Imágenes de páginas

considerable intervals. Only about ever their compositioa and whaterer fifty whites live here, of which three or circumstances had given them birth, four are women. The town is much always found themselves fulfilling the more picturesquely situated than Bu- same task, contending against the danlawayo, with pretty hills all round; but gers, real or imaginary, of clerical inthe veldt itself close by is ugly just trigue, reorganizing the army on the now, the grass being short and eaten of principle of shorter and shorter unilocusts, and with scarcely any bush. versal service, pushing forward public

education, and especially compulsory and secular elementary education, car

rying out a long programme of exFrom The Contemporary Review. tensive public works - in particular, THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN FRANCE.

completing the railway system - and, BY GABRIEL MONOD.

lastly, pursuing a commercial policy of The general elections of 1893 and the which the two essential points were tragic death of President Carnot have protectionist tariffs and the developwrought a very perceptible change in ment of the colonial empire of France. the course of French politics. During At the same time these ministries, in the entire period from the election of order to keep their places at all, were M. Grévy in 1879 to the elections of obliged, in the choice of their adminis. 1893, the prevailing system was that trative officers, to distribute promotion which is called the “policy of concen- with the utmost skill amongst the diftration." Republicans of all shades ferent portions of their unstable masought to act together, in order to fight jority ; and as the ministers came against any possible return to power of mostly from the Moderate party, but the Clerical and Conservative party, or could only continue in office by the to resist an immediate danger such as favor of the Radicals, it followed that the Boulangist movement. The Gam- the share of patronage obtained by the bettist or Opportunist party always Radicals for their clients was much formed the kernel of these hybrid and larger than was justified by the Radical ephemeral majorities, which comprised strength either in the country or in deputies of the most diverse opin- the Chambers. An administration thus ions, ranging from the edge of the brought together on personal grounds Centre party to the summit of the Ex- and unable to reckon on the life of any treme Left. The heterogeneous com- ministry, could not of course attend to position of the ministries forbade any anything but how to manage all the long tenure of power. As their pro- groups at once, and, above all, how to grammes were nothing but compromises secure the favor of influential electors to which each section of the Republi- and deputies. That is why the admin. can party sacrificed its most character- istration showed such strange weakistic aims, the moment soon arrived ness, not to speak of secret connivance, when dissatisfaction broke out, and in the face of Boulangism, a weakness members of the same Cabinet were at so great as to lead to grave fears of its issue with each other; and as there success; and, what is still more imporwas no settled majority, acting under tant, displayed a culpable remissness recognized leaders, personal ambitions, in dealing with the most serious elecjealousies, and lobby intrigues led to toral frauds, such as those committed ministerial changes, although it was in the Parliamentary and municipal perfectly well known that the new elections at Toulouse. ministry would be very like the old. The characters of the two presidents Thus a series of Cabinets were con- of the republic who held office from structed, one after the other, in which 1879 to 1894 were particularly favorable generally most of the members of the to the policy of concentration. M. last ministry were again assembled Grévy, while he showed real wisdom under a new chief, and which, what- and keen intelligence in following and


