Front Page Titles (by Subject) 57.: PROSPECTS OF FRANCE, VI EXAMINER, 14 NOV., 1830, PP. 724-5 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I
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57.: PROSPECTS OF FRANCE, VI EXAMINER, 14 NOV., 1830, PP. 724-5 - 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, VI
For the context and the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 44.
we have treated of the demands of the popular party with respect to the conditions of eligibility, and of the elective franchise. We shall next advert to the subject of internal administration.
It is allowed by all philosophers, and felt by all freemen, that securities for the goodness of the Government are not enough; it is also requisite to have as little of it as possible: the Government ought to do nothing for the people, which the people can, with any sort of convenience, do for themselves, either singly or in smaller associations.
The very reverse of this maxim has directed the legislation and administration of France, from the reign of Napoleon to the present time. The principle of the imperial regime, faithfully adhered to by restored legitimacy, was, that the people never should be permitted to do any thing for themselves, which the Government could in any manner contrive to do, or pretend to do, for them.
If a nation could be judged of, from the laws which are made for them by those who hold the right to govern them, not from them, one must needs suppose that the French, being themselves the most stupid of all possible people, were luckily provided with the cleverest of all possible governments. So far as the theory of the French law can be gathered from its practice, the supposition upon which it is founded appears to be, that there is nothing for which the French people are fit, nor any thing for which their Government is not. The French cannot be trusted to construct a road, or a canal; but the French Government, in addition to its other labours, finds time for making and mending all the roads and canals in France, which consequently are on that scale of shabby magnificence, customary in the doings of governments, being twice as broad, and more than twice as bad, as the canals and roads of any other civilized country. Again, no Frenchman is supposed capable of selecting a school fit to be entrusted with the care of his sons or of his daughters; accordingly the Government ordains that no places of education shall exist, except those subordinate to the department of the French administration called the University, or which are licensed and inspected by its officers; whereby it came to pass, that in a country, in many parts of which even the street-sweepers would think themselves degraded by keeping company with a Jesuit, the Jesuits for several years held in their hands the majority of the establishments for education.1 Furthermore, the French Government, in order not to be divested of its proper influence in all affairs of importance which are transacted between the Straits of Dover and the Pyrenees, reserves to a sound discretion residing in its own breast, the exercise of a veto on all evening parties, given, or attempted to be given, within the kingdom of France; no one being permitted to receive more than twenty persons at one time into his house without leave of the police.2 It was under no other than this very law, that the society called Les amis du peuple was recently dispersed.3
But the subject we would chiefly advert to, is one which, next to the constitution of the sovereign body, is the most comprehensive and most important topic of internal policy in all countries whatever, and especially in France; municipal institutions, or the composition of the subordinate legislatures and executives, to whom the authority in matters of purely local regulation is confided.
We are almost certain that there is not any country in Europe except France, in which there exists no vestige of any local authority not emanating from the Crown. We must have recourse to the despotisms of Asia to find a parallel. The municipality, corporation, or commune, was the very first free institution which the countries of modern Europe knew. By its means, the citizens emancipated themselves from the condition of serfs of an aristocracy, who seemed sent from Heaven to perpetuate the savage state. To it they owed that security, and that personal independence, which enabled them to accumulate wealth, to train up a high-spirited and numerous armed population, and with that wealth to buy, and with those armed men to demand, a voice in their own government. The associations of chapmen and artificers to manage their local concerns by their own officers, first taught governments to think of the people as a power in the state. To obtain money from these associations did the kings of Europe call together delegates from them, under the name of representatives of the Commons, and conceded to them, one by one, all the privileges, in virtue of which any nation in Europe claims to call itself a free people. In this mode did England, Scotland, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and, we believe, even Poland, acquire such representative constitution as they do now, or did at any former period, enjoy. In France, the crown grew in power faster than the communes, and a despotic instead of a representative government ensued. But if the citizens acquired no share in the management of the state, they retained that of their own local affairs. Town-governments not emanating from the Crown, and, in many provinces, representative assemblies of a more or less popular character, termed States Provincial, with powers very extensive and diversified, subsisted down to the Revolution; when they were abolished by the Constituent Assembly, but replaced by municipal institutions of a still more popular kind.4 These were swept away by the hand of military usurpation, and a system introduced, founded on the principle of holding all the reins of government in a single hand;5 a system upheld solely, and for a short time, by the préstige of military success, and the impotent attempt to perpetuate which, after the gilding had been rubbed off the chains in which it bound the people, has cost the Bourbons their throne.
