TOPICS OF THE DAY.
MARSHAL 1VIACMAHON'S MANIFESTO.
MARSHAL MACMAHON'S Address may have been com- posed,—let us hope it has been,—to act on the nerves of electors, and not to indicate his future action. As Louis Philippe said to the late Sir Henry Bulwer (Lord Dalling), " Parler fain la guerre, at faire la guerre, M. Bulwer, sent des choses bien clifferentes ; " and so, perhaps, Marshal MacMahon may say that to talk of dispensing with the Chamber of Deputies in case of a hostile majority, and actually to dispense with it in that case, are very different things indeed. No doubt they are. But the last quality with which we should have credited the Marshal would have been the finesse of Louis Philippe, who drew so broad a distinction between what he said he would do, in order to produce anxiety, and what be was really prepared to do when he found that words were not strong enough unless followed by deeds. In any case, whatever the Marshal may really intend to do, there is no disputing the nature of the unconstitutional and discreditable threat which he has launched at the electors of France. He has deliberately told Franco that if it will send up such a Chamber of Deputies as he likes, then all will be well; but if not, then it must be con- tent to be ruled by him and the Senate, without the Chamber of Deputies. "Elections favourable to my policy," he says sententiously, " will facilitate the regular march of the exist- ing Government,"—which is not a very weighty remark ; "they will affirm the principle of authority, sapped by demagogy, they will assure order and peace. Elections hostile to it would aggravate the conflict between the public powers, would impede the movement of business, would keep up agitation ;—and France in the midst of these new complications would become for Europe an object of mistrust (defiance). As for me, my duty would grow (grandirait) with the peril. I cannot comply with the demands of demagogy. I cannot either become the instru- ment of Radicalism, or abandon the post in which the Constitu- tion has placed me." (The Marshal here evidently confounds the Constitution with one particular exorcise of its functions. He might Just as well say that a Deputy who should resign his seat was abandoning the post in which the Constitution had placed him.) "I shall remain to defeua conservative in- terests, with the support of the gassate, and to protect ener- getically the faithful functionaries who, in a moment of dif- fioulty, have not allowed themselves to be intimidated by vain menaces." In a word, the Marshal goes to the country with the programme, "Heads, I win ; tails, you lose." He asks for elections which will support his policy, and declares that to elections which do not support his policy he will pay no manner of attention. That is not the language of a man who wishes to act constitutionally. He will respect the Constitu- tion while the Constitution produces such results as he approves, and will not respect the Constitution as soon as it produces such results as he fails to approve. In fact, the 'pivot of the Constitution, that centre round which all the rest of its provisions are to be grouped as mere subordinate details, is, in Marshal lelacMahon's opinion, the choice of him- self by the late National Assembly as President for seven years. He assumes that not only he, but his policy, was by that act indelibly inflicted on France for seven years,—and this in spite of the subsequent protest of the millions of electors, who had never anticipated, at the time they elected that National Assembly, any of the critical political issues which it was to be called upon to decide. We say deliberately that a man who thinks thus is not competent to hold the post which the Marshal holds under the Constitution ; that his self-conceit is a peril to France,—a mere barricade in the path of all constitu- tional Government, and the most dangerous possible incentive to revolution itself.
We would not write thus if we were writing for the French people, for the chief danger,—perhaps the only danger, — is that such language as the Marshal's may irritate them out of the magnificent self-command which they have hitherto displayed. For them the true policy is clear,—to bear with all this intolerable and discreditable high- handedness with a patience as immeasurable as their con- tempt for it ; to register their votes in milhona against the policy of the miserable Government which the Marshal so un- happily guarantees with his own personal responsibility ; and then, if the unconstitutional threat is fulfilled,—if the Marshal attempts to govern without a Chamber of Deputies,—they ahould exhaust every constitutional weapon to defeat him, by means of the Senate, if they can, by a stoppage of the financial supplies, if they must, but on no account should they give any pretence for calling soldiers into the political field. It might be that such a summons would be a failure. It might; be that the Army is sufficiently constitutional and conservative to refuse to support a ruler who is setting the Constitution openly at defiance. But it might prove otherwise. And what- ever the result, nothing could be much more disastrous than a rupture between military factions which should break the army in two. It must be remembered that the Marshal's game, even if played out according to the programme of this disgraceful address, is a very hazardous ono. Even he does not venture to say that he would act without the Senate. And the Senate, though it gave a majority of twenty for the perfectly legal policy of a dissolution, would hardly hazard its own future by giving a majority at all to reactionary proposals without any constitutional excuse. We strongly suspect that if a policy of military violence were decided on, though the first step might be the dispersion of the newly-elected Assembly, the second would necessarily be the dispersion of the Marshal's friends in. the Senate. And then what would remain but to create a new dynasty,—which could hardly be the MacMahon dynasty, after all, — and for the Marshal to violate. his promise, renewed in the only tolerable sentence, of his manifesto, to maintain the Republic ? To any one. who considers the matter carefully from the Due de Broglie's, and the Marshal's point of view, the course the latter has shaped out for himself is full of the most dismaying difficulties,, and it is clearly the true policy of the Liberals to await the effect of these difficulties, which sooner or later must bring this miserable farce of false Constitutionalism to a disgraceful close.
Nothing is more striking in the Marshal's manifesto than the complete silence ho keeps as to the reasons for his dissolu- tion. He says only, "The Chamber of Deputies, escaping every day more and more from the control of moderate men,. and more and more dominated by the avowed chiefs of Radi- calism, had come to the point of ignoring the authority which belongs to me, and which I cannot allow to be lessened, without compromising the honour of my name before you and before. history. Contesting at the same time the legitimate influence. of the Senate, it aimed at nothing less than at substituting for the necessary equilibrium of the established powers, the. despotism of a new Convention." Now, of course, all that is perfectly vague. No specific charge is brought, because no. specific charge could have been brought. The House of Com- mons might have been charged with the same offence any- time in the last two hundred years, with quite as much justice. and plausibility. But BO far as regards any fact tending to. prove that the late Chamber desired to deny the Marshal. any portion of the authority accorded to him by the Constitu- tion, no one ever has produced such a fact, and the Marshal and his present Ministers would have published it loudly and long ago to France, if they had been able to put their fingers, on anything at all like it. Just as little is it true that the Chamber ever contested the legitimate constitutional influence of the Senate. There were, no doubt, some disputes between them as to the exact constitutional limits of the Senate's right in relation to financial matters,—such as always must arise under a new Constitution, and such as have arisen a hundred times under our Constitution, at a time when it was far from new ; but the fact was that the Chamber of Deputies yieldell this point to the Senate, instead of tenaciously standing on the view of the majority as to its own rights. In a word, the only sentence of the Marshal's manifesto which is worthy of a plain soldier, such as he describes himself, is the sentence in which he denies that he will overthrow the Republic, and asserts that he will cause the Constitution confided to his care' to be respected in France ; and unfortunately, the meaning which such a promise, taken alone, would have, is quali- fied, or rather nullified by his subsequent declaration, that if France cannot agree with the Marshal, the Marshal, loaning on the support of the Senate, must defy France. In one word, this discreditable Manifesto ought to convince every honest Conservative in France that Marshal MacMah.on is no fit President under the Constitution voted by the National Assembly. But that conviction ought to be tempered by the knowledge that till his term expires, it will be almost impossible to remove him without his own concurrence, and that in France, at the present moment, fortitude, under even the grossest perversion of constitutional principles, would be an infinitely less evil than the faintest shadow of a new revolution.