Front Page Titles (by Subject) 50.: PROSPECTS OF FRANCE, IV EXAMINER, 10 OCT., 1830, PP. 641-4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I
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50.: PROSPECTS OF FRANCE, IV EXAMINER, 10 OCT., 1830, PP. 641-4 - 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, IV
The significance of this article for Mill is seen in his recalling in a letter to Tocqueville of 11 Dec., 1835, the argument here and in Nos. 174 and 177 for the representative rather than the delegative responsibility of elected Deputies (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 288). For the context and entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 44.
to complete the design with which this series of papers was undertaken, it remains to explain to our readers the demands of the popular party, with some statement of the grounds on which they are founded.
Perhaps it will rather be expected of us that we should commence by stating what these demands are not, than what they are.
The popular party does not demand a republican government. Every one who is au courant of the present state of opinion in France, will affirm that not only there is no party, but possibly not a single individual, who indulges even a wish to disturb the settlement of the crown. Those of our contemporaries in whose daily and weekly columns a republican party figures as the prime mover in all the opposition to the present ministry and chamber, have contrived with singular infelicity to miss the matter.1 Are they so ignorant, both of France and of common sense, as not to know that the sovereignty of the people does not mean republicanism? Since they are so ill informed of its meaning, we will tell them what it does mean. So far as kingship is concerned, it means simply this—that kings shall be first magistrates, and nothing more: which being the admitted doctrine of the British constitution, and literally realized, as it would be easy to shew, in the practice of the British government, stands sufficiently exculpated, we may be permitted to assume, from the imputation of being a republican principle. It is true that the king, with us, is the chief magistrate of an oligarchy; a form of government which, we must needs admit, the partisans of the “sovereignty of the people” cannot abide. But what offends them is the oligarchy, not the king; the monopoly by a few, exempt from all responsibility, of the substantial powers of the government; not the titles or privileges of the functionary who is its nominal head.
The phrase, sovereignty of the people, is, in our opinion, by no means free from objections; though it expresses, we are aware, just as much, and no more, as the maxim transmitted from generation to generation in Whig toasts, that the people are the source of all legitimate power.2 We regret as much as it is possible for any one to do, the habit which still prevails in France of founding political philosophy on this and similar abstractions; of which the cause of popular governments stands in no need, and from the misapplications of which that cause sustains great injury. The demonstrable impossibility of practical good government without the control of the people, is all the reason which we require to convince us that the people ought to have the control. When, under the name of divine right, an original title, independent of all considerations of public good, was set up in behalf of monarchs, the friends of liberty naturally reverted to the origin of political society, for the purpose of exposing the imposture. Just opinions on such a subject have this use, that they prevent the mischievous influence of erroneous ones. But the question, in what manner governments may have originated, is henceforth an idle one: the sole business of ourselves is to adapt them to the exigencies of society as at present constituted.
Considered as a practical principle, the sovereignty of the people is moreover susceptible of a mischievous interpretation, though a different one from that which is put upon it by our sapient journalists. It countenances the notion, that the representatives of the people are to the people in the relation of servants to a master, and that their duty is merely to ascertain and execute the popular will: whereas the proper object of comparison is the office of a guardian, who manages the affairs of his ward, subject only to his own discretion, but is bound by a severe responsibility to exercise that discretion for the interest of his ward, and not for that of himself individually. The true idea of a representative government is undoubtedly this, that the deputy is to legislate according to the best of his own judgment, and not according to the instructions of his constituents, or even to the opinion of the whole community. The people are entitled to be secured against the abuse of his trust. This they can not be, unless he is subject to re-election by them, or by a numerous committee of them, at short intervals. But inasmuch as they have chosen him, it is an allowable presumption that they judged him to be a wiser man than themselves, and that therefore it is at least as likely, when there is a difference of opinion, that he should be in the right, as that they should. The elector who declares by his vote that he deems A.B. the fittest man to make laws for his country, and who presumes at the same time to give instructions to A.B., lays claim for himself to a superiority of knowledge and intellect which it is not very likely should be possessed by him so often as once in a hundred times; and to entitle every elector to make the same assumption, the man whom they have chosen their representative must be not the wisest, but the most ignorant and incapable of them all. Now this misapprehension of the true character of popular governments is manifestly promoted, by applying to those governments, or to the principle on which they are founded, the designation “sovereignty of the people.”
