Front Page Titles (by Subject) 114.: STATE OF PARTIES IN FRANCE EXAMINER, 28 AUG., 1831, PP. 545-6 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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114.: STATE OF PARTIES IN FRANCE EXAMINER, 28 AUG., 1831, PP. 545-6 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, 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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STATE OF PARTIES IN FRANCE
This article, headed as title, begins the “Political Examiner.” Described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article headed ‘State of Parties in France’ in the Examiner of 28th August 1831” (MacMinn, p. 17), it is listed as title and enclosed in square brackets in the Somerville College set.
of the four hundred and fifty-nine members of the late Chamber of Deputies, two hundred have not been re-elected: and although several of these will obtain seats in the new Chamber by means of the vacancies occasioned by the double, triple, and quadruple returns, the change is sufficient to render the present legislature of France essentially a new body.
This renovation is most auspicious to the tranquility and improvement of France, and of all Europe. It is far more than was anticipated from the very limited constituency by which the French Parliament is even now elected; and it is sufficient to induce us to desire, that the people of France may rest satisfied with their present electoral qualification for some time longer, and postpone any further extension of popular rights, until the great step which their institutions have now made, shall have had leisure to produce its fruits.
A body, which in so large a proportion consists of new members, who have never before figured in politics, and are not yet pledged to any specific course of public measures, was not likely to assume a very decided character all at once. The majority in the New Chamber has hitherto been a fluctuating one; but it is ascertained that the Liberal party has sufficiently increased in strength, to influence, though not to govern, the decisions of the entire body; and that all propositions, tending to the removal of defects, and the introduction of progressive improvements in the institutions and social condition of France, will meet with a far more favourable reception from the present Chamber than from the last.
This large increase in the strength of the popular party has not been furnished, agreeably to the trite generalities of common-place politics, by the great towns and manufacturing districts. These, in France, are the seats of the wealthy and pusillanimous, and in these, consequently, the popular party has sustained numerous defeats; in Paris itself they have decidedly lost ground, and of the great cities, Strasbourg is the only one where the elections have gone wholly in their favour. As we are writing this, we perceive that the contrary proposition has been put forth in the British Parliament with an innocent naïveté of self-complacency, which irresistibly invites us to quote. In the House of Commons, on Wednesday last, according to the Times newspaper, Mr. Praed delivered himself as follows:
His historical studies had convinced him, that at all times, and in all nations, the inhabitants of towns had been prone to support, and the inhabitants of the country prone to oppose, all kinds of innovation. No man had analyzed so closely as he had the constitution of the present Chamber of Deputies in France, and he saw invariably that it was the Deputy for the vineyard and the corn-field that opposed, and the Deputy for the manufactory and the workshop that supported, the party of the movement.1
Perhaps this Senator, who in the prosecution of his “historical studies,” has “analyzed so closely the constitution of the present Chamber of Deputies,” will condescend to substantiate the accuracy of his analysis by accounting for the following facts:
That three of the four Members for Lyons, three of the four Members for Bordeaux, two of the three Members for Rouen, two of the three Members for Metz, the Member for Havre, the Member for St. Etienne, both the Members for Arras, and two of the three Members for Nantes,* belong to the Ministerial, or stationary party:
That the manufacturing departments of Artois and Flanders return twenty Deputies, of whom five only belong to the popular party:
That the department of Seine-Inférieure, the principal seat of manufactures in the North of France, returns eleven Deputies, of whom at least eight are ministerial: while the other three departments of the same province (Normandy) which are chiefly agricultural, return twenty-two Deputies, of whom all except seven belong to the opposition:
That the Member for Beaune is M. Mauguin, and that the departments of Côte d’Or and Saône-et-Loire, comprising the ancient Burgundy, and electing twelve Deputies, have furnished only four to the Ministerial benches:
And, finally, that the south and west of France, the most peculiarly agricultural districts, return a decided majority of Members belonging to the popular party. Thus the Pyrénées-Orientales return three Deputies, Landes three, Ariège three, all on the popular side: Gers, four out of five; Gard, four out of five; Aude, three, if not four, out of five; Var, three out of five; Isère, five out of seven; Dordogne, five out of seven; Charente-Inférieure, six out of seven; Tarn, four out of five; Vendée, we believe, all five; Vienne, four out of five; Haute-Vienne, all five; Deux-Sèvres, three out of four. When Mr. Praed shall have explained all this, we will allow him to make what he can of the elections for Champagne and the Gironde, the only conspicuous cases in accordance with his theory.
