Front Page Titles (by Subject) 43.: THE FRENCH ELECTIONS EXAMINER, 18 JULY, 1830, PP. 449-50 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I
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43.: THE FRENCH ELECTIONS EXAMINER, 18 JULY, 1830, PP. 449-50 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE FRENCH ELECTIONS
In his Autobiography, after mentioning his ceasing to contribute to the Westminster Review after “Scott’s Life of Napoleon” appeared in April 1828 (CW, Vol. XX, pp. 53-110), Mill says that for “some years after this time” he “wrote very little, and nothing regularly, for publication” (CW, Vol. I, p. 136), and his bibliography lists only Nos. 37-42 between “Scott’s Life of Napoleon” and this leading article on the French Elections of July 1830. In fact he wrote a “treatise” or “tract” on an economic subject, which he submitted to the Library of Useful Knowledge on 23 Jan., 1829 (EL, CW, Vol. XIII, p. 742), about which nothing else is known. The silence ended when the July Revolution in France, following on the elections, “roused [his] utmost enthusiasm, and gave [him], as it were, a new existence” (CW, Vol. I, p. 179). The published result is seen in the flood of articles on France that he wrote in the next four years for the Examiner. During this time, Mill says, he “wrote nearly all the articles on French subjects [for the Examiner] . . . together with many leading articles on general politics, commercial and financial legislation, and any miscellaneous subjects in which I felt interested, and which were suitable to the paper, including occasional reviews of books” (ibid., pp. 179-81). By October 1832 he was, he told Thomas Carlyle, writing “nothing regularly for the Examiner except the articles on French affairs” (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 125).
In this leading article Mill, in accordance with his belief that the English are ignorant of French affairs (and Continental affairs generally), explains the background of the shift to the left in the recent elections in France and the growing opposition in the country to the regime of Charles X (1757-1836). The previous elections, held in November 1827, had greatly increased the strength of the liberals in the Chamber of Deputies, giving them about two-fifths of the seats, approximately the same number going to the royalist supporters of Charles, and the remainder to the right opposition. This result ended the conservative ministry of comte Jean Baptiste Séraphin Joseph de Villèle (1773-1854), and there followed a period of moderate leadership by the vicomte de Martignac (see No. 45). Displeased by the liberal measures adopted, the King succeeded in 1829 in appointing an ultra-royalist ministry with prince Jules Auguste Armand Marie de Polignac (1780-1847) at its head. Liberal opposition continued to grow, and reached its height in the reply to the King’s address at the opening of the session in March 1830, a protest by 221 Deputies, demanding ministers responsible to a majority in the chambers. Charles dissolved the Deputies on 16 May, and announced new elections.
The Charter to which Mill repeatedly refers is the Charte constitutionnelle, Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, Bull. 17, No. 133 (4 June, 1814). Granted by Louis XVIII (1755-1824) on his accession, and modified in 1815 after the Hundred Days, it established a new constitution for France that, while guaranteeing political liberties and imposing some limits on the monarch, nevertheless left the direction of the government in his hands. On 20 May, 1830, Charles X had intimated indirectly that he was prepared to use the powers he claimed were granted him by Article 14 of the Charter to govern by ordinance if the Chamber of Deputies failed to support his policies.
When Mill writes, the first stage of the French elections—that of the arrondissement electoral colleges, which elected 258 deputies and were made up of all male residents paying 300 francs a year in direct taxes—had taken place on 23 June; the second stage—that of the departmental colleges, which elected 172 deputies and were made up of the top 25 per cent of the taxpayers, who thus had a double vote—had occurred on 3 July, except in twenty departments (not nineteen as Mill thought).
The death of George IV on 25 June necessitated elections in England at this same time, elections which would replace the government of the Duke of Wellington with that of the 2nd Earl Grey and lead directly into the crisis over the Reform Bill.
This item, which begins the “Political Examiner,” headed as title and unsigned, is not in the Somerville College set of the Examiner, which begins with 15 Aug., 1830. It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article on the French Elections in the Examiner of 18th July 1830”
(MacMinn, p. 10).
the departmental, or grand colleges, have now completed their operations throughout all France, except 19 departments. In those departments the elections were postponed by the Government, to afford time for the Court of Cassation to disfranchise a considerable number of electors who had been declared by the inferior Courts entitled to vote.