In England, the business of local administration is so parcelled out into shares, and cut up into unconnected fragments, that it is hardly either spoken of or thought of, collectively and as a whole. Every parish has its separate government, every corporate town has another, every country has a third; to determine which of the three is the most corrupt, must be left to those who are curious in nice distinctions: local trusts, and commissioners of every variety of denomination, perform a large portion of the public business; for another large and highly important part no provision whatever is made, and when done at all, it is done by the awkward hands of the legislature itself, in the form of an act of Parliament pro hâc vice;6 and finally, a large portion is done, or considered to be done, or considered proper to be done, by the public itself. There is just one possible mode of transacting the public business worse than this, and that is the mode prevailing in France; where every human being, who is empowered to give the most trifling order to the most inconsiderable body of his fellow-citizens, from the préfet down to a sort of village watchman called a garde-champêtre (the judges excepted), holds that power from the direct appointment of an officer of the crown, holds it during the good pleasure of that officer, and without a vestige of accountability to any other being in human shape; for he cannot even be tried by a court of justice for murder committed in the exercise of his authority, without the previous consent of his official superior, or, in the last resort, of a tribunal called the conseil d’état, which deliberates with closed doors, and of which the members are removable at the King’s pleasure.
Hence it is, that in France you cannot cross the street without jostling a placeman. Hence it is, that the bureaucratie is five times more numerous than the army; for the latter does not exceed 240,000 men, while the officers of government, removable at the pleasure of the crown, amounted in 1818, according to M. Fiévée (and there are few more trust-worthy authorities) to the incredible number of between twelve and thirteen hundred thousand individuals, more than a sixth part of the male adult population of France at that period.7
We quote from the Correspondance Politique et Administrative of M. Fiévée a passage containing as curious a picture as was probably ever seen, of the real liberties of a country which boasted of a charter, and whose rulers thought the nation extremely unreasonable, because it would not be persuaded that a Chamber of Deputies was liberty. The nation was wiser, and used that one liberty, as our ancestors used that of withholding the supplies, for the purpose of obtaining by its means all the other liberties which they had not. Speaking of the prerogatives of the crown, M. Fiévée enumerates that of possessing—
Une justice particulière qu’on appelle justice administrative par la nécessité de lui donner un nom, et en vertu de laquelle les douze ou treize cent mille agens soldés de l’administration ne peuvent être traduits devant les tribunaux ordinaires, sans l’autorisation de l’administration; de sorte qu’un percepteur qui, dans l’exercice de ses fonctions, tueroit un comptable, ne pourroit être mis en jugement sans que la royauté y eût consenti. Par le même systême, le plus mince agent de la navigation intérieure peut déranger les spéculations du commerce, sans que le commerce puisse s’en plaindre devant une autre justice que la justice administrative; enfin, nos lois ou décrets encore en vigueur disent qu’un fournisseur qui, sur ses billets, a soin d’ajouter son titre de fournisseur après sa signature, ne peut être poursuivi par ses créanciers devant les tribunaux, sans le consentement préalable de la justice administrative; laquelle justice se rend sans publicité par des agens que l’autorité place et déplace à volonté. En un mot, attirer à soi l’examen et le jugement de toute affaire et de toute cause dans lesquelles se prétend intéressé un pouvoir qui se mêle de tout, tel est le matériel de la royauté en France.8
Well might M. Fiévée add, “Certes, dans aucun temps et dans aucun pays le pouvoir monarchique n’a eu des attributions aussi étendues.”9 We suppose that there never was any other country on the face of the earth, in which the executive, having made a survey and classification of all matters requiring a judicial decision, set apart from the rest all in which it could itself in any way directly or indirectly be considered a party, and determined, that precisely in those would it also be the judge.*
Let it be granted that the rights and constitution of the legislative body will henceforth secure France (as it certainly ought) against the possibility of a profligate ministry. The people of France conceive, that the general affairs of the nation afford ample employment for any seven persons, even admitting that cabinets henceforth are never to consist of any other than the fittest men. They look back with no pleasant reminiscences to the times when Hamburg could not cut down five trees, the property of the town, without an order from Paris, which took eight months to arrive, nor Holland repair the dykes which alone stood between her and destruction, until permission had been applied for to the Ministère de l’Intérieur, and, at the end of six months, obtained.† The people of France are not disposed any longer to keep up, at their expence, a bureaucratie twelve hundred thousand strong, spread over the whole country, and who, if not called to account by seven men in seven large buildings at Paris, are not accountable at all. Accordingly, the French people, from the Restoration to the present time, have never ceased to demand popular municipalities.
