Front Page Titles (by Subject) 134.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 1 JAN., 1832, PP. 9-11 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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134.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 1 JAN., 1832, PP. 9-11 - 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 article, headed “London, January 1, 1832,” is listed as “Article on France” and enclosed in square brackets in the Somerville College set of the Examiner.
the abolition of the Hereditary Peerage of France has passed the Chamber of Peers by a majority about equal in number to the new creation of Peers.1 The majority of speakers was, however, on the contrary side; and even of those who supported the bill, there was not one who did not openly lament the necessity of passing it.
The debate in the Chamber of Deputies occasioned by M. Périer’s statement respecting the revolt of Lyons,2 continued during four days. M. Périer, not denying that there was misconduct somewhere, threw the whole blame upon the local authorities: for which M. Bouvier du Molart, préfet of the Rhone, took a public opportunity of giving him the lie.3 After this proceeding, M. du Molart threw up his office, was struck off the roll of the Conseil d’Etat, and being thus freed from all connexion with the administration, commenced publishing in the newspapers a series of letters, of a highly interesting character, on the recent events.4
Omitting so much of the controversy, as consists only in crimination and recrimination between M. Périer and M. du Molart personally, we shall merely afford our readers the benefit of such light as is thrown by the disclosures now made, upon the causes of the insurrection.
The disturbances originated as the public are aware, in a tariff or scale of increased wages, promulgated under the sanction of the préfet; which was observed for a few days, but afterwards departed from by a portion of the manufacturers, who stopped their works, and refused to give employment to their workmen at the increased rate. Hereupon the operatives, who had previously had full confidence in the continuance of the tariff, and who, to use the expression of M. du Molart, regarded it as their charter, considered themselves to be cruelly injured; and their resentment broke out, in the manner which the public already know.
It now appears that when M. Périer was apprised of the promulgation of the tariff, he made an official intimation to M. du Molart of his disapprobation of it; and desired him, if possible, to allow it to fall into desuetude. This was imposing upon the préfet rather a difficult task; and we cannot be much surprised that no better result should have come of it.
M. du Molart, however, denies the circumstance, upon which the impropriety of the tariff principally depends. He denies that it was prescribed by the authority of government. He affirms, that it was the result of a free compact, concluded between delegates from the workmen, and delegates from the manufacturers; that a small minority only of the manufacturers had any objection to it; that these waived their objection; and that he, the civil magistrate, took no further part in the mutual agreement, than that of attesting and promulgating it. That on receiving M. Périer’s despatch, he hastened to lay before him the real state of the case, and hoped to induce him to withdraw his disapproval: but that in the meanwhile, the fact that the conduct of the préfet had been disapproved of, oozed out of the public offices at Paris (he says it was even mentioned by M. d’Argout, the minister of commerce, to the deputies for the place): that the news found its way to Lyons, and encouraged that small portion of the manufacturers who had originally disapproved of the tariff, to declare open hostility to it, some of them in a manner most unfeeling and insulting as respected the common people. Hereupon the revolt ensued. The conduct of M. du Molart throughout the trying circumstances in which he was afterwards placed, appears from all accounts to have been worthy of a hero.
If the statements of the ex-préfet are correct, it would seem that the fault, if any, imputable to him, was chiefly that of having taken any part in the convention between employers and workmen, even as a mere attesting witness, without first ascertaining that his conduct would meet with the approbation of his superiors. How far the blame of this want of concurrence between the government and its agent, lies with the agent, is a question which seems mainly to depend upon a despatch, which M. du Molart affirms that he wrote and sent, and which the minister denies having received. By what strange misadventure the two statements can both come to be true, or which of the two parties asserts a falsehood, we have no materials for conjecture.
A remarkable circumstance is, that M. du Molart denies the existence of any peculiar stagnation in the manufactures of Lyons. He affirms on the contrary, that they are in a state of unusual activity.
