3 MARCH 1866, Page 6


-tuf THIERS has made a great effort to place himself and Ins those whom he represents in a tenable position. Ever since the decree of November, 1852, which restored partial liberty of debate, the Republican Opposition in France has made the mistake of declaring liberty and the Empire incompatible. However guarded their diatribes or veiled their sarcasm, every one knew, and they in private acknowledged, that they were attacking not the re'ginie, but the dynasty. They wanted to be free of the blacksmith as well as of the fetters, nay, rather of the blacksmith than of the fetters. If they advocated economy, it was to suggest that the Empire was erpensive ; if they denounced corruption, it was to insinuate that corruption was the correlative of crowns ; if they eulogized peace, it was b,ecause the Empire was ready for war ; if they satirized cen- tralization it was because central power was in hands so dreaded and disliked. Naturally they had no weight. Even a consti- tutional king wonld not listen to arguments which had for base. his 'own defect of title, to suggestions the secret meaning of which was the nobleness he would display in putting himself to death. Though the Opposition wse wealthy in eloquence and grew slowly richer in votes, its action was almost null, for every one knew that sooner than it shoul4 succeed, the Emperor would strike a second coup d'&02. Parliamentary life is only vivid when there is hope of victory, and in the French Chamber a Republican triumph could only be a signal for new defeat. M. Tbiers, has endeavoured to remedy this mistake. In his speech of Monday upon the Address, a speech made after thirty-two members sitting on the Imperialist benches had signed a petition praying for greater freedom, he frankly accepts the dynasty. "They dynasty was beyond discussion; nobody thought of question- ing it." His only object was so to improve, or modify, or' strengthen the policy of that dynasty, that liberty might °nee more be re-established in France. He admits from the begin- ning the one cardinal datum without which Napoleon will not, indeed cannot, listen to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely, but with which he has repeatedly affirmed his willingness to make almost any concessions. Any form of government, even the English, Rrovidc4 he may sit as secure as the English monarch. The datum granted, M. Thiers proceeds in a style wonder- fully differentindeed from that an English chief of debate would adopt, but likely to be more, perhaps far more, effective with the man and the race he is addressing. An English orator would have dwelt on the expediency of freedom, on the strength it lends to the throne, the vigour it gives to the departments, the health it pours through all the veins of every limb of the great society,—would have shown how compressed thought superheated itself into an explosive hatred, how repressed speech mortified into malignant gossip, how baffled energies. ran all together into the one great channel of assault upon the Empire. Ile would have pointed to the decadence of litera- hire, the putrefaction of manners, the slow detrition of poli- tical ability, as proof that the nation pined for want of the healthful, if chilly, breezes of opinion, might even, had he dared, have contrasted the Napoleon of 1865 who sentenced silly boys for Red speeches at Liege, with the Napoleon of 1852, who would have circulated their speeches by the million as proof sufficient that society needed a strong pro- tector. M. Thiers did none of these things, perhaps could not have, ventured to do them, and instead he took up the Emperor's raison d'être, and drew liberty from that as &- logical deduction. The work, which seems thin to our eyes, is necessary in those of Frenchmen, and it was done with all M. Thiers' practised skill. The Emperor has affirmed one thing consistently, that he and his re'girae exist to expound, moderate, and consolidate the ideas of 1789. Those ideas. were two—one social, one political ; the social one equality, the political one the obedience of Government to the will of the' nation, to active public opinion. To carry out the second certain liberties are essential, because without them the opinion of the nation never can be formed. The first of the is individual liberty, which guarantees to every citizen his per- sonal freedom, secures him from every arbitrary act, and gives- him a right to resort to a court of law against any *no. Emory who acts illegally towards him. That is a liberty no Government in Europe save the British has ever attempted to secure. Even Cavour rejected with scorn a proposal to give- the individual citizen right of action against the agents or the State, and M. Thiers himself when in power would have repudiated the proposal as equivalent to a negation of autho- rity. To place it in its true position as first among practical liberties marks a distinct advance in the French mind tor wards a true conception of living political