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Parisians, content to defer more serious considerations, seemed bent only on festivities, shopping, and receptions.
On the reassembling of the Legislature, the Duc d'AudiffretPasquier was elected President of the Senate, and M. Grévy of the Chamber of Deputies; and M. Simon began his administration as Minister of the Interior by removing Bonapartist prefects, and otherwise eliminating the Bonapartist element in other branches of the public service.
The results of the census of the population of Paris, for the last four years, was made known on January 6, as follows:— ` Number of inhabitants, 1,986,748; an increase of 134,956 since 1872. The increase has been chiefly in the quarters inhabited by the working classes. In Cliquancourt the gain was over 7,000; in Belleville, 5,000; in the Gros-Caillon, 3,220. The eighth arrondissement, however, including the Champs Elysées, Madeleine, &c., has gained 6,000, and Passy 5,000.
Parliamentary government in England is a tree of native growth of which we see the germ in the Saxon Witenagemot. It now fills the land, and is the common property of all parties, and no one dreams of cutting it down; but in France, if it grows awhile, its many enemies never allow it to reach maturity or to attain to its full stature. During the first session of the year and subsequently, the Chambers at Versailles might have been taken for some debating club, where coteries and cabals met to hold discussion classes, and to ventilate their own particular views, rather than the national parliament of a great nation; and out of doors the Irreconcilables were doing the work of the enemies of the Republic by giving dinners (on Sunday, January 21) at Belleville to celebrate the anniversary of the execution of Louis XVI., and arrangements were made by these tiger-apes to commemorate in the same way (on February 16) the execution of "La Veuve Capet."
The debates in the English Parliament on the Eastern question, the speech of Lord Derby, and the attitude of the English Government, were all commented on in terms of high approval by both the French press and Parliament; for France, like England, was bent on preserving a strict neutrality. In the home politics of France very little occurred at first worth recording.
On February 18 a Frenchman of some celebrity, General Changarnier, died in the eighty-fourth year of his age. He made no figure as a politician. As a soldier he was brave and selfconfident, but ambitious and vain. In appearance, and as a beau and homme d'esprit, the Legitimate General was a complete contrast to his Republican contemporary, General Cavaignac; but they resembled each other in being incorruptibly honest, and they both valued independence and their own political convictions far above mere personal advancement. "At one time," it has been remarked by a political writer," Changarnier might have changed (perhaps it is not too much to say) the fate of Europe as well as
of France." His popularity and influence with the army was great, and he would probably have succeeded in the contre coup to the coup d'état which he meditated; but he hesitated, and to hesitate at such times is a fatal error.
"The Imperial conspirators struck their blow first, and all was over. Had Changarnier surrounded the Elysée a night or two previously, and arrested the President, the proofs of the plot, the very drawer of the presidential bureau, filled with the bundle of papers marked rubicon,' containing the manuscript proclamations dissolving the Assembly and appealing to the nation, would all have fallen into his hands, and justified the act. Napoleon III. might never have reigned; the wars of the Crimea, of Italy and Germany, never have taken place; the two latter countries never have been unified; perhaps even no Eastern Question been tormenting us at the present moment. It is wonderful to think what a moment of decisive resolution, without waiting for Dupin,' on the part of the dapper little figure which has just departed from among us, might have possibly effected in the destinies of the world."
Even Changarnier had no opinion of the Marshalate, nor of the President's power of stemming the threatened flood of Radicalism, for he is said to have remarked upon a recent occasion, "Ce pauvre bon Maréchal"—"he seems to me to be leading us dans l'abîme as fast as that brigand de Thiers himself!"
How little French statesmen often care for consistency was illustrated at this time by the Prime Minister prosecuting M. Paul de Cassagnac for Bonapartist articles in the Pays newspaper, expressing hatred and contempt of the Government.
At the reopening of the Chamber after the Easter recess the Duc Decazes reiterated the peace policy of the Government, which was, in fact, identical with that of England, namely, a strict neutrality.
A remarkable discussion followed on ultramontane tactics with reference to education. It was introduced by M. Leblond, who protested that he had no wish to attack religion, or the French clergy, but only a party which was political rather than religious. It influenced the youth of the country by the hold it had obtained upon both primary and superior education, and by the instruction it imparted perverted history, calumniated modern feeling, and taught the duty of absolute submission to authority. After a long discussion-a trimming speech from M. Jules Simon, a vigorous onslaught on this ultramontane development by M. Gambetta, which produced great sensation, and an ultramontane speech by M. de Mun-an understanding was come to between the Government and the majority. M. Leblond invited the Government to use the legal means in its possession to repress ultramontane manifestations, and, in particular, the anti-patriotic agitation to which he had called attention. M. Jules Simon, amidst the cheers of the Left and the derision of the Right, accepted this declaration, which was accordingly voted by 346 to 114.
If the adage be true that "happy are the people whose annals are vacant," the French must certainly be the most miserable people in Europe, for their history is mostly made up of wars, revolutions, democratic excesses, and the despotism which is sure to follow. Their attempts at parliamentary and constitutional government have, for the most part, been a satire upon free institutions, and have too often degenerated into a mere conflict of factions. The year 1877 was scarcely an exception to this general rule. Up to May 16, indeed, French political annals had been vacant enough, and correspondents were fain to eke out their communications by the reports of petty squabbles, the state of the weather, the state of feeling on the Eastern Question, or the preparations for the International Exhibition at Paris. Home politics had been dull, but more exciting times were at hand, for the dead calm was broken by a political thunderclap that rudely dispelled the dreams of those who flattered themselves that constitutional government had closed the era of revolutions; and the blow came, not from the Irreconcilables and the Reds, but from the professed Guardian of the Constitution, who had hitherto subordinated his own will to the will of the nation as represented by the Chamber of its election.
