Front Page Titles (by Subject) 172.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 17 JUNE, 1832, PP. 392-4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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172.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 17 JUNE, 1832, PP. 392-4 - 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 
This lengthy and detailed account follows up the general discussion of the session in No. 162. For the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 116. The item, headed “London, June 17, 1832,” is listed in the Somerville College set of the Examiner as “Article on France” and enclosed in square brackets.
the following article, on the results of the Session of the French Chambers, was written, and even in print, before the late catastrophe.1 It is as true now as it was then, and will be as useful, if it ever could have been useful; we, therefore, persevere in our intention of publishing it.
the nature and amount of the doings of the French Chambers, during the session which has just expired, raise a serious doubt of the capacity of those assemblies as at present constituted, we will not say to legislate tolerably, but to legislate at all. For our part we have watched the progress of the session from day to day, in hopes of learning what a Chamber of Deputies is intended for—what function it is designed to fulfil in the body politic: and we regret to be obliged to confess, that this remains as much a mystery to us as ever: the use and purpose of that somewhat noisy and vapouring member of the French sovereignty has not transpired. While Charles X reigned in France, it had a mission which was obvious enough; it was sent there to resist and overawe the King, in case he attempted to bring back the emigrants and the priests. The present King, however, is suspected of no such propensities; and, that the Chamber does not deem itself intended for an antagonist power to his, it demonstrates by throwing its whole weight into his scale. On the other hand, it clearly is not appointed to make laws. We have our suspicions that its allotted office is to prevent them from being made. For it is a fact, not unworthy of commemoration, that if the Chambers, instead of sitting nine months, had sat only one day, and had employed it in passing a vote of confidence in the Ministry, and another vote authorizing the King, until the opening of the next session, to enact whatever laws he pleased by ordonnance, France would now have been in the actual enjoyment of a considerable number of very passable laws, affecting some of her most important interests; for many such have been presented by the Government. But now we question if one single law has passed the Chambers during three-fourths of a year of continued sitting, for the passing of which the French, or any other portion of mankind, will be perceptibly the better:—the number of those which have had even an apparent tendency that way, is contemptibly small; while every measure of any intricacy or importance standing for debate, which could possibly be put by, without bringing all things to a dead stand, has not even come on for discussion.
There were three questions which could by no contrivance be put off to another session. There was the budget, a question of every year; the civil list, a question for the first year of every reign; and the reconstitution of the peerage, a question for this year in particular.2 These three things, in one way or another, it was absolutely indispensable to get through. And if it be asked, what has the Chamber done, the answer which must be returned is, these three things. The wise men of France have laid their heads together for nine months, or until the cholera morbus dispersed them, for the purpose of accomplishing these three things.
The Ministry, however, gave them the opportunity of effecting much besides this. The following, among other bills, were drawn up by Ministers, and laid before one or other of the two Chambers, mostly at an early period of the session:—
A bill for establishing a school or schools in every town and every village or parish in France, at which no inconsiderable amount of useful instruction would have been given to the whole of the rising generation; public provision being made for defraying the expense, where the parties themselves were not in a condition to sustain it;3
Three bills,4 which, together with the municipal law passed in the preceding session,5 were destined to substitute for Napoleon’s odious system of centralization, local representative assemblies, invested with adequate powers of local legislation, administration, and taxation;
A bill for the general revision of the custom laws of France, and for the relaxation of some of the restrictions on trade;6
A bill for abridging in some, though far from a sufficient degree, the tedious and expensive formalities and law proceedings, necessary for dispossessing individuals of landed property required for the purpose of public works, such as roads, railways, and canals7 —a most serious obstacle to the improvement of the productive resources of that fine country,—as may be judged when we mention, that rather than resort to the legal process, road and canal companies or the state not unfrequently find it their interest to pay for a piece of land four or five times its value;
A bill for giving representative assemblies, and a government of law, to the French colonies8 —which have hitherto, in defiance of a distinct promise in the Charter of 1814,9 remained under the illegal régime of royal proclamations;
A bill for securing to officers in the army and navy, the possession of their rank in the service, and preventing them from being dismissed from it, except after sentence of a court-martial.10
One of these bills, the last, has passed the Chamber of Peers, but did not come in time for discussion in the Chamber of Deputies: the seven others, neither of those hard-worked and ill-used bodies found leisure to enter upon. And when we consider the length and intricacy of the provisions they contain, and the snail’s pace at which these two assemblies travel at all times, except when the cholera is at their heels, the passing of these eight statutes is as much as there seems any likelihood of their accomplishing, together with the regular annual business, in several sessions to come. And yet (though all these bills are very defective, and stand greatly in need of being remodelled) whoever has sufficiently adverted to the proceedings of the two Chambers, to have formed an estimate of their fitness, moral and intellectual, to cope with such subjects, may safely predict that the sum of all the amendments they will introduce into the eight bills, are not worth the postponement of the first alone (the Education Bill) for one single year.
