Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

and respected Government; in fact, to give satisfaction to the exigencies of the moment, by creating a system which reconstitutes authority without wounding the feeling of equality, and, without closing any path of improvement, is to lay the foundations of the only edifice capable of supporting a wise and beneficent liberty."

A significant symptom of the new state of things in France was about this time exhibited in the orders issued by the prefects of departments for erasing from public buildings the words Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, and cutting down "trees of liberty." These orders ran in the following form :—

"Whereas political inscriptions, and particularly the words 'liberty,' 'equality,' and 'fraternity,' which figure on most of the public buildings, present no character of utility, but are, on the contrary, for the people a perpetual excitement to revolt, by holding up to them the emblem and recollection of a triumphant insurrection; whereas the same may be said of the trees called 'of liberty,' which obstruct our public squares and walks, and are now dried-up and decayed sticks, the Prefect decrees—

"Article 1. Every political inscription, without exception, and in particular the words 'liberty,' 'equality,' 'fraternity,' shall be immediately removed from the fronts of public edifices and private dwellings. The trees of liberty shall be cut down or rooted up.

"Article 2. Trees which, having grown luxuriantly, are an ornament to the commune, are alone to be excepted."

Our narrative of this period would be incomplete if we did not mention that an immense number of political arrests took place, and

hundreds of persons, without having been convicted by any form of legal trial, were transported to Cayenne, Algeria, and elsewhere, under a sentence of perpetual exile from the soil of France.

Let us now calmly review the circumstances attending this extraordinary coup d'etat, and see whether it can be justified on any principle that can be pleaded in its excuse.

When the dissolution of the Assembly was first proclaimed, and the arrests on the morning of the 2nd of December were made, it was publicly announced by the organs and creatures of the President that he was only acting in self-defence; that a conspiracy had been formed in the Assembly to deprive him of the short tenure of power which still remained to him, and that the leaders whom he seized were actually engaged in the plot. It was asserted that the moment for carrying the plan into execution had all but arrived; and that if the coup d'etat had not anticipated the attempt, Louis Napoleon would have been himself a prisoner.

Now to this specious reasoning there is one complete and satisfactory answer. The plea put forward was wholly false in fact. The story of a plot and a conspiracy was a mere fabrication, put forward at the moment to gloss over an act of outrageous violence, and immediately abandoned when the President found himself strong enough in the support of the army to set regard for appearances at defiance. The proof of the utter falsity of the charge consists in the fact that not one of the alleged conspirators was ever brought to trial even before a court-martial, nor was a single particle of evidence adduced implicating them in any such scheme. The papers of Generals Changarnier, Cavaignae, Leflo, and Bedeau, and of MM. Thiers, Roger du Nord, and the other deputies arrested, were seized without any of them having time or opportunity to destroy a single document, and yet not a solitary line was found to justify the accusation. We may, therefore, dismiss this ground of defence on behalf of Louis Napoleon as wholly untenable.

But, in the next place, it was asserted that the act was one of State necessity; that the Assembly had put itself in a position of factious hostility to the Executive, and that government had in consequence become almost an impossibility in France, owing to the conflict and opposition of the two rival powers. Here, again, the answer is that the assertion is untrue. The conduct of the Chamber was, we may frankly admit, in many instances undignified and unwise. Internal squabbles often disgraced the debates, and party violence was carried to an unseemly length. But wherever freedom of discussion prevails in a popular assembly, there we shall find the strife of party exist. It is so in our own Parliament . It is so in the United States of America; and it seems to be one of the conditions of a constitutional Government that such contests should continually arise. But towards the President the conduct of the Assembly had not been such as for one moment to justify him in destroying that body and extinguishing the liberties of France. The two instances in which during the preceding twelve months they had appeared to act most hostilely against him were— first in January, when, on the motion of M. St. Beuve, they passed

