TOPICS OF THE DAY.
If. OLLIVIER AND THE ACTE ADDITIONEL.
T"point is whether M. Emile 011ivier has been purchased or convinced. If he has been bought the speech which he uttered on Monday in the Corps Ligislatif in defence of the Empire is not an event, but only a shameful incident ; another Frenchman has sold himself and uttered his apology for the bargain, and that is all. There is only one pensioner the more in the Corps Ligislatif, and pensioners are too numerous for one to be singled out for scorn. But if, as we incline to believe, he has been convinced, the vote which M. 011ivier gave for the address proposed by the majority is a very grave event for the Bonaparte dynasty, may be the turning-point in its fortunes, perhaps outweighs the serious dangers which we believe The Life of Cesar has produced. It is proof that one Frenchman at least of the statesman calibre who believes in freedom and does not despise discussion is willing to accept the Empire, ready to postpone the victory of his party to the 'welfare of France, the safety of his reputation to the triumph of the cause to which he is devoted. The greatest difficulty of Louis Napoleon, the one upon which he lingers apologetically in his Life of Ccesar has been that of inducing good men in France to forgive him the circum- stances of his rise, of tempting statesmen to enter the service of one who has absorbed the State, of persuading men devoted to France to forget that France under his rule has lost alike freedom of thought and liberty of action' of making himself in fact chief of the nation, instead of despot of the most numerous party within the nation. Granted one datum, his own position at the top, he has always professed himself ready to concede anything ; but no one of his oppo- nents has ever been ready to grant him his datum. The Legitimists refuse because a Bonaparte though Emperor by in- heritance is not the descendant of St. Louis ; the Orleanists, because though the elect of the nation he has overthrown parliamentary government; the Republicans, because between him and them runs the blood of the 2nd December • the clerical party, because uncertain whether it can hope to Obtain permanent advantage from any Jacobin on a throne. No party will accept the law which the abler Bonapartists are always extolling—devotion to principles instead of formulas, to results instead of individuals. No party says in the practical English way, "the nation has accepted Louis Napoleon, let us accept him too, with what good there is in him, and by accepting bind him to use his vast power in our direction. We may have government by party under a Bonaparte as well as under the Comte de Paris, liberty under Napoleon as full as under Cavaignac. At all events let us try if this be not possible, if we cannot avoid the waste of strength involved in a sterile contest between the chief elected by the nation and all that is greatest intellectually and morally within the nation which elected him."
Well, here is at last a partizan of the first-class who adopts the English policy, who declares Sir R. Peel right in abandon- ing his party to ensure the welfare of his countrymen, who affirms that the Emperor may reconcile liberty with demo- cracy, who is ready to support the dynasty if only the dynasty will support the principles in which he believes. M. 011ivier may be regarded as the chief of the moderate liberals—the liberals who care about France and not forms, and he has avowed in the Legislative Body that he is willing to accept the Empire if only the dynasty will "crown the edifice," and by a constitution framed on the model of the Acts Additionel, the constitution of the Hundred Days—which may be fairly described as that of England under William ILL—gtiarantee the liberties of Frenchmen. It is a very great offer, one which any Sovereign of France would do well to ponder. M. 011ivier pledgee himself, though not in so many words, that if the Emperor will agree to a constitution like the Acts Additiond—that is, if he will leave the legislative power to a parliament with a double Chamber and make speech and writing free under the law—he shall be entrusted with the command of the army, the control of all foreign affairs, the general guidance of the executive, and be accepted frankly and unreservedly as hereditary monarch of France. In fact he may have his secret wish, to be the second founder of a lasting dynasty, if he will grant France her wish to be governed by the law and have full power within certain fixed limits of modifying that law. If he will do this, M. 011ivier declares he will face the outcry of his party accusing him of treason for personal gain, and M. Thiers cries "it is true" to the praise of the Acts Additiotsel, and the majority, who are, as they say, "bound by the logic of their position to be Bonapartist," express the most " lively adhesion." The vague idea of crowning the edifice has been superseded by a working suggestion based on a plan under- stood by all educated Frenchmen, and palatable to the imperial pride because framed by the founder of his House. The Acta Additionel, while leaving the Emperor very powerful, guaran- tees freedom of the press and of the person, places all employes under the civil law, and makes conscription illegal except to the extent fixed by a legislative Act. M. 011ivier may be of course, for all that it is possible for us to tell, the basest of time-servers. The Empire has bought many statesmen, and its prizes are large ; it is quite possible that M. 011ivier, a young man ambitious and conscious of' power, may be weary of sterile criticisms, and disposed rather than continue in his political exile to