Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

in the metropolis. The conduct of the National Guard on this occasion, was such as to call for a reproof even from the most ardent supporters of republican institutions. The consequence has been a third change of ministers in little more than six months.

The Paris journals are daily full of the distress of the labouring classes, the stagnation of commercial enterprise, the want of confidence, and the disgraceful tumults which incessantly agitate the public mind, and have prevented the resumption of any industrial occupation. All this takes place in the midst, and under the eye of 55,000 National Guards.

History will record that the National Guard of France was instituted in 1789 for the consolidation of free institutions, and the preservation of public tranquillity :

That, since its establishment, the government and prevailing institutions have been the subject of incessant change; that they have had in turn a constitutional monarchy, a fierce democracy, a sceptre of blood, a military constitution, a despotic consulate, an Imperial throne, a regulated monarchy, and a citizen king :

That, during its guardianship, a greater number of lives have perished in civil war—a greater number of murders taken place on the scaffold—a greater extent of confiscation of fortune been inflicted—a greater quantity of wealth destroyed—a greater degree of violence exerted by the people—a greater sum of anguish endured—than in an equal extent of time and population, in any age or country since the beginning of the world :

That it has almost invariably failed at the decisive moment; that, instituted for the defence of property, it has connived at unprecedented spoliation : appointed for the preservation of order, its existence has been chiefly signalised by misrule ; charged with the defence of life, it has permitted blood to flow in ceaseless torrents.

Nothing, therefore, can be more unfounded in fact than the applause so generally bestowed on this popular institution, considered as the sole or principal support of government. It has been of value only as an auxiliary to the regular force ; it is utterly unserviceable in the crisis of civil warfare ; and then alone is of real utility when some common patriotic feeling has merged all minor shades of opinion in one general emotion.

It is impossible it ever should be otherwise. Citizen soldiers are extremely serviceable when they are subjected to the bonds of discipline, and obedient to the orders of the supreme power : but when they take upon themselves to discuss the measures or form of government, and instead of obeying orders to canvass principles, there is an end not only of all efficiency in their force, but of all utility in their institution. Fifty thousand legislators, with bayonets in their hands, form a hopeless National Assembly.

This is the circumstance which, in every decisive crisis between the opposing parties, paralysed the National Guard of Paris, and to the end of time will paralyse all volunteer troops in similar extremities : they shared in the opinions of their fellow-citizens ; they were members of clubs, as well as the unarmed multitude ; they were as ready to fight with each other, as with the supporters of anarchy. The battalions drawn from the Fauxbourg St Germain, or the quarters of the Palais Royal and the Chaussée d'Antin, were disposed to support the monarchy ; but those from the Fauxbourgs St Antoine and St Marceau were as determined to aid the cause of democracy ; and in this divided state, the battalions of a democratic cast, from their superior numbers, acquired a fatal ascendency.

The case would be the same in London if a similar crisis should arrive. The battalions from the Regent Park, Regent Street, Piccadilly, the West End, and all the opulent quarters, might be relied on to support the cause of order ; but what could be expected from those raised in Wapping, Deptford, St Giles, Spitalfields, or all the innumerable lanes and alleys of the city, and its eastern suburbs? If the National Guard of London were 100,000 strong, at least 80,000 of them would, from their habits, inclinations, and connexions, side with the democratic party.

It is a fatal delusion to suppose that at all events, and in all circumstances, the National Guard would be inclined to support the cause of order, and prevent the depredation from which they would be the first to suffer. They unquestionably would be inclined to do so up to a certain point of danger, and as long as they believed that the ruling power

in the state was likely to prove victorious. But no sooner does the danger become more urgent, no sooner does the Government run the risk of defeat, than the National Guard is paralysed from the very circumstance of its being in great part composed of men of property. The great capitalist is the most timid animal in existence ; next comes the great shopkeeper, lastly the little tradesman. Their resolution is inversely as their wealth. In all ages, desperate daring valour has been found in the greatest degree amongst the lowest class of society. The multiplied enjoyments of life render men unwilling to incur the risk of losing them.

No sooner, therefore, does the democratic party appear likely to become victorious, than the shopkeepers of the National Guard begin to think only of extricating their private affairs from the general ruin. Sauve qui peut is then, if not the general cry, at least the general feeling. The merchant sees before him a dismal vista of sacked warehouses and burnt stores ; the manufacturer, of insurgent workmen and suspended orders; the tradesman, of pillaged shops and ruined custom. Despairing of the commonwealth, they recur, as all men do in evident peril, to the unerring instinct of self-preservation ; and, from the magnitude of their stake, fall under the influence of this apprehension long before it has reached the lower and more reckless classes of society.

Admirable, therefore, as an auxiliary to the regular force in case of peril from foreign invasion, a National Guard is not to be relied on during the perils and divisions of civil conflict. It always has, and always will fail in extremity, when a war of opinion agitates the state.

The only sure support of order in such unhappy circumstances is to be found in a numerous and honourable body of regular soldiers. Let not the sworn defender of order be tainted by the revolutionary maxim, that the duties of the citizen are superior to those of the soldier, and that nature formed them as men, before society made them warriors. The first duty of a soldier, the first principle of honour, is fidelity to the executive power. In crushing an insurrection of the populace in a mixed government, he is not enslaving his fellow-citizens ; he is only turning the efforts of freedom into their proper channel, and preventing the contest of opinion from degenerating into that of force. Liberty has as much to hope from his success as tranquillity : nothing is so fatal to its establishment as the violence exerted for its extension. In this, as in other instances, it is not lawful to do evil that good may come of it; and philosophy will at length discover, what reason and religion have long ago taught, that the only secure foundation for ultimate expedience is the present discharge of duty.

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION OF 1830

(BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, JUNE & Dec. 1832]

Those who are conscious of a good cause, and of the support of historical facts, should never despair of making truth triumph, even under circumstances the most adverse and apparently hopeless. When we began to treat of the French Revolution two years ago, never did a resolute journal attempt to stem a more vehement torrent of public opinion. It was almost like striving, in the days of Peter the Hermit, against the passion for the Crusades. The public mind had been so artfully prepared, by the incessant abuse of the revolutionary press in France and England, for years before, against Charles X. and the Polignac Administration, to receive the worst impressions concerning them ; they were so completely deceived, by the same channels, as to the real nature of the Parisian revolt, the objects to which it was directed, and the consequences with which it was attended, that it was all but hopeless to resist the torrent. But we knew that our case was rested on historical facts; and, therefore, though not possessed of any information concerning it, but what we derived from the public journals, and shared with the rest of our countrymen, we did not scruple to make the attempt.

We had looked into the records of history, and we did not find it there recorded that constitutions, cast off like a medal at a single stroke, were of long duration ; we did not find that the overthrow of government by explosions of the

SAINT CHAMANS sur la Révolution de 1830, et ses Suites. Paris, 1832.

PEYRONNET– Questions concerning Parliamentary Jurisdiction. Pa 1831, and Blackwood, Edinburgh.

POLIGNAC--Considérations Politiques sur l'Epoque Actuelle. Paris, 1832, and Blackwood, Edinburgh.

SALVANDY-Seize Mois, ou la Révolution et les Révolutionnaires. Paris, 1831.

« EdellinenJatka »