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DUVEYRIER’S POLITICAL VIEWS OF FRENCH AFFAIRS 1846 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XX - Essays on French History and Historians 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XX - Essays on French History and Historians, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by John C. Cairns (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985).
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DUVEYRIER’S POLITICAL VIEWS OF FRENCH AFFAIRS
Edinburgh Review, LXXXIII (Apr., 1846), 453-74. Headed, “Art. VII.—1. La Pairie dans ses Rapports avec la Situation Politique, son Principe, ses Ressources, son Avenir. Par M. Charles Duveyrier 8vo. Paris: [Guyot,] 1842. / 2. Lettres Politiques. Par. M. Charles Duveyrier. [2 vols.] 8vo. Paris: [Beck and Amyot,] 1843.” Running titles as title. Unsigned. Not republished, but a substantial portion (305-8) quoted in the version of “Tocqueville on Democracy in America [II]” in Dissertations and Discussions, II. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Duveyrier’s political pamphlets in the Edinburgh Review for April 1846” (MacMinn, 59). The copy (tear-sheets) in Mill’s library, Somerville College, is headed by Mill, “(Edinburgh Review, April 1846)”; it contains no corrections or emendations.
The portion of the text quoted in the D&D version of “Tocqueville on Democracy in America [II]” is collated with D&D, 1st ed. (1859), and 2nd ed. (1867). In the footnoted variants, “59” indicates D&D, 1st ed., and “67” indicates D&D, 2nd ed.
For comment on the text, see lxxx-lxxxiii and cvi-cvii above.
Duveyrier’s Political Views of French Affairs
there are several causes which make the Political Writings produced at the present time in France, an instructive study to intelligent observers in all countries of Europe.
In the first place, there is much truth in the boast of French writers, that France marches in the van of the European movement. The fact is not necessarily of the highly complimentary character with which those writers generally choose to invest it. Movement is not always progress; and progress itself may be in a downward, as well as in an upward direction. To be foremost in the road which all are travelling, is not of necessity the most honourable position; but it is a position pre-eminently interesting to those who follow. And such, in the present period of the world’s history, is the situation of France. The two strongest tendencies of the world in these times are towards Democracy and Revolution; meaning by Democracy—social equality, under whatever form of government; and by Revolution—a general demolition of old institutions and opinions, without reference to its being effected peaceably or violently. In this twofold career, France is the furthest advanced of the European nations. The feelings of her people are nearly as democratic as in the United States; the passion for equality almost as strong. Her institutions indeed infringe upon that equality, by limiting to a narrow class the privilege of electing, or being elected to the Chamber of Deputies. But even these privileges are not hereditary, and carry with them no direct accession of personal rank. In the eye of the law, and in that of private society, there is less difference between man and man than in any other country in Europe. The other European nations are steadily following in the direction of that social equality which, as far as regards the male sex, France has in a great measure realized. That England is undergoing this change as rapidly as the rest, has long been clear to every Englishman who knows any thing more of the world he lives in than the forms of it. Those forms, indeed, subsist with less alteration than in some other countries; but where are the feelings which gave meaning to them? Not the intelligent mechanic only, but the stupidest clown, at heart thinks himself as good as a nobleman; or rather (what is not exactly equivalent) thinks that a nobleman is no better than he; and there are a good many things which indicate, that the nobleman himself secretly thinks much the same.
Not less is France ahead of the rest of Europe, in what may properly, and independently of the specific consequences flowing from it, be called Revolution. Other nations are gradually taking down their old institutions: France, by the sacrifice of a generation, made a clean sweep of hers; and left herself a fair stage, clear of rubbish, for beginning to build anew. France has had her Revolution; has cleansed her Augean stable. She has completed the business of mere destruction; and has come into direct contact with the positive, practical question of the Art of Politics—what is to be done for the governed? Other nations, and England more than any, are in the middle of their Revolution. The most energetic minds are still occupied in thinking, less of benefits to be attained, than of nuisances to be abated; and every question of things to be done, is entangled with questions of things which have first to be undone; or of things which must not be undone, lest worse should follow.
It would be absurd to deny, that a nation whose institutions have no historical basis, and are not surrounded by that reverential attachment which mankind so much more easily accord to what is made for them, than to what they themselves have made, lies under some serious practical disadvantages; on which this is not the occasion to expatiate, no more than on the advantages by which they are more or less completely compensated. But whatever may be the inconvenience, in point of practical working, of what has been called a “geometrical polity,”[*] in political discussion its effects are wholly beneficial. It makes disputation turn on the real merits of the matter in dispute. Under it, measures are attacked and defended much less on the ground of precedent and practice, or of analogy to the institutions, and conformity to the traditions of the particular nation; and much more on adaptation to the exigencies of human nature and life, either generally, or at the particular time and place. The discussion, therefore, has an interest reaching beyond those who are immediately affected by its result; and French writers say, hitherto not unjustly, that while the voice of the English Journals and Legislative Assemblies has little echo beyond the bounds of the British Empire, the controversies of their Tribune, and of their Periodical Press, are watched for and studied all over Europe.
The writings, then, in which intelligent and instructed Frenchmen promulgate their opinions, on the principal topics of public discussion in France, have a twofold interest to foreigners; because the questions discussed are such as either already are, or will soon become, to them also, of great practical moment; and because the principles and premises appealed to are not peculiarly French, but universal.
In both these points of view, the Lettres Politiques, named at the head of this article, have a claim to attention. Originally published as a series of Weekly Pamphlets, and since reprinted in two octavo volumes, they form a collection of Dissertations on the topics, present or probable future, of French Politics, to which recent English discussion has produced nothing in its kind comparable. Not, certainly, that among our public writers there are not several with abilities fully equal to M. Duveyrier, but because their abilities are otherwise employed; because they have not yet turned to consider systematically how the institutions of the country may be worked for the benefit of the country; because in England there is still too much to be undone, for the question, “what is to be done,” to assume its due importance; and the ablest thinkers, when they descend from the height of purely abstract science, find sufficient scope for their practical energies, in the war still raging around the shattered bulwarks of the great practical abuses; and small chance of followers, or even of spectators, for any other enterprise.
