30 MARCH 1861, Page 15


"THE tendency of the day," wrote Mr. Disraeli, in 1844, "which seems to be towards democracy, may be really towards a new development of monarchy ;" and the events which followed 1848 seemed to prove his prescience. The wild outburst of that year, when nationalities, republicans, and anti-social leaders all surged to- gether to the ,surface, was followed by a remarkable development of the autocratic principle. Previous to that year the sovereigns of Europe, who had not been seriously menaced for thirty years, had begun to think their power supported on opinion. They became, therefore, gradually gentle, and in every country of Europe social reforms were promised or granted from the throne. The Church everywhere was restricted to its functions, and Europe saw with hope rather than amazement a Pope promising constitutional reforms. Fortunately, or unhappily, as it may prove, the opinion on which these monarchs leaned was not a. genuine opinion, was a mere ac- quiescence varnished over with official courtesy. It gave way at the first shock, and the ruling class found itself, just as it started from sleep, on the brink of an abyss. The sovereigns, thoroughly roused, fell back at once on force, and as force is, pro tanto, a real source of power, found themselves restored for the moment to more than their old position. The reaction was accelerated by the strange turn taken by the second French revolution. A man chosen by the people for the sake of the name he repre- sented, suddenly seized the throne, and developing abilities as unexpected as portentous, built up a monarchy more individual than Europe had witnessed since the Western Empire fell. His fellow monarchs strove eagerly to copy the great exemplar. The Austrian Emperor declared his ministers responsible to himself, abolished his constitution, and avowedly ruled his kingdoms by the sword. The Prussian Government, unwilling wholly to retrace its steps, still reduced the Parliament to a court for the registration of its decrees. The Emperor Nicholas, always absolute, pressed the yoke down closer on the necks of his patient subjects. The minor sovereigns eagerly followed snit. The petty German princes recalled their liberal constitutions. The King of Denmark ignored his pro- mise to the Holsteiners. The Queen of Spain became, with the tacit consent of her subjects, once more absolute. The sovereigns of Italy, with one exception, threw off all restraint, and ruled rather like tyrants of the old world than kings of any type modern society has seen. England and Piedmont alone of the more civilized monarchies stood firm. England, well governed, as she had escaped the Revolutio#, so she saw no cause to enlarge the sphere of the Executive. The defeat of the 10th April saved her from a 2nd De- cember. Piedmont, which had suffered terribly;was fortunate in a king in whose mind one master passion, the craving to avenge his father's name, had extinguished even an hereditary lust for power. But throughout the rest of Europe; from Archangel to the Mediter- ranean, the result of 1848 was a reaction which changed the mild sovereignties of 1847 to hard suspicions autocracies resting avowedly on force. Then followed ten years of fierce resentments, repressed by yet fiercer exhibitions of ferocity. Everywhere, in France as from Parma, from the cells of Bohemia as from the dungeons of Sicily, went up a cry of suffering, which drove sympathizing hearts half frantic, and caused calm observers to predict that the next revolution would, indeed, wade through a Red Sea to reach the Promised Land.

They had underrated both the goodness of Heaven and the docility of mankind. The suffering intelligence of Europe—for it was the peculiarity of the reaction that its severity fell wholly on the edu- cated classes—learnt, indeed, from their misery a lesson of perse- verance; but they learnt also the value of patience and moderation. The ten years, so to speak, annealed the glowing mass, and when the cycle was accomplished, and the finger of time once more tra- versed the appointed hour, the sovereigns found themselves con- fronted by races 'against whose new energy their dearly bought ex- perience was of no avail. They were accustomed to violence. They could meet barricades by scientific artillery. They cared little even for regular insurrection, for the combination which had crushed Hungary could afford to laugh at feebler imitations. But they were not prepared for moral opposition, for the moral resistance of a people who seemed suddenly imbued with the wise instincts ex- perience sometimes gives to politicians. They met men where they expected boys, and found their threats and their temptations alike unsuited to the age. When the Duke of Modena threatened a fusillade, the people smiled, and dismissed him, loaded with the silver handles filched from his own palace. When the young King of Naples granted a constitution, the people again smiled at the bribe their fathers would have grasped. The Emperor of Russia tele- graphed his amazement at an imeute in Warsaw made by unarmed men; and the Austrian Kaiser, with an army able to crush Hungary, is paralyzed by a resistance which never violates the law.

