28 JANUARY 1882, Page 4



WE are not strong partisans of M. Gambetta, but we con- fess to a certain sense of dismay at his fall from power. The occurrence betrays the strength of influences in Paris which are far from favourable either to the existence or the durability of a good Government. The sudden change there has been too dramatic, too unlike that strong movement of deliberate reason which should characterise Republican Government. During the past three years, the foundation of all politics in France has been the conviction that any Ministry not controlled by M. Gambetta must be temporary, because the country wished M. Gambetta to govern. At last the Dis- solution came, and in the judgment of all men, not forgetting some of his deadliest enemies, and including the watchful President, who does not like him, the electors nominated f. Gambetta to be head of the Administration. If that estimate of the popular voice was wrong, it follows that no one knows in the least how to interpret the will of the electors who now govern France, and all movement in all directions becomes uncertain ; while if it was right, the situa- tion resolves itself into this,—that the French Chamber, while dissolution is still distant, does not represent the constituen- cies, but acts upon impulses of its own, many of which are of a selfish kind. It is willing to rule in opposition to the people. M. Gambetta has done nothing to render himself unpopular, except with the Church, beyond affronting the groups or cliques into which the Chamber is always divided. He has nominated new men to the Ministry, but with the ex- ception of M. Paul Bert, there was no grave opposition caused by any appointment. He has selected a few permanent offi- cials outside the regular party lines, but almost every Minister has done the same. He has vexed and irritated powerful interests, such as the Protectionists and the Railway mag- nates; but so little was their weight felt in France, that in the Senatorial elections, supposed to be controlled by a higher class of citizens, and which occurred after the Ministry was formed, the majority returned was decisively Gambettist. Nevertheless, with both Chambers in his favour, he was suddenly, almost contumeliously, dismissed from office. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the motive was anger at the one new project he had brought forward, the attempt to insert Scrutin de Liste in the Constitution. Nobody cared very seriously about the reforms in the Senate, and although it is possible that the Radicals, who in France are very logical, did care about the limitation on the powers of Congress—which they hold to be sovereign—it is known that a compromise could have been arrived at upon that point. The Chamber, though it ultimately voted against limits, at first agreed to them ; and even if its second vote was the true expression of its sentiments, it would not have refused to accept limit- ing sentences introduced into the Bill by the Senate, though it would not initiate such sentences itself. The true ground of dis- agreement was the clause introducing Scrutin de Liste, and we greatly fear the motives for rejecting that clause were, to say the least, of a mixed character. Many, no doubt, dreaded the system, as leading to the eiistence of a "Grand Elector," who would draw up the acceptable "lists," and become thereby Dictator. Many more considered, as we do, that a certain amount of localism is absolutely essential to true re- presentation, especially in a country like France, where geo- graphical differences represent profound differences in the temperaments, interests, and political opinions of the people. But the main body were, we fear, actuated by apprehension for their seats, and disgust at the probable diminution in their own importance, and that of their "groups." M. Gambetta has repeatedly both written and said that this diminution was one of his main objects, that he would not pass his life in manipulating the groups, and that the efficiency of the Services was ruined by the constant pressure of Deputies in favour of their friends. His Minister of the Interior issued as his very first act a circular ordering all Prefects to resist these solicita- tions, and pledging himself personally never to attend to them. The Deputies no more liked this, than American Senators liked General Garfield's reforms ; and between irritation at their menaced consequence, suspicion of M. Gambetta's plans, and anger at the thought of a possible dissolution under a new method of election, worked themselves into a fury, amidst which M. Gambetta's services, the interests of the country, and their own baandate from the electors, were all for- gotten. They voted down Scrutin de Liste, which they accepted last year by a majority of eight, by a vote of 305 to 110, or almost three to one. M. Gambetta, with great adroitness, had retired on a previous vote, authorising un- limited revision ; but he knew the Senate would throw that out, and, had Scrutin de Liste been carried, would have re- considered his determination. He was dismissed from power, virtually untried, because he insisted, as he always said he would insist, that Deputies should be elected for their poli- tical character, and not for their local weight. We hold him wrong, as we have said, but we cannot confide in a Chamber which, for such a reason, turned its back upon itself, and yielded to a passion of dislike against a Minister whom both its own members and the electors had designated for power. In so acting, it placed itself above France, and confirmed once more the old truth that no one is so capriciously despotic as an Assembly irresponsible to the people. Nobody can per- manently manage a representative body which he has not, hr the last resort, a right to dissolve.

As to what is to happen next, it is difficult to form even a definite opinion. All depends upon the effect of the overturn upon French electors. M. Grevy, who predicted M. Gambetta's fall, and is probably not displeased by it, will, no doubt, send for M. de Freycinet or M. Leon Say ; but if M. Gambetta has not lost his sway with the electors, M. de Freycinet will be no stronger than before. He may, of course, abandon the Revision project, and the Chamber, having no alternative man before it, may sustain him for a time; but in a few weeks the Deputies will know that the electors doubt them, the groups will form again, and the cry which M. Gambetta's friends will raise for a dissolution, to test the opinion of the country, will be almost irresistible. M. Gambetta has already prepared the Bills he had decided to introduce, and as Member for Belle- ville intends to proceed with them. If the Ministry reject them, they may be defeated, for it is only on Scrutin de Lists that M. Gambetta quarrels with the majority ; if they accept them, they will look ridiculous, M. Gambetta being virtually their master ; while if they allow the Bills to pass up to the Senate, and reject them there, they place that body in the most invidious position. Even if they do nothing, they will be most dangerously situated. They have to control the financial crisis, if they can, to discover some policy in North Africa which the country will bear, to arrive at some modus vivendi with England in Egypt—where M. Gambetta's fall should inspirit the Panislamic party—to take up the dropped thread of diplomacy everywhere, and to do all this with a sense that the most powerful man in France is watching them with unfriendly eyes, waiting the opportunity to pour upon them a flood of the corrosive eloquence which in opposition has always been so irresistible. It is scarcely possible that a strong Govern- ment should be formed under such circumstances, and it is a strong Government, or, at least, a durable one, that France now wants. Of course, if M. Gambetta has lost his influence in the country, cadit guaestio, he is as if he were dead, and the friends of France can only regret the loss to her of one of her forces in reserve. But where is the evidence of that decease ? What has M. Gambetta done, that a peasantry wonderfully resolute in choosing and supporting its favourites should all at once abandon him ? Grant what we think is true, that the electors care little about the method of election, being sure that they are masters anyhow, where is the proof that they dislike this method, while still untried, enough to desert its proposer ? They supported him last year, till unwilling Members voted for the change. They sent up at the election a Gambettist majority, though aware that he thought Scrutin de Liste of immense importance. Why should they feel savage, as the Deputies do, or what will be the effect on them of that explosion of distaste which has been perceptible in Paris, and which even M. Gambetta's opponents, men as bitter as the Correspondent of the Times, attri- bute mainly to personal feeling, roused by the arrogance of injudicious friends, and roused also, we greatly fear, by many refusals to job on Deputies' behalf? We see no reason to conclude that the constituencies will desert M. Gambetta, and if they do not, the materials for a stable Government able to deal with large questions do not for the present exist in France. In England, the country would, under such circum- stances, be consulted ; but in France, the power of dis- solution rests with the Senate, on the proposal of the President ; and neither M. Grevy nor the Senate will be willing, if either can help it, to give M. Gambetta such an opportunity.