THE PRESIDENTS BALL.
H. BONAPARTE has accomplished his task. He has kindled a con- flagration; has rushed through the streets shouting fire at the tor of his voice ; has frightened honest folks out of their wits ; has bound and gagged the firemen and the police, filling their places 'with his emissaries; has organized his band of thieves and cut-
throats ; and now, as befits a gallant captain of highwaymen, is leading a jolly life of it, and showing himself a free-handed and liberal gentleman with the proceeds of the swag. Who does not remember Jack Sheppard at the Adelphi ?—how that noble strip- ling, after a successful coup d'etat, arrayed himself in the gorgeous costume of a chevalier d'industrie, and, attended by two noble ladies who owed him allegiance and did the honours of his court, gave a grand entertainment to his faithful Blueskin and his less renowned retainers ; and how, by that magnificent and memorable ordinance, "Let punch be brewed continually until further orders," he not only subdued the souls of his followers, but so enchanted the imaginations of the Adelphians, that Jack Sheppard became with them the ideal of chivalry, generosity, virtue, and briefly of human worth P Who that was present at the Tuileries the other night, either in person or imagination, but must have had that scene vividly recalled to him, if he had ever witnessed it ? Jack and his two wives did the honours in one case--President Jack and his two fair cousins in the other, and Blueskin had no bad re- presentative in St. Arnaud ; while, if men and women are to be classified by their objects of admiration and submissive insight into the eternal laws, it must be a very subtile analysis that would establish a distinction valid for the moralist between the guests assembled on the two occasions. And the occasions them- selves were they very different ? Jack's coup had been suc- cessful—so had President Jack's; and the company was as- sembled in either case to do homage to successful—enterprise shall we call it? and to bask in the sunshine of its prosperity; "might was right and prigging prospered" in both eases for a time. Poor Jack came to be hung by reactionists—the other drama has not developed to that point yet; and President Jack takes Paul Louis Courier's advice, "not to let the evil of tomorrow deprive him of the good of today," in opposition to Solon's, which would bid him wait the end.
In sober seriousness, are we to be so dazzled by gorgeous splen- dour purchased with plunder, and by power consolidated through bloodshed and proscription, as to be prevented from discerning the true nature of this man's authority and influence, 'and from bestow- ing on it and those who do homage to it their- true names P As the purest religion consists in the recognition and love of worth wher- ever it be found, so the basest idolatry is to render worship, re- spect, and submission, to that which is unworthy and ignoble ; and reason and conscience impose upon all who have the power, the duty of denouncing it as a treason to humanity. This man has saved French society!—what a society it must be to be saved by such a man ! For society can only be saved by that which is wisest, noblest, best in itself; by that man or men who apprehend its wants and can realize them. How has M. Bonaparte appre- hended the wants of French society and realized them? Bayonets. in the street, Te Dennis in the churches, balls at the Tuileries—vio- lence, hypocrisy, and frivolity—these axe the forces which H. Bo- naparte has evolved. Are these what are meant by the vital forces of a state ? And the classes in whom these forces reside, the sol- dier, the priest, the man of pleasure, are these the classes on whom the strength, the endurance, the prosperity of a state depend ? Yes ! French society has been saved—the French nation has dis- appeared. The selected five thousand may dine and dance and dress, if they have the coolness to enjoy these amusements on the smoulder- ing ashes of a volcano. Lamartine, with his high-flown sentiment, calmed the passions and checked the rapacity of the proletaires ; Cavaignac's firmness and stern vigour quelled a real Socialist insur- rection; but they neither of them gave grand balls to a selected five thousand, and so the select five thousand found them theo- rists and unpractical men, who did not understand France, and, in. short, could not save society,—which, as society itself avows, is a sacred association for dining, dancing, dressing, 8,:e. Not that it is altogether the saltatory motion, nor the excitement of the gastric Juices, which saves society, but the having a great man to toady and flatter, in whose livery its sham hierarchy may be clothed and glorified. For it is not the nerves of the toes, or of the stomach, that cause this thrill of gratitude through the community of the "saved," but those far more excitable nerves of social vanity, which have grown torpid under the leaden reign of liberty, fra- ternity, and equality, and now wake up to quick susceptibility when brought into rapport with a man who is raised above his fellows by qualities which dazzle and subdue the imaginations of the vulgar great. This "fashionable" world, the counterfeit of a true aristocracy—with no convictions, no recognition of duties, simply eager for pomp and pleasure and badges to gratify its pride—what does it need but a counterfeit Cresar under whose image and superscription its false coinage of title and station may pass current, careless whether it represent the value without which fact and the Eternal will have no coinage pass current long? And so it crowds the salons of the man who can give it what it wants, " panem et circenses," pleasures and grand-crosses. His greatness is like their own, divorced from wisdom or goodness— this man, who can do and has done just what no good or wise man would wish to be able to do, take life and property as he pleases—a magnified highwayman, the very Xing of Flunkeydom, Jonathan Wild the Great. How true is the remark of the same witty writer we have already quoted, "Were there but three men in the world, one would pay court to another and call him lord, and those two united would force the third to work for them."
Looking away from that saddening spectacle of an usurper tri- umphing through the baseness of the wealthy and pleasure-seeking classes of a great foreign country, how is it with ourselves ? Have the pursuit of wealth and pleasure, and the excitement of vanity,
eaten the heart out of us too, and given us over, bound hand and foot, to the King of the Flunkeys? Do we recognize and honour a man when we have him before us, or is the tinsel of momentary success, for us too, the touchstone of worth? Do actions, for us too, change their character according to the scale on which they are performed ? Is England sound at heart, worshiping neither Mam- mon nor Fashion, but reverencing man as made in the image of his Creator, and therefore cherishing the sentiment, of liberty, without which constitutional forma are a systematized fraud ? It would be pleasant to believe it ; but we have heard that the English in Paris were as eager as others to see and to be seen at this Jack- Sheppard bell; and at home we are said to be over-fond of wealth, and to regard little the means by which it is made—to care much for a bow from a lord, and -very little to honour the wise man or be honoured by him. "Honesty the best policy" among us ! Yes we must not pick pockets, or go shoplifting—but a gigantic swindle by which one gains a million, a wholesale iniquity by which the rich become richer and the poor poorer ?— Oh, stop ! now you're using violent revolutionary language! I'm no Socialist, thank Heaven ; respect for property, and for those who have a stake in the country, are Sir, the foundations on which reposes the majestic and time-honoured fabric of the British Constitution.