Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

open the career of arms to every man in the country capable of carrying a musket ; or, like Robespierre, pursue the supposed advantage of the working classes by the destruction of every interest above them in society. Had either Charles X. or Louis Philippe been foreign conquerors, and had the state of Europe permitted of their waging war with success, they would have lived and died on the throne of France, and left an honoured crown to their successors. There never were monarchs who mowed down the population and wasted the resources of France like Napoleon and Louis XIV.; but as long as they were successful, and kept open the career of elevation to the people, they commanded their universal attachment. It was when they grew unfortunate, and could call them only to discharge the mournful duties of adversity, that they became the objects of universal execration. The revolution has ever been true to its polar star,—worldly success.

In making these observations, we must guard against being misunderstood. We do not assert that the present leaders of the Revolution desire foreign war, or are insincere in the pacific professions which they have put forth in their public proclamations. We have no doubt that

Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” is what they really desire ; and that with England in particular they are sincerely desirous to remain, at present at least, on terms of amity. The early promoters of the Revolution of 1789— Sièges, Bailly, Mirabeau, and Lafayette—were equally loud and probably sincere in their pacific protestations at the outset of the first convulsion. What we assert is another proposition entirely corroborated by past history, and scarcely less important in its present application—viz., that the members of the existing Revolutionary Government are placed in a false position ; that they have been elevated to power by the force of passion, and the spread of principles inconsistent with the existence of society ; that if they continue to fan them, they will ruin their country—if they attempt to coerce them, they will be destroyed themselves. This is the constant and dreadful alternative in which a Revolutionary Government is placed, and which has so uniformly led in past history to what is called a departure from the principles of freedom by its successful leaders. It

66

:

was this which brought Lafayette into such discredit in Paris, that his life was saved only by his fortunate confinement in an Austrian dungeon : it was this which rendered Mirabeau in the end a royalist, and for ever ruined him in popular favour : it was this which made Robespierre strive to restore the sway of natural religion in the infidel metropolis : it was this which gave Napoleon such a horror of the metaphysical Ideologues,” who, according to him, had ruined France, and rendered him the resolute and unbending opponent of the Revolution. But even Napoleon's iron arm was unequal to the task of arresting the fiery coursers of democracy : he only succeeded in maintaining internal tranquillity by giving them a foreign direction. He turned them not against the Tuileries, but against the Kremlin ; he preserved peace in France only by waging war in Europe. A “Napoleon of Peace” will never succeed in restraining the Revolution.

Observe the pledges with which the Provisional Government are commencing their career. They are, that the state is to provide employment for all who cannot procure it from private individuals; that an ample remuneration is to be secured to labour ; that the right of combination to raise wages is to be protected by law; that the House of Peers is to be abolished, as well as all titles of honour, the bearing of which is to be absolutely prohibited ; that a noble career to all Frenchmen is to be opened in the army: the national representation is to be placed on the most democratic basis of a National Assembly, elected by six millions of electors; all burdens on subsistence are to be abolished; unlimited circulation is to be provided for newspapers and the extension of knowledge ; but the taxes, in the mean time at least, are to undergo no diminution. These promises and pledges sufficiently demonstrate what interest in the state has now got the ascendency. It is the interest, or rather supposed interest, of labour, in opposition to that of capital

of numbers against property.

The Revolution that has taken place is a communist or socialist triumph ; the chiefs who have been installed in power are the leaders of the party who think that the grand evil of civilisation is the encroachment of the profit of capital on the wages of labour, and that the only effectual

remedy for them is to be found in the forcible diminution of the former and extension of the latter.

The doctrine of this party in France has long been, that Robespierre perished because he did not venture to pronounce the word, agrarian law. It would be to little

purpose to pronounce that word now, when the Republic has got nearly six millions of separate proprietors, most of them not worth £6 a-year each. There is little but sturdy resistance to be got by attempting to despoil this immense and indigent body, as they have despoiled the old territorial proprietors. But the capitalists and shopkeepers of towns stand in a different situation. In their hands, since the fall of Napoleon, very considerable wealth has accumulated. The peace and order maintained by the governments of the Restoration and the Barricades, though fatal to themselves, have been eminently favourable to the growth of bourgeois opulence. It was against that opulence that the recent Revolution was directed. The shopkeepers, deluded to their own destruction, began the insurrection : they surrounded and compelled the abandonment of the Tuileries. Like all successful convulsions, it was headed, in the first instance, by a portion of the higher or middle ranks. But they were soon passed by the rabble who followed their armed columns; and when the tumultuous mob broke into the Chamber of Deputies, fired at the picture of Louis Philippe, and pointed their muskets at the head of the Duchess of Orleans, it was too late to talk of Thiers and Odillon Barrot; the cause of reform was already passed by that of revolution ; and nothing could serve the victorious and highly excited multitude, but the abolition of monarchy, peers, and titles of honour, and the vesting of government in the hands of dreamers on equality, and leaders of TradesUnions in France.