Among many things in these volumes, significant of the character which French political discussion of the higher order has of late assumed, two are specially remarkable to an English reader. One is, the total absence, through the twenty-five Letters, of discussion on any constitutional subject. There are no disquisitions in favour of, or even in deprecation of, organic changes. All such questions are assumed to be settled, and treated as not requiring notice. The other is, that with the most passive acquiescence in the structure of the government, as circumstances have made it, is combined the strongest and most active spirit of political reform. This is a conjunction which of late has occasionally been heard of in England, but we cannot say we ever saw it realized. We are promised indeed a “new generation”[*] of Church-and-King philanthropists, by whom every institution grounded upon contempt of the people, is to be worked for every purpose of kindness to them. But we see no very brilliant embodiment of this vision in half a dozen dreaming young men, whose ideal is Laud. For England the day of Conservative reformers is yet to come.
We know not whether M. Duveyrier is expressing his sincere opinion, or adapting his tone to the audience whom he desires to influence; but he professes himself satisfied with the existing constitution of France. He designates all discussions of its defects as old quarrels, “which divert the public mind from the real business of the country, and statesmen from the transaction of that business.”* Short-sighted as this view of things would be, if applied to such questions considered generally, there must be something in it which adapts itself well to the existing state of feeling in France.† It is certain that this avowed contentment with “things as they are,”[†] in respect to the distribution of power, is connected with no optimism as to the mode in which power is employed. The question, who shall govern? may be for the present in abeyance; but there is the liveliest interest in the question, how?—not by what hands, but for what purposes, and according to what maxims and rules, the powers of government shall be wielded.
In England also, it has been easy to perceive, for some years past, especially since the advent of the Peel Ministry, that a similar change of feeling and tone is in progress, both in the public and in the more thinking minds; though it has not reached by any means so advanced a stage. The interest in constitutional questions has much abated,—in part, from the hopelessness, for the present, of any further organic changes; and, partly, from a growing scepticism, even among ardent supporters of popular institutions, as to their being, after all, the panacea which they were supposed to be for the evils that beset our social system. Sincere Democrats are beginning to doubt whether the desideratum is so much an increased influence of popular opinion, as a more enlightened use of the power which it already possesses. But in this new tendency of opinion, France is as much ahead of England as she was in the previous democratic movement. We do not hesitate to express our conviction, that in France at least this change has taken place prematurely. Not that opinion could be too soon, or too earnestly, directed to the ends of government; but it may be, and we think has been, too soon averted from the means. The theory of Representative Government and Constitutional rights, which guided the public mind during the fifteen years’ struggle against the Bourbons, has been discarded before it had finished its work. France is still a country where twenty persons cannot form an association, or hold a meeting, without permission from the Police;[*] where the personal freedom of the citizen is hardly better secured than in the most despotic monarchies of the Continent; where no agent of government can be legally prosecuted for the most enormous offence, without permission from the government by whose directions that offence may have been committed; and where the election of the representative branch of the Legislature, for a population of thirty-four millions, resides in about two hundred thousand persons,—distributed mostly in bodies of from one to three hundred each; enabling the separate interests of particular localities and of influential electors to decide the fortunes of Cabinets and the course of Legislation. In these things, however, France has for the present acquiesced. In what manner her government should be constituted, and in what manner checked, are not the questions which just now interest her. But it is not because she is blind to the disgraceful manner in which her constitution works, and which throughout these volumes is incessantly adverted to, as the most undeniable and the most familiar of daily phenomena.
Constitutional Government—Government in which the support of a majority in a representative assembly is necessary to office—has only had a real existence in France since 1830; and in this short period it has rivalled the worst corruptions of the English rotten boroughs. Bribery, indeed, in its coarser forms is comparatively unknown; because the electors are in a rank of life which commands hypocrisy. But a majority of the electors in a majority of the electoral colleges, is not too numerous a body to be bought; and bought it is, by distributing all public employments among the electors and their protégés; and by succumbing to the pretensions of every locally influential class interest; or, rather, the nominal government is but their instrument—they are not so much bought, as they are themselves the governing body, and claim to themselves in this shape the profits of power. Their position is not that of the voters in our small boroughs; it more resembles that of the borough holders. The gratification of their cupidity is the condition they are able to impose on any set of men whom they permit to be a Ministry.
When a place, great or small, becomes vacant, what happens? Of the four hundred and fifty deputies who are au courant of every thing, because they have the right to penetrate each day and every hour into the bureaux of the ministry, there are twenty or thirty who begin the siege. Their tactics are simple: They say to the Minister, “You will appoint such and such a relation or an elector of mine, or I withdraw my support.” What can the Minister do? He temporizes; opposes one set of pretensions and demands to another, gives hopes to all, and puts off his decision until some new vacancy occurs, to give the hope of an equivalent to the unsuccessful applicants. Happy the Departments, like that of the navy, of l’enregistrement et les domaines, of the army, where the modes of admission and of promotion have been fixed beforehand by general rules! And even there, what latitude is allowed to favour; and in the Execution, too often, what contempt of justice! Favour is the moral ulcer, the chronic malady of the government. The delegates of the bourgeoisie finding the privileged class swept away, instead of abolishing privileges, seized on them for themselves, and the electors, instead of being indignant and finding fault with their deputies for usurping the privilege of the greater offices, found it simpler and more advantageous to possess themselves of the smaller.
([Translated from] Lettres Politiques, Vol. I, pp. 168-70.)
What else could be expected? There are but 200,000 electors, and 130,000 places* (without reckoning the army) in the gift of the government. Again:
The grand distributor of favours now-a-days, is the electoral body; which takes up the attention of its representatives solely with interests of locality and relationship, and circumscribes their hopes of re-election in an infinity of circles so different one from another, so changing, so personal, that there is no Minister who can take in hand a great enterprise of public utility with assurance of success; witness M. Mole with the question of railways, M. Guizot with the customs union; M. Cunin-Gridaine with the sugar laws,[*] &c. &c.
[Translated from ibid., pp. 170-1.]
