Front Page Titles (by Subject) 129.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 27 NOV., 1831, P. 760 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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129.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 27 NOV., 1831, P. 760 - 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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FRENCH NEWS 
For the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 116. The item, headed “London, November 27,” is listed as “Article on France” and enclosed in square brackets in the Somerville College set.
the french minister has at length carried the Peerage Bill into the Chamber of Peers1 —but not till after creating a batch of thirty-six peers, in order to secure its passing.
The list of newly-created Legislators, with one or two honourable exceptions, is utterly despicable. It puts an end at once to all those hopes, which alone induced the French nation to tolerate a second chamber not elected by the people. The Peerage ought to have been re-constituted, and if it was absurdly determined that the present members should retain their seats for life, it was at least understood that the chamber was to be recruited from the élite of France in politics, literature, science, industry, and art. Instead of this, the list is made up of fifth-rate diplomatists and prefects under the Imperial Government, and tenth-rate Bonapartist officers; all the eminent commanders whom France possesses being either peers already, or in the ranks of the opposition.
Science is represented in this batch of peers only by the weathercock Cuvier, who, with all his political demerits (and a more servile sycophant of every established government never existed),2 is, after all, the only man in the whole thirty-six possessing merits of any description which can justly be characterised as eminent in their kind.* The men of letters of France are represented solely by Count Philippe de Ségur.3 But the most egregious as well as the most ominous inconsequence is this—in a list of peers, created on purpose to carry a bill, abolishing the inheritableness of the peerage, are included persons whose only claim to that rank consists in the merits of their fathers. We allude to young Ney, Prince de la Moskwa, and to M. Bernard Foy.4
The minister has raised a storm by this proceeding, which appears to have taken our newspapers by surprise, though expected by all who have any acquaintance with French politics. The opposition intend to urge with their whole strength in the Chamber of Deputies a motion condemning this exercise of the royal prerogative. They contend that the creation of peers, while the article of the charter, which empowered such a creation, is actually undergoing revision, is beyond the legitimate powers of the executive, and, in fact, constitutes a coup d’état. We know not whether they will maintain that it is actually illegal, or merely unconstitutional; a violation of the written laws, or only of the unwritten maxims which jointly form the constitution of a state. The latter are as obligatory as the former upon a minister, and the breach of either would be an equally just ground for addressing the King to remove him.
It may be thought captious in the opposition to look so closely into the means adopted to carry an alteration in the constitution of the peerage, so earnestly demanded by themselves. To this we answer, that the opposition had gained their point from the moment when the Chamber of Deputies, by a majority of six or seven to one, had given their sanction to the doctrine of the unfitness of hereditary legislation to the present state of society, and of the human mind.5 The solemn recognition of this great principle was all the opposition wanted; whether the bill actually passes or not, they regard as of altogether secondary importance; for the hereditary chamber is so utterly discredited by this authoritative condemnation of its principle, that a breath will at any time sweep it away, if it should ever become an active obstruction to good legislation. And as for any practical good from the passing of the bill, if they have hitherto expected such a thing—which very few of them ever did, from a chamber nominated by the crown; this contemptible list of nominations must have completely altered their opinion.
It is now, at best, a matter of indifference to the opposition whether the bill passes or not. But if it is to pass, they contend, as they have always contended, that the Chamber of Deputies has a right to pass it, without the Peers, by their own sole authority as a constituent body. This, their opponents say, is unconstitutional. They answer, that it would be so, as a general rule; neither ought any article of the charter to be revised by a legislature elected by virtue of the charter, but only by a constituent Assembly or Convention elected for that express purpose. But it is a fact, that the Chamber of Deputies did, in August, 1830, take upon themselves the powers of a constituent body. They elected a king, and revised the entire charter. One article, that relating to the Peerage, they did not alter at the time; but formally reserved it to be altered now.6 This, therefore, is a peculiar case. In making the alteration by their own single authority, the popular branch of the legislature would merely continue and complete its own former act. On this principle the measure ought to have originated with the Chamber. The King himself did wrong in introducing the present bill. The King has, properly, no more to do with the revision of this article than he had with that of all the other articles, a year and a half ago. The King has no voice in making the constitution: it is tendered to him, and he simply accepts it; or else rejects it, and abdicates the throne.
