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 3 of 22)
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mies) is beginning silently to reflect that the
Dictatorship of Tours may not perhaps be judged
by future generations as it has been by those
impartial prints which take their cue from Chisel-
hurst. That Gambetta committed blunders, sim-


ply proves that lie is like otlier statesmen past
and future ; but it would be a,t least candid to
admit that, entrusted to a vicious or heartless
man, the power wliicb lie wielded would have
served to remove not a few heads still simpering
very comfortably on their owners' shoulders. Nay,
one may as well go the whole length and say that
if Gambetta had taken a few of those ex-Impe-
rialist mayors, prefects, and councillors-general,
who spent their time in exhorting the peasantry
not to fight " for the Republic and for those in-
fidels who wanted to restore '92," and treated
them as any Dictator of a hundred years ago,
or as any Bonaparte of our own day would have
treated them, he would have done not a little
towards making his administration work smoothly,
and adding to his own fame for statesmanship.
That he neglected this means of promoting his
reputation, and that, despite the foulest aspersions
(levelled at him by all those who had least claim
to throw stones of this sort), he left power no
richer than he had entered it, is a fact which
answers many calumnies.

Of M. Gambetta' s antecedents little is known,


though much is told. He came into this world of
electors at the small tipsy town of Cahors, on the
Lot, the 30th of October, 1838. It is said and
printed that his family were of Genoese origin; but
as he would probably have done quite as well
without illustrious ancestors as with them, his
friends have various theories on the subject, some
inclining to the belief that he is his own father.
He was inscribed on the French Law List as a
member of the Paris Bar in 1859. He is not
considered a learned man ; but he has, neverthe-
less, acquired an amount of information that
learned men would find useful. It is customary
to think of him as a political Hercules, but his
health is uncertain, and his physical strength not
great. With respect to his vigour of mind, a
curious anecdote is told. It is asserted that,
being placed as a child in the custody of some
persons he did not like, he wrote to his father
to inform him, that unless he were immediately
taken home he should put out one of his
eyes, and as his father did not receive this com-
munication with the respectful attention it should
have commanded, he actually carried his threat


into execution. That is tlie way in which tradition
accounts for the loss of his eye ; and his hkenesses
are generally taken in profile.

After a brief career as an advocate he was elected
deputy for Paris and Marseilles. He chose to sit
for Paris, but his (electoral campaign had been too
much for him, and he was laid up for a long time
with a painful affection of the larynx. His first
parliamentary speech worthy of note was a furious
attack on the Plebiscitum ; his next, a protest
against the arrest of Henri Rochefort. He took
little part in the opposition organized against the
Prussian war, and refused the advances made to
him by the International to head a popular insur-
rection when the Emperor had left Paris. After
the catastrophe of Sedan, Gambetta's place was
clearly marked out, and he became one of the most
active members of the Government of National
Defence. It was he who signed the decree con-
voking the Electoral Colleges ; it was he who
ordered the renewal of the Municipal Councils,
and granted to Paris the same rights as other
French Communes. On the 7th of October he
was appointed one of the delegates of the Pro-


visional Government at Tours, quitted Paris in a
balloon, and for nearly four months took all the
powers and responsibilities of supreme authority
into his own hands. He united the offices of Mi-
nisters of War, Interior, and Finance in his proper
person ; and amazed the world by his activity.
He raised armies out of nothing, and found money
by magic to pay them. He resisted all attempts of
his besieged colleagues to induce him to hold terms
with the enemy, characterised their endeavours to
make peace as " culpable and frivolous ; " and
would have fought on as long as he lived had not
shrewd M. Jules Simon contrived to outwit him,
and frustrate his designs. At the close of the war
he was elected deputy for six departments, and
subsequently for three other departments. He
now sits for the Bouches du Rhone, and is (Thiers
alone excepted) the most prominent statesman in

He still lives a good deal in the street ; he may
be generally seen and heard surrounded by a
devoted band of friends, who expect great things
when he next comes into power, though probably
he will be reluctantly compelled to disappoint them.