With the keen sense which the author every where shows of this great evil, by which the sacrifices that France has made to obtain good government, are to so great a degree stultified and rendered abortive, it may appear strange that he should not contend for a change in the constitution of the legislature. Such, however, is not his expedient. We know not whether it is conviction or policy which prevents him from being a Parliamentary Reformer; whether an enlargement of the basis of the representative system appears to him, in the present condition of France, not desirable, or merely not attainable. For whatever reason, he affirms that agitation for this purpose does no good, and only interferes mischievously with what he upholds as the true corrective of the present vicious mode of government:—the formation of an enlightened public opinion. He maintains that petty and selfish interests predominate in the government only because there are no recognised principles on which it can be conducted in any other manner: That the public mind is uninformed, and has no fixed opinion on any subject, connected with government, except the constitution of it: That without clear and definite views, diffused and rooted among the public, on the chief practical questions of government, there is nothing to restrain petty intrigues and cabals, or to support an honest Minister in resistance to the unjustifiable pretensions of classes and coteries. That the men at the head of the government would be glad to have such a support; that they are better than the system they administer, and that it is not willingly that they succumb to it—he assumes as a thing of course. We cannot doubt that he has reason to do so. It is not credible, that men who are among the most instructed and enlightened in France, who have enlarged the domain of thought, as well as contributed largely to the diffusion of its results; that philosophers like Guizot, Villemain, Duchatel, would not gladly wash their hands of turpitudes as lowering to the personal dignity, as discreditable to the integrity of those involved in them. They are men with convictions, and who wish their convictions to prevail; and it cannot be agreeable to them to be dependent, not on the steady adherence of a powerful party pledged to their opinions, but on their success in bargaining for the local influence of notabilités de clocher,—the oracles of this and that distant and backward arrondissement. From this position M. Duveyrier seeks to relieve them. It is ideas, he says, that are wanted;—principles of government capable of inspiring attachment, and stirring the imagination, principles sufficiently practical, and at the same time sufficiently commanding and generous, to rally a large mass of opinion around them. “Vous n’avez,” he says to M. Guizot—
Vous n’avez devant vous aucun de ces événemens irrémédiables, aucune de ces positions fatales, qu’il ne soit pas dans la volonté de l’homme de transformer. . . . Redoutez les petites choses, les petits moyens, ennoblissez les débats, posez des principes dont la France soit fière, et toutes ces questions dont on vous menace, loin d’augmenter vos embarras, viendront à votre aide, et vous offriront, pour la consolidation du cabinet, un appui inespéré.
Mais je prévois votre réponse; ce que vous me demandez, c’est une politique grande, généreuse, Française! Eh! que deviendrait-elle, mon Dieu! au milieu des intérêts ardens des localités, de l’égoisme individuel, des intrigues, des cabales de l’amour propre?
Je le reconnais; ces exigences secondaires sont aujourd’hui toutes puissantes; elles frappent les regards! Ce sont les étoiles qui brillent au ciel, la nuit, quand elles y règnent seules. Mais n’oubliez pas que leur éclat pâlit aux approches du jour, et qu’à la place où elles sont encore, l’oeil les cherche vainement quand le soleil a jeté dans l’espace sa chaleur et sa clarté.
(Ibid., pp. 66-7.)
This doctrine, that the moral evils of the present political system of France arise from an intellectual cause—from the absence of convictions in the public mind—is dwelt upon by the author with a persistency and iteration for which the periodical form of the Letters afforded great advantages. In a letter to M. Chambolle, an opposition deputy, and editor of a leading opposition Journal,[*] he combats the idea, that any peculiar baseness is imputable to the electoral class. The press and the public, he says, are not at all more immaculate. The very men who job their electoral influence for places for their sons, are men of honour in their private concerns.
Politics, say they, have changed their aspect; men’s minds are calmed, affairs are no longer in the critical state in which grand principles, strong passions, great public interests, come into play—of what consequence is it that the candidate is a trifle more or a trifle less with the opposition? it makes but the difference of a few words more or less on one or the other side. Frankly, when one finds the statesmen most opposed to each other declaring that they would govern in very much the same manner, has not the elector a right to treat questions of persons with indifference, and to transfer to his own private interest the degree of solicitude which he would otherwise have granted to those questions?
But this is terrible! the constitution is perverted in its first principles; the very meaning of a representative government is one in which the sincere opinions of the country are, above all, represented.—Most true. But what if the country has no opinions? That is an incident which the constitution has not provided for. . . Do not wonder, then, if numbers of people are led away by this naïf calculation:—Here is one candidate who is for the good of the country, and another who is for the good of the country and for mine also, I should be a fool to hesitate.
([Translated from] Lettres Politiques, Vol. II, pp. 171-2.)
Accordingly, so far as a determinate public opinion does exist, questions are decided, and the government conducted not by this shameful appeal to personal and local interests, but on grounds which, right or wrong, are at least of a public character.
There have existed, since 1830, two different kinds of politics.
The one, which may be termed constitutional politics, [la politique constituante,] was directed to founding the constitution, developing it, and defending it against the attacks of parties and the repugnances of Europe.
The other, which may be called the politics of business, [la politique des affaires,] aimed at protecting and encouraging the interests and labours of society, in the arts, the sciences, religion, military and diplomatic organization, internal administration, commerce, agriculture, and manufactures.
[Translated from La pairie, p. 3.]
In the former branch, in constitutional or organic politics, the government has proceeded on fixed and determinate principles; and has accordingly been able to carry the Chambers with it, by large and certain majorities.
Unhappily it is not so with the politics of business. Statesmen have not yet any programme for that department, any system of government specially applicable to it. Accordingly, as soon as the existence of the monarchy is no longer threatened, the fundamental principles of the constitution no longer in question, what do we behold? The government becomes feeble, uncertain, embarrassed; its majority breaks up into an infinity of minute fractions. . . . Time has resolved most of the questions of constitutional politics which were stirred up internally and externally by the establishment of the new government, and the politics of business have now, in France and in Europe, assumed the ascendant. But there is not yet in France any system of government in matters of business. The opposition, in this respect, is not more advanced than the majority. . . Were the cabinet overthrown, its successors would encounter the same attacks and the same embarrassments, and would have even less strength to overcome them; for they would not (like the present ministry) come into office to repair faults, and save the country from a dangerous entraínement; no important situation would connect itself with their ministerial existence.
