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The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. II, trans. John Durand (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1894).
Part of a six volume history of the making of modern France. This volumes deals with the state created by Napoleon and how it evolved during the 19th century. The second part deals with the Church and public education.
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“To treat of the Church, the School, and the Family, describe the modern milieu and note the facilities and obstacles which a society like our own encounters in this milieu,” such was the programme of the last section of the “Origins of Contemporary France.” The preceding volume is a continuation of the first part of this programme; after the commune and the department, after local societies, the author was to study moral and intellectual bodies in France as organized by Napoleon. This study completed, this last step taken, he was about to reach the summit. He was about to view France as a whole, to comprehend it no longer through a detail of its organs, in a state of formation, but its actual existence; no longer isolated, but plunged, along with other occidental nations, into the modern milieu, experiencing with them the effects of one general cause which changed the physical and intellectual condition of men; which dissolved sentiments formerly grouping them together, more or less capable at length of adapting themselves to new circumstances and of organizing according to a new type suited to the coming age that now opens before us.
Only a part of this last volume was written, that which relates to the Church and to public instruction. Death intervened and suddenly arrested the pen. M. Taine, at this moment, was about completing his analysis of subordinate societies in France.—For those who have followed him thus far it is already clear that the great defect of the French community is the dissociation of individuals, isolated, dwindling, and prostrate at the feet of the all-powerful State, rendered incapable by remote historical causes, and yet more so by modern legislation, of “spontaneously grouping around a common interest.” Very probably—and of this we may judge by two sketches of a plan, undoubtedly provisional, but the ideas of which were long settled in his mind—M. Taine would have first described this legislation and defined its principles and general characteristics. He meant to show it more and more systematic, deliberately hostile to collective enterprise, considering secondary bodies not as “distinct, special organs,” endowed with a life of their own, “maintained and stimulated by private initiation,” but as agents of the State “which fashions them after a common pattern, imposes on them their form and prescribes their work.”—This done, this defect pointed out, the author was to enumerate the consequences flowing from it, the social body entirely changed, “not only in its proportions but in its innermost texture,” every tendency weakened by which individuals form groups that are to last longer than themselves, each man reduced to self, the egoistic instinct developed while the social instinct wastes away for want of nourishment, his daily imaginings confined solely to merely life-long aims, his political incapacity “lacking spheres of action in which he may train himself according to his experiences and faculties,” his listlessness in the inaction and ennui of the French province or his thirst for pleasure and success,—in sum, an organic impoverishment of all the cohesive faculties culminating in the destruction of natural centres of grouping and, consequently, in political instability.
One association of special import remains, the most spontaneous, the deepest rooted, so old that all others derive from it, so essential that in any attack upon it we see even the substance of the social body decaying and diminishing. On the nature of the Family; on its profound physiological origins; on its necessary rôle in the prolongation and “perpetuation of the individual” by affording him “the sole remedy for death”; on its primitive constitution among men of our own race; on its historic organization and development “around the fireside”; on the necessity of its subsistence and continuance in order to insure the duration of this fireside; on its other needs, M. Taine, with his knowledge of man and of his history, had given a good deal of thought to fundamental ideas analogous to those which he has consecrated to the classic spirit, to the origin of honor and conscience, to the essence of local society, so many stones, as it were, shaped by him from time to time and deeply implanted as the foundations of his criticism of institutions. Having set forth the proper character and permanent wants of the Family he was able to study the legislation affecting it, and, first, “the Jacobin laws on marriage, divorce, paternal authority and on the compulsory public education of children; next, the Napoleonic laws, those which still govern us, the Civil Code” with that portion of it in which the equality and levelling spirit is preserved, along with “its tendency to regard property as a means of enjoyment” instead of the starting-point and support of “an enduring institution.”—Having exposed the system, M. Taine meant to consider its effects, those of surrounding institutions, and to describe the French family as it now exists. He had first studied the “tendency to marriage”; he had considered the motives which, in general, weaken or fortify it, and appreciated those now absent and now active in France. According to him, “the healthy ideal of every young man is to found a family, a house of infinite duration, to create and to rule.” Why, in modern France does he give his thoughts to “pleasure and of excelling in his career”? Why does he regard marriage “without enthusiasm, as a last measure, as a ‘settling-down,’ and not as a beginning, the commencement of a veritable career, subordinating all others to it and regarding these, pecuniary and professional, as auxiliary and as means?”—After the tendency to marriage, “the tendency to paternity.” How does the curtailed family come to live only for itself? In what way, in default of other interests,—homestead, domain, workshop, lasting local undertakings,—how does the heart, now deprived of its food by the lack of invisible posterity, fall back on affection for visible progeny? In a country where there are few openings, where careers are overcrowded, what are the effects of this paidolatrie, and, to sum up in one phrase, in what way does the French system of to-day tend to develop the most fatal of results, the decrease of births?
Here, the study of institutions on a grand scale terminated. Formerly, M. Taine had contemplated a completion of his labors by a description of contemporary France, the product of origins scrutinized by him and of which he had traced the formation. Having disengaged his factors he meant to combine them, to show them united and acting in concert, all centring on the great actual facts which dominate the rest and which determine the order and structure of modern society. As he had given a picture of old France he aimed to portray France as it now is, with its various groups,—village, small town and large city,—with its categories of men, peasants, workmen, bourgeois, functionaries and capitalists; with the forces that impel each class along, their passions, their ideas, their desires. Besides the numerical statistics of persons he meant to have set forth the moral statistics of souls. According to him, psychological conditions exist which render the social activity of men possible or impossible. And, especially, “in a given society, there is always a psychological state which provokes the state of that society.” It was his aim to seek out in the novel, in poetry, in the arts since 1820, that is to say in all works that throw light on the various and successive kinds of the reigning ideal—in philosophy, in religion, in industry, in all branches of French action and thought—the signs of the psychological tendencies of modern Frenchmen in this or that social condition. What would this book have been? M. Taine had sketched it out so far back, he had abandoned it for so long a time and never alluded to it, that nothing remains by which we can form any idea of it. Nevertheless, in this undertaking demanding such keen scientific perceptions, such an intuitive sense, such habits of accurate observation, such general views and precise generalization—in so vast a study requiring such profound knowledge, not alone of France but of societies offering points of comparison with her, one may imagine that the author of Notes sur Paris, Notes sur l’Angleterre, of the Ancien Régime, the critic accustomed to interpret civilizations, literature and works of art, the thinker, in fine, who, to prepare himself for the greatest task he undertook, travelled five times over France, studying its life with the eyes of an artist, in the light of history and of psychology, ever preceding his philosophic study with visual investigation, would have been equal to the task. Already for several years, M. Taine, aware that his time was short, had narrowed the limits of the work he was engaged upon. But what his work lost in breadth and in richness of detail it would have gained in depth and in power. All his master ideas would have been found in it, foreshortened and concentrated. Always seeking in this or that group of them what he called his generators, intellectual and moral as well as political, he would have described all those which explain the French group. Unfortunately, here again the elements are wanting which allow one to foreshadow what this final analysis and last construction might have been. M. Taine did not write in anticipation. Long before taking the pen in hand he had derived his most significant facts and formed his plan. He carried them in his brain where they fell into order of themselves. Ten lines of notes, a few memoranda of conversations—faint reflections, to us around him, of the great inward light—are all that enable one to attempt an indication of the few leading conceptions which were to complete Les Origines de la France Contemporaine.
Le Milieu Moderne, was to have been the title of the last book. The question here is how to discover the great characteristics of the period into which European societies had entered and about were to live. Rising to a higher point of view than that to which he had confined himself in studying France, M. Taine regarded its metamorphosis as a case of transformation as general as the passage of the Cité antique over to the Roman Empire, or the Roman Empire over to the feudal State. Now, as formerly, this transformation is the effect of a “change in the intellectual and physical condition of men”; that is to say, in other words, in the environment that surrounds them. Such is the advent of a new geological period, of a glacial period, for example, or, more precisely, “the very slow and then accelerated upheaval of a continent, forcing the submarine species which breathe by gills to transform themselves into species which breathe by lungs.” It is impossible to divine in what sense this adaptation takes place if we do not comprehend the event, that is to say if we do not perceive its starting-point and the innate force which produces it. According to Taine, this force, in the present case, is the progress, the increasing authority of positive, verifiable science. What a definition he would have given of science and its essence! What a tableau of its progress, the man whose thought was matured at the moment when the scientific spirit entered into history and literature; who breathed it in his youth with the fervid and sacred enthusiasm of a poet seeing the world grow brighter and intelligible to him, and who, at the age of twenty-five, demanded of it a method and introduced this into criticism and psychology in order to give these new life—the mechanical equivalent of heat, natural selection, spectroscopic analysis, the theory of microbes, recent discoveries in physics and the constitution of matter, research into historic origins, psychological explanation of texts, extension of oriental researches, discovery of prehistoric conditions, comparative study of barbaric communities—every grand idea of the century to which he has himself contributed, all those by which science embraces a larger and larger portion of the universe, he saw them containing the same essence; all combining to change the conception of the world and substitute another, coherent and logical in the best minds, but then confused and disfigured as it slowly descends to the level of the crowd.—He would have described this descent, this gradual diffusion, the growing power of the new Idea, the active ferment which it contains after the manner of a dogma, beneficent or pernicious according to the minds in which it lodges, capable of arming men and of driving them on to pure destruction when not fully comprehended, and capable of reorganizing them if they can grasp its veritable meaning.
Its first effects are simply destructive, for, through Darwinism, through experimental psychology, through the physiology of the brain, through biblical exegesis, through the comparative study of savage communities and their moral systems, the new conception at first shocks the religious idea which it tends to replace; even, with the half-cultivated and in the minds of novices, it tends to pure negation, to hostility against existing religions. To every social gathering around the religious idea that explains and sustains it, what a disturbance in the secular system formed by the co-ordination and mutual adaptation of laws, customs, morality, and institutions! What a rupture of the inward equilibrum which maintains man passive and tranquil! What mental agitation! To what feverishness it leads, to what impulsions, to what ambitions, to what lassitude, to what despondency, to what disorder in all the sentiments which had thus far maintained every species of society, the family, the commune, the Church, free association and the State!—Now, along with the immediate effects of science on the intellectual habits of men consider the effects of its application to their material condition; at first, their increased well-being, their power increased, then the rupture of the ties that bind them to their birthplace, the concentration of masses of workmen in the towns to which they are attracted by great and rapid industrial development, the influx of new ideas, of every species of information, the gradual decline of the old hereditary prejudices of caste and parish which act automatically as instincts, and are useful as instincts to the small groups in which the individual is born and in which he lives. How could such a profound change in the condition of humanity fail to undermine everywhere the order of things which group men together? Why should not the new milieu at once attack all ancient forms of society? For, at the moment of its establishment, there exists in Europe a general form of society manifest through features in common; a monarchy—hereditary royalty, dynastic but frequently limited, at least in fact,—a privileged nobility performing military service as a special function, a clergy organized as a Church, proprietary and more or less privileged, local or special bodies also proprietary—provinces, communes, universities, brotherhoods, corporations—laws and customs which base the family on paternal authority, perpetuating it on the natal soil and by social rank; in brief, institutions which modern ideas disturb in every direction, the first effect of which is, while developing the spirit of doubt and investigation, to break down subordination to the king, to the gentleman, to the noble, and, in general, to dissolve society founded on heredity. Like phenomena are observable among them all, the ruin of feeble corporations by the state, its constant tendency to interference, to the absorption of every special service and the descent of power into the hands of a numerical majority.—What plan, then, governs these societies in the way of reorganization, and, since they all belong to a common type, what are the common resources and difficulties of adaptation? On what lines must the metamorphosis be effected in order to arrive at viable creations? And, abandoning the general problem in order to return to contemporary France, grown up and organized under our own eyes, how does the great modern event affect it? How does “this common factor combine with special factors, permanent and temporary,” belonging to our system? With the French, whose hereditary spirit and character are easily defined, in this society founded on Napoleonic institutions moved by our “administrative mechanism,” what are the peculiar tendencies of a levelling democracy which seeks immediate establishment? Among the maladies which are special with us—feeble birth-rate, political instability, absence of local life, slow industrial and commercial development, despondency and pessimism—can an aptitude for transformation which we do not possess be distinguished in the sense demanded by the new milieu? The knowledge we have of our origins, of our psychology, of our present constitution, of our circumstances, what hopes are warranted?
M. Taine could not have replied to all these interrogatories. If, twenty years ago, on the morrow after our disasters, just as we once more set about a new organization, putting aside literature, art, and philosophy, noble contemplation and pure speculation, abandoning works already projected, he gave himself up to the technical study of law, political economy and administrative history; if, for twenty years, he secluded himself and devoted himself to his task—at what a cost of prolonged effort, with what a strain on his mental faculties, with what weariness and often with what dissatisfaction!—if he shortened his life, it was to discharge what he deemed a duty to that suffering France which he loved with tender and silent passion, the duty of aiding in her cure by establishing the general diagnosis which a philosopher-historian was warranted in presenting after a profound study of its vital constitution. The examination finished, he felt that he had a right to offer the diagnosis. Not that his modesty permitted him to foretell the future or to dictate reforms. When his opinion was asked in relation to any reform he generally declined giving it. “I am merely a consulting physician,” he would reply; “I do not possess sufficient details on that particular question—I am not sufficiently familiar with circumstances which vary from day to day.” In effect, according to him, there is no general principle from which one can deduce a series of reforms. On the contrary, his first recommendation would have been not to try to find simple solutions in political and social matters, but to proceed by experiments, according to temperaments, and accepting the irregular and the incomplete.—One becomes resigned to this course by a study of history and by acquiring “the sense of surrounding facts and developments.” Here do we find the general remedy for the destructive effects produced by the brusque progress of science, and she herself furnishes this remedy, when, from the hasty and the theoretical, she becomes experimental and builds on the observation of facts and their relations. “Through psychological narrations, through the analysis of psychological conditions which have produced, maintained, or modified this or that institution, we may find a partial solution to each question of reform,” gradually discovering laws and establishing the general conditions that render possible or impossible any given project. When constituted and then developed, reorganized, respected and applied to human affairs, the sciences of humanity may become a new instrument of power and civilization, and, just as the natural sciences have taught us to derive profit from physical forces, they may teach us to benefit by moral forces. M. Taine believed that the French were very well qualified for this order of study: if any other people possess the faculty of memory to a greater extent and a more general knowledge of philology, he thought we had in our favor a superiority of the psychological sense.
By the side of this beneficent principle which provides general hygienic regulations, could M. Taine have suggested immediate remedies? It is scarcely probable. In any event, he was not a partisan for hasty decentralization. When, under the influence of a bad system, an organism has contracted a vice that reaches its elements, this régime becomes almost a necessity; in any event, no sudden modification of it must be thought fo; all that can be done is to lessen its pernicious effects by expedients. Taking advantage of unforeseen circumstances, using great circumspection, noting favorable symptoms that had impressed him—for example a certain new birth of the spirit of association under the Third Republic—leaving to political authorities the care “of adjusting means” to the diversity and mobility of things, we may believe that M. Taine would have confined himself to indicating in what sense we could, with prudence, lay our course. To do this, it sufficed for him to sum up his diagnosis and lay down the conditions of duration and progress. In a matter of such vital import nobody can speak for him. Accordingly, if the conclusion is not written, whoever knows how to read his thought may divine it. The work, such as it is, is finished; it already contains his ideas in full; the intelligent eye has only to follow them and to note their consequences and combination.
Menthon, St.-Bernard, October, 1893.
I. Centralization and moral institutions.—Object of the State in absorbing Churches.—Their influence on civil society.—II. Napoleon’s opinions on religion and religious belief.—His motives in preferring established and positive religions.—Difficulty in defining the limit between spiritual and temporal authority.—Except in Catholic countries, both united in one hand.—Impossible to effect this union in France arbitrarily.—Napoleon’s way of attaining this end by another process.—His intention of overcoming spiritual authority through temporal interests.—III. Services which he obliges the Pope to render.—Resignation or dismissal of the old bishops.—End of the constitutional Church.—Right of appointing bishops and of sanctioning curés given to the First Consul.—IV. Other services expected of the Pope.—Coronation of Napoleon at Notre-Dame.—Napoleonic theory of the Empire and the Holy See.—The Pope a feudatory and subject of the Emperor.—The Pope installed as a functionary at Paris, and arch-chancellor on spiritual matters.—Effect of this for Italy.—V. Services which Napoleon desires or expects from the French clergy.—His Roman idea of civil power.—Development of this conception by the legists.—Every religious association must be authorized.—Legal statutes which fix the doctrine and discipline of the four authorized Churches.—Legal organization of the Catholic Church.—Its doctrine and discipline to be that of the old Gallican Church.—New situation of the French Church and new rôle of civil power.—It sets aside its ancient obligations.—It retains and augments its regalian rights.—The Church of France before 1789 and after 1802.—Increased preponderance and complete dominion of the civil power.—VI. Reasons for suppressing the regular clergy.—Authorized religious associations.—The authorization revocable.—VII. System to which the regular clergy is subject.—Restoration and application of Gallican doctrines.—Gallicanism and submission of the new ecclesiastical staff.—Measures taken to insure the obedience of the existing clergy and that of the clergy in the future.—Seminaries.—Small number of these allowed.—Conditions granted to them.—Proceedings against suspicious teachers and undisciplined pupils.—VIII. Changes in the ecclesiastical hierarchy.—Motives for subordinating the lesser clergy.—The displacement of assistant priests.—Increase of episcopal authority.—Hold of Napoleon over the bishops.—IX. Political use of the episcopacy.—The imperial catechism.—Pastoral letters.—X. The Council of 1811.—The Concordat of 1813.
After the centralizing and invading State has taken hold of local societies there is nothing left for it but to cast its net over moral societies, and this second haul is more important than the first one; for, if local societies are based on the proximity of physical bodies and habitations, the latter are formed out of the accord which exists between minds and souls; in possessing these, the hold is no longer on the outside but on the inside of man, his thought, his will; the mainspring within is laid hold of, and this directly; then only can he be fully mastered, and disposed of at discretion. To this end, the main purpose of the conquering State is the possession of the Churches; alongside as well as outside of itself, these are the great powers of the nation; not only does their domain differ from its own but, again, it is vaster and lies deeper. Beyond the temporal patrimony and the small fragment of human history which the eyes of the flesh perceive, they embrace and present to mental vision the whole world and its first cause, the total ordinance of things, the infinite perspective of a past eternity and that of an eternity to come. Underneath the corporeal and intermittent actions which civil power prescribes and regulates, they govern the imagination, the conscience and the affections, the whole inward being, that mute, persistent effort of which our visible acts are simply the incomplete expression and the rare outbursts. Indeed, even when they set limits to these, voluntarily, conscientiously, there is no limit; in vain do they proclaim, if Christian, that their kingdom is not of this world; nevertheless, it is, since they belong to it; masters of dogma and of morals, they teach and command in it. In their all-embracing conception of divine and human things, the State, like a chapter in a book, has its place and their teachings in this chapter are for it of capital importance. For, here do they write out its rights and duties, the rights and duties of its subjects, a more or less perfect plan of civil order. This plan, avowed or dissimulated, towards which they incline the preferences of the faithful, issues at length, spontaneously and invincibly from their doctrine, like a plant from its seed, to vegetate in temporal society, flower and fructify therein and send its roots deeper down for the purpose of shattering or of consolidating civil and political institutions. The influence of a Church on the family and on education, on the use of wealth or of authority, on the spirit of obedience or of revolt, on habits of initiation or of inertia, of enjoyment or of abstention, of charity or of egoism, on the entire current train of daily practice and of dominant impulsions, in every branch of private or public life, is immense, and constitutes a distinct and permanent social force of the highest order. Every political calculation is unsound if it is omitted or treated as something of no consequence, and the head of a State is bound to comprehend the nature of it if he would estimate its grandeur.
This is what Napoleon does. As usual with him, in order to see deeper into others, he begins by examining himself. “To say from whence I came, what I am, or where I am going, is above my comprehension. I am the watch that runs, but unconscious of itself.” These questions, which we are unable to answer, “drive us onward to religion; we rush forward to welcome her, for that is our natural tendency. But knowledge comes and we stop short. Instruction and history, you see, are the great enemies of religion, disfigured by the imperfections of humanity. . . . I once had faith. But when I came to know something, as soon as I began to reason, which happened early, at the age of thirteen, my faith staggered and became uncertain.” This double personal conviction is an after-thought, when preparing the Concordat. “It will be said that I am a papist. I am nothing. In Egypt I was a Mussulman; here I shall be a Catholic, for the good of the people. I do not believe in religions. The idea of a God!” (And then, pointing upward:) “Who made all that?” The imagination has decorated this great name with its legends. Let us content ourselves with those already existing; “the disquietude of man” is such that he cannot do without them; in default of those already made he would fashion others, haphazard, and still more strange. The positive religions keep man from going astray; it is these which render the supernatural definite and precise; “he had better take it in there than go after it at Mademoiselle Lenormand’s, in the stories got up by every adventurer, every charlatan, that comes along.” An established religion “is a kind of vaccination which, in satisfying our love of the marvellous, guarantees us against quacks and sorcerers; the priests are far better than the Cagliostros, Kants, and the rest of the German mystics.” In sum, illuminism and metaphysics, the speculative inventions of the brain and the contagious overexcitement of the nerves, all the illusions of credulity, are unhealthy in their essence, and, in general, anti-social. Nevertheless, since they belong to human nature, let us accept them like so many streams tumbling down a slope, except on condition that they remain in their own beds and have, many of them, no new beds and not one bed alone by itself. “I do not want a dominant religion, nor the establishment of new ones. The Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran systems, established by the Concordat, are sufficient.” With these one need not grope one’s way in the unknown. Their direction and force are intelligible, and their irruptions can be guarded against. Moreover, the present inclinations and configuration of the human soil favor them; the child follows the road marked out by the parent, and the man follows the road marked out by the child. For instance, “last Sunday, here at Malmaison, while strolling alone in the solitude enjoying the repose of nature, my ear suddenly caught the sound of the church-bell at Ruel. It affected me, so strong is the force of early habits and education! I said to myself, What an impression this must make on simple, credulous souls!” Let us gratify these; let us give back these bells and the rest to the Catholics. After all, the general effect of Christianity is salutary. “As far as I am concerned, I do not see in it the mystery of the incarnation, but the mystery of social order, the association of religion with paradise, an idea of equality which keeps the rich from being massacred by the poor. . . . Society could not exist without an inequality of fortunes, and an inequality of fortunes without religion. A man dying of starvation alongside of one who is surfeited would not yield to this difference unless he had some authority which assured him that God so orders it that there must be both poor and rich in the world, but that in the future, and throughout eternity, the portion of each will be changed.” Alongside of the repressive police exercised by the State there is a preventive police exercised by the Church. The clergy, in its cassock, is an additional spiritual gendarmerie, much more efficient than the temporal gendarmerie in its stout boots, while the essential thing is to make both keep step together in concert.
