24 MARCH 1866, Page 6


without reason that the division of 'Monday on M. I. Buffet's amendment in the Corps Legislatif is considered an event. It is true the minority in its favour was only 63, while 206 voted against it ; but last year the Opposition was only 16, and the whole influence of the Imperial Court had been exerted to reduce the number. Upwards of 80 members- were absent from different causes, and so 'thoroughly did cer- tain constituencies enter into the spirit of the amendment that one representative, the Baron de Bussieres, unable to resist their pressure, yet determined not to support M. Buffet, sent in his letter of resignation while the 'speeches were going on. Above all, the debate not only demonstrated the existence of a third party, numbering -probably a fifth of the Chamber, but showed that it had devised a practical and extremely effectiVe line of action. Led by M. Buffet, a shrewd, calm man of the lawyer kind, who has been Minister, who can debate in the English sense, and who runs no risk of a summary order to sit down, with Emile 011ivier for orator, M. Thiers for dignified spokesman, and the brilliant Republicans for pioneers, it devotes itself to a single policy—the increase of the functions, privileges, and liberties of the Chamber itself. It asks little- for France everything for the representatives of France. Accepting the dynasty as beyond discussion, and even the- personal power of the Emperor, it takes its stand upon the decree of November, 1860, which restored in theory par- liamentary freedom, and asks that it should be made a reality. Napoleon is to reign as he reigns, amidst the institutions, and "great bodies" of the State which he has himself founded, but then they are to be living as well as he. The right of election has been granted, and it must now be exercised with- out Government interference. If prefects may speak for a candidate, at least they must not be allowed to pay. The right of speech has been conceded, and it ought to extend to, all topics, to French policy in Mexico say, as well as the just price of corn. The Ministry are represented in the Chamber, and ought in their own interest to be their own represen- tatives—ought not, says M. Buffet, half smiling, to endure incessant attack to which they are forbidden to reply. Above- all, the right of interpellation, without which discussion must be based upon rumour or unofficial knowledge, ought to be frankly restored, and every restriction upon an actual vote, that is, upon the "formulated expression of the will of the whole country," totally removed. It is not parliamentary government in the English sense which M. Buffet demands, but rather in the American sense,—freedom, that is, not only to' reject or accept an Act, but to express on all points, and more especially on all policies, the opinion of the Chamber, 'an opinion which Napoleon, unless confldentthat it differs from that of the country, will scarcely disregard. If the demand were ac- cepted the result would be a constitution singularly like that of England under William III., when, although a vote of the Commons did not theoretically bind the Throne, except upon matters of legislation and finance, it was still excessively difficult for the Throne to act in defiance of its opinion. The King had then, almost as fully as Napoleon has'now, the right of the initiative, but he was compelled to exercise it defer- entially. He chose whom he would as Ministers, but the- Commons could render an unpopular one useless to his master ; he could issue any executive order, but he was compelled by the necessity of maintaining his-moral and intellectual position before Parliament, to see that his order was well defended, and therefore capable of defence. The Administration in fact could sanction anything of which it was not ashamed, do anything except oppress, and say anything not sure to be instantly exposed by the representatives of the people. That is a very great measure of power, but then it allows also of a very great measure of liberty, and it is to combine a Bonapartist, or " unfettered " Executive, an executive which can do something besides talk, with an " efficacious " public opinion that the new Tiers Parti has avowedly set its face. No matter about the formal authority of the Cham- ber ; as M. Buffet said, amid the lively emotion of the members, if it can only speak out the Emperor himself will not say that its voice ought to have no effect upon his policy. The formulated opinion of the nation is sure to dominate every other, and it is the right of thus formulating her opinion which France now desires. She desires it the more eagerly because liberty thus restricted extends the same hostility to what we may call the Presidential is attainable without a revolution. The nation does not desire form of free government, and it is towards this, and not the to banish the Emperor from power, or to fire upon his agents constitutional form, that the Sixty-three members desire Napo-- in the street. On the contrary, itis still disposed to accept him leon should be driven. How far they represent France or aspermanent Prime Minister as well as 'Sovereign, and it could Napoleon himself is still a question, but it cannot be doubted" not retain him if it insisted on parliamentary government. that their vote is a symptom of reviving political feeling, of Bonapartes cannot take orders from individuals, nor will this the growth of a new policy in men's minds. Liberty possible particular Bonaparte consent to sacrifice his followers. But it without a revolution!—the face of France as it catches the is quite possible for him, retaining the supreme control of his idea wears a look it has not worn for eighteen years. administration, the command of the army, the enormous And we must not forget that throughout these debates patronage of the State, and an independent initiative in all on the Address one new and striking feature appeared. undertakings, to improve the decree of November, 1860, till Every sharp stroke at the luxury and dissoluteness so bide by side with him stands a free though restricted marked under the Empire, as under every government which legislature. If all France demands that change, he can represses the healthy excitement of political thought, was secure it without suicide, and it is daily becoming more heartily applauded. Corruption is beginning to touch the evident that France does desire it with such eagerness that family a little too closely, and Frenchmen, whether they care the agents of repression falter in their task. Prefects are for their wives or not—and they do case at least as much terrified when ordered to win elections, while the scene at as Englishmen—care very deeply for their children. They the Odeon, with 2,500 students under the eyes of the Emperor begin to weary of a luxury which is becoming insolent, of a shouting for the Luxembourg Garden still threatened by M. debauchery which unveils itself, of a revel of years for which Hausmann, and roaring applause at every allusion to liberty, the provincials pay, but of which they enjoy for their share reminds one of anything rather than the silence of the pre- only the reek. The fatal idea