The late political events, [says he,] which have in general exercised so unfavourable an influence over mercantile affairs, have had little effect upon the manufactures of Lyons. There has been no want of employment, thanks to immense orders given by the Americans. The year 1829 was that of the greatest activity of the manufacture, which reached almost 600,000 kilogrammes. The year following the revolution, from July 1830 to July 1831, fell short of this maximum by no more than 15,000 kilogrammes. Not only all the workmen have been constantly employed, but the length of their day’s work has been greatly increased, and six thousand machines have remained idle for want of hands. In this situation, however, the workmen complained; they addressed respectful petitions to the authorities; they assembled with order, calmness, and decency, in a private house; they named a committee to state and support their claims. Public opinion was in their favour; they inspired general interest, and all the manufacturers of proper feelings admitted, that these unfortunate people, by working eighteen hours a-day, did not gain even enough to sustain life.5
This is very unlike what has been stated in all other quarters, as to the decline of the trade; and M. du Molart, it must be remembered, is strongly interested in making out a case for that rise of wages, to which, in an evil hour for the city of Lyons, he gave his official authority. This statement, however, is specific; and being in figures, may be disproved if not correct. It is important that the truth should be known.
If M. du Molart’s statement is correct, a rise of wages was warranted by the state of the trade; but also, it would have been brought about by the state of the trade without his interference, and then it is likely the workmen might not have considered the new law of wages as “their charter,” justifying insurrection, like that of Paris, if it were violated. Wages at starvation point, and six thousand looms standing still for want of workmen, are two circumstances, M. du Molart may be assured, which could not have gone on for many days together. We confess, the fact that any number of the manufacturers should have dismissed their workmen rather than pay the advance of wages, throws very great doubt in our minds upon M. du Molart’s assertion, that the increased scale was called for by the prosperity of the trade.
Under all suppositions as to this matter, the practical conclusion is one and the same. There exists unhappily no doubt as to the miserably low wages of the Lyons’ operatives. They are admitted to be in consequence the worst fed, sallowest, and feeblest in bodily frame, of all the working people of France. Now, there is not a single article of importance consumed by the labourer, which is not taxed to an enormous amount, either for revenue or protection. His clothes are taxed by the duties on cottons and woollens; his fire is taxed by the high price of wood occasioned by the duties on iron, his bread and his meat are taxed by the duties on corn and cattle, for purposes of protection. His wine, (which corresponds to our small beer) is taxed, his salt is taxed, his only luxury, tobacco, is raised by a monopoly many hundred per cent. in price, and all articles of agricultural produce are taxed over again by the octroi, for purposes of revenue. The genius of fiscality has exhausted every device by which the iron hand of the tax-gatherer can be driven hard and deep into the pockets of the very poorest class; who being in a still greater ratio the most numerous class, are the payers of the most productive taxes.
Let the government do its duty on all these points; let it abstain from robbing the people for its own benefit, or for the benefit of landholders and great capitalists; and it may leave the question between them and their employers to be adjusted between them and their employers. How much of the great concerns of society may or may not be brought within the functions of government, when government shall be something very different from what it is, it would be premature for us to decide. But we are sure, that as governments are at present constituted, the less they have to do with the regulation of contracts between man and man the better for society; and the more strictly they confine themselves to the mere protection of person and property from force or fraud, the better they know their proper stations, and the more good, or rather the less intolerable evil they produce.
But of all these matters M. du Molart is so far from being sensible, that while he thinks the regulation of wages quite a proper subject for the interference of authority, he is a declared partisan of the droits réunis, as preferable to direct taxation; and goes so far as to condemn even the trifling alleviation of the duties on wine, which was granted at the close of 1830, when the wine countries on the south were in a state in which the tax could not otherwise have been collected but at the bayonet’s point. M. du Molart was one of Bonaparte’s préfets; and this, to any one who knows what these were, means, that in the eyes of M. du Molart, the only one requisite of a good tax, is to be productive to the revenue. We mistake; there is another virtue, namely, to take the people’s money as it were while they are asleep, and without their being sensible who takes it. This is the ground of the preference for indirect taxes.