Between the two domains, between that which belongs to civil authority and that which belongs to religious authority, is there any line of separation? “I look in vain where to place it; its existence is purely chimerical. I see only clouds, obscurities, difficulties. The civil government condemns a criminal to death; the priest gives him absolution and offers him paradise.” In relation to this act, both powers operate publicly in an inverse sense on the same individual, one with the guillotine and the other with a pardon. As these authorities may clash with each other, let us prevent conflicts and leave no undefined frontier; let us trace this out beforehand; let us indicate what our part is and not allow the Church to encroach on the State.—The Church really wants all; it is the accessory which she concedes to us, while she appropriates the principal to herself. “Mark the insolence of the priests who, in sharing authority with what they call the temporal power, reserve to themselves all action on the mind, the noblest part of man, and take it on themselves to reduce my part merely to physical action. They retain the soul and fling me the corpse!” In antiquity, things were much better done, and are still better done now in Mussulman countries. “In the Roman republic, the senate was the interpreter of heaven, and this was the mainspring of the force and strength of that government. In Turkey, and throughout the Orient, the Koran serves as both a civil and religious bible. Only in Christianity do we find the pontificate distinct from the civil government.” And even this has occurred only in one branch of Christianity. Everywhere, except in Catholic countries, “in England, in Russia, in the northern monarchies, in one part of Germany, the legal union of the two powers, religious control in the hands of the sovereign,” is an accomplished fact. “One cannot govern without it; otherwise, the repose, dignity, and independence of a nation are disturbed at every moment.” It is a pity that “the difficulty cannot be overcome as with Henry VIII. in England. The head of the French government would then, by legislative statute, be the supreme head of the French Church.”
Unfortunately, this is repugnant to France. Napoleon often tries to bring it about, but is satisfied that in this matter “he would never obtain national coöperation”; once “embarked,” fully engaged in the enterprise, “the nation would have abandoned him.” Unable to take this road, he takes another, which leads to the same result. As he himself afterwards states, this result “was, for a long time and always, the object of his wishes and meditations. . . . It is not his aim to change the faith of his people; he respects spiritual objects and wants to rule them without meddling with them; his aim is to make these square with his views, with his policy, but only through the influence of temporal concerns.” That spiritual authority should remain intact; that it should operate on its own speculative domain, that is to say, on dogmas, and on its practical domain, namely, on the sacraments and on worship; that it should be sovereign on this limited territory, Napoleon admits, for such is the fact. We have only to open our eyes to see it; right or wrong, spiritual authority on this distinct domain is recognized sovereign, obeyed, effective through the persistent, verified loyalty of believers. It cannot be done away with by supposing it non-existent; on the contrary, a competent statesman will maintain it in order to make use of it and apply it to civil purposes. Like an engineer who comes across a prolific spring near his manufactory, he will not try to dry it up, nor let the water be dispersed and lost; he has no idea of letting it remain inactive; on the contrary, he collects it, digs channels for it, directs and economizes the flow, and renders the water serviceable in his workshops. In the Catholic Church, the authority to be won and utilized is that of the clergy over believers and that of the sovereign pontiff over the clergy. “You will see,” exclaimed Bonaparte, while negotiating the Concordat, “how I will turn the priests to account, and, first of all, the Pope!”
“Had no Pope existed,” he says again, “it would have been necessary to create him for the occasion, as the Roman consuls created a dictator under difficult circumstances.” He alone could effect the coup d’état which the First Consul needed, in order to constitute the head of the new government a patron of the Catholic Church, to bring independent or refractory priests under subjection, to sever the canonical cord which bound the French clergy to its exiled superiors and to the old order of things, “to break the last thread by which the Bourbons still communicated with the country.” “Fifty emigré bishops in the pay of England now lead the French clergy. Their influence must be got rid of, and to do this the authority of the Pope is essential; he can dismiss or make them resign.” Should any of them prove obstinate and unwilling to descend from their thrones, their refusal brings them into discredit, and they are “designated as rebels who prefer the things of this world, their terrestrial interests to the interests of heaven and the cause of God.” The great body of the clergy along with their flocks will abandon them; they will soon be forgotten, like old sprouts transplanted whose roots have been cut off; they will die abroad, one by one, while the successor, who is now in office, will find no difficulty in rallying the obedient around him, for, being Catholic, his parishioners are so many sheep, docile, taken with externals, impressionable, and ready to follow the pastoral crook, provided it bears the ancient trademark, consists of the same material, is of the same form, conferred from on high and sent from Rome. The bishops having once been consecrated by the Pope, nobody save a Gregory or some antiquarian canonist will dispute their jurisdiction.
The ecclesiastical ground is thus cleared through the interposition of the Pope. The three groups of authorities thereon which contend with each other for the possession of consciences —the refugee bishops in England, the apostolic vicars, and the constitutional clergy—disappear, and now the cleared ground can be built on. “The Catholic religion being declared that of the majority of the French people, its services must now be regulated. The First Consul nominates fifty bishops whom the Pope consecrates. These appoint the curés, and the state pays their salaries. The latter may be sworn, while the priests who do not submit are sent out of the country. Those who preach against the government are handed over to their superiors for punishment. The Pope confirms the sale of clerical possessions; he consecrates the Republic.” The faithful no longer regard it askance. They feel that they are not only tolerated, but protected by it, and they are grateful. The people recover their churches, their curés, the forms of worship to which they are almost instinctively accustomed, the ceremonial which, to their imagination, belongs to every important act of their lives, the solemn rites of marriage, baptism, burial, and other sacramental offices.—Henceforth mass is said every Sunday in each village, and the peasants enjoy their processions on Corpus-Christi day, when their crops are blessed. A great public want is satisfied. Discontent subsides, ill-will dies out, the government has fewer enemies; its enemies, again, lose their best weapon, and, at the same time, it acquires an admirable one, the right of appointing bishops and of sanctioning the curés. By virtue of the Concordat and by order of the Pope, not only, in 1801, do all former spiritual authorities cease to exist, but again, after 1801, all new titularies, with the Pope’s assent, chosen, accepted, managed, disciplined, and paid by the First Consul, are, in fact, his creatures, and become his functionaries.
Over and above this positive and real service obtained from the sovereign pontiff, he awaits others yet more important and undefined, and principally his future coronation in Notre Dame. Already, during the negotiations for the Concordat, La Fayette had observed to him with a smile: “You want the holy oil dropped on your head”; to which he made no contradictory answer. On the contrary, he replied, and probably too with a smile: “We shall see! We shall see!” Thus does he think ahead, and his ideas extend beyond that which a man belonging to the ancient régime could imagine or divine, even to the reconstruction of the empire of the west as this existed in the year 800. “I am not Louis XIV.’s successor,” he soon declares, “but of Charlemagne. . . . I am Charlemagne, because, like Charlemagne, I unite the French crown to that of the Lombards, and my empire borders on the Orient.” In this conception, which a remote history furnishes to his boundless ambition, the terrible antiquary finds the gigantic and suitable framework, the potent, specious terms, and all the verbal reasons he requires. Under Napoleon, the successor of Charlemagne, the Pope can be only a vassal: “Your Holiness is the sovereign of Rome, but I am its emperor,” the legitimate suzerain. “Provided with “fiefs and counties” by this suzerain, the Pope owes him political fealty and military aid; failing in this, the endowment, which is conditional, lapses and his confiscated estates return to the imperial domain to which they have never ceased to belong. Through this reasoning and this threat, through the rudest and most adroit moral and physical pressure, the most insidious and most persevering, through spoliation, begun, continued and completed by the abduction, captivity and sequestration of the Holy Father himself, he undertakes the subjection of the spiritual power: not only must the Pope be like any other individual in the empire, subject by his residence to territorial laws, and hence to the government and the gendarmerie, but again he must come within the administrative lines; he will no longer enjoy the right of refusing canonical investiture to bishops appointed by the emperor, “he will, on his coronation, swear not to take any measures against the four propositions of the Gallican Church,” he will become a grand functionary, a sort of arch-chancellor like Cambacérès and Lebrun, the arch-chancellor of the Catholic cult.—Undoubtedly, he resists and is obstinate, but he is not immortal, and if he does not yield, his successor will: it suffices to choose one that is manageable, and to this end things work in the next conclave. “With my influence and our forces in Italy,” Napoleon says afterwards, “I did not despair, sooner or later, by one means or another, of obtaining for myself the control of the Pope, and, thenceforward, what an influence, what a lever on the opinion of the rest of the world!”
“Had I returned victorious from Moscow, I intended to exalt the Pope beyond measure, to surround him with pomp and deference. I would have brought him to no longer regretting his temporality; I would have made him an idol. He would have lived alongside of me. Paris would have become the capital of Christendom, and I would have governed the religious world the same as the political world. . . . I would have had my religious as well as legislative sessions; my councils would have represented Christianity; the Popes would have been merely their presidents. I would have opened and closed these assemblies, sanctioned and published their decrees, as was done by Constantine and Charlemagne.” In 1809, the restoration of the great Carlovingian and Roman edifice had begun; its physical foundations were laid. By virtue of a decree, “the expenses of the Sacred College and of the Propaganda were declared imperial.” The Pope, like the new dukes and marshals, was endowed with a landed income on “property in different parts of the empire, two millions of rural revenue free of all taxation.” “Necessarily” the Pope must have two palaces, one at Paris and the other at Rome. He is already nearly fully installed in Paris, his person being all that was lacking. On arriving from Fontainebleau, two hours off, he would find everything belonging to his office; “the papers of the missions and the archives of Rome were already there.” “The Hôtel Dieu was entirely given up to the departments of the court of Rome. The district around Notre Dame and the Ile St. Louis was to be the headquarters of Christendom!” Rome, the second centre of Christendom, and the second residence of the Pope, is declared “an imperial and free city, the second city of the empire”; a prince of the empire, or other grand dignitary, is to reside there and “hold the court of the emperor.” “After their coronation in the cathedral of Notre Dame at Paris, the emperors” will go to Italy before the tenth year of their reign, and be “crowned in the church of St. Peter at Rome.” The heir to the imperial throne “will bear the title and receive the honors of the King of Rome.” Observe the substantial features of this chimerical construction. Napoleon, far more Italian than French, Italian by race, instinct, imagination, and souvenirs, considers in his plan the future of Italy, and, on casting up the final accounts of his reign, we find that the net profit is for Italy and the net loss is for France. “Napoleon wanted to create the Italian kingdom over again, combining Piedmont, Tuscany, etc., in one united independent nation, bounded by the Alps and the sea. . . . This was to be the immortal trophy erected in his honor. . . . He awaited impatiently the birth of a second son that he might take him to Rome, crown him King of Italy and proclaim the independence of the great peninsula under the regency of Prince Eugene.” Since Theodoric and the Lombard kings, it is the Pope who, in preserving his temporal sovereignty and spiritual omnipotence, has maintained the sub-divisions of Italy; let this obstacle be removed and Italy will once more become a nation. Napoleon prepares the way, and constitutes it beforehand by restoring the Pope to his primitive condition, by withdrawing from him his temporal sovereignty and limiting his spiritual omnipotence, by reducing him to the position of managing director of Catholic consciences and head minister of the principal cult authorized in the empire.
In carrying out this plan, he will use the French clergy in mastering the Pope, as the Pope has been made use of in mastering the French clergy. To this end, before completing the Concordat and decreeing the Organic Articles, he orders for himself a small library, consisting of books on ecclesiastical law. The Latin works of Bossuet are translated for him, and he has drawn up an exposition of the Gallican parliamentary doctrine. The first thing is to go down to the roots of the subject, which he does with extraordinary facility, and then, recasting and shaping all theories to suit himself, he arrives at an original, individual conception, at once coherent, precise, and practical; one which covers the ground and which he applies alike to all churches, Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and even Jewish, to every religious community now existing and in time to come. His master-idea is that of the Roman legists and of ancient imperial jurisprudence; here, as elsewhere, the modern Cæsar goes back beyond his Christian predecessors to Constantine, and farther still, to Trajan and Augustus. So long as belief remains silent and solitary, confined within the limits of individual conscience, it is free, and the State has nothing to do with it. But let it transgress these limits, address the public, bring people together in crowds for a common purpose, manifest itself openly, it is subject to control; forms of worship, ceremonies, preaching, instruction and propagandism, the donations it calls forth, the assemblies it convenes, the organization and maintenance of the bodies it engenders, all the positive applications of the inward revery, are temporal works. In this sense, they form a province of the public domain, and come within the competency of the government, of the administration and of the courts. The State has a right to interdict, to tolerate, or to authorize them, and always to give them proper direction. Sole and universal proprietor of the outward realm in which single consciences may communicate with each other, it intervenes, step by step, either to trace or to bar the way; the road they follow passes over its ground and belongs to it; its watch, accordingly, over their proceedings is, and should be, daily; and it maintains this watch for its own advantage, for the advantage of civil and political interests, in such a way that concern for the other world may be serviceable and not prejudicial to matters which belong to this one. In short, and as a summary, the First Consul says, in a private conversation: “The people want a religion, and this religion should be in the hands of the government!”
On this theme, his legists, old parliamentarians or conventionalists, his ministers and counsellors, Gallicans or Jacobins, his spokesmen in the legislative assembly or the tribunate, all imbued with Roman law or with the Contrat Social, are capital mouthpieces for proclaiming the omnipotence of the State in well-rounded periods. “The unity of public power and its universality,” says Portalis, “are a necessary consequence of its independence.” “Public power must be sufficient unto itself; it is nothing if not all.” Public power cannot tolerate rivals; it cannot allow other powers to establish themselves alongside of it without its consent, perhaps to sap and destroy it. “The authority of a State is very precarious when men on its territory exercise great influence over minds and consciences, unless these men belong to it, at least in some relation.” It commits a grave imprudence “if it continues strange or indifferent to the form and the constitution of the government which proposes to govern souls,” if it admits that the limits within which the faith and obedience of believers “can be made or altered without its help, if it has not, in its legally recognized and avowed superiors, guarantees of the fidelity of inferiors.” Such was the rule in France for the Catholic cult previous to 1789, and such is to be the rule, after 1801, for all authorized cults. If the State authorizes them, it is “to direct such important institutions with a view to the greatest public utility.” Solely because it is favorable to “their doctrine and their discipline” it means to maintain these intact and prevent “their ministers from corrupting the doctrine entrusted to their teaching, or from arbitrarily throwing off the yoke of discipline, to the great prejudice of individuals and the State.” Hence, in the legal statute by which a Church is incorporated and realizes what she is, it states in precise terms what it exacts or permits her to be; henceforward she shall be this or that and so remain; her dogmas and her canons, her hierarchy and her internal regime, her territorial subdivisions and circumscriptions, her regular or casual sources of income, her teachings and her liturgy are definite things and fixed limitations. No ecclesiastical assembly, Protestant, Catholic, or Israelite, shall formulate or publish any doctrinal or disciplinary decision without the government’s approbation. No ecclesiastical assembly, Protestant, Catholic, or Israelite, shall be held without the approval of the government. All sacerdotal authorities, bishops and curés, pastors and ministers of both Protestant confessions, consistorial inspectors and presidents of the Augsbourg Confession, notables of each Israelite circumscription, members of each Israelite consistory, members of the central Israelite consistory, rabbis and grand-rabbis, shall be appointed or accepted by the government and paid by it through an “executory” decision of its prefects. All the professors of Protestant or Catholic seminaries shall be appointed and paid by the government. Whatever the seminary, whether Protestant or Catholic, its establishment, its regulations, its internal management, the object and spirit of its studies, shall be submitted to the approval of the government. In each cult, a distinct, formulated, official doctrine shall govern the teaching, preaching, and public or special instruction of every kind; this, for the Israelite cult, is “the doctrine expressed by the decisions of the grand Sanhedrim”; for the two Protestant cults, the doctrine of the Confession of Augsbourg, taught in the two seminaries of the East, and the doctrine of the Reformed Church taught in the Genevan seminary; for the Catholic cult, the maxims of the Gallican Church, the declaration, in 1682, of the assembly of the clergy and the four famous propositions depriving the Pope of any authority over sovereigns in temporal matters, subordinating the Pope to œcumenical councils in ecclesiastical and spiritual concerns, and which, in the government of the French Church, limit the authority of the Pope to ancient usages or canons inherited by that Church and accepted by the State.
In this way, the ascendency of the State, in ecclesiastical matters, increases beyond all measure and remains without any counterpoise. Instead of one Church, it maintains four, while the principal one, the Catholic, comprising thirty-three millions of followers, and more dependent than under the old monarchy, loses the privileges which once limited or compensated it for its subjection.—Formerly the prince was its temporal head, but on conditions which were onerous to him—on condition that he should be its exterior bishop and its secular arm, that it should have the monopoly of education and the censorship of books, that he should use his strong arm against heretics, schismatics and free-thinkers. Of all these obligations which kings accepted, the new sovereign frees himself, and yet, with the Holy See, he holds on to the same prerogatives and, with the Church, the same rights as his predecessors. He is just as minutely dictatorial as formerly with regard to the details of worship. At one time he fixes the fees and perquisites of the priest for administering the sacraments: “This fixation is a purely civil and temporal operation, since it resolves itself into a levy of so many pence on the citizen. Bishops and priests should not be allowed to exercise this faculty. The government alone must remain the arbiter between the priest who receives and the person who pays.” Again, he intervenes in the publication of plenary indulgence: “It is essential that indulgences should not be awarded for causes which might be contrary to public tranquillity or to the good of the country; the political magistrate is equally interested in knowing what the authority is that grants indulgences; if its title to act is legal, to what persons indulgences are granted, what persons are intrusted with their distribution, and what persons are to fix the term and duration of extraordinary prayers.”
Thus bound and held by the State, the Church is simply one of its appendices, for its own free roots by which, in this close embrace, it still vegetates and keeps erect have all been cut off short; torn from the soil and grafted on the State, they derive their sap and their roots from the civil powers. Before 1789, the clergy formed a distinct order in temporal society and, above all others, a body exempt from imposts and proprietary, a tax-payer apart which, represented in periodical assemblies, negotiated every five years with the prince himself, granted him subsidies and, in exchange for this “gratuitous gift,” secured for itself concessions or confirmations of immunities, prerogatives and favors; at this time, it is merely a collection of ordinary individuals and subjects, even less than that—an administrative staff analogous to that of the university, of the magistrature, of the treasury, and of the woods and forests, yet more closely watched and bridled, with more minute precautions and stricter interdictions. Before 1789, the curés and other second-class titularies were, for the most part, selected and installed without the prince’s intervention, now by the bishop of the diocese or a neighboring abbé, and again by independent collators, by the titulary himself, by a lay patron or a chapter, by a commune, by an indultaire, while the salary of each titulary, large or small, was his private property, the annual product of a piece of land or of some indebtedness attached to his office and which he administered. Nowadays, every titulary, from the cardinal-archbishop down to a canon, cantonal curé, and director or teacher in a seminary, is appointed or accepted by the civil power to which he swears fidelity, while his salary, set down in the budget, is simply that of a public employé, so many francs and centimes for which he comes monthly to the office of the treasury paymaster, along with others of his colleagues who are employed by the State in non-Catholic cults, together with others, his quasi-colleagues, whom the State employs in the university, in the magistrature, in the gendarmeries, and in the police. Such, in all branches of social life, is the universal and final effect of the Revolution. In the Church, as elsewhere, it has extended the interference and preponderance of the State, not inadvertently but intentionally, not accidentally but on principle. “The Constituent” (Assembly), says Siméon, “had rightly recognized that, religion being one of the oldest and most powerful means of government, it was necessary to bring it more than it had been under the control of the government.” Hence, the civil constitution of the clergy; “its only mistake was not to reconcile itself with the Pope.” At present, thanks to the agreement between Pope and government, the new régime completes the work of the ancient régime and, in the Church as elsewhere, the domination of the centralizing State is complete.