They are willing that the executive power, the right and duty of enforcing obedience to the laws, the chief civil authority in the town or district, should reside, as at present, in officers nominated by the Crown, and removeable by the royal authority. But these functionaries are assisted by deliberative bodies, called conseils-généraux de département, or conseils généraux de commune. To these bodies, who are at present named by the officer, to whom they act as assessors, belong several functions of very great importance. Among these are the repartition of the taxes, many of which are granted by the Chamber of Deputies in the lump, such and such a gross sum from each department: and, moreover, the supplies required for local purposes are voted by these local bodies exclusively, the legislature interfering no further in the matter than to fix a limit which the aggregate of these supplies shall not exceed; namely, a certain per centage on the general taxes of the department. Now, these councils, it is maintained, ought to be elected by the people; and by a rather extensive suffrage too—a suffrage, perhaps, co-extensive with direct taxation. To this the most moderate of the popular party attach great importance. It would be absurd, they say, to entertain any apprehension of evil from the predominance of the democratic principle in matters of purely local arrangement; while such a constitution of the local bodies would withdraw an immense amount of patronage and corrupt influence from the Ministry, would be a valuable counterpoise to a mere aristocratic constitution of the legislature, would gradually train the people to the management of their own affairs, and help to qualify them for admission, at no distant period, to political privileges more extended than what any party at present would willingly entrust to them.
Not so thinks the Chamber of 1830! A municipal law is in progress, through that chamber, avowedly transcribed, with a few trifling alterations, from the law proposed by Martignac in 1829, with the amendments of the then chamber,—a law, under which the local bodies would be elected by a more restricted suffrage than even the chamber itself—a law, which is tolerable only when compared to a system, in comparison with which any thing would be endurable.10 Because the French would have accepted this law, bad as it is, rather than fight, the chamber considers it good enough for them after they have fought and conquered. But it will not do; this step has done greater damage to the chamber in public opinion than any other of their proceedings; it was altogether contrary to the expectations even of those whose distrust of their intentions was the strongest. The ministers themselves, though on every other point the sworn allies of the chamber, have not ventured, on this occasion, openly to approve what they have not felt inclined to dissent from. Not a word has escaped their lips.
One topic more remains to be discussed—the constitution of the Upper Chamber. This, however, must be deferred to the next paper,11 which will conclude the present series.
[1 ]For details, see No. 43, n10.
[2 ]Code pénal, Livre III, Titre I, Chap. iii, Sect. 7, Art. 291.
[3 ]Les Amis du Peuple, a republican society formed immediately after the July Revolution, was legally dissolved on 25 Sept., 1830, but continued in existence and was behind many of the disturbances during the next eighteen months. It was especially threatening to the government because many of its members were in the National Guard.
[4 ]The Constituent Assembly abolished the provincial assemblies on 26 Oct., 1789 (Moniteur, 1789, p. 319); it then divided France into eighty-three departments, subdivided into arrondissements, cantons, and communes, with elected governing bodies at each level (Moniteur, 16 Jan., 1790, p. 64).
[5 ]In February 1800 by Bull. 17, No. 115, Napoleon, as First Consul, introduced a system of direct appointment by himself or his representatives of all administrative officials at all levels. In 1802 electoral colleges were reintroduced but they only elected candidates from which the local council, mainly a consultative body, would be appointed (Bull. 206, No. 1876 [4 Aug., 1802], esp. Titre II, Sects. 5, 8, 13).
[6 ]The state’s power to intervene on special occasions was first codified (using this term) by 33 Henry VIII, c. 20 (1541).
[7 ]Fiévée, Correspondance politique et administrative, Vol. III, Pt. 14, p. 34.
[8 ]Ibid., pp. 35-6.
[9 ]Ibid., p. 36.
[* ]It may possibly increase the weight of M. Fiévée’s authority to mention, that when he made these statements he was, and had always been, a strenuous supporter of the ultra-royalist party.
[† ]Fiévée [Vol. I, Pt. 1, p. 25].
[10 ]The most significant difference between the Projet de loi sur l’organisation communale (31 Aug.) (Moniteur, 1830, p. 1007), introduced by Arnould Humblot-Conté (1776-1845), and Martignac’s Projet de loi sur les communes (9 Feb.) (ibid., 1829, pp. 178-81), was the provision that the mayor and his administrative officials be appointed from among the elected councillors. After amendment by the Commission the former was finally enacted as Bull. 25, No. 91 (21 Mar., 1831).
[11 ]No. 61.