But the phrase, though it disguises the real foundation of good government, and admits of the practical misapplication which we have just pointed out, admits, so far as we can perceive, of no other; and we do not believe that it is thus misapplied by the French of the present day, though it was by their predecessors, the Jacobins. The truth is, that the phrase itself, though it would probably be placed by most Frenchmen at the head of a treatise on the foundation of government, is little used in the actual strife of parties, except as an equivalent expression to the negation of divine right. Thus, they say that the Revolution of 1830 has firmly established as the basis of the French constitution, the sovereignty of the people; meaning that it has rooted out the principle of legitimacy or divine right, since the king, not owing his throne to a hereditary title, but having been called to it by the people themselves, is precluded for ever from setting up any other claim to the powers which he possesses or may possess, than their expediency. A similar boast was made at our Revolution of 1688, and continued to be repeated until our aristocracy became more afraid of the people than they were of the king.
When the Times newspaper expressed its apprehensions, that the party which sought the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies aimed at a more extensive application of the “sovereignty of the people,” by abolishing the Peers, and curtailing the powers of the executive, it displayed great ignorance. The sovereignty of the people—even according to the mistaken application above noticed, which makes the people the judges of every individual measure—does not mean that the people should not have Peers, and a strong executive, but merely that they should not have them unless they like: which, we beg to assure the Times, is not exactly the same thing.
We are firmly convinced, that not merely the greater part, but the whole, of the French nation, do wish to have Peers, and an executive strong enough to compel obedience to the laws. Their peerage would not indeed be a hereditary peerage, but one which, as we shall shew, would be more powerful, and more independent even of public opinion, than the present House of Peers, or any hereditary body which could be created in France. As for the throne, we are persuaded that, except the few partisans of the exiled family, there is not a man in France, who, if he could overturn it by a wish, would not leave it where it stands. We speak from considerable opportunities of observation, both among the more active and influential of the young men who now head the popular party, and among the patriots of more established character and more mature years. From the latter, and especially from those who had opportunities of intercourse with the King, we heard nothing but eulogiums on the personal character and public inclinations both of himself and of his heir apparent.3 The younger men, even those in active hostility to the present ministry, declared that if it had depended solely upon them, they would have raised Louis Philippe to the throne, not before, indeed, but after, the reform of the constitution. Yet these men had no partiality to a monarchy. Almost all Frenchmen resemble republicans in their habits and feelings, but these are republicans in their opinions. They think,—how should they help thinking?—that the progress of events, and of the human mind, is leading irresistibly towards republicanism. They would rejoice, if they thought their country sufficiently advanced to be capable of such a government. But they are convinced that republican institutions would neither be understood nor relished by the mass of the French people. The transition would be too sudden, and would find their minds unprepared. The habits of obedience, formed under a kingly government, could not be all at once transferred to a republican one. They would have no clear conception either of the rights which it conferred, or of the obligations which it imposed. Former reminiscences, instead of guiding, would serve only to alarm them. We are well assured that most of the addresses from the departments,4 signifying their adherence to the new other of things, testify a kind of horror at the very idea of a republic: and what wonder, when in the minds of the writers it is solely associated with the régime of the proconsuls of the Convention? For these reasons, the speculative republicans, though numerous among the educated class at Paris, and especially among the young men who bore arms in the Revolution, made a complete sacrifice of their republican opinions, and joined heartily in giving effect to the wish of the majority. The conduct of Lafayette was worthy of his previous life. Already, in the former Revolution, he had in like manner renounced his individual inclinations, and though a republican, made sacrifices, greater than which never were made by man, to prevent the establishment of a republic. Nor do we believe that any one of these pure-minded men repents of his acquiescence. We are sure that, even if such a one there be, he would consider the disturbance of the settlement, now when it is definitively made, to be among the highest of crimes.
But the republicans, even such as we have described, form a very small fraction of the party opposed to the ministry. Of the fifteen or sixteen daily newspapers published in Paris, all except four are in the interest of the popular party: the ministerial party has only two; the remaining two belong to the old royalists.5 The two ministerial papers are the Journal des Débats, which supported even Villèle until M. de Chateaubriand was turned out of place, and the Messager des Chambres, which was set up by the Martignac ministry, and was its organ. The same disproportion in numbers between the opposition and the supporters of the ministry, which is seen in the newspapers, is seen every where else; except in the chambers, and perhaps in the timid portion of the monied class. The opposition, however, may be stiled “His Majesty’s opposition.” It does not include the King in its disapprobation of the ministry. We have heard it affirmed in mixed society, oftener than we can venture to state, that the King is in advance both of the ministers and of the chamber; and we once heard the assertion, that the King, Lafayette, and Dupont de l’Eure,6 were the only real liberals in France. Why then, it may be asked, does not the King dismiss his ministry? The public feel confidence that he will do so, whenever he shall become convinced that such is their deliberate wish: and it would be scarcely reasonable to require that he should do it sooner.