These are the grand lines of the new ecclesiastical establishment, and the general connections by which the Catholic Church, like an apartment in an edifice, finds itself comprehended in and incorporated with the State. It need not disconnect itself under the pretext of making itself more complete; there it is, built and finished; it cannot add to or go beyond this; no collateral and supplementary constructions are requisite which, through their independence, would derange the architectural whole, no monastic congregations, no body of regular clergy; the secular clergy suffices. “Never has it been contested that the public power had the right to dissolve arbitrary institutions which do not insist on the essence of religion and which are judged suspicious or troublesome to the State.” As a principle, all religious communities should be judged in this way; for they are spontaneous bodies; they form their own organization, and without the aid of the State, through the free will of their members; they live apart, according to the proper and peculiar statute which they adopt, outside of lay society, alongside of the established Church, under distinct chiefs chosen by themselves, sometimes under foreign ones, all more or less independent, all, through interest and by instinct, gathered around the Holy See, which, against diocesan authority and episcopal jurisdiction, serves them as protector. Formerly, the monks formed the Pope’s militia; they recognized no other sovereign, and thus were they more to be feared by governments than the secular clergy. The latter, without them, “would never have caused embarrassment;” henceforth there will be no other body. “I want bishops, curés, vicars, and that’s all! Religious communities have been allowed to re-establish themselves against my instructions;—I am informed that, at Beauvais, the Jesuits have formed establishments under the name of the Fathers of Faith. It should not be allowed”—and he prohibits it by decree. He dissolves “all associations formed under the pretext of religion and unauthorized.” He decides that, in future, “no aggregation or association of men or of women shall be formed under pretext of religion unless formally authorized;” he enjoins the prosecuting attorneys of his courts “to prosecute even by extra proceedings all persons of both sexes who directly or indirectly violate this decree.” He reserves to himself, however, the faculty of authorizing communities by which he can profit, and, in fact, he authorizes several of these as instrumentalities which society needs, or which are useful to the State, especially nursing or teaching sisters of charity, the brethren of Christian schools, and, first in rank, the Lazarists and the Fathers of foreign missions. “These monks,” he says, “will be of great service in Asia, in Africa, and in America. I will send them to procure information on the state of the country. Their robe protects them, while it is a cover to political and commercial designs. . . . I will allow them a capital to start with of 15,000 francs rental. . . . They cost little, are respected by savages, and, having no official character, cannot compromise the government.” Moreover, “religious zeal leads them to undertake work and to face perils which are beyond the strength of a civil agent.”—Of course, as they are “secret diplomatic agents,” the government must keep them in hand and direct them. Consequently, “their superior must no longer reside in Rome, but at Paris.” The same precaution is taken with reference to other congregations, which, in teaching or in charity, become regular auxiliaries of the lay power. “The general-superior of the Sisters of Charity will live in Paris ; the entire body will then be in the hands of the government.” As to the brethren of the Christian schools, Napoleon absorbs these in his university. “They must be licensed by the grand-master, who will certify to their internal regulations, accept their oaths, prescribe a special costume, and superintend their schools.” Observe the exigencies of the government at this point, its measures for controlling the religious orders authorized by it. Abbé Hanon, the common superior of the Sisters of Saint-Vincent de Paul, having refused to place Madame Lætitia at the head of the council of the order, is carried off at night and shut up at Fenestrelles, while the Sisters, who, following the instructions of their founder, refuse to recognize a superior appointed by the civil power, are treated in the same manner as formerly the nuns of Port-Royal. “It is time to put an end to this scandal of the Sisters of Charity in rebellion against their superiors. It is my intention to suppress all the houses which, in twenty-four hours after the notice you give them, do not return to subordination. You will replace the houses suppressed, not by Sisters of the same order, but by those of another order of charity. The Sisters at Paris will lose their influence, which will be a good thing.” Whatever the communities may be, the authorization by which they organize is merely a favor, and every favor granted may be withdrawn. “I will have no more missions of any kind. I established missionaries in Paris and gave them a house—I take all back. I am content with religion at home; I do not care to spread it abroad. . . . I make you responsible if (in a month from this) on the first of October there are any missions or congregations still existing in France.”—Thus does the regular clergy live, under a revocable title, by toleration, despotically, under a suspended thread which, perhaps to-morrow, may be cut short at pleasure.
The secular clergy remains better guaranteed, it seems, and by a less precarious statute, for this statute is an international and diplomatic act, a solemn and bilateral treaty which binds the French government, not only to itself but to another government, to an independent sovereign and the recognized head of the whole Catholic Church.—Consequently, it is of prime importance to rebuild and raise higher the barriers which, in ancient France, separated the secular clergy from the Pope, the customs and regulations which constituted the Gallican Church a province apart in the Church universal, the ecclesiastic franchises and servitudes which restricted the Pope’s jurisdiction in order that the jurisdiction of the king might be extended. All these servitudes to the advantage of the lay sovereign, and all these franchises to the prejudice of the ecclesiastic sovereign, are maintained and increased by the new statute. By virtue of the Concordat and by consent of the Pope, the First Consul acquires “the same rights and privileges in relation to the Holy See as the old government,” that is to say the same exclusive right to nominate future French cardinals and to have as many as before in the sacred college, the same right to exclude in the sacred conclave, the same faculty of being the unique dispenser in France of high ecclesiastical places and the prerogative of appointing all the bishops and archbishops on French territory. And better still, by virtue of the Organic Articles and in spite of the Pope’s remonstrances, he interposes, as with the former kings, his authority, his Council of State and his tribunals between the Holy See and the faithful. “No bull, brief, rescript, decree . . . of the court of Rome, even when bearing only on individuals, shall be received, published, printed or otherwise executed without permission of the government. No person, bearing the title of apostolic nuncio, legate, vicar or commissioner, . . . shall, without the same authorization, exercise on the French soil or elsewhere any function in relation to the interests of the Gallican Church. . . . All cases of complaint by ecclesiastical superiors and other persons shall be brought before the Council of State.” “Every minister of a cult who shall have carried on a correspondence with a foreign court on religious matters or questions without having previously informed the Minister of Worship and obtained his sanction shall, for this act alone, be subject to a penalty of from one hundred to five hundred francs and imprisonment during a term of from one month to two years.” Every communication from high to low and from low to high between the French Church and its Roman head, cut off at will, intervention by a veto or by approval of all acts of pontifical authority, to be the legal and recognized head of the national clergy, to become for this clergy an assistant, collateral, and lay Pope—such was the pretension of the old government, and such, in effect, is the sense, the juridic bearing, of the Gallican maxims. Napoleon proclaims them anew, while the edict of 1682, by which Louis XIV. applied them with precision, rigor and minuteness, “is declared the general law of the empire.”
There are no opponents to this doctrine, or this use of it, in France. Napoleon counts on not encountering any, and especially among his prelates. Gallican before 1789, the whole clergy were more or less so through education and tradition, through interest and through amour-propre; now, the survivors of this clergy are those who provide the new ecclesiastical staff, and, of the two distinct groups from which it is recruited, neither is predisposed by its antecedents to become ultramontane. Some among these, who have emigrated, partisans of the ancient régime, find no difficulty in thus returning to old habits and doctrines, the authoritative protectorate of the State over the Church, the interference of the Emperor substituted for that of the King, and Napoleon, in this as in other respects, the legitimate, or legitimated, successor of the Bourbons. The others, who have sworn to the civil constitution of the clergy, the schismatics, the impenitent and, in spite of the Pope, reintegrated by the First Consul in the Church, are ill-disposed towards the Pope, their principal adversary, and well-disposed towards the First Consul, their unique patron. Hence, “the heads of the Catholic clergy, that is to say, the bishops and grand-vicars, . . . are attached to the government;” they are “enlightened” people, and can be made to listen to reason. “But we have three or four thousand curés or vicars, the progeny of ignorance and dangerous through their fanaticism and their passions.” If these and their superiors show any undisciplined tendencies, the curb must be tightly drawn. Fournier, a priest, having reflected on the government from his pulpit in Saint-Roch, is arrested by the police, put in Bicêtre as mad, and the First Consul replies to the Paris clergy who claim his release “in a well-drawn-up petition,” “I wanted to prove to you, when I put my cap on the wrong side out, that priests must obey the civil power.” Now and then, a rude stroke of this sort sets an example and keeps the intractable in the right path who would otherwise be tempted to leave it. At Bayonne, concerning a clerical epistle in which an ill-sounding phrase occurs, “the grand-vicar who drew it up is sent to Pignerol for ten years, and I think that the bishop is exiled.” At Séez, when constitutional priests are in disfavor, the bishop is compelled to resign on the instant, while Abbé Langlois, his principal counsellor, taken by the gendarmes, led to Paris from brigade to brigade, is shut up in La Force, in secret confinement, with straw for a bed, during fourteen days, then imprisoned in Vincennes for nine months, so that, finally, seized with paralysis, he is transferred to an insane retreat, where he remains a prisoner up to the end of the reign.
Let us provide for the future as well as for the present, and, back of the clergy who now exist, set up the future clergy. The seminaries will answer this purpose. “Public ones must be organized so that there may be no clandestine seminaries, such as formerly existed in the departments of Calvados, Morbihan and many others; . . . the formation of young priests must not be left to ignorance and fanaticism.” “Catholic schools need the surveillance of the government.” There is to be one of these in each metropolitan district, and “this special school must be in the hands of the authorities.” “The directors and teachers shall be appointed by the First Consul”; men will be placed there who are “cultivated, devoted to the government and friendly to toleration; they will not confine themselves to teaching theology, but will add to this a sort of philosophy and correct worldliness.”—A future curé, a priest who controls laymen and belongs to his century, must not be a monk belonging to the other world, but a man of this world, able to adapt himself to it, do his duty in it with propriety and discretion, accept the legal order of things in which he is comprised, not damn his Protestant neighbors, Jews or freethinkers too openly, be a useful member of temporal society and a loyal subject of the civil power; let him be a Catholic and pious, but within just limits; he shall not be an ultramontanist or a bigot.—Precautions are taken to this effect. No seminarist may become subdeacon without the consent of the government, and the list of ordinations each year, sent to him at Paris by the bishop, is returned, cut down to the strictly necessary. From the very beginning, and in express terms, Napoleon has reserved all curacies and vicarages for “ecclesiastics pensioned by virtue of the laws of the Constituent Assembly.” Not only, through this confusion between pension and salary, does he lighten a pecuniary burden, but he greatly prefers old priests to young ones; many of them have been constitutionnels, and all are imbued with Gallicanism; it is he who has brought them back from exile or saved them from oppression, and they are grateful for it; having suffered long and patiently, they are weary, they must have grown wiser, and they will be manageable. Moreover, he has precise information about each one; their past conduct is a guarantee of their future conduct; he never chooses one of them with his eyes shut. On the contrary, the candidates for ordination are unknown; the government which accepts them knows nothing about them except that, at the age when the fever of growth or of the imagination takes a fixed form, they have been subject for five years to a theological education and to a cloistral life. The chances are that, with them, the feverishness of youth will end in the heat of conviction and in the prejudices of inexperience; in this event, the government which exempts them from the conscription to admit them in the Church exchanges a good military recruit for a bad ecclesiastical recruit; in place of a servant it creates an opponent. Hence, during the fifteen years of his reign, Napoleon authorizes only six thousand new ordinations, in all four hundred per annum, one hundred for each diocese or six or seven per annum. Meanwhile, by his university decrees, he lets lay daylight into clerical enclosures and shuts the door of all ecclesiastical dignities to suspicious priests. For great security, in every diocese in which “the principles of the bishop” do not give him full satisfaction, he interdicts all ordination, nomination, promotion, or favor whatever. “I have stricken off all demands relating to the bishoprics of Saint-Brieuc, Bordeaux, Ghent, Tournay, Troyes and the Maritime Alps. . . . My intention is that you do not, for these dioceses, propose to me any exemption of service for conscripts, no nominations for scholarships, for curacies, or for canonries. You will send in a report on the dioceses which it would be well to visit with this interdiction.” Towards the end, the Gallicism of Bossuet no longer suffices for him; he allowed it to be taught at Saint-Sulpice, and M. Emery, director of this institution, was the priest in France whom he esteemed the most and most willingly consulted; but a pupil’s imprudent letter had been just intercepted, and, accordingly, the spirit of that association is a bad one. An order of expulsion of the director is issued and the installation in his place of a new one “day after to-morrow,” as well as new administrators of whom none shall be Sulpician. “Take measures to have this congregation dissolved. I will have no Sulpicians in the seminary of Paris. Let me know the seminaries that are served by Sulpicians in order that they too may be sent away from these seminaries.” —And let the seminarists who have been badly taught by their masters take heed not to practise in their own behalf the false doctrines which the State proscribes; especially, let them never undertake, as they do in Belgium, to disobey the civil power in deference to the Pope and their bishop. At Tournay, all those over eighteen years of age are sent to Magdebourg; at Ghent, the very young or those not fit for military service are put in Saint-Pelagie; the rest, two hundred and thirty-six in number, including forty deacons or sub-deacons, incorporated in an artillery brigade, set out for Wesel, a country of marshes and fevers, where fifty of them soon die of epidemics and contagion.—There is ever the same terminal procedure; to Abbé d’Astros, suspected of having received and kept a letter of the Pope, Napoleon, with threats, gave him this ecclesiastical watchword: “I understand a profession of the liberties of the Gallican Church, but for all that I wear the sword, so look out for yourself!”—In effect, the military sanction, the arbitrary punishment, physical constraint, the sword ready to strike, is discovered behind all his institutions; involuntarily, the eyes detect beforehand the flash of the blade, and the flesh is sensible of the rigid keen incision.
Thus is a conquered country treated. He is, in relation to the Church, as in a conquered country. Like Westphalia or Holland, she is a naturally independent country which he has annexed by treaty, which he has been able to “englobe” but not absorb in his empire, and which remains invincibly distinct. The temporal sovereign, in a spiritual society, especially such a sovereign as he is,—nominally Catholic, scarcely Christian, at best a deist and from time to time as it suits,—will never be other than an external suzerain and a foreign prince. To become and remain master in such an annexation requires always a sight of the sword. Nevertheless, it would not be wise to strike incessantly; the blade, used too often, would wear out; it is better to utilize the constitution of the annex, rule over it indirectly, not by an administrative bureau (régie), but by a protectorate, in which all indigenous authorities can be employed and be made responsible for the necessary rigors. Now, by virtue of the indigenous constitution, the governors of the Catholic annex—all designated beforehand by their suitable and indelible character, all tonsured, robed in black, celibates and speaking Latin—form two orders, unequal in dignity and in number; one inferior, comprising myriads of curés and vicars, and the other superior, comprising some dozens of prelates.
Let us turn this ready-made hierarchy to account; and, the better to use it, let us tighten the strings. In agreement with the upper clergy and the Pope, we will increase the subjection of the lower clergy; we will govern the inferiors through the superiors; whoever has the head has the body; it is much easier to handle sixty bishops and archbishops than forty thousand vicars and curés; in this particular we need not undertake to restore primitive discipline; we must not be either antiquaries or Gallicans. Let us be careful not to give back to the second-class clergy the independence and stability they enjoyed before 1789, the canonical guarantees which protected them against episcopal despotism, the institution of competition, the rights conferred by theological grades, the bestowal of the best places on the wisest, the appeal to the diocesan court in case of disgrace, the opposing plea before the officialité, the permanent tie by which the titulary curé, once planted in his parish, took root there for life, and believed himself bound to his local community like Jesus Christ to the universal Church, indissolubly, through a sort of mystic marriage. “The number of curés,” says Napoleon, “must be reduced as much as possible, and the number of assistants (desservans) multiplied who can be changed at will,” not only transferable to another parish, but revocable from day to day, without formalities or delay, without appeal or pleading in any court whatsoever. Henceforth, the sole irremovable curés are the four thousand; the rest, under the name of succursalists, numbering thirty thousand, are ecclesiastical clerks, surrendered to the discretionary power of the bishop. The bishop alone appoints, places and displaces all belonging to his diocese; at his pleasure, and with a nod, he orders the best qualified for the best post to pass over to the worst, from the large borough or small birthplace, where he has lived at ease near his family, to some wretched parish in this or that village buried in the woods or lost on a mountain, without fees or parish domicile; and still better, he cuts down his wages, he withdraws the State salary of five hundred francs, he turns him out of the lodgings allowed him by the commune, a pedestrian on the highway, with no viaticum, even temporary, excluded from ecclesiastical ministries, without respect, unclassed, a vagabond in the great lay world whose ways are unknown to him and whose careers are closed to him. Henceforth, and forever, bread is taken out of his mouth; if he has it to-day, it is lacking on the morrow. Now, every three months, the list of succursalists at five hundred francs drawn up by the bishop, must be countersigned by the prefect; in his upper cabinet, near the mantelpiece on which the visiting-cards of every considerable personage in the department are displayed, facing the emperor’s bust, the two delegates of the emperor, his two responsible and judicial managers, the two superintended overseers of the conscription, confer together on the ecclesiastical staff of the department; in this as in other matters, they are and feel themselves kept in check from on high, curbed and forced, willingly or not, to come to some agreement. Compulsory collaborators by institution, each an auxiliary of the other in the maintenance of public order, they read over article by article the list of appointments of their common subordinates; should any name have bad notes, should any succursalist be marked as noisy, undesirable, or suspect, should there be any unfavorable report by the mayor, gendarmerie or upper police, the prefect, about to sign, lays down his pen, states his instructions and demands of the bishop against the delinquent some repressive measure, either destitution, suspension or displacement, removal to an inferior parish, or, at least, a comminatory reprimand, while the bishop, whom the prefect may denounce to the minister, does not refuse to the prefect this act of complacency.
Some months after the publication of the Concordat, Mademoiselle Chameron, an opera-dancer, dies, and her friends bear her remains to the church of St. Roch for interment. They are refused admittance, and the curé, very rigid, “in a fit of ill-humor,” orders the doors of the church to be shut; a crowd gathers around, shouts and launches threats at the curé; an actor makes a speech to appease the tumult, and finally the coffin is borne off to the church of Les Filles St. Thomas, where the assistant priest, “familiar with the moral of the gospel,” performs the funeral service. Incidents of this kind disturb the tranquillity of the streets and denote a relaxation of administrative discipline. Consequently the government, doctor in theology and canon law, intervenes and calls the ecclesiastical superior to account. The First Consul, in an article in the Moniteur, haughtily gives the clergy their countersign and explains the course that will be pursued against them by his prelates. “The Archbishop of Paris orders the curé of St. Roch into a retreat of three months, in order that he may bear in mind the injunction of Jesus Christ to pray for one’s enemies, and, made sensible of his duties by meditation, may become aware that these superstitious customs, which degrade religion by their absurdities, have been done away with by the Concordat and the law of Germinal 18.” Henceforth all priests and curés must be prudent, circumspect, obedient, and reserved, for their spiritual superiors are so, and could not be otherwise. Each prelate, posted in his diocese, is maintained there in isolation; a watch is kept on his correspondence; he may communicate with the Pope only through the Minister of Worship; he has no right to act in concert with his colleagues; all the general assemblies of the clergy, all metropolitan councils, all annual synods, are suppressed. The Church of France has ceased to exist as one corps, while its members, carefully detached from each other and from their Roman head, are no longer united, but juxtaposed. Confined to a circumscription, like the prefect, the bishop himself is simply an ecclesiastical prefect, a little less uncertain of his tenure of office; undoubtedly, his removal will not be effected by order, but he can be forced to send in his resignation. Thus, in his case, as well as for the prefect, his first care will be not to excite displeasure, and the next one, to please. To stand well at court, with the minister and with the sovereign, is a positive command, not only on personal grounds, but for the sake of Catholic interests. To obtain scholarships for the pupils of his seminary, to appoint the teachers and the director that suits him, to insure the acceptance of his canons, cantonal curés, and candidates for the priesthood, to exempt his sub-deacons from the conscription, to establish and to defray the expenses of the chapels of his diocese, to provide parishes with the indispensable priest, with regular services and the sacraments, requires favors, which favors cannot be enjoyed without an affectation of obedience and zeal and, more important still, devotedness.
Besides all this, he is himself a man. If Napoleon has selected him, it is on account of his intelligence, knowing what he is about, open to human motives, not too rigid and of too easy conscience; in the eyes of the master, the first of all titles has ever been a supposable docile character, associated with attachment to his system and person. Moreover, with his candidates, he has always taken into consideration the hold they give him through their weaknesses, vanity and necessities, their ostentatious ways and expenditure, their love of money, titles and precedence, their ambition, desire for promotion, enjoyment of credit, and right of obtaining places for protégés and relations. He avails himself of all these advantages and finds that they answer his purpose. With the exception of three or four saints, like Monseigneur d’Aviau or Monseigneur Dessolles, whom he has inadvertently put into the episcopate, the bishops are content to be barons, and the archbishops counts. They are glad to rank higher and higher in the Legion of Honor; they loudly assert, in praise of the new order of things, the honors and dignities it confers on these or those prelates who have become members of the legislative corps or been made senators. Many of them receive secret pay for secret services, pecuniary incentives in the shape of this or that amount in ready money. In sum, Napoleon has judged accurately; with hesitation and remorse, nearly the whole of his episcopal staff, Italian and French, sixty-six prelates out of eighty, are open to “temporal influences.” They yield to his seductions and threats; they accept or submit, even in spiritual matters, to his positive ascendency.
Moreover, among these dignitaries, nearly all of whom are blameless, or, at least, who behave well and are generally honorable, Napoleon finds a few whose servility is perfect, unscrupulous individuals ready for anything that an absolute prince could desire, like Bishops Bernier and De Pancemont, one accepting a reward of 30,000 francs and the other the sum of 50,000 francs for the vile part they have played in the negotiations for the Concordat; a miserly, brutal cynic like Maury, archbishop of Paris, or an intriguing, mercenary sceptic like De Pradt, archbishop of Malines; or an old imbecile, falling on his knees before the civil power, like Rousseau, bishop of Orleans, who indites a pastoral letter declaring that the Pope is as free in his Savona prison as on his throne at Rome. After 1806, Napoleon, that he may control men of greater suppleness, prefers to take his prelates from old noble families—the frequenters of Versailles, who regard the episcopate as a gift bestowed by the prince and not by the Pope, a lay favor reserved for younger sons, a present made by the sovereign to those around his person, on the understood condition that the partisan courtier who is promoted shall remain a courtier of the master. Henceforth nearly all his episcopal recruits are derived from “members of the old race.” “Only these,” says Napoleon, “know how to serve well.”