OINCE the day wlien M. Boissy d'Anglas, whilst
presiding over the Convention, had the head
of the representative Eeraud thrust under his face
at the top of a pike — from that day to this the
Presidency of a French Assembly has never been
in any sense a sinecure ; and M, Grdvy has some
reason to congratulate himself that he should not
only have directed a turbulent Legislature with
firmness, but that he should have secured an
uncontested name for impartiality. There are
two ways of being impartial : we may either
be so by incurring the reproaches of all parties,
or by satisfying all. M. Dupin, the most cele-
brated of M. Grdvy's predecessors (he was Pre-
sident under the Second Eepublic, 1848-51),
preferred the former course ; M. Gr^vy has se-
lected the latter. Another difference between
these two lies in thek manner of presiding. M.

M. GREW. 47

Dupin, wlio was a species of liuman porcupine
bristling with epigrams and unpleasant to tilt
against, kept the members in order by using his
tongue as a bludgeon. He was also a humorous
President. Being in the chair one day when his
intimate personal friend Berryer was pouring
denunciations on one of Prince Louis Napoleon's
devoted ministers, he shouted, " Monsieur Berryer,
if you continue to sj)eak like this I shall be
obliged to call you to order ; " then, leaning over
his desk, he whispered in the orator's ear, " Pitch
into him ! " (" Taj)e dessus ! ") M. Grevy may,
perhaps, have as much lurking humour as M.
Dupin, but he does not show it. A short dapper
man, with a face smooth shaved all but a trim
fringing of grey whisker, thin firm lips, a square
bald head, grey eyes, and a peremptory voice,
he is the incarnation of dignity and presidential
authority. Besides he has no need to resort to.
strong language or witty sallies to make himself
respected ; respect is paid him unanimously by
right of a career which has been spotless. M.
Grevy is not one of those men who conscientiously
alter their opinions to suit their changes of


position, and who after a long life of such
healthy see-sawing cannot move a step to the
right or left without explaining away a whole
ream of speeches delivered against the very step
in question. You might take stock of all the
political sentiments Gr^vy ever uttered ; there is
not one that would testify against him. Such
as he is now, such Avas he twenty, thirty, forty
years ago ; and we may almost contemplate as
a phenomenon this Frenchman who never sang
Hosannah on Louis Philippe's path, who spoke
of Napoleon III. as he deserved, who thought
Guizot a pedagogue, and Emile OUivier a poor
creature ; and who yet was always prepared to
admit, rather to the scandal of the fanatics among
his set, that there were plenty of rascals in the
Eepublican as in other parties.

At the Revolution of '30, Grevy, then a Latin
Quarter student, aged seventeen, took part in the
fighting, and was one of the captors of the Baby-
lone Barracks. He stood fire with cool bravery,
forgot to brag about his doings, and went back to
his books with the ambition of becoming a suc-
cessful lawyer rather than a politician. But cir-

M. GREVY. 49

cumstances decided it otlierwise. He was retained
to defend prosecuted journalists and conspirators ;
and thus a man wlio should have grown into a
learned legist, skilled in abstruse cases, and by-
and-by into a judge, was diverted from what was
no doubt his instinctive bent. However, he was
never a sensational pleader. Clients were asto-
nished to see that he thought much more of get-
ting them acquitted than of raising himself a
pedestal out of their briefs. He argued quietly
and never bawled ; there were even cases where,
suspecting his clients of seeking to make them-
selves a charlatanic fame out of their prosecutions,
he told them so with a frankness which was more
new than complimentary. The events of 1848
found Jules Grevy in possession of a reputation
for sense such as is not acquired every day of the
week ; and the new-born Republic sent him to his
native department, the Jura, to act as Chief Com-
missioner. There were no more difficult functions
on earth to exercise than these. The provinces
had been so scared by the unexpected collapse of
the throne in which they trusted, that the arrival
of a Republican Commissioner was everywhere