Having stated what the popular party do not demand, we have to state as briefly as is compatible with the degree of explanation necessary for making the statement intelligible, what their demands really are.—They are comprised under the four following heads:—
In the first place, the popular party demand the entire abrogation of all restrictions on eligibility.
The nation, they say, must be wonderfully backward in civilization, or you, its legislators, must be singularly unacquainted with the nation, if you cannot find in all France a body of electors whom you yourselves dare trust with the right of choosing whatever deputies they please. A law to confine the selection of legislators to a narrow class, when not only you cannot be sure that the fittest men will always form part of that class, but when you may be sure that they generally will not, is a clumsy attempt to create an aristocracy in spite of electors who you suppose would not make themselves the instruments of such an attempt if they could help it. There ought to be no conditions of eligiblity except the confidence of the electors: if your electors are not fit to be trusted, it is your business to find others who are. Bad electors will find the means of electing bad deputies, under any restrictions which you will dare to impose upon their choice. But good electors will not always be able to choose good deputies, if you compel them to select from a small number of the richest men. Is it so easy a matter to find men qualified for legislation? Are the ablest and most instructed men usually to be met with among the richest? Is it the natural tendency of riches, and of the habits which they engender, to produce vigorous intellects, stored with knowledge and inured to laborious thought? We say nothing of sinister interest; we assume that in the class of qualified candidates the electors will always be able to find the requisite number of individuals, sufficiently accessible to motives of a more generous kind, to prefer the good of the whole above the separate interest of the rich. Yet this is assuming far too much, considering within what narrow limits the choice is confined, by the high pecuniary qualification, coupled with the condition that one half the deputies must be residents in the department where they are chosen.
To pass from these general considerations, to others more specially applicable to the present situation of France:—the adjustment of the qualification of candidates involves the entire question between the gerontocracy and the young men.
The youngest of the present deputies must have been in his twenty-fifth year, at the first return of the Bourbons. There probably is not another example in history of so marked and memorable a disparity between one generation and that immediately succeeding it, as exists between the generation to which the deputies belong, and that which has risen to manhood during the last sixteen years.
The government under which a large majority of the deputies received their early impressions, was not merely a despotism; no other despotism which we have known applied so great a power, or applied it so systematically, to the purpose of degrading the human mind. Not only was the press and every other channel of public discussion inexorably closed, but even in private society, to converse with any freedom on public affairs, was to incur imminent danger of being denounced to the police. All scientific pursuits, but such as had a direct bearing upon the military art, or as contributed to procure the sinews of war, were treated with the most marked discouragement. In particular, all enquiries into the first principles of the moral sciences, as well as all preference of political opinion to personal interest, were, under the name of idéologie, the object of avowed contempt and aversion to the low-minded adventurer to whom circumstances had given unlimited power over the French people; and the elimination from the Institute of the department “Sciences Morales et Politiques,” was but one specimen among a thousand of the spirit of his government.7 The very infants were taught to lisp passive obedience, and such was the purpose which dictated the only innovations made by Bonaparte in the catechisms of the priests,8 in whose hands, with a keen perception of the fitness of such instruments for his end, he replaced the management of education.9 So acutely, indeed, was he alive to the dangers to which governments such as his are liable from the virtues of mankind, that he is well known to have looked with an evil eye on public functionaries who saved money in his service, because it rendered them less dependant on their places, and less fearful of risking his displeasure. A man who was always in want of money, suited him above all others: of such men he might always be sure.
