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 5 of 22)
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makes a substantial row. An advocate who would
argue their cause with masterly logic, but in a quiet
voice, would not suit them ; they woifld never feel
as if they had had their money's worth unless there
had been the proper amount of screaming, pound-
ing, and perspiration.

M. ROUHER. .85

Doubtless there were many orators more learned
and clever than Eugene Rouher at the Bar of
Clermont, but there were none to come near him
in vigour or in obstinacy. It was a marvel to thin,
unimpassioned men, how he would work himself
up to such pitches of excitement ; and how he
could stand the unceasing drains which he put
upon his system. But the way in which he would
deal with a plate of beef when he came out of
court did something to solve the question. He
was a man of simple tastes and scrupulously
sober ; but two pounds of steak, a whole fowl, and
a bowl of salad were no more than he could dispose
of at breakfast ; and it was noticed that he always
spoke better after he had put a good quart of red
Burgundy under his waistcoat. He never tried to
write a book ; he had other fish to fry. He had
not been five years at the Bar before there was
more work for him than he could find time to do.
Up at six and never in bed till midnight, his life was
one of hard labour such as would astonish some of
those gentlemen who pretend to the exclusive title
of " working men." By the time he reached his
thirty-fifth year he was pocketing 30,000 francs


per annum (a fine income at that time), and his
fellow-citizens were talking of him as a likely
candidate for the Chamber of Deputies. Needless
to say that he set up as a Liberal. Liberalism is
the most convenient of faiths, because it saves a
candidate all the trouble of reasoning. When a
man constitutes himself the advocate of existing
institutions, he may be called upon for the why
and the wherefore ; when he proposes to demo-
lish institutions, his good motives are taken for
granted. Nevertheless, Eugene Rouher was not a
spitfire Liberal. He had too much rough good
sense to fall into the cant of Radicalism. He
affected no more Liberalism than was just enough
for electioneering purposes ; and when once in the
House, he sided with that moderate group who on
most questions took the sensible view, and voted ac-
cording to their lights, one day with the " Right "
and another with the " Left." At first he made no
great impression as a speaker. He was eclipsed in
a chamber which, besides the two leaders of Right
and Left, counted such orators as Lamartine,
Arago, Berryer, Cremieux, Ledru-Rollin, Louis
Blanc, Odillon-Barrot, Victor Cousin, and Yillemain.


His place seemed to be rather amongst the mem-
bers who were good workers in committee, and could
make a tolerable speech on a question of second-rate
importance. It should be remarked that French
parliamentary oratory was then at a much higher
standard than it is at present. There has never
been such a combination of talent as was seen in
the last Assembly elected under Louis Philippe,
and in the first elected under the Second Republic,
The Revolution of February, 1848, was an un-
pleasant blow for Eugene Rouher, who feared for
a moment that his career was at an end. France
had made such a terrific stride during the 24th of
February, that men of practical, semi-conservative
views like him, were left far in the lurch. The
deputy of the Fviy de Dome accepted the Republic
just as one accepts a hail-storm or an attack of
fever, resignedly. He even had the courage — a
rare courage at such a time — to make no secret of
his regret for what had happened, and it was no
doubt to this honest frankness that he owed the
honour of being sent to the Constituent Assembly
by his old electors, the majority of whom thought
in their hearts as poorly of the Republic as he did,


In tlie new Cliamber M. Eoulier, of course, took
his place amongst the " friends of order." From
the first he persistently opposed the noisy clique
headed by Louis Blanc, Raspail, Bianqui, Barbds,
and a few other excited enthusiasts. His vote was
always given in favour of energetic resistance to
mob rule ; and at a time when there was so much
foolery of all kinds in speech and action, his utter-
ances had a healthy tone, which attracted atten-
tion, and soon placed him in the category of rising
men. It is a curious thing to remember, that
whilst M. Eouher was steadily making his way by
force of common sense, two of his future colleagues,
MM. Billault and Baroche, who afterwards became
noted for ultra-imperialism of the most extreme
kind, were then distinguishing themselves by the
violence of their Radical sentiments. M. Baroche
was being elected in the Charente, as a more
advanced Liberal than his competitor, M. Eugene
Pelletan. M. Billault had drawn up for his
own constituents an address so wildly subversive,
that the Advocate-General, Sandon, to whom he
submitted it, pronounced it too hot even for 1848,
3,nd he was obliged to tone it down.


