TOPICS OF THE DAY.
M. CASIMIR-PERIER'S ADDRESS.
THOSE are very serious words which the new President of the French Republic addressed on Tuesday to the two Chambers, and they explain, if they do not justify, the unmannerly fury with which they were received by the Extremists. In phrases obviously well weighed, and once, or twice cautious to obscurity, M. Casimir-Wrier announced that the President would henceforward be much more in the Government of France than he had hitherto been. He began in the true style of a sovereign by rejecting party and claiming to belong to France ; he continued by declaring that he would not speak of grati- tude, for " I love my country too sincerely to be happy on the day when I become its Head ; " he proceeded by stating that without government as well as. liberty "nations perish," and he ended by two declarations, which may be found to transmute the Presidency, as it has hitherto existed, into a stronger power. He pledges himself, to begin with, not to seek re-election, and thus at once emancipates himself from the control of the Parlia- mentary parties. They have nothing to give him per- sonally, except a second term. He has no group to conciliate, no party to build up, no object in "concentration," unless concentration is for the public good. All the groups united can do nothing to him, for he has no need of their votes, and if they dismiss him, as they dismissed M. Givy, by rendering every suc- cessive Ministry impossible, they will only restore the happiness impaired by his election. He is as independent from the first as an American President during his second term, and he intends to use his independence. " So long as the destinies of France are intrusted to me I shall respect the national will, and, penetrated as I am by the sentiment of my responsibility, I shall feel it to be my duty not to allow the rights which the Constitution confers upon me to be either misunderstood or forgotten." The German Emperor could not speak with a greater consciousness of his powers or his position ; and remember the French Presidency in the bands of a strong man includes enormous power. The President is Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and the sole dispenser of the immense civil patronage of France, which interests every household in the land. He chooses and can dismiss his Ministers, he can adjourn the Chamber for a month, and although he has no veto, he can send a Bill back for reconsideration with a message stating his reasons for believing the enactment inexpedient or dan- gerous,—a message which would shake the seat of every Deputy or Senator responsible for the Bill. He cannot make peace or war, but be controls the whole diplomacy of France, and he can give orders leading as inevitably to war as if he commanded the troops to cross the frontier of a neighbouring State. He can address the people every week if be will, in speeches which are sure to be read and pondered, and which need not be couched, unless he pleases, in the unargumentative and conventional language usually adopted by M. Carnot. They may be sledge-hammer speeches, like the Messages of President Lincoln. He can ask the Senate to allow a dissolution, and the Senate could not refuse without virtually dis- missing the President, while the people would be on his side, for his plea for dissolution would, of course, be that he must consult their will. And finally, Cabinets are held in his presence, and he can make the whole weight of his will, and his ability, and his special knowledge felt by colleagues who are, after all, his Ministers, and who, if they affront or defy him, can in any future combination be left out. The dislike of M. Carnot, who was not M. Casimir-Wrier's equal in resolution, has so far been fatal to M. Constaus, though he is supposed to be one of the strongest men in France. No constitutional Sovereign has greater power ; while the President has this advantage over a King, that he is not expected to let his powers sleep, or to hold them in reserve. He represents France almost as much as the Assembly does, and the feeling of all Republicans in America, as well as Europe, is that all the powers con- ferred on any Magistrate by law are intended to be used. We quite understand the wrath of the Extremists. They dread an independent Executive above all things. —firstly, because the law will be maintained, and disorder prevented by force ; and secondly, because with a man so determined, their grip on the Executive is almost para. lysed. Their hope is to reduce the Ministers to the posi- tion of clerks of the Chamber, and then to rule the Chamber by shifting from side to side. That is what ' they have tried to do in all the labour disputes, and what they did successfully during M. Casimir-Wrier's own Ministry when they turned him out for refusing per- mission to Government employ&I to join the Unions of their trades. That is hopeless in the face of a President who, if his Ministers are defeated by any unworthy manoeuvre, will simply reappoint them or select others• like them, and call upon the Chamber to repeal the unexpected or the inexpedient vote. Moreover, the Ministers will not lee so easily defeated. The tendency in France, when the Executive is strong, is to adhere; to the Executive, and the Deputies, sure of support at the Elystle, will support in their turn its nominees. A majority of them are always for strong government ; and on this very occasion every sentence in the Message was applauded, and the proposal of the Extremists to appoint a Committee of thirty-three to reply to the President was. defeated by 450 to 77, or nearly by 6 to I. It is not from the Chamber, therefore, that the danger will come, but. from outside. The Extremists, hopelessly defeated, will become more furious than ever, will enter upon a cam- paign of insult, and will spread through all the cities and. manufacturing districts of France the idea that the Presi- dent governs, and that he is hostile to the people. In the end„ this calumny will have its effect ; and as M. Casinair-Perier is no doubt an anti-Socialist we shall, we believe, see once- more in France the old situation in which the Executive, powerful in the Chamber, is the mark for all outside hatred and vituperation, and is dependent for safety merely on success. That is not a good situation ; but it was in- evitable, for the alliance of the Extremists and Socialists, long approaching, has now been proclaimed, and to sur- render to a party like that, or even to come to terms with it, is to give up the battle for individualistic society. There will be trouble in France, we fear, and it may be the, trouble will take a violent form. The assassin of M. Carnot has still to be tried ; he will certainly be con- demned, and as certainly the President will not use in his favour the power of pardon. The Anarchists will strive to avenge their comrade, and we may easily see at- tempt after attempt at assassination, followed, as under Napoleon III., by new and more savage measures of repression. We will hope better things ; but unless we entirely misread M. Casimir-Wrier, the Head of the State has once more assumed the chief role in the drama, and will concentrate upon himself the regard of the French people and the personal hatred of the French factions of every shade of Red. If he can guard his life, all is well, for France prefers a strong ruler ; but if ho fails in that indispensable task, there are bad days at hand. After M. Casimir-Wrier, if he fails, will come a soldier, and the Presidency of a soldier would be a menace at once to liberty and to Europe.
We shall be asked if a visible President wielding a per- sonal power will be favourable or unfavourable to peace, and can only reply that we see no reason why he should be dangerous. The Kings are not ; but are, on the con- trary, sincerely anxious not to precipitate what will be the most terrible of crises. M. Casimir-Wrier is not a soldier, and cannot see the rise of a soldier without apprehension for the Republic ; and he is not a man seeking a throne, or desirous to found a dynasty. We do not see why he should not be as reasonable as his predecessors, while be will undoubtedly exercise more influence over the- fluctuating Ministers of Foreign Affairs, each one of whom, in succession endeavours to make a reputation, A certain. steadiness of policy in France will make it not harder but easier to deal with her, and nothing in his atti- tude or his relations to his people can greatly change i the permanent factors in the situation. The Triple Alliance is still faced by the alliance of France and Russia, England and France are still divided by the occupation of Egypt, and France will still pursue fiercely„ but with intermissions, a policy of Colonial expansion which gives her nothing of value, but brings her into collision with Great Britain at a dozen different points. Her policy is not a pleasant one, but it is not more un- pleasant because the President is changed, and may indeed easily become much less unendurable, The abler the ruler of France the...less he will desire, just now, more, enemies for France.; and the presumption about M. Casimir-Perier is that he is an unusually able man. France is much more likely to be driven into war by a stream of emotion than thrust into it by any ruler ; and the new President is not a man with whom popular emotion is likely to be all-powerful. His instinct, almost too strong for his safety, is to resist all cries.