Putting aside the selfishness, the paltry ambition, the rage of place-hunting, the pliability of conscience, which were the natural out-growth of such a government; it is not very surprising that men who were trained, and passed the best years of their lives, at a time when the human intellect was chained up, should be a puny race. To read their debates is all that is required in order to be satisfied of the prodigious inferiority of their best men to the best men of the generation which preceded them. Where are now the Adrien Duports, the Thourets, the Alexandre Lameths, the Lepelletier Saint-Fargeaus, of the Constitutent Assembly?10 Need we go farther back, and ask, where are the Gournays and the Turgots?11 M. de Talleyrand, a venerable name, had his political honesty been on a par with his intellect, is all that survives of that constellation of remarkable men, by which the early period of the first French Revolution was rendered illustrious.12 Would these men have been taken unprepared, and found without a single fixed idea, by events which laid open before them a wider field for legislative improvement than they had expected? Read the discussions in the Constituent Assembly on questions of detailed legislation, and you will learn the difference between the men of the Revolution and those of the Restoration. What other men has the present assembly to be compared even with those of its own members who already figured in the latter period of the first Revolution, with Benjamin Constant and Daunou?13
But if the men of forty and upwards, speaking of them as a class, are as poor in intellect and attainments as fifteen years of training under the despotism of Bonaparte could make them, the case is far different with that jeune France, of which, as long ago as 1820, Benjamin Constant and other orators of the côté gauche boasted as of a generation who would far surpass their fathers.14 The men who are now between twenty and thirty-five years of age, have received the strongest and most durable of their early impressions under comparatively free institutions. During the period in which they were educated, political discussion has been free, and books have multiplied to an extent and with a rapidity which surprised the French themselves when the particulars were brought before them by Count Daru.15 The young men have also enjoyed the advantage (it is no trifling one) of living under a government from which they could not, without becoming infamous, accept of place. Being excluded, therefore, from all means of obtaining distinction without the trouble of deserving it, they devoted themselves to serious studies; and (to say nothing of their immense superiority in the higher virtues, above the generation which preceded them), it is among them alone that fit successors will be found in point of intellect, to the best men whom France has produced in the former periods of its history.
By the existing conditions of eligibility, these men are excluded from the chamber. It is true that the limit in respect of age has been lowered from forty to thirty:16 but the pecuniary qualification operates as effectually in excluding the young, as in excluding the poor. In a country like France, where fortunes are generally small, and where the law of equal partibility17 commonly prevents them from descending undiminished to posterity, it is seldom that a man has attained the prescribed degree of wealth before he attains what was originally the necessary age.
In this point of view, therefore, it is even of greater importance than it at first appears, that the qualification for eligibility, if not abrogated, should be greatly reduced. There is another reason of no less moment, which we proceed to mention.
During the last ten years, England has been occupied, with laudable, though not with consistent, good sense, in liberalizing her commercial policy. The conduct of France has been so different from this, that within the same period her commercial legislation, already bad, has been rendered immeasurably worse.18 In addition to the evils common to all restrictive systems, of rendering commodities scarce and dear by forcing the labour and capital of the community to employ themselves in a less instead of a more beneficial employment, the tariff of 182219 is justly chargeable with all the inconvenience and injustice which among ourselves has been imputed to free trade—that of violently altering the channels of industry, and ruining particular classes of producers for the benefit of others. France, thanks to its restrictive laws, has scarcely any external trade; and the vine-growers have been reduced to penury, in order that M. Roy, M. Hyde de Neuville, and a few others having the monopoly of the home market secured to the produce of their vines and of their forests, might accumulate immense fortunes.20 Now, in a great number of departments, such men as M. Roy and M. Hyde de Neuville are the only men who pay a sufficient amount of direct taxes to be eligible to the chamber. In France there are very few large territorial properties which do not consist of vines or of forests. The vine-growers and the consumers together, have never been a match in the Chamber of Deputies, as at present constituted, for the parties interested in a restricted trade. There will never be a free and abundant interchange of commodities between England and France, until the conditions of eligibility are lowered.
The statement and justification of the remaining constitutional changes which the popular party contend for, must be postponed to a succeeding paper.
[1 ]E.g., Morning Post, 4 Sept., 1830, p. 2.
[2 ]“Our Sovereign Lord, the People,” a traditional Whig toast of great emotional power. The leading article in The Times of 13 Sept., 1830, p. 2, referred to in No. 44, used the phrase “sovereignty of the people” in a way objectionable to Mill, as is evident below.
[3 ]Ferdinand Philippe Louis Charles Henri, duc d’Orléans (1810-42). The “eulogiums” are in the addresses cited in n4 below.
[4 ]See, e.g., Constitutionnel, 12 Aug., pp. 3-4 (Seine-Inférieure), 14 Aug., p. 3 (Rouen), 16 Aug., p. 3 (la ville d’Elbeuf), and 17 Aug., p. 2 (Eure).
[5 ]The Royalist papers were the Gazette de France, founded in 1631, long the paper of record, and the Quotidienne, a violent and sensational journal, founded in 1792.
[6 ]Jacques Charles Dupont de l’Eure (1767-1855) had supported the Revolution of 1789 and been a Deputy of the extreme left from 1817. He was serving as Minister of Justice at this time.
[7 ]See Bull. 243, No. 2257 (23 Jan., 1803).
