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Majesty's ministers should be distinctly understood by no man. It is on this account that the anticipation of the meeting of Parliament, although earlier by no more than three weeks, must prove the exciting cause of so many mischievous rumours. Who can say what the Turks themselves will think of it? They have not felt grateful to England up to the present time, for their expectations have been continually disappointed; but they may easily believe that at last the moment is come when the former policy of the United Kingdom will regain the ascendant, so that they are about to be saved from the destruction that seemed imminent. Such a persuasion on their part would be unmixed mischief. The hope we have had of a speedy termination of the war rested on the belief that the Turks could not avoid seeing that they were fairly overcome, and that it was their best course, with no help at hand, to agree with their adversaries quickly. There is a real danger that this hope may now be altogether scattered. Unless Mr. Layard be instructed to tell the Turks in the clearest and most peremptory terms that there is no intention to help them, they will construe the early meeting of Parliament as indicating such an intention, and will be angry and resentful in a corresponding degree when they are undeceived.
"The Pall Mall Gazette says the Cabinet has come to a wise resolution. At a Council held on December 18 it determined to call Parliament together on January 17. The announcement will of course create a certain amount of agitation; but agitations of one kind or another are unavoidable in such anxious and perilous times as these, and the country has been too long dosed with opiates in the form of optimist speeches and newspaper articles. The best friend the nation has had for many a month is the Alarmist; the worst, that sort of counsellor who laughed at alarm, crying out of the depths of unimaginative, self-satisfied dulness, Who's afraid? The truth is, that ever since the meetings of the Conference at Constantinople were held the condition of affairs has been really and truly alarming; and no fallacy can be greater than the supposition that the steadiest minds, the soberest intellects, have ever been free from alarm from that time, wherever there was enough knowledge of affairs to inform judgment. It has been said that the English Cabinet is divided; it may be so; but we are quite sure of this, that not one of its members has differed from the rest in viewing the actual condition or the near prospect of affairs without profound anxiety. Nor have Her Majesty's ministers shared this feeling alone. There is, and has long been, anxiety in every Cabinet and every Court in Europe, not excluding those which seem to have taken the most determinate course and to be most confident of ability to pre-arrange results. But, from the nature of the case, what even for them is anxiety is for English statesmen much more than that; and the later course of events, the obvious ends they are tending to, have necessarily deepened the feeling. Of course these events were foreseen in the
Cabinet as clearly as they were foreseen by commonly intelligent men out of it. But it was not the business of the Government to proclaim their alarms before actual events justified them, though it was the business of independent observers to do so wherever there was sense enough and foresight enough for the purpose. Not much of those qualities was needed; so that it is not for the Alarmist to boast. But we say again, he was, as he remains, the truest friend of the country; for what he had to offer was, after all, nothing more and nothing less than a just and sober exposition of facts and circumstances which were no more a matter of opinion than the advance of a tidal wave. By what particular means they are to be dealt with is another matter. Our readers are aware that on that subject we at any rate have never said a word. The business of all prudent and patriotic men outside the Government has been to show how much broader and how much more perilous are the issues involved than they fancy whose minds are occupied with Bulgarian miseries and Turkish misrule; to keep well in view those points where the war is a menace to the British Empire; to fix the public mind on a fact better established than any other in politics, that Russia is from various causes (uncontrollable, perhaps) a danger not only to England, but to the whole existing system of civilisation, and that what she and her friends call" advance" is a process of subversion and destruction; and finally to keep before the minds of the Queen's Government that it is not for them to succumb to some imaginary force of destiny, but to seek and find means of keeping the country safe from well-defined and long-foreseen dangers.
"The Standard maintains that the state of affairs on the Continent is such as amply to justify Her Majesty's Government in seeking the counsel and aid of the representatives of the people in the preparation of measures necessary for the protection of our national interests. A stage has been reached in the struggle between Russia and Turkey which makes it essential for the British Government to prepare to face certain developments of the war which cannot but threaten our interests, and which make the protection of them a matter of greater solicitude than it was. In other words, Parliament will be asked to grant a vote of money in order to defray the expenses of such an increase to our armament as the present state of Europe demands.
"The Daily News observes that when Parliament is thus summoned before its usual time there can be but one cause for its assembling. The condition of things in the south-east of Europe is explanation enough. It does not follow that this summoning of Parliament must of itself indicate that a war party in the Cabinet is getting the upper hand. Indeed, if Parliament were to be thus called together to consider and decide upon a policy, the News would say that the prospect was distinctly unfavourable to the schemes of a war party. A war policy must have enthusiastic and general support in Parliament, or it has no real Parliamentary
sanction. A war is not to be voted by a fair working majority. In the present instance it cannot be too emphatically stated that the country is not in favour of war, and that any open attempt to force a war policy on it would lead to such a division and distraction as England has not seen in our generation.
