Front Page Titles (by Subject) 181.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 21 OCT., 1832, PP. 680-1 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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181.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 21 OCT., 1832, PP. 680-1 - 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 
A further walking tour in Cornwall left Mill refreshed for another series on France. In his letter to Carlyle of 22 Oct., Mill says the Examiner he is just sending will bring his article “on the Doctrinaires & the new French Ministry, & from this time you may expect to see these notices resumed. As for other newspaper-writing, it has been suspended by the more serious work mentioned in my last letter to you [see the headnote to No. 180], which being over, other things will now have once more their turn.” (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 125.) The series includes Nos. 182, 183, 185, 187, 188, 190, and 192. This article, headed “London, October 21, 1832,” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “The summary of French news in the Examiner from 21st Oct. 1832, to 24th Dec. of the same year, inclusive—comprising [ten articles]” (MacMinn, p. 22). In the Somerville College set, this item is listed as “Article on France” and enclosed in square brackets.
the present french ministry is a Tory Ministry.1 We say this advisedly. It is true, that the Doctrinaires originally swore by our Whigs; but this was while the Whigs differed only by a shade from the Tories. The beau idéal of a Government, in the eyes of the Doctrinaires, is the British Constitution as settled in 1688, and Mr. Pitt the paragon of a patriot Minister. M. de Broglie passed a short time in England a few months since, and, it is well known, was perfectly aghast at the Reform Bill, bewailing our madness in casting away from us institutions so well proved by time, and which had showered down upon us so many blessings. The distinction between these men and the Carlists is but the difference between a Pittite and a Jacobite.
This is deeply to be lamented; for it is undeniable that the Doctrinaire leaders are among the most instructed and accomplished men in France—incomparably superior, as thinkers and writers, to any English Whigs, though they had the weakness to make these last their models. No French Ministry, probably, ever contained so much literary talent, and such extensive political and philosophical acquirements, as that which numbers among its members MM. de Broglie, Guizot, and Thiers, yet none ever was more certain of misgoverning France, and coming to a speedy and disgraceful end. In fact, it is the real mental superiority of these men, which, by becoming the foundation of a more than proportionate superstructure of philosophic pedantry and self-conceit, has rendered them far unfitter for actual dealing with the world than their English prototypes. One scarcely knew whether to smile or to sigh, when a man of M. Guizot’s real erudition and powers of thought, appeared sincerely to look up to a mere superficial pretender to learning and philosophy like Sir James Mackintosh; yet Sir James, like the rest of his party, could bend to the exigencies of the age, while M. Guizot is resolved to be the last person who gives up any of M. Guizot’s opinions.
The rise of Doctrinarism is naturally accounted for by the circumstances of France during the fifteen years of the Restoration. The dynasty which the Revolution had expelled, had just been replaced on the throne of France by foreign bayonets. The people, however, remained attached to the Revolution, and to the institutions and the habits which had grown up under it. The two rival powers being placed, as it were, en face, and the consequence of their continued hostility being inevitably another convulsion, a class of philosophers and politicians arose, who attempted to negotiate a compromise between the old dynasty and the spirit of the revolution: who professed attachment at once to liberty, and to legitimacy as the only sure guarantee of stability,—who professed to set both the Royalists and the Revolutionists right, as to the errors and excesses by which both alternately had been ruined, and to have found the way by which France, after so long vibrating between contrary extremes, might at last settle down into the golden mean, and find freedom, tranquillity, and happiness.
Unfortunately, these speculators, thinking it a fine thing to profit by the lessons of history,—and being a kind of people for whom history has no lessons, because they bring to its study no real knowledge of the human mind, or of the character of their own age,—could hit upon nothing better than erecting into universal maxims the conditions of the compromise which they fancied had been made at our Revolution of 1688, between the monarchical and the popular principle. This is an instructive experiment upon what is to be expected from those who affect to found their political wisdom principally on history, instead of looking to history merely for suggestions, to be brought to the test of a larger and surer experience. M. Guizot’s is no ordinary knowledge of history: that subject has been the pursuit of his life; he has written on it, and lectured on it, with great success; and has brought no ordinary powers of philosophising to bear upon the analysis of its evidences, and the explanation of its most remarkable events; as his Essais sur l’Histoire de France (to say nothing of any of his other works) amply evince.2 He has even produced an elaborate work on English history;3 and yet when he comes to judge of the English constitution, the historical knowledge which alone could be of use to him is precisely that in which he is found deficient, namely, a knowledge how that constitution actually works, in the country for which it was made—in the very age in which he lives and moves, and in three hours’ sail may personally commune with thousands of living witnesses, and have leave to cross-examine them as he will.