Once suppose any general principles of government in the business department, and the situation is changed. If the principles are accepted by the most eminent minds of all sections of the majority, one of two things must happen; either the ministry will adopt them, and will, in that case, owe its safety to them; or it will disdain them, and the system will become an instrument of opposition, from which will issue sooner or later a durable cabinet.
Such, at bottom, is the true political situation of the country; its difficulties, and its exigencies. The greatest service which could now be rendered to the nation, would be to introduce into the midst of its affairs, so languid, thorny, and complex, a general system of government, capable of overmastering the intrigues and petty passions of the coteries which have succeeded the factions of former days; and of introducing into discussions a new public interest, sufficiently considerable to impose on rival industries and rival localities, union and agreement.
Twelve years of parliamentary omnipotence have proved this task to be above the strength of the Chamber of Deputies. The greatest of the embarrassments arise from its own composition. It is not from that Chamber that we can expect a remedy
([Translated from] ibid., pp. 4-6.)
M. Duveyrier’s first pamphlet (from which this extract is taken) was on the Chamber of Peers; being an attempt to persuade that body to consider as theirs the task which the Chamber of Deputies appeared to have abandoned. The circumstances which, in his opinion, mark out the less popular branch of the French legislature, for the office of introducing matured and systematic principles of government into the public affairs of France, are, first, its independence of the partial and local interests of constituencies, and secondly, the composition of its personnel.
The Chamber of Peers, even when hereditary, was a body of a very different character from the House of Lords. It consisted indeed, for the most part, like that assembly, of the wealthiest landed proprietors; but, in England, to represent these is to represent the principal power in the state; while, in France, “the monarchy of the middle class”—wealth, as such, has but little political power, and landed wealth rather less than even Commercial: the Chamber of Peers, therefore, was a body of exceedingly small importance. Once and once only, for a short period, the accidental coincidence between its tendencies and those of public opinion, invested it with a popularity not its own; when, with the caution inherent in a body of old and rich men, it withstood the counter-revolutionary madness of Charles X, which at last cost him his throne. He swamped it by a large creation, and it relapsed into insignificance. In 1831, its destruction, in its pristine character, was completed by the abolition of its hereditary privilege.[*] But, in losing this, it received what in our author’s view was far more than an equivalent. In ceasing to represent the remains of what had once been powerful, the noblesse and la grande propriété, it became the representative of an existing power—of one of the leading influences in society as at present constituted.
The King names the Peers for life; but he is only empowered to name them from certain enumerated classes or “categories;” consisting chiefly (members of the Institute being almost the sole exception) of persons who have served the state for a certain number of years; either in the Chamber of Deputies, or as functionaries in the different departments of the government. The peerage, therefore, is naturally composed of the most eminent public servants—those who combine talents with experience; and it represents a class of great importance in existing society—the administrative body.
aEvery peopleb comprises, and probably will always comprise, two societies, an administration and a public; the one, of which the general interest is the supreme law, where positions are not hereditary, but the principle is that of classing its members according to their merit, and rewarding them according to their works, and where the moderation of salaries is compensated by their fixity, and especially by honour and consideration. The other, composed of landed proprietors, of capitalists, of masters and workmen, among whom the supreme law is that of inheritance, the principal rule of conduct is personal interest, competition and struggle the favourite elements.
These two societies serve mutually as a counterpoise; they continually act and react upon one another. The public tends to introduce into the administration the stimulus naturally wanting to it, the principle of emulation. The administration, conformably to its appointed purpose, tends to introduce more and more into the mass of the public, elements of order and forethought. In this twofold direction, the administration and the public have rendered, and do render daily to each other, reciprocal services
([Translated from] La Pairie, p. 12.)
The Chamber of Deputies, (he proceeds to say,) represents the public and its tendencies. The Chamber of Peers represents, or from its constitution is fitted to represent, those who are or have been public functionaries: whose appointed duty and occupation it has been to look at questions from the point of view not of any mere local or sectional, but of the general interest; and who have the judgment and knowledge resulting from labour and experience. To a body like this, it naturally belongs to take the initiative in all legislation, not of a constitutional or organic character. If, in the natural course of things, well-considered views of policy are any where to be looked for, it must be among such a body. To no other acceptance can such views, when originating elsewhere, be so appropriately submitted—through no other organ so fitly introduced into the laws.
We shall not enter into the considerations by which the author attempts to impress upon the Peers this elevated view of their function in the commonwealth. On a new body, starting fresh as a senate, those considerations might have influence. But the senate of France is not a new body. It set out on the discredited foundation of the old hereditary chamber; and its change of character only takes place gradually, as the members die off. To redeem a lost position is more difficult than to create a new one. The new members, joining a body of no weight, become accustomed to political insignificance; they have mostly passed the age of enterprise; and the Peerage is considered little else than an honourable retirement for the invalids of the public service. M. Duveyrier’s suggestion has made some impression upon the public; it has gained him the public ear, and launched his doctrines into discussion; but we do not find that the conduct of the Peers has been at all affected by it. Energy is precisely that quality which, if men have it not of themselves, cannot be breathed into them by other people’s advice and exhortations. There are involved, however, in this speculation, some ideas of a more general character; not unworthy of the attention of those who concern themselves about the social changes which the future must produce.