a vote of want of confidence in the Baroche Ministry; and, secondly, in February, when they rejected the Dotation Bill. But if the head of the Executive is justified in overthrowing a Constitution because his Ministry suffer a defeat in Parliament, he is already virtually despotic. If constitutional resistance may be properly met by revolution, such resistance is a mockery, and the Assembly ought at once to proceed to register decrees as its only appropriate function. And with respect to the Dotation Bill it must be remembered, that the salary of the President had been fixed when the Constitution was adopted. It was not as if the Assembly had afterwards attempted to cut down and diminish the amount, which would no doubt have been an act of aggression on their part. They simply determined to adhere to the sum originally fixed as sufficient for the expenses of the Chief of the State, and refused to grant a large extra allowance for what were called frais de representation, in order to enable the President to be more munificent in his largesses and entertainments. And they had good grounds for withholding such an additional supply. They knew that masses of troops at reviews had been regaled with champagne and sausages, in the presence and at the cost of the President, and that, inspired with drunken enthusiasm, the soldiers uttered cries of " Vive VEmpereur!" which significantly pointed at the revival of the Imperial regime in the person of Louis Napoleon. The Assembly, therefore, were not likely to loosen the purse-strings, that money might be employed in corrupting the loyalty of the army towards the Republic.

One other pretext has been advanced in justification of the President. It is said that by his coup d'etat he delivered France from the horrors of a Socialist revolution. The argument is, that extensive preparations were made by secret affiliated societies throughout the kingdom to proclaim the Red Republic during the contest that would have taken place for the presidency in 1852, and plunge the nation into a civil war for the avowed purpose of carrying into effect the doctrines of Communism and Socialism. But the answer to this is easy. The event has proved that the army of France is true to its military duties, and would have crushed at the bidding of the Executive any attempt at lawless violence. The duty of the President, if he really dreaded a Socialist conspiracy or outbreak, was to strengthen the military force at the suspected points, and to be prepared against attack by taking all the precautions which his knowledge of the designs of the enemies of order suggested and rendered necessary. So long as the army remained faithful, there could be no real danger. And the President well knew that the immense majority of the French nation would second the Executive in any conflict with Socialism. To convert obscure hints of possible attempts by others to destroy the Constitution as by law established, into a pretext for overthrowing the Constitution at once by a single blow, is to insult the understanding of mankind. It is idle to disguise the fact: Louis Napoleon knew that he could not be re-elected President if the organic laws of the Republic remained in force; he found that in the Assembly he could not obtain the requisite majority to repeal those laws; and

therefore, for the purposes of his own personal aggrandizement, he resolved to abrogate them, and the Constitution along with them, by the power of the sword. He had, on assuming the duties of his high office, solemnly sworn to maintain that Constitution, but his oath was as dust in the balance when it interfered with his ambition. Nor does it, in our view of the case, make any difference that the votes of the population of France, when afterwards appealed to, were largely in his favour. The people had then to choose between him and anarchy. What had been done could not be undone without infinite risk of a civil war. And, besides, we refuse to accept the verdict of mere numbers under a system of universal suffrage as a test of the real opinion of the intelligent and reflecting part of a nation. The minority against Louis Napoleon was large enough to include the great mass of those who, by education and character, were competent to pronounce wisely upon the question submitted to them.

However, France has by a vast majority accepted her new ruler and his new system, and no other country has the right to quarrel with the choice. We can only hope that our fears for the future may be falsified, and that neither by hostile aggression against other States, nor by oppressive despotism at home, Louis Napoleon may realize the anticipations of those who, like ourselves, put no faith in his professions, and think that he must march forward in the fatal path of arbitrary power until France rises to free herself from the yoke of bondage by another revolution, perhaps more terrible than any we have yet witnessed in that country of political volcanoes.

CHAPTER X.

Portugal.Proclamation of Revolt by the Duke of SaldanhaLetter from him to the Duke of Terceira, explanatory of his Conduct and ViewsHe in vain tries to induce the Governor of Oporto to declare in his FavourDisaffection in the Garrison thereSaldanha tries to escape from PortugalOporto pronounces for himHis Return and enthusiastic Reception thereCount Thomar takes refuge on board an English Vessel of WarThe Queen summons Saldanha to Lisbon He forms a Ministry, of which he is at the head.

Spain.Resignation of the Narvaez MinistryNew Cabinet formed by Bravo Murillo—Accouchement of the Queen of Spain.