After tlie election of Prince Bonaparte to the
Presidency, the attitude assumed by M. Rouher
became more anti-republican than ever. In com-
mon with all sensible people, he had been tho-
roughly disgusted by the weakness of the Provi-
sional Government. The events of the 23rd, 24 th,
and 2oth June had stripped him of the last of his
illusions, and it was evident to all who took any
interest in him that he would give his entire sup-
port to the first prince who was strong enough to
re-establish a monarchy. Many people may have
forgotten that the prevailing impression in Paris
during 1849 and 1850 was that the Presidency
would be merely an interregnum preceding the
restoration of the Count de Chambord, or the
accession of the Prince de Joinville. Nobody
looked upon Prince Bonaparte's tenure of power as
serious, or likely to become definite. This is what
allowed the Prince to steal so long a march on his
opponents. Whilst Legitimists and Orleanists con-
spired in secret, thinking too lightly of the Presi-
dent to treat him as a dangerous adversary, the
latter was quietly making his plans and selecting
his men. One of these men was M. Rouher. Louis


Napoleon, wlio is a good judge of mankind, rated
him instantly at his true worth. He saw in him a
resolute, hard-working member, whose influence
was daily becoming greater in the Chamber ; and
he put him into the Cabinet as Minister of Justice,
a difficult post to fill, but one which, after all, re-
quired rather stubborn good sense than tran-
scendent abilities.

Up to this time M. RoTiher had had no marked
preference for any particular dynasty. It is true,
he had on one occasion exclaimed in the midst of
an excited speech, " The Revolution 0/ 1848 was a
catastrophe ! and your Republic is a disgrace !"
but these ejaculations, which well-nigh got him
expelled the Chamber, were taken rather as monar-
chical than dynastic regrets. M. Rouher would
probably have sworn allegiance to the Count de
Chambord, the Duke d'Aumale, or the Prince de
Joinville, with the same readiness as to Prince
Bonaparte, if one of the former had been in office ;
but having once cast in his lot with the President,
he was quite shrewd enough to see that it was
his best interest to remain faithful. Besides,
as already said, he was essentially a friend of


order, and cared little who reigned so long as the
ruling hand was strong enough. Nevertheless,
Louis Napoleon did not give him his full confi-
dence when he placed him amongst his counsellors.;
so that although M. Eouher may have foreseen, yet
he was in no way privy to, the cowp d'etat. The
President knew quite well that M. Rouher was one
of those men who bow to a coup d'etat when it has
succeeded, hut who are not venturesome enough to
risk their heads for it before it is accomplished.

However, that M. Rouher's business capacities
for office had fully justified the Prince's exjDecta-
tions was fully proved by the fact that his name
figured on the list of the new Cabinet issued on the
3rd December, 1851 ; and from that time until
July, 1869, he remained in office with but one
interruption of a few months — January to Septem-
ber, 1852 — when he resigned on account of the
confiscation and sale of the lands belonging to the
Orleans family. This resignation of M. Rouher
is a feather in his cap ; it was the act of an honest
man and a gentleman. The sale of the Orleans
property was a deed of political iniquity quite con-
trary to the spirit of the age, and even M. Rouher's


"worst enemies have admired his conduct in oppos-
ing it. Somebody has said that " happy nations
have no history," by which is meant that when
events flow by in peaceful, unbroken monotony
there is nothing for the historian to dwell on.
The same thing -may be said of the lives of men,
and may be applied to a certain degree, in this
particular instance, to M. Rouher. The political
life of this statesman has been singularly happy.
Raised to poAver by dint of hard work rather than
by force of talent, he had the rare good fortune
to keep his place twenty years by the same simple
means as he got it. He has been a hard worker
and a hard talker, but little else. Appointed suc-
cessively to the posts of Minister of Commerce,
Minister of the Interior, Minister of Finance, and
Minister of State, he has left behind him in all
these offices the reputation of a man who gets
through any amount of business, and gets through
it fairly. But if we except the negotiation of the
Treaty of Commerce, the honour of which he
shares with the Emperor and M. Michel Chevalier,
he has left behind him no monument such as that
which a true statesman looks to for future fame.