The notion that there is an innovating tendency in manufactures and trade, while agriculture is essentially conservative, belongs to a mind accustomed to look at history only in the gross, without any capacity for scrutiny and analysis; and disappears on a more accurate sifting of the very facts which have suggested the theory. The principle of improvement in modern Europe has had its source in the towns, only because in them security and personal freedom were earliest enjoyed: resistance to innovation has generally been headed by the proprietors of the land, only because the institutions on which it was proposed to innovate, were usually of their making and for their advantage. It always affords a strong presumption of political quackery, to announce a principle of politics as true “at all times and in all nations;” but it may safely be set up, not as a universal but a very general truth, that the tendency to keep things as they are, prevails chiefly not among the town or the country population in particular, but among the wealthy: those who have most to lose and least to gain; those who have thriven under existing arrangements, and cannot be sure that they shall thrive equally if these arrangements are altered. And this conservative tendency (as it is called) belongs perhaps more strongly to manufacturing and commercial, than even to landed wealth; because the former descriptions of property are more precarious in their nature, more dependant for their value on general tranquillity, and more exposed even to total destruction. And hence, no doubt, it is, that in the great seats of French manufactures and commerce, the elections have for the most part afforded to the statu quo party the signal triumph evidenced by the facts which we have cited above.
The people of England must seek other informants than those in whom they at present trust, if they would understand the real character of the two great parties between whom the political public of France is at present divided.
There are thousands of good easy people who are simple enough to believe, that the whole of the opposition to the present Ministry of France consists of Republicans and Bonapartists. Now, the Bonapartists have for the most part far too much of the wisdom of this world, to place themselves in opposition to any Government; certainly not to that of Louis-Philippe, who being afraid of them, as he is afraid of all things whatsoever, made sure of them from the first, by scattering among them, with a lavish hand, places and honours. And as for the Republicans (though a great noise is kept up about them by the King and the Ministry, in order to make a bulwark for themselves of the superstitious terror which that word excites in the minds of the French nation), they are really very few in number; not accustomed to act in concert, confined almost entirely to Paris, consisting principally of very young men, and not likely, unless aided by some grievous blunder of the Government, to have any echo in France for many years to come. The Opposition party, on the contrary, is powerful and united, strong in the fame and abilities of its Parliamentary leaders, strong in its alliance with the prevailing tendencies of the national mind: long since predominant in the press and in the nation; already of equal strength, and certain to be soon a majority, in the strong-hold of its adversaries, the Chamber of Deputies.
It would give a very inadequate conception of the fundamental difference between the Ministerial party and the Opposition, were we merely to enumerate the acts, or state the professed principles, of either. The questions are but few, which there has yet been time to discuss, or on which they have made up their minds; and yet, whatever subject of debate may arise,—from the difference in their habitual feelings and modes of thinking it would not be difficult to predict which side they would respectively espouse. The leading minds on both sides have fixed principles, and systematically consistent opinions: but who is so wild as to inquire the fixed principles of five hundred men? In the age we live in, men class themselves according to their instincts, and not to their creeds: men’s characters are not determined by their opinions, but their opinions by their characters. The ministerial party is mainly governed by the instinct of conservation, the opposition by the instinct of progression. Dread of innovation is the strongest feeling in the one, desire of improvement in the other. They cannot be more happily characterized than by their current denominations, the party of Movement, and that of Resistance.
The stationary party, grouped round the King and the present Prime Minister,2 are anxious to keep all things unchanged, or to change as little as possible. Had it depended upon them, the nation must have been contented with a far smaller extension of the elective franchise: most of them voted against the principal clauses of the recent election law.3 They are mostly strong adherents of the hereditary peerage. They are averse to all further extension of popular privileges; averse to war, less on its own account, than because it would be a change; and enemies of the press, because it is perpetually thwarting their favourite purpose by calling for change.