that " /a decadence de la France" sent regime. Nevertheless the Emperor makes as yet no con- is more than a phrase begins to permeate the bourgeoisie, and cession. It is probable, or rather certain, that he has con- they are ceasing to fear that strong breeze which, if it chilled templated the situation which is arriving, for he sketched it them, would at least drive scented vapours away. They begin out in famous analogy between the constitution of France to perceive that liberty has another meaning than the "right and of America, an analogy which we may all have one day of chattering from a tribune," and strive first of all to induce to study deeply, but he is unwilling to hurry his conclusion. the man who rules France to see whither 'her opinion tends. It is possible that a popular rumour is correct, that his keen They may succeed, and if they do a new era is possible for insight has been dulled by servility, that he was till this the Empire ; but they also may fail, and if they do, the debate quite unaware of the extent of the restlessness in Emperor will ere long occupy a seat more uneasy and less France. It is very difficult for an autocrat with no papers secure than M. Rouher's " bed of Procrustes," a throne borne to read to arrive at truth, particularly when he relies on aloft through surging multitudes upon a bayonet's point. minute reports by officials, which are always " toned" by the hope of promotion, and which 'he has not the patience to collate. His answer to the Address, though it promises IJNIVERSITY DISSENTERS. nothing, is far less reactionary in tone than any of his recent IT is curious to note the universal assumption among the deliverances, has 'in it a faint trace of the appeal ad miseri- 1 Conservative party that the introduction of Dissenters in cordiara. Be that as it may, it is certain that M. Rouher re- any number into the pale of the Universities will unques- ceived orders to defeat the amendment upon grounds which, tionably tend, by multiplying varieties of religions creed, to bat for one loop hole, would be fatal to the hope of concession. universal scepticism and disorganization. Mr. Coleridge in The violent aggressiveness of Baron Jerome David, who seemed his brilliant speech conceaea nothing indeed to this assump- to hear in M. Buffet's speech a moral 'tocsin, may be of tion. He took for granted that perfectly free religious inquiry little importance, except so far as it proves that the Bonapart- must be conducted somewhere, and ought to be conducted 'jets have lost the calmness of an assured position, but M. Rouher on that high level of uniform culture for which a great undoubtedly spoke by order, and his main argument was that University is precisely the most fitting place. But even he the Corps Legislatif assumed a false position. It was not did not point out what we believe to be the most probable ' the nation," or in any special sense the representative of natural consequence of establishing Dissenters on the same the nation, but only one of several powers established after level of culture and privilege with Churchmen in our Uni- the coup d'e'tat. Its "attributes," though very great, were versities, because he took for granted that the result limited " by a Constitution the fundamental principle of must be that the Church would swallow up the Dissenters which is antagonism to parliamentary government." M. directly the grievance is removed which now either keeps Dis- `Buffet's argument asserted that the Chamber was sovereign in senters in their youth out of the range of her influence, or the country, that it was in fact the country, brought face to makes it a point of honour with them not to yield. No doubt face with an isolated dynasty,—" a most dangerous heresy, the Church might absorb a great deal of •Dissent so long as the source of all the errors which in a different epoch pro- the Church retained her superiority of culture over the chief duced parliamentary government." The Chamber is not that, bodies of Dissenters, because those who came from amongst says M. Rouher; "it does not represent the sovereignty, and it is the Dissenters into the higher culture of the Church society, not the country. It is a power, nothing but a power ; a great feeling the fascination of that culture, would ascribe to the power truly, but a power which has its limit, its dependence, its 'Church which sanctions it what is in some measure due only orbit, beyond which it cannot pass ; it is bound by the consti- to those special intellectual advantages which she has hitherto tutional scheme." The sovereignty cannot be in "that which monopolized. But it is not, we fancy, to be lightly assumed delegates, which transmits, which abdicates." That singular that the same thing will happen in anything like the same expression was again repeated'in the course of the speech, the proportion of cases, if the Dissenting sects should ever attain Minister declaring that the Sovereign had better abdicate, the same average level of culture as the 'Church. No doubt had better imitate Charles V., than submit to be stretched many of them must disappear in the very attempt to attain cul- 011 such a bed of 'Procrustes—nothing is so odd as French ture. It is not reasonable to suppose that sects founded on use of classical allusions except French abuse of them some fragmentary hint as to Church government or the mode —as parliamentary government, Any system of responsi- of administering baptism in the Bible, or any infinitesimal bility would be but a "gentle, easy, glissante, imperceptible, and insignificant item of doctrine or practice, can outlast the but 'fatal slide towards Parliamentarism," and the Emperor solvent influence of a culture which teaches something of the would hone of it. The Empire would be progressive, but all true proportion and relative value of different truths, infer- parties, if •the country were to be saved, must cling around the ences, and conjectures. We will admit still more than this. Emperor. M. Rouher of course indulged 'further in the usual We will admit that that which in a great number of instances abuse of the system which had escorted one King over the endears the Dissenting principle to Dissenters, the love of frontiers and driven another to fly to England in disguise—he wielding power over their ministers, and keeping them to a assumes throughout that the fate of kings is the one thing certain extent in intellectual servitude,—the feeling which of importance for mankind—and quoted a list of the menacing was lately so vividly and happily portrayed in Salem Chapel, names adopted in 1848 by fanatic journals, but the substance one of the Chronicles of Carlingford,—will vanish away with of his speech was that Parliamentarism and vigorous govern- that complete culture, which tends only too much to make went were incompatible, and its nuance that as the "parties" people shrink from themselves expressing any view, much less had not yet accepted the dynasty it must be stern in self- dictating to others what views they shall express, on subjects so 'defence. 'But there is nothing yin his speech to show that he 1 deep and complex that all attempts to define the truth at all are