There are no great acts witli wliicli his name can
be associated. He has had in his hand boundless
opportunities of doing good, and has generally
neglected them — not perhaps from aversion to
doing good, but because the idea of progress has
never been one which he has cared to grasp.
Quite satisfied with his own position when in
power, he has always thought that everybody else
ought to be satisfied with theirs, and cries for
reform became gradually synonymous in his ears
with factiousness. He was so blind to the real con-
dition of France, that on the day foFo ving the de-
claration of war against Prussia (16th July, 1870),
he solemnly assured the Senate that " France was
ready to fight," and that " the day of victory was
near." A few weeks afterwards he was obliged to
fly to England, and narrowly escaped falling victim
to a mob at Calais. On his arrival in London he
founded La Situation, a Bonapartist newspaper,
which must have cost somebody a great deal of
money. At the general election of the 8 th July,
1871, he presented himself as a candidate for the
Gironde and the Charente Inferieure, but was de-
feated in both places. After that he resided for a


time in Paris, and contributed several articles to
La France, a journal favourable to the fallen empire.
M. Severin Abbatucci, one of the most devoted of
tbe Emperor's adherents, having resigned his seat to
make a vacancy for M. Eouher, he was elected as
member for Ajaccio on the 11th of February,
1872, and almost immediately afterwards fought
a wordy duel with the Duke d'Audiffret - Pas-
quier. As a parliamentary orator, he is no better
than he was as a forensic pleader, his main strength
consisting in energy and roaring. The speeches he
delivered as Minister of State, in defence of im-
perial policy, are inflated but empty. He insulted
the Opposition, but he never dared to meet it in
fair argument, and now he is himself in Opposition
he is seldom plausible or logical. Had he lived in
a country possessed of parliamentary institutions and
a responsible Cabinet, he would never have risen
high nor remained in office long. His hard-working
qualities would have stood him in good stead as a
chief clerk, for instance, or an efficient under-
secretary, but his shallowness of reasoning, his
narrowness of mind, and his extraordinary obstinacy
would have exposed him to repeated defeats, and


have shattered the most robust faith which the
most robust of parties could have put in him.

If he kept in power so long in France, history
will probably record that it was mainly because he
had no rivals. From 1851 to 1869 political life
was extinct. M. Rouher ruled as the governor of
a prison may be said to rule over a community
handcuffed, gagged, and closely guarded. Now,
however, that the breeze of liberty has begun to
blow once more over the land, the best thing he
can do is to retire into private life. His days as a
Minister are past. If he returned to power he
could add nothing to his fame as an exceptionally
lucky man, whereas events might possibly impair
the reputation he enjoys of always getting-i^eii out
of scrapes.


nPHE Due de Broglie, wlio does not quite lead,
but aspires to lead, the Orleanist party, is a
very finished type of the class of noblemen who
would be ruling France at this hour if the Eevo-
tion of 1830 had never taken place. Supposing
Charles X. had become suddenly prudent and
retained the Martignac Ministry, there is a proba-
bility that the Bourbon dynasty might have struck
new roots ; the hereditary House of Peers, a much
more liberal and popular body than the Chamber
of Deputies of that period, would have continued
to flourish ; and the present Due de Broglie, after
sitting a few years in the Lower House for his
department, the Eure, would in due course have
succeeded his father and distinguished himself in
the Upper Chamber as a French Whig. This
might even have happened, though less certainly
and smoothly, if the Orleans monarchy had sur-


vived. Had tlie Eepublic of 1848 lasted, the
results would have been the same, for the Re-
public threw a broad road open to talent in all its
forms, and the influence of clever dukes was quite
as much felt as under the Royalty. But the
Empire, which put the whole political machinery
of France out of gear, flung all such educated
and obnoxious Constitutionalists as the Broglies,
d'Haussonvilles, R^musats, and Montalivets vio-
lently out of their grooves. They became as
exiles on their own soil, a small, well-read, and
much-hated band, whom the Empire feared and
combated with all the weapons of its unscrupulous
arsenal, and whom, in drawing-rooms where Bona-
partist wits lisped their jokes, it was thought
funny to laugh at as le parti des parapluies or le
parti Buloz. This last name was, of course, an
allusion to the Revue des Deux Mondes, which,
with the Journal des Debats, formed the two
pulpits whence the pai^ti des parapluies made
their voices heard, not loudly, but patiently and.
eloquently, during eighteen years, for the enlight-
enment of a very light-needing community.