guiding, so far as the Coustitution and that the time had come for the allowed him to do so, the foreign policy ministry to be formed of men of like of France, carried the practice of in- views, associated for the purpose of difference and abstention in home carrying out a definite programme, affairs so far as to neglect even his unhesitatingly supported by a majority representative duties as head of the which they directly represented. Many State, thinking of nothing but how to causes combined to give this new direcincrease his fortune by saving out of tion to Parliamentary affairs, which his allowances, and letting his son-in- began with the breaking up of old law, M. Wilson, exert an improper party divisions. influence over the distribution of places The principal of these causes was the and favors. M. Carnot, who filled the collapse of the Boulangist movement, office of president with so much dignity which commenced in 1889 with the and correctness, confined himself, of light of the general to Belgium and his own will, to performing his exter- his condemnation by the Senate, sitnal representative duties and to the ting as a High Court of Justice, and task of making the supreme power was completed by the failure of his respected for his virtues and loved for partisans at the elections of the same his charities. He had belonged to the year, and, finally, by the melancholy Radical party; and as personally he suicide of the tragi-comic hero. Bouhad no confidence in any one except langism had carried with it a large two somewhat mediocre Radicals, MM. number of members of the Extreme Tirard and Sarrien, he could not imag- parties, and even not a few Socialists. ine any other policy than that of con- Nearly all the Monarchists and Bonacentration. It must be admitted further partists had been its secret or avowed that circumstances rendered this policy accomplices, and had been compelled, almost inevitable from the moment in order to conceal their faint hopes of when the Parliamentary Right took up a Restoration, to pretend to rally to the an attitude so openly hostile to the idea of a new Republic, of which Bourepublic that the most moderate Re- langer was to be the head. On the publicans were unable to join them, morrow of the defeat, the discovery of while the Extreme Left showed too the scandalous bargain which had been little coherence or practical sense for struck between the Comte de Paris and the Opportunists to arrange with them the general threw into utter confusion any common plan of action. It must all these men who had conspired to also be recognized that under such make up a party without principle conditions these successive Cabinets, and without programme, dissembling so always new and yet always similar, many contradictory hopes which they these floating majorities, made up in durst not avow. The blow fell with the whole a kind of nondescript gov- the greatest force upon the mass of ernment, compelled to avoid any ex- honest Conservatives, who saw the treme measure, either of a reactionary cause of monarchy fatally comproor revolutionary kind, and humbly to mised, and were now disposed to prefer follow every breath of popular opinion. the Parliamentary Republic, with cerMeanwhile the local administration, in tain guarantees, to such futile and unspite of its defects, was kept going by dignified adventures. its almost historic traditions of order The Republicans, on the other hand, and probity, as well as by that sense began to perceive that the Parliamenof professional duty which a public tary system, as it had up to that time function naturally creates in its occu- been carried on, was falling into dispant.

credit with the mass of the voters, in Ever since the general election of wbose eyes it appeared not as a regular 1893 this situation has been utterly contest of parties and opinions, but as changed. It was clearly perceived that a club of self-interested individuals inthe period of concentration was over,' tent on nothing but place and power.

[ocr errors]

They deemed it essential to have done some having played the part of acwith concessions and compromises cusers and others that of accused. which only served to band together The Panama affair did not prevent most men who differed profoundly in prin- of the Opportunists from keeping their ciple, and to form, instead, parties seats at the 1893 elections — the system representing schools of opinion and of scrutin d'arrondissement making it definite views.

difficult to effect sudden changes in the Thc atiitude taken up by Pope Leo distribution of parliamentary strength XIII. towards the Republican govern- — but it certainly helped on the partial meut also tended to facilitate the re- success of the Socialists and of a cerdistribution of the old parties. His tain number of “ Ralliés." Italiau subtlety, his statesmanlike in- This rise of a Socialist party in the sight, and his severe impartiality, ena- Chamber was one of the characteristic bled him to perceive that the Church features of the elections of 1893, and had everything to lose and nothing to contributed more than anything else to gain by remaining committed to mo- the downfall of the policy of concentranarchical ideas without a future ; that lion. Former Chambers had contained the Catholics had everything to gain some three or four representatives of by loyally accepting the republic, and revolutionary Socialism; but they were taking their proper place in it; and altogether isolated, and scarcely dared that Moderate Republicans would be to raise their voice. Some few of the quite disposed, in face of the attacks of Radicals, indeed, called themselves Extremists, to accept the alliance of Socialist, but their Socialism was of a the “ Ralliés,” provided that they vague and general kind, which formuwould be content with claiming justice lated no precise demands, and did not and good-will, without seeking to over- embarrass either its professors or those throw the laws and institutions which who accepted them as temporary allies. were the foundations of the republic. Besides, it had been for some years The view of Leo XIII. has been justi- the fashion among politicians seeking fied by the result. The party of reac- popularity, or wanting to improve the tion was instantly shattered ; a large condition of the laboring classes, to call body of Republicans have abandoned themselves Socialists, without attachthe attitude of surly distrust of the ing any exact meaning to the word. Catholics which they had hitherto held, But in 1893 there appeared in the and bave shown a disposition to accept Chamber a group of some fifty true in some degree the aid of this right Socialists, openly professing Collectivist wing which has suddenly come to en- doctrines and the definite object of large their ranks.

