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“In our eyes those reforms are the vital condition of order and progress, and in order to prepare them the Press must be free from its impediments. To suppress the caution-money and the stamp, to re-establish trial by jury, to decree the freedom of printing and bookselling, is what the Opposition has long since demanded, and what we shall propose in virtue of the right of initiative.
Finally, we shall demand the abrogation of Art. 291 of the Penal Code, and call for liberty of association, as well as for the revision of the law on public meetings, in order to abolish the arbitrary provisions which, by humiliating and limiting the exercise of an essential right, irritate men's minds and give rise to causes of conflicts, always to be regretted.”
A fresh election for Paris took place in November, and amongst those who were returned were MM. Crémieux, Rochefort, Arago, and Glais-Bizoin. We have already mentioned that M. Rochefort had been condemned par contumace for a seditious libel to fine and imprisonment, and when he crossed the Belgian frontier to present himself as a candidate to the electors, he was arrested; but the Minister of the Interior, M. Forcade de la Roquette, having ascertained the pleasure of the Emperor, ordered a safe-conduct to be made out for M. Rochefort, to be valid during the whole period of the elections.
The new Chambers were opened by the Emperor in person on the 29th of November, when he delivered the following Speech from the Throne :
« Messieurs les Sénateurs,
“ Messieurs les Députés, “It is not easy to establish in France the regular and peaceful exercise of liberty. Some months back society seemed to be menaced by subversive passions, and liberty to have been compromised by excesses committed by public journals and at public meetings. Every one was asking how far the Government would push its policy of long-suffering; but already the good sense of the public reacts against culpable exaggerations. Impotent attacks have only had the effect of showing the solidity of the edifice founded by universal suffrage ; nevertheless, the uncertainty and disquietude which exist in the minds of the people cannot endure, and the situation requires more than ever frankness and decision. We must speak without any circumlocution, and declare loudly what is the will of the country. France desires liberty, but liberty united with order. For order I will answer. Aid me, gentlemen, to save liberty; and to attain this object let us keep at an equal distance from reaction and revolutionary theories. Between those who pretend to preserve every thing without change and those who aspire to overthrow every thing, there is a glorious ground to take up. When I proposed the Senatus Consultum of last September as the logical sequence of previous reforms and of the declaration made in my name by the Minister of State on the 28th of June, I meant resolutely to inaugurate a new era of conciliation and progress. In seconding me in this path you have been unwilling to be renegades to the past, to disarm power, or to overthrow the Empire.
“ The measures which the Ministers will submit for your approbation all bear a sincerely liberal character. If you adopt them, the following improvements will be realized :—The mayors will be selected from among the Municipal Councils, excepting in special cases for which provision will be made by the proposed enactment. At Lyons, as well as in the suburban communes of Paris, the formation of these councils will be committed to universal suffrage. In Paris itself, where the interests of the city are linked with those of the whole of France, the Municipal Council will be elected by the Legislative Body, which is already invested with the right of settling the extraordinary budget of the capital. Cantonal Councils will be instituted, principally with the object of uniting the communal power and of directing its employment. Fresh prerogatives will be granted to the General Councils, and even the colonies will participate in this movement of decentralization; and, lastly, a Bill enlarging the circle in which universal suffrage works will determine the public functions compatible with a seat in the Chamber. To these administrative and political reforms will be added legislative measures of more immediate interest for the people—viz. for the more rapid development of gratuitous primary instruction; the diminishing of legal expenses ; the removal of the demi-decime wartax, which weighs upon the registration duty in matters of succession; the affording greater facilities of access to the savings-banks, and the placing them within the reach of the inhabitants of rural districts through the aid of Treasury agents; a more humane regulation of infant labour in manufactories; and an increase of the salaries of subordinate officials. Other important questions, no solution of which is as yet ready, are being considered. The agricultural inquiry is concluded, and useful propositions will result from it as soon as the superior commission shall have given in its report. Another inquiry has been commenced with reference to the octrois. A Customs Bill will be submitted to you, reproducing those general tariffs to which no serious exception has been taken As regards those tariffs which have provoked loud complaints from certain branches of industry, the Government will not bring forward any scheme until it has obtained enlightenment from all the sources of information calculated to assist your
deliberations. “ The statement of the situation of the Empire presents satisfactory results. Commerce is not at a standstill; and the indirect revenues, whose natural increase is a sign of prosperity and confidence, have produced up to the present thirty millions of francs more than last year. The current Budgets show notable surpluses, and the Budget for 1871 will allow of our undertaking to effect an improvement in several branches of the public service, and to make suitable grants for public works. But it is not enough to propose reforms, to introduce savings in the finances, and to administer affairs in an effective manner. It is also necessary that by a clear
and firm attitude the public bodies, in accordance with the Government, should show that the more we widen the paths of liberty, the more we are determined to preserve the interests of society and the principles of the Constitution intact and superior to all acts of violence. It is the duty and within the power of a Government which is the legitimate expression of the national will to cause that will to be respected, for it has both right and might upon its side.