There are, we believe, few real thinkers, of whatever party, who have not reflected with some anxiety upon the views which have become current of late, respecting the irresistible tendency of modern society towards democracy. The sure, and now no longer slow, advance, by which the classes hitherto in the ascendant are merging into the common mass, and all other forcesc giving way before the power of mere numbers, is well calculated to inspire uneasiness, even in those to whom democracy per se presents nothing alarming. It is not the uncontrolled ascendency of popular power, but of any power, which is formidable. There is no one power in society, or capable of being constituted in it, of which the influences do not become mischievous as soon as it reigns uncontrolled—as soon as it becomes exempted from any necessity of being in the right, by being able to make its mere will prevail, without the condition of a previous struggle. To render its ascendency safe, it must be fitted with correctives and counteractives, possessing the qualities opposite to its characteristic defects. Now, the defects to which the government of numbers, whether in the pure American, or in the mixed English form, is most liable, are precisely those of a public, as compared with an administration. Want of appreciation of distant objects and remote consequences; where an object is desired, want both of an adequate sense of practical difficulties, and of the sagacity necessary for eluding them; disregard of traditions, and of maxims sanctioned by experience; an undervaluing of the importance of fixed rules, when immediate purposes require a departure from them—these are among the acknowledged dangers of popular government; and there is the still greater, though less recognised, danger, of being ruled by a spirit of suspicious and intolerant mediocrity. Taking these things into consideration, and also the progressive decline of the existing checks and counterpoises, and the little probability there is that the influence of mere wealth, still less of birth, will be sufficient hereafter to restrain the tendencies of the growing power, by mere passive resistance; we do not think that a nation whose historical dantécédensd give it any choice, could select a fitter basis upon which to ground the counterbalancing power in the State, than the principle of the French Upper House. The defects of Representative Assemblies are, in substance, those of unskilled politicians. The mode of raising a power most competent to their correction, would be an organization and combination of the skilled. History affords the example of a government carried on for centuries with the greatest consistency of purpose, and the highest skill and talent, ever realized in public affairs; and it was constituted on this very principle. The Roman Senate was a Senate for life, composed of all who had filled high offices in the State, and were not disqualified by a public note of disgrace. The faults of the Roman policy were in its ends; which, however, were those of all the States of the ancient world. Its choice of means was consummate. This government, and others distantly approaching to it, have given to aristocracy all the credit which it has obtained for constancy and wisdom. A Senate of some such description, composed of persons no longer young, and whose reputation is already gained, will necessarily lean to the Conservative side; but not with the blind, merely instinctive, spirit of conservatism, generated by mere wealth or social importance, unearned by previous labour. Such a body would secure a due hearing and a reasonable regard for precedent and established rule. It would disarm jealousy by its freedom from any class interest; and while it never could become the really predominant power in the State, still, since its position would be the consequence of recognised merit and actual services to the public, it would have as much personal influence, and excite as little hostility, as is compatible with resisting in any degree the tendencies of the really strongest power.
There is another class of considerations connected with Representative Governments, to which we shall also briefly advert. In proportion as it has been better understood what legislation is, and the unity of plan as well as maturity of deliberation which are essential to it, thinking persons have asked themselves the question—Whether a popular body of 658 or 459 members, not specially educated for the purpose, having served no apprenticeship, and undergone no examination, and who transact business in the forms and very much in the spirit of a debating society, can have as its peculiarly appropriate office to make laws? Whether that is not a work certain to be spoiled by putting such a superfluous number of hands upon it? Whether it is not essentially a business for one, or a very small number, of most carefully prepared and selected individuals? And whether the proper office of a Representative Body, (in addition to controlling the public expenditure, and deciding who shall hold office,) be not that of discussing all national interests; of giving expression to the wishes and feelings of the country; and granting or withholding its consent to the laws which others make, rather than eofe themselves framing, or even altering them? The law of this and most other nations is already such a chaos, that the quality of what is yearly added, does not materially affect the general mass; but in a country possessed of a real Code or Digest, and desirous of retaining that advantage, who could think without dismay of its being tampered with at the will of a body like the House of Commons, or the Chamber of Deputies? Imperfect as is the French Code, the inconveniences arising from this cause are already strongly felt; and they afford an additional inducement for associating with the popular body a skilled Senate, or Council of Legislation, which, whatever might be its special constitution, must be grounded upon some form of the principle which we have now considered.a
M. Duveyrier does not often return, except in the way of incidental allusion, to his idea respecting the Peers; but the conception of the administration, or corps of public functionaries, as the social element to which France must look for improvements in her political system, is carried through the whole series of Pamphlets; and he attempts to avail himself of every side-current of opinion to steer into this harbour. This is especially seen in his Letter to the Duke de Nemours, on The State and Prospects of Aristocracy in France.[*] According to this Letter, there is now a distinct acknowledged tendency in the French mind towards aristocracy; a tendency hailed by some, dreaded and rejected by others, but denied by no one. “The best and sincerest thinkers cannot see without alarm the narrow interval which separates the two forces between which the government is divided.” [Translated from Lettres politiques, Vol. I, pp. 71-2.] Experience proves, that
when the popular and the royal power stand singly opposed to one another, a struggle commences, and one inevitably overpowers the other. Men ask themselves, were some unforeseen circumstance to rekindle the conflict, on which side would be the victory, and whether a Republic or an Absolute Monarchy is most to be dreaded? And a Republic is not considered as the most imminent nor the most formidable danger. The wisdom of the King, men say, has fortified the regal power; but the precautions by which the popular power has attempted to ensure its control, have turned to its confusion. The bourgeoisie only uses its influence to break up, by intrigue, cabinets which only maintain themselves by the distribution of favours. Thus lowered in its own esteem, and in that of others, what salutary restraint can it impose upon the executive power, which the interest of the ministers lies in extending perpetually? France, therefore, marches by a sort of fatality towards Despotism. But after Despotism come revolutions, and in revolutions dynasties disappear.
[Translated from ibid., pp. 72, 71.]
Not only on these political, but also on moral grounds, M. Duveyrier contends for the necessity of intermediate ranks, and a third power interposed between the Royal and the Popular. We give these passages in his own words:
La plaie que tout le monde signale, dont tout le monde souffre, n’est-elle pas ce nivellement hors de nature, qui prétend s’imposer à toutes les situations, à toutes les intelligences, à tous les intérêts; cette personnalité brutale, ce démon de l’envie, cet amour effréné de soi-même, qui s’empare de tout—familles, cités, industries?
[Ibid., p. 74.]
No degree of jealousy of natural superiorities, he continues, can prevent them from existing; talents, riches, even historical descent, are still instruments of power; but the social arrangements not being such as to make these powers available for public uses, they work only for the personal ends of the possessors.
