Front Page Titles (by Subject) 45.: PROSPECTS OF FRANCE, II EXAMINER, 26 SEPT., 1830, PP. 609-10 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I
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45.: PROSPECTS OF FRANCE, II EXAMINER, 26 SEPT., 1830, PP. 609-10 - 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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PROSPECTS OF FRANCE, II
For the context and the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 44.
the chamber of 1830 was the result of a compromise.1
A glance at the history of the last fifteen years will show what was the nature of the compromise, and what were the motives which led to it.
From 1815 to 1830, the Government of the restored Bourbons had proceeded in almost uninterrupted progression from bad to worse: the eighteen months of the Martignac Ministry, a short-lived experiment on the public forbearance, being the only intermission.2
At every step in this downward movement, the Bourbons lost a portion of their adherents. Recent events have made it sufficiently visible how miserable a remnant finally remained. The very soldiers who fought against the people, fought reluctantly, and against their private conviction. Leave out the foreign mercenaries, leave out all whose sole inducement was a mistaken idea of military honour, and Charles X could not perhaps have mustered a hundred men, not priests nor emigrants, who would voluntarily have fired a musket to save his throne.
Thus unanimous were the French, when tyranny was pushed to extremity; when the reign of the Bourbons became incompatible with a government of law, with the security of men’s persons against the worst excesses of enraged and terrified power; when, if they had not been overthrown, blood must have flowed in torrents on the scaffold, civil war would have raged in every corner of France, and that wretched family would have been ejected after all, or could have been maintained solely by a despotism worse (if worse be possible) than that of the arch-despot, Napoleon.
So striking a unanimity could not have been generated by a less potent cause. The opposition to the Polignac Ministry was composed of the most heterogeneous materials.
Before the feud between the restored dynasty and the people could come to the issue which we have just witnessed—before the dynasty could have the folly to declare war upon the people with a force insufficient to hold out against them for three days—the dynasty had been, and must have been, deserted, not only by all the friends of good government, but by all the prudent and moderate supporters of bad. The Bourbons had parted with the wisdom of the serpent as well as with the innocence of the dove;3 and all who had not made a similar renunciation were in the opposite ranks.
The opponents of the Polignac Ministry, though consisting, as we have already observed, of several different shades of opinion and inclination, may be ranged with sufficient accuracy under two great divisions: the old opposition and the new.
At the head of the former was the ancient côté gauche: the peers, deputies, and writers, who, in bad times as in good, in a minority of 16 as in a majority of 221,4 in the sanguinary reaction of 1815 as in the heroic revolution of 1830, were still true to the cause of good government and social improvement: who faithfully and unremittingly watched over the securities, imperfect as they were, which the Charter of Louis XVIII rather promised than afforded; who were ever at their post to resist the jesuitical evasions of the Charter, long before Royal audacity ventured on its open violation; whose integrity and self-respect excluded them, as well under a Decazes5 as a Polignac, from holding office in a Government, the sole object of which was to wield a constitutional monarchy to the ends and in the spirit of a despotism. Such were the leaders of the old opposition. Its followers were all the incorruptible adherents of the good old cause, re-inforced by the thousands of high-spirited and well-educated young men whom every year brought forward into active life, and by numbers who, duped at first, had their eyes opened as the Bourbon Government and the spirit of the age became more and more irreconcileable.
The leaders of the new opposition consisted, first, of the several knots or bands of ejected placemen, who had been successively dismissed from the councils of the restored dynasty, as the game which it was playing came to require more skilful tricksters, or instruments of greater daring and more devoted subserviency. Secondly, of men who, either from personal attachment to the Bourbon family, or from a constitutional or habitual partiality to the strongest side, adhered to the restored Government in all its successful undertakings, and quitted it only when its projects became such as the state of society and opinion rendered impracticable except by force. A third class of the leaders of the new opposition, and one which circumstances have now elevated into unusual consequence, consisted of a school of philosophical and political writers, pure, we believe, for the most part, from any dishonourable ambition, and comprising in their ranks several able littérateurs and highly accomplished men, but whose metaphysical doctrines were too closely imitated from Scotland or Germany, and their political opinions from those which are current among genteel people in our own island. Like Madame de Staël,6 many of whose opinions they inherit, and with whom their most prominent leader, the present Prime Minister of France, is nearly connected,7 they are ardent sticklers for a representative and constitutional government, but constitutional on the English model. They either supported, or scarcely opposed, the Bourbon Government, when, by the introduction of the double vote, it rendered a national representation, already resting on too narrow a basis, still less popular and more aristocratic than before.8 But when, by making war to restore absolute power in Spain, by an immoral and fraudulent management of the elections, by repeated attempts to stifle the press, by putting down almost all places of general education except those of the Jesuits,9 —we might say by all the acts of the Villèle Administration, the Bourbons showed themselves openly hostile to every kind of representative government, and to every kind of mental instruction by which men could be fitted for such a government, or led to desire it; then the persons of whom we are speaking, being sincere and strong enemies to the despotism of one, joined the popular cause, to which they have rendered, on not a few important occasions, signal service. This portion of the leaders of the new opposition have, as forming a philosophical party or school, received the name of doctrinaires; and, as politicians, bear no remote affinity to the English Whigs, though not stained, like so many of that party, by political duplicity, trick, or charlatanerie.