The Ministry proposed three other measures, of importance in themselves, and valuable still more highly as an earnest of further improvements to come: these were—
A corn bill, which permitted exportation and importation at all times, subject to much lower duties than before, and abolished, not entirely, but in a great measure, the absurd division of France into many districts, each with a separate corn law of its own;11
And two bills, reducing the exorbitant bounties on the whale and cod fisheries.12
For the corn bill of the Ministry, the Chamber substituted another of its own,13 abolishing indeed the prohibition, so far as respects importation, but retaining the high duties, and the division of the country, such as they were fixed by the very worst of all the previous corn bills.14 In the bounties to the fisheries, the Chamber made but a small reduction, instead of the great one proposed by the Ministry.
These specimens of what the Chambers have not found time to touch upon, and of what they have touched, and spoiled in the handling, give the measure of their fitness for legislation, as contrasted even with the second-rate statesmen who at present fill the various departments of the French Ministry.
As a set-off to all these things which they could not find time to consider of, or which they considered of, and could not find in their hearts to do, the following is a table of the things which they have actually done. We omit the remodelling of the peerage, as a thing which they could not avoid, and of which, therefore, the credit or discredit depends wholly on the manner of doing it.
They have passed two bills for the extension of the warehousing system:15 measures right in principle, and, perhaps, not wholly useless in practice, but which might have been dispatched in the same number of days; and even at the slow rate at which the Chambers wind their way through the maze of additions and amendments which invariably start up on all sides, did not occupy them for more than a week, or thereabouts.
They have abolished in some small number of cases the punishment of death16 —a penalty but rarely inflicted in France, comparatively speaking. This bill may possibly make the difference of one or two executions in a year. They have also mitigated in some measure the law of imprisonment for debt.17
They have tampered with the existing laws on the subject of recruiting, and of promotion in the army and navy;18 perhaps, the only part of the constitutional law of France with which the public was on the whole not discontented. Though possessing a specious equality which recommends them to the French people, and probably not ill-adapted to the circumstances of France, the principles of her military organization are open to well-grounded objection, being no other than the conscription on the one hand, and rigid legal restraints upon rapidity of promotion on the other. But these principles are not meddled with by the new enactments: all the alterations are in the details; and as far as we are able to judge, there is not one which is either decidedly for the worse, or decidedly for the better, though the passing of them has wasted as much time, and stirred up as much ill-blood, as if the destinies of the French nation hung suspended upon it.
Lastly, greatest achievement of all!—a bill has been passed, by which the elder branch of the Bourbon family is exiled from France.19 This statute does not even provide any penalty in case the parties concerned should attempt to return from banishment; it is, therefore, in every sense as harmless to all mankind, as a parliamentary recognition that there is a sun in heaven, or the legislative enactment by which the Convention, during the reign of Robespierre, determined that there was, or should thereafter be, a God.20 Of this crowning glory of the session of 1831, the Chambers are entitled to the undivided credit. The Ministers had no share in it, and the liberal press washed their hands of it. So important a matter, naturally could not be brought to a successful issue without some squabbles; accordingly a dispute broke out between the two houses, and the bill flew backwards and forwards from one to the other several times, like a shuttle-cock, before they could agree in what terms the unmeaning announcement should be made.
