THE DIFFICULTIES OF MODERATION IN FRANCE. T HE active politics of
France resolve themselves for the moment into the several stages of M. Carnot's journeys. Within a smaller sphere he is as indefatigable as the German Emperor. Nor is there much difference between the objects each has in view. The German Emperor wishes to maintain peace in Europe ; the French President wishes to restore peace to France. We are not sure that M. Carnot's task is not the harder of the two. The mutual hatreds of European races are not more deeply rooted than the mutual hatreds of French parties. The means M. Carnot has of giving effect to his wishes in this respect are limited to civil speeches, and assurances that the Government cares for nothing so much as for a general reconciliation ; and as yet there is not much evidence that these will be of much avail. For one thing, the President is but imperfectly supported by his own Ministers. It rests with them to translate his generalities into particulars, and, unfortunately, the spirit is apt to evaporate in the process. The remedy for the present malady of France is the simplest in the world, but it is not for that reason any the more easy of application. All that is needed is that one or other of the two parties, Republicans and Conservatives, should make an act of faith in the good intentions of the other. Let us see how this would act in the two cases respectively. The Republican distrust of the Conserva- tives is founded on the belief—very possibly the just belief—that their leaders intend to set up the Monarchy on the first opportunity. How, then, it may be said, can you recommend the Republicans to make an act of faith in good intentions which you admit may have no existence ? The reason is, that in this, as in many other cases, faith would. tend to bring about that which it believed in. The Conservative Party in France is made up of two quite distinct elements. There is a minority which really desires a Restoration, and a majority which would be well content to live under a Republic, if that Republic would only govern them as they wish to be governed. But the Republic insists on governing as they do not wish to be governed, and the reason it assigns for doing this is, that it must protect itself against Royalist conspirators. This view of the situation leaves out of sight the most important element in it. What is it that makes the Royalist conspirators— assuming that they exist—formidable to the existing order of things ? Simply the fact that they find a certain amount of support outside their own ranks. The majority of Conservatives, seeing that they do not get the administra- tion they desire, are tempted to listen to the Royalist minority when it assures them that they never will or can get it from a Republic. But for this uncertainty, the Conservative majority would look out for repre- sentatives of its own way of thinking, and these would naturally be found among the Conservative Republicans. The division of parties would ignore the received dis- tinction between Republicans and Royalists, and put in place of it the more real distinction between Con- servatives and Radical Republicans. As it is, therefore, the Republican Government, when it accepts the policy of in- tolerance dictated by the extreme Left, is the best friend the Royalist minority have. It is constantly reinforcing their arguments by the inexorable logic of facts. The Conser- vatives, who only ask to live and let live, complain that the Republic will not allow this ; that it is constantly inter- fering with religion, with the magistracy, with education ; and at every turn they are met by the Royalist question: Did not we tell you that the Republic is bound by the law its ts existence to do the very things you object to ?' How sincere is the acceptance of Republican institutions by the majority of Conservatives, is shown by the very little way which, even with this advantage, the Royalist argu- ment makes with them. But it does make some way. It does induce many Conservatives to vote for Royalist candidates, when, if left to themselves, they would rather vote for Moderate Republicans. Now, supposing the Re- public were to make the act of faith of which we have spoken ; supposing that it treated the Conservatives, not as enemies to be held in check, but as friends to be made more friendly, the Royalist minority would have no material to work on. It would be of no avail to tell the Conservatives that religious and educational liberty is impossible under a Republic, when the Conservatives would at once answer: It is not impossible, for we are enjoying it to the full at this moment. The Royalists would be reduced to silence, and all that would be left them to do would be to wait and hope for some reversion to intolerance on the part of the Republican Government.
This is one way in which a general reconciliation might be brought about. But it is only one way. There is another quite as efficacious. Let us suppose the act of faith in their opponents to be made, not by the Republicans, but by the Conservatives. The Republican Government, on this theory, might act just as it is acting now. The difference would be, that the Conservatives would steadily refuse to identify Republican administration with Re- publican institutions. They would oppose the Govern- ment in the Chamber, in the Senate, at the polls. But they would oppose it not because it is a Repub- lican Government, but because it is a Radical Govern- ment. They would not, as now, look for Opposition candidates among Royalists or Bonapartists ' • they would find the men they want among the Moderate Republicans. What would be the effect of this conduct on the Republican Party ? That party is no more made up of Radicals than the Conservative Party is made up of Royalists. The majority of Republicans are at bottom very much the same as the majority of Conservatives. Both dislike Reaction, both dislike Radical administration ; the difference between them is that the Republicans are inclined to listen to the Radicals when they assure them that a Radical administration affords the only barrier against Reaction, while the Conservatives are inclined to listen to the Royalists when they assure them that a Royalist restoration affords the only barrier against Radical administration. If the majority of Republicans saw that the Conservatives were as good Republicans as themselves, that they were faithful to Republican institu- tions, and content to be represented by Republican Deputies, that they discouraged any profession of reactionary feeling, and paid as much respect to the President as though they had been active in electing him, the Radical version of the facts would by degrees lose all meaning. It would be too far from the truth to have any further weight. Consequently, the Republicans would no longer find themselves obliged to vote for a Radical candidate because his opponent was not a Republican. On the contrary, they would find the candidate put forward by the Conservatives a Republican more after their own heart than the candidate put forward by the Radicals. • Thus, the same result would be attained by either arthEIK opposite courses. The one essential thing is, that one or father party should resolutely act as though the other were What they professedly wish them to be. And if their professed and their real wishes were the same, there would be no difficulty in their doing this. The difficulty—we may almost say, the impossibility—resides in this, that the. professed wishes of the leaders on each side are not their real wishes. The Royalists really govern the Con- servatives, the Radicals really govern the Republicans ; and the Royalists do not want the Republic to become Moderate and Conservative, while the Radicals do not want the Conservatives to become Moderate Republicans. In either case, the occupation of the present leaders would be gone, since on each side moderate men would take the place of extreme men. Neither party, therefore, as parties are now constituted, cares to exchange the rapture of the strife and the chances of victory for the uninteresting commonplaces of compromise. Either party might make it impossible for the leaders on the opposite side to draw their followers after them into paths they would not of them- selves care to follow ; but so long as neither will make the first advance, there seems little chance that French politics will escape from their present aimless and. un- profitable circle.