Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

decide that the Constitution shall be revised."

One from the small commune of Marsales, canton of Monpazier, ran thus:—

"Messieurs les Representants, —Revision of the Constitution, prolongation of the powers of Louis Napoleon—such is the wish which we confide to your patriotism. It is both just and wise to accomplish it. In the first place, we ought to be grateful to the Chief of the State for the good which he has effected, with your co-operation; and, in the next place, it is prudent not to forget that the instigators of disturbances have given a rendezvous for 1852, when all the powers will be suspended."

On the 28th of May, the Legislative Assembly entered upon the third year of its existence, and was then by law entitled to take into consideration the momentous question of the revision of the 'Constitution. But by a fundamental law of that Constitution no revision could take place unless it was voted for by a majority consisting of three-fourths of the members of the Assembly.

Previously to this (on the 22nd of May) M. Moulin had proposed in the Assembly, that all the petitions for the revision should be referred to a Special Committee.

M. Savatier Laroche denounced the proposition as revolutionary, unconstitutional, and oppressive for the minority of tho Assembly. When the time legally fixed should come, he and his friends would accept the discussion, and if their rights were attacked, they would r Vusly defend them. They 'ently listen to those who their fancies for Henry i Prince de Joinville, or

for the Empire. They would discuss with them the merits of monarchical and republican institutions. They would meet them with history in their hands, and the country would judge. To the first, who would no doubt praise the glory of Louis XIV. and the magnificence of Versailles, his friends would oppose 20,000,000 subjects ground down by taxes, and persecuted by a worn-out despot, a woman, and a Jesuit. To those who extolled the glories of the Empire, and that brilliant period of fifteen years, they would oppose 2,000,000 of Frenchmen slaughtered on fields of battle, France twice invaded, and the country desolated by foreigners. To those who lauded the wisdom of an old King, they would oppose corruption pervading all ranks of society, and public defaulters seated in the very councils of the Sovereign. M. Savatier Laroche then attacked the electoral law of the 31st of May, and said that the country could not be consulted until that was abrogated.

M. Moulin replied, that the object of his petition was, merely to examine whether the present rules of the House could be applied to the revision of the Constitution. He should not consequently follow M. Savatier Laroche in his digression, but tell him that if he wished to attack the law of the 31st of May, he should do so in the regular form, and it would then be seen whether the majority, which voted that loi de salut, would not again rally for its defence. In conclusion, he declared that he had been actuated by no intention hostile to either of the two great parties into which the country was divided. It was a measure of order, regularity, and dignity, and he trusted the Assembly would accept it.

The Assembly being consulted, took the proposition into consideration by a large majority.

The discussion next opened on the proposition of M. Morin, who asked that Members be at liberty to renew motions for the revision of the Constitution monthly, without awaiting the delay of six months required by the rules of the House.

M. Laclaudure opposed the proposition as violating the Constitution. He would tell the different parties who advocated the revision, that it was not in the interests of the Legitimists, the Orleanist, or the Socialist party, the Government was so actively labouring—it was in the interest of M. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who wished to perpetuate his authority. All the public functionaries had, he said, received instructions to that effect, and they had actually taken the field with an ardour and a boldness hitherto unexampled. The conspiracy commenced on the 10th of December, 1848. (" There were 6,000,000 conspirators," cried a Member on the Right. "No," replied M. Laclaudure, "there were 6,000,000 citizens more or less deluded.") M. Laclaudure insisted that such instructions had been issued by the Ministry, and that the intrigue he denounced positively existed. If the Assembly doubted it, it had only to order an inquiry. M. Laclaudure, in conclusion, entreated the Assembly to restore universal suffrage, and respect the 111th Article of the Constitution.

M. Morin said that he should reply in a few words to M. Savatier Laroche. The question at issue was not between Monarchy and the Republic, it was between the

Republic possible and the Republic impossible. He was in favour of the first, and M. Laroche for the latter.

M. Emile de Girardin thought that the proposition concealed a battery. If it was not in M. Morin's power to change those two numbers—188 and 562, his proposition was superfluous, except in one case—that is, if it was intended to exercise a pressure on the Assembly, like those of the 13th of May and the 13th of June.

"We never desended into the streets," cried a voice on the Right.