There remains only the unavoidable business of the session—the money bills, and the change in the constitution of the second branch of the legislature.
The inheritableness of the Peerage has been abolished. The majority of the deputies had given pledges to their constituents, which rendered this no longer optional with them. But it was not enough to regulate the succession to the Peerage, the Peers themselves remaining as they were before. If there has been any difference in their conduct since the passing of the bill, it is that they have been more audacious than ever in their resistance to public opinion. The law of divorce, which had passed the Chamber of Deputies with scarcely a dissenting voice, they ignominiously threw out.21 The bill abolishing the ridiculous celebration of the martyrdom of Louis XVI, met with the same fate.22 M. Salverte’s proposition for allowing the unfinished business of one session to be proceeded with in the next, which from its manifest expediency had met with universal assent in the elective chamber, was rejected by the Peers.23 The quarrel between the two houses respecting the bill for banishing the Bourbons, has been already alluded to; we wish that we had room to place it before our readers, in all its ridiculous details.24 Finally, they so fell out respecting a clause in the law for closing the accounts of the financial year 1829,25 that the prorogation took place before the dispute was brought to an issue; and that important part of the annual business of the country remains still unperformed.
With regard to the public expenditure, this has been a session of large prodigality, and petty economy. Seldom has there been seen in the memory of representative governments, an assembly so penny-wise, nor one so pound-foolish. Few governments excite an Englishman’s surprise so much as the French does by the absurd multitude of its public officers, and by the curiously small quantity of work, day by day, which seems to be expected from each of them; while at the same time, he is often no less astonished at the low rate at which some of the most important and dignified functionaries are remunerated. The Deputies, having come up from their departments boiling over with economy, vented their noble rage by curtailing, not the number of the officers of government, but their salaries; beginning with the most important of all, the judges, for which station if for any, there ought to be the means of purchasing first rate abilities; whose pay already was not large, even with reference to the average of incomes in France, and now falls short of what many English attornies give to their clerks. But there is fully as much jobbery as imbecility in this. The public voice insisted upon some retrenchment; and it was the desire of the deputies that places should at all events continue numerous, in order that they might retain the power of dispensing to as great a number of persons as possible, that swelling turkey-cock dignity and self-importance, which the lowest member of the French bureaucratie, though he touch but a few sous a day, feels himself equally a partaker of with the highest.
All the oppressive taxes on the necessaries of life have been continued; not a thought entertained of commuting them for any others less burthensome upon the many: but while borrowing with one hand to defray current expences, with the other they flung away into the lap of the landed proprietors, the extra land tax which was laid on afresh last year, after a reduction of double the amount a few years ago.26 The loss is supplied partly by a larger borrowing, partly by laying additional taxes upon the public at large.
Finally, so ignorant was the majority of the Chamber of the very first principles of finance, that they would not suspend the operation of paying off debt until there should be money to pay withal, but continued to buy up old debt by contracting new. That any human being, to say nothing of a whole people, should have been capable of being so far juggled as to be made firmly to believe that this was not only an advantageous financial operation, but a source of unexampled prosperity, was marvellous enough at any time, even the time of Pitt and Dundas.27 But that the French Legislature should believe it still, after so many years of argument, and when the subject has become too stale even for ridicule, with the newspapers shouting the true doctrine in their ears, day after day, turning it over in every way, viewing it under every aspect, and putting it with that pellucid clearness with which French writers almost always explain whatever they understand—is something which we should not have thought possible, and which might well render Dulness herself proud of such disciples among the élite of a people so renowned for quickness of apprehension.
Recent events give us unfortunately something to add to what may appear a disparaging estimate of the utility of the French representative constitution. We have said that it is of no use, but a hindrance, to the making of good laws; it is now proved to be quite equally useless as a protection to the French nation against arbitrary power. The government of the barricades has done what Charles X was not permitted to do. It has assumed the power of dispensing with the laws and the courts of justice. Paris is under martial law.28 Not during the insurrection, but after it was completely suppressed, and the authority of the regular tribunals was restored; Louis Philippe has assumed the power of trying all offences by a Court Martial, with the declared intention of exercising that power retrospectively—not only against persons taken in arms, or suspected of being concerned in the insurrection, but against the writers of any articles in newspapers which he affects to consider as constituting their authors accessaries to revolt. A warrant has been issued against M. Armand Carrel, the principal editor of the National, and the most powerful writer among the journalists in France. Never having been able to obtain a verdict against M. Carrel from a Paris jury, the Government has taken this method of depriving him and others of the protection of jury-trial.