Exclusive of these nineteen departments, which include Paris, Rouen, and their vicinity, and in which the ministry are sure of a complete defeat, the departmental elections have afforded results as auspicious to the liberal cause as the elections for the arrondissemens. The royalists, indeed, still retain a majority, but that majority is greatly diminished. At no election previous to the last had a single liberal candidate been returned by a departmental college. At the last elections in 1827, about one third of the deputies elected by these colleges were liberal. In the present elections the proportion will be much greater. Without reckoning the deputies for the nineteen departments, of which the elections have been adjourned, the opposition had in the late Chamber 34 departmental members; it has now 46.
As the departmental colleges may be said to be composed of the twenty thousand richest men in a population of 30 millions, the great and rapid increase of the strength of the liberal party in these colleges is a still more striking indication of the progress of the public mind, than the liberal majority in the colleges of arrondissemens. The most bigotted English Tory cannot affect to see in such a struggle as the present any tincture of Jacobinism, if Jacobinism be, as Burke defined it, “an insurrection of the talents of a country against its property.”1 The insurrection, if such it can be called, is an insurrection of the intelligence and property of the country against an attempt to impose on them a ministry who are not only declared enemies to the reform of whatever is bad in the present laws or administration of France, but likewise, as the nation from long experience universally believes, irreclaimably hostile to the existing constitution of their country.
The French nation has been most absurdly reproached, particularly by the Times newspaper, for having condemned the Polignac ministry without trial.2 If Mr. Cobbett were placed at the head of an English ministry, would the Times scruple to declare its hostility to his administration, because Mr. Cobbett had never been First Lord of the Treasury before?3 Men whose whole political life has condemned them, as statesmen and as citizens, are not entitled to be tried over again in the situation of ministers, all measures of national improvement being stopped while the trial proceeds.
The opposition to the Polignac ministry is both of a reforming and of a conservative character. It is a conservative opposition as respects the political constitution of France, established by the Charter, which it defends against the Ministry, and the emigrants and their friends. It is a reforming opposition, as respects the multitude of gross abuses, which the representative system, established by the Charter, has not been able to prevent or extirpate.—The object of the Ministry, on the contrary, is to guard these abuses, to introduce others, and to overthrow either entirely or partially the representative system, which renders the introduction of new abuses extremely difficult, and which now at length seriously menaces the old ones.
The great and leading abuse which exists in France, and from which all the others flow, is the inordinate power of the government,—of the administration, in the common sense,—the crown, and its officers. In England, the ministry are the mere servants of an oligarchy, composed of borough-holders and owners of large masses of property: the abuses of which we complain, exist for the benefit of that oligarchy, not for the private interest or importance of men in office; and any one who should complain of the undue power of the Ministers as such, would be justly ridiculous. But in France, the oligarchy which engrosses all power, and manages and mismanages all public affairs from the greatest to the least, is what has been expressively termed a bureaucratie—it is the aggregate body of the functionaries of Government with the Ministry at their head. The power which in Great Britain is shared in Local Corporations, Parish Vestries, Churchwardens, Commissioners of Roads, Sheriffs, Justices of Peace, acting separately and in Quarter Sessions,* and numerous other local officers or bodies, is in France exclusively exercised by the Government, and by officers appointed and removable at its pleasure. All establishments for education are under the direct superintendance of the Government. Almost all the public works, which in England are executed by voluntary associations of individuals, with all the power and patronage annexed to them, devolve in France upon the Government, partly from the scarcity of capital in France as compared with England, partly from the obstacles which the French laws oppose to all combinations of individuals for public purposes—the extent of which obstacles, and the degree in which the immense natural advantages of France are rendered useless by them, would utterly astonish our readers if we were to lay before them the requisite particulars. The French police has powers over individual security and freedom of action, which are utterly irreconcileable with good government.
