27 JULY 1867, Page 19


in England just the part which jour- nalists are so fond of assigning to the " intelligent foreigner." For more years than he probably cares to count,—for after all allowances are made, years of exile are years deducted from one's life,—he has poured out in Paris letters describing English life, ideas, politics, and events, and in so pouring them out has done inestimable service to his own country and to ours. It is no light thing for France that whenever a question arises on which English opinion is important, Paris should learn at once on authority it cannot suspect what English opinion really is, where- in the Times is wrong and wherein right, what the official talk really signifies, which English sentiment will lead to action, and which evaporate in words. And it is a still greater thing for England that at every crisis and on every great topic she should be represented in Paris by one who understands her thoroughly, better sometimes than she understands herself ; who never interprets her unkindly, who makes as few mistakes as men usually make about friends for whom they sincerely care, yet who is emphatically not English ; who has not a parochial prejudice in his head, and views everything from an intellectual stand-point with which not one Englishman in a thousand ever can fully sympathize. Not a little. of the softened tone of Parisian sentiment towards England, a soft- ness quite consistent with some latent jealousy and a good deal of latent scorn, is due to the carefully upright manner in which M. Louis Blanc has commented on the ever varying aspect of English politics, to the cool analysis, never suspicious, never jealous, yet never blind, to which he has subjected English opinion. We do not know that his letters, a second series of which is now given to the public, will have a wide circulation here. They are a little too much like intellectual caviare for that, and he is apt to allow too much time to intervene between the events they describe and their republication in this country. These letters, for example, come only down to 1864, and lack, therefore some- thing of the freshness and life they originally possessed. But sure we are that those who do read them will rise with a feeling of instruction, such as that with which one quits a church tower or lofty hill, a feeling as if details had at last gathered themselves in a whole, as if one understood the geography of the little district the topography of which was so familiar. Let a squire, for example, read the series of letters upon the English tenure of land. He will acknowledge that M. Blanc is as fair as he himself could desire, that he does not hate English -proprietors, that he allows to the aristocracy all it could fairly claim, that he weighs the small cultivation against the large without prejudice or favour, that, in fact, he is about as unlike the imaginary French Socialist in tone as it is possible to be. And yet the squire, pondering those crisp, closely packed sentences, which are to ordinary writing what prussic acid is to ordinary poisons, or what Liebig's extractum carnis is to beefsteak, feels uneasily aware that landlordism is not quite so sacred a thing as it seemed to be, is more open to discussion, less beyond the reach of attack or innovation. It is not nice for him, for example, to find the case of the land tax stated against him in

• Lettere on England. By Louis Blanc. Second Series. Translated by James Hutton and L. J. Trotter. Two volumes. London; Sampson Low and Co.

three lines like these. M. Blanc has been explaining and en- forcing the great idea of the Times that land in England is an article of luxury, owned for other reasons than its yield in interest, and then he adds, " But there is one point which the Times has omitted to clear up, and it is this : How comes it that where taxation weighs so heavily upon articles of first necessity, it does not weigh at all upon an article of luxury ?" And these few figures Fr/Arm-1851

Budget of Receipts £70,956,764 Tax upon Land 11,178,906 ENGLAND-1859.

Budget of Receipts £65,477,284 Land Tax 2,037,627 The meaning of which is that the laud which, in France, pays nearly the sixth part of the whole taxation, pays only the thirty-second part in En gland.

Nor is it pleasant to him to find a cool, calm observer, who begins by exposing the immense evils consequent on peasant proprietor- ship, describing the English agricultural system as a huge "scaffolding," an artificial erection, and analyzing the " landed interest " thus :— Families of landowners having each about six tenant

farmers 30,000 Families of farmers employing each about five labourers 180,000 Families cultivating on their own account fields, gardens, small farms 140,000 Families of labourers working on account of others 900,000 Total 1,250,000 Each of these 30,000 estates being, on an average, of 600 hectares to each tenant, it follows that to not more than 30,000 familes belonged at that time, if not the whole, at least a very notable proportion of the soil. per acre, and pressing with a crushing weight upon the mass of sessing in live stock, agricultural implements, &c., something like 10/. As for the farmers, they are capitalists more or loss considerable, pos- labourers.

There is perhaps nothing in all that very new or very formidable, only, as we say, it is not pleasant for the squire to see that such is the judgment passed by sale whose intellect it is impossible to question upon a system he is accustomed to think semi-divine. It is not pleasant to be told, with conclusive illustrations, that, " In every country, I fear, a deep layer of barbarism underlies the lowest stratum of civilization ; but such is especially the case in England, where the dregs of dregs are to be met with." Or read this little paragraph by the light of recent events, while remember- ing the tolerance with which all England is regarding the shame- less tergiversation of the adroit Chancellor of the Exchequer :— We in France always look at things from the stand-point of things as they should be : here they look at:them from the stand-point of things as they are. Hence the readiness of Englishmen to take in good part that shiftiness in their statesmen which among ourselves would cause a scandal. Never was Sir Robert Peel more popular than when he became the promoter of measures which he had formerly attacked without mercy. People admired him, not for being converted to a principle, but for surrendering to a fact.