The above picture of the new and old opposition is probably new to most of our countrymen; but this is merely because it is the peculiar character of English nationality, not, like the French, to court the admiration of foreigners, but to treat them and their concerns with something like indifference and neglect. All who have watched the course of French affairs for the last ten years, have witnessed the gradual rise of the new opposition, and know that its constituent elements are such as we have just described.
These, then, are the two great divisions of the seemingly compact and united body which resisted the Polignac ministry, and by that resistance brought on the great events by which the Government of the restored dynasty has been abruptly terminated.
Of these, the old opposition predominates in the nation; but the new opposition predominates in the Chamber of Deputies, and has had the formation of the present ministry. This happened in consequence of the compromise to which, as we observed in the commencement of this article, the present Chamber owes its existence, and which we now proceed to explain.
At the general election in 1827, and at that in 1830, the one and only purpose of the patriotic electors was the overthrow of an administration, whose very existence precluded the slightest hope of a single step in social improvement, and placed in continual danger all the institutions, and all the liberties, to which the French people were most ardently attached. Among those who were united to attain this paramount object, all other differences of opinion, however important, were sunk. It was far from certain that by any union of efforts a majority could be obtained: and to risk the defeat of the common end for any object which admitted of postponement, and which was impracticable if the other failed, would have been egregious folly.
In the populous towns, where the number of voters was considerable, and the predominance of the popular party admitted of no doubt, members belonging to the côté gauche were returned. But in the poor, remote, and backward provinces of France, where the voters were few in number, composed in great part of functionaries in the pay of Government; and in the great or departmental colleges throughout the country,—it was uncertain whether a majority hostile to the ministry could be obtained. To ensure such a majority, the Liberals almost always endeavoured to select as the popular candidate an individual differing by the slightest possible shade from the obnoxious ministers, provided he would consent to vote against them. By any other selection they would have lost some part of the votes which a candidate of such a character might probably obtain; and have risked the total failure of the paramount object, the exclusion of the ministerial candidate.
In many instances, also, the narrow limits within which the choice of the electors was confined by the conditions of eligibility, did not admit of their making any choice but one which very imperfectly represented their opinion. By the terms of the Charter, half the Deputies of a department must be chosen among the inhabitants of the department, and the whole among persons paying at least 1000 francs (40l.) of direct taxes to the state.10 This, in France, implies no inconsiderable fortune, especially in the poorer departments. And when we mention that there are no less than eight departments in which the totality of the electors, that is, of the inhabitants paying 300 francs or more of direct taxes, falls short of 400, it may be imagined within what narrow bounds the electors were often restricted, in the selection at least of that half of the deputies, whom they were compelled by law to choose from among the inhabitants of the department.
The first which we mentioned of the causes which prevented the popular electors from choosing the men whom the majority of them would have preferred, did not exist in so great a degree in 1830 as in 1827. The popular party were more completely aware of their strength, and could reckon with confidence on a large majority in places where on the former occasion success had been at least doubtful. A considerable proportion of the Deputies who owed their seats to the compromise, would consequently have been ejected from them by men of more decidedly liberal opinions as well as of greater abilities, had not circumstances of which it can only be necessary to remind our readers, rendered it expedient to adopt as a universal rule, the re-election of the 221 who had voted for the address condemning the Polignac ministry.11 Not a few who had lost the confidence of their constituents by their manifest incompetence as legislators, as well as by their inadequacy as representatives of electors sympathising far more than themselves in the feelings and wishes of a vast majority of the French people, are indebted solely to the principle of re-electing the 221, for the advantage which they now possess of assisting in the formation of a new Government: an advantage by no means trifling, as the new Red Book, if the revolutionary era have as yet produced so useful a document,12 bears ample and unequivocal testimony.
The Chamber of 1830, then, was the result of a compromise; in which, as in all such compromises, the timid and hesitating dictated to the bold and decisive; those least in earnest gave the law to those who were most so. A large proportion, therefore, of the present Deputies, represent the opinion but of a minute and impotent fraction of their constituents. They are far from being the men whom even the present electors would again elect, even under the existing conditions of eligibility; and still further from being such as would be re-elected by the present electors, if those intolerable conditions were abrogated, or so far lowered as to leave any sufficient latitude of choice.