Now, whoever knows the French and the English, knows, among other things, this—that in England few, except the very greatest thinkers, think systematically, or aim at connecting their scattered opinions into a consistent scheme of general principles, from which they may reason downwards to fresh particulars; but in France everybody who thinks, be it never so contractedly, weaves a regular web of opinions, suspends it cunningly on one or some greater number of “principes,” and sits spider-like in the centre, surveying complacently the whole of the web, or, as he fancies, of the world. In England, accordingly, since Whig has ceased to be the correlative and opposite of Jacobite, no person has been able to tell what Whiggery is, or what a Whig believes. “Whig principles” simply meant, feeling and acting with the men called Whigs; who were united, no doubt, by a common spirit, and a general disposition to take similar views of most political questions as they arose, but not by any definite creed or profession of faith. The Whigs, therefore, gave up nothing, renounced no political doctrines, when they proposed the recent great change in the constitution. They did but, under the guidance of the same inclinations and general objects, take what seemed to be the measures required by the actual circumstances of the time. They were for the old system while they thought it worked well, and for a new one when the old would hold together no longer. Not so the Doctrinaires. They took the phrase “Whig principles” au pied de la lettre. For them it was the symbol of a real creed, got at by induction from the mere occasional dicta of their English instructors. Whig principles, with the Whigs themselves, are in the state of judiciary or common law: the Doctrinaires are the authors of the only Whig code in existence. The theory of the British Constitution, with the annotations of its Whig commentators, is in their eyes a system of absolute truth, and its realization the acme of political improvement. Whatever deviates from it, either to the right or to the left, is so far false and wrong, and a proof that the nation which sanctions or requires such deviation falls proportionally short of that highest point in civilization, of which, when attained, that Constitution is the natural and certain result. Of this political religion the main articles of faith are, hereditary Monarchy—a hereditary House of Peers—a powerful Aristocracy of wealth, to hold the balance between the King and the people—the elective franchise limited by requiring a very high property qualification, both from the elector and the elected—the Liberty of the Press, that is, no censorship, but a libel law as indefinite as the English, and to be executed, if necessary, as strictly and severely as the French is at this moment—trial by jury, namely, a special jury, to be composed as exclusively as possible of persons who think with the Doctrinaires—and so forth.
Now these principles having been once dovetailed together into a system, no departure from them, no modification of any sort, is to be conceded to any pressure of circumstances. They are an unchangeable rule of right, and are to be stickled for as if they concerned mankind’s eternal salvation. The Doctrinaires have not the wisdom of the beaver; they will never yield a part to save the remainder. They would not, like M. Casimir Périer, have given up the hereditary Peerage; and they in fact resisted its abolition to the last gasp, and would re-establish it to-morrow, if the Chambers could be induced to pass a bill to that effect. They are the most inflexible and impracticable of politicians. The men of the world and of temporary expediency, who are the other leaders of the juste milieu, consequently look upon them as Bonaparte looked upon ideologists and metaphysicians. M. Casimir Périer disliked nothing so much as to be identified with the doctrinaires; and one of the chief causes of the failure of the attempt to induce M. Dupin to take office, was (it is understood) his determined refusal to form part of any administration of which they were members.
At least it cannot be said that this Ministry, like the last, is composed of men mediocre in every respect, mere second-rate clerks in an office. The Times, which has chopped round so briskly in its French politics, but which has changed only its tack, not its mode of sailing, has permitted itself a very pitiful sneer at the abilities and reputation of M. Thiers.4 We dislike M. Theirs’ politics much, and his unbounded suffisance still more; but nobody is entitled to speak scornfully of the author of the best history in the French language, and the best specimen of historical narrative, of any length, perhaps in all modern literature.5 M. de Broglie’s speech on primogeniture, some years ago, gave tokens of a far other man than he has proved himself,6 and his writings on the administrative institutions of France have great merit.7 M. Guizot is one of the most instructed men, as well as one of the first orators in France. With so much talent and knowledge, it would have been impossible to form any other ministry so destitute of wisdom.