changing the very bases ou which soAgain, the Panama affair brought a cial order has rested in France since new element to aid in the dislocation the Revolution of 1789, and plainly of parties. Although it has proved proposing to make the regular action of impossible to say exactly on whom parliamentary government impossible rested the responsibility or the actual by means of a system of relentless opguilt, the result has been to destroy position, permanent obstruction, and absolutely the credit, the force, and the furious attacks, shrinking from no scancohesion of the old Opportunist group, dal and no calumny. This Socialist which for years had in reality had the group contains educated and convinced guidance of the republic. Some mem- theorists such as Jules Guesde, and bers of the party, in Parliament and in orators of an eloquence both logical the press, have been directly compro- and enthusiastic such as Jean Jaurès. mised. Public opinion has thrown a It has drawn into its sphere all the general though vague discredit on al- most advanced of the old Radical party, most every one who took any part in which finds in Socialism, more or less the business ; and violent avimosities explicit, an electoral platform. The have sprung up within the group itself, formation of this new Extreme Left

party, with which neither compromise | doctrines - a law stigmatized as crimnor coucentration was possible, which, inal by the Socialists and a section of indeed, rejected all thought of compro- the Radicals — proved a true touchmise, could not but drive the Moderate stone, distinguishing the governmental Republicans to form a compact group, Republicaus from those who remained submitting to strict discipline under faithful to the old idea of concentrarecognized leaders, and so dispose them tion, or who aimed at revolution. to seek at need the alliance of the After the Lyons catastrophe, as I "Ralliés” in struggling with their ene- have said, the feeling strongly premies.

vailed in Parliament that it was essenThe Anarchist crimes also hastened tial to form a government with a fixed the new grouping of political forces. programme, and pledged energetically Anarchism had long been considered to repress all revolutionary tendencies. as a sort of mental disease, affecting a The election of M. Casimir-Périer as few fanatical theorists, like M. Elisée president of the republic in the place Reclus, or Prince Kropotkin, but ex- of M. Carnot was a striking proof of tending only to some very small sets of this feeling. He was selected on acworkmen or ruffians. But the series of count of his name, his great social posioutrages, which began with the exploits tion, and the governing ability which of Ravachol, followed by the explo- he had shown iu his brief tenure of sions in the Restaurant Véry, the the presidency of the Council. He was Chamber of Deputies, and the Café great-grandson of one of the members Terminus, and ended in the assassina- of the Constituent Assembly of 1789, tion of President Carnot in the midst whose castle of Vizille was the cradle of the Lyons fêtes, brought to light the of the Revolution in Dauphiné; he extraordinary spread of the ravages was grandson of the well-known minmade by this doctrine, which is all the ister of Louis Philippe, who, in the more formidable that it will not bear course of a short term of office, had discussion, that it has the character of succeeded in re-establishing the presan unreasoning faith, and that it satis- tige of France in Europe by means of fies at the same time the extreme in the expeditions to Italy and Belgium, pulses of Individualism and the most in laying down sound principles of extravagant dreams of Socialism. Al- Parliamentary and Liberal government, though the Socialists, imbued with the and in repressing revolutionary inidea of the omnipotent State, sole pro- trigues. He was the son of a minister prietor and dispenser of wealth, are of M. Thiers, and had himself served naturally hostile to Anarchist ideas, with distinction in the war of 1870. If their diatribes against society and the M. Carnot, grandson of a member of existing order of government make the Committee of Public Safety, and them propagators, and almost accon- son of a minister of the republic of plices of Anarchism. Their principal 1848, represented the austerest side of organ, La Petite République, with its the Republican tradition, M. Casimirincessant and furious attacks upon all Périer stood for the Liberal Parliamenthe representatives of authority, might tary tradition of France for a century well be treated as an auxiliary to the back, and seemed well fitted finally to proper Anarchist organs, such as Le reconcile the disillusionized ConservaPère Peinard. It would be true to say lives to the Republican flag. His that to the battle against the Socialists wealth, his personal distinction, and and Anarchists is due the formation of that of his wife, his relations with the that great party of“ Governmental Re-highest society of Paris, marked him publicans," which immediately after out as specially able to give éclat to the the elections of 1893 set to work to highest office of the State, and to conestablish a stable majority, led by a tinue the example of generosity and homogeneous ministry. The voting of charity set by M. Carnot. Lastly, the the law agaiust Anarchist intrigues aud' choice of a man who had been a recog