From the first year the effect arrived at is better than could be expected. “Look at the clergy,” said the First Consul to Rœderer; “every day shows that in spite of themselves their devotion to the government is increasing, and much beyond their anticipation. Have you seen the pastoral declaration of Boisgelin, archbishop of Tours? . . . He says that the actual government is the legitimate government, that God disposes of thrones and kings as he pleases and that he adopts the chiefs whom the people prefer. You yourself could not have said that better.” But, notwithstanding that this is said in the pastoral letter, it is again said in the catechism. No ecclesiastical publication is more important; all Catholic children are to learn this by heart, for the phrases they recite will be firmly fixed in their memories. Bossuet’s catechism is good enough, but it may be improved,—there is nothing that time, reflection, emulation, and administrative zeal cannot render perfect! Bossuet teaches children “to respect all superiors, pastors, kings, magistrates, and the rest.” “But these generalities,” says Portalis, “no longer suffice. They do not give the proper tendency to the subject’s submission. The object is to centre the popular conscience on the person of Your Majesty.” Accordingly, let us be precise, make appointments and secure support. The imperial catechism, a great deal more explicit than the royal catechism, adds significant developments to the old one, along with extra motives: “We specially owe to our Emperor, Napoleon the First, love, respect, obedience, fidelity, military service, and tributes ordained for the preservation of the empire and his throne. . . . For God has raised him up for us in times of peril that he might restore public worship and the holy religion of our fathers and be its protector.” Every boy and girl in each parish recite this to the vicar or curé after vespers in their tiny voices as a commandment of God and of the Church, as a supplementary article of the creed. Meanwhile the officiating priest in the pulpit gravely comments on this article, already clear enough, at every morning or evening service; by order, he preaches in behalf of the conscription and declares that it is a sin to try to escape from it, to be refractory; by order, again, he reads the army bulletins giving accounts of the latest victories; always by order, he reads the last pastoral letter of his bishop, a document authorized, inspired and corrected by the police. Not only are the bishops obliged to submit their pastoral letters and public instructions to the censorship; not only, by way of precaution, are they forbidden to print anything except on the prefecture presses, but again, for still greater security, the bureau of public worship is constantly advising them what they must say. First of all, they must laud the Emperor; and how this must be done, in what terms, and with what epithets, so that without indiscretion or mistake they may not meddle with politics, may not seem like a party managed from above, may not pass for mouthpieces, is not indicated, and it is a difficult matter. “You must praise the Emperor more in your pastoral letters,” said Réal, prefect of police, to a new bishop. “Tell me in what measure.” “I do not know,” was the reply. Since the measure cannot be prescribed, it must be ample enough. There is no difficulty as regards other articles.
On every occasion the Paris bureaux take care to furnish each bishop with a ready-made draft of his forthcoming pastoral letter—the canvas on which the customary flowers of ecclesiastical amplification are to be embroidered. It differs according to time and place. In La Vendée and in the west, the prelates are to stigmatize “the odious machinations of perfidious Albion,” and explain to the faithful the persecutions to which the English subject the Irish Catholics. When Russia is the enemy, the pastoral letter must dwell on her being schismatic; also on the Russian misunderstanding of the supremacy of the Pope. Inasmuch as bishops are functionaries of the empire, their utterances and their acts belong to the Emperor. Consequently he makes use of them against all enemies, against each rival, rebel or adversary, against the Bourbons, against the English and the Russians, and, finally, against the Pope.
Similar to the Russian expedition, this is the great and last throw of the dice, the decisive and most important of his ecclesiastical undertakings, as the other is in political and military affairs. Just as, under his leadership, he forces by constraint and, under his lead, a coalition of the political and military powers of his Europe against the Czar,—Austria, Prussia, the Confederation of the Rhine, Holland, Switzerland, the kingdom of Italy, Naples, and even Spain,—so does he by constraint and under his lead coalesce all the spiritual authorities of his empire against the Pope. He summons a council, consisting of eighty-four bishops that are available in Italy and in France. He takes it upon himself to drill them, and he makes them march. To state what influences he uses would require a volume —theological and canonical arguments, appeals to Gallican souvenirs and Jansenist rancors, eloquence and sophisms, preparatory manœuvres, secret intrigues, public acting, private solicitations, steady intimidation, successful pressures, thirteen cardinals exiled and deprived of their insignia, two other cardinals confined in Vincennes, nineteen Italian bishops conveyed to France under escort, without bread or clothes; fifty priests of Parma, fifty of Plaisance, besides one hundred other Italian priests, sent away or confined in Corsica; all congregations of men in France—Saint-Lazare, Mission, Christian Doctrine, Saint-Sulpice—dissolved and suppressed; three bishops of the council seized in bed at daylight, put into a cell and kept in close confinement, forced to resign and to promise in writing not to carry on correspondence with their dioceses; arrest of their adherents in their dioceses; the Ghent seminarists turned into soldiers, and, with knapsack on their backs, leaving for the army; professors at Ghent, the canons of Tournay, and other Belgian priests shut up in the citadels of Bouillon, Ham and Pierre-Chatel ; near the end, the council suddenly dissolved because scruples arise, because it does not yield at once to the pressure brought to bear on it, because its mass constitutes its firmness, because men standing close together, side by side, stand all the longer. “Our wine in the cask is not good,” said Cardinal Maury; “you will find that it will be better in bottles.” Accordingly, to make it ready for bottling, it must be filtered and clarified, so as to get rid of the bad elements which disturb it and cause fermentation. Many opponents are in prison, many have retired from their dioceses, while the rest are brought to Paris and cunningly worked upon, each member in turn, apart and confined, tête-à-tête with the Minister of Worship, until all, one by one, are brought to sign the formula of adhesion. On the strength of this, the council, purged and prepared, is summoned afresh to give its vote sitting or standing, in one unique session; through a remnant of virtue it inserts a suspensive clause in the decree, apparently a reservation, but the decree is passed as ordered. Like the foreign regiment in an army corps which, enlisted, forced into line, and goaded on with a sharp sword, serves, in spite of itself, against its legitimate prince, unwilling to march forward to the attack, meaning at the last moment to fire in the air, so does it finally march and fire its volley notwithstanding.
Napoleon, on the other hand, treats the Pope in the same fashion, and with like skill and brutality. As with the Russian campaign, he has prepared himself for it long beforehand. At the outset there is an alliance, and he concedes great advantages to the Pope as to the Czar, which will remain to them after his fall; but these concessions are made only with a mental reservation, with the instinctive feeling and predetermination to profit by the alliance, even to making an independent sovereign whom he recognizes as his equal, his subordinate and a tool; hence, quarrels and war. This time also, in the expedition against the Pope, his strategy is admirable,—the entire ecclesiastical territory studied beforehand, the objective point selected, all disposable forces employed and directed by fixed marches to where the victory is to be decisive, the conquest extended and the seat of the final dominion established; the successive and simultaneous use of every kind of means—cunning, violence, seduction and terror; calculation of the weariness, anxiety and despair of the adversary; at first menaces and constant disputes, and then flashes of lightning and multiplied claps of thunder, every species of brutality that force can command; the States of the Church invaded in times of peace, Rome surprised and occupied by soldiers, the Pope besieged in the Quirinal, in a year the Quirinal taken by a nocturnal assault, the Pope seized and carried off by post to Savona and there confined as a prisoner of state almost in cellular seclusion, subject to the entreaties and manœuvres of an adroit prefect who works upon him, of the physician who is a paid spy, of the servile bishops who are sent thither, alone with his conscience, contending with inquisitors relieving each other, subject to moral tortures as subtile and as keen as old-time physical tortures, to tortures so steady and persistent that he sinks, loses his head, “no longer sleeps and scarcely speaks,” falling into a senile condition and even more than senile condition, “a state of mental alienation.” Then, on issuing from this, the poor old man is again beset; finally, after waiting patiently for three years, he is once more brusquely conducted at night, secretly and incognito, over the entire road, with no repose or pity though ill, except stopping once in a snow-storm at the hospice on Mount Cenis, where he comes near dying; put back after twenty-four hours in his carriage, bent double by suffering and in constant pain; jolting over the pavement of the grand highway until almost dead and landed at Fontainebleau, where Napoleon wishes to have him ready at hand to work upon. “Indeed,” he himself says, “he is a lamb, an excellent, worthy man whom I esteem and am very fond of.”
An improvised tête-à-tête may probably prove effective with this gentle, candid and tender spirit. Pius VII., who had never known ill-will, might be won by kindly treatment, by an air of filial respect, by caresses; he may feel the personal ascendency of Napoleon, the prestige of his presence and conversation, the invasion of his genius. Inexhaustible in arguments, matchless in the adaptation of ideas to circumstances, the most amiable and most imperious of interlocutors, stentorian and mild, tragic and comic by turns, the most eloquent of sophists and the most irresistible of fascinators, as soon as he meets a man face to face, he wins him, conquers him, and obtains the mastery. In effect, after seeing the Pope for six days, Napoleon obtains by persuasion what he could not obtain afar by constraint. Pius VII. signs the new Concordat in good faith, himself unaware that, on regaining his freedom and surrounded by his cardinals, who inform him on the political situation, he will emerge from his bewilderment, be attacked by his conscience, and, through his office, publicly accuse himself, humbly repent, and in two months withdraw his signature.
Such, after 1812 and 1813, is the duration of Napoleon’s triumphs and the ephemeral result of his greatest military and ecclesiastical achievements—Moskowa, Lutzen, Bautzen and Dresden, the Council of 1811 and the Concordat of 1813. Whatever the vastness of his genius may be, however strong his will, however successful his attacks, his success against nations and churches never is, and never can be, other than temporary. Great historical and moral forces elude his grasp. In vain does he strike, for their downfall gives them new life, and they rise beneath the blow. With Catholic institutions, as with other powers, not only do his efforts remain sterile, but what he accomplishes remains inverse to the end he has in view. He aims to subjugate the Pope, and he led the Pope on to omnipotence. He aims at the maintenance and strength of the Gallican spirit among the French clergy, and yet brings them under the rule of the ultramontane spirit. With extraordinary energy and tenacity, with all his power, which was enormous, through the systematic and constant application of diverse and extreme measures, he labored for fifteen years to rend the ties of the Catholic hierarchy, take it to pieces, and, in sum, the final result of all is to tie them faster and hasten its completion.
I. The effects of the system.—Completion of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.—Omnipotence of the Pope in the Church.—Influence of the French Concordat and other precedents from 1801 to 1870.—Why the clergy becomes ultramontane.—The dogma of Infallibility.—II. The bishop in his diocese.—Change of situation and rôle.—Depreciation of other local authorities.—Diminution of other ecclesiastical authorities.—Decline of the chapter and the officialité.—The bishop alone dispenses rigors and favors.—Use of displacement.—Second-class clergy subject to military discipline.—Why it submits to this.—Change in the habits and ways of the bishop.—His origin, age, capability, mode of living, labor, initiative, undertakings, and moral and social ascendency.—III. The subordinates.—The secular clergy.—Its derivation and how recruited.—How prepared and led.—The lower seminary.—The higher seminary.—Monthly lectures and annual retreat.—The Exercitia.—The Manreze du Prêtre.—The curé in his parish.—His rôle a difficult one.—His patience and correct conduct.
In 1801, at Rome, pending the negotiations for the Concordat, when Pius VII. still hesitated about the deposition in mass of the survivors of the ancient French episcopacy, clear-sighted observers already remarked, “Let this Concordat which the First Consul desires be completed, and you will see, on its ratification, its immense importance and the power it will give to Rome over the episcopacy throughout the universe.”—In effect, through this “extraordinary, nearly unexampled” act of authority, and certainly unequalled “in the history of the Church,” the ultramontane theory, contested up to this time, maintained in the speculative region of abstract formulæ, comes down to solid ground, into practical and lasting use. Willingly or not, “the Pope acts as if universal bishop;” urged and constrained by the lay power, attached to a dictatorship, he entered upon it and so installed himself, and, ten years later, Napoleon, who had impelled him on, regretted that he had done so. Warned by his Gallican legists, he saw the ecclesiastical import of his work; but it was too late to retreat—the decisive step had been taken.—For, in fact, the Pope had deprived all the chieftains of a great church of their thrones, “his colleagues and co-bishops,” successors of the apostles under the same title as himself, members “of the same order and stamped” with the same “character,” eighty-five legitimate incumbents and, still better, as admitted by himself, blameless, worthy, persecuted because they had obeyed him, banished from France on account of their unwillingness to quit the Roman Church. He had ordered them to resign; he had withdrawn apostolic powers from the thirteen who had refused to tender their resignations; to all, even to those who refused, he had appointed their successors. He assigned to the new titularies dioceses of a new pattern and, to justify novelties of such gravity, he could allege no other reasons than circumstances, the exigencies of lay power, and the welfare of the Church. After that the Gallicans themselves, unless accepting the risk of a schism and of separating forever from the Holy See, were obliged to allow the Pope above and beyond the ordinary powers exercised by him within the old limits of canons and of custom, an extraordinary power unlimited by any canon or by any custom, a plenary and absolute authority, a right above all other rights, by virtue of which, in cases determined by himself, he provided in a discretionary way for all Catholic interests, of which he thus becomes the supreme judge, the sole interpreter and the court of last appeal. An indestructible precedent was set up; it was the great corner-stone in the support of the modern Church edifice; on this definitive foundation all other stones were to be superposed, one by one. In 1801, Pius VII., under the pressure of the reigning Napoleon, had obliged the prelates of the old régime, sullied by a monarchical origin and suspected of zeal for the dethroned Bourbons, to abandon their seats. In 1816, under the pressure of the re-established Bourbons, the same Pius VII. obliged Fesch, cardinal-archbishop of Lyons, and uncle of the fallen Napoleon, to abandon his seat. In both cases the situation was similar, and, in the latter as in the former case, motives of the same order warranted the same use of the same power.
But the situation, in being prolonged, multiplied, for the Church, cases of urgency, and, for the sovereign pontiff, cases of intervention. Since 1789, the entire civil order of things, constitutional, political, social and territorial, had become singularly unstable, not only in France but in Europe, not only on the old continent but likewise on the new one. Sovereign states by hundreds sunk under the strokes and counter-strokes, indefinitely propagated and enforced by the philosophy of the eighteenth century and of the French Revolution; others, by dozens, arose in their place, and, in these, different dynasties succeeded each other; here, Catholic populations falling under the rule of a schismatic or Protestant prince; there, this or that Catholic country, for fifteen years included in a mixed state, detached from it and constituted apart. In Protestant America, the Catholics, increased to millions, formed new communities; in Catholic America, the colonies had become independent; almost everywhere in America and in Europe the maxims of government and of public opinion had changed. Now, after each of these changes, some initiative, some direction, some authority was necessary, in order to reconcile ecclesiastical with lay institutions; the Pope was on hand, and on each occasion he establishes this concord. At one time, by a diplomatic act analogous to the French Concordat of 1801, he negotiates with the sovereign of the country—Bavaria, Wurtemburg, Prussia, Austria, Spain, Portugal, the two Sicilies, the Netherlands, Belgium and Russia. Again, owing to the tolerant liberalism, or to the constitutional indifference of the lay government, he alone prescribes, notably in Holland, in Ireland, in England, in Canada, and in the United States, a division of the country into ecclesiastical districts, the erection of new bishoprics, and the lasting regulation of the hierarchy, the discipline, the means of support and the recruiting of the clergy. Again, when sovereignty is in dispute, as after the emancipation of the Spanish colonies, he does without it, in spite of the opposition of the mother-country, and, “without putting himself in relation with the new governments,” he, acting for himself, “that he may put an end to the widowhood of the Churches,” appoints bishops, assigns them a provisional régime in anticipation of the epoch when, in concert with better-founded governments, he will decree their definitive régime. In this way, all the great existing churches of the Catholic universe are the work of the Pope, his latest work, his own creation attested by a positive act of contiguous date, and of which the souvenir is vivid: he has not recognized them—he has made them; he has given them their external form and their internal structure; no one of them can look within itself without finding in its laws the fresh imprint of the sovereign hand which has fashioned it; none of them can assert or even believe itself legitimate without declaring the superior authority to be legitimate which has just endowed it with life and being. The last step, the greatest of all, above the terrestrial and practical order of things, in speculative theology, in the revelation of the supernatural, in the definition of things that are divine: the Pope, the better to prove his autocracy, in 1854, decrees, solely, of his own accord, a new dogma, the immaculate conception of the Virgin, and he is careful to note that he does it without the concurrence of the bishops; they were on hand, but they neither deliberated nor decided.
Thus arise durable powers, spiritual or temporal, little by little, through the uninterrupted and uncontested series of their acts; from 1791 to 1870 all ecclesiastical precedents, one added to another, became consolidated, one through the other and through their mass; story after story, steadily ascending and converging to raise the Pope higher still, until at last, on the summit of the edifice, the Holy See becomes the keystone of the arch, the omnipotence of fact being completed by omnipotence of right.
Meanwhile, Catholic opinion came to the aid of pontifical opinion, and, in France, the clergy spontaneously became ultramontane because there was no longer any motive for remaining Gallican. Since the Revolution, the Concordat and the Organic Articles, all the sources which maintained in it a national as well as particularist spirit, had dried up; it ceased being a distinct, proprietary and favored body; its members are no longer leagued together by the community of a temporal interest, by the need of defending their privileges, by the faculty of acting in concert, by the right of holding periodical assemblies; they are no longer, as formerly, attached to the civil power by great social and legal advantages, by their honorable priority in lay society, by their immunities from taxation, by the presence and influence of their bishops in the provincial parliaments, by the noble origin and magnificent endowments of nearly all their prelates, by the repressive support which the secular arm lent to the Church against dissenters and free-thinkers, by the immemorial legislation and customs which, erecting Catholicism into a State religion, imposed the Catholic faith on the monarch, not alone in his quality of a private individual and to fix his personal belief, but again in his quality of public magistrate, to influence his policy and to share in his government. This last article is capital, and out of its abrogation the rest follows: at this turn of the road the French clergy is thrown off the Gallican track, every step it takes after this being on the way to Rome. For, according to Catholic doctrine, outside of the Roman Church there is no salvation; to enter it, to rest in it, to be led by it is the highest interest and first duty of man; it is the unique and infallible guide; all acts that it condemns are culpable, and not only private acts, but likewise all public acts; the sovereign who commits them may, as an individual, be Catholic by profession and even loyal at heart; but, as a ruler, he is disloyal, he has lost his semi-ecclesiastic character, he has ceased to be “the exterior bishop,” he is not worthy to command a clerical body. Henceforth, the Christian conscience no longer bows down before him with love and respect; nothing remains to him for support but social prudence; and again is it with resignation, because the Church commands obedience to the authorities, and the same Church commands disobedience to these authorities when, abusing their power, they encroach on its rights.
Now, for ten years back, the State had done nothing else, and, to the old Concordat which was not good, it had just substituted a Concordat that was worse. This new alliance, concluded by it with the Church in 1802, is not a religious marriage, the solemn sacrament by which, at Rheims, she and it promised to live together and in harmony in the same faith, but a simple civil contract, more precisely the legal regulation of a lasting and deliberate divorce.—In a paroxysm of despotism the State has stripped the Church of its possessions and turned it out of doors, without clothes or bread, to beg on the highways; next, in a fit of rage, its aim was to kill it outright, and it did partially strangle it. Recovering its reason, but having ceased to be Catholic, it has forced the signature of a pact which is repugnant, and which reduces their moral union to physical cohabitation. Willingly or not, the two contracting parties are to continue living together in the same domicile, since that is the only one they possess; but, as there is incompatibility of humor, they will do well to live apart. To this end, the State assigns a small, distinct lodging to the Church and allows her a meagre supply of food; this done, it tancies that it may cry quits; and, worse still, it imagines that she is always its subject, and still pretends to the same authority over her; the State is determined to retain all rights conferred upon it by the old marriage, and these rights it exercises and adds to. Meanwhile, it admits into the same lodging three other Churches which it subjects to the same régime: that makes four mess-rooms to be maintained and which it watches, supports and utilizes the best it can for the temporal advantage of the household. There is nothing more odious to the Catholic Church than this advertised, practical polygamy, this subvention granted indifferently to all cults, this patronage in common, more insulting than abandonment, this equal treatment which places the pulpit of truth and the pulpits of falsehood, the ministry of salvation and the ministries of perdition, on the same footing. Nothing is more serviceable for alienating a Catholic clergy, for making it consider civil power as foreign, usurping, or even inimical, for detaching the Gallican Church from its French centre, for driving it back towards its Roman centre and for handing it over to the Pope.
