Eustace Clare Grenville Murray.

The men of the third republic; or, The present leaders of France. Reprinted from the London Daily news online

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Online LibraryEustace Clare Grenville MurrayThe men of the third republic; or, The present leaders of France. Reprinted from the London Daily news → online text (page 16 of 22)
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Although the more autocratic of the two ser-
vices, the French navy has always been more
liberal in politics than the army. This comes of
naval officers being a better read and more thought-
ful body of men ; and also from the fact that
Courts have never acted so generously by sailors
as by soldiers : whence bitterness, and a tendency
amongst naval officers to side preferably with the
popular feeling in the nation. It should be said,
too, that political questions necessarily fail to ex-
cite much interest in the minds of men who spend
two-thirds of their lives on distant seas. Whilst
far from home, sailors think much of their country,
very little of its government ; and as they are seldom
called upon to quell a rebellion, or to aid in assist-
ing this or that adventurer to climb into power,
they live tolerably exempt from party passions,


and never entertain tliat spiteful hatred for de-
mocracy wliicli is one of tlie most hopelessly in-
eradicable prejudices in the army. More than one
young midshipman bred in Catholicism and Legiti-
mist principles, comes back to his not very edified
family with an ill-concealed admiration for the
principles of '89. He is not less Catholic, for
sailors are never free-thinkers ; but he prefers
France herself to all the dynasties in the world,
and has the bluff courage to say so. Admiral
Pothuau is a politician of this sort.

He was an Orleanist from gratitude ; he served
the Empire without liking that regime any more
than the rest of the navy did ; but his politics are
above all French, and if there were many members
in the Assembly professing the same stolid un-
canting patriotism as he, France might sail confi-
dently ahead without needing to fear rocks. It is
another instance, by the way, of that singular and
irrational disbelief in the competency of naval men
to fill any but nautical posts, that Admiral Pothuau' s
name should never have been mentioned in con-
nection with either the Presidency or Vice-Presi-
dency. Yet if MacMahon, Faidherbe, or d'Aumale


are considered eligible candidates, then wliy not
Pothuau, wlio is the intellectual superior of at
least two of these gentlemen, and the equal in
statesmanship, science, and courage of ah three.
The objections that militate against a soldier-
President would not apply to a sailor, for sailors
have never been notorious for coiijps d'etat.
At all events, as he does not aspire to the Presi-
dential chair, Admiral Pothuau would make as
suitable a Vice-President as any whose names have
been put forward.


SUPPOSING a Parisian bourgeois to have gone
to sleep in 1848 and to awake now, he would
certainly ask to go to sleep again on learning that
M. Louis Blanc was accounted a moderate Repub-
lican. It would sound very hideous to such a
man to hear that there were a class of Repub-
licans more immoderate than M. Louis Blanc.
" For what could any proletarian ask," might he
say, " that this enthusiastic paradoxist was not
prepared to grant ? He was for turning all society
upside down ; nay, for shaving it away clean. He
wanted to sink individualism — to give each work-
man as much as another ; that is, to give clever
A. no more than unskilful B. He installed a
herd of ragamuffins on the scarlet benches of the
Luxembourg Palace, where the Noailles, Broglies,
and Montalemberts had sat, and over which Chan
cellor Pasquier had presided augustly, and he


dubbed these persons 'tbe peers of labour!' A
little man, forsootb, whom 200,000 vagabonds in
blouses and tatters had set out to acclaim, one 1 7th
of March, to the consternation of all householding
folk. Paris was within an ace of having him for
Dictator, and Paris means France. Louis Blanc
holding the sceptre of Saint-Louis, and perhaps
calling himself Louis XIX., just to show peaceful
men that a Republican has as much right as a
Bourbon to tack a numeral to his name ! What
next ? And you call him a moderate Repub-
lican ! "