Let the National Guard, who brought about the Revolution, and seduced or overcame the loyalty of the troops of the line, explain, if they can, the benefit they are likely to derive from this triumph of Socialism over Bourgeoisie, of labour over capital, of numbers over property. The Revolution was the work of their hands, and they must reap its fruits, as unquestionably they will bear its responsibility. It is of more importance for us in this country to inquire how

the promises made by government, and the expectations formed by the people, are to be realised in the present social and political state of France. Already, before the Io Pæans upon the fall of the Orleans dynasty have ceased, the difficulties of the new government in this respect have proclaimed themselves. Columns of ten and fifteen thousand workmen daily wait on the Administration to insist on the immediate recognition of the rights of labour : their demands were promptly acceded to by the decree of 3d March, which fixes the hours of labour in Paris at ten hours a-day, and in the provinces at eleven hours. They were formerly eleven hours in Paris and twelve in the provinces. This is quite intelligible : it is reasonable that the Civil Prætorian Guards of the capital should work less than the serfs of the provinces. Cutting off an hour's labour over a whole country would be deemed a pretty serious matter in “ l'industrieuse Angleterre :” but on the other side of the Channel, we suppose, it is a mere bagatelle, important chiefly as showing from what quarter the wind sets. Other prognostics of coming events are already visible. Monster meetings of operatives and workmen in and around Paris continue to be held in the Champ de Mars, to take the interests and rights of labour into consideration : it is probable that they will still further reduce the hours of toil, and proportionately raise its wages. Already the stone-cutters have fixed å minimum of pay and maximum of work, and got it. Eight hours a-day, and ten sous an hour, is their ultimatum. The journalists early clamoured for the immediate removal of all duties affecting them. They succeeded in shaking off their burdens ; other classes will not be slow in following their example. Meanwhile government is burdened, as in the worst days of the first Revolution, with the maintenance of an immense body of citizens with arms in their hands, and very little bread to put into their mouths. How to feed this immense body, with resources continually failing, from the terrors of capital, the flight of the English from Paris, and the diminished expenditure of all the wealthier classes, would, according to the former maxims of government, have been deemed a matter of no small difficulty. suppose the regenerators of society have discovered some

But we

method of arriving, with railway speed, at public opulence amidst private suffering.

The melancholy progress of the first Revolution has naturally made numbers of persons, not intimately acquainted with its events, apprehensive of the immediate return of the Reign of Terror and the restoration of the guillotine into its terrible and irresistible sovereignty in France. Without disputing that there is much danger in the present excited and disjointed state of the population of that country, there are several reasons which induce us to believe that such an event is not very probable, at least in the first instance, and that it is from a different quarter that the real danger that now threatens France is, in the outset at least, to be apprehended.

In the first place, although the Reign of Terror is over, and few indeed of the actual witnesses are still in existence, yet the recollection of it will never pass away : it has affixed a stain to the cause of revolution which will never be effaced, but which its subsequent leaders are most anxious to be freed from. Its numerous tragic scenes, its frightful atrocity, its heroic suffering, have sunk indelibly into the minds of men.

To the end of the world, they will interest and melt every succeeding age. The young will ever find them the most engrossing and attractive theme; the middle-aged, the most important subject of reflection ; the old, the most delightful means of renewing the emotions of youth. History is never weary of recording its bloody catastrophes ; romance has already arrayed them with the colours of poetry ; the drama will ere long seize upon them as the finest subjects that human events have ever furnished for the awakening of tragic emotion. They will be as immortal in story as the heroes of the Iliad, the woes of the Atrides, the catastrophe of Edipus, the death of Queen Mary. So strongly have these fascinating tragedies riveted the attention of mankind, that nothing has ever created so powerful a moral barrier against the encroachments of democracy. The royal, like the Christian martyrs have lighted a fire which, by the grace of God, will never be extinguished. So strongly are the popular leaders in every country impressed with the moral effects of these catastrophes, that their first

« EdellinenJatka »