"No," replied M. Girardin, "not even when it was your duty to do so, to defend your colours; and if you attack the Constitution, you may be certain to find us in the streets."

The President,—"Your words contain a provocation. I call you to order."

M. Girardin submitted to the severity of the President, although he did not deserve it, his reply having been drawn by an interruption. The proposition, he maintained, was perilous. By repeating the motion for the revision monthly it was intended to agitate the country, and thereby effect the pressure he alluded to. The Assembly had an example before its eyes, in the manoeuvres employed to compel the Constituent Assembly to dissolve itself. For his part, he thought that there was but one means of changing the above numbers—that was by an 18 th Fructidor, but who was bold enough to undertake it?

M. Godelle reminded M. Girardin that, when society was menaced on the 23rd of June, he and his friends had descended into the streets to defend it. The proposition brought to the Assembly on the 15 th of May likewise concealed a battery, as also that of the 13th of June. M. Girardin admitted that convictions changed, but that numbers were invariable. Now if convictions changed, numbers also changed, and he did not despair of seeing, in the course of time, the proportion between the two numbers M. Girardin had cited greatly modified.

The taking into consideration of the proposition of M. Morin was afterwards agreed to, and the Assembly decided that the two propositions should be referred to the same Committee.

On the 5th of June, numerous petitions for the revision of the Constitution were laid on the table of the Assembly by different Members, and the following proposition was also brought forward by M. Larabit, calling upon the Assembly—

"1. To express a wish in favour of the revision of the 45th Article of the Constitution, as respects the re-eligibility of the President of the Republic.

"2. To refer the revision, not to a new Constituent Assembly, but to the sovereignty of the French people, assembled to vote freely for the election of a President of the Republic.

"3. To issue a proclamation, informing the French people that to them always belongs, in virtue of their sovereignty, the right to declare, by their votes, whether they wish or not to re-elect the same President of the Republic."

M. Leon Faucher, Minister of the' Interior, having ascended the tribune, said that he was coming, in the name of the Cabinet, to demand the continuation in force, during another year, of the law of the 19 th of June, 1849,prohibitingclubsand

political meetings. In June, 1850, the Assembly re-enacted, with additional rigorous clauses, a law which, notwithstanding its provisional character, powerfully contributed to maintain orderandtranquillity in the country, and defend society against anarchy. (Murmurt on the Left.) The Government would use the powers conferred upon it by the law with the moderation it had hitherto displayed, for the repression of the scandal that had disgraced the year 1848. He should not undertake to demonstrate the incompatibility existing between a regular Government and the regimen of clubs. The Cabinet had never interfered with the exercise of the right of meeting, but had thought proper to prohibit reuniont in certain houses and cabarets, because they were focuses of an anarchical propaganda. Between the 19th of June, 1850, and the 1st of May last, the Government had enjoined the prefects to suppress 184 reunions, independently of the "circles," societies, and banquets prohibited by the local authorities. The law had produced a most salutary influence upon public morals, and the Government would, at some future day, submit to the Assembly a definitive law in accord with the opinion of the founder of the American Union. Inconclusion, M. Faucher demanded the prolongation until the 22nd of June, 1852, of thelaw against clubs and political reunions, of the 19th of June, 1849. M. Pierre Leroux said that the PresideutoftheRepublichad stated in the speech he delivered at Dijon, that the Assembly had constantly lent him its support when his Government presented laws of repression, but that it had withheld it when he submitted to its deliberation laws and measures in favour

of the people. "We are not here," exclaimed M. Pierre Leroux, "to act eternally with hypocrisy, and we should not afford the President another pretext to proclaim to the country that the Assembly was ever ready to sacrifice public liberties, and systematically unwilling to do anything in the interest of liberty or the people."

M. Leroux having left the tribune, M. Chaper, who was present at the dinner of Dijon, rose and declared that the President had not delivered the sentence in those terms.

The Minister having demanded "urgency," it was put from the chair, and adopted by a considerable majority.

Soon afterwards the Assembly resolved itself into bureaux, for the purpose of choosing a Committee (each bureau nominating one member), to consider and report upon the various propositions for revising the Constitution.