That little judgment comes from a man who penned this singular prophecy in October, 1863, when all Englishmen deemed the South certain of independence, and when a lecture against slavery needed hardihood to deliver :-

To me it seems certain, that in favour of the South are the very classes whose influence acts decisively on the direction of affairs. That is the evil. For this evil there is a remedy. Lot the armies of the North succeed in winning victory to their side, and the South will have very soon lost in the drawing-rooms, the clubs, even in the dockyards of Liverpool, the sympathies they now have acquired—sympathies far from sentimental in their nature, and which would not hold out a mouth against the might of accomplished facts. It becomes only "small folk," men of the people, and those who profess the worship of ideas, to fire up for truth, to reverence justice for her own sake, and to ask from success, before bowing down to it, a report of the morality of its measures.

It happened so, did it not? and when one has finished 500 pages of prophecies as accurate, judgments as lucid, statements as con- densed, one begins to feel as if it were possible that wisdom will not end, as it did not begin, with the Times.

Upon that great journal M. Louis Blanc passes the judgment all foreign observers pass, and which the majority of Englishmen reject. He doubts whether it is entitled to call itself the mirror of the people, whether it does not rather put into their minds the

ideas it often professes find there. " The Times in reality re- presents public opinion only because it forms it, and this power of forming it is given by the notion, so widely spread, that it merely represents it. The Times is far from being a tribune, access to which is open to all. It is a laboratory, in which a few men of great ability, profoundly versed in the knowledge of the Eng- lish character, and always starting from a narrow point of view, which is called a practical one, work up the materials of which the circulation of thought is composed in England."

There is action and reaction doubtless, for M. Blanc has lived among us long enough to know that amid and under all our free- dom there is one tyranny. Perhaps the wisest among these scores of letters, all so kindly to England, is the only hostile one.

I have told you what public opinion is worth in England, Does it not on certain occasions make its power too greatly felt? I fear it does. In France public opinion is the asylum in which freedom, hunted out of institutions, finds shelter ; in England it is the fortress where despotism, hunted out of institutions, sometimes fixes its abode. Why keep it secret, or how deny the fact ? Public opinion in England is a power which in truth has nothing in common with that which governments are wont to arm themselves withal against aught that annoys them ; but which weighs none the less unkindly on the thinker and the philosopher, discouraging or morally chastising every bold initiative, clipping the wings of every spirit that would rise into unknown regions, and promis- ing the joys of gratified ambition only to those who are content to walk in beaten paths. Public opinion in England ! Woe to him who defies it ! There will be invoked against him no text of law ; before no court will he be taken ; there will be started after him no police officers, no gendarmes ; but he will run the risk of dying for want of air, and of dis- appearing crushed by the weight of indifference or of scorn ! In France, when M. Proudhon launched his book La Propriag, c'est le Vol, many were wroth, many cried out against it, but all that only gave the work a great success. In England neither ministers, nor lawgivers, nor judges, nor policemen would have had to mix themselves up in the matter ; but the book would probably have found no one curious to read it, no one willing to publish it, and perhaps no one who would agree to print it. To sacrifice your own opinions to public opinion is in France considered a blamable weakness on the part of a politician. In England His Majesty Public Opinion smiles on such sacrifices as the homage due to himself The inevitable result of this too absolute sway of public opinion is to pass under the dull gauge of uniformity, not only ideas, but tastes, usages, habits. Even in the smallest trifles people in England are not entirely their own masters. I know a Frenchman who cannot without discomfort keep his hat upon his head. Well! he has never chanced to go up the street, hat in hand, without immediately becoming the jest of passers-by. Such, too, was the lot, as I remember, of every foreigner with a moustache before the Crimean War ; that is to say, be- fore the Irishman Russell had written to the Times, whose correspondent he was, that besides the bearded warriors sent forth by Lutetia, the smooth-skinned men of Albion produced upon the Turks the effect of rope-dancers. At that time whoever broke the laws of respectability with reference to his upper lip and chin, made himself liable to be re- fused employment in any warehouse, if he wished to learn a trade ; to get no pupils, if he was a teacher ; to tout for customers, if he opened a shop.

We do not intend, however, in any way to review M. Louis Blanc. We can no more condense these letters than we could condense perfumes, no more display their special merit by extracts than we could show the beauty of a flower by little snippets from its leaves. Our only business is to state a conviction that to those who care to study recent English history with the help of a mind essentially foreign, but of rare insight and honesty, to all who like to gaze on a well known landscape from a new point of observation, these letters will prove most pleasant and most in- structive. The only regret with which we have read them arises from the fact that they are translations. The translators have done their work well enough, but there are not a dozen men in England who can write English so powerful in its delicate felicity of phrase as this French exile, the solitary " Red," as the Times years ago observed, whom England has ever cordially accepted.