The proximate object of the present opposition, so far as it is a reforming opposition, is to limit and curb this all-pervading influence of the Government, by destroying the system of centralization (this most expressive word has no synonym in English) from which it takes its rise. There are now many able and influential persons in France, who have studied England and the English Government, not as it is represented in books, but in its actual working and practical effects. They have seen at home the necessity that local affairs should be managed by local bodies; they have seen in England that when a local body is so constituted as to be an oligarchy, it far surpasses in jobbing and mismanagement even the great Oligarchy itself. They consequently desire the same securities for the integrity of the local bodies, which the Charter has provided for that of the general government. The executive officer, the prefect or mayor, they purpose should continue as at present, to be appointed and removable by the King. But their aim is—that the deliberative body, the council of the town, or of the department, should be chosen by the same electoral body which chuses the members of the representative branch of the general government, namely, the 80,000 persons or thereabouts, who pay 300 francs, or 12l. per annum of direct taxes.
The avowed purpose for which the Polignac Ministry was formed was, to resist this and all similar improvements. The manifesto which they issued the very day after their election, treated elective municipalities as a relic of Jacobinism. In the same document they announced as the principle of their administration, point de concessions, point de réaction,—no further concessions to the public voice, no retractation of the concessions already made.4 The French nation did not believe them when they said, point de réaction: but even on their own showing, they were determined to refuse all concessions. The 80,000 electors and the nation deem concessions indispensable, and the electors would therefore have been guilty of cowardly truckling, if they had not re-elected the 221 deputies who declared to the King that they had not confidence in his ministers.5
If even the professed designs of the ministry warranted the general burst of indignation with which their appointment was received, how much more so the designs which the nation, and even their own party, ascribes to them, and which, though not directly avowed, can scarcely be said to be disguised.
The present ministers, to a man, belong to that section of the party calling themselves Royalists, who from the first dissuaded Louis XVIII from granting the Charter, and who have ever been its declared enemies. All the measures of that party, when in power, have been so many encroachments, or attempts to encroach, upon the constitution established by the Charter, and upon the liberties and privileges which it guaranteed. According to the Charter, all the members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected by the 80,000 electors who form the colleges of arrondissement.6 The Royalists added a fourth to the number of the deputies, and that fourth is elected exclusively by the 20,000 richest.7 By the Charter, one fifth of the Chamber went out by rotation every year.8 The Royalists passed a Septennial Act.9 By a law which still subsists, no community of Jesuits can exist on French soil: the Royalist ministry not only connived at the existence of such communities, but threw the education of the greater part of the French youth, and the nomination to the subordinate public offices, almost exclusively into the hands of the Jesuits.10 This first disgusted with the measures of the court all the most honest and intelligent part of the Royalist party; this it was which threw such men as Montlosier, the ablest literary champion of the royal power, into the ranks of the liberals.11 A Royalist minister abolished the militia, or national guard, because they refused to turn Manuel out of the Chamber of Deputies, for exercising what in England would be considered a moderate and constitutional freedom of speech.12 A Royalist Ministry and a Royalist Chamber restored Ferdinand of Spain to absolute power, by the men and money of a people said to be under a constitutional government.13 A Royalist Ministry and a Royalist Chamber passed the famous law of sacrilege, for punishing the profanation of the sacred elements in the Eucharist,—a law worthy of the days of Calas and La Barre, and which persuaded the civilized world that the reign of despotism was assured for another century, and that France was relapsing into the servitude and superstition of the middle ages.14
A Royalist Chamber of Deputies passed the law of primogeniture,15 which, for the avowed purpose of creating a hereditary aristocracy, offered violence to the strongest and most deeply-rooted sentiment of the most united public mind in Europe. A Royalist Chamber of Deputies passed the law for restraining the press, nick-named by its author, M. de Peyronnet, “une loi d’amour,” by which not only all newspapers but all pamphlets and small books were placed under the almost absolute control of the ministry.16 The hereditary Chamber of Peers rejected both these laws; and a Royalist Ministry attempted to overpower the voice of the majority, by creating from among their hacks in the Lower Chamber seventy-six new Peers at one stroke,17 among all whom there was only one name* not odious or contemptible to all France.
