12 DECEMBER 1840, Page 12



FitAxcE is the only influential state in Continental Europe in which time government rests on and is controlled by public opinion— in which the government takes its form and direction from that opinion. France is rich in internal resources, and possesses in- mouse capabilities for external commerce : both are extensively de- veloped, but by nu means in comparison to the extent to which they might be carried. France has a redundant population—brave, apt, and inventive—eminent in knowledge, art, and refinement—free beyond any other nation from the superstition of traditional insti- tutions. France has within herself the power of easily repelling any aggression from without, and of' showing in the most attractive form the high degree of individual happiness, worth, and power, which can be secured to all by the efforts of free men tinder a rational government. It is essential to the wellbeing of Europe that France shall continue independent and prosperous ; for she— far in advance of every other Continental state—must be the model fbr their cumulation, and her mere existence may serve to hold the balance between peoples and sorereigns. With a view to the safety and integrity of so important a state, it is desirable that no misconception of its real character should prevail among foreigners. Every care should be taken to prevent the return of the times when the passions of other nations were stirred up against the French by representing them as a horde of assassins, brigands, atheists. Recent events have reawakened the inclination thus to picture the French nation, and to a considera- ble extent afibrded a handle for so doing.

The French themselves must cooperate to prevent the diffusion of this misconception. A strong wish to misrepresent them exists be- yond a doubt ; but the power to do it must be comparatively trifling unless errors of their own concur to strengthen it. French orators are fond of declaiming about the high destinies of their nation; but do they always take care to form precise notions of what these des- tinies are, in order to devise the means by which they are to be wrought out ? nave they, instead of complacently concentrating their gaze upon national worth, scrutinizetalso those foibles, those characteristic weaknesses, which clinging to every thing human, are, if not ascertained and guarded against, certain causes of de- struction ? Have they not, on the other hand—as all of us are apt to do—with a Mistaken self-love gloried in their very vices ? The character of' a nation is permanent, not shifting from clay to day. It depends, in the first place, on the degree of inherent energy in the national mind ; but is modified—individualized- takes its character, in the strict acceptation of the word—from the economical circumstances, public opinion, and institutions of the people ; all of which, again, are dependent and mutually react upon each other. The character of a nation does not spring from the ephemeral relations of the day ; it must be sought in its history. To avoid going too far back into the history of France, we may remind our readers, that the simultaneous development of com- mercial industry and enterprise, and of free thought in matters of science and religion, which characterized the period of the Re- formation in Europe, was arrested in France under peculiar cir- cumstances. It is not necessary for our present purpose to trace the chain of events which terminated in the concentration of un- precedented power in the hands of Louts the Fourteenth. The vainglorious character of that monarch might under any circum- stances have predisposed him to his career of external aggres-

sion ; but the necessity of finding employment for the restless spirits who, denied a peaceable and legitimate action upon public affairs, might renewed the broils of time League and the Fronde, would

have forced even a less ostentatious prince, if determined to hold the reins of government alone, upon it similar course of policy. As Louis advanced in years, the idea of makieg his court to God by enlbreing

an implicit obedience to what he conceived to be the Divine will— a mistake to which despots are above all men liable—prompted Louis to the extermination of the Protestant religion throughout his territories. This policy had an effect upon the economical re- lations 1LS well as upon the public opinion of his kingdom. In France, as in England, it was chiefly upon the classes rising into importance through commercial industry that the doctrines of the Refbrmed religion had taken strong hold. The extirpation of the Protestant religion in France paralyzed for a time its manufactures and commerce. The merchants and manufacturers of France transported their industry to other lends ; leaving behind them a nation consisting of it territorial nobility, servile tillers of the soil,

courtiers, priests, lawyers, limners of the revenue, and soldiers. The mind of man could not be fettered : time Roman Catholic faith was no more free from assaults than befbre ; but these assaults came from the idle and the reckless, not from the sturdily indus- trious, bred up in the strong discipline of domestic morals. There

was no practical faith in the nation, except among individuals for- bidden by their church to think for themselves. There was no wealthy, unprivileged class, among whom a pride in living by their

honest industry might grow imp, and with it the courage and power to resist oppression. The men who ate their bread in the sweat of their brows were poor and degraded : the wealthier and more en- lightened classes scorned industry, and looked to war, or participa- tion in public bushiest, as the only employments dmich were not degrading.

In this state the sera of the Revolution found France. The go- vernment was not, as in England, arrested by the growing power and intelligence of the industrial classes whilst still comparatively strong and respectable. Beggared by its own vices--destitute or shifts or resources from its own incapacity—it came to a stop from sheer want of power to go OIL There was no government in France, and a new one had to be improvised. There were men of ability in France, men of business talent, men of ter- rible energy ; but there was no man of commanding mind who lightly comprehended the true mission Of government, and there was no class of sturdy burghers to assert instinctively the rights of the people. The men who distinguished themselves during the Revolutionary sera were almost exclusively noble- men, (soldiers by right of birth,) lawyers, clergy ion, and tax- gatherers. They were all of the governing cless: the governed class was unrepresented. The aggression of the European Sove- reigns turned all thoughts to the defence of the nation. That class now governed formally as well as in reality, which under the old system had governed in the name of others. III a country where there are few wealthy capitalists—few extensive manulacturcs, where even the labourer feels his interest in the permasence of re- gulated industry—eyery man is easily made a soldier. The elements of the old army were in existence, and Theilitated the discipline of the new recruits. The opening of a free career to talents irrespective of birth gave an impetus to ingenuity, which was applied to the physical improvement of the art of war. The martial spirit, culti- vated by the old despotism, grew warmer under such exciting cir- cumstances ; and a War of defence was soon converted into a war of aggression. The •victories of Naeorsos completed the national intoxication, and France became a land of soldiers—a huge barrack.