So might a typical bourgeois of 1848 express
himself. M. Louis Blanc is perhaps the only man
in the world to think that he has not changed, and
possibly he is in the right. It is not unlikely that
he may be at heart the same enthusiast as he
always was. If in power, he might try again to
do what he nearly did in 1848 ; assuredly he has
never recanted an opinion once advocated. Only
mankind, which judges by externals, will set him
down as a moderate Republican, because his hair
has greyed, because he has a coating of English
varnish on him, and because, though first on the


list of members for Paris, lie talks as urbanely and
academically as if lie were member for Orleans.
For that matter, though, his talk never smacked
of the gutter. He was none of your rasping
orators, who could jump on a kerbstone and bawl
gammon to the million ; encircling a lamp-post
with one arm, and sawing the air with the other.
He weighed his words as if they cost him
two sous apiece, but distributed them liberally
nevertheless, being generous with his money. A
singular man at best, for he loved Robespierre, who
would not have loved him. Then he loved
Rousseau ; but Rousseau would have thought it
odd that a man Avho objected to individualism
should pay five francs every day in 1848 for his
individual dinner, and print the fact as a proof of
his abstemiousness. But here M. Blanc might
answer with some astonishment that one does not
dine well for five francs. Yes ; but what of those
workmen who were to live in common fraternally :
would they be able to afford five francs ? " But those
were toilers with the hand," would urge M. Louis
Blanc, " whereas I am a worker with the brain : "
" Un travailleur de la pensee." Yes ; but how


draw the line, and why draw it at all ? Is not
one member as worthy as another ? Why per-
petuate the degrading distinction which would
subject the hands to the head ? There should be
no aristocracies, least of all an anatomical aris-
tocracy, in a free Republic. If an incapable work-
man for making bad tables is entitled to earn as
much as a clever workman for making good ones,
then obviously a stupid author writing dull books
may claim as much as an illustrious writer publish-
ing master works. And the same rule is applicable
universally. To do M. Blanc justice, he would not
have been the man to recede from the conse-
quences of his theories as applied to himself ; but
it would have greatly shocked him to see MM.
Thiers, Lamartine, and Victor Hugo walking to
some national pay office, and being remunerated
for their labours on the same scale as the poets who
indite puff advertisements. This inconsistency
paints the man. He is a thinker — sometimes a
dreamer, but no man of action.

Jean Joseph Louis Blanc was born at Madrid in
or about the year 1811. His father was Inspector
General of Finance to King Joseph Bonaparte,


and a gentleman of fair descent, wliose ancestors
had settled at Rouergue. His grandfather had
been imprisoned and guillotined during the Reign
of Terror. His mother was a lady of the noble
house of Pozzo di Borgo. Brought to France at
the fall of the Empire, he studied at the College
of Rodez, and in 1830, when he had finished his
education, was an accomplished scholar.

Of high birth, and having nothing but a small
allowance from his uncle, M. Ferri Pisani, he was
forced by the straitened circumstances of his
parents to earn his living first as a mathematical
tutor, and then as a lawyer's clerk. Meanwhile,
however, M. de Flaugergue, an ex-President of
the Chamber of Deputies and a friend of his
family, began to teach him politics ; and there is
a tradition that he was nearly lost in the diplo-
matic service, but saved himself by a sharp answer
to the Duchess de Dino, who, thinking him a
child from his extreme smallness, had laughingly
advised him to cut his teeth before applying to
Talleyrand for an attacheship. In 1832 M. Louis
Blanc accepted the place of private tutor to the
son of M. Hallette, a manufacturer of Arras \ and,


having passed two years of his life in that
modest capacity, awoke semi-famous one morn-
ing after winning a prize for two poems and
an essay from the Academy of Arras. Ke was
then about twenty-three, and came to Paris to try
his fortunes in journalism. A sound knowledge of
history, an inkling of philosophy, and a style free
from all vulgarisms, were his chief merits as a
wiiter, and he was, of course, as ardent in the
cause of reform as most young journalists of that
time who had to fight their way in the world. An
incident occurred in 1839 which crowned the
reputation he had acquired in the course of five
years' unremitting press labour. Having pub-
lished, on the 15th of August (Fete Napoleon), in
the Revue du Frogres, of which he was editor, an
eulogistic review of the " Id^es Napoleoniennes," he
was waylaid at night, as he was returning to his
lodgings in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, brutally
beaten, and left for dead on the pavement. This
dastardly assault, the results of which kept M.
Blanc several weeks in bed, was attributed to the
police. It was said that Government wished to
get rid of a writer who was becoming highly