Well was it said not long ago, by an enlightened Frenchman, no friend to a Republic or Republicans—“you, in England, are accustomed to see even bad Governments keep within the bounds of law; but, with us, it is universally understood that une constitution, c’est pour rire!”29 This is the meaning of the fetish-worship professed by the rabid moderate party, for l’ordre légal.30 Respect for the law is easily observed, when you have the laws of the old régime, and those of the Reign of Terror, to fall back upon; and when you are able to revive an edict of the despot Napoleon,31 for the purpose of setting aside several distinct articles of the Charter. So, again, the Republicans, if they had prevailed, had no occasion to violate the law; they needed only to enforce the decree of the Convention banishing Louis-Philippe from France;32 for it has never been abrogated, and, consequently, by his Citizen Majesty’s own logic, is as valid as ever.
There is not an article of the Charter more express and formal than this, nul ne pourra être distrait de ses juges naturels, to which it was added, “there shall never more be created extraordinary commissions or tribunals.” In the Charter of 1814, one exception was reserved,—that of cours prévôtales: this exception was suppressed in the Charter of 1830, and the provision which it qualified remains without any qualification.33
Another article of the Charter declares expressly, that the King shall in no case whatever be at liberty to set aside the laws, or dispense with their execution.34
But what matters it? The people thought they had abolished the trial of political offences by packed commissions; but did not Napoleon once issue an edict authorising it?35 The Duke of Reichstadt, we suspect, is lawful Emperor of the French at this moment, by virtue of another edict of the same Napoleon.36
It is not yet known who is or is not compromised, or whom the Government means to make its victims. Its whole conduct with respect to émeutes, conspiracies, and the press, for the last twelve-month, convinces us that it will not be troubled with many scruples in taking this opportunity of ridding itself of any troublesome enemy. Fortunately, most of the leading Republicans were already in prison; so that it would be rather too great a stretch of audacity to impute any participation to them. Warrants have, it seems, been issued against three Deputies, MM. Garnier-Pagès, Laboissière, and Cabet.37
All medical men have been ordered by the Government, under a penalty, to make a return of the wounded; which most of them have honourably and spiritedly refused to do.
These events have produced a salutary reaction of public opinion, in England, on the affairs of France. The real character of Louis-Philippe and his advisers might have been preached in the highways, and to all eternity; the public would never have believed it, until it was proved by some acts which left no room even for the most ignorant to doubt.
The Times is now furious against the French Government; and will not take the King into favour again, unless he will “endeavour to heal the wounds of the nation, by consulting the opinion of those in whom the nation has reposed its confidence. The formidable party who have signed the Laffitte manifesto, cannot now be despised with impunity, and must furnish Ministers either to modify the existing Cabinet, or to supply its place.”38
This prudent counsel has come somewhat late, methinks. It is scarcely kind, after having, for eighteen months, applauded and encouraged the course of policy which has brought on this catastrophe, and denounced all who opposed it as the silliest or the vilest of mankind, now, when nothing has changed but the interest of the Times newspaper, to turn round upon the man whom itself has contributed not a little to mislead to his ruin, and tell him that he is going wrong, and must alter his course. It is not quite so easy for a king to change his counsels, as for the Times to eat its words, or rather, without any confession of error, to bluster and bully on one side as it had just before blustered and bullied on the other. Louis-Philippe, thanks to counsellors like the Times, is so far committed, that it would not be in kingly nature to retract; and he will go on the remainder of the way to destruction. Even were he to retrace his steps, the blood which has been shed would scarcely be forgiven him. There is the barrier of mutual injuries between him and the Republicans: they are as the serpent and the man in the fable.39 But a time was, when Louis-Philippe was yet hesitating, or had a retreat still open behind him, and when the public opinion of England, energetically declared through the most subservient but the most powerful of its organs, might have arrested his blind and fatal career. The weight which might have decided him for good, was thrown into the scale of evil: and now, when he seems lost beyond redemption, his adviser turns round upon him, and bids him mend his ways. Just so was it with Polignac and Charles X.