One must never forget the good that was done



by the Orleanists, or rather by the Constitutionalists,
under the Second Empire. They were the chief
educators of the present generation. Imperialism
had little to dread from the Legitimists, who
sulked and educated nobody — not even them-
selves ; nor did it much fear the Republicans, who,
being a disunited body, often visionary and gene-
rally too plainspoken, were easy to defame and
suppress. But it was not easy to suppress men
who launched their criticisms under cover of his-
torical essays or academical speeches. This Minis-
ter might frown at reading a very knowing paper
on Tiberius, and that other might bite his lips
on hearing the institutions of the Empire pulled
to pieces under the cupola of the Institute ; but
there was no handle for a prosecution in either of
these offences, and the Ministers had to bear the
appreciative smiles of the literate ajnong the public
as visitations not to be avoided. Looking back
upon those days, one must own that despotism
almost had its compensation in the exquisite plea-
sure people felt in reading the attacks against it,
A new book, a clever article full of demure irony,
M. Eugene Forcade's fortnightly bulletins, the re-


ception of a new Orleanist at tlie Academy, some
double-edged lecture by one of the Professors at
tbe Sorbonne — all these were treats to which there
is no parallel where press and tongue are free.
Paris revelled in them ; and it must have often
occurred to the inhabitants of the Tuileries that it
would be almost worth while to have a conspiracy
once a year, and a street riot every six months, to
be free from that pestilent swarm of moderate
Liberals who were always setting their stings on
the sore places.

No family was more quietly active than that of
the Broglies in this work of discomfiting the Im-
perial dynasty and propagating opposition to it
by literary and social means. Descended from
a family which during the last century alone
counted three field-marshals on its roll, the pre-
sent Duke's father was a proved Liberal, who had
inherited his love of freedom from that Prince
Yictor de Broglie, his sire, who, after adopting
the principles of the Revolution, had been guillo-
tined under the Terror, less as an aristocrat than
as a hater of injustice. It Avas of no use for Bona-
partists to call such a man either a Jacobin or a


bigot. He was simply a cultivated, accomplished,
and patriotic nobleman, who was as adverse from
Royalist as from Democratic excesses, and had
proved this throughout his whole career. It was
he who, almost alone in the House of Peers, and
being then the youngest member of it, had stood
up for Ney. In 1816 he had spoken and voted
for a full amnesty of all the Republicans and Bona-
partists whom the Bourbonists judges had con-
demned. In 1817 his voice had been raised
repeatedly and vigorously in favour of the liberty
of the press. Both as a peer under the Restora-
tion and as a Minister under Louis Philippe, his
ideal had been to endow France with a political
system like that of England, and there is little
doubt that if there had been more Frenchmen like
him to assist in the experiment the thing would
have become possible. But his crowning work,
and that which he regarded with the greatest
pride, was the education which he gave his sons.
M. Guizot, in a recent memoir, has recorded how
full, painstaking, and judicious this education was ;
and it may be added in a general way, that when
French noblemen are educated — which, thanks to


the clergy, is less often than might be— tliey are
taught to a pitch of perfection not common in
other lands. Besides, the young Broglies had not
only the advantage of their father's teaching ;
their gifted mother, Madame de Stael's only
daughter, imparted to them many of the qualities
of her own generous heart and beautiful mind, so
that the boys grew up to be, if not paragons, at
least young Frenchmen of no ordinary promise.
In 1848, whilst the late Due de Broglie was
sitting in the Legislative Assembly on the benches
of the Moderate Royalists, his eldest son started
in journalism with as much diligence as though
he had his bread to win by his pen, and soon his
name was classed among the foremost of the rising
generation which it was then thought would guide
France for the next thirty or forty years. It is
difficult to realise the full bitterness of the dis-
appointment which must have fallen upon men
who, like Prince Albert de Broglie, then saw their
newly opening careers suddenly closed to them by
the cowp d'etat, and perhaps the bitterness was the
greater in this particular case, as no efforts were
spared by the Imperial dynasty in endeavouring to