Henceforth, the latter is the unique centre, the sole surviving head of the Church, inseparable from it because he is naturally its head and because it is naturally his body; and all the more because this mutual tie has been strengthened by trials. Head and body have been struck together, by the same hands, and each on the other’s account. The Pope has suffered like the Church, along with and for it. Pius VI., dethroned and borne off by the Directory, died in prison at Valence; Pius VII., dethroned and carried off by Napoleon, is confined, sequestered and outraged for four years in France, while all generous hearts take sides with the oppressed against his oppressors. Moreover, his dispossession adds to his prestige: it can no longer be claimed that territorial interests prevail with him over Catholic interests; therefore, according as his temporal power diminishes his spiritual power expands, to such an extent that, in the end, after three-quarters of a century, just at the moment when the former is to fall to the ground the latter is to rise above the clouds; through the effacement of his human character his superhuman character becomes declared; the more the sovereign prince disappears, the more does the sovereign pontiff assert himself. The clergy, despoiled like him of its hereditary patrimony and confined like him to its sacerdotal office, exposed to the same dangers, menaced by the same enemies, rallies around him the same as an army around its general; inferiors and superiors, they are all priests alike and are nothing else, with a clearer and clearer conscience of the solidarity which binds them together and subordinates the inferiors to the superiors. From one ecclesiastical generation to another, the number of the refractory, of the intractable and of independents, rigorists or the lax, goes on decreasing, some, conscientious Jansenists, hardened and sectarians of the “Little Church,” others, semi-philosophers, tolerant and liberal, both inheriting too narrow convictions or too broad opinions for maintaining themselves and spreading in the newly founded society (milieu). They die out, one by one, while their doctrines fall into discredit and then into oblivion. A new spirit animates the new clergy, and, after 1808, Napoleon remarks of it, “It does not complain of the old one, and is even satisfied with it; but, he says, they are bringing up new priests in a sombre fanatical doctrine: there is nothing Gallican in the youthful clergy,” no sympathy for the civil power. After Napoleon, and on getting out of his terrible hands, the Catholics have good reasons for their repugnance to his theology; it has put too many Catholics in jail, the most eminent in rank, in holiness, bishops and cardinals, including the Pope. Gallican maxims are dishonored by the use Napoleon has made of them. Canon law, in public instruction and in the seminaries (of the Catholics), ends insensibly in unlooked-for conclusions; texts and arguments opposed to the Pope’s authority seem weaker and weaker; texts and arguments favorable to the Pope’s authority seem stronger and stronger; the doctors most deferred to are no longer Gerson and Bossuet, but Bellarmin and Suarez; flaws are discovered in the decrees of the council of Constance; the Declaration of the clergy of France in 1682 is found to contain errors condemned and open to condemnation. After 1819, M. de Maistre, a powerful logician, matchless herald and superb champion, in his book on “The Pope,” justifies, prepares and announces the coming constitution of the Church.—Step by step, the assent of the Catholic community is won or mastered; on approaching 1870, it is nearly universal; after 1870, it is wholly so and could not be otherwise; whoever refuses to submit is excluded from the community and excludes himself from it, for he denies a dogma which it professes, a revealed dogma, an article of faith which the Pope and the council have just decreed. Thenceforward, the Pope, in his magisterial pulpit, in the eyes of every man who is and who wants to remain Catholic, is infallible; when he gives his decision on faith or on morals, Jesus Christ himself speaks by his mouth, and his definitions of doctrine are “irreformable,” “they are so of themselves, they alone, through their own virtue, and not by virtue of the Church’s consent.” For the same reason, his authority is absolute, “not only in matters which concern faith and morals, but again in matters which concern the discipline and government of the Church.” His judgment may be resorted to in every ecclesiastical case; nobody is allowed to question his verdict; “nobody is allowed to appeal to the future œcumenical council.” He has not only “a priority by right, an office of inspection and of direction; he holds again priority of jurisdiction, a full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, . . . ” “the total plenitude of this supreme power,” not indirectly and extraordinarily, but “directly and ordinarily, over all churches and over each one of them, over all pastors and all believers, over each believer and each of the pastors.”—Read this in the Latin: each word, through its ancient root and through its historic vegetation, contributes to strengthening the despotic and Roman sense of the text; the language of the people which invented and practised dictatorship had to be employed for the affirmation of dictatorship with that precision and that copiousness, with that excess of energy and of conviction.
The change brought about in the condition and rôle of the bishop was not less grave. Along with the court noblesse and great ecclesiastical property, we see the prelate of the old régime disappearing by degrees, the younger son of a noble family, promoted by favor and very young, endowed with a large income and much more a man of the world than of the Church. In 1789, out of one hundred and thirty-four bishops or archbishops, only five were of plebeian origin; in 1889, out of ninety bishops or archbishops there are only four of them nobles; previous to the Revolution, the titulary of an episcopal see enjoyed, on the average, a revenue of one hundred thousand francs ; at the present day, he receives only a salary of from ten to fifteen thousand francs. In place of the grand seignior, an amiable and magnificent head of a mansion, given to display and to entertaining the best company, keeping an open table in his diocese when he happens to be there, but generally absent, an habitué of Paris or a courtier at Versailles, we see another stepping forward to take his seat, bearing the same title, a personage whose habits and origins are different, a resident administrator, much less ornamental but a far more active and governing spirit, provided with a more ample jurisdiction, with more absolute authority and wielding more effective influence. The final effect of the Revolution in relation to the bishop is the same as in relation to the Pope, and in the French diocese, as in the universal Church, the modern régime sets up a central, extraordinary, enormous power of which the ancient regime knew nothing.
Formerly, the bishop encountered around him, on the spot, equals and rivals, bodies of men or individuals, as independent and powerful as himself, irremovable, owners of estates, dispensers of offices and of favors, local authorities by legal sanction, permanent patrons of a permanent class of dependents. In his own cathedral, his metropolitan chapter was, like himself, a collator of livings; elsewhere, other chapters were so likewise and knew how to maintain their rights against his supremacy. In each body of regular clergy, every grand abbot or prior, every noble abbess was, like himself, a sort of sovereign prince; likewise sovereign through the partial survival of the old feudal order, wholly laic, a territorial seignior and justiciary on his own domain; likewise sovereign, for its part, the parliament of the province, with its rights of registry and of remonstrance, with its administrative attributes and interferences, with its train of loyal auxiliaries and subordinates, from the judges of the presidencies and bailiwicks down to the corporations of advocates, prosecutors and other members of the bar. The parliamentarians of the district capital (chef-lieu), purchasers and owners of their offices, magistrates from father to son, much wealthier and much prouder than nowadays, were, in their old hereditary mansions, the real chiefs of the province, its constant representatives on the spot, its popular defenders against ministerial and royal absolutism. All these powers, which once counterbalanced episcopal power, have disappeared. Restricted to their judicial office, the tribunals have ceased to be political authorities and moderators of the central government: in the town and department, the mayor and general councillors, appointed or elected for a certain time, enjoy only temporary credit; the prefect, the military commandant, the rector, the treasurer-general are merely passing strangers. The local circumscription, for a century, is an exterior post where individuals live together in contact but not associated; no longer does any intimate, lasting and strong bond exist between them; nothing remains of the old province but a population of inhabitants, a given number of private persons under unstable functionaries. The bishop alone has maintained himself intact and erect, a dignitary for life, the conductor, by title and in fact, of a good many persons, the stationary and patient undertaker of a great service, the unique general and undisputed commander of a special militia which, through conscience and profession, gathers close around him and, every morning, awaits his orders. Because, in his essence, he is a governor of souls. Revolution and centralization have not encroached on his ecclesiastical prerogative. Thanks to this indelible quality he has been able to endure the suppression of the others; these have come back to him of themselves and with others added, comprising local superiority, real importance and local ascendency; including the various honorable appellations which, under the ancient régime, denoted his rank and preëminence; at the present day, under the modern régime, they are no longer in use for a layman and even for a minister of state; after 1802, one of the articles of the Organic Laws, interdicts them to bishops and archbishops; they are “allowed to add to their name only the title of citizen and monsieur.” But practically, except in the official almanac, everybody addresses a prelate as “my lord,” and in the clergy, among believers, in writing or in speaking to him, he is called “your Grace,” under the republic as under the monarchy.
Thus, in this provincial soil where other powers have lost their roots, not only has he kept his, but he has extended them and much farther; he has grown beyond all measure and now the whole ecclesiastical territory belongs to him. Formerly, on this territory, many portions of it, and quite large ones, were enclosures set apart, reserves that an immemorial wall prevented him from entering. It is not he who, in a great majority of cases, confers livings and offices; it is not he who, in more than one-half of them, appoints to vacant curacies. At Besançon, among fifteen hundred benefices and livings, he once conferred less than one hundred of them, while his metropolitan chapter appointed as many curés as himself; at Arras, he appointed only seventeen curés and his chapter sixty-six; at Saint-Omer, among the collators of curacies he ranked only third, after the abbey of Saint-Martin and after the chapter of the cathedral. At Troyes, he could dispose only of one hundred and ninety-seven curacies out of three hundred and seventy two; at Boulogne, out of one hundred and eighty, he had only eighty, and this again because the chapter voluntarily abandoned to him sixteen. Naturally, the eyes of all aspirants turned towards the collator; now, among the highest and most lucrative places, those which gave the least trouble and afforded the most satisfaction, all sinecures, ranks, simple benefices and large urban curacies, probendaries and canonicates, most of the offices, titles, and incomes that might tempt human ambition, were in the hands, not of the bishop, but of the king or of the Pope, of an abbot or prior, of an abbess, or of a certain university, of this or that cathedral or college-body, of a lay seignior, of a patentee, or of an indultaire, and often of the titulary himself. Thus, the hold of the bishop on his clercs was feeble; he did not hold them through the hope of a favor. And, on the other hand, he had still less hold on them, no hold at all, through fear of losing favor. They might displease him almost with impunity; his faculty for punishment was much more restricted than his means of recompense. His subordinates could find shelter and refuge against his displeasure, and even against his hostility. In the first place, and as a principle, a titulary, whether ecclesiastic or laic, owned his office and hence was irremovable; they themselves, plain vicar-curates, the humble desservans of a rural parish, had acquired this privilege through the declarations of 1726 and 1731. Moreover, in case of interdiction, suspension or of censure, a titulary could always recur to the courts against episcopal judgment and any other, against all encroachment on spiritual or temporal prerogatives, or on those which were useful or honorary belonging to his charge.
These courts were of two kinds, one ecclesiastical and the other laic, and in each an appeal could be made from a lower to a higher court, from the diocesan official to the metropolitan official, and from the présidial to the parliament, with a complete judicial staff, judge, assessors, public ministry, prosecutors, advocates and clerks, restricted to the observing of all judicial formalities, authentic papers, citations of witnesses and challenges of testimony, interrogatories and pleadings, allegation of canons, laws and precedents, presence of the defendant, opposing arguments, delays in procedure, publicity and scandal. Before the slow march and inconveniences of such a trial, the bishop often avoided giving judgment, and all the more because his verdicts, even when confirmed by the ecclesiastical court, might be warded off or rendered ineffective by the lay tribunal; for, from the former to the latter, there was an appeal under writ of error, and the latter, a jealous rival of the former, was ill-disposed towards the sacerdotal authorities; besides, in the latter case, far more than in the former, the bishop found confronting him not merely the more or less legal right of his own party, but again the allies and patrons of his party, corporations and individuals who, according to an accepted usage, interfered through their solicitations with the judges and openly placed their credit at the service of their protégé. With so many spokes in the wheels, the working of an administrative machine was difficult; to give it effective motion, it required the steady pressure, the constant starting, the watchful and persistent efforts of a laborious, energetic, and callous hand, while, under the ancient régime, the delicate white hands of a gentleman-prelate were ill-adapted to this rude business; they were too nicely washed, too soft. To manage personally and on the spot a provincial, complicated and rusty machine, always creaking and groaning, to give one’s self up to it, to urge and adjust twenty local wheels, to put up with knocks and splashes, to become a business man, that is to say a man of all work—nothing was less desirable for a grand seignior of that epoch. In the Church as in the State, he made the most of his rank; he collected and enjoyed its fruits, that is to say money, honors and gratifications, and, among these gratifications, the principal one, leisure; hence, he abandoned every special duty, the daily manipulation of men and things, the practical direction, all effective government, to his ecclesiastical or lay intendants, to subordinates whom he scarcely looked after and who, at his own house, on his own domain, replaced him as fixed residents. The bishop, in his own diocese, left the administration in the hands of his canons and grand-vicars; “the official decided without his meddling.” The machine thus worked alone and by itself, with very few shocks, in the old rut established by routine; he helped it along only by the influence he exercised at Paris and Versailles, by recommendations to the ministers; in reality, he was merely the remote and worldly representative of his ecclesiastical principality at court and in the drawing-room. When, from time to time, he made his appearance there, the bells were rung; deputations from all bodies hurried to his antechambers; each authority in turn, and according to the order of precedence, paid him its little compliment, which compliment he graciously returned and then, the homage being over, he distributed among them benedictions and smiles. After this, with equal dignity and still more graciously throughout his sojourn, he invited the most eligible to his table and, in his episcopal palace or in his country-house, he treated them as guests. This done, he had performed his duty; the rest was left to his secretaries, ecclesiastical officials and clerks, men of the bureaux, specialists and “plodders.” “Did you read my pastoral letter?” said a bishop to Piron. And Piron, who was very outspoken, dared reply, “Yes, my lord. And yourself?”
Under the modern régime, this suzerain for show, negligent and intermittent, is succeeded by an active sovereign whose reign is personal and constant; the limited and easy monarchy of the diocese is converted into an universal and absolute monarchy. When the bishop, once invested and consecrated, enters the choir of his cathedral to the reverberations of the organ, lighted with wax candles amidst clouds of incense, and seats himself in solemn pomp “on his throne,” he is a prince who takes possession of his government, which possession is not nominal or partial, but real and complete. He holds in his hand “the splendid cross which the priests of his diocese have presented to him,” in witness of and symbolizing their voluntary, eager and full obedience; and this pastoral baton is larger than the old one. In the ecclesiastical herd, no head browses at a distance or under cover; high or low, all are within reach, all eyes are turned towards the episcopal crook; at a sign made by the crook, and according to the signal, each head forthwith stands, advances or recedes: it knows too well that the shepherd’s hands are free and that it is subject to its will. Napoleon, in his reconstruction of the diocese, made additions to only one of the diocesan powers, that of the bishop; he suffered the others to remain low down, on the ground. The delays, complications and frictions of a divided government were repugnant to him; he had no taste for and no comprehension of any but a concentrated government; he found it convenient to deal with but one man, a prefect of the spiritual order, as pliable as his colleague of the temporal order, a mitred grand functionary—such was the bishop in his eyes. This is the reason why he did not oblige him to surround himself with constitutional and moderating authorities; he did not restore the ancient bishop’s court and the ancient chapter; he allowed his prelates themselves to pen the new diocesan statute.—Naturally, in the division of powers, the bishop reserved the best part to himself, the entire substance, and, to limit his local omnipotence, there remained simply lay authority. But, in practice, the shackles by which the civil government kept him in its dependence, broke or became relaxed one by one. Among the Organic Articles, almost all of them which subjected or repressed the bishop fell into discredit or into desuetude. Meanwhile, those which authorized and exalted the bishop remained in vigor and maintained their effect. Consequently, Napoleon’s calculation, in relation to the bishop or in relation to the Pope, proved erroneous. He wanted to unite in one person two incompatible characters, to convert the dignitaries of the Church into dignitaries of the State, to make functionaries out of potentates. The functionary insensibly disappeared; the potentate alone subsisted and still subsists.
At the present day, conformably to the statute of 1802, the cathedral chapter, except in case of one interim, is a lifeless and still-born body, a vain simulachre; it is always, by title or on paper, the Catholic “senate,” the bishop’s obligatory “council”; but he takes his councillors where he pleases, outside of the chapter, if that suits him, and he is free not to take any of them, “to govern alone, to do all himself.” It is he who appoints to all offices, to the five or six hundred offices of his diocese; he is the universal collator of these and, nine times out of ten, the sole collator; excepting eight or nine canonships and the thirty or forty cantonal curacies, which the government must approve, he alone makes appointments and without any person’s concurrence. Thus, in the way of favors, his clerical body has nothing to expect from anybody but himself—while, on the other hand, they no longer enjoy any protection against his severities; the hand which punishes is still less restrained than that which rewards; like the cathedral chapter, the ecclesiastical tribunal has lost its consistency and independence, its efficiency; nothing remains of the ancient bishop’s court but an appearance and a name.
At one time, the bishop in person is himself the whole court; he deliberates only with himself and decides ex informata conscientia without a trial, without advice, and, if he chooses, in his own cabinet with closed doors, in private according to facts, the value of which he alone estimates, and through motives of which he is the sole appreciator. At another time, the presiding magistrate is one of his grand-vicars, his revocable delegate, his confidential man, his mouthpiece, in short, another self, and this official acts without the restraint of ancient regulations, of a fixed and understood procedure beforehand, of a series of judicial formalities, of verifications and the presence of witnesses, of the delays and all other legal precautions which guard the judge against prejudice, haste, error, and ignorance and without which justice always risks becoming injustice. In both cases, the head over which the sentence is suspended lacks guarantees, and, once pronounced, this sentence is definitive. For, on appeal to the court of the metropolitan bishop, it is always confirmed; the bishops support each other, and, let the appellant be right or wrong, the appeal is in itself a bad mark against him: he did not submit at once, he stood out against reproof, he was lacking in humility, he has set an example of insubordination, and this alone is a grave fault. There remains the recourse to Rome; but Rome is far off, and, while maintaining her superior jurisdiction, she does not willingly cancel an episcopal verdict; she treats prelates with respect, she is careful of her lieutenant-generals, her collectors of Saint Peter’s pence. As to the lay tribunals, these have declared themselves incompetent, and the new canon law teaches that never, “under the pretext of a writ of error, may a priest make an appeal to the secular magistrate”; through this appeal, “he derogates from the authority and liberty of the Church and is liable to the gravest censures;” he betrays his order.
Such is now, for the lower clergy, ecclesiastical law, and likewise laic law, both agreeing together in not affording him protection; add to this change in the jurisprudence which concerns him a no less decisive change in the titles which place and qualify him. Before 1789, there were in France thirty-six thousand curés entitled irremovable; at the present day, there are only three thousand four hundred and twenty-five; before 1789, there were only twenty-five hundred curés in France entitled removable, while to-day there are thirty-four thousand and forty-two; all of the latter, appointed by the bishop without the approbation of the civil powers, are removable at his discretion; their parochial ministry is simply a provisional commission; they may be transferred from day to day, they may be placed elsewhere, passing from one precarious curacy to another no less precarious. “At Valence, Mgr. Chartrousse, in one month transferred one hundred and fifty priests from one parish to another. In 1835, in the diocese of Valence, thirty-five transfers were sent out by the same mail.” No assistant-priest, however long in his parish, feels that he is at home there, on his own domain, for the rest of his life; he is merely there in garrison, about the same as lay functionaries and with less security, even when irreproachable. For he may be transplanted, not alone for spiritual reasons, but likewise for political reasons. He has not grown less worthy, but the municipal council or the mayor have taken a dislike to his person; consequently, to tranquillize things, he is displaced. Far better, he had become worthy and is on good terms with the municipal council and the mayor; wherever he has lived he has known how to mollify these, and consequently “he is removed from parish to parish, chosen expressly to be put into those where there are troublesome, wrangling, malevolent, and impious mayors.” It is for the good of the service and in the interest of the Church. The bishop subordinates persons to this superior interest. The legislation of 1801 and 1802 has conferred full powers upon him and he exercises them; among the many grips by which he holds his clergy the strongest is the power of removal, and he uses it. Into all civil or ecclesiastical institutions Napoleon, directly or by counterstrokes, has injected his spirit, the military spirit; hence the authoritative régime, still more firmly established in the Church than in the State, because that is the essence of the Catholic institution; far from being relaxed in this, it has become stricter; at present it is avowed, proclaimed, and even made canonical; the bishop, in our days, in fact as in law, is a general of division, and, in law as in fact, his curés are simply sergeants or corporals. Command, from such a lofty grade, falls direct, with extraordinary force, on grades so low, and, at the first stroke, is followed by passive obedience. Discipline in a diocese is as perfect as in an army corps, and the prelates publicly take pride in it. “It is an insult,” said Cardinal de Bonnechose to the Senate, “to suppose that we are not masters in our own house, that we cannot direct our clergy, and that it is the clergy which directs us. . . . There is no general within its walls who would accept the reproach that he could not compel the obedience of his soldiers. Each of us has command of a regiment, and the regiment marches.”
In order to make troops march, a baton, even when pastoral, is not sufficient; it is still requisite that forced subordination in the men should go along with voluntary subordination; consequently, legal authority in the chief should be accompanied with moral authority; otherwise he will not be loyally supported and to the end. In 1789, this was not the case with the bishop; on two occasions, and at two critical moments, the clergy of the inferior order formed a separate band, at first at the elections, by selecting for deputies curés and not prelates, and next in the national assembly, by abandoning the prelates to unite with the Third Estate. The intimate hold of the chief on his men was relaxed or broken. His ascendency over them was no longer sufficiently great; they no longer had confidence in him. His subordinates had come to regard him as he was, a privileged individual, sprung from a distinct race and furnished by a class apart, bishop by right of birth, without a prolonged apprenticeship, having rendered no services, without tests of merit, almost an interloper in the body of his clergy, a Church parasite accustomed to spending the revenues of his diocese away from his diocese, idle and ostentatious, often a shameless gallant or obnoxious hunter, disposed to be a philosopher and free-thinker, and who lacked two qualifications for a leader of Christian priests: first, ecclesiastical deportment, and next, and very often, Christian faith.