regarded as a direct visitation from the Evil One.
It must be added tliat tlie majority of commis-
sioners neglected nothing to keep up this favour-
able impression. Ignorant and fussy young bar-
risters, bangers-on whom tlie Government had
imprudently despatched into the country so as to
get them away from Paris, and whom it hastened
to recall when it was too late to repair the mis-
chief they had done — ^they raged about the depart-
ments, spreading disturbance and consternation
around them. Even the Jura, which was then, as
it is now, the best educated among the depart-
ments, took alarm at Eepublicanism preached in
this fashion, and received M. Grevy more than
coldly. A few days, however, set everything to
rights. The new Commissioner omitted to serve
the cause he had at heart by declaring everywhere
how great a man Robespierre was. He kept aloof
from party demonstrations, treated all opinions
•with respect, and snubbed, with a contempt that
somewhat astonished them, those gentlemen who
are the drones and gadflies of Eepublicanism.
The Jura, content and prosperous under such
management, which would have saved France a


great deal of trouble liad there been eigbty-six
Grevys to bestow it upon all the departments
instead of upon a single one, testified its gratitude
by returning the Commissioner to the Constituent
Assembly by 65,150 votes.

By this time Grdvy was a well-known character.
Stamped in public esteem as a man of will, he was
elected at once Yice-President of the Assembly
and member of the Committee of Justice, and he
took his seat on the Left of the House, where he
soon achieved a position apart among those who
were for giving France an intelligent and acceptable
Republic — not that fierce and chafing thing made
up of prickly laws, which sits upon a community
like a hair shirt. It would have been a useful lesson
for the rural intellect if a few of those monarchical
bumpkins who were then being indoctrinated into
the perils of a commonwealth by Prince Louis
Napoleon's honest agents, had been brought up to
Paris by some of the cheap trains which began to
run at about this period, and been made to listen
to M. Grevy's speeches. Their opaque but King-
loving minds might have been led to see that
there could be nothing very dangeraus in measures


advocated by so calm and conservative-looking
a legislator as this one from the Jura. Not
that Grdvy, however, was ever half-hearted in
his advocacies. He supported radical reforms,
would have nothing to say to party coalitions,
which are like the Tnariages de raison in private
life, and generally terminate quite as stormily.
On all important occasions his vote was opposed
to that of M. Thiers, in whose liberalism, by the
way, he then felt but a limited degree of con-
fidence. His famous amendment with regard to
the Presidency set the seal, as it were, to his
opinions. Mistrusting both General Cavaignac and
Louis Napoleon, he moved that the Chief of the
Executive be styled " President of the Council of
Ministers," be elected for no definite time, but be
removable at the will of the House. Had this
amendment been voted, Prince Louis would have
remained President a couple of sessions at most,
but it is doubtful whether Republicanism would
have benefited by it, for the next President would
certainly have been the Prince de Joinville. How-
ever, the amendment was lost by 643 votes to
158 : the Presidency lapsed into Bonapartist


hands, and three years later M. Gr^vy, driven from
political life by the cowp d'etat, which he had been
one of the first to foresee, resumed his barrister's
gown, and was little heard of, except in the law
courts, till 1868. Re-elected in that year by his
old friends of the Jura, his majority over the
official candidate was so crushing that it roused a
panic at the Tuileries. But the new deputy did
not return to the House as a speaking member.
Not fond of wasting words where no practical
result was to be hoped for, he*let the officially
packed Chamber legislate as it pleased, and during
the next two years his name was brought promi-
nently before the public on two occasions only :
first, when he voted in 1870 against the return of
the Orleans Princes ; and secondly, when he de-
clined to participate in the Revolution of the 4th
of September. In both these emergencies he was
at variance with the Liberal party. The Liberals
voted for the Orleans Princes ; Grevy refused to
do so, alleging that the presence of pretenders on
French soil added strength to Royalist factions,
and made the prospects of Republicanism more
remote. He became President of the meetings in


the Eiie de la Sourdierc, wMcli took the name of
the Gauche Fermde, in opposition to the Gauche
Ouverte, presided over by M. Ernest Picard ; and
decHned to accept any compromise with the Im-
perialists. He offered a determined resistance to
the Plebiscitum, and met all offers of public employ-
ment with a clear and resolute negative. Regard-
ing the 4th September he was equally explicit.
Opposed to violence in every shape, he could draw
no distinction between popular or autocratical ille-
galities. The members of the Corps L^gislatif,
said he, were many of them elected under pressure,
but they were the people's representatives never-
theless, and it was a citizen's duty to accept their
will as law till a new Assembly was returned. These
sentiments, which were shared to the full by M.
Thiers, establfshed between the two a political friend-
ship which has been on the increase ever since —
despite the kind endeavours of mutual friends to
convert these two first citizens of the Republic into

