour, comes to give the practical application of this principle, he throws his Louis Blanc overboard, and becomes stingier than any poor-law guardian.
• The government,' he says, “is bound to place more and more within the reach of the working classes, not absolutely work for every man, as some madmen have pretended to understand it, but the universal implement of work, that is to say, credit, and, above all, to take care that no man shall suffer a day's hunger; and that, in short, the principal business of the Government should be the paternal care of the suffering classes. The Provisional Government, pressed upon by the anarchical element, and having no material force to restrain it, gave a great triumph to the adversaries of the principle of public assistance, by giving a great deal too much to those who wanted, or pretended to want, work--thus, as it was objected, giving a bounty on idleness. And so it would be if you give them bread, wine, meat, &c., but not so if you give them only bread. The State is bound to give to him who has nothing bread- nothing else. Establishments at the expense of the State, the Department, or the Commune, should give to any individual who should come as much brown bread (pain bis) as would satisfy hunger-but not to carry away a morsel. Such establishments would be of an immense benefit-far beyond their expense: they would save many a strong and brave young man from the painful alternative of starving or begging. Is it too much to ask for an honest man without work two or three meals of brown bread ?'
Certainly not—and we should be exceedingly surprised to hear that there is any man in France who adopts M. Dehais' measure of Socialism; yet it is on this basis, so obviously both false and
absurd, that M. Dehais builds his hypothesis of a moderate republic.
This, the work we suppose of a very young and we see a very superficial writer, is preceded by a long address to M. Guizot, in which the principles of his · Essay on Democracy' were so essentially misrepresented as to induce him to answer M. Dehais. We do not suppose that M. Dehais' very vague and visionary utopies would of themselves have engaged M. Guizot's notice; but being so individually addressed, he was not, we presume, sorry to take the opportunity of justifying his former work, and still more perhaps of recalling to the minds of his countrymen that the undoubted share to which democracy has a right in all human institutions is limited, and must be tempered by other rights as natural and as indefeasible as any that democracy can pretend to.
“Man considered as an individual has no doubt instincts, interests, ideas, passions, ostensibly democratic, and, though democratic, legitimate: the spirit of independence-pride--self-esteem--the inherent right of a man over himself, and his natural equality with his fellow creatures, however greater they may be in the social scale—these are democratic elements with which it has pleased God to endow mankind; but he has equally endowed us with concomitant feelings of an entirely different and indeed contrary class: the sense of authority--the ambition of superiority-instincts which force men to admit, however reluctantly, the authority and superiority of other men—the longing, in this ephemeral scene, for a future existence—that respect for the facts and traditions of the past which men feel in spite as it were of themselves these feelings are just as natural and universal as our democratic propensities. Composed of men, society partakes of the conditions of men. It also contains naturally and legitimately democratic and anti-democratic elements, destined to co-exist and to develop themselves by mutual control and under antagonist conditions. The proportions of the force and influence of these divers elements have varied and continue to change in different ages and countries
the preponderance is sometimes on the democratic, sometimes on the anti-democratic side but neither is ever totally extinguished, and a proportion, greater or less, is for ever working its way back to restore the balance when unduly disturbed. If you pretend to give to one of these elements an absolute and exclusive power, and to make it the sole force and principle of government, Providence soon avenges your rash impatience of its dispensations by inflicting on you one or other of the penal alternatives--tyranny or anarchy! This, Sir, is not an argument that I advance—it is only a fact that I record.'
His adversary had asked, why should society not be able to govern itself without monarchical or aristocratic control, as ari individual man does his own affairs ? M. Guizot answers by expressing his surprise at such an argument, which tells exactly the other way; for there is and can be imagined no society so democratic as not to prescribe rules for individual conduct and restraint of the indulgence of individual passions :
* But who shall control society itself if it consists of only one element? who is to hold the balance? Where is the appeal ? . . . It is because there is no human power which can be invoked to guide and govern independent societies, that it becomes necessary that societies should be so constituted as to govern themselves that the great elements of national sovereignty should be distributed into different forms of public authority, controlling the excesses of each other, and combining for the harmony of the whole.'
After showing, by reasons familiar to our readers (see Q. Rev. June, 1849), why the federative democracy of America cannot be applied to such a country as France-or, we add, as England he proceeds
You say that “some may perhaps really think, and more pretend to think, democracy dangerous; but no one ventures to say that it is unjust.” I beg your pardon, Sir, but I will venture on that temerity which you suppose impossible: pure democracy, such as you advocate, is not only dangerous, but it is essentially and violently unjust, for it suppresses and oppresses the natural and necessary rights and elements of man and of society; and it is because it is thus unjust that it is dangerous-and dangerous not merely to the society it oppresses, but to its own existence; for the purer, that is, the more entire and exclusive, you make your democracy, the more rapidly will it hasten to extinguish itself in either anarchy or tyranny. You attempt a distinction between, as you say, the different principles of democrats and “ demagogues,” but common sense and experience pronounce that they are mere degrees of the same thing. As long as our country shall be on that fatal incline of Democracy, you will have neither Republic nor Monarchy-you will only have Revolution !