obnoxious ; and M. Blanc benefited greatly by the
halo of martyrdom whicb this disagreeable episode
threw over him. He now set to work to pro-
pound, in his Revue, all the socialist theories
which were subsequently advanced in his book,
" L' Organisation du Travail." On many points he
was overtly communistical, and his whole doctrine
was based on the generous but chimerical supposi-
tion that men could be got to sink the promptings
of individual interest, and to labour unselfishly
one for another. He would never admit that by
suppressing individualism he Avould be removing
all inducements to self-perfection. Men are not
angels. They require to be stimulated to action
by the prospects of personal advantage ; and,
although the sentiment lying at the root of this
egotism may have been in its origin a poor one,
it has become ennobled now that emulation has
confessedly produced all that is great, good, and
worth having in life. The State is bound to see
that every child is educated, fed sufficiently, and
kept as far as possible from the contagion of bad
example ; and it is bound to provide for those
who are disabled by sickness from earning their


bread ; but more than this cannot be expected.
It is good that life should remain a contest in
which toil and energy carry off the prizes ; and it
is good that sluggards should pay for their indo-
lence by a sacrifice of comforts which are the
reward of hard work, M. Louis Blanc was almost
equally visionary in his views of history, as in
those he entertained of political economy. He
published in 1841, "L'Histoire de Dix Ans,"
and in 1847, "L'Histoire de la Revolution
Fran9aise," both of which enjoyed a wonderful
success, and are unimpeachable as literary produc-
tions. As histories, however, they are not alto-
gether trustworthy, for M. Louis Blanc can see
things only through his own glasses. The first of
the two books — " Histoire de Dix Ans " — was a
violent attack on the first ten years of Louis
Philippe's reign ; but as the author gave the
m^onarchy of July no credit for the good it actu-
ally did, he cannot be accepted as a competent
judge of the good it left undone. It is not fair to
judge statesmen only by their failures, and to take
no account of their intentions. The last six j^ears
of the Orleans monarchy passed miserably, because


of M. Guizot's obstinacy in running counter to
national impulses, and of liis infatuation in think-
ing himself a necessary man, and endeavouring to
retain his hold of power by packing the Legislature
with members holding Government appointments,
and, consequently, not independent. But the
period from 1830 to 1842 was marked by a
sincere attempt to found constitutional govern-
ment, and the men who strove to" this end were
neither feeble nor unpatriotic. No doubt blunders
were committed, and Louis Philippe's reign, re-
viewed in the aggregate, was not a success ; but
M. Louis Blanc was not justified in assuming that
the men of July were withholding from France
Republican institutions for which all the nation
was sighing. The popularity, however, of M.
Louis Blanc among the working classes was so
great, that he was named a member of the Pro-
visional Government immediately after the revo-
lution of 1848. It was upon his motion that
capital punishment was abolished for political
offences, and he ventilated many noble fancies, but
he was not on very easy terms with his colleagues.
On the 17th of March, a mob of two hundred


thousand Socialists clamoured to give him
authority over them ; and many millions of
Frenchmen were almost scared out of their wits
at the prospect of his elevation. Less than two
months afterwards (May 15th), he was nearly
trampled to death in a riot, and afterwards nar-
rowly escaped being killed by some National
Guards, from whose fury he was rescued with the
opportune help of M. de Larochejaquelein and
M. Francis Arago, given at considerable peril to
themselves. Hunted down by the very Kevolution
he had helped so much to bring about, it is
pleasant to reflect that M. Louis Blanc, when
flying before his enemies during a night of terrible
danger to him (August 25-26), was concealed in
the house of M. D'Aragon, a political adversary,
who enabled him to gain the frontiers of Belgium,
whence he passed to England and safety. Of
M. Blanc's residence in England there is no need
to speak. No foreigner has ever received a
warmer welcome, or deserved it more. On the
25th of October, 1865, Jie was married at
Brifditon to Miss Christina Groh. While M. Louis


Blanc lived among us, the French nation had


not yet sufficiently recovered from tlie memories
of '93 to be anxious for a Republic ; and it must
be said that both by his writings and his speeches
M. Louis Blanc is chargeable with not a little of
the bourgeois terror which prevented Republican
ideas from taking root in 1848. That he has made
amends by his high-principled attitude through-
out his long exile during the Empire none will
deny ; but the fact remains that an unwise friend
is often more injurious to the cause he serves than
an open foe.