M. Grevy, who was chosen a third time for the
Jura in 1871, has now two bugbears — Monarchy
and M. Gambetta j but the former he has perhaps


less dread of tlian tlie latter. He does not like
M. Gambetta. The fervid, go-aliead, often reck-
less oratory of the popular Tribune not unnaturally
grates on the cold, logical, and slightly punctilious
mind of the " French Aristides," as many term
him. Whilst Gambetta was at Tours struggling
like ten ordinary Ministers against Prussian force,
Bonapartist intrigues, and bureaucratic red tape
combined, Grevy was among those who insisted
that an Assembly should be convoked to give the
Republican Government a legal sanction. Gam-
betta r3fused, adding in the heat of argument that
the time was one for acting, not for deliberating —
though deliberating was not the exact word he
used. Whereat M. Gr^vy retorted, " Do what you
may, you will never be a Republican ; you are
fated to die in the skin of a rebel." It is well
known that these words have been forgotten by
neither of the disputants ; and the only occasions
on which M. Gr^vy ever departs from his strict
impartiality as a President are those when M.
Gambetta is speaking. Fearful of letting his per-
sonal feelings sway his judgment, he allows the
ex-Dictator to say things which he would scarcely


tolerate from another quarter ; and on the days
when it is certified beforehand that M. Gambetta
is to ascend the tribune, he often leaves the task
of chairmanship to one of his Vice-Presidents.
Political rancours are, however, the shortest lived
x)f all, and it requires no divination to foresee that
if the Republic escapes being strangled either by
avowed enemies or by indiscreet friends, Grevy
and Gambetta may both of them at some future
date sit side by side in a Republican Senate as
ex-Presidents of the Commonwealth. Jules Grevy
is, of all others, the man whose public virtues,
talents, and private austerity best fit him to be M.
Thiers' s immediate successor ; and after him Gam-
betta, whose blood will j)robably have grown more
tepid by that time, may be installed in the Presi-
dential chair without any chance of his entailing
a fall of all the securities on 'Change. Is it pre-
sumption to dream so far into the future ? Perhaps ;
but one may be pardoned for feeling confidence in
coming events when one reflects that so long as M.
Grevy is to the fore the Republic need not perish
for want of that rare thing — a brave and steady
man at the helm.


FranQois Paul Jules Grevy was born at Mont-
sous- Yaudrez, in the Department of the Jura, on
the 15th of August, 1813. He was educated at
the college of Poligny, and studied law in Paris.
Very good men have not many marked days in
their lives. They are too wise to go a hunting
after the impossible ; and therefore meet with few
aggressive obstacles. They do their duty without
making a stir about it, as though it were among
the necessary offices of life which should be
performed in silence. They think there is no
need to be noisy. Therefore they shock nobody,
make few personal enemies, and are seldom
maligned. They do not offer pay or place to any
town crier for advertisements ; and that is the
reason why no one thinks it worth while to get up
early in the morning and praise them with a loud
voice. Their existence is like the fertilising flow
of a placid river in the summer time, and glides
noiselessly to the sea which is at the end of its


A GOOD sort of Turk being on tlie trudge to
Constantinople, where he purposed presenting
a petition to the Sultan, overtook an Armenian,
whom he naturally began to question as to the
character of the monarch under whom they both
had the happiness to live. The Armenian, who
was a person fond of kings and of big people
generally, instantly swelled his voice to recount
the praises of his Sovereign. Ho was this and he
was that ; his life had been as the course of a
mudless stream ; perfection was too meagre a term
to describe his virtues. The Turk with the peti-
tion was pleased to hear all this : but when the
other had finished he said, with a thoughtful wag
of the head, " Yes, but how about his pipe-bearer ?
for I have noticed that the doings of the great
depend much less upon their own intentions than
upon those of their favoured servants, so that I


would almost sooner liave to deal with a spiteful
Sultan who had a benevolent pipe-bearer than with
a Sultan who was merciful and yet had a pipe-
bearer who was vicious."