M. Jules Simon had steadily but cautiously carried out such changes as seemed to him essential to the safety of the Republic, especially in the removal of its avowed enemies-prefects, magistrates, and other officers-from the service of the public. He sought to free the press from the trammels that hampered it, and he had shown a firm determination to act as a constitutional minister, and not as the agent of personal government. But while his measures were meeting with a success that might have given confidence to the Marshal and the Conservatives, and he was steering a judicious course between the suspicions of the more. advanced Republicans and the fears of the President, the latter, on May 16, wrote his Prime Minister a letter that was, in fact, nothing short of a dismissal from office. "I have just read in the Journal Officiel," he remarked, "the report of yesterday's sitting, and I have seen with surprise that neither you nor the Keeper of the Seals urged from the Tribune all the serious reasons which should have prevented the repeal of a law on the press passed less than two years ago on the proposal of M. Dufaure, and the application of which you yourself quite recently demanded from the tribunals. Yet, at several meetings of the Council, and even at yesterday morning's, it had been decided that the President of the Council, as also the Keeper of the Seals, should undertake to combat it. There had already been room for astonishment that the Chamber of Deputies, in its latest sittings, had discussed a whole Municipal Law, and even adopted some provisions, the danger of which you yourself had recognised in the Council of Ministers, such as the publicity of the sittings of Municipal Councils without the Minister of the Interior having taken part in the discussion.
This attitude of the head of the Cabinet naturally suggests the inquiry whether he retains over the Chamber the influence necessary to make his own views prevail. An explanation on this point is indispensable, for if I am not responsible, like you, to the Parliament, I have a responsibility to France, with which I must now more than ever be preoccupied."
M. Jules Simon went immediately to the Marshal and said: "I offer you my resignation." To this the President replied, "I expected it and I accept it." Subsequently the late Minister made some political explanations in a letter addressed to Marshal MacMahon which, although by no means a masterly reply, showed clearly that the causes referred to by the head of the State were quite inadequate to account for such a high-handed act of personal authority which a political writer at the time declared to be "almost as much a coup d'état, on the part of the President, as if he had gone down to the Chamber with a file of soldiers and turned the majority out of doors."
Marshal MacMahon's new Cabinet, however, was soon complete, and the names of the Ministère de Combat' (composed as it was entirely of Anti-Republicans) appeared in the Journal Officiel on May 18 as follows :—
That the Guardian of the Public, the Constitutional Head of the State, should have exchanged a popular and parliamentary Ministry for one that was at once extra-parliamentary and antiRepublican could not be accounted for, it was said, by any such reasons as those referred to by Marshal MacMahon in his letter to M. Simon, and it was affirmed that they must be sought, rather, in some occult power that influenced him, or some secret motive that impelled him into what was undoubtedly a very perilous course, and one from which he could extricate himself only by humiliating or unconstitutional means. He would, by-and-by, it was likely, find himself firmly fixed on the horns of a dilemma. If he dissolved the Chamber, and appealed from it to the country, and the country returned a House as Republican, or even more extreme than the one then sitting, what would the President do? for he had declared he would never accept a minister from the Radicals, nor be a tool in their hands. Would he resign and leave the dreaded results to his successor? M. Gambetta had said, very plainly, Il faudra ou se soumettre ou se démettre and clearly, to submit or to resign was his only constitutional alternative. On the other hand, the Marshal believed himself to
be the chosen Saviour of Society till 1880-the man whom the country had elected as its Protector against Radicalism and Communism, and the other "isms" of democracy. Until that date he was then responsible to France for order, peace, and security. To resign his post, therefore, would be to betray his trust, to desert his post, to surrender the citadel to the enemy. It was a soldierlike view of the case, and the Marshal, though a brave soldier, was not a statesman in any high sense of the word. As a soldier, he would sooner die than give up a position to the enemy, and carrying the same feeling into the field of politics, he had taken for his motto the words "J'y suis, J'y reste."
If, then, there were no ostensible causes to induce the President to run the risk of having either to submit or to resign, or to seek by a coup d'état to substitute personal for constitutional government, were there, it was asked, some hidden causes, some occult power, that had influenced him? Political observers thought that such causes were to be found in the political history of the late Ministry, or in the secret working of some cabal of which the President had become the tool.
No sympathy had existed at any time between the Marshal and his late Minister, and recently a bare show of courtesy had been kept up. It had always been understood that M. Simon was to stand between the Government and the democratic party in the Chamber; and, on these terms, the two had made an attempt to pull together. Latterly, however, M. Gambetta, by his impetuous eloquence, had drawn the Chamber after him, and the Minister was fain to follow in his wake. The chief of the Opposition was supreme as Chairman of the Budget Committee, and the Minister of the President had, it was remarked, become little more than the shadow of the acknowledged leader of the Radicals.
It has been already hinted that the President was possibly the victim of a cabal, which from the first had been at work behind the scenes, and a writer in the Times, in the latter part of December, very confidently asserted this to have been an indisputable fact. "The Marshal," he said, "from the 20th of February, 1876, was urged by the Duc de Broglie, seconded by two persons of his household, and by one of the most influential members of the then existing Ministry, to free himself suddenly from Liberal Cabinets; that he chose the 16th of May as he would have chosen any other date, believing that any pretext was good provided the Republican Cabinets fell; and that, the step once taken, he left it to the Duc de Broglie, in whom he had implicit faith, to make the best of it. From that moment the Marshal was visible to none but those whom the Broglists allowed to approach him. This state of things lasted long after the elections, and the Marshal remained surrounded by this Chinese wall; but when once a breach was made in the wall the truth found its way in, and the conspiracy receded like phantoms before the light of day."
The immediate result of the extraordinary events of the 16th