"The Daily Telegraph believes the significance of the step will be at once understood, and its effect must be, not to alarm or excite the country, but to spread throughout its length and breadth the well-grounded assurance that the Queen's ministers are vigilant, resolute, and clear in their counsels for the future. The Queen's Government, in fervently desiring to see an end put to the cruel and ruinous war now raging, represents the heartfelt wish of the country; and the way to this consummation lies primarily through mediation. But mediation, to be useful, must have behind it fixity of purpose and visible strength. The House of Commons must therefore supply the administration with those material resources of which it is the steward; and, since it will do this most gladly and liberally, the mere promulgation of the Royal summons constitutes in itself and by anticipation a reinforcement of ministerial action, the value of which cannot be overlooked."
And so the year ended menacingly, as it began, in war and rumour of war.
Position of France-Threatened Conflict between the Chambers-M. Jules Simon's Measures-Census of the Population of Paris-Difficulties of Parliamentary Go. vernment in France-Death of General Changarnier-M. Jules Simon's PolicyThe President's Letter to the Prime Minister, May 16-M. Jules Simon resigns-The New Ministry-Marshal MacMahon's position-Meeting of Republican Deputies -Their Declaration-M. Gambetta's Speech in the Chamber of Deputies-The President's Message-Prorogation of the Chambers-Republican Manifesto-Government Measures-Marshal MacMahon's Declaration.
Ar the beginning of the year 1877 France was still under that form of government which, though nominally a Republic, was little more than a compromise between a Republic and a Despotism -between parliamentary and constitutional liberty and personal rule-and which (from the military rank of its chief magistrate) has been termed the Marshalate.'
Hitherto (since his election as President in 1873) Marshal MacMahon had resisted all suggestions of the anti-Republican cabal (that was installed behind the Presidential chair) to grasp more power than the Constitution gave him-to rule by ministers agreeable to himself rather than by ministers who commanded a majority in the Assembly-yet there was always a fear of his yielding to its influence, and the more so because he was himself no statesman, and his views were at once ultramontane and monarchical.
The Chamber of Deputies, on its part, had exhibited great moderation, but it might not always be so docile. Under the spell of the Radical leader it might suddenly develop radical tendencies and support M. Gambetta in any attempt to carry out his political programme, and thus be brought into direct collision with the head of the State, the result being a dead-lock of the governmental machinery, with a possibility of revolution or civil
Such was the position of France, the dangers of its government, and the fears of its statesmen at the beginning of the year 1877. In December 1876, M. Dufaure had resigned. A new ministry had to be formed which, according to constitutional principles, must rest upon a parliamentary majority. If that
should be one that, in the opinion of the President, he could not himself accept, he must either dissolve the Chamber or take an 'extra-Parliamentary Ministry.' Moderate and constitutional principles once more guided the President, and he sent for M. Jules Simon, the leader of the moderate Left, who became Premier, and with the Presidency of the Council, he held the portfolio of the Interior. M. Martel, a member of the Left Centre and Vice-President of the Senate, became Keeper of the Seals.
The new year began propitiously, for the threatened conflict between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate had been terminated by the Budget being voted by both Chambers. The total revenue expected for 1877 was put down at 2,737,003,812f.—that is, 109,000,000l. sterling. Of this the sum of 412,470,600f. is collected from direct taxes, and 2,324,533,212f. from indirect taxes. The authorised total expenditure was stated as 2,737,312,194f., the deficit thus amounting to 308,382f. The extraordinary session had thus happily been brought to a close by the triumph of the new minister over M. Gambetta, the leader of the Opposition. The difference between them had been upon a constitutional point. M. Gambetta, as chairman of the Budget Committee, had struck out some of the items proposed by the Government, and, notably, that for the payment of military chaplains. These amendments were supported by the Chamber; the Senate, however, restored most of the charges, and so arose a question of prerogative.
The leader of the Opposition begged the Chamber to stand by him and its prerogative; while the minister hoped it would avoid a conflict which might endanger existing institutions. The House taking into consideration the amendments of the Senate adopted some of them (those respecting military chaplains and allowances for outfits to officers), and so recognised the right of the Senate not only to vote the Budget but to amend it, and the Senate, content with this triumph, at once voted the Budget without further discussion. A collision between the Chambers that might have had serious results was thus peaceably terminated, and the Legislature was prorogued till the 9th inst. The situation, however, was not altogether reassuring, and, as a political observer remarked, it amounted to this:-A Republic of recent date, "with an honest but not very intelligent soldier at the head of it; a Prime Minister, who, though he might be a 'profound republican' and a profound conservative,' was better known as a littérateur and libre penseur than as a practised statesman; and as leader of the Opposition, one who hoped to succeed either minister or president, or, perhaps, both in turn: a man whose chief religious feeling was hostility to Church and priests, and whose political principles were a radicalism only more dangerous because disguised under a veil of moderation."
But if there were clouds on the political horizon, the sun shone brightly, as in May, on the thousands who, on the Jour de l'An, crowded the promenades and boulevards; and the light-hearted