TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE EXPLOSION IN FRANCE.
WRENCH Presidents are not intended to resign, but they
have all resigned. M. Thiers resigned in a fit of pique, Marshal MacMahon resigned rather than turn Republican, and M. Gre'vy has promised to resign under an explosion of disgust directed against his family rather than himself. The parties in the Chamber, having made up their minds that he must go in order to satisfy opinion, and to make a clean sweep of corrupt influences, employed the only device which, as we pointed out last week, could, under the Constitution, be adopted to compel a resignation. On Saturday, M. Clemenceau de- manded " explanations " in a form which was tantamount to a direct vote of want of confidence, and after a feeble debate—the Ministry being moat anxious to go—the Chamber, by 317 to 227, endorsed the demand. M. Rouvier, therefore, resigned, and the President, after consulting M. de Freycinet, as he always does, whether the business be political or personal, sent for M. Clemenceau, and, to the disgust of the Moderates, who recall his declarations of a few weeks since, offered, if the Radical leader would accept office, to " support his entire programme," which includes Disestablishment, General Boulanger, and an income-tax. M. Clemenceau hesitated for an instant, but finally informed M. Gravy that "the crisis was Presidential, not Ministerial," and that he must resign before any leader of any party could accept office. M. Gr4vy demanded a meeting of all the eminent men of the Republican Party—M. de Freycinet, M. Jules Ferry, M. Floquet, M. Brisson, M. Is Royer, and M. Clemenceau—and it was held ; but they all, with startling unanimity, repeated the same advice. In vain the old man argued, quite justly, that to resign because of a popular out- cry, without a vote and without an accusation, was to impair fatally the prestige of the Presidential chair,—his former Ministers and M. Clemenceau adhered to their decision. Then, in a burst of human feeling quite pathetic in its meaning, the deserted old man, who only yesterday might have said that he had governed France yet never been lampooned, sent for M. Henri Maret, an editor whom he scarcely knew, but who alone among the journalists of Paris had defended and pitied his personal position. He asked his advice in a way which, if France were ever constitutional at heart, would call forth angry comment ; but again received the pitiless rejoinder that he must go, and go at once. In a fortnight I pleaded the President ; but M. Maret shook his head, and said, "To- day and before he left the Elyse, the first sentences of the message announcing the President's resignation had been written out. This message will, it is said, predict untold miseries for France in consequence of the action of the Chamber, and so frightened M. Ribot when he heard its tenor, that, after agreeing to form an ad interim Ministry, he precipitately retired. The old Ministry, therefore, will read the message, will summon Congress to meet, will " organise " the 884 Senators and Deputies, will protect Congress during its sittings, and will instal the new President in the Palace of the Alysee. They can, of course, exercise no influence over the deliberations, for Congress, when sitting, holds con- stituent powers, and is admittedly as sovereign as the people ; but they include General Perron, and he may, we presume, be trusted to prevent any popular rush on the Assembly, or any pronunciamiento by the, military chiefs. He has full hold of the War Office, and, presumably, of the garrison, though it should not be forgotten that he has in General Boulanger a General, now present in Paris, who has announced himself in public his deadly personal foe. We have endeavoured elsewhere to explain the astonishing explosion of dislike which has driven M. Gravy from his place, and it remains only to examine the situation as it will be after his message has been read. The Congress will then be formed, as it were, automatically, the precedents of 1879 and of 1885 making all formalities easy ; and once collected, the Senators and Deputies sitting together have only to vote a name,—a matter, if the vote is by roll-call, of three hours. If they will do that, we should say the crisis might pass away without commotion, and probably with considerable improve- ment in the general situation, all men hoping some- thing from a new regime which cannot be as impersonal as M. Or6vy's. Paris, as yet, is tranquil ; and General Saussier, who was appointed because of the sincerity of his Republicanism, has under his orders a garrison sufficient to put down any possible insurrection. There must be sixty thousand men in Paris and the forts. The populace of Paris, it must be remembered, has now for the most part passed through the military mill, and the workmen who have been soldiers understand clearly, as undrilled workmen do not, what the effect of volleys from magazine-rifles would be on their ranks. They will not face the soldiers in the open streets. A. surprise can hardly be effected, for General Seamier has five thousand Bretons in Paris with whom to guard the Assembly, half of them marines, men who helped to suppress the Com- mune, and who entertain, from their history as well as their faith, a pitiless dislike of the whole order of things represented by Paris in revolution. If, therefore, the Congress will but decide quickly, everything may go straight, as the financiers. who have accepted M. Rouvier's grand " conversion " clearly believe will be the case. The election, however, can be made only by a clear majority—that is, by a vote of 443 Members for one candidate—and it is possible that the Monarchists and Extremists, frantic at the prospect of another seven years' delay, and not unwilling to see what temporary anarchy might bring forth, may cling pertinaciously to their own candidates, and so protract the election for many days of repeated but fruitless balloting. If that happens, the Faubourgs would move, if only to test the troops ; and once they are in motion, a new situation would arise. It is the tradition of the higher French officers, who have naturally been more impressed by the history of Spain than Englishmen. have, that under no circumstances whatever must regiments fire upon one another; that the Army must act as a whole, even if the necessary compromise is unsatisfactory to every individual General. It was to this that Marshal MacMahon referred when he rejected the White Flag because " the chassepelts might go off of themselves," and by this dread that he explained, after his resignation, his final refusal to strike a coup d'dtat. In the event of a great emente, the Generals in Paris would meet, and the party for which they declared would for a season govern France. Only three parties are possible, the Extremist, the Republican, and the Monarchical ; and for the first of these the Generals would not declare, if only because they would resent the dictatorship of a soldier who has never won a great battle. As between the Republic and the Monarchy, however, the choice is not so certain, for, not to mention the inherent attraction of Monarchy for soldiers, the Generals know well that the Comte de Paris could. secure a warm Russian alliance, because he could offer per- manent advantages. No, such deliberation will, we believe, occur, because the Assembly will perceive its danger far better than any critics can ; but the scene is laid in France, M. Grgvy's message may touch the amour propre of great parties to the very quick, and if the Assembly-catches fire, every risk may be encountered sooner than allow one side to be victorious.
One institution in France will be in frightful danger during the election. The Opportunists are the strongest party of the three, and if they can secure one of the other two, they will possess the necessary majority. They cannot catch the Royalists, for they can offer nothing except the readmission of the Princes, which is a small bribe ; but they may catch the Extremists by surrendering to them the Church. So terrible is religious hatred on that side, that this offer might be accepted ; and though the Opportunists would regret it as " premature," we would not in an extreme moment trust either their patriotism or their piety to hold out for an hour. Not 10 per cent. of them are believers ; and though they may all think the Church a useful institution, opinions of that kind melt away when the shouts of Belleville or the tramp of the soldiery become audible just outside the gates. We should not wonder if France, daring this election, made another long stride to Paganism.