But would not any man of common candour or feeling, who had written what the Times has been writing for two years, be now burning with shame and self-reproach for the calumnies he had propagated against the Mouvement party in France, painting them in the blackest colours, as men who, from low passions, reckless obstinacy, or personal ambition, sought to subvert the government by a Republican revolution? A Republican revolution is attempted; and the insurgents turn out to be few in number, with the whole people against them, and countenanced by no name known to the nation; and just then the Times discovers that the great bulk of the nation is with the Mouvement party; that its chiefs have alone the confidence of the French people; that the King and his Ministers are detested (the very word of the Times);40 and that the Opposition, who were before classed with the scum of the earth, ought to be taken into the Ministry.
When, till now, has the Times admitted that there was an opposition party at all, except Carlists, Napoleonists, and Republicans? or that any one who held more popular principles than Casimir Périer was a friend to kingly government, or any government of order and law? All at once it finds out that it has made the slight mistake of simply leaving out of its enumeration of parties the majority of the nation.
The wide circulation, and the audacious assuming manner of the Times, together with a skill and energy in popular writing, which it would be affectation to undervalue, render it so efficient a promoter of the popular cause as soon as it finds its account in joining the standard of improvement, that the real patriots are too apt to forgive, and omit taking note of its tergiversations. The men who by the labours and sacrifices of perhaps half their lives, have wrought some valuable idea into the public mind, and have at last triumphed over prejudices and indifference, and rendered their cause worth advocating to the mere trading politicians; having during all this period had to endure, in nine cases out of ten, all the scorn and contumely which the Times could express, by putting into requisition the whole of its copious vocabulary of coarse abuse,—such persons are generally too well pleased to find themselves sure of carrying their point (which they know they are when they see the Times advocating it), to be much inclined to quarrel with the enemy who deserts to them at the eleventh hour. The “leading journal” then thrusts itself forward to the front of the engagement, lifts up its loud voice till it drowns all the others, and struts in triumph over the field of battle, saying, aha! behold my victory. The real victors have gone forward hours before; they are not seekers of glory, but of a new work to perform; and are buckling on their armour to fight a fresh battle, knowing and foreseeing all the while that the Times will be, as before, their bitter and unscrupulous antagonist in the fight, and will again join them when on the point of victory.
[1 ]For details, see No. 171.
[2 ]For the introduction of these measures, see, respectively, Nos. 116, 134, and 115.
[3 ]For details, see No. 126.
[4 ]For the introduction of these measures, see No. 120.
[5 ]For this measure, see No. 57, n10.
[6 ]For the measure, see No. 126, n16.
[7 ]Projet de loi relatif aux expropriations pour cause d’utilité publique (3 Nov.), ibid., p. 2041.
[8 ]Projet de loi relatif au régime législatif des colonies (16 Dec.), ibid., p. 2410.
[9 ]Charter of 1814, Art. 73.
[10 ]Actually two bills with these purposes came before the Peers on 19 Jan.: Projet de loi relatif à l’état des officiers de l’armée, and Projet de loi sur l’avancement dans l’armée navale (Moniteur, 1832, pp. 192-3, 194).
[11 ]For its introduction, see No. 125, n2.
[12 ]For the introduction of these measures, see No. 157, n3.
[13 ]For details, see Nos. 125, n2, 130, n7, 134, and 150, nn1, 2.
[14 ]That of 1821; see No. 130, n6.
[15 ]For their introduction, see Nos. 132, n4, and 133, n9.
[16 ]For the measure, see No. 119, n2.
[17 ]For the measure, see No. 135, n13.
[18 ]For the measure on recruitment, see No. 120, n13; for that on promotion in the army, see No. 128, n2; that on promotion in the navy (not previously mentioned by Mill) is Bull. 77, No. 170 (20 Apr., 1832).