“ Turning from home affairs, if I gaze beyond our frontier, I congratulate myself on seeing foreign Powers maintaining with us friendly relations. Sovereigns and nations desire peace, and they are engaged in advancing civilization. Whatever reproaches may be made against our century, we have certainly many reasons to be proud of it. The new world suppresses slavery; Russia liberates her serfs ; England does justice to Ireland; the littoral countries of the Mediterranean seem to be once more calling to mind their ancient splendour, and from the assembled Catholic Bishops at Rome we can only expect a work of wisdom and conciliation.
“The progress of science brings nations together. While America joins the Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean by a railroad 1000 leagues in length, and in all parts capitalists and thinkers agree to unite by electric communication the most distant countries of the globe, France and Italy are about to clasp hands through the tunnel of the Alps, and the waters of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea already mingle by means of the Suez Canal. All Europe was represented in Egypt at the inauguration of this gigantic enterprise, and if the Empress is not here to-day, at the opening of the Chambers, it is because I have been desirous that, by her presence in a country where our arms were once rendered illustrious, she might testify to the sympathy of France towards a work due to the perseverance and genius of a Frenchman.
“You are about to resume the extraordinary session interrupted by the presentation of the Senatus Consultum. After the verification of the elections the ordinary session will immediately commence. The great bodies of the State, closely united, will come to an understanding to apply faithfully the latest modification made in the Constitution. The more direct participation of the country in its own affairs will constitute for the Empire a fresh source of strength, and the Representative Assemblies will have henceforth a larger share of responsibility. Let them use it for the promotion of the greatness and prosperity of the nation. May the various shades of opinion disappear when required by the general interest, and may the Chambers prove equally by their enlightenment and their patriotism that France, without again falling into deplorable excesses, is capable of supporting those free institutions which are the honour of civilized countries !"
M. Schneider was re-elected President of the Legislative Body by a large majority over two competitors, M. Leroux and M. Grévy.
In the course of a discussion on the question of a disputed election on the 8th of December, the Minister of the Interior, M. Forcade de la Roquette, said, “The Government wishes to establish true liberty; if possible, with the assistance of all. It is aware of the danger by which liberty is threatened, but this danger it faces with resolution and confidence. The Government intends now to make it its glory to found liberty. In this task, though its predecessors have succumbed, the Government of the Emperor sets up a claim to be more successful, better qualified, and more resolute. It looks back with respect upon its past of eighteen years, which have given liberty to the country; but at the same time it intends to march onward and make the Empire the definitive founder of liberty in France. This resolution is not a fresh incident; it is the result of acts which have succeeded one another during the last ten years. But to establish liberty two conditions are necessary: prudence and firmness. The country does not want a revolution, it wants a Liberal but strong Government, and this it shall have. This is the idea which the Emperor, in his speech from the Throne at the opening of this session, summed up in the words, “For order I will answer, aid me in saving liberty.'