These are wise and eloquent words, and we think our readers will agree that the defence—the rationale of mixed governments thus succinctly developed—is as true in substance as novel and happy in illustration and expression. It justifies the theories of M. Guizot's works, and the course of his political life—but where is the power that shall arrest democracy when set in motion down the incline ? — That M. Guizot seems unable to discover, and so are we !
We presume that we may class M. de Lamartine's "History of the Restoration' as another defence and recommendation of the moderate Republic. The success of his · History of the Girondins,' instead of prompting, should have rather deterred him from another attempt to degrade history into the engine of faction-for it was a success that did no honour to either the work or the author. It is true that it created a great sensation
—that it was eagerly read — that as successive volumes appeared people snatched them from the booksellers' counters and from each other's hands; but why ?--because it was a surprise and an apostacy-not a book, but a signal-a flag, of which nobody cares whether the material be silk or stuff, provided it tells its errand. The Republic, which since the 18th Brumaire had for five-and-forty years lived only in the memories of a few obsolete Jacobins or in the secret hopes of some young and obscure enthusiasts, was galvanized into new life, by finding an advocate, a panegyrist, in the great poet--the eminent oratorthe devoted Royalist. To M. Lamartine's new allies it was no objection that his motive was offended vanity and personal spite, and his means misrepresentation and paradox; his accession was welcomed with the transports with which a despised sect receives a conspicuous convert, or a beleaguered army an important deserter. This is the true history of the first vogue of the “Girondins,' - which lasted just long enough to contribute one item to the chapter of accidents that placed Lamartine for three months at the head of the Provisional Government, but has since vanished into as much neglect as he himself did after his abdication, which so closely followed that of Louis Philippe. He has now reappeared, and may, in the whirl of French politics, personally regain some authority, which his attempts at writing history never will.
This new work is, no doubt, designed to serve the same sort of political purpose as the former; not that we suppose that either the fame or profits of authorship are indifferent to M. Lamartine; quite the reverse; we believe that profit was here his first object, and vanity the second. But he combines them with two other powerful motives,--an impulse to excuse his own strange conversion to Republicanism, and a calculation that it may tend to his reinstatement in the government of the Republic. The work promises to be very bulky, for the two volumes now published barely include the first year of the first Restoration. Neither his motives nor his object are as yet fully and expressly developed -it is, however, at once evident that he is an anti-Buonapartist, an anti-Carlist, an anti-Orleanist -- but not quite an antiJacobin; and that in the chief characteristics of this portion of his work—his generous indignation at the tyranny of Napoleon, his contemptuous pity for the religious and political bigotry of Charles X., and his sarcastic sketches of the selfish and tortuous policy of Louis Philippe—he is actuated, not merely by a mere love of truth—even where he is most true but still more by the desire of throwing a sinister shade over the pretensions of Henry V., of Louis Napoleon, and of any Orleanist candidate, be
he the Count de Paris or the Prince de Joinville. Louis XVIII. alone finds a kind of favour in his eyes, because he was supposed to be a Liberal, and almost a Republican, and, moreover, left no issue, and hardly enough of a party to thwart any personal views M. Lamartine may have.
Whatever be the motive, M. de Lamartine exhibits the greatest zeal and diligence in exposing the despotism of the Emperor and the atrocities of his reign. We thank him for these wholesome and not unseasonable truths, which it bad, for the last twenty or thirty years, grown into a kind of fashion to doubt about, if not to deny. The French people are naturally willing to forget that they had so long and so servilely submitted to such a tyranny; and it was the, as we think, weak and narrow policy of Louis Philippe to endeavour to make common cause with the Buonapartists against the legitimate line. Of this feeling the most signal instance was the sending the Prince de Joinville for the bones of Napoleon--the bringing them in a posthumous triumph to the very port and along the very road and river, by which (O Retribution !) he himself was three years after to make a disguised and perilous escape-and, finally, the encumbering, and, we might almost say, desecrating, the chapel of Louis XIV. by an ostentatious monument to the murderer of the Duke d'Enghien, to him whom he himself had in other days stigmatized as the Corsican Ogre !' These were mistakes, to call them by the gentlest name, which have already borne bitter fruits to the House of Orleans, and may, we fear, be destined to bear more !
Though it is as a profession of political faith-a personal manifesto-that M. Lamartine's book excites most present attention, our readers may, perhaps, expect from us some appreciation and a few samples of its pretensions as a mere literary performance. These pretensions we can at once venture to pronounce very much greater than its merits, and especially than its merits as history. A poetical turn of mind is naturally uncongenial with precision and pedetentious investigation, and M. Lamartine's is peculiarly so. He belongs essentially to the dreamy school, and loves the visionary and conjectural more than the real. His style, too flowery and diffuse even in poetry, is always on stilts ; and he is the reverse of poor M. Jourdain, for he never can talk prose. He is a painter rather than a narrator, and a painter with whom colour is so primary and almost exclusive an object that it at length becomes discolour.
As to the more important events which passed under the eyes of so many yet living, and which are familiar to everybody that reads, there can be of course no very serious misstatement of the