Et pourquoi s’en étonner? Quand la grandeur et l’utilité des oeuvres ne suffisent plus pour enrichir, pour ennoblir celui qui les produit, quand on refuse les égards les plus légitimes aux dévoûmens, à la gloire, aux services publics, pourquoi s’étonner que le talent se rende à lui-même l’hommage qu’on lui refuse, et qu’il tourne en vil métier les plus sublimes professions?
On a cru fonder le règne de l’égalité, vaine erreur! L’aristocratie n’est plus, mais le monde est plein d’aristocrates. Toute la difference, c’est que les privilégiés sont désunis, qu’ils ne forment plus corps, qu’il n’existe plus entre eux de point d’honneur. Ils sont toujours au-dessus de la foule; ils peuvent plus qu’elle; mais à cette superiorité d’influence n’est attachée la pratique d’aucune vertu, ni désintéressement, ni bravoure, ni magnificence, aucune obligation morale, aucun service patriotique. La conscience d’une supériorité de nature et de droits est toujours la même, le niveau n’a passé que sur les devoirs.
[Ibid., pp. 75-6.]
These arguments for an Aristocracy have not so much novelty or originality, as the views which our author promulgates respecting the mode of supplying the desideratum. An aristocracy, he says, can never be constituted but on the basis of a public function. Even the feudal nobility
originated in the diversity of certain military functions, and in the relations of subordination which arose between them. Dukes were commanders of armies; Marquises were guardians of the frontiers, Counts, governors of provinces; the Barons were the principal officers attached to the person of the Monarch; Chevaliers were inferior officers. Most of these functions were originally personal, and the nobility which they conferred was so too.
[Translated from ibid., pp. 76-7.]
Nor was the title ever, during the vigour of the institution, dissevered in the minds of men from the duties which it imposed.
Noblesse oblige! Such was the first lesson inculcated upon the heir of the title. He was considered to be under the obligation of all generous sentiments, of magnificence, of intrepidity; so universal was the opinion that the title was only the sign of a function, and the privileges conferred by it the just reward of public services, of duties from which the titulaire could not withdraw himself without meanness and dishonour.
[Translated from ibid., pp. 77-8.]
But although feudal dignities, as he justly says, were originally symbols of services, he treats with deserved contempt the idea, that any useful end could be answered by merely creating from the ranks of personal merit, after the foolish example of Napoleon, Dukes, Counts, and Barons.
The question is not about ennobling men by distributing among them the titles of public functions which for the last eight or ten centuries have ceased to exist. The question is of ennobling the functions and public employments of modern times; of raising them gradually to such a degree of honour, that their denominations may become, for future ages, real titles of nobility.
The nobility, then, which we have now to create, is la noblesse gouvernementale; and, to say the truth, there has never existed any other. If there be understood by aristocracy a body of individuals distinguished by titles and designations to which are not attached any attributes of government, be assured that the nobility meant is a nobility in its decline. At its origin, or in the time of its greatest eminence, every aristocracy governs. What requires to be ennobled now, is office, power, public trusts. We should desire to see the idea become general, that every one who takes a share in the government of his country is bound to show more virtue, more patriotism, more greatness of soul than the vulgar. This was already the spirit of the old noblesse. In the time of its splendour, there was one sort of people who might postpone the interest of the state to that of their families; there were others for whom it was a perpetual duty to sacrifice their families to the state. The former, when the enemy invaded their native soil, might without dishonour avoid the danger, shut themselves up in their houses, preserve themselves for their wives and children—these were the bourgeois and the “vilains, taillables et corvéables;” but the others were obliged to quit every thing, wives, children, lands and manors, and rush to meet the enemy—these were the nobles, who owed to their country the impost of blood.
([Translated from] ibid., pp. 83-4.)
We are thus brought back, by a rather circuitous course, to our author’s idea respecting the class of public functionaries, as the only material from which a distinguished class,—a new Aristocracy,—can arise. Does he propose, then, to make them an aristocracy? An aristocracy, according to him, cannot be made. It must make itself. The Judicial Order, the noblesse de robe, made itself an aristocracy by its own conduct. The new aristocracy must do the same. He asks no privileges for it; least of all, any hereditary privilege. He aims at investing the class with the various conditions necessary to make them deserve, and, by deserving, obtain, the respect and consideration of the public.
Fixity, in the first place. Nothing is more adverse to the influence which the administrator should possess over his administrés, than those frequent changes of residence, which permit only a very small number to familiarize themselves with the special wants of their localities, and to acquire the confidence of the public.
Responsibility, in the second place. The excessive centralization which keeps in the hands of the Ministers (who alone are responsible) the decision of even the simplest questions, and the distribution of even the most trifling employments, takes away from official station its consideration and its authority. The influence which every employé in the lower grades is able to exercise through some deputy, so as to frustrate the just surveillance of his superiors, relaxes the ties of offical connexion, and is a discouragement to zeal. How can you expect earnestness and self-devotion from a functionary who can neither protect talent, nor repress insolence, nor cashier laziness and incapacity?
([Translated from] ibid., p. 85.)
As a third condition, he insists on the necessity of increasing the salaries of public offices; and doubtless not without reason. It is well known that French governments are as parsimonious in remunerating their employés, as prodigal in augmenting the number.
To this, and other considerations connected with the same subject, our author returns in the first letter of the second volume; one of those in which he expresses his opinion with greatest freedom on the system of government now prevailing in France. The principle established by the Revolution, the equal admissibility of all to public employment, has become, he says, merely nominal; for
since the revolution of July two important classes have ceased to furnish their quota to public offices; the great proprietors and the non-proprietors.
On the one hand, the political services required from most of the functionaries of the administration, the extra-official aid expected from them in the management of elections and the formation of majorities, have gradually diminished the consideration attached to public employments; and have driven away from them the grands propriétaires, the inheritors of illustrious names or considerable fortunes.
On the other hand, the excessive reduction of salaries has rendered it more and more impossible for persons who have no patrimony, to hold any public function of importance. The absence of any examination or concours for admission into most civil offices, and the influence exercised over the Ministers (the distributors of place) by the deputies and the electoral colleges, have banished, even from the smallest and obscurest public employment, that numerous class from which the Republic and the Empire had drawn so many of their most brilliant ornaments.
([Translated from] ibid., Vol. II, pp. 4-5.)