M. Fiévée, who knew this kind of men well, divides them into two classes: the teachers of Bonaparte, and his pupils. Such men as M. du Molart belong to the latter class. It was of them (and more especially of M. Louis, the present minister of finance) that M. Fiévée, writing at a time when these very men were in power, said, “Je connais bien nos administrateurs actuels: ils sont d’une fiscalité qui déconcertait quelquefois Napoléon, le plus fiscal des hommes.”6 Apt scholars, who surpassed even their schoolmaster.
The debate on the budget will commence in a few days. We shall then see what the sages of the Palais-Bourbon will think proper to do with the Taxes on Poverty. As for the Corn Bill, poor and insignificant as is the palliative which it offers of a radically pernicious principle of legislation, there seems to be a general understanding that the Landlords’ House (for such the Chamber of Deputies truly is) will not pass it this session.7 It cannot come on before the budget, and when the budget is passed, it is expected that the Chambers will be prorogued, leaving all other questions in statu quo.
In the mean time, two commissions of the Chamber, on two very important bills, have presented reports more liberal (a rare occurrence) than the original scheme. One of these bills is the highly important one for national education.8 A majority of the commission on this bill consisted (Heaven knows how!) of members of the Opposition; including several of the most respected leaders, with the venerable M. Daunou at their head. This eminent patriot, eminent alike by his talents and his virtues, was named the reporter of the commission; and though we have not yet seen his report, there can be no doubt of the benevolent and enlightened character of a document on such a subject, emanating from the founder of the Institute of France.9 The ministry, we perceive, are violently adverse to some of the amendments which he proposes.
The other bill to which we have alluded, is for defining the functions of the municipal councils: the composition of those bodies, by popular election, having been provided for by a law passed in the preceding session.10 The ministerial projet, though it modified to a certain extent, maintained in all its main features Napoleon’s system of centralization;11 that system which, while it crushed the provinces under the oppressive weight of the metropolis, rendered the fit performance of public business impossible: the local authorities not having power to perform the most trifling act of administration (unless it were a matter of mere routine) without orders from Paris, which, in consequence of the immense quantity of such business which flowed in and accumulated, they often had to wait months for, the exigency in the mean time passing away, and endless mischiefs occurring for want of doing that which could not under this system be sooner done. The report of the commission proposes a far greater alteration in the existing system, and confers upon the inhabitants of the different localities, through their local representatives, a far greater share in the management of their local affairs, than the scheme of the Government.
Let us hope that leisure will be found for disposing of these two great questions before the prorogation; or at all events that by the adoption of M. Salverte’s proposition with respect to dropped bills,12 they may be allowed to come on at once for discussion at the opening of the following session; which cannot be long after the close of the present, for it takes three months to vote a budget, and the budget of 1833 has also to be voted in 1832. The deputies of France, by the way, take their legislative duties rather coolly; a sitting of five hours seems to be the very longest which they ever allow themselves. One night’s debating in the House of Commons, from four in the afternoon to three in the morning, is equivalent to nearly a week’s exertions of the French Chamber. It is true that their deputies are obliged to be more regular in attendance than members of the English Parliament, as the Chamber cannot deliberate unless a majority of its whole members be present.13
The commission on the civil list has not yet presented its report.14 This question must, by the terms of the Charter be disposed of in the present session.15 It is true that there is little need for being in any hurry to vote money to the Citizen King, as he is already expending provisionally a far larger sum per month than any Chamber, not having arrived at the last stage of profligate impudence, will venture permanently to grant to him. Statements have been made, which, if not refuted, prove that the expenses on account of the civil list since the accession of Louis-Philippe have amounted to nearly forty millions of francs; fully as much as Charles X ever expended in the same time, and greatly exceeding the eighteen millions a year (£720,000) which were all that Louis-Philippe himself dared ask for, in the bill which was presented last year,16 and immediately withdrawn, from the explosion of public indignation at the magnitude of the demand. Let it be recollected, that the Civil List in France includes none of the expenses of the state, unless that of keeping up the Gobelins and Sèvres manufactories, and a few other items of no great consequence, are so considered. All the rest goes to the support of the King and royal family, and the officers of their household, to defraying their private expenses, and keeping up the domains of Versailles, Fontainebleau, and about a dozen other old palaces and their appurtenances; to which, however, forests are attached, sufficient, it is affirmed, even now, and more than sufficient under proper managements, to pay all the expenses. Along with all this, we must take into account the private fortune of Louis-Philippe, which is estimated to yield annually five or six millions more; exclusive, we presume, of the ill-gotten inheritance of the poor Duc de Bourbon, now owned by one of Louis-Philippe’s younger sons,17 but which, if the facts asserted are made out, the verdict of a court of justice may shortly require back from his hands.