M. Louis Blanc has not taken so prominent a
part as might have been expected in the politics
of the Third Republic. He returned to Paris
only on the 8th of September, 1870, when public
opinion still hoped something from the inter-
vention of the neutral Powers. He was then
pressed by many of his old friends to go back to
London as ambassador, in order that his fluent
tongue, and the esteem in which he was held by
the Liberal party in England, might create some
active sympathy in the minds of Mr. Gladstone
and his colleagues ; and a little more than a fort-
night after his arrival in France, this delicate


mission was officially offered to him by the
Government of National Defence. The complete
investment of Paris by the Germans, however, and
the refusal of the Prussian staff to grant him a
safe conduct, put an end to a project which would
hardly have been attended by success. M. Louis
Slanc refused to take any part in the insurrec-
tionary movement of the 31st of October, although
his name was placed, without his consent, on the
list of the " Committee of Public Safety." On the
8th of February, 1872, he was elected representa-
tive of the Seine (first out of forty-three candi-
dates), by 216,471 votes. He voted for the con-
tinuance of the war a outrance when such a
policy would have been suicide. His utterances
on the outbreak of the Commune were slightly
ambiguous, and he now supports M. Thiers from
fear of the Monarchists, though he is understood
to favour a Federalisation of France on the Swiss
system, and to object to the Presidential office
altogether. He is deservedly respected in his
party, for he is a believer in what has been jocu-
larly termed the Kepublic by Divine Right ; and
during the Empire refused to compound with his


conscience by swearing tlie oath of allegiance,
required before he could sit in the Chamber. His
most famous declaration of principles on this sub-
ject (" Letter to a Committee of the Eighth
Circumscription of the Seine, September 12 th,
1869") may be cited as an illustration of the
virtues which distinguish the Republican section
to which he belongs, and of the defects which
hinder this section from developing useful states-
men. In their blind attachment to the outAvard
symbols of Republicanism, M. Louis Blanc and his
friends will not see that Government can only be
carried on by a large amount of practical conces-
sion, which need not imply surrender of principle.
They are imbued with theories which they believe
to be sound ; they have honest intentions, and
are convinced that if their system could have fair
play, universal happiness would be the result.
But they do not make allowance for those human
prejudices which bind men to old traditions, and
which disincline them to be made happy against
their will ; and they evince a rather childish
objection to seeing happiness conferred by agencies
other than their own. In debate they often


allude witli envy to tlie freedom of England ; but
it is in vain for them to adduce England's
example if they continue to reject her experience.
England is free because her reformers have never,
in their hour of triumphj dissociated party inte-
rests from those of the nation — taking the nation,
not in its restricted sense of a numerical majority,
but as meaning the whole community, antagonists
as well as friends. One could not wish to any
country a more conscientious body of politicians
than those of whom M. Louis Blanc is a type.
They are upright and good men, who have testified
to the sincerity of their convictions in the most
simple and grandest way — that is, by suffering for
them. But so long as they regard themselves as
apostles of a system which men must be forced to
endure instead of taught to love, they will lend a
point to the witticism that a Republic will only be
possible in France when there are no Republicans


COON after the restoration of Louis XVIII.,
a very young French nobleman, of good
descent, began to distinguish himself in the world
of letters. He was handsome, graceful, loyal, im-
passioned ; and he soon became the favourite
Court poet. He compared the talkative, dinner-
loving king, and his commonplace kinsfolk to all
the host of heaven, in language of such strong
music that it moves the hearts of thousands to
this day. He created that sacred and beautiful
myth which transfigured the dull spectre of Bour-
bon royalty in its latter days, and revived and
sanctified it. Louis treated him with something
less than the common ingratitude of princes ; and
gave the poet, who had raised him in the eyes of
his subjects from a kitchen to Olympus, a pension
something larger than the wages of his scullion,
something less than those of his cook. The


amount of Victor Hugo's pension, for having lifted
up a tlirone to human hearts, was two pounds six
shillings and one penny a week.