What is now remaining of the great effort of Napoleon to honour genius and public services, and to create for them positions equal to the loftiest stations of the European noblesse? Where is now that national proverb, which then prevailed as a truth, through every branch of the public administration—that the lowest conscript carried in his knapsack the Baton of a Marshal of France? . . . The great positions created by the Empire exist merely in memory. The class which the Restoration did not create, but which it encouraged—to which it gave the greatest share in the management of public affairs—the class of great proprietors, lives isolated, dissatisfied, mistaking its own interests, and allying itself, from mere pettishness, with its most dangerous enemies. The agricultural and labouring classes are relegated to their farms and workshops, and no solicitude, no effort of the government, is exerted to recruit from their ranks, as in the great days of the Republic and Empire, the most ardent and gifted minds. The bourgeoisie alone governs; and, by a new form of levelling and equality, claims to reduce every thing to mesquin proportions, and to concentrate all rights in the middle regions of the petite propriété.
([Translated from] ibid., pp. 41-2.)
It has been said with truth, that the American does not believe in poverty. The Frenchman does. . . . Every petty elector is inveterately conservative of his patrimony, and, not choosing to risk any thing for the establishment of his children, he is invincibly prompted to swell the eternal overflow of the small places inscribed in the budget.
([Translated from] ibid., p. 170.)
For these several inconveniences he proposes remedies. In the first place, the Government must cease to require from its agents degrading services. All interference in elections by the official agents of Government, must be peremptorily abolished. This might or might not affect injuriously the interests of any existing Ministry. It might or might not render the opposition triumphant, and produce parliamentary reform. If these consequences happen, they must be submitted to. They are not for a moment to be considered in comparison with the object. But,
The Executive, interdicting all its agents from any official interference, from any interference whatever, in the operations of the electoral body, would immediately restore to public functions their honour and their dignity. The real ability, intelligence, experience, patriotism, and integrity of the servants of the state, would no longer be at each instant brought into suspicion.
([Translated from] ibid., p. 34.)
And the greater respectability thus given to office, would again, he says, attract to it the opulent classes;—a thing not in itself undesirable, and indispensably necessary so long as a mistaken economy keeps the salaries low.
But, while preventing placemen from jobbing in elections, it is also needful to prevent electors from jobbing in places. For this and other important purposes, the author’s expedient is, to make the conferring of public employments not a matter of favour, but, as far as possible, a Judicial Act. Admission into the public service should be granted only to the candidates who are pronounced on a public competition the best qualified. A certain proportion of all promotions should be given to seniority. The remainder must be, and (incompetence having been provided against by the initial arrangements) might safely be, dependent upon choice. To secure an abundance of highly qualified candidates, he proposes that there should be a public system of Education for each leading department of the public service. There is already the Polytechnic school, or College, as we should call it: English readers often forget that Ecole, in French, means a College, and Collège a School. There are the military and naval school, the school of engineers, and the school of mines. To these should be added schools of administration, of judicature, of diplomacy, and of finance. These various suggestions, supported at considerable length and in much detail, are the chief practical topic of the book. From a system of arrangements thus combined, he anticipates that the administrative body would be the élite of the practical talent and wisdom of the country; and that not only the business of Government in every department would be conducted with a skill and a purity beyond all present experience, but that the class thus formed, surmounted by its natural representatives, the Peerage for life, would become an Aristocracy in the best sense of the word—an aristocracy unprivileged, but real, and the only one with which the circumstances and social elements of a country similar to France are, in the author’s opinion, compatible.
In this speculation the reader has seen, we hope, not without interest, a sample of the manner in which the ever active French intellect is applying itself to the new questions, or old questions in new forms, which the changed aspect of modern society is constantly bringing before it; and of the abundant vein of far from worthless thought, portions of which it is at all times throwing up. The present is no doubt a favourable specimen of such speculations. But they almost all exemplify in their degree, that combination of the theoretical and the practical points of view, which is so happily characteristic of the better order of French thinkers. In England the two modes of thought are kept too much apart; the theories of political philosophers are too purely a priori, the suggestions of practical reformers too empirical. In France a foundation in general principles, the result of large views and a philosophic mode of thought, is never dispensed with, but the choice of principles for present application is guided by a systematic appreciation of the state and exigencies of existing society. The appreciation may be more or less successful, and is often, no doubt, a total failure; but some such attempt is invariably made.
As is natural to a French political writer, M. Duveyrier devotes a large part of his attention to external affairs. But he does so in a different spirit from that of the writers and orators whose tone has lately rekindled in foreign nations, against France, much of the jealousy and suspicion of former years. Those who best know France, have been most inclined to believe, that the spirit of these orators and writers was far less widely diffused than superficial appearances indicated; and that even in the assailants themselves it was of a less inveterate character than it seemed to be.
M. Duveyrier has no notion of suppressing the national amour-propre; nor would he deem himself at all complimented by being supposed exempt from it. But he endeavours to divert it into a rational and a pacific channel. It is not war, he says, it is not territorial extension, by which national greatness and glory are now acquired. By the arts of peace France must henceforth render herself famous. The sufferings and struggles of half a century, and the social and mental advantages which she has bought at so dear a price, have made it her part to assume the initiative in perfecting the machinery and the principles of civil government.
Elle forme à cet égard comme un atelier d’essai au profit du globe entier. . . . L’oeuvre caractéristique de la nation Française est le perfectionnement, au profit d’elle-même et de toutes les autres, non seulement des rouages adminstratifs et politiques, mais des bases mêmes de la société et de la civilisation.
(Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 127, 129.)
The author is faithful to his Programme. He advises France to renounce, once for all, the popular object of the Rhenish frontier. He calls it a “misérable intérêt de vanité,” and tells her besides, that she cannot have Algiers and the Rhine too. He exhorts her to set an example to Turkey how to govern its Christian subjects, by the manner in which she, in Algeria, can govern her Mussulmans. He recommends an alliance with Germany for peaceful, rather than with Russia, for warlike purposes. To acquire the respect of Europe, her Foreign policy, he says, must be not war and aggrandizement, nor propagandism, but Arbitration and mediation. He would have her combine with Prussia and Austria for the protection of the secondary Powers. He would have international differences decided, not by the coarse expedient of fighting, but by the impartial intervention of friendly powers; nor does he despair of seeing the war of Tariffs, which has succeeded to the war of Armies, terminated in a similar manner; and the adjustment of commercial relations made a matter of general arrangement by Congresses or Conferences among all the powers of Europe. In none of these things does he see insuperable difficulties, if a great nation, like France, would identify herself with them, and make them the leading aim of her external policy.
