21 NOVEMBER 1891, Page 24


THE French Royalists have lately seen two gleams of light cross their otherwise dark horizon. M. Lafargue has been returned for Lille,—that is consolation number one. M. Lafargue is a Socialist, a son-in-law of Karl Marx, and he fought for the Commune. He is, in the eyes of Royalists, a typical Republican, the sort of man M. Ferry or M. Jules Simon would be if they had the honesty to show themselves in their true colours. M. Lafargue's election, therefore, is an example of how all elections would go if the Republicans were allowed to rule France without let or hindrance. He is an object-lesson in the results of Republican government. It pleases the Radicals to draw imaginary distinctions between themselves and M. Lafargue's friends ; but the common-sense view of the matter is, that there is not a pin to choose between them. The Royalists think better of their countrymen than to believe that they will put up with representatives of this type when they realise what they really are. A few more elections like that of Lille, and the scales will fall from their eyes. The French people are not Socialists, and they do not want to be governed or legislated for by Socialists. All that is needed to awaken them to the advantages of Monarchy, is a demonstration that Socialism and the Republic are one. A majority of the electors of Lille have not shrunk from declaring that they are ; and if only a few constituencies would follow their example, the demonstration, they think, would be complete.

This Royalist reading of events is more sanguine than correct. They are very anxious that M. Lafargue's election should convey this salutary warning to their countrymen, and they take for granted that things are going as they wish them to go. It is strange that their reading of recent history should have so little relation to facts. There is nothing in the past to justify the theory that the return of an extreme Republican sends French electors into the arms of the opposite party. In the most conspicuous instance of such a return—M. Barodet's election for Paris in 1873----the effect was entirely different. The Royalists acted as though it had had the effect they desired, and Marshal MacMahon's Presidency, the Due de Broglie's Administration, and the attempt of the Sixteenth of May, were all based on this assumption. But the result showed that it was completely false. The electors turned out to be far more afraid of their self- constituted deliverers than of the enemies from whom they were to be rescued. The only impression made by M. Barodet's election was made on men who were already con- vinced. The Assembly to which he was returned, was persuaded to replace M. Thiers by the Marshal ; but then, it was half a Royalist Assembly to begin with. There is no evidence that any section of the Republican electorate was frightened, even for a moment, into desiring a Restoration. The explanation of this fact is probably this. The -French peasantry regard the Socialists and the Royalists as very much on a level. The victory of either would mean, as they think, revolutionary changes in the tenure of property. The Socialists would abolish individual ownership of land ; the Royalists—as the peasant reads their intentions—would transfer that ownership to a dif- ferent class of persons. It is a matter of indifference to them which of these results happens ; they are determined that, if they can help it, neither shall happen. They are no more inclined to seek a protector against Socialism in a King, than to seek protection against Monarchy in a Social Republic. They mean to do without either, and they think themselves strong enough to carry out their purpose. As has often been said, the suppression of the Commune dispersed all doubts on this head. The Social Revolution is never likely to wear a more tremendous aspect than it wore in 1871. The Republic is never likely to be weaker than it was six months after its foundation. But the Republic put down the Commune, and thereby established its ability to put down any similar movement, provided that the nation wishes it put down. What Thiers did in 1871, M. Constans could do, if need were, in 1891. Why should the peasant turn his back upon actual experience, and ask a party he distrusts, to do him a service which was rendered twenty years ago by a party he trusts ?

If anything could now bring about a Restoration in France, it would be the apparent inability of the Republic to create any semblance of Ministerial stability. • Only lately it seemed as though this difficulty had been sur- mounted. The foreign successes of the existing Cabinet, and the increasing disposition of the . Moderate Royalists to accept Republican institutions, promised to build up by degrees a Conservative majority strong enough to protect the Republic against its own extreme faction, and to present it to the country as the most generally accepted form of government. M. Carnot's reception during his summer tours, and his frequent references to the need of political comprehension, pointed in this direction ; and it was naturally taken for granted that the President would not express himself in this sense except after consultation with his Ministers. What has brought about the change is the sudden aban- donment of a policy of conciliation by the Cabinet, in deference seemingly to the Extreme Left. The feature in the new policy which was most distasteful to advanced Radicals, and most attractive to moderate Conservatives, was the sub- stitution of religious conciliation for religious provocation ; and before the Chambers met there were rumours of an attack to be made on the Cabinet by way of punishment for its supposed readiness to bring about a Peace of the Church. Suddenly the Government laid down their arms, and took the very steps which the Extreme Left would probably have pressed upon them. Because the presence of certain French pilgrims in Rome had led to disturbances, the Cabinet determined not merely to suspend pilgrimages for the present, as they might easily have done by means of private negotiations with the French Bishops, but to forbid the Bishops theinselves to go to Rome. No doubt the Government has this power under the Concordat, but it is a power the exercise of which the Bishops have always resented, and which has practically fallen into disuse. To invoke it without any real necessity was the most certain way of arresting the steady drift of the Conservative Royalists towards the Republic, and replacing the Cabinet in its old position of dependence on the Extreme Left. The adoption of this new policy was advertised to the world by the prosecution of the Arch- bishop of Aix,—a prosecution surrounded with legal pit- falls, and one which, if successful, can establish nothing except that the Government which appoints and dismisses the Judges, can count upon the devotion of its nominees. Had the Cabinet taken no notice of the Archbishop's letter, their mistake in issuing the prohibition against which it was directed would by this time have been forgotten, and the person left in the wrong would have been the Archbishop. Why this obvious course was rejected is at present unknown. According to some, it is due to a certain infection of Radicalism which doth remain even in M. de Freycinet. According to others, it is the outcome of a vein of anti-clericalism which runs through the otherwise Conservative temperament of M. Ribot. Whatever be the explanation, there is unfortunately no doubt as to the fact. For the time, Conservatives of every shade are disgusted with the Republic, and the Royalists watch with delight the renewed efforts of the Ministry to build their house on the shifting sands of Republican concentration.