The restoration of the Bourbons, and the granting of the Charter, it was anticipated, would be productive of wiser sentiments in France. Various circumstances combined to frustrate this antici- pation. The Electoral Colleges and the Chamber of Deputies were the only popular institutions, if the term popular can be cor- rectly applied to so narrow a constituency. The Executive Go- vernment of the whole country was centralized in the Government Bureaux in Paris. The people had very little participation in pub- lic business. The law of inheritance, although by the abolition of the right of primogeniture it levelled the aristocracy, by rendering imperative an extreme subdivision of property produced an evil of another kind. By promoting the increase of pour tillers of the soil, it repressed the ingenuity, enterprise, and accumulation of capital in private hands, which are necessary to the development of na- tional resources and the growth of an independent industrial class of citizens. The institutions of the Restoration were unlhvourable to the growth of the true citizen-spirit. The public mind of France contracted, in its state of constrained inactivity, an unhealthy taint. Seeing nothing to gratify it it) the present, it brooded over the images of the past. It contrasted France of the Em- pire, raising and deposing kings, with France of the Restoration, having a sovereign forced upon it by foreign arms. The hatred of' the Bourbons, engendered by such reflections, was increased by the • folly of that doomed race. The French are a nation of free- thinkers : the Bourbons exerted all the influence of power and money to promote a bigoted Ultra-Catholicism. The French worship equality : the Bourbons sought to resuscitate an obsolete feudality. The freedom of debate in the Chambers and the scanty liberty of the press, the only political privileges of Frenchmen, were alternately sapped and assailed. The ceonomical disadvan- tages of France, above alluded to, were heightened by an artificial

system of commercial restrictions and bounties. And to crown the

blunders of this short-sighted race, whilst they outraged the feelings of France, and crippled her industry, thereby preventing the growth of a sound national opinion, they sought to flatter the worst weak- ness of France the lust of military distinction, by their crusade against Spanish liberty, and their armed appropriation of the ter- ritory. of Algiers. It would be difficult to say whether they were more criminal in pandering to the wish for foreign conquest, or contemptible in their puny aping of NAroLuoN.

The Revolution of July 1830 furnished a dear stage for true statesmen ; but the opportunity has been thrown away. Louis PHILIPPE, who seeks to restrain the headlong precipitancy with which some French statesmen seem to seek war, more from selfish fear of its consequences to himself than any more elevated consi- deration, is but experiencing a just retribution. " Even-handed Justice commends the poisoned chalice to his own lips." Ile has converted what might have been the precursor of unprecedeuted national greatness in the truest sense, into a mere source of personal aggrandizement. lie has maintained and sought to strengthen the system of centralized government, in order that all power might remain in his own hands. So jealous of his per-

sonal authority has he been, that, with a morbid anxiety, he has shrunk even front that participation of power which is necessarily

attendant upon the calling of high-minded nien of ability to his councils. His egotistical, insincele, manosuvering nature, has ren- dered it impossible for any high-minded statesman to coi■perate

Permanently with him. Ile has pc, :ccuted the press as bitterly as

his predecessors. He too has sought to flatter the besetting weak- ness of the French character—the ill-regulated thirst for military distinction—by playing out the three of African conquest. Ile has

done what in him lay to enervate and pert art public opinion iu France, in order to serve his own selfish ends. To this it is mainly owing, that the history of the French Government since 1830 has beemlittle better than it narrative of as paltry intrigues for place as disgraced the history of our Second CHARLES; and that public

opinion in France has, if any thing, retrograded since the placing of the present dynasty on the throne.

The conclusion we draw from this retrospect is, that the French nation—amiable, enlightened, and high-spirited, as beyond all ques- tion it is—has a weakness which threatens much calamity to itselfand danger to the best interests of the world,—a weakness deeply en- ' grained in its nature through time influence of centuries. This weak- ness consists in a misconception of the true functions of government and the tenure of true national glory. The end of government is to promote the happiness of the people governed : it is not to waste in foreign intrigues the energies, time, and resources which should be devoted to thg benefit of its own people. True national glory consists in making e people wiser, better, happier, than any of their neighbours—in setting it good example to other states, not it ineadlieg in their domestic concerns—in living and letting live. France Inns it in her power to be among the first, if' not indeed the iirst of nations, by turning her eyes inward upon herself' and mind- ing, her own business. A Minister capable of perceiving these truths, mil at liberty to east himself upon the nation with a view to carry them into effect, would, we have little doubt, meet with a cordial response. No nation is so apt as France to be carried away by the first annunciation of a generous sentiment ; and scattered over France are twiny sound beads, which have long cherished more just notions of the ends of government, and which would labcur to prevent a lapse into the old error. But the man who could do this must have full power to extend the franchise, to create sch'-Governing municipalities, and by enga- gi,)g the French public iv the management of their own busi- ness and discussions of their industrial economy, to make them teach themselves the ends and art of popular government. His aim ought to be to raise up a French in opposition to a Parisian opieion—it national moesninctit upon the ruins of the bureaucracy and ogie,!turs. We holmstly confess that we look round in vain for such a man among the prominent statesmen of France. lie is not to be found in the Sorur-Guizor Cabinet ; which, by its high conservative professions has placed a bar in the way of its effect- ing those changes which must be the precursors of a steady tran- quillized state of public feeling. And even though such a Minister could be found, ire (10 llot see by what means Louis PHILIPPA could be induced to stand by him in good thigh.