[8 ]By Bull. 86, No. 1473 (4 Apr., 1806), Napoleon imposed the uniform use of the Catéchisme à l’usage de toutes les églises de l’empire français in place of the various existing catechisms. The section on duty to one’s superiors was an explicit description of the duties of the French citizen to Napoleon.
[9 ]After the Concordat of 1801, the Church regained much of the predominance in the educational system that it had had before the Revolution, especially in primary education, which was neglected by the Government. The foundation of the Imperial University (by Bull. 91, No. 1547 [20 May, 1806]), which was to regulate the whole teaching body of the Empire, placed education technically under the direct control of the State; but the later legislation, Bull. 185, No. 3179 (17 Mar., 1808), which spelled out the details of the organization, enforced the teaching of Christian precepts in all schools, and gave the approved teaching orders a privileged position within the system. See Arts. 2, 3, 38, and 101.
[10 ]Adrien Duport (1758-98), member of the Constituent Assembly and of the Triumvirate, legal reformer and advocate of a constitutional monarchy. Jacques Guillaume Thouret (1746-94), four times President of the Constituent Assembly and administrative reformer. Alexandre Théodore Victor, baron de Lameth (1760-1829), revolutionary and then an advocate of a constitutional monarchy. Louis Michel Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau (1760-93), President of the Assembly in 1790 and member of the Convention.
[11 ]Vincent de Gournay (1712-59), economist. Turgot, when Controller General of Finance, had introduced liberal economic reforms.
[12 ]Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838), statesman and diplomat, member of the Constituent Assembly, Minister of Foreign Affairs 1797-1807, head of the Provisional Government in 1814, Ambassador to the Congress of Vienna, again Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Council for a few months in 1815, Ambassador to England 1830-35.
[13 ]Benjamin Constant de Rebecque (1767-1830), influential writer and liberal politician, became an adherent of the Revolution in 1794 and a member of the Tribunate in 1799; in 1802 he was exiled by Napoleon. A member of the Chamber of Deputies 1819-30, he participated in the deliberations of the leading Deputies during the July Revolution. He had become President of the Legislative Committee of the Council of State in August 1830, although very ill, and was to die in December. Pierre Claude François Daunou (1761-1840), member of the National Convention, chief author of the Constitutions of 1795 and 1799; from 1819 to 1830 he was professor of history and ethics at the Collège de France and in 1830 was reappointed national archivist.
[14 ]In speeches in the Chamber of Deputies on 5 and 6 June, 1820, Manuel, Laffitte, and Constant had praised the new generation, though they did not use the phrase “jeune France”; the phrase, already in use by 1829 (see the leading article on France, The Times, 14 Aug., 1829, p. 2), was given prominence just before Mill wrote this article in a poem by Victor Hugo (1802-85), “A la jeune France,” published as a supplement to Le Globe, 19 Aug., 1830, pp. 1-2.
[15 ]Comte Pierre Antoine Daru (1767-1829), successful military administrator during the Revolution and the Empire, in his Notions statistiques sur la librairie, pour servir à la discussion des lois sur la presse (Paris: Didot, 1827).
[16 ]By the Charter of 1830, Art. 31.
[17 ]The law of equal partibility provided that an estate had to be bequeathed in equal parts to the children, with the option of the gift of an extra share to one of them. It was introduced by the Convention, and took form as part of the Code Napoléon (1803-04) (Bull. 154 bis, No. 2653 bis [3 Sept., 1807], Livre III, Titre I, Chap. iii, Sect. 3, Art. 745; and Titre II, Chap. iii, Sect. 1, Arts. 913, 915, 919). It was slightly revised by Bull. 90, No. 3028 (17 May, 1826), to give the extra share automatically to the eldest son unless a will provided otherwise.
[18 ]Pierre Laurent Barthélemy, comte de Saint-Cricq (1772-1854), the director of customs, declared on 25 June, 1822, during the tariff debate, that the Government’s policy was “to buy as little as possible from others and to sell them as much as possible” (Moniteur, 1822, p. 900).
[19 ]There were crushing import duties on foreign wheat, iron, woollens, cottons, linens, dyes, hops, livestock, oil, tallow, etc. (Bull. 544, No. 13139 [27 July, 1822]).
[20 ]Comte Antoine Roy (1764-1847), banker, Minister of Finance, 1819-21 and 1828-29, supporter of Louis Philippe, whose estate was valued at forty million francs. Jean Guillaume Hyde de Neuville (1776-1857), Minister of the Navy, 1828-29, owned extensive vineyards in the Loire Valley.