All these gaps in and discrepancies of episcopal character, all these differences and distances between the origins, interests, habits, and manners of the lower and the upper clergy, all these inequalities and irregularities which alienated inferiors from the superior, have disappeared; the modern régime has levelled the wall of separation established by the ancient régime between the bishop and his priests. At the present day he is, like them, a plebeian, of common extraction, and sometimes very low, one being the son of a village shoemaker, another the natural son of a poor workwoman, both being men of feeling and never blushing at their humble origin, openly tender and respectful to their mothers,—a certain bishop lodging his mother, formerly a servant, in his episcopal palace and giving her the first seat at his table among the most honored and noblest of his guests. He is “one of fortune’s officers,” that is to say, a meritorious and old officer. According to the “Almanac” of 1889, the three youngest are from forty-seven to forty-nine years of age; all the others are fifty and over; among the latter, three fourths of them are over sixty. As a general rule, a priest cannot become a bishop short of twenty or twenty-five years’ service in the lower and average grades; he must have remained in each grade a longer or shorter period, in turn vicar, curé, vicar-general, canon, head of a seminary, sometimes coadjutor, and almost always have distinguished himself in some office, either as preacher or catechist, professor or administrator, canonist or theologian. His full competence cannot be contested, and he enjoys a right to exact full obedience; he has himself rendered it up to his consecration; “he boasts of it,” and the example he proposes to his priests is the one he has himself given. On the other hand, his moderate way of living excites but little envy; it is about like that of a general of division, or of a prefect, or of a high civil functionary who, lacking personal fortune, has nothing but his salary to live on. He does not display, as formerly, confessionals lined with satin, kitchen utensils of massive silver, hunting accoutrements, a hierarchical staff of major-domos, ushers, valets, and liveried lackeys, stables and carriages, lay grand-seigniors, vassals of his suzerainty and figuring at his consecration, a princely ceremonial of parade and homage, a pompous show of receptions and of hospitalities. There is nothing but what is necessary, the indispensable instruments of his office: an ordinary carriage for his episcopal journeys and town visits, three or four domestics for manual service, three or four secretaries for official writings, some old mansion or other cheaply repaired and refurnished without ostentation, its rooms and bureaus being those of an administrator, business man, and responsible head of a numerous staff; in effect, he is responsible for a good many subordinates, he has a good deal to attend to; he works himself, looking after the whole and in detail, keeping classified files by means of a chronological and systematic collection, like the general director of a vast company; if he enjoys greater honors, he is subject to greater exigencies; assuredly, his predecessors under the ancient régime, delicate epicureans, would not have wished for such a life; they would have considered the disagreeable as surpassing its gratifications.
Even when old, he draws on his energies; he officiates, he preaches, he presides at long ceremonies, he ordains seminarians, he confirms thousands of children, he visits one after another the parishes in his diocese; often, at the end of his administration, he has visited them all and many times. Meanwhile, shut up in his episcopal cabinet, he is constantly inspecting these four or five hundred parishes; he reads or listens to reports, informs himself on the number of communicants, on what is required in worship, on the financial state of the fabrique, on the attitude of the inhabitants, on the good or bad dispositions of municipal counsellors and mayors, on the local causes of dissension and conflict, on the conduct and character of the curé or vicar; each resident ecclesiastic needs guidance or maintenance between intemperate zeal and inert lukewarmness, evenly balanced according as parishes and circumstances vary, but always in a way to prevent false steps, to turn aside mistakes, to humor opinion, to stop scandals. For the entire life of the clergyman, not only his public life but again his personal, domestic, private life, belongs to and concerns the Church: there must be no evil reports, even without foundation, on his account; if these occur, the bishop summons him to headquarters, warns him, admonishes him, and, without handing the matter over to a responsible tribunal, decides himself alone, in private, and therefore subject to the investigations, anxieties and painful, painstaking labor always attendant on direct absolute power. Likewise, in relation to his upper and his lower seminary: here are two indispensable nurseries of which he is the head gardener, attentive to filling annual vacancies and seeking proper subjects for these throughout his diocese, ever verifying and cultivating their vocations; he confers scholarships; he dictates rules and regulations; appoints and dismisses, displaces and procures as he pleases, the director and professors; he takes them, if he chooses, out of his diocese or out of the body of regular clergy; he prescribes a doctrine to them, methods, ways of thinking and teaching, and he keeps his eye, beyond his present or future priests, on three or four hundred monks and on fourteen hundred nuns.
As to the monks, so long as they remain inside their dwellings, in company together and at home, he has nothing to say to them; but, when they come to preach, confess, officiate or teach in public on his ground, they fall under his jurisdiction; in concert with their superior and with the Pope, he has rights over them and he uses them. In effect, they are auxiliaries assigned to or summoned by him, available troops and a reinforcement, so many choice companies expressly ready, each with its own discipline, its particular uniform, its special weapon, and who bring to him in following a campaign under his orders, distinct aptitudes and a livelier zeal; he has need of them in order to make up for the insufficiency of his local clergy in arousing the spirit of devotion in his parishes and in enforcing sound doctrine in his seminaries. Now, between these two forces a common understanding is difficult; the former, adjuncts and flying about, march in front; the latter, holding the ground and stationary, look upon the new-comers as usurpers who lessen both their popularity and their fees; a bishop must possess great tact as well as energy to impose on both bodies of this clergy, if not an intimate union, at least mutual aid and a collaboration without conflict.—As to the nuns, he is their ordinary, the sole arbiter, overseer and ruler over all these cloistered lives; he receives their vows, and renders them free of them; it is he who, after due inquiry and examination, authorizes each entrance into the community or a return to society, at first each admission or novitiate, and next each profession of faith or assumption of the veil, every dismissal or departure of a nun, every claim that one makes, every grave act of severity or decision on the part of the superior; he approves of, or appoints, the confessor of the establishment; he maintains seclusion in it, he draws tighter or relaxes the observances; he himself enters its doors by privilege of his office, and, with his own eyes, he inspects its régime, spiritual and temporal, through a right of control which extends from the direction of souls to the administration of property.
To so many obligatory matters he adds others which are voluntary, not alone works of piety, those relating to worship, propagandism, diocesan missions, catechising adults, brotherhoods for perpetual adoration, meetings for the uninterrupted recital of the rosary, Peter’s pence, seminary funds, Catholic journals and reviews—but, again, institutions for charity and education. In the way of charity, he founds or supports twenty different kinds, sixty in one diocese alone, general and special services, infant nurseries, clubs, asylums, lodging-houses, patronages, societies for helping and placing the poor, for the sick at home and in the hospitals, for suckling infants, for the deaf and dumb, for the blind, for old men, for orphans, for repentant prostitutes, for prisoners, for soldiers in garrison, for workmen, apprentices, youths, and quantities of others. In the way of education, there are yet more of them—works which the Catholic chiefs have most at heart; without these, it is impossible in modern society to preserve the faith in each new generation. Hence, at each turning-point of political history, we see the bishops benefiting by the toleration or warding off the intolerance of the teaching State, competing with it, erecting alongside of its public schools free schools of its own, directed or served by priests or religious brotherhoods;—after the suppression of the university monopoly in 1850, more than one hundred colleges for secondary education; after the favorable law of 1875, four or five provincial faculties or universities for superior instruction; after the hostile laws of 1882, many thousands of parochial schools for primary instruction.
Foundation and support, all this is expensive. The bishop requires a great deal of money, especially since the State, become ill-disposed, cuts off clerical resources as much as possible, no longer maintains scholarships in the seminaries, deprives suspicious desservans of their small stipends, eats into the salaries of the prelates, throws obstacles in the way of communal liberalities, taxes and overtaxes the congregations, so that, not merely through the diminution of its allowances it relieves itself at the expense of the Church, but again, through the increase of its imposts, it burdens the Church for its own advantage. The episcopacy obtains all necessary funds through collections in the churches and at domiciles, through the gifts and subscriptions of the faithful; and, every year, it needs millions, apart from the budget appropriation, for its faculties and universities in which it installs largely paid professors, for the construction, location and arrangement of its countless buildings, for the expenses of its minor schools, for the support of its ten thousand seminarists, for the general outlay on so many charitable institutions; and it is the bishop who, their principal promoter, must provide for this, all the more because he has often taken it upon himself in advance, and made himself responsible for it by either a written or verbal promise. He responds to all these engagements; he has funds on hand at the maturity of each contract. In 1883, the bishop of Nancy, in need of one hundred thousand francs to build a school-house with a work-room attached to it, mentions this to a number of persons assembled in his drawing-room; one of these puts his hand in his pocket and gives him ten thousand francs, and others subscribe on the spot to the amount of seventy-four thousand francs. Cardinal Mathieu, during his administration, archbishop of Besançon, thus collects and expends four millions. Lately, Cardinal Lavigerie, to whom the budget allows fifteen thousand francs per annum, wrote that he had spent eighteen hundred thousand francs and had incurred no debt. —Through this initiative and this ascendency the bishop becomes a central social rallying-point; there is no other in the provinces, nothing but so many disjointed lives, juxtaposed and kept together in an artificial circle prescribed from above; so that a good many of these, and of most consideration, gravitate to and group themselves, especially since 1830, around this last permanent centre and form a part of its body; he is the sole germinating, vivifying, intact centre that still agglutinates scattered wills and suitably organizes them. Naturally, class and party interests incorporate themselves additionally along with the Catholic interest which he represents, and his ecclesiastical authority becomes a political influence; besides his secular and regular clergy, over and beyond the two thousand five hundred exemplary or directorial lives which he controls, we see behind him an indefinite multitude of lay adhesions and devotedness. Consequently, every government must take him into their calculations, and all the more because his colleagues stand by him; the episcopacy, banded together, remains erect in face of the omnipotent State, under the July monarchy as claimants of free instruction and under the second empire in support of the temporal power of the Pope.—In this militant attitude, the figure of the bishop is fully unveiled; the titular champion of an infallible Church, himself a believer and submissive; his voice is extraordinarily proud and defiant; in his own eyes, he is the unique depository of truth and morality; in the eyes of his followers, he becomes a superhuman personage, a prophet of salvation or of destruction, the annunciator of divine judgments, the dispenser of celestial anger or of celestial pardon; he rises to the clouds in an apotheosis of glory; with women especially, this veneration grows into enthusiasm and degenerates into idolatry. Towards the end of the second empire an eminent French bishop, on a steamboat on Lake Leman, taking a roll of bread from his pocket, seated himself alongside of two ladies and ate it, handing each of them a piece of it. One of them, bowing reverently, replied to him, “At your hands, my lord, this is almost the holy communion!”
A clergy submissive in mind and feeling, long prepared by its condition and education for faith and obedience, acts under the sway of this sovereign and consecrated hand. Among the forty thousand curés and desservans “more than thirty-five thousand belong to the laboring class of workmen and peasants,” not the first class of peasants, but the second class, the poorer families earning their daily bread and often with a good many children. Under the pressure of the ambient atmosphere and of the modern régime, the others keep back their sons, retaining them for the world and denying them to the Church; ambition, even low down on the scale, has developed itself and changed its object. Nobody now aspires to make his son a curé but a schoolmaster, a railroad employé, or a commercial clerk. The ground has to be dug deeper, to reach a lower stratum, in order to extract from it the priests that are lacking.
Undoubtedly, at this depth, the extraction costs more; the family cannot afford to pay for the child’s ecclesiastical education; the State, moreover, after 1830, no longer gives anything to the lower seminary, nor to the large one after 1885. The expenses of these schools must be borne by the faithful in the shape of donations and legacies; to this end, the bishop orders collections in the churches in Lent and encourages his diocesans to found scholarships; the outlay for the support and education, nearly gratis, of a future priest between the ages of twelve and twenty-four is very great; in the lower seminary alone it costs from forty to fifty thousand francs over and above the net receipts; in the face of such an annual deficit, the bishop, who is responsible for the undertaking, is greatly concerned and sometimes extremely anxious.—To make amends, and as compensation, the extraction is surer; the long process by which a child is withdrawn and instructed for the priesthood goes on and is finished with less uncertainty. Neither the light nor the murmur of the century finds its way to these low depths; nobody ever reads the newspaper, even the penny paper; vocations can here shape themselves and become fixed like crystals, intact and rigid, and all of a piece; they are better protected than in the upper layers, less exposed to mundane infiltrations; they run less risk of being disturbed or thwarted by curiosity, reason and scepticism, by modern ideas; the outside world and family surroundings do not, as elsewhere, interfere with their silent internal workings. When the choirboy comes home after the service, when the seminarian returns to his parents in his vacations, he does not here encounter so many disintegrating influences, various kinds of information, free and easy talk, comparisons between careers, concern about advancement, habits of comfort, maternal solicitude, the shrugs of the shoulder and the half-smile of the strong-minded neighbor; stone upon stone and each stone in its place, his faith gains strength and completedness without any incoherency in its structure, with no incongruity in the materials, without having deviated from a plumb-line. He has been taken in hand before his twelfth year, when very young; his curé, who has been instructed from above to secure suitable subjects, has singled him out in the catechism class and again at the ceremony of confirmation; he is found to have a pious tendency and a taste for sacred ceremonies, a suitable demeanor, a mild disposition, complacency, and is inclined to study; he is a docile and well-behaved child; whether an acolyte at the altar or in the sacristy, he tries to fold the chasuble properly; all his genuflexions are correct, they do not worry him, he has no trouble in standing still, he is not excited and diverted, like the others, by the eruptions of animal spirits and rustic coarseness. If his rude brain is open to cultivation, if grammar and Latin can take root in it, the curé or the vicar at once take charge of him; he studies under them, gratis or nearly so, until he is far enough advanced, and he then enters the lower seminary.
This is a school apart, a boarding-house of picked youths, an inclosed hot-house intended for the preservation and development of special vocations. None of these schools existed previous to 1789; at the present day, they number eighty-six in France, and all the pupils are to become future priests. No foreign plants, no future laymen, are admitted into this preparatory nursery; for experience has shown that if the lower seminary is mixed it no longer attains its ecclesiastical purpose; “it habitually turns over to the upper seminary only the foot of the classes; those at the head seek fortune elsewhere”; on the contrary, “in the lower seminaries kept pure, the entire rhetoric class passes on into the upper seminary; not only do they obtain the foot of the classes but the head.”—The culture, in this second nursery, which is prolonged during five years, becomes extreme, wholly special; it was less so under the ancient régime, even at Saint-Sulpice; there was breakage in the glass which let in currents of air; the archbishop’s nephews and the younger sons of nobles predestined for Church dignities had introduced into it the laxity and liberties which were then the privileges of the episcopacy. During the vacations, fairy scenes and pastorals were performed there with costumes and dances, “The Enthronement of the Great Mogul,” and the “Shepherds in Chains”; the seminarians took great care of their hair; a first-class hair-dresser came and waited on them; the doors were not regularly shut: the youthful Talleyrand knew how to get out into the city and begin or continue his gallantries. From and after the Concordat, stricter discipline in the new seminaries had become monastic; these are practical schools, not for knowledge, but for training, the object being much less to make learned men than believing priests; education takes precedence of instruction and intellectual exercises are made subordinate to spiritual exercises —mass every day and five visits to the Saint-Sacrament, with minute or half-hour prayer stations; rosaries of sixty-three paters and aves, litanies, the angelus, loud and whispered prayers, special self-examinations, meditation on the knees, edifying readings in common, silence until one o’clock in the afternoon, silence at meals and the listening to an edifying discourse, frequent communions, weekly confessions, general confession at New-year’s, one day of retreat at the end of every month after the vacations and before the collation of each of the four orders, eight days of retirement during which a suspension of all study, morning and evening sermons, spiritual readings, meditations, orisons and other services from hour to hour; in short, the daily and systematic application of a wise and steadily perfected method, the most serviceable for fortifying faith, exalting the imagination, giving direction and impulse to the will, analogous to that of a military school, Saint-Cyr or Saumur, to such an extent that its corporeal and mental imprint is indelible, and that by the way in which he thinks, talks, smiles, bows and stands in your presence we at once recognize a former pupil of Saint-Sulpice as we do a former pupil of Saumur and of Saint-Cyr.
Thus graduated, an ordained and consecrated priest, first a vicar and then a curé desservant, the discipline which has bound and fashioned him still keeps him erect and presenting arms. Besides his duties in church and his ministrations in the homes of his parishioners, besides masses, vespers, sermons, catechisings, confessions, communions, baptisms, marriages, extreme unctions, funerals, visiting the sick and suffering, he has his personal and private exercises: at first, his breviary, the reading of which demands each day an hour and a half, no practical duty being so necessary. Lamennais obtained a dispensation from it, and hence his lapses and fall. Let no one object that such a recitation soon becomes mechanical ; the prayers, phrases and words which it buries deep in the mind, even wandering, necessarily become fixed inhabitants in it, and hence occult and stirring powers banded together which encompass the intellect and lay siege to the will, which, in the subterranean regions of the soul, gradually extend or fortify their silent occupation of the place, which insensibly operate on the man without his being aware of it, and which, at critical moments, unexpectedly rise up to steady his footsteps or to save him from temptation. Add to this antique custom two modern institutions which contribute to the same end. The first one is the monthly conference, which brings together the desservans curés at the residence of the oldest curé in the canton; each has prepared a study on some theme furnished by the bishopric, some question of dogma, morality or religious history, which he reads aloud and discusses with his brethren under the presidency and direction of the oldest curé, who gives his final decision; this keeps theoretical knowledge and ecclesiastical erudition fresh in the minds of both reader and hearers. The other institution, almost universal nowadays, is the annual retreat which the priests in the diocese pass in the large seminary of the principal town. The plan of it was traced by Saint Ignatius; his Exercitia is still to-day the manual in use, the text of which is literally, or very nearly, followed. The object is to reconstitute the supernatural world in the soul, for, in general, it evaporates, becomes effaced, and ceases to be palpable under the pressure of the natural world. Even the faithful pay very little attention to it, while their vague conception of it ends in becoming a mere verbal belief; it is essential to give them back the positive sensation, the contact and feeling. To this end, a man retires to a suitable place, where what he does actively or passively is hourly determined for him in advance—attendance at chapel or at preaching, telling his beads, litanies, orisons aloud, orisons in his own breast, repeated self-examination, confession and the rest—in short, an uninterrupted series of diversified and convergent ceremonies which, by calculated degrees, drive out terrestrial preoccupations and overcome him with spiritual impressions; immediately around him, impressions of the same kind followed by the contagion of example, mutual fervor, common expectation, involuntary emulation, and that overstrained eagerness which creates its object; with all the more certainty that the individual himself works on himself, in silence, five hours a day, according to the prescriptions of a profound psychology, in order that his bare conception may take upon itself body and substance. Whatever may be the subject of his meditations, he repeats it twice the same day, and each time he begins by “creating the scene,” the Nativity or the Passion, the Day of Judgment or Hell; he converts the remote and undefined story, the dry, abstract dogma, into a detailed and figured representation; he dwells on it, he evokes in turn the images furnished by the five senses, visual, audible, tactile, olfactory, and even gustatory; he groups them together, and in the evening he animates them afresh in order that he may find them more intense when he awakes the next morning. He thus obtains the complete, precise, almost physical spectacle of his aspirations; he reaches the alibi, that mental transposition, that reversal of the points of view in which the order of certainties becomes inverted, in which substantial objects seem to be vain phantoms and the mystic world a world of substantial reality.—According to persons and circumstances, the theme for meditation differs, and the retreat is prolonged for a shorter or longer period. For laymen, it generally lasts for three days only; for the Brethren of the Christian Schools it is eight days annually, and when, at the age of twenty-eight, they take their vows in perpetuity, it lasts thirty days: for the secular priests, it lasts a little less than a week, while the theme on which their meditations are concentrated is the supernatural character of the priest. The priest who is confessor and ministrant of the Eucharist, the priest who is the saviour and restorer, the priest who is pastor, preacher and administrator—such are the subjects on which their imagination, assisted and directed, must work in order to compose the cordial which has to support them for the entire year. None is more potent; that which the Puritans drank at an American camp-meeting or at a Scotch revival was stronger but of less enduring effect.
Two different cordials, one strengthening the other, are mixed together in this drink, both being of high flavor and so rank as to burn an ordinary mouth.—On the one hand, with the freedom of language and the boldness of deduction characteristic of the method, the sentiment of the priest’s dignity is exalted. What is the priest? “He is, between God who is in heaven and the man who tries to find him on earth, a being, God and man, who brings these nearer by his impersonating both. . . . I do not flatter you with pious hyperboles in calling you gods; this is not a rhetorical falsehood. . . . You are creators similar to Mary in her coöperation in the Incarnation. . . . You are creators like God in time. . . . You are creators like God in eternity. Our creation on our part, our daily creation, is nothing less than the Word made flesh itself. . . . God may create other worlds, he cannot so order it that any act under the sun can be greater than your sacrifice; for, at this moment, he reposes in your hands all that he has and all that he is. . . . I am not a little lower than the cherubim and seraphim in the government of the world, I am far above them; they are only the servants of God, we are his coadjutors. . . . The angels, who behold the vast riches passing through our hands daily, are amazed at our prerogative. . . . I fulfil three sublime functions in relation to the god of our altars—I cause him to descend, I administer his body, I am his custodian. . . . Jesus dwells under your lock and key; his hours of reception begin and end through you, he does not move without your permission, he gives no benediction without your assistance, he bestows nothing except at your hands, and his dependence is so dear to him that, for eighteen hundred years, he has not left the Church for one moment to lose himself on the glory of his Father.”—On the other hand, they are made to drink in full draughts the sentiment of subordination, which they imbibe to their very marrow. “Ecclesiastical obedience is . . . a love of dependence, a violation of judgment. . . . Would you know what it is as to the extent of sacrifice? A voluntary death, the sepulchre of the will, says Saint Climaque. . . . There is a sort of real presence infused into those who command us. . . . ” Let us be careful not to fall “into the crafty opposition of liberal Catholicism. . . . Liberalism, in its consequences, is social atheism. . . . Unity, in Roman faith, is not sufficient; let us labor together in the unity of the Roman spirit; for that, let us always judge Rome with the optimism of affection. . . . Each new dogmatic definition produces its own advantages: that of the Immaculate Conception has given us Lourdes and its truly œcumenical wonders.”
Nothing of all this is too much, and, in the face of the exigencies of modern times, it scarcely suffices. Now that society has become incredulous, indifferent or, at the least, laic, the priest must possess the two intense and master ideas which support a soldier abroad among insurgents or barbarians, one being the conviction that he is of a species and essence apart, infinitely superior to the common herd; and the other is the thought that he belongs to his flag, to his chiefs, especially to the commanding general, and that he has given himself up entirely to prompt obedience, to obeying every order issued without question or doubt. Thus, in that parish where the permanent curé was once installed, especially in the rural districts, the legal and popular governor of all souls, his successor, the removable desservant, is merely a resident bailiff, a sentry in his box, at the opening of a road which the public at large no longer travel. From time to time he hails you! But scarcely any one listens to him. Nine out of ten men pass at a distance, along a newer, more convenient and broader road. They either nod to him afar off or give him the go-by. Some are even ill-disposed, watching him or denouncing him to the ecclesiastic or lay authorities on which he depends. He is expected to make his orders respected and yet not hated, to be zealous and yet not importunate, to act and yet not efface himself: he succeeds pretty often, thanks to the preparation just described, and, in his rural sentry-box, patient, resigned, obeying his orders, he mounts guard lonely and in solitude, a guard which, for the past fifteen years, is disturbed and anxious and becoming singularly difficult.