The childhood of the gifted and stately boy,
thus taught the bounties of a crown so early, had
been romantic, and was passed in wandering. His
education had been desultory, and often inter-
rupted. He was a son of extremely incongruous
parents. His father was a poor gentleman of
Lorraine, whose parchments of nobnity were dated
in 1531, and who had acquired personal distinction
in the. wars of the First Empire. He joined the
armies of Napoleon as a volunteer ; entered the
service of Joseph Bonaparte, and rose, as brave men
did rise in those days, to the rank of general ; and
held high commands in Spain and Italy. He was
one of those thoughtless persons who are called
free-thinkers in religion, a rough-and-ready man,
of such light vanities that even the heavy hand of
Time could not steady them ; and having perhaps
known a parson who displeased him, the old war-
rior, who would not have gone into a guard-room
without saluting, left directions that the customary
prayer should not be read over his grave, Victor



Hugo's mother was a heroine of La Vendde, a
friend of Madame Boncliamp and Madame de la
Eochejaquelein, in whose inspiriting company she
had been hunted through the Bocage. He was born
on the 26th of February, 1802, at Besan9on,
formerly the capital of Franche Comte ; and those
who care to follow the sparkling stream of fancy
to its source may read the history of that old
frontier fortress not unprofitably.

The writings of Victor Hugo are often influenced
by the traditions of his birthplace, and by those
conflicting opinions which he derived from a de-
vout Eoyalist mother and a successful soldier of
the great revolution, who saw no benefit in clergy.
His cosmopolitan sympathies may be traced to
travels and circumstances of his boyhood. He had
been carried half over Europe before he was eight
years old, and his ears must have been opened in
the first dawn of consciousness to kind words in
many dialects. He passed the third and fourth
years of his life in Paris ; and was then taken to
Avellino, in Calabria, where his father was governor,
and engaged in the dramatic business of pursuing
the famous brigand Fra Diavolo, who was in full


exercise of a profession considered lionourable
beyond the Alps. Thence he was conveyed to
Florence, Rome, Naples, and back to Paris in
1809. His studies began at the old convent of
the Feuillantines, under private directions from
the proscribed general Lahorie. He spent his
holidays with his mother and Mademoiselle Tou-
cher, a young lady whom he afterwards married,
and who loved him all her long life through. He
had already learnt to read Tacitus when his tutor
was betrayed, imprisoned, and put to death by the
Imperial Government ; and the feelings natural to
an ardent, generous lad, at the judicial murder of
this gallant officer, possibly inspired him with that
fervour for the Royalist cause which flamed out in
a birthday ode for Henry of Bordeaux.

At nine years of age he was removed to Spain,
where General Hugo commanded an important dis-
trict ; and he passed a year at the seminary of
nobles under a southern sun. But education in
Spain was then worse, if it possibly could be,
than it is now. The professors who set him les-
sons probably taught a little dog-Latin, which they
could hardly construe themselves, and instructed


liim in tlie art of eating garlic with peas and
bacon. They knew nothing more ; the students,
once renowned throughout the world, had sunk
into utter sloth and worthlessness ever since
science and scholarship had departed with the
alchymists of Granada. So, as Victor Hugo be-
gan to write verses of promise at the age of ten,
his father forwarded him again to Paris ; and for
a short while he returned to the convent of the
Feuillantines. But stormy times were approach-
ing. Napoleon fell, and rose again for a hundred
days, during which General Hugo, who held
Thionville against the allies, abruptly determined
that his son should be prepared to enter at
the Polytechnic School, and learn to handle a
sword, as the most useful implement yet known in
this world.

His father might as well have tried to change a
nightingale into a hawk. The boy could do
nothing so well as poetry, which came to him
from Nature, as a voice comes to the song-bird
instead of a hooked beak and strong claws. At
fourteen he wrote the tragedy of Irtamine, and
two lyrics, " Riche at Pauvre" and " La Cana-


dienne." The tragedy is not fine, the lyrics are
not pretty. He was tuning his harp, and the first
notes were discordant.

In 1817 he contended for the annual prize of
the Academy ; and astonished that dignified body
by an " Essay on the Advantages of Study," so
superior to the papers of all other competitors that
they peremptorily refused to believe it could have
been composed by a lad of fifteen, and withheld

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Online LibraryEustace Clare Grenville MurrayThe men of the third republic; or, The present leaders of France. Reprinted from the London Daily news → online text (page 16 of 22)