In one of these bureaux (the 9 th) an interesting discussion took place, in which M. de Falloux, formerly one of the Ministers of the Republic, and M. Leon Faucher, Minister of the Interior, spoke as follows:—

M. de Falloux—" I could not at the present moment accept the laborious office of being a member of the Committee which is about to be named. But the gravity of the circumstances, and the presence of the Minister of the Interior in this bureau, impose it on me as a duty to submit to you in a few words my thoughts on what ought to be the aim of each member of the Committee. The Montteur of the 2nd of June was perfectly correct in saying that the interest of France is superior to that of all parties, and that the Government ought to place it

self in a position to be above them all; but it is neither by offensive allusions, nor by violence, that such a mission can be accomplished,. if even the indication be given that it is understood and will be carefully prosecuted. It must not be forgotten that in France parties, in the acceptation, a little elevated and a little political, of the word, represent henceforward something else besides passions or egotism; they represent also interests, principles, and fundamental conditions, which it is not in the power of any person to destroy; but which, on the contrary, ought to be conciliated and induced to co-operate for the common safety. Do you suppose that you elevate authority in France when you attack, under a false and calumnious name—that of the ancient regime—the principles and the men of the Monarchy? Do you suppose that you respect liberty when you stigmatize at the same time, under the name of factions and intrigues, the principles of our 30 years of constitutional government, as well as men who still preserve some parliamentary habits and susceptibilities? Do you wish to struggle against anarchical passions, and at the same time to flatter that which is of all things the most anarchical, the Government of one—to calumniate all the political situations honourably achieved, and all the services which have been honourably rendered? Do you want to endeavour to oppose Utopian schemes, and at the same time to aim at the most chimerical project of all—that of a personal and isolated Government, opposing the sole prestige of a name to the real difficulties of each step and each hour? I am profoundly grieved that any official act should call forth such questions. For my part, I have had the honour, for a time, of seconding the President in a very different policy; consequently I do not think that I am wanting in any respect when I remind him of the fact, or when I persevere in my former course. I never spoke to my friends or my adversaries but in such language as permitted, with frank and sincere acts of conciliation, every honourable effort in view of the good of the country, and of that alone. I am less than ever disposed to change such sentiments and such language; but they are entitled to reciprocity, and where that shall not be afforded the country will immediately know how to discern the fact, and the motives which prompted it, and the extent of the responsibility attached to such conduct. In consequence, I propose that the member whom we name to the Committee shall support the revision in that sense— that is, in seeking out in all their liberty and all their extent the real durable wants of the country, and in paying attention absolutely to them alone. And when the Government is thus warned, let it be well understood that such warning is not given it through jealousy, but, on the contrary, from a sad prevision of the dangers in which it is placed. Every exclusive power will henceforward inevitably perish in France—we as well as you, you as well as we—and with the first Government that will so perish, all society will run the risk of falling to pieces."

The Minister of the Interior then said," I did not wish to speak in this preliminary discussion. The Government has not taken the initiative in the propositions submitted to you: it belongs to the Assembly. The Government thinks that

the Constitution should be revised; it unites in the wish which it considers as being that of the immense majority in the Assembly and in the country. But until the moment arives for the public discussion it thinks it its duty to act with great reserve. The bureau will, therefore, permit me to confine myself to this declaration of my opinion without entering into further developments. What has been just stated by the hon. M. de Falloux obliges me, however, to reply. There are here three members of the Cabinet formed by the President of the Republic on the 20th of December, 1848. My hon. friend M. de Falloux has there left souvenirs which will never be effaced from my memory. These souvenirs give me the right to tell him that the policy with which he inspired the Cabinet of the 20th of December is the same as that which animates the present Ministry. M. de Falloux is mistaken as to the bearing of the speech delivered by the President of the Republic. At' a solemn moment, when the country had its eyes fixed on him, the President was obliged to explain his ideas. He was compelled to say what he was and what he was not, separating himself equally from a past which would not return and from a chimerical future. The President of the Republic has been often and unjustly attacked. he makes use of no reprisals. He explained himself as to his ideas, and committed no act of aggression against persons. The hon. M. de Falloux declines for himself and his political friends any kind of joint reponsibility with retrograde doctrines. I accept from my heart this declaration. I always thought that he belonged to a generation which was necessarily impregnated

« EdellinenJatka »