The reaction of 1848 has, we believe, spent its force; and, as the great pendulum swings slowly back, the signs of a better order of things begin gradually to appear. This time it is not The Revolution, in the old sense of that terrible impersonation, which triumphs for the hour.

Nothing in the history of the past twelve months is more marked than the pfogress made by the cause of constitutional monarchy. The new Revolution beats down the republicans as thoroughly as the autocrats, erases the Mazzinians as completely as the tyrants whose oppression gave them birth. A monarchy controlled by law, and acting in accordance with opinion, whether expressed by assem blies or in any other mode, seems the ultimate outturn of every poli tical emeute. Throughout Europe, the only sovereigns not even in appearance constitutional are the Czar and the Sultan—the Czar who has just liberated forty millions of slaves, and the Sultan who promises to limit his expenditure in accordance with the necessities of the ad- ministration. In France, after a fair trial of autocracy, the Emperor, "tired of a Chamber of serviles," has conceded a large measure of liberty of speech, and altered his financial arrangements in deference to the opinion of a parliamentary majority.. The Emperor of Austria, twelve months ago absolute, has granted a Constitution after the English model. The Emperor of Russia creates in Poland a State Council, avowedly intended to represent the people. The King of Denmark offers the Holsteiners a "Constitution absolute," which, if accepted, would be as free as that of Britain. The Prussian Chamber has recovered its freedom of speech, and stops the march of armies by a vote. The Chamber of Bavaria formally rebukes its King. The Chamber of Wurtemberg rejects a concordat already signed by the sovereign. Above all, a new Parliament of the first class, a Parliament free as that of Great Britain, yet devoted to the monarchical regime, has replaced the petty tyrannies of Italy. Nowhere, save in Turkey, does the royal authority remain unfettered, and nr Turkey it is still theoretically absolute only because the Sultan is also Caliph, and as vicegerent of the Deity can only submit informally to restraint. Nowhere either has this new revolution brought gain to the repub- licans. In Italy the whole population, supposed to be infected with Mazzinian ideas, has voted deliberately over and over again for Victor Emmanuel. In France the liberals plead not for the overthrow of the throne, but for the restoration of authority to the law. Through- out Germany the republican party seems temporarily defunct. In Prussia and the smaller states the liberals, instead of struggling for authority with the throne, are urging the King to assume the leader- ship of Teutonic unity. In Russia, the struggle as yet is for social freedom rather than political liberty, and the few who whisper of a republic, intend by the phrase an oligarchy modelled on that of Venice. The Irish movement, which was partially republican, though not nominally hostile to the throne, has died away. But, above all, the tendency to republicanism, a tendency far more important than any momentary direction of political strife, seems visibly on the decline. The excesses of 1848 shocked the educated class, who are sure permanently to bear rule. The want of adminis- trative capacity so marked in the republicans of Southern Europe, and which is the defect of their wonderful leader, disgusts all who see that to contend with bayonets the populace must be subjected to a restraining discipline. The events now occurring in America, the palpable inefficiency of republican institu- tions to -bind a determined minority, have disheartened those leaders of opinion who alone on the Continent learn wisdom from foreign politics. Above all, the prostitution of universal suffrage, which in France sanctions a despotism, in Savoy authorizes .plunder, and in America gives the victory to slave-owners, has deprived the repub- licans of their best weapon—a creed in which mere logic could find no flaw. Add to this the increasing tendency of Europe to aggregate itself in masses, and the consequent necessity for strong administra- tions—a necessity acknowledged as cheerfully in Berlin as in Paris, by Herr von Vincke as by Jules Favre—and we have a body of opinion fatal for the hour to the dominion of extreme politicians. The men who are striving to secure national existence will not risk that great and substantial gain for any principle whatever, least of all for one which logically tends always to disintegrate great States. How long this new movement may endure is not a point we can discuss at the fag end of an essay like the present. There are signs abroad that the Revolution has only postponed, not abandoned, its distinctive tenets ; that the victory of constitutional monarchy is only tolerated because social equality cannot exist without national independence. But we may observe, as a fact bearing directly on the politics of the future, that the most pronounced passion of the day among all classes is material progress, and that material progress is most rapid and most secure under a monarchy exempt from change, yet capable of progress and controlled by law.