The Chamber has waived its right as a constituent body, and thought fit to pass, with amendments, a bill presented by the Crown; and if the Peers also think fit to pass it, the Deputies will not object. But if the Peers reject it, then, says the opposition, is the time for the Chamber of Deputies to exert their constituent power. They have not claimed it: they have preferred not to raise the question. With that hope they have passed the measure in the forms of any ordinary law; but as it was optional at first, so it is at any time in their power to claim the right they have for the moment waived, and declare, that in the exercise of that right, they adopt either this or some other measure, and it becomes part of the constitution of France.
While this dispute is going on, the King has afforded the first example, since the establishment of a representative Government in 1814,7 of the refusal of the royal sanction to a bill which has passed the two Chambers. The bill in question was for restoring the military grades conferred by Napoleon, during the hundred days.8 If there is any part of French history of which all Frenchmen ought to be ashamed, it is the second usurpation of Napoleon; and nothing can be more foolish than to revive, and hold as valid, these acts of the usurper, which were set aside by the government which succeeded him. Many, indeed, of those who supported the bill, did so upon the principle that military rank, conferred by a Government de facto, is property, and that he who is deprived of it, on whatever pretext, suffers a wrong. Allowing this, however, the wrong was committed sixteen years ago; and why should one class of sufferers be compensated at the expense of the state,—partly, therefore, at the charge of many other classes of sufferers, whose wrongs go unredressed? The principle is untenable; it is the same upon which Villèle grounded the indemnity to the emigrants.9
[1 ]The Périer ministry brought the bill (see No. 115, n1) to the Peers on 19 Dec. (Moniteur, 1831, pp. 2429-32) where, after prolonged debate on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 26th, and 27th, its approval was completed on the 28th (ibid., pp. 2534-6).
[2 ]Georges Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Dagobert, baron Cuvier (1769-1832), naturalist. Perhaps Mill had in mind Cuvier’s uninterruptedly successful career at the University under Napoleon and the Restoration.
[* ]Our friend of the Globe says, “the persons selected have, without exception, been taken from those whose political principles alone excluded them (before the late revolution) from all participation in the favour and honours of the court.” [Leading article, Globe and Traveller, 24 Nov., 1831, p. 2.] Surely this was written in a moment of inadvertency. What amusement it will excite in Paris! Political principles and M. le Conseiller-d’état baron Cuvier. It is a specimen of the average degree of knowledge possessed by our newspapers on French affairs, that they have all of them (with scarcely an exception, save the Morning Chronicle) eulogized this list of peers as most admirably selected. [See the article by “O.P.Q.” (Caleb Charles Colton), in Morning Chronicle, 24 Nov., 1831, p. 2, which begins: “Unhappy France! Unfortunate King!”]
[3 ]Philippe Paul, comte de Ségur (1780-1873), who, when his highly successful military career ended with Napoleon’s defeat, turned to the writing of history.
[4 ]Joseph Napoléon Ney, prince de la Moskowa (1803-57), general, who had married Laffitte’s daughter in 1828 and was already a captain in the hussars, was the son of Napoleon’s Marshal Michel Ney, prince de la Moskowa (1769-1815) who, having been executed in 1815, was considered by many as a martyr to the Restoration. (For more on the father, see No. 132, n9.) Maximilien Sébastien Auguste Arthur Louis Fernand (not Bernard), comte Foy (1815-71), still a minor, was the son of Sébastien Maximilien Foy (1775-1825), who had been a very popular general and orator.
[5 ]For that vote and Mill’s comments, see No. 124.
[6 ]Art. 33 (the provision), and Art. 68 (the promise of enactment in 1831).
[7 ]I.e., by the Charter of 1814.
[8 ]For the origin of this impasse, see No. 120, n3. Louis Philippe’s refusal would appear to have been motivated by a concern to defend the royal prerogative against the infringement of the King’s right to confer military rank. On 21 Nov., the Ministry reported the King’s unwillingness, and presented an alternative bill (Moniteur, 1831, pp. 2193-4), enacted as Bull. 61, No. 142 (15 Feb., 1832), confirming the pensions such ranks would obtain.
[9 ]In Bull. 30, No. 680 (27 Apr., 1825).