I am of those who have applauded reforms and who desire to devote their lives to them. I am of those who believe there is something yet more worthy of an elevated ambition than personal Government, and that is the honour of founding liberty in this country. I think, and it is thought elsewhere, that this glory, which has been wanting to great minds and to noble characters, is the finest that can be desired. Yes, without doubt, others have failed by reason of insurrections, of civil wars, of surprises; the Restoration failed in spite of the genius of Royer Collard, of the eloquence of Serres and Martignac; the July Government also sank under its task, notwithstanding the eloquence of Thiers and Guizot; with grief did those statesmen behold the Liberal Government they hoped to found disappear in a catastrophe. Where others have failed, the Empire reckons on success, because its principle is stronger and more popular, because it rests upon the national will several times proclaimed, and because it defies surprises.” This speech was much applauded.
In the Yellow Book, relative to the Foreign Policy of France, which was issued in December, the following passage occurs on the subject of the Ecumenical Council that was about to assemble at Rome :-“ Thanks to the tranquillity which prevails in the Pontifical States, Bishops coming from every part of the world will be able to assemble in Rome, where the Pope has convoked at the Vatican an (Ecumenical Council. Most of the questions which will be discussed on that occasion do not come within the jurisdiction of the political powers, a fact which constitutes a manifest difference between the present and past centuries. The Government of the Emperor, relinquishing, consequently, the traditional privilege of the Sovereigns of France, has resolved not to intervene in the deliberations of the Council by sending an Ambassador accredited
to that Assembly. This determination has appeared to it to be more in conformity with the spirit of the age and the nature of the present relations between Church and State. Our intention is not, however, to remain indifferent towards acts capable of influencing greatly the Catholic population of every country. The Ambassador of the Emperor at the Court of Rome will be ordered, if necessary, to communicate to the Pope our impressions with regard to the progress of the debates and the import of the resolutions adopted. Moreover, the Government would eventually find in legislation the necessary powers to protect the basis of our public law. But we have too much confidence in the wisdom of the prelates assembled at Rome to think that they will fail to act consistently with the necessities of our time and the legitimate aspirations of modern nations."
The Blue Book, relating to internal matters, said with reference to commerce, “Several great centres of trade have raised complaints against the treaties of commerce. The Government will endeavour to pursue a course which, while showing the necessary consideration towards interests worthy of every solicitude, shall, at the same time, afford security to our international mercantile transactions which have never ceased to develope under the system inaugurated in 1860. We may hope that the stagnation which has been felt as much in England as in France, will not stop a movement which tends towards the expansion and fusion of the general interests of the two peoples, a movement initiated by the Imperial Government.”
To give some idea of the licence which the Republican party indulges in when attacking the Emperor, we will quote a sentence from a speech of M. Rochefort, in answer to some caustic remarks by the Minister of the Interior, as to the silly nature of a Bill for a new organization of the Constitution, brought in by him and M. Raspail. He said, " If I am ridiculous, I shall never equal in that way the gentleman who walked on the sands of Boulogne with an eagle on his shoulder and a bit of bacon in his hat."
During the sitting of the Legislative Body on the 20th of December, M. Rochefort asked the Government to explain why a deputy of the Spanish Cortes named Angelo, who was a refugee in France since the outbreak of the revolution in Spain, had received orders from the French Minister of the Interior to quit the territory of France within twenty-four hours. M. Rochefort said, “Wounded, vanquished, and condemned to death, he was simple enough to put faith in what is called, probably by tradition, French hospitality. Then the Minister invited him to take refuge elsewhere. I know what you will answer : the law of 1849 gives the Government an almost discretionary power with regard to foreigners. What I want to know is, the manner in which that power is exercised. We have received, welcomed, sheltered a fallen Queen who has been almost imposed upon us; a Queen who has employed the millions she brought away from Spain to foment troubles in her native land.