Can it be supposed, for example, that the centre droit, a party whose benches in the Chamber are at present only less crowded than those of the ministerial section, the centre gauche,—a body composed, in a great measure, of royalists, a little, and only a little more scrupulous or less audacious than the late ministers themselves, and many of whom adhered to the Ministry of Villèle to a later period than the Spanish war—can it be believed that such men would now be pitched upon by electors freed from the usurpation of the double vote13 (which most of those very men had a hand in fastening upon them), as fit persons to legislate for regenerated France,—for France under a roi citoyen in lieu of a roi cagot,14 and demanding good institutions—not a mere mitigation of bad ones?
The present Deputies were elected for the single purpose of overthrowing the Polignac Ministry. For that end they were admirably adapted. They were not chosen to make laws for a regenerated nation; and fitness to make such laws was not at all considered in the nomination of the greater part of them. A large proportion were re-elected for qualities the very reverse of those which the fulfilment of such a duty would require. They were chosen because they could not be accused of being patriots; because they did not sympathise in the feelings of the French people; because their lives had been spent in serving and in worshipping the Bourbons; and because they were known to be capable of abiding by that family in all save the last extremity.
It is not wonderful that men should be in no hurry to resign their seats, who know that this is the last time they will ever fill them. Least of all is this wonderful, when by losing their seats they lose the whole patronage of their department. But it would be wonderful, if any degree of ignorance and presumption in an average English newspaper could surprise us, that the body of the intelligent classes in France should be treated as something approaching to rebels and traitors, because they are eager to get rid of such a Chamber.
[1 ]See No. 49, n1, for further comment.
[2 ]Vicomte Jean Baptiste Sylvère Gay Martignac (1778-1832) was the chief figure in a moderate Ministry which, from January 1828 to August 1829, tried to steer between the Scylla of Charles X and the Charybdis of the Left.
[3 ]Cf. Matthew, 10:16.
[4 ]Mill is probably referring to the very small number of liberal Deputies (sometimes estimated at nineteen), who survived the crushing rightist victory in the election of 1824. For the 221, see No. 43.
[5 ]Elie Decazes (1780-1860), favourite of Louis XVIII and leading figure in the Government in which he became President of the Council in November 1819.
[6 ]Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de Staël-Holstein (1766-1817), author and leader of an influential liberal salon.
[7 ]Achille Charles Léonce Victor, duc de Broglie (1785-1870), statesman and diplomat, and son-in-law of Madame de Staël. He published her Considérations sur . . . la révolution françoise (1818). He was officially Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs and Public Instruction, as Louis Philippe was himself acting as President of the Council. Mill surely also has in mind François Pierre Guillaume Guizot (1787-1874), historian, influential in the liberal opposition through his writings under Charles X, Deputy from 1830, and Minister of the Interior at this time.
[8 ]See No. 43, n7.
[9 ]For the French intervention in Spain, see No. 43, n13. To win their resounding victory in the elections of 1824, the Villèle ministry had not hesitated to tamper with the voting lists, put pressure on government officeholders, etc. Censorship was imposed in 1819 (Bull. 278, No. 6444 [17 May], Bull. 280, No. 6515 [26 May], and Bull. 284, No. 6648 [9 June]); in 1820 (Bull. 356, No. 8494 [31 Mar.]); in 1821 (Bull. 464, No. 10933 [26 July]); in 1822 (Bull. 510, No. 12253 [17 Mar.], and Bull. 514, No. 12390 [25 Mar.]); and attempted again in 1826 (see No. 43, n16). For the educational measures, see No. 43, n10.
[10 ]Charte constitutionnelle (1814), Arts. 38 and 42.
[11 ]For details, see No. 43, n5.
[12 ]The new revolutionary era had not produced a new edition of Le livre rouge, ou Liste des pensions secrettes sur le trésor public, contenant les noms & qualités des pensionnaires, l’état de leurs services, & des observations sur les motifs qui leur ont mérité leur traitement ([Paris:] Imprimerie Royale, 1790). The first page of the English Radical exposé of the Civil List, Wade’s The Black Book, is headed “The Black Book, hitherto Mis-named ‘The Red Book.’ ”
[13 ]By Bull. 8, No. 67 (12 Sept., 1830).
[14 ]I.e., a Louis Philippe rather than a bigoted Charles X. Louis Philippe was identified as the Citizen King in a speech to the Peers on 7 Aug., 1830, by Etienne Denis Pasquier, Moniteur, 1830, p. 864.