Such is the political history of the party which has raised the Polignac Ministry to power, and by which alone that Ministry is supported. Let us now speak of the individuals. M. de Polignac was one of that portion of the emigrants who, after their return to France, refused to swear to the Charter. M. de la Bourdonnaye proposed that all who had accepted office under Napoleon, after his return from Elba, should be put to death.18 His successor, M. de Peyronnet, is of ill repute, even in his private character, and the most violent and unbending member of the Villèle Ministry. M. de Montbel is the habitual apologist of that Ministry in the late Chamber. M. de Bourmont is odious to the army, for having gone over to the enemy on the field of battle; and finally, M. de Guernon-Ranville was only known, before his elevation to the Ministry, for having publicly declared that he gloried in being a counter-revolutionist, that is, in being an enemy to all benefits which France has purchased by the sacrifice of an entire generation.19
If the intentions of the Ministry are to be judged by the ostentatious declarations of their partizans, they are disposed to carry matters with a higher hand than the most audacious of their predecessors. There is not a royalist journal, including those known to be connected with the Ministry, which does not openly declare that the King will not yield, and that if the Chamber refuses to vote the taxes, they will be levied from the people by a Royal Ordonnance. According to a mode of interpretation by which any thing may be made to mean any thing, they affirm that one of the articles of the Charter authorizes the King, when he sees urgent necessity, to make laws and levy taxes by his own authority,—that is, that one article of the Charter nullifies all the others. By virtue of this article, according to the ministerial papers, the King is determined, if the Chamber refuses the budget, to reassume absolute power, either definitively, or for the purpose of altering the law of election, and obtaining a Chamber which will be a passive instrument of his will. The liberal papers say that this is mere bravado; that the King will not be so imprudent as to attempt the entire subversion of the established constitution; that if he does attempt to levy taxes, either by proclamation or by the vote of a Chamber not constituted according to law, the people will refuse to pay them; that the courts of justice will support the people in their resistance; that if the King abolishes the courts of justice, establishes others, and endeavours to levy the taxes by force, the army will not support him; and that the struggle which will then take place will be dangerous to no one except the Royalists and the King. The strength and unanimity with which public opinion has declared itself, renders the fulfilment of these predictions, in case the King should endeavour to govern without a Chamber, by no means improbable.
Whether, therefore, the Ministers are to be judged by their avowed intentions, by their personal history, by the great acts of their party, or by its present professions, the renitency of the French nation against their yoke is just and expedient, and their success in putting down the manifestations of public displeasure would be one of the greatest, but fortunately also, one of the most unlikely calamities which could befal France and Europe.
[1 ]Edmund Burke, Mr. Burke’s Three Letters Addressed to a Member of the Present Parliament on the Prospects for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France (1796), Letter II: On the Genius and Character of the French Revolution, in Works, Vol. IV, p. 424.
[2 ]Leading article on France, The Times, 17 June, 1830, p. 2.
[3 ]William Cobbett (1763-1835), radical editor of the Weekly Political Register. The British Prime Minister is, by tradition, First Lord of the Treasury.
[* ]We are not here speaking of the judicial powers of these various functionaries, but of their powers of raising and expending public money, of local legislation, of police, and administration in most of its branches.
[4 ]“Plus de concessions.—Point de réaction,” Gazette de France, 10 Aug., 1829, pp. 1-2.
[5 ]For the progress of the address, the vote on its acceptance, and its presentation to Charles X, see Moniteur, 15, 16, 17, and 20 Mar., 1830, pp. 296, 300, 303, and 315.
[6 ]Charte constitutionnelle (1814), Art. 35, p. 203.
[7 ]Bull. 379, No. 8910 (29 June, 1820). Referred to as the “Law of the Double Vote.”
[8 ]Charte constitutionnelle (1814), Art. 37, p. 203.
[9 ]Bull. 672, No. 17159 (9 June, 1824). This law abolished the annual election of one-fifth of the Deputies and extended their term of office from five to seven years. The extended term was not to apply until after the next election, i.e., that of 1827.
[10 ]Louis XV (1710-74) expelled the Jesuits by the Edit du roi, concernant la société des jésuites (1764). Mill, like many of his French contemporaries, was not distinguishing between the Church and the Jesuits, whose renewed presence in France was openly ignored by a Government that had given control over the schools to the bishops (Bull. 664, No. 16774 [8 Apr., 1824]); merged the ministries of ecclesiastical affairs and education under the control of a bishop who was also appointed Grand Master of the University (Bull. 694, Nos. 17617 and 17618 [26 Aug., 1824]); and closed the Ecole Normale.
[11 ]Comte François Dominique Reynaud de Montlosier (1755-1838), whose pamphlets, especially Pétition à la chambre des pairs (Paris: Dupont, 1826), led the judiciary and the Chamber of Peers to declare the illegality of the Jesuits in France.