freedom. The second. is the liberty of the press or, as M. Thiers puts it, "the in- violability of a citizen's thOughts,nan experiment pronounced dangerous by the Empire, and no doubt, like every other, full of inconveniences. "But is it Mit better to try a free preps. under a strong Government than under a weak one ?" Then follows the inviolability of the citizen's preference for one representative over another, which we call freedom of elecr tion, an inviolability difficull to maintain, but "which at. least compels Government to interfere only in a decent man- ner." Then the representatives once assembled must have "liberty of interpellation," 1. e., the right to know the inten- tions of Government before they are carried into action, and finally, as the absolute correlative of these liberties, the datum, "without which the national will is without means of action," there must be ministerial responsibility. Every one et these liberties, M. Thiers contends, is implied in the ideas of- 1789 which it is the self-imposed mission of the Emperor to. expound. The yoke of Parliament! "When the Crown dig- solves and appeals to the hustings, Government does not sub- mit to the yoke of Parliament, but of the nation, and that can never be a hnmiliation." English institutions 1 Free- dom is no more English "than steam is English because much steam is used in England." And then the great orator, having to his own mind demonstrated his proposition with the rigid cohesiveness of geometrical proof, broke into a loftier strain to show how the denial of necessary liberties had failed, how the war in Italy had left the Greatest problem of raodern times unsolved, how treasure and ° men had been ex- pended in barren expeditions to Syria, Cochin China, and Mexico, how Poland had been -deluded by unfruitful promises, how internal reform, even decentralization, had been postponed, how finally, said the speaker, with superb logic and selfish- ness, France had in Italy either made a failure, or "created at her doors a nation of twenty-six millions ever ready to extend their hands to forty millions of Germans." Had "France been consulted, is it conceivable that she should have lent her hand to such a policy V" Probably not, though there are Frenchmen who, like M. Louis Blanc or M. Jules Fevre, would frankly stand, upon their principles, be the consequences what they might, and look for sway through their leadership towards the ideal rather than through their power of repression, but the point was for M. Thiers a fatal one to make. If he can show, or is com- pelled to show, that on one point Napoleon is higher than his people, that he expounds its best instincts, its highest thoughts, its noblest aspirations, better than a representative Chamber would have done, then on that point he gives the Emperor a new raison d'être. France is to be represented—he is its noblest and most perfect representative. And this on the single question of Italy he has been, and M. Thiers is foiled by the very reflections raised by his own eloquence. The leader who bids France raise a nation of twenty-six millions at her gates because they are down-trodden, without a thought of their possible action when they have risen, who makes a profitable oppression cease because it is an oppression, who spends the force of a people that another and rival one may be free because its freedom is a right, is a leader, in that matter at all events, worthy to lead France. Is it the idea of 1789 which is denied, when France gives a kindred nation the power she lacked to carry those ideas out to the full? The argument, hitherto so logical, breaks down, and M. Thiers, -victorious while he stands upon the base of 1789, quits that stand-point for one of mere intellectual selfishness, and thunders against despotism only because abroad it has not had the brutality to be despotic enough.

For the rest, his speech is in the true groove, and the thin, acrid, but coherent logic which seems to Englishmen so worth- • less' will weigh heavily both with the Emperor and France. An Englishman rarely gets hold of a principle, and when he does, almost always applies it as a solvent, but a Frenchman builds with it, is restless until it can be shown that the idea he believes in has been carried out to its logical result in action. As he believes in the ideas of 1789, he will chafe under a demonstration that they still remain inert, and struggle as effectively as he can towards their realization. Napoleon cannot yield, for he cannot yet be certain that France once free would accept his dynasty, and success there- fore mast be won by the slow struggle at the polls. Nearly every- election of late has gone against the Government, and should the Chamber be filled in the end with a hostile majority the Emperor would have but two alternatives—to strike a new coup d'Itat, or to realize the dream which M. niers has described with so much of the precision of a pedant, and something of the fire belonging to a great parliamentary chief.