It is difficult to believe that they can stand. All parties dislike them. They are understood to have been the advisers of the ordonnance putting Paris under martial law.8 M. de Broglie has been the chief instigator of the Chamber of Peers to all its collisions with the other House. M. Guizot is probably at this moment the most unpopular man in France. Whilst he is odious to the Liberals and to the Republicans, by the contumelious language which he habitually uses towards them, he is offensive to the deputies of the juste milieu party by his tranchant dogmatical tone and professorial airs of superiority. Poor M. Thiers, on his late visit to his birth-place, Provence, took care to avoid the large towns for fear of a charivari, but reckoned without his host; for, no sooner did he stop for the night, though it were but in a village, than straightway the people assembled with cat-calls, frying-pans, and saucepan-lids, and gave him the unwelcome serenade which he had gone out of his way to avoid. As for the place-hunter Soult, the humble servant of all governments, minister under Louis XVIII, made a Peer by Charles X, as corrupt and rapacious as the rest of Napoleon’s military banditti, and said to have already filled his pockets largely by fraudulent contracts since he has been Minister of War; he is placed at the head of the ministry only that the King may be the real minister, it being believed that a Doctrinaire, if he were called Prime Minister, would expect to be so, and not simply a cat’s-paw.
The first act of the Ministry has been to create a batch of fifty-nine Peers.9 The list of names, to any one versed in the personnel of French politics, is amusing enough. Nearly twenty are ejected Deputies of the juste-milieu or the moderate Royalist party of the Martignac Chamber; men, who, even under the present law of election, which returns a decided majority of the stationary party, have not been able to get themselves re-elected any where, though some of them have tried in three or four places. The remainder are generals, préfets, ambassadors, and other public functionaries, of no political character at all, and full half of them either of notorious and laughable imbecility, or bad private character. The only men of real merit in the batch are two or three such as MM. Allent and De Fréville, hard-working and able men of business, of flexible and easy political convictions; together with the well-known M. de Montlosier; M. Thenard, eminent as a chemist and experimental philosopher, but the feeblest of politicians; and MM. Cousin and Villemain, the celebrated lecturers at the Sorbonne, doctrinaires of the first water.10 This last was once a Deputy for about three months, vacated his seat by accepting a place, and has ever since been vainly knocking at the door of one electoral college after another, without being able to obtain admission. Three hundred of the party could get into the Chamber, yet a man of M. Villemain’s merit as a writer and orator could not, simply because he was a doctrinaire.
One fact deserves notice. Forty or fifty of the supporters of the Government party in the present Chamber of Deputies, thought themselves entitled to Peerages, yet two only have obtained their wish—Marshal Gérard, and M. Bertin de Vaux,11 chief proprietor and editor of the Journal des Débats. Why is this? It must be because the Ministry dreads the consequences of any considerable number of new elections in the present state of the public mind.
[1 ]The “doctrinaire” Ministry, nominally headed by Marshal Soult, included de Broglie, Thiers, and Guizot; it came to power in May 1832 after Périer’s death, and lasted until 1836.
[2 ]Essais sur l’histoire de France (1823), 2nd ed. (Paris: Brière; Leipzig: Bossange, 1824). His other works include those later praised in reviews by Mill: Cours d’histoire moderne: Histoire générale de la civilisation en Europe (Paris: Pichon and Didier, 1828), and Cours d’histoire moderne: Histoire de la civilisation en France, 5 vols. (Paris: Pichon and Didier, 1829-32).
[3 ]Histoire de la révolution d’Angleterre depuis l’avènement de Charles 1er jusqu’à la restauration de Charles II (Paris: Leroux and Chantpie, et al., 1826-27).
[4 ]Leading article on the French ministry, The Times, 17 Oct., 1832, p. 2.
[5 ]Histoire de la révolution française, 10 vols. (Paris: Lecointe and Durey, 1823-27).
[6 ]Speech on primogeniture (4 Apr.), Moniteur, 1826, pp. 443-4.
[7 ]See, e.g., “De la juridiction administrative,” Revue Française, VI (Nov. 1828), 58-132.
[8 ]For earlier comment, see No. 172, n28.
[9 ]Ordonnances du roi, Bull. 187, Nos. 4419-78 (12 Oct., 1832).
[10 ]Pierre Alexandre Joseph Allent (1772-1837), whose successful career in the army included his being Under-Secretary at the Department of War in 1817, became a deputy in 1828, but became ineligible on the sale of his property after the July Revolution. Jean Baptiste Maximilien, baron Villot de Fréville (1773-1847), active in the Revolution, was a member of the Tribunate under Napoleon. Louis Jacques Thenard (1777-1857), a brilliant chemist, was a deputy, 1827-31. Victor Cousin (1792-1867), philosopher, who, after his course at the Sorbonne was suspended in 1821, spent six months in prison. In 1828 he was allowed to return to the Sorbonne; he supported the July Revolution. Abel François Villemain (1790-1870), professor of modern history and then of éloquence française at the Sorbonne, whose course also was suspended by Villèle, was a deputy, 1830-31, supporting the July Revolution and working on the revision of the Charter.
[11 ]Louis François Bertin de Vaux (1771-1842) shared with his brother the political direction of the Journal des Débats. He had been a deputy since 1820.