The progressive party was that which extorted from the Government the recent change in the election law; and is about to extort from it, to its great displeasure, the abolition of a hereditary peerage.4 From them proceed the demands for complete liberty of the press, and its enfranchisement from the oppressive taxes, by which, as in our own country, it is almost weighed down. They it is who demand the abolition of the numerous monopolies, which restrain the free employment of industry in the interior of France. They are the most zealous advocates of popular municipal institutions, for managing the local concerns of the town or of the department. From them, too, proceeds the demand for abolishing the despotic surveillance which the government exercises over all places of education. They alone have manifested any real sympathy with the most numerous and poorest class: they alone have shown any disposition to retrenchment, or to altering the taxes so as to alleviate their pressure upon those least able to bear them; and it was they who caused to be inserted in the Address, a promise, though a distant and conditional one, of elementary education to be provided for the poorest classes at the public charge.5 They, too, are those who sympathise the most strongly with the oppressed patriots of foreign countries: and it is chiefly here that there is any danger lest they should drive their country into measures which, however generously intended, would be perilous to the progress of civilization and of the spirit of freedom in France and in Europe, which at this period, demands, above all other requisites, peace and tranquillity.
This is the party which, by the recent elections, is now barely not a majority in the new Chamber of Deputies. And until the national mind is formed by discussion and education, to a calmer and more practical weighing of public questions than it has yet proved itself to be capable of, there is perhaps nothing better to be hoped, than that the progressive and the conservative spirit, which fail to be properly tempered with one another in each individual mind, should yet be so equally distributed through the whole body, as to afford hope that between opposite passions reason may generally hold the balance. That it will be so, there are many gratifying indications, in the votes, and the general spirit of the new Chamber.
The progressive party are now sure of ultimate preponderance; for every month strengthens their hold upon the national mind, and every death or resignation which gives a younger deputy for an older, or one who is new to public life for one who is already committed, affords them a chance of an additional adherent. More rapid progress than this we do not desire for them; nor if they are wise, will they wish it for themselves. It is not always advisable that the strong should exert their strength, however conscious of a good cause. Great changes should not be made at the first moment when a bare majority can be obtained for them. The idlest fears, the most unfounded dislikes, must have some time allowed them to wear off. Nothing which can be gained by a slight acceleration of the improvement of institutions, is an equivalent for the danger incurred when they improve faster than the minds of a large and powerful part of the nation.
We now feel assured, that even the present ministry will not be allowed to carry on the government in a stationary spirit: that concessions, far beyond what seemed probable six months ago, must be made, and made continually, to the demands of the age for improvement: and, certain of this, we are not anxious that changes, even the safest in themselves, should take place with a rapidity alarming to the timid—that is, to the great majority of the possessors of considerable property. Nor have we any apprehension that the leaders of the popular party will urge its demands too impetuously, unless pressed forward with heedless violence by injudicious adherents out of doors. On the contrary, we perceive with pleasure, and if the phrase may be permitted us, with pride,—that while those who call themselves the moderate party have too often displayed an irritability and intemperance which has fixed on them the soubriquet of hommes furieux de modération,6 the popular leaders maintain, and have maintained throughout, a dignity, a calmness, and a forbearance, which entitles them, and them only, to the praise of genuine and honourable moderation. The two speeches of their principal orator, M. Odilon Barrot, in the discussion on the address, are not only temperate and conciliating in expression and tone, but he who can read them and ascribe violent sentiments or exaggeratedly democratic opinions to this wise and eloquent patriot, must have come predetermined to interpret the mind of an opponent in the spirit of his own perverseness.7
[1 ]Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802-39), poet and conservative M.P. from 1830; his speech in the Commons on 24 Aug. was reported in The Times, 25 Aug., 1831, p. 4.
[* ]This includes the Member for Paimboeuf, which is virtually an appendage of Nantes.
[2 ]Casimir Périer.
[3 ]Identified at No. 72, n3.
[4 ]On 9 Aug., Salverte had introduced Proposition relative à la révision de l’article 23 de la charte constitutionnelle (Moniteur, 1831, p. 1327), pushing the government to move on the promise made in Art. 68 of the revised Charter (1830). See No. 115.
[5 ]In the debate on the 12th on the Address (adopted 16 Aug.), an amendment to this effect was moved by Philarète Euphémon Chasles (1798-1873), a literary critic, and adopted after the ministry said it had no objection.
[6 ]For the origin of the phrase, see No. 98, n6.
[7 ]Odilon Barrot’s speeches of 11 and 12 Aug. are in Moniteur, 1831, pp. 1360-2 and 1367-8.