At this present writing there must be more
than one petitioner in France who is reasoning like
the Armenian, and who feels much less concerned
to know what reception his petition will meet with
at the hands of M. Thiers than of the effect it will
produce on M. Barthelemy St. Hilaire, who is not
M. Thiers' s pipe-bearer, but his chief secretary,
privy councillor, and right-hand man, besides act-
ing as leading whip for the Government party, and
more or less as editor of the Journal Officiel.
These are many functions for one man to dis-
charge, especially for a man who loves Aristotle
more than politics, and has arrived at an age when
it is pleasanter to see others bestir themselves
than to do so oneself. But M. St. Hilaire is not
one of those men who seem to grow old. The
pupils who sat under him when he was first
appointed to succeed Yictor Cousin, in 1838, as
Professor of Latin and Greek Philosophy at the
College de France ; the memorialists who inter-


viewed liim when lie was unpaid secretary to tlie
Provisional Government of 1848; tlie engineers
who were amazed by his knowledge of Sanscrit
and Hindoo literature when he went with them as
commissioner to study the practicability of a Suez
Canal — all these, and many others, would now find
M. St. Hilaire little changed. A tall man with an
ascetic face, earnest professional manners, and that
slight stoop which reveals the scholar, his is the
first figure that strikes any visitor to the Pre-
sidential mansion, just as it used to arrest one's
attention in former days at M. Thiers's house in the
Place St. George. M. Thiers used then to say : — •
" St. Hilaire is my regulator ; I never knew a
thought of mine but Avas the better for being
passed through his head " — and though this may
have been but a friendly compliment, there is
certainly this much of truth in it, that M. St.
Hilaire' s skull probably offers all the phrenological
prominences which in M. Thiers's are most defi-
cient. M. Thiers sees straight before him to the
object at which he aims ; M. St. Hilaire considers
the obstacles in the way. M, Thiers asserts ;
M. St. Hilaire argues. M. Thiers is patriotic zeal


incarnate, and must have a private idea tliat
there is no country in the world really worth
attention but France ; M. St. Hilaire is of opinion
that there was a great deal of good in the Greeks,
and that one might do worse at times than take a
lesson from them. In all essentials the two friends
— for they are intimate companions rather than
chief and subaltern — think and hope alike ; but
there is this difference between their modes of
expressing themselves : that whereas M. Thiers' s
utterances snap with witful shrewdness, but re-
quire to be underlined by the speaker's smiles and
gestures to produce their full effect, the conversa-
tion of M. St. Hilaire might be stenographed
straight off, and be printed as it stood, without
there being any need to correct the proofs. There
is no French like it but M. Guizot's and Bishop
Dupanloup's, so that memorialists who see their
requests declined may know that they are being
nonplussed according to the strictest rules of
syntax, which is, at least, satisfactory, for one
should always be thankful for small mercies.

It is one of the enigmas of life how certain men,
whom one would think specially fashioned by


nature for a stated sphere of duties, manage to
adapt themselves to others of a quite opposite
kind without the smallest apparent effort. There
cannot be an hour of the day in which M. St.
Hilaire does not think of his translations from
Aristotle, and muse upon the notes that may be
added to the next editions of the same. His idea
of recreation must be to write a good article for
the Dehats on the worship of Vishnu ; his defini-
tion of a well-spent afternoon would be standing
in his rostrum at the College de France, with a
hundred and fifty pupils around him, and dis-
coursing exhaustively to them about the " Ee-
public " of Plato. And yet who could better than
himself fulfil the political and social tasks which
personal respect for the President of the Republic,
and not by any means private inclination, have
thrown upon his hands, and induced him to
discharge without prospect of reward ? Watch
him as he moves hospitably about M. Thiers's
drawing-rooms, extending a courteous greeting and
saying just the suitable thing to everybody. It
has not yet become the custom for any party at
Versailles to sulk with the President, so that on


reception niglits there is a throng such as no French
Court, Royal or Imperial, has attracted during the
present century. Dukes of the vieiile roche, Bona-
partist officers, Orleanist merchants and bankers,
journalists, barristers, and Radicals of the finest

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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 3 of 22)