conciliate the Broglies. Just as the First Napo-
leon, very anxious to see a field-marshal of the old
nobility at the head of his parvenu staff, sent a
special ambassador to Miinster, where the Mar^chal
de Broglie was living since the Eevolution, to
invite him to return to France, so Napoleon III.
would have esteemed it no mean triumph if the
great family, whose name had been in French-
mien's mouths any time these two hundred years,
had consented to accept honours and places from
him. It happened that during most of the Second
Empire the department of the Eure was governed
by that gallant and expensive M. Janvier de la
Motte, who has since become notorious : and this
gentleman was as glib-tongued a missionary as
any that could have been selected for the work of
proselytising. " What did the names of dynasties
signify after all ? Had not the Bonapartes done
as much for French glory as the Orleans family ?
And liberty — what did that mean ? Had not the
friends of liberty murdered M. le Due's father in
'93, and overturned the King he loved in '48,
and would not they go on murdering and over-
turning so long as their hands and tongues were


free ? ' Surely, tlien, it was the mission of all
patriotic and liberal noblemen to rally round the
Sovereign whom the people had selected, and to
co-operate with him in establishing institutions
which should be really suited to the character of
the nation," &c. Underlying this lurked more
than one hint that if " M. le Due " pleased, a seat
in the Senate was ready for him, and that his heir,
the Prince Albert, could begin life either as a
councillor of state, an official deputy, or a minister
plenipotentiary. But the Broglies were never to
be caught. Theirs was not a constitutionalism
which, like that of the Dupins and the Laroche-
jacqueleins, could compound with Csesarism under
the specious pretext of its having been submitted
to by the nation. They loved liberty as a religion ;
they courteously rebuffed M. Janvier ; and with-
out descending to factious plots, they made of
their house the resort of all the eminent men of
France who thought like them. As a result, the
letters they wrote to each other were (as has since
been irrefutably proved) carefully opened and read
in the Postal ''Cabinet Noir;" all M. Janvier's
screw-power was brought to bear against their


nominees at election time, and they were now and
then treated to a domiciliary visit like that one in
1861, when the police seized all the copies of a
work lithographed by the late Duke for private
circulation, and entitled, Mes Vues sur le Gouverne-
Tnent de la France. In 1870, at the time of the
OUivier fervour, it was rumoured that Prince
Albert de Broglie, who in that year succeeded to
his father's title, was about to accept a high diplo-
matic post ; and had he done so, it would certainly
have been from no abating of Liberalism on his
part, but from the belief that the Empire had at
length come round to parliamentary views. As it
turned out, however, the rumour was unfounded.
More cautious than poor Prdvost-Paradol, his
friend, the new Duke was afraid to trust in Par-
liamentarism, Csesar-bom and only a few weeks old.
The Empire is dead and buried now, the Re-
public has succeeded it, and the Due de Broglie,
who was elected to the National Assembly as
deputy for the Eure in 1871, has served the
new regime as ambassador* and legislator. It

♦ Appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to London on the 19th
February, 1871 ; r. signed 1st May, 1872.


is pretended by many, especially among the very
Liberal, that in this twofold capacity he has not
quite fulfilled what was expected of him ; but
this is not so disappointing as it would appear.
Imagine a man sculling in a very fast outrigger,
and keeping ahead of a boatful of people seated
in a "tub;" then imagine the people in the
tub getting out of this slow contrivance on to
a fast steamer which will overtake the outrigger,
and soon leave it out of sight. The position of
the man in the outrigger is that of the Due de
Broglie. A couple of years ago he was consider-
ably in advance of the French nation, huddled in
the Napoleonic tub ; but since then the tub's crew
have got on board the Republican steamer, and it
is now the Orleanist outrigger's turn to lag behind.
Keeping up the metaphor, one may say that the
Duke's reason for not deserting his outrigger is
chiefly a want of confidence in the pilot who is
guiding the steamer. The Broglies were never
Thiersists. Under Louis Philippe, the late Duke
was Guizot's supporter ; under the present system,

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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 5 of 22)