Germany.Abortive Conferences at DresdenFinal Resolution adopted by the RepresentativesRestoration of the old Frankfort DietCabinet Letters from the Emperor of Austria to Prince Schwarzenberg and Baron Kiibeck, declaring Ministers responsible solely to the Crown. Schleswig-holsteinFormal Submission of the DuchiesProclamation of the Stadtholders. HangverDeath of the KingProclamation by his Successor George V.

PORTUGAL.—A sudden and extraordinary change took place this year in the Government of Portugal. It began by an act of insurrection, which at one time threatened to bring about a revolution, but the result was merely a change in the Cabinet. The Duke of Saldanha was the successful hero of the plot, and he became, by an almost unparalleled reverse of fortune, the Prime Minister of Portugal, from being a few days previously an outlawed and fugitive rebel.

Saldanha was bitterly opposed to the Ministry of Count Thomar, and, finding that constitutional means were of no avail, he determined to raise the standard of open revolt, and, relying upon the unpopularity of the Thomar Ministry, bring about a change of policy at

Vol. XCIII.

the cost of a revolution. Early in April, he suddenly took with him a small detachment of troops to Cintra, and there he openly proclaimed his intentions. He soon afterwards quitted Cintra, attended by an inconsiderable force, and reaching Leiria, addressed from that place, on the 11th, a letter to the Duke of Terceira, in which he gave the following explanation of his conduct and views:—

"Leiria, April 11, 1851.

"Sir,— A general rising has long been prepared throughout the kingdom against the prevarications, peculations, and continued infractions of the Constitution committed by the Count of Thomar. More than once have I prevented it by .representing the possibility of ejecting that ill-omened man

[T]

from the Ministry by legal means; but the proceedings of the majorities in both Chambers convinced every one of its impossibility. The only thing I could do to avoid such rising was to accept the invitation of many of our brave companions in arms, who, horrified at the future which the presence of the Count of Thoraar in the Ministry prepared for us, urged me to put myself at their head, and by a military demonstration obtain the result which the nation wishes, needs, and will infallibly obtain. Until this moment all the chiefs of the popular party have remained quiet; but your Excellency may rest assured that in the same instant in which they are convinced that the military demonstration at the head of which I resolved to place myself, is 'not sufficient to overthrow the extortioner who oppresses the nation, a movement will manifest itself in all the provinces the end of which no human perspicacity can foresee. I have just been told your Excellency has marched out of Lisbon at the head of some troops to support the peculating Minister—the man who unites in himself all the corruption and all the odium of the nation. I have the pleasing conviction that not one of those who accompany your Excellency will fail to participate in any ideas and in my wishes to deliver the nation from the yoke which oppresses it. Duke of Terceira! if you forget that after our time there is an inexorable tribunal called history, in which the glorious pages to which your Excellency has an incontestable right will be completely neutralized by those in which you will appear as the champion of the corrupt man, the infamousextortioner, the .known prevaricator, remember, at least,

that your Excellency's conduct not only places the throne of Her Majesty the Queen in imminentdanger, but likewise causes her dynasty to run the greatest risk. Should your Excellency persist, to me the honour will be due of having done, for fourteen months, all that lay in human power to avoid the evils of a revolution—to your Excellency the disgrace of having rendered it necessary, indispensable. Let us remember that if in heaven there is God's justice, the laws of morality are likewise not prohibited on earth. This insurrection will not be a struggle of parties; their interests will be foreign to it; its object will be a graver one—that of proving to Europe that the Portuguese nation will not consent that a system of corruption, of peculations, and unconstitutionalisms, should be raised on high by means of the Government and political doctrine. The movement represents purely and simply the resistance of the nation to the moral death which was prepared foritafter prolonged agonies. The country, during the indifference with which the Government has considered its most urgent necessities, and in the cry of anguish which it raises at this moment, limits itself to beg for justice and morality.

"Your Excellency can avert the evils which menace us, save the country from the horrors you are preparing for it, by causing Her Majesty the Queen to dismiss immediately this man, fatal in so many respects, and call to the Ministry persons deserving the national confidence. Never has there rested upon your Excellency so grave a responsibility as at this moment.

"Duke of Saldanha."

« EdellinenJatka »