Front Page Titles (by Subject) 376.: FRENCH AFFAIRS DAILY NEWS, 9 AUG., 1848, P. 3 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV
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376.: FRENCH AFFAIRS DAILY NEWS, 9 AUG., 1848, P. 3 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV, 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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This unheaded third leader, another comment on the aftermath of the February Revolution (see Nos. 370 and 374), is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article on French affairs in the Daily News of 9th August 1848”
(MacMinn, p. 70).
from the day when the people of Paris expelled the ruler who had been called the monarch of the middle classes, and proclaimed a democratic republic, it has been evident that the fate of political and social improvement in Europe, for many years to come, was to be decided in France. If the revolution, after its first difficulties are over, issues in a government which at once preserves order and accelerates progress—makes the laws obeyed, and labours actively to improve them—then in England, and in all Europe, faith in improvement, and determination to effect it, will become general, and the watchword of improvement will once more be, as it was of old, the emancipation of the oppressed classes. If, on the other hand, the French people allow their republican institutions to be filched from them by artifice, or yield them up under the ascendancy of some popular chief, or under the panic caused by insurrection, or compromise them by an indefinite succession of disorders, repressed only by a succession of illegal violences on the part of the government, the tendency in this and other countries to the extension of political rights or the redress of social injustices, may be for a long time suspended. The tide will set in in a retrograde direction, and a timid conservative instinct will probably take the place of even that moderate taste for improvement which did exist in a certain portion of the influential classes of this country before February last.
The enemies of reform in England know all this, and their tactics are accommodated to it. Events in France itself are fortunately out of their power. If anything which they were able to do could make the revolution in France really a disastrous failure, it would be done. Lacking this, the most that there is any chance of accomplishing is to make it be thought a failure. And to effect this, there is hardly any exaggeration or misrepresentation which is not resorted to. Those whose notions of the state of France are taken from the leading articles of almost any English newspaper, are much worse than ignorant, they are entirely misinformed. The writers do not even preserve a decent consistency with the facts published by themselves. It has repeatedly happened, that the Paris correspondent in one column has given an authoritative denial of some slanderer’s report, which is expatiated on as an admitted truth in the same day’s editorial article.1 In other cases similar slanders, after having for several days served their purpose as texts for blackening the revolution, or some individual or party connected with it, have been contradicted in half-a-dozen words, and in a corner, a week or more after the official contradiction had gone the round of the French newspapers. Oftener still, the denial, or positive disproof, given in the French papers, has not been noticed at all, while the calmuny has continued to be assumed as an indisputable fact. Instances of all these kinds of misrepresentations have occurred (for example), with regard to the imputed atrocities of the late unsuccessful insurgents.2 There was no limit to the absurd incredibility of the things at first asserted respecting these people. The English journals eagerly circulated them all—even the nonsense about waylaying the troops and the national guard to poison them with brandy, and such cock and bull stories, which bore their absurdity on the face of them—to which nothing but the extreme of terror and exasperation combined could have made the greatest gobemouche in Paris give credit for an instant. This, and all the tales about poisoned balls and other peculiarly murderous missiles made and used by the insurgents,3 have been proved and are now admitted to be, not exaggerations, but absolute fictions, without the smallest pretence of a fact to ground them on. There is not a single imputation of cruelty or ferocity of anything like a general character which is not now given up; the only assertions of the kind as yet unrefuted are of two or three insulated acts by individuals, and it remains to be seen whether even these will stand the test of judicial inquiry. Yet the English public are still led to believe, and do believe, that the insurrection was something unheard-of for its horrible barbarity; and the journals which led them into this belief take care not to disabuse them of it. Nor are the victors in the late contest more spared by calumny than the vanquished. We are told with the coolest effrontery in leading articles about the number of persons who have been shot by order of the present French government4 —it being a notorious fact that not one person has been shot, not one life taken, by the authority of government in consequence of the insurrection, while it is expected that none will be taken even after trial. The mildness and moderation of the sincerely republican party are as conspicuous in the present head of the government and his cabinet as in the provisional government and executive commission who preceded him.
The readers of both whig and tory papers really ought to receive with distrust the statements which they find in those papers disadvantageous to France. They ought to consider how great an interest those papers have, or think they have, in putting the worst colour on French affairs. It is the only chance of preventing reform. There is no way now of discrediting reform without blackening France. The enemies of popular institutions have lost their most potent weapon, fear of the unknown. Democracy, in the popular signification of the term, exists as a fact, among our nearest neighbours. There, under our eyes, is universal suffrage, or what is usually, though improperly, called by that name; a sovereign assembly, elected by the whole male population; no aristocracy as a clog on its movements; and the motto of this government is Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Here, then, is an actual trial of the experiment; with what success depends on circumstances of which no one is yet in a condition to judge; but if the result should be a social system, which, with any amount of allowance for human imperfection, does sincerely, and in a manner not to be mistaken, aim at guiding its practice by the spirit of its motto, surely it cannot have other than a beneficial influence? Other countries will not fear anything worse for themselves from popular institutions than France suffers, or than they can be made to believe that France suffers. We may be certain, therefore, that the bad side of everything will be made the most of; that every idle or malicious rumour of mischief will be circulated as a fact, and when each particular rumour is proved to be false, the general impression made by such false assertions will be studiously kept up, and that, fairly or foully, events in France will continue to be represented in the blackest colours in which there is any hope of representing them successfully. And such is, unfortunately, the general ignorance in this country respecting foreign affairs, that a large amount of misrepresentation may as yet be ventured upon without any considerable danger of detection.
[1 ]Compare the leading article on France and the Paris Correspondent’s report, “The State of the Continent,” The Times, 7 Aug., 1848, pp. 4 and 6.
[2 ]Compare “The French Republic: Termination of the Insurrection,” The Times, 28 June, pp. 5-6, and “The French Republic,” The Times, 11 July, p. 6. On 24-26 June, insurgent socialists had been defeated by more moderate republican forces under General Louis Eugène Cavaignac (1802-57) (brother of Godefroi), who on 28 June became President of the Council of Ministers under the Second Republic.
[3 ]See “The State of the Continent,” The Times, 7 Aug., p. 6.
[4 ]Leading article, The Times, 19 July, pp. 4-5.