[12 ]Mill seems to confuse two events. The National Guard was abolished by Villèle in April 1827, because there had been anti-government manifestations at a royal review, and one legion, passing in front of the Ministry of Finance, had loudly jeered him (Ordonnance du roi qui licencie la garde nationale de Paris [29 Apr.], Moniteur, 1827, p. 617). On 4 Mar., 1823, Jacques Antoine Manuel (1775-1827), a republican Deputy, was ousted by force from the Chamber when, after a speech concerning the execution of Louis XVI, he had refused to comply with a vote for his expulsion. When the sergeant in charge of the National Guard would not obey the order to eject him forcefully, the gendarmes were called in.
[13 ]In the spring of 1823 French troops had crossed into Spain to aid the forces of the right in the civil war and succeeded in releasing Ferdinand VII who had been virtually held prisoner by the left. By a treaty signed by France and Spain in February 1824, Louis XVIII furnished Ferdinand with an army of occupation 45,000 strong. The French occupation lasted until September 1828.
[14 ]Bull. 29, No. 665 (20 Apr., 1825). The law was passed after a large number—538 in four years—of thefts of sacred vessels from churches; it was widely regarded by the left as a move towards the re-establishment of the old dominance of the Church. Jean Calas (1698-1762), a Protestant, had been broken on the wheel after being wrongly condemned by eight judges of Toulouse for murdering his son to prevent his conversion to Catholicism. Jean François Le Fèvre, chevalier de La Barre (1747-66), had been executed for mutilating a crucifix.
[15 ]Projet de loi sur les successions et les substitutions (5 Feb.), Moniteur, 1826, p. 168. The proposed law, which would have made equal distribution of property optional (whereas the Civil Code made the gift of the extra portion of the estate to the eldest son optional), was passed by the Chamber of Deputies after a bitter debate, but rejected on 8 Apr. by the Peers.
[16 ]Projet de loi sur la police de la presse (27 Dec.), Moniteur, 1826, p. 1730, presented by comte Pierre Denis de Peyronnet (1778-1854), a politician of ultra-conservative sympathies. In an article in the Moniteur, 5 Jan., 1827, p. 2, defending his law for restraining the press, he referred to it as “une loi de justice et d’amour,” a nickname henceforth attached to it by the liberals. It was withdrawn by an ordonnance on 17 Apr. (Moniteur, 1827, p. 615).
[17 ]Bull. 194, No. 7405 (5 Nov., 1827). It was this creation of peers, forty of whom Villèle had chosen from the loyal majority in the Chamber of Deputies, that had compelled him to call the elections of 1827.
[* ]Marshal Soult. [Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, duc de Dalmatie (1769-1851), whose brilliant military career procured him the titles of Marshal in 1804 and Duke in 1807, and secured his popularity in spite of his ready shifts of allegiance as regime succeeded regime.]
[18 ]Comte François Régis de Labourdonnaie (1767-1839), one of the chief orators of the ultra-royalists, was Minister of the Interior in 1829. In a secret committee, he had proposed the Projet de loi d’amnistie pleine et entière, en faveur de ceux qui, directement ou indirectement, ont pris part à la conspiration du ler mars, sauf les exceptions jugées indispensables et fixées irrévocablement par ladite loi (10 Nov., 1815), Archives parlementaires de 1787-1860, 2nd ser., XV, 212, 222. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Emperor of France, returned from exile in Elba to rule during the Hundred Days, 19 Mar. to 22 June, 1815.
[19 ]Comte Guillaume Isidore de Montbel (1787-1861), conservative deputy since 1827, had become Minister of Public Instruction in August 1829, Minister of the Interior in November 1829, and Minister of Finance in May 1830. He used his considerable eloquence in defence of Villèle, his close personal friend. Comte Louis Auguste de Bourmont (1773-1846), Marshal of France, had already shifted his allegiance from the Bourbons to Napoleon twice, before a final defection to Louis XVIII a few days before Waterloo. Comte Martial Annibal de Guernon-Ranville (1787-1866) became Minister of Public Instruction on 18 Nov., 1829. At his earlier installation as procureur général of Lyons on 26 Oct., 1829, he had described himself as a counter-revolutionary (Moniteur, 1829, pp. 1805-06).