[ocr errors]

nized party leader seemed to indicate a his attitude, something curt and impedesire to confer on the president of the rious in his way of speaking, and his republic some personal right of initia- dread of everything which could be tive in the government, to encourage mistaken for ostentation or advertisehim to go beyond the mere position of meut, the attachment which was really an impartial arbitrator between parties, felt to him did not show itself with the such as M. Carnot had been, and to force needful to create a current of make use of all his Constitutional public opinion in his favor. On the powers for the support of the govern- contrary, the Radicals and Socialists ment majority in the Chamber in any had no difficulty in starting among the settled and moderate course of policy populace a very strong current of diswhich it had resolved to follow.

trust and even hostility. They affected M. Casimir-Périer did not seem so to see in him nothing but a representawell convinced as were his supporters tive of that constitutional monarchy of that his removal from party strife to which his grandfather had been the the presidency was the wisest course. most illustrious embodiment. They He felt himself fitter to be the fighting tried to trace in him a typical Orleanchief of a Cabinet than to go to the ist. His large fortune, his position as Elysée and play the part of a mere president of the Council of the Anzin representative, and incur the charge of mines were skilfully used against him ; exceeding his functions if he in any they made him out to be a representaway intervened directly in politics. tive of the capitalists who grow rich ou But the current of public opinion was the sufferings of the people, and the so strong that he could not decline envious spirit which is the very soul what was presented to him as a duty. of democracies gave ready credence to He was the less disposed to evade the all the lies which were put in circulatask that on the morrow of the death tion as to the origin of the Périer forof M. Carnot it seemed to carry with it tune. Finally, the energy which he great peril, and that he was already had displayed during his brief ministethe object of the most atrocious meu- rial career led them to fear that he

“In the face of danger,” his might fail to confine himself to his conbrave mother said to him, “a Périer stitutional position as an impartial never hesitates."

arbitrator, and might exert an improper How is it that seven months after he influence over the ministry and Parhad accepted office, with all its difficul-liament. M. Périer did nothing to ties in full view, M. Casimir-Périer had justify these suspicious ; his attitude thrown it up, and risked the accusation has been entirely irreproachable, and of inconsistency aud weakness ? no serious man can question his devo

In the first place, people had com- tion to the Republican cause. But pletely deceived themselves as to the whether it be owing to unfortunate happy effect likely to be produced by circumstances or to some want of having at the Elysée a man of the savoir-faire in his own character, M. name, the position, and the character Périer was never able to chase away of M. Casimir-Périer. If in the eyes of the mist of coldness and distrust which Europe the new president carried a surrounded him from the very day prestige wlich neither M. Grévy nor when he went to the Elysée, and he M. Carnot had enjoyed, it was not the very soon came to feel that his election same in France. There M. Périer had to the presidency was injurious and no particular reputation beyond that not helpful to the regular process of section of the bourgeois class which is government and the progress of the sincerely attached to the republic; and Moderate Republican party. even among them his personal record There was illusion also as to the true was not well enough known to bring strength of Moderate ideas and the him any very lively feelings of devo- possibility of constructing a really tion. Owing to a certain stiffuess in 'homogeneous majority in the Chamber.


« AnteriorContinuar »