[19 ]Bull. 71, No. 153 (10 Apr., 1832).
[20 ]By Art. 1 of Décret sur les fêtes décadaires (7 May), Moniteur, 1794, p. 932. Robespierre’s extraordinarily long speech introducing the decree is given ibid., pp. 928-32.
[21 ]For details, see Nos. 133, n10, and 156, n4.
[22 ]For details, see Nos. 132, n8, and 147, n2.
[23 ]For details, see Nos. 132, n10, and 143, n8.
[24 ]The gist of the quarrel in February can be found in Moniteur, 1832, pp. 438-9. Should Charles X be referred to as “ex-roi,” “roi,” “Charles X,” or “Charles X, déchu de la royauté”? (The last phrase finally appeared.) Should he and his descendants be named in the same clause as Napoleon or in separate ones? (Napoleon got a clause to himself.) Should there be a forced sale of their possessions or should the State expropriate them at a fair price? (A sale within a year was decreed.) The Peers lost on most of the issues.
[25 ]For the beginning of the squabble in January, see Moniteur, 1832, pp. 79-80; the Peers wanted to restrict the budget for 1829 to financial accounts and rejected clauses that introduced regulations for the future, the focus settling on two clauses relating to financial transactions being public and to expenses incurred by a new minister. The question of prerogatives added ginger to the conflict, which was not resolved until the passing of Bull. 83, No. 190 (31 Jan., 1833).
[26 ]The justification of this provision of the budget, which took off the tax provided by Art. 1 of Bull. 38, No. 106 (18 Apr., 1831), was given by baron Louis, the Minister of Finance, on 19 Aug., 1831 (Moniteur, 1831, pp. 1432-3); the earlier reduction was provided by Bull. 101, No. 3371 (6 July, 1826).
[27 ]Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811), friend of Pitt, who was President of the Board of Control when the Sinking Fund was established.
[28 ]Louis Philippe declared Paris in a state of siege on 6 June, 1832, by ordinance (Bull. 161, No. 4204), having declared other areas in that state on 1 and 3 June (ibid., Nos. 4202, 4203). For the background to the declarations, see No. 171.
[29 ]Not identified.
[30 ]For the phrase, see No. 145, n5.
[31 ]Bull. 411, No. 7543 (24 Dec., 1811), esp. Arts. 52, 53.
[32 ]See Le bannissement perpétuel des émigrés (22 Aug.), Art. 373 of Constitution de la république française, Moniteur, 27 Aug., 1795, Supplement, p. vi.
[33 ]Charter of 1830, Arts. 53 and 54, the first continuing Art. 62 of the Charter of 1814; the exception of cours prévôtales was made by Art. 63 in 1814, not continued in 1830.
[34 ]Art. 13 (1830).
[35 ]See Chap. iv, Sect. 2, Art. 27 of Bull. 282, No. 5351 (20 Apr., 1810).
[36 ]The duc de Reichstadt, Napoleon’s son, was declared Emperor Napoleon II in Déclaration au peuple français (22 June, 1815), Moniteur, 1815, p. 715.
[37 ]Etienne Joseph Louis Garnier-Pagès (1801-41) was a liberal turned republican who took part in the July Revolution and afterwards took over the Société Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera, and made it republican against the wishes of the majority. Embittered by the results of the July Revolution, he sat on the far left, fighting against Louis Philippe’s governments. Paul Joseph Xavier Tramier de Laboissière (1799-1860), another deputy of the extreme left, had organized the funeral of General Lamarque and was involved in the riots. He fled Paris when the warrant for his arrest was issued. Etienne Cabet (1788-1856), a deputy of the extreme left, was a member of many republican associations, including the Société Aide-toi, and had been a “commissaire” at Lamarque’s funeral.
[38 ]The Times, 9 June, 1832, p. 4.
[39 ]“The Labourer and the Snake,” in Aesop’s Fables, trans. V.S.V. Jones (London: Heinemann, 1912), p. 149.
[40 ]The word is used in a dispatch from Paris, The Times, 7 June, 1832, p. 2.