consent to any kind of "transaction." The Republicans, we believe, already declare. him a traitor, Orleanists shrug their shoulders at a man who hits the right moment with a shrewdness which almost rivals their own, and the exiles believe that their ally and friend has sold them for position and gold. It may be so, it is no part of our business or our pleasure to defend either Bonapartistsor Republicans but we would just remark that M. 011ivier has. done precisely what the majority of Englishmen would do, would indeed be proud of doing,—accepted a Government he could not avoid, and tried to make it a little better, we should say a great deal better, for his country. He cannot get Republic, so he accepts an empire on condition that the empire grants the permanent Republican objects. It is folly to say he is simply seeking his own advantage. If his object were service merely, the Emperor would accept him gladly without all this embarrassing talk, would give him place and wealth, hotels and concessions, posts worth thou- sands and information worth millions, would make him Minister at once, for he has not too many men qualified even to serve. There is nothing human cupidity can desire which is not open to M. 011ivier if he is simply "traitor." If self is his sole object, he is simply putting difficulties in hi% own path by pointing out the dangers to which the Empire is liable the revival of political feeling in France, the fate. which has pursued every Government of repression, the need which his country feels of greater play for her intellectual energies. The Tuileries does not desire all that teaching, for if the Emperor rejects it the shadowy hope helps to disappoint the people, and if he accepts it the hint impairs the dramatic effect of the Imperial initiative. But M. 011ivier makes a clear bargain,just as any English member does when he agrees. to vote for a Government to which he is opposed, if only it will propose the measures which he deems indispensable. That seems to Englishmen not treachery, but only practical sense, an expression of that patriotic feeling which post- pones every consideration to the permanent good of the country. The Whigs did not think Sir Robert Peel a Whig because he abandoned protection, but they voted for his free- trade measures ; they did not pardon the Duke of Wellington because he ceased to resist emancipation, but they accepted his aid. According to the extreme parties in France they were traitors because their vote for a cardinal reform kept in power a Minister of whom they did not altogether approve. These gentlemen hold apparently that honest men are bound not to secure liberty if the Sovereign is Bonaparte, honesty if there exists a nominee Second Clamber, able administrators. if those who administer are liable to dismissal by the Man who struck the coup d'etat. But they will say M. 011ivier cannot be honest, for he is seeking what he knows, if Englishmen do not, to be beyond his reach. Freedom and Louis Napoleon are incompatible. Why ? That Napoleon could not remain the head of a strictly parliamentary system may be true, for the nullity of a conati- tutional sovereign is opposed to his higher as well as his lower instincts, and no man ever compresses both. But there. is no proof that he would not be content with the position of William a real headship of the executive, with a heavy vote in parliamentary affairs. The Emperor is not a simple despot whose single desire is the expression of his own will, on the contrary, he is a scientific despot who tries carefully and some- times timidly to express in his acts the ruling opinion of France. It would be as easy for him to obtain it through a free parlia- ment and a free press, provided neither attacked him, as through official reports. He detests the labour of daily administration, suffers his underlings to do all manner of imbecilities rather than be at the trouble of correcting them, and why should the blunders of ministers for whom he would not be respon- sible be more painful to him than the blunders of agents for whom he is ? We believe, could the bargain be struck, liberty exchanged for a fret* acceptance of himself and his child, he would suede without a debate, and with the strongest sense of relief. But that would leave him trium- phant? Well, and what then, if France obtains her desires, liberty of speech, and thought, and action under a strong executive, based upon democratic principles ? This is what M. 011ivier seems to us to offer, and we cannot but think the offer one deserving of less harsh epithets. Grant Napoleon guilty to any degree Republicans can affirm, and still it is better that the guilty should be spared, and the good cause triumph rather than guilt and cause should be condemned together. France asks for a strong executive, and under the Acts Additionel she would have Napoleon; for liberty, and she would have a free Chamber, a free press, and personal freedom; for democratic equality, and both Sovereign and Chamber would be elected by universal suffrage. The price to be paid would be simply the recognition of an illustrious name, the condonation of an utterly evil day, the punishment of .certain evil men by a sentence of obscurity instead of death. Free speech would chase away the entourage of the Tuileries as speedily under a Bonaparte as under a President, though possibly it would not secure the punishment by which a Republic would be certain to earn itself bitter foes. France in fact would become free without ceasing to be an Empire. The proposal of M. 011ivier may be that of a traitor, but it seems at least that of a practical man, and greatly for the benefit of France.