I. The regular clergy.—Difference in the condition of the two clergies.—The three vows.—Rules.—Life in common.—Object of the system.—Violent suppression of the institution and its abuses in 1790.—Spontaneous revival of the institution free of its abuses after 1800.—Democratic and republican character of monastic constitutions.—Vegetation of the old stock and multiplication of new plants.—Number of monks and nuns.—Proportion of these numbers to the total population in 1789 and 1878.—Predominance of the organizations for labor and charity.—How formed and extended.—Social instinct and contact with the mystic world.—II. The mystic faculty.—Its sources and works.—Evangelical Christianity.—Its moral object and social effect.—Roman Christianity.—Development of the Christian idea in the West.—Influence of the Roman language and law.—Roman conception of the State.—Roman conception of the Church.—III. Existing Catholicism and its distinctive traits.—Authority, its prestige and supports.—Rites, the priest, the Pope.—The Catholic Church and the modern State.—Difficulties in France born out of their respective constitutions.—Other difficulties of the French system.—New and scientific conception of the world.—How opposed to the Catholic conception.—How it is propagated.—How the other is defended.—Losses and gains of the Catholic Church.—Its narrow and broad domains.—Effects of Catholic and French systems on Christian sentiment in France.—Increased among the clergy and diminished in society.
However correct the life of a secular priest may be, he stills belongs to his century. Like a layman, he has his own domicile and fireside, his parsonage in the country with a garden, or an apartment in town—in any event, his own home and household, a servant or housekeeper, who is often either his mother or a sister; in short, a suitable enclosure set apart, where he can enjoy his domestic and private life free of the encroachments on his public and ecclesiastical life, analogous to that of a lay functionary or a bachelor of steady habits. In effect, his expenses and income, his comforts and discomforts are about the same. His condition, his salary, his table, clothes and furniture, his out-of-door ways and habits, give him rank in the village alongside of the school-teacher and postmaster; in the large borough or small town, alongside of the justice of the peace and college professor; in the large towns, side by side with the head of a bureau or a chief of division; at Paris, in certain parishes, alongside of the prefect of police and the prefect of the Seine. Even in the humblest curacy, he regulates his budget monthly, spending his money without consulting anybody. When not on duty, his time is his own. He can dine out, order for himself at home a special dish, allow himself delicacies. If he does not possess every comfort, he has most of them, and thus, like a lay functionary, he may if he chooses get ahead in the world, obtain promotion to a better curacy, become irremovable, be appointed canon and sometimes mount upward, very high, to the topmost rank. Society has a hold on him through all these worldly purposes; he is too much mixed up with it to detach himself from it entirely; very often his spiritual life droops or proves abortive under so many terrestrial preoccupations.—If the Christian desires to arrive at the alibi and dwell in the life beyond, another régime is essential for him, a protection against two temptations, that is to say the abandonment of two dangerous liberties, one consisting in the power by which, being an owner of property, he disposes as he likes of what belongs to him, and the other consisting in the power by which, being master of his acts, he arranges as he pleases his daily occupations. The secular priest, to this end, adds also to the vow of continence which he takes, two other vows, distinct and precise. By the vow of poverty he renounces all property whatever, at least that which is fully and completely his own, the arbitrary use of possessions, the enjoyment of what belongs to him personally, which vow leads him to live like a poor man, to endure privations, to labor, and beyond this, even to fasting, to mortifications, to counteracting and deadening in himself all those instincts by which man rebels against bodily suffering and aims at physical well-being. By the vow of obedience he gives himself up entirely to a double authority: one, in writing, which is discipline, and the other a living being, consisting of the superior whose business it is to interpret, apply and enforce the rule. Except in unheard-of cases, where the superior’s injunctions might be expressly and directly opposed to the letter of this rule, he interdicts himself from examining, even in his own breast, the motives, propriety and occasion of the act prescribed to him; he has alienated in advance future determinations by entirely abandoning self-government; henceforth, his internal motor is outside of himself and in another person. Consequently, the unforeseen and spontaneous initiative of free will disappears in his conduct to give way to a predetermined, obligatory and fixed command, to a system (cadre) which envelops him and binds together in its rigid compartments the entire substance and details of his life, anticipating the distribution of his time for a year, week by week, and for every day, hour by hour, defining imperatively and circumstantially all action or inaction, physical or mental, all work and all leisure, silence and speech, prayers and readings, abstinences and meditations, solitude and companionship, hours for rising and retiring, meals, quantity and quality of food, attitudes, salutations, bearing, tone and forms of language and, still better, mute thoughts and the deepest sentiments. Moreover, through the periodical repetition of the same acts at the same hours, he confines himself to a cycle of habits which are forces, and which keep growing since they are ever turning the inward balance on the same side through the ever-increasing weight of his entire past. Through a table and lodging in common, through a communion of prayer, through incessant contact with other brethren of the same religious observances, through the precaution taken to join with him one companion when he goes out and two companions when he lodges elsewhere, through his visits to and fro to the head establishment, he lives in a circle of souls strained to the same extent, by the same processes, to the same end as himself, and whose visible zeal maintains his own.—Grace, in this state of things, abounds. Such is the term bestowed on the silent and steady, or startling and brusque, emotion by which the Christian enters into communication with the invisible world, an aspiration and a hope, a presentiment and a divination, and even often a distinct perception. Evidently, this grace is not far off, almost within reach of the souls which, from the tenor of their whole life, strive to attain it. Closed on the earthly side, therefore, these can no longer look or breathe otherwise than heavenward.
At the end of the eighteenth century, the monastic institution no longer produced this effect; deformed, weakened and discredited through its abuses, especially in the convents of males, and then violently overthrown by the Revolution, it seemed to be dead. But, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, behold it springing up again spontaneously, in one direct, new, strong and active jet and higher than the old one, free of the excrescences, rottenness and parasites which, under the ancient régime, disfigured and discolored it. No more compulsory vows, no “frocked” younger sons “to make an elder,” no girls immured from infancy, kept in the convent throughout their youth, led on, urged, and then driven into a corner and forced into the final engagement on becoming of age; no more aristocratic institutions, no Order of Malta and chapters of men or of women in which noble families find careers and a receptacle for their supernumerary children. No more of those false and counterfeit vocations the real motive of which was, now pride of race and the determination not to fall, and again the animal attractions of physical comfort, indolence and inertia; no more lazy and opulent monks, occupied, like the Carthusians of Val Saint-Pierre, in overeating, in the brutalities of digestion and routine, or, like the Bernardines of Granselve, turning their building into a worldly rendezvous for jovial hospitality and themselves taking part, foremost in rank, in prolonged and frequent feastings, balls, plays and hunting-parties; in diversions and gallantries which the annual fête of Saint Bernard, through a singular dissonance, excited and consecrated. No more over-wealthy superiors, usufructuaries of a vast abbatial revenue, suzerain and landlord seigniors, with the train, luxury and customs of their condition, with four-horse carriages, liveries, officials, antechamber, court, chancellorship and ministers of justice, obliging their monks to address them as “my lord,” as lax as any ordinary layman, well fitted to cause scandal in their order by their liberties and to set an example of depravity. No more lay intrusions, commendatory abbés or priors, interlopers, and imposed from above; no more legislative and administrative interferences in order to bind monks and nuns down to their vows, to disqualify them and deprive them almost of citizenship, to exclude them from common rights, to withhold from them rights of inheritance and testamentary rights, from receiving or making donations, depriving them in advance of the means of subsistence, to confine them by force in their convents and set the patrol on their track, and, on trying to escape, to furnish their superior with secular help and keep down insubordination by physical constraint. Nothing of this subsists after the great overthrow of 1790; under the modern régime, if any one enters and remains in a convent it is because the convent is more agreeable to him than the world outside; there is no other motive—no pressure or hindrance of an inferior or different kind, no direct or indirect, no domestic or legal constraint, no ambition, vanity and innate or acquired indolence, no certainty of finding satisfaction for a coarse and concentrated sensuality. That which now operates is the awakened and persistent vocation; the man or the woman who takes vows and keeps them, enters upon and adheres to his or her engagement only through a spontaneous act deliberately and constantly renewed through their own free will.
Thus purified, the monastic institution recovers its normal form, which is the republican and democratic form, while the impracticable Utopia which the philosophers of the eighteenth century wanted to impose on lay society becomes the effective régime under which the religious communities are going to live. In all of them, the governors are elected by the governed; whether the suffrage is universal or qualified, one vote is as good as another; votes are counted by heads, and, at stated intervals, the sovereign majority uses its right anew; with the Carmelites, it is every three years and to elect by secret ballot, not alone one authority but all the authorities, the prior, the sub-prior and the three clavières. —Once elected, the chief, in conformity with his mandate, remains a mandatory, that is to say a laborer assigned a certain work, and not a privileged person enjoying a gratification. His rank is not a dispensation, but an additional burden; along with the duties of his office, he subjects himself to an observance of the rules—having become a general, he is no better off than the simple soldier; he rises as early and his daily life is no better; his cell is as bare and his personal support not more expensive. He who commands ten thousand others lives as poorly, under as strict a watchword, with as few conveniences and with less leisure than the meanest brother. Over and above the austerities of ordinary discipline this or that superior imposed on himself supererogatory mortifications which were so great as to astonish as well as edify his monks. Such is the ideal State of the theorist, a Spartan republic, and for all, including the chiefs, an equal ration of the same black broth. There is another resemblance, still more profound. At the base of this republic lies the corner-stone designed in anticipation by Rousseau, then hewn and employed, well or ill, in the constitutions or plébiscites of the Revolution, the Consulate and the Empire, to serve as the foundation of the complete edifice. This stone is a primitive and solemn agreement by everybody interested, a social contract, a pact proposed by the legislator and accepted by the citizens; except that, in the monastic pact, the will of the acceptors is unanimous, earnest, serious, deliberate and permanent, while, in the political pact, it is not so; thus, whilst the latter contract is a theoretical fiction, the former is an actual verity.
For, in the small religious cité, all precautions are taken to have the future citizen know for what and how far he engages himself. The copy of the rules which is handed to him in advance explains to him the future use of each day and of each hour, the detail in full of the régime to which he is to subject himself. Besides this, to forestall any illusion and haste on his part he is required to make trial of the confinement and discipline; he realizes through personal, sensible and prolonged experience what he must undergo; before assuming the habit, he must serve a novitiate of at least one year and without interruption. Simple vows sometimes precede the more solemn vows; with the Jesuits, several novitiates, each lasting two or three years, overlie and succeed each other. Elsewhere, the perpetual engagement is taken only after several temporary engagements; up to the age of twenty-five the “Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes” take their vows for a year; at twenty-five for three years; only at twenty-eight do they take them for life. Certainly, after such trials, the postulant is fully informed; nevertheless, his superiors contribute what they know. They have watched him day after day; deep down under his superficial, actual and declared disposition they define his profound, latent, and future intention; if they deem this insufficient or doubtful, they adjourn or prevent the final profession: “My child, wait—your vocation is not yet determined,” or “My friend, you were not made for the convent, return to the world!”
Never was a social contract signed more knowingly, after greater reflection on what choice to make, after such deliberate study: the conditions of human association demanded by the revolutionary theory are all fulfilled and the dream of the Jacobins is realized. But not on the ground they have assigned to it; through a strange contrast, and which seems ironical in history, this dream of speculative reason has produced nothing in the lay order of things but elaborate plans on paper—a deceptive and dangerous Declaration of Rights, appeals to insurrection or to a dictatorship, incoherent or still-born organizations—in short, abortions or monsters; in the religious order of things, it adds to the living world thousands of living creatures of indefinite viability. So that, among the effects of the French revolution, one of the principal and most enduring is the restoration of monastic institutions.
They are seen springing up and multiplying on all sides and uninterruptedly, from the Consulate down to the present day. Early, new sprouts shoot out and cover the old trunks of which the revolutionary axe had cut off the branches. In 1800, “the reëstablishment of a corporation shocked current ideas.” But the able administrators of the Consulate required volunteer women for service in their hospitals. In Paris, Chaptal, the minister, comes across a lady superior whom he formerly knew and enjoins her to gather together ten or a dozen of her surviving companions; he installs them in the rue Vieux-Colombier, in a building belonging to the hospitals, and which he furnishes for forty novices; at Lyons, he notices that the “Sisters” of the general hospital were obliged, that they might perform their duties, to wear a lay dress; he authorizes them to resume their costume and their crosses; he allows them two thousand francs to purchase necessaries, and, when they have donned their old uniform, he presents them to the First Consul. Such is the first sprout, very small and very feeble, that appears in the institution of Saint-Vincent de Paule at Paris and in that of Saint-Charles at Lyons. In our days, the congregation of Saint-Charles, besides the parent-house at Lyons, has 102 others with 2,226 nuns, and the congregation of Saint-Vincent de Paule, besides the parent-house at Paris, has 88 others with 9,130 nuns. Oftentimes, the new vegetation on the trunk amputated by the Revolution is much richer than on the old one; in 1789, the institution of the “Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes” had 800 members; in 1845, there were 4,000; in 1878, 9,818; on the 31st of December, 1888, there were 12,245. In 1789, it counted 126 houses; in 1888, there were 1,286.—Meanwhile, alongside of the old plantations, a large number of independent germs, new species and varieties, spring up spontaneously, each with its own aim, rules and special denomination; on Good Friday, April 6, 1792, at the very date of the decree of the Legislative Assembly abolishing all religious communities, one is born, that of the “Sœurs de la Retraite Chrétienne,” at Fontenelle, and, from year to year, similar plants constantly and suddenly spring out of the ground for a century. The list is too long to be counted; a large official volume of more than four hundred pages is filled with the mere statement of their names, localities and statistics.—This volume, published in 1878, divides religious institutions into two groups. We find in the first one, comprising the legally authorized societies, at first 5 congregations of men possessing 224 establishments with 2,418 members, and 23 associations of men with 20,341 members and supplying 3,086 schools; next, 259 congregations of women and 644 communities which possess 3,196 establishments, supplying 16,478 schools and counting 113,750 members. In the second group, comprising unauthorized societies, we find 384 establishments of men with 7,444 members, and 602 establishments of women with 14,003 members,—in all, in both groups, 30,287 brethren and 127,753 sisters. Considering the total population, the proportion of brethren in 1789 and in our day is about the same; it is their spirit which has changed; at the present day, all desire to remain in their profession, while in 1789 two-thirds wanted to withdraw from it. As to the proportion of Sisters, it has increased beyond all calculation. Out of 10,000 women in the population, there were, in 1789, 28 Sisters; in 1866, 45; in 1878, 67.
Carmelites, Clarisses, Filles du Cœur de Jésus, Réparatrices, Sœurs du Saint-Sacrament, Visitandines, Franciscaines, Benedictines and others like these, about 4000 nuns or sisters, are contemplatists. The Carthusians, Cistercians, Trappists, and some others, about 1800 monks and brethren who, for the most part, till the ground, do not impose labor on themselves other than as an accessory exercise; their first and principal object is prayer, meditation and worship; they, too, devote their lives to contemplation on the other world and not to the service of this one. But all the others, more than 28,000 men and more than 123,000 women, are benefactors by institution and voluntary laborers, choosing to devote themselves to dangerous, revoltant, and at least ungrateful services—missions among savages and barbarians, care of the sick, of idiots, of the insane, of the infirm, of the incurable, the support of poor old men or of abandoned children; countless charitable and educational works, primary schools, orphan asylums, houses of refuge and prisons, and all gratuitously or at the lowest wages through a reduction of bodily necessities to the lowest point, and of the personal expenditure of each brother or sister. Evidently, with these men and with these women, the ordinary balance of motives which prompt people is reversed; in the inward balance of the scale it is no longer self-love which prevails against the love of others, but the love of others which prevails against self-love.—Let us look at one of their institutions just at the moment of its formation and see how the preponderance passes over from the egoistic to the social instinct. The first thing we always find at the origin of the enterprise is compassion; a few kind hearts have been moved at the aspect of misery, degradation and misconduct; souls or bodies were in distress and there was danger of shipwreck; three or four saviours have come to the rescue. At Rouen, in 1818, it is a poor girl who, by advice of her curé, brings together a few of her friends in her garret; during the day they study in a class and at night they work for their living; to-day, under the title of “Sœurs du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus,” they number eight hundred. Elsewhere, at Laval, the founder of the House of Refuge for poor repentants is a plain ironing-girl who began her “House” by charitably harboring two prostitutes; these brought others, and there are now a hundred of similar institutions. Most frequently, the founder is the desservant or vicar of the place, who, moved by local misery, fancies at first that he is doing only local work; thus, there is born in 1806 at Rouissé-sur-Loire the congregation of “La Providence,” which now has nine hundred and eighteen “Sisters,” in one hundred and ninety-three houses; in 1817, at Lovallat, the association of “Les Petits-Frères de Marie,” which numbers to-day three thousand six hundred brethren; in 1840, at Saint-Servan, the institution of “Les Petites-Sœurs des Pauvres,” who now number two thousand six hundred and eighty-five, and, with no other help but alms-giving, feed and care for, in their one hundred and fifty-eight houses, twenty thousand old men, of which thirteen thousand live in their ninety-three domiciles in France; they take their meals after the inmates, and eat only what they leave; they are prohibited from accepting any endowment whatever; by virtue of their rules they are and remain mendicants, at first, and especially, in behalf of their old men, and afterwards and as accessory, in their own behalf. Note the circumstances of the undertaking and the condition of the founders—they were two village work-women, young girls between sixteen and eighteen for whom the vicar of the parish had written short regulations (une petite règle); on Sunday, together in the cleft of a rock on the seaside, they studied and meditated over this little summary manual, performed the prescribed devotions, this or that prayer or orison at certain hours, saying their beads, the station in the church, self-examination and other ceremonies of which the daily repetition deposits and strengthens the supernatural mental conception. Such, over and above natural pity, is the superadded weight which fixes the unstable will and maintains the soul permanently in a state of abnegation.—At Paris, in the two halls of the Prefecture of Police, where prostitutes and female thieves remain for a day or two in provisional confinement, the “Sisters” of “Marie-Joseph,” obliged by their vows to live constantly in this sewer always full of human dregs, sometimes feel their heart failing them; fortunately, a little chapel is arranged for them in one corner where they retire to pray, and in a few minutes they return with their store of courage and gentleness again revived.—Father Etienne, superior of the “Lazarists” and of the “Filles de Saint-Vincent de Paule,” with the authority of long experience, very justly observed to some foreign visitors, “I have given you the details of our life, but I have not told you the secret of it. This secret, here it is—it is Jesus Christ, known, loved, and served in the Eucharist.”
In the thirteenth century, to the communicant on his knees about to receive the sacrament, the Host often faded out of sight; it disappeared, and, in its place, he saw an infant or the radiant features of the Saviour; according to the Church doctors, this was not an illusion but an illumination; the veil had lifted, and the soul found itself face to face with its object, Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist. This was second sight, infinitely superior in certainty and reach to the former, a direct, full view granted by grace from above, a supernatural view.—By this example, which is an extreme case, we comprehend in what faith consists. It is an extraordinary faculty operating alongside of and often in conjunction with our natural faculties; over and above things as our observation naturally presents them to us, it reveals to us a beyond, a majestic, grandiose world, the only one truly real and of which ours is but the temporary veil. In the depths of the soul, much below the superficial crust of which we have any conscience, impressions have accumulated like subterranean waters. There, under the dust and heat of inherent instincts, a living spring has burst forth, growing and bubbling in the obscurity; let a shock or a fissure intervene and it suddenly spouts up and forces its way above the surface; the man who has this within him and in whom it overflows is amazed at the inundation and no longer recognizes himself; the visible field of his conscience is completely changed and renewed; in place of his former vacillating and scattered thoughts he finds an irresistible and coherent belief, a precise conception, an intense picture, a passionate affirmation, sometimes even positive perceptions of a species apart and which come to him not from without but from within, not alone mere mental suggestions, like the dialogues of the “Imitation” and the “intellectual locutions” of the mystics, but veritable physical sensations like the details of the visions of Saint Theresa, the articulate voices of Joan of Arc and the bodily stigmata of Saint Francis.
In the first century, this beyond discovered by the mystic faculty was the kingdom of God, opposed to the kingdoms of this world; these kingdoms, in the eyes of those who revealed them, were worthless; through the keen insight of the moral and social instinct, these large, generous and simple hearts had divined the internal defect of all the societies or States of the century. Egoism in these was too great; there was in them a lack of charity, the faculty of loving another equally with one’s self, and thus of loving, not only a few, but all men, whoever they might be, simply because they were men, and especially the meek, the humble and the poor; in other words, the voluntary repression of the appetites by which the individual makes of himself a centre and subordinates other lives to himself, the renunciation of “the lusts of the flesh, of the eyes and of self-love, the insolences of wealth and luxury, of force and of power.”
Opposed to and in contrast with this human order of things, the idea of a divine order of things was born and developed itself—a Heavenly Father, his reign in heaven, and very soon, perhaps on the morrow, his reign here below; his Son descending to the earth to establish his reign and dying on the cross for the salvation of men; after him, his Spirit, sent by him, the inward breath which animates his disciples and continues his work; all men brethren and beloved children of the same common father; here and there spontaneous groups who have learned “these good tidings” and propagated them; small scattered communities which live in the expectation of an ideal order of things and yet, by anticipation, realizing it from this time forth; “All were of one heart and one soul, . . . for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need,” all happy in being together, in mutual love and in feeling themselves regenerate or pure.