These are worthy objects; but it may be doubted whether a nation, to which it is necessary to recommend them as means of regaining that importance in the world, which can no longer be successfully sought by war and conquest, is the most likely to render them acceptable to other nations. Plato says, that a people ought to search out and impress as its Governors the persons who most dislike and avoid the office.[*] It is certain, that those who eagerly thrust themselves into other people’s disputes, though it be only as arbitrators, are seldom very cordially welcomed; and that those are rarely the best managers of other people’s affairs, who have most taste for the bustle and self-importance of management. If, however, men have a taste for meddling, it is better that they should meddle to befriend others, than to oppress and domineer over them; and M. Duveyrier is doing a useful thing, in inculcating upon his countrymen the superiority of the more philanthropic mode of indulging the propensity.
In domestic policy he proclaims the same principle, of peaceful arbitration; the adjustment of conflicting interests, with the least possible hardship and disturbance to any one. His watchwords are, justice and compromise. To postpone all partial interests to the general interest, but to compensate liberally all from whom sacrifices of their private interest are demanded; and to make up, as far as circumstances permit, to the weaker and less fortunate members of society, for whatever disadvantages they lie under in their relations with the strong,—these are his maxims.
Under these different heads, he opens various subjects of discussion; some of which are by no means ripe for a final opinion, and to which we can only cursorily allude. That he is for a progressive reduction of protecting duties, is a matter of course. He has, at the same time, much to say in favour of alleviating the losses of those who suffer by reforms in legislation; or even by improvements in production. These, however, are minor topics compared with one from which no political thinker of any importance can now avert his thoughts;—the improvement of the existing relations between what is designated as the labouring portion of the community, and their employers: the question known to Continental thinkers under the technical appellation of the Organization of Labour.
This is not a subject upon which to enter at the conclusion of an article, nor is it in any sense a principal topic of M. Duveyrier’s book. He contents himself with pointing to it in the distance, as a problem waiting for a solution in the depths of futurity. It is possible that, like most French philanthropists, he has in view, as an ultimate possibility, a greater degree of authoritative intervention in contracts relating to labour, than would conduce to the desired end, or be consistent with the proper limits of the functions of government. But he proposes for present adoption, nothing but what is reasonable and useful. He bids the government encourage and favour what is voluntarily done by employers of labour, to raise their labourers from the situation of hired servants, to that of partners in the concern, having a pecuniary interest in the profits. He recommends to honour and imitation the example of M. Leclaire, (mentioned in a former number of this Review,)[*] who has organized his business on the plan of allowing to himself, as well as to each of his employés, a fixed salary; and sharing the surplus among the whole body in rateable proportion to the salaries; and who, it appears, has found this system even lucrative to himself, as well as highly advantageous to his labourers.
We have exhibited, we think, enough of the contents of these volumes to justify our favourable opinion of them. On the unfavourable side there is little that we think it important to notice, except a degree of flattery to some of the Chiefs of the ruling party, and especially to the present King of the French;[†] —probably, however, in the author’s eyes, not exceeding the courtesy due to persons in high authority, from one of their own supporters, when he volunteers important, and not always agreeable advice. The style is easy and spirited, occasionally rising into eloquence; and not more diffuse than belongs to the nature of modern periodical writing.
[[*] ]See Mill, “Of the Geometrical, or Abstract Method,” Bk. VI, Chap. viii, of A System of Logic (1843), CW, Vols. VII-VIII (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), Vol. VIII, pp. 887-94.
[[*] ]Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby, or, The New Generation, 3 vols. (London: Colburn, 1844).
[* ][Translated from] La Pairie, p. 2.
[† ]“Study the masses and you will see that there is something passing in their minds, not unlike the disposition which preceded Louis XIV’s majority after the Fronde, and the establishment of the Consulate at the end of the last century. The same lassitude, the same disgust with bustle and agitation, the same abatement of the spirit of distrust, the same indifference to the political rights which that spirit had created.” ([Translated from] La Pairie, pp. 36-7.)
[[†] ]Cf. the title of William Godwin’s Things As They Are, or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), 4th ed. 3 vols. (London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1816).
[[*] ]Loi sur les associations, Bulletin 115, No. 261 (10 Apr., 1834), Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, 9th ser., Pt. 1, VI, 25-6.
[* ]Lettres Politiques, Vol. I, p. 431.
[[*] ]Loi sur les sucres, Bulletin 1019, No. 10,728 (2 July, 1843), Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, 9th ser., XXVII, 549-51.
[[*] ]Le Siècle.
[[*] ]Loi contenant l’article qui remplace l’article 23 de la charte, Bulletin 54, No. 130 (29 Dec., 1831), Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, 9th ser., Pt. l, III, 61-4.
[a-a]308[quoted in “Tocqueville on Democracy in America [II].” D&D, II, 78-83, in CW, XVIII, 201-4]
[b]59,67 ,’ says M. Duveyrier,
[[*] ]The third letter in Lettres politiques, Vol. I, pp. 69-100.
[[*] ]Republic (Greek and English), trans. Paul Shorey, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946), Vol. I, p. 80 (I, i, 19).
[[*] ]Duveyrier, Lettres politiques, Vol. II, pp. 258-65, refers to Edmé Jean Leclaire, Des améliorations qu’il serait possible d’apporter dans le sort des ouvriers peintres en bâtiments (Paris: Bouchard-Huzard, Carilian-Goeury, n.d.), which is cited by Mill, “The Claims of Labour,” Edinburgh Review, LXXXI (Apr., 1845), 498-525 (in Essays on Economics and Society, CW, Vols. IV-V [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967], Vol. IV, pp. 363-89).
[[†] ]Louis Philippe.