This remarkable trial, to which we believe we were the first to draw public notice in this country,18 but which has since been much discussed in the other papers,19 is still far from being concluded, no more than one day in every week being dedicated to it. We shall keep our eyes fixed upon the proceedings, and form the best opinion we can of the weight of evidence which may be produced on each side.
We must defer till next week some observations which we had intended to make upon that part of the four days’ debate in the Chamber of Deputies, which related to the enrollment of a hired rabble in aid of the police on the 14th of July last.20
[1 ]See No. 115, n1. The majority for the Bill was thirty-four; the number of new peers created was thirty-six but, as Mill pointed out (No. 133), two of them could not vote.
[2 ]For earlier reports on the revolt, see Nos. 130, 131, and 132; for reference to Périer’s speech and the debate, see No. 133, nn1 and 2.
[3 ]Bouvier-Dumolart attended the debate on 20 Dec., and accosted Périer as he was leaving the Chamber, calling him a liar (Moniteur, 1831, p. 2446).
[4 ]The reason for Bouvier-Dumolart’s resignation is given in his letter to the editor (20 Dec.), Constitutionnel, 21 Dec., p. 4. Five of his letters on the events in Lyons, dated 22-26 Dec., are ibid., 23-27 Dec. Extracts from letters by Bouvier-Dumolart to Périer and d’Argout, dated 11, 22, 25, 27, 28 Oct., and 6, 12, 19 Nov., were read in the Chamber of Deputies in their speeches on the disturbances in Lyons (Moniteur, 1831, pp. 2444-8). Mill calls Bouvier-Dumolart Prefect of the Rhône.
[5 ]Letter of 22 Dec., Constitutionnel, 23 Dec., p. 1; cf. Moniteur, 1831, p. 2446.
[6 ]Fiévée, Correspondance, Vol. I, Pt. 3, p. 16.
[7 ]For the measure, see No. 125, n2.
[8 ]See No. 126 for the original scheme; the commission’s report was received and debated on 22 Dec. (Moniteur, 1831, pp. 2459-62), but the Bill was abandoned.
[9 ]The founding of the Institut National was provided for in Art. 298 of Constitution de la république française of 1795. Subsequently, Daunou presented the Report of the Education Committee to the National Convention on 19 Oct. (Moniteur, 1795, pp. 128, 130-1), on the basis of which was enacted Bull. 203, No. 1216 (25 Oct., 1795); Titre IV established the Institut National des Sciences et des Arts.
[10 ]For the measure, see No. 57, n10.
[11 ]For background, see No. 57, n5.
[12 ]For the proposition, see No. 132, n10.
[13 ]Charter of 1830, Art. 16, continued from Charter of 1814, Art. 18.
[14 ]See No. 135, n15.
[15 ]Charter of 1830, Art. 19, continued from Charter of 1814, Art. 23.
[16 ]For the measure, see No. 71, n3.
[17 ]The duc d’Aumale.
[18 ]See No. 132.
[19 ]See, e.g., the articles in The Times, 21, 27, and 28 Dec., 1831, pp. 1-2, 3, and 3, respectively (the series ran until 24 Feb., 1832); and Spectator, 24 Dec., pp. 1233-4, and 31 Dec., pp. 1255-6.
[20 ]For the episode, see No. 131, n3; the debate was on 19-22 Dec., Moniteur, 1831, pp. 2432-66.