TOPICS OF THE DAY
THE PLAN OF THE RIGHT.
THE plans of the Right are rapidly developing themselves, and are at once more constitutional and less sensational than they were at first supposed to be. They are not going to war with Italy, for behind Italy lies Bismarck, and the Marshal-President understands perfectly that France is not ready for a serious war ; that even when the Germans are paid out, a year or two must elapse before the cadres are full and the men thoroughly disciplined, and he has consequently, while sending his first message to the Pope, re- assured all foreign Powers. They are not going to strike a coup cretat, for Marshal MacMahon objects to that kind of sterile violence ; and if he did not, the menace would instantly divide the majority into three, the Bonapartists not being yet ready, or the Legitimists in full possession of their master's sanction to a massacre. They propose, therefore, to proceed much more slowly and constitutionally. They have decided, we are told on authority frequently right, to wait three years for the final triumph of their cause, and meanwhile to main- tain the Provisional Government, and to employ the new Execu- tive in the work of coercing the electors. Their most trusted agent, M. Beule, has been ordered to instruct all Prefects that while the Government gives them its confidence, it demands in return their complete devotion. "Instructions from me shall not be wanting," writes M. Beule. " Do not hesi- tate, and my responsibility will always cover yours. What the National Assembly expects before everything from the Government which it has instituted is a personal administration inspired by one thought, directed with pre- cision, and placing itself openly at the head of the Con- servatives." A reference is then made to " the illustrious Marshal," who will support and defend Conservative Prefects, and the manifesto is complete,—so complete that there is little difficulty in tracing it to the hand of M. Rouher, whose financial colleague, M. Magne, has been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who knows more of the business of reigning by corruption than all the Dukes put together. If the Prefects obey, as is probable, for other- wise they will be dismissed, shifted—that is, removed to petty prefectures—or snubbed, and if the electors show a spirit of submission, and if Marshal MacMahon consents, on the departure of the Germans the Assembly will be dissolved, and a new one elected under the auspices of M. Beule, who will certainly exhibit no " weakness "; while, if the electors should not prove submissive, or should display Radical pro- clivities, or should be clamorous for M. Thiers, the Assembly will continue for three years to rely on its own sovereignty, which, it appears, has the power denied to other Sovereigns, that of keeping itself alive by mere desire to live. Meanwhile every engine will be put in play to secure adherents, in the Army, and the Civil Service, and the Church, and among the peasantry, until at last the final Constituent Assembly, picked and weeded and well prepared, shall, amid the acclaim of the nation, surrender the nation to—whom ? a point upon which, when the hour comes, civil war may begin at once, the Bona- partists evidently having fixed the term of three years, in the hope that they may then present an acceptable can- didate.
This is the plan,—and if political morality is entirely dead in France, and Paris remains in chains, and Gambetta is powerless, and the three strands of the Right rope can hang together during three years, and Marshal MacMahon cannot acquire any comprehension of politics, the plan is a very nice one, and may succeed. But then we do not think all these con- ditions are present. To begin with, the Legitimists through- out the country have been complaining for years of official oppression at elections, oppression which kept them out, and their cool surrender to the Imperialists on that point is either an admission that the Imperialists were right, or a mere act of despair,—displays them either as men whom that French Disraeli, M. Rouher, has "educated," or as the merest nulli- ties. That places them in a ridiculous position before their own constituents, who elected them in 1870 chiefly to make peace, but partly because they had for nearly a quarter of a century mitigated by their personal weight the tyranny of the officials. Then they must pass a Bill, which of all possible bills will most seriously annoy the electorate, must avow openly and de- cidedly that they hold the rich above the poor. For the Pre- fects to act as M. Beule wishes, they must impress the Mayors who are now elective except in the great cities ; and to destroy
their independence the Right must do one of two things, either restore the Napoleonic system of appointing the smallest- Maire, or carry the Bill they are now said to propose, giving the- municipal electoral rower to the persons paying the highest. taxes,—i.e., the squires and richest peasantry. We could_ not do that even in England, but anybody who knows. French history knows that such a change would never be for- given ; that it would make the active electors objects of per- sonal hate to the passive electors ; that Bonapartists or Gam- bettists who offered its abrogation would be received with open, arms. Then the Right suffer heavily by the deaths of their bald-heads, and must admit the candidates chosen in casual elections, who may at least be Radicals, thus whittling away an accidental majority which even now depends on the adhe- sion of M. Target and his " sixteen Republicans," and of M.. Rouher and his fifteen Bonapartists—with both of whom, by the way, they will probably quarrel on the death of the Pope— and who already show such symptoms of breaking up that. Marshal MacMahon, in a speech to all the Conservative. journalists, made unity his one topic. He was evidently not. quite assured of ultimate harmony between M. Rouher and the Due de Broglie. And finally, they have to- carry out this policy of astute and patient waiting, a policy which it would need Italian tenacity to maintain, in the midst of the most impatient people in the world, in the midst of events such as are sure to occur in Rome and in Berlin, with a Cabinet whose ablest man is a sworn Bona- partist, and under the Presidency of a man who may not be a; politician, but who cannot remain long without political sympathies, and who, when he gives an order, intends to be obeyed, who already sits in their Cabinet, who objects to- violent alterations of the law, who has already rejected their strongest and best device—the substitution of election by- districts for election by departments—and who is even more independent of them, if he chooses to be, than M. Thiers ever was. They have to wait in a country where every Govern- ment slowly grinds itself to powder, making ten enemies to. every friend. And finally, they have to follow this policy in the face of the ablest Parliamentarians in France,—of M. Thiers' dexterity and charm for the people, of M. Orevy's solid sense, and of Gambetta's oratory, all displayed without ceasing on. an arena to which France is admitted free. The French peasant is a timid being, but he is at least as much afraid of tithe as of the Commune; he dislikes war, but he likes victory;; and associates Bonapartism with defeat ; and above all, he is enamoured of equality, the exact principle which it is the first duty of the Right, apart from the Bonapartists, to. denounce.
Our own impression, we confess, remains that the majority- will very speedily be broken up ; that the Assembly, the " last institution in France," will transfer its allegiance ; that power will fall again to the moderate Republicans ; that they will either retain the Marshal or elect M. Grevy ; that they wilt not trouble themselves to remove prefects, who will be quite sure not to resist the Government in power, and that they wilt instantly vote a dissolution which will give them a quiet, peaceful, and perhaps long-lived control of France. The rich do not make street eineute,s, and the Republic has work enough to do in recovering her lost provinces.