Here, evidently, is a new motor in the soul, a regulator, a powerful, fresh, appropriate, effective organ, obtained through internal metamorphosis and change of being, like an insect provided with wings during its chrysalis stage. In every living organism, necessity, through tentative effort and selections, thus produces the possible and requisite organ. In India, five hundred years before our era, it was Buddhism; in Arabia, six hundred years after our era, it was Mahometanism; in our western societies it is Christianity. At the present day, after eighteen centuries on both continents, from the Ural to the Rocky Mountains, amongst Russian moujiks and American settlers, it works as formerly with the fishermen of Galilee and in the same way, in such a way as to substitute for the love of self the love of others; neither in substance nor in use has any change taken place; under its Greek, Catholic or Protestant envelope, it is still, for four hundred millions of human beings, the spiritual means, the great, indispensable pair of wings by which man rises upward above himself, above his grovelling existence and his limited horizons, leading him on through patience, hope and resignation to serenity, and beyond to temperance, purity, goodness, self-devotion and self-sacrifice. Always and everywhere, for the past eighteen hundred years, as soon as these wings grow feeble or give way, public and private morals degenerate. In Italy, during the Renaissance, in England under the Restoration, in France under the Convention and Directory, man becomes as pagan as in the first century; the same causes render him the same as in the times of Augustus and Tiberius, that is to say voluptuous and cruel: he abuses himself and victimizes others; a brutal, calculating egoism resumes its ascendency, depravity and sensuality spread, and society becomes a den of cut-throats and a brothel.
After contemplating this spectacle near by, we can value the contribution to modern societies of Christianity, how much modesty, gentleness and humanity it has introduced into them, how it maintains integrity, good faith and justice. In this service no philosophic reasoning, no artistic and literary culture, no feudal, military and chivalric honor, no code, no administration, no government is a substitute for it. There is nothing else to restrain our natal bent, nothing to arrest the insensible, steady, down-hill course of our race with the whole of its original burden, ever retrograding towards the abyss. Whatever its present envelope may be, the old Gospel still serves as the best auxiliary of the social instinct.
Among its three contemporary forms, that which groups together the most men, about one hundred and eighty millions of believers, is Catholicism, in other words, Roman Christianity, which two words, comprising a definition, contain a history. At the origin, on the birth of the Christian principle, it expressed itself at first in Hebrew, the language of prophets and of seers; afterwards, and very soon, in Greek, the language of the dialecticians and philosophers; at last, and very late, in Latin, the language of the jurisconsults and statesmen; then come the successive stages of dogma. All the evangelical and apostolic texts, written in Greek, all the metaphysical speculations, also in Greek, which served as commentary on these, reached the western Latins only through translations. Now, in metaphysics, Latin poorly translates the Greek ; it lacks both the terms and the ideas; what the Orient says, the Occident only half comprehends; it accepts this without dispute and confidently holds it as truth. At length in its turn, in the fourth century, when, after Theodosius, the Occident breaks loose from the Orient, it intervenes, and it intervenes with its language, that is to say with the provision of ideas and words which its culture provided; it likewise had its instruments of precision, not those of Plato and Aristotle, but others, as special, forged by Ulpian, Gaius and twenty generations of jurists through the original invention and immemorial labor of Roman genius. “To say what is law,” to impose rules of conduct on men, is, in abridged form, the entire practical work of the Roman people; to write this law out, to formulate and coördinate these rules, is, in abridged form, its entire scientific work, and with the Romans in the third, fourth and fifth centuries, during the decadence of other studies, the science of law was still in full force and vigor. Hence, when the Occidentals undertook the interpretation of texts and the elaboration of the Creed it was with the habits and faculties of jurisconsults, with the preoccupations and mental reservations of statesmen, with the mental and verbal instruments which they found suitable. In those days, the Greek doctors, in conflict with the monophysites and monothelites, brought out the theory of the divine essence; at the same date, the Latin doctors, opposing the Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians and Donatists, founded the theory of human obligation.Obligation, said the Roman jurists, is a “lien of law” by which we are held to doing or suffering something to free us from indebtedness, and out of this juridical conception, which is a masterpiece of Roman jurisprudence, issued, as with a bud full of sap, the new development of the Creed.—On the one hand, we are obligated towards God, for, in relation to him, we are, in legal terms, insolvent debtors, heirs of an infinite debt, incapable of paying it and of satisfying our creditor except through the interposition of a superhuman third person who assumes our indebtedness as his own; still more precisely, we are delinquents, guilty from birth and by inheritance, condemned in a mass and then pardoned in a mass, but in such a way that this pardon, a pure favor, not warranted by any merit of our own, always remains continual and revocable at will; that, for a few only, it is or becomes plenary and lasting, that no one amongst us can be sure of obtaining it, and that its award, determined beforehand on high, forever remains for us a State secret. Hence the prolonged controversies on Predestination, Free-will and Original Sin, and the profound investigations on man before, during and after the Fall. Hence, also, the accepted solutions, not very conclusive and, if one pleases, contradictory, but practical, average and well calculated for maintaining mankind in faith and obedience, under the ecclesiastical and dogmatic government which, alone, is authorized to lead man on in the way of salvation.
On the other hand, we are obligated to the Church, for she is a cité, the city of God, and, following the Roman definition, the cité is not an abstract term, a collective term, but a real, positive existence, “the commonwealth” (chose publique), that is to say a distinct entity consisting of generations which succeed each other in it, of infinite duration and of a superior kind, divine or nearly so, which does not belong to individuals but to which they belong, an organized body, with special form and structure, based on traditions, constituted by laws and ruled by a government. The absolute authority of the community over its members and the despotic leadership of the community by its chiefs—such is the Roman notion of the State and, for much stronger reasons, of the Church. She, thus, is a militant, conquering, governing Rome, predestined to universal empire, a legitimate sovereign like the other one, but with a better title, for she derives hers from God. It is God who, from the beginning, has preconceived and prepared her, who has bodied her forth in the Old Testament and announced her through the prophets; it is the Son of God who has built her up, who, to all eternity, will never fail to maintain and guide her steps, who, through his constant inspiration, ever remains present in her and active through her. He has committed to her his revelation. She alone, expressly delegated by Christ, possesses second sight, the knowledge of the invisible, the comprehension of the ideal order of things as its Founder prescribed and instituted, and hence, accordingly, the custodianship and interpretation of the Scriptures, the right of framing dogmas and injunctions, of teaching and commanding, of reigning over souls and intellects, of fashioning belief and morals. Henceforth, the mystic faculty is to be confined within dikes. At bottom, this is the faculty for conceiving of the ideal, to obtain a vision of it, to have faith in this vision and to act upon it; the more precious it is the greater the necessity of its being under control. To preserve it from itself, to put it on guard against the empire and diversity of one’s senses, to prevent raving theoretically or practically on the side of laxity or of rigor, requires a government.
That this is a legacy of ancient Rome the Catholic Church does not dispute. She styles herself the Roman Church. She still writes and prays in Latin. Rome is always her capital; the title of her chief is that which formerly designated the head of the pagan cult; after 1378 all the Popes except five, and since 1523 all, have been Italians; at the present day, thirty-five out of sixty-four cardinals are likewise Italians. The Roman stamp becomes still more evident on comparing the millions of Christians who are Catholics with the millions of Christians who are not. Among the primitive annexations and ulterior acquisitions of the Roman Church, several have separated from her, those of the countries whose Greek, Sclavic and Germanic populations never spoke Latin and whose language is not derived from the Latin. Poland and Ireland are alone, or nearly so, the only countries which have remained loyal, because, with these, the Catholic faith, under the long pressure of public calamities, has become incorporated with national sentiment. Elsewhere the Roman alluvion is insignificant or was found not deep enough. On the contrary, all the populations that were once Latinized have at bottom remained Catholic; four centuries of imperial rule and of Roman assimilation have made deposits in them of layers of habits, ideas and sentiments which endure. To measure the influence of this historic layer it is sufficient to note that three elements compose it, all three contemporary, of the same origin and of the same thickness, a Roman language, the civil law of Rome, and Roman Christianity; each of these elements, through its consistence, indicates the consistence of the others.
Hence the profound and established characteristics by which the Catholic branch now distinguishes itself from the other two issuing from the same Christian trunk. With the Protestants, the Bible, which is the Word of God, is the sole spiritual authority; all the others, the Doctors, Fathers, tradition, Popes and Councils, are human and, accordingly, fallible; in fact, these have repeatedly and gravely erred. The Bible, however, is a text which each reader reads with his own eyes, more or less enlightened and sensitive, with eyes which, in Luther’s time, possessed the light and sensibility of the sixteenth century, and which, at the present time, read with the sensibility and light of the nineteenth century; so that, according to epochs and groups, the interpretation may vary, while authority, if not as regards the text, or at least its meaning, belongs wholly to the individual. With the Greeks and Sclavonians, as with the Catholics, it belongs only to the Church, that is to say to the heads of the Church, the successors of the apostles. But with the Greeks and Slavonians, since the ninth century, the Church had decreed no new dogmas; according to her, revelation had stopped; the creed was finished, final and complete, and there was nothing to do but to maintain it.—On the contrary, with the Catholics, after as before that date, the creed never ceased developing itself, always becoming more precise, and revelation kept on; the last thirteen councils were inspired like the first seven, while the first one, in which Saint Peter at Jerusalem figured, enjoyed no more prerogatives than the last one convoked by Pius IX. at the Vatican. The Church is not “a frozen corpse,” but a living body, led by an always active brain which pursues its work not only in this world but likewise in the next world, at first to define it and next to describe it and assign places in it; only yesterday she added two articles of faith to the creed, the immaculate conception of the Virgin and the infallibility of the Pope; she conferred ultra-terrestrial titles; she declared Saint Joseph patron of the universal Church; she canonized Saint Labre; she elevated Saint François de Sales to the rank of Doctor. But she is as conservative as she is active. She retracts nothing of her past, never rescinding any of her ancient decrees; only, with the explanations, commentaries and deductions of the jurist, she fastens these links closer together, forms an uninterrupted chain of them extending from the present time back to the New Testament and, beyond, through the Old Testament, to the origins of the world, in such a way as to coördinate around herself the entire universe and all history. Revelations and prescriptions, the doctrine thus built up is a colossal work, as comprehensive as it is precise, analogous to the Digest but much more vast; for, besides canon law and moral theology, she includes dogmatic theology, that is to say, besides the theory of the visible world, the theory of the invisible world and its three regions, the geography of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, immense territories of which our earth is merely the vestibule, unknown territories inaccessible to sense and reason, but whose confines, entrances, issues and subdivisions, the inhabitants and all that concerns them, their faculties and their communications, are defined, as on Peutinger’s map and in the Notitia imperii romani, with extraordinary clearness, minutia and exactitude, through a combination of the positive spirit and the mystic spirit and by theologians who are at once Christians and administrators. In this relation, examine the “Somme” of Saint Thomas. Still at the present day his order, the Dominican, furnishes at Rome those who are consulted on matters of dogma; or rather, in order to abridge and transcribe scholastic formula into pictorial realities, read over the “Divine Comedy” by Dante ; this picture, probably as far as imagination goes, is still to-day the most exact as well as most highly-colored presentation of the human and divine world as the Catholic Church conceives it. She has charge of its keys and reigns and governs in it. The prestige of such a government over souls and intellects, very numerous, who by nature or through education are disciplinable, who repudiate personal initiation, who need imperative and systematic guidance, is sovereign, equal or superior to that of the old Roman State exercised over one hundred and twenty millions of souls. Outside of the Empire all seemed to these souls anarchy or barbarism; the same impression exists with the Catholics in relation to their Church. Whether spiritual or temporal, an authority has many chances for adoption and reverence when, always visible and everywhere present, it is neither arbitrary nor capricious, but orderly, restrained by texts, traditions, legislation and jurisprudence, derived from above and from a superhuman source, consecrated by antiquity and by the continuity, coherence and grandeur of its work, in short, by that character which the Latin tongue is alone capable of expressing and which it terms majesty.
Among the acts which religious authority prescribes to its subjects, there are some which it imposes in its own name—rites, outward ceremonies and other observances—of which the principal ones, in the Catholic catechism, form a sequence to the “commandments of God,” and which are entitled the “commandments of the Church.”—With the Protestants, where Church authority is almost gone, rites have almost disappeared; considered in themselves, they have ceased to be regarded as obligatory or meritorious; the most important ones, the Eucharist itself, have been retained only as commemorative or as symbolic; the rest, fasts, abstinences, pilgrimages, the worship of saints and the Virgin, relics of the cross, words committed to memory, genuflections and kneelings before images or altars, have been pronounced vain; in the way of positive injunctions none remain but the reading of the Bible, while duty in outward demonstration of piety is reduced to piety within, to the moral virtues, to truthfulness, probity, temperance and steadfastness, to the energetic determination to observe the watchword received by man in two forms and which he finds in two concordant examples, in the Scriptures as interpreted by his conscience, and in his conscience as enlightened by the Scriptures. As another consequence, the Protestant priest has ceased to be a delegate from on high, the indispensable mediator between man and God, alone qualified to give absolution and to administer the rites by which salvation is obtained; he is simply a man, graver, more learned, more pious and more exemplary than other men, but, like the others, married, father of a family and entering into civil life, in short a semi-layman. The laymen whom he leads owe him deference, not obedience; he issues no orders; he sentences nobody; the sermon in the pulpit of an assemblage is his principal, almost unique, office, and the sole purpose of this is instruction or an exhortation.—With the Greeks and Sclavonians, with whom the authority of the Church is merely conservative, all the observances of the twelfth century have subsisted, as rigorously in Russia as in Asia Minor or in Greece, although fastings and Lents, which Southern stomachs can put up with, are unhealthy for the temperaments of the North. Here, likewise, these observances have assumed capital importance. The active sap, withdrawn from theology and the clergy, flows nowhere else; these, in an almost paralyzed religion, constitute almost the sole vivifying organ, as vigorous and often more so, than ecclesiastical authority; in the seventeenth century, under the patriarch Nicon, thousands of “old believers,” on account of slight rectifications of the liturgy, the alteration of a letter in the Russian translation of the name of Jesus, and the sign of the cross made by three instead of two fingers, separated themselves and, to-day, these dissenters, multiplied by their sects, count by millions. Defined by custom, every rite is sacred, immutable, and, when exactly fulfilled, sufficient in itself and efficacious; the priest who utters the words and makes the motions is only one piece in the mechanism, one of the instruments requisite for a magic incantation; after his instrumentation, he falls back into his human negativity; he is nothing more than an employé paid for his ministration. And this ministration is not exalted in him by an extraordinary and visible renunciation, by perpetual celibacy, by continence promised and kept; he is married, father of a family, needy, obliged to shear his flock to support himself and those belonging to him, and therefore is of little consideration; he is without moral ascendency; he is not the pastor who is obeyed, but the official who is made use of.
The rôle of the priest in the Catholic Church is quite different. Through her theory of rites she confers on him incomparable dignity and real personal power. According to this theory, observances and ceremonies possess intrinsic and peculiar virtue; undoubtedly, these require some mental support, which is found in earnest piety; but earnest piety independent of these is not enough; it lacks the terminal prolongation, the meritorious accomplishment or “satisfaction,” the positive act by which we atone for our sins to God and demonstrate our obedience to the Church. It is the Church, the living interpreter of God’s will, which prescribes these rites; she is then the mistress of these and not the servant; she is empowered to adapt their details and forms to necessities and circumstances, to lighten or simplify them according to time and place, to establish the communion in one shape, to substitute the Host in place of bread, to lessen the number and rigor of the ancient Lents, to determine the effects of diverse pious works, to apply, ascribe and transfer their salutary effects, to assign proper value and reward to each devotional act, to measure the merit derived from them, the sins they efface and the pardons these obtain not only in this world but in the next one. By virtue of her administrative habits, and with the precision of a bookkeeper, she casts up her accounts of indulgences and notes on the margin the conditions for obtaining them,—a certain prayer repeated so many times on certain days and what for, so many days less in the great penitentiary into which every Christian, however pious, is almost sure to get on dying, this or that diminution of the penalty incurred, and the faculty, if the penitent rejects this deduction for himself, of bestowing the benefit on another. By virtue of her authoritative habits and the better to affirm her sovereignty, she regards as capital sins the omission of the rites and ceremonies she commands,—“not going to mass on Sunday or on fête-days; eating meat on Friday or Saturday unnecessarily;” not confessing and communing at Easter, a mortal sin which “deprives one of the grace of God and merits eternal punishment” as well as “to slay and to steal something of value.” For all these crimes, irremissible in themselves, there is but one pardon, the absolution given by the priest, that is to say, confession beforehand, itself being one of the observances to which we are bound by strict obligation and at the very least once a year.
Through this office the Catholic priest rises above human conditions to an immeasurable height; for, in the confessional, he exercises supreme power, that which God is to exercise at the Last Judgment, the formidable power of punishing or remitting sins, of judgment or of absolution, and, if he intervenes on the death-bed, the faculty of consigning the impenitent or repentant soul to an eternity of rewards or to an eternity of damnation. No creature, terrestrial or celestial, not even the highest of archangels, or St. Joseph or the Virgin, possesses this veritably divine prerogative. He alone holds it through exclusive delegation, by virtue of a special sacrament, the order which assigns to him the privilege of conferring five others, and which endows him for life with a character apart, ineffaceable and supernatural.—To render himself worthy of it, he has taken a vow of chastity, he undertakes to root out from his flesh and his heart the consequences of sex; he debars himself from marriage and paternity; through isolation, he escapes all family influences, curiosities and indiscretions; he belongs wholly to his office. He has prepared himself for it long beforehand, he has studied moral theology together with casuistry and become a criminal jurist; and his sentence is not a vague pardon bestowed on penitents after having admitted in general terms that they are sinners. He is bound to weigh the gravity of their errors and the strength of their repentance, to know the facts and details of the fall and the number of relapses, the aggravating or extenuating circumstances, and, therefore, to interrogate in order to sound the soul to its depths. If some souls are timorous, they surrender themselves to him spontaneously and, more than this, they have recourse to him outside of his tribunal; he marks out for them the path they must follow, he guides them at every turn; he interferes daily, he becomes a director as was said in the seventeenth century, the titular and permanent director of one or of many lives. This is still the case at the present day, and especially for women and for all nuns; the central conception around which all Roman ideas turn, the conception of the imperium and of government, has here found its perfect accomplishment and attained to its final extreme.
There are now of these spiritual governors about one hundred and eighty thousand, installed in the five regions of the world, each assigned to the leadership of about one thousand souls and as special guardian of a distinct flock, all ordained by bishops instituted by the Pope, he being absolute monarch and declared such by the latest council. In the new Rome as in the ancient Rome, authority has gradually become concentrated until it has centred in and is entrusted wholly to the hands of one man. Romulus, the Alban shepherd, was succeeded by Cæsar Augustus, Constantine or Theodosius, whose official title was “Your Eternal,” “Your Divine,” and who pronounced their decrees “immutable oracles.” Peter, the fisherman of Galilee, was succeeded by infallible pontiffs whose official title is “Your Holiness,” and whose decrees, for every Catholic, are “immutable oracles” in fact as in law, not hyperbolically, but in the full sense of the words expressed by exact terms. The imperial institution has thus formed itself anew; it has simply transferred itself from one domain to another; only, in passing from the temporal order of things to the spiritual order, it has become firmer and stronger, for it has guarded against two defects which weakened its antique model.—On the one hand, it has provided for the transmission of supreme power; in old Rome, they did not know how to regulate this; hence, when an interregnum occurred, the many violent competitors, the fierce conflicts, the brutalities, all the usurpations of force, all the calamities of anarchy. In Catholic Rome, the election of the sovereign pontiff belongs definitively to a college of prelates who vote according to established formalities; these elect the new pope by a majority of two-thirds, and, for more than four centuries, not one of these elections has been contested; between each defunct pope and his elected successor, the transfer of universal obedience has been prompt and unhesitating and, during as after the interregnum, no schism in the Church has occurred.—On the other hand, in the legal title of Cæsar Augustus there was a defect. According to Roman law, he was only the representative of the people; the community had delegated all its rights incorporate to him; but in it alone was omnipotence vested. According to canon law, omnipotence was vested solely in God; it is not the Catholic community which possesses this and delegates it to the Pope ; his rights accrue to him from another and higher source. He is not the elect of the people, but the interpreter, vicar and representative of Jesus Christ.
Such is the Catholic Church of to-day, a State constructed after the type of the old Roman empire, independent and autonomous, monarchical and centralized, with a domain not of territory but of souls and therefore international, under an absolute and cosmopolite sovereign whose subjects are likewise subjects of other sovereigns consisting of laymen. Hence, for the Catholic Church a situation apart in every country, more difficult than for Greek, Sclavic or Protestant churches; these difficulties vary in each country according to the character of the State and with the form which the Catholic Church has received in them. In France, since the Concordat, these difficulties are of greater gravity than elsewhere.
When, in effect, at the beginning, in 1802, the Church received her French form, this consisted of a complete systematic organization, by virtue of a general and regular plan, according to which she formed only one compartment of the whole. Napoleon, by his Concordat, organic articles and ulterior decrees, in conformity with the ideas of the century and the principles of the Constituent Assembly, desired to render the clergy of all kinds, and especially the Catholic clergy, one of the subdivisions of his administrative staff, a corps of functionaries, mere agents assigned to religious interests as formerly to civil matters and therefore manageable and revocable; all, in fact, in his hands, were so, comprising the bishops, since they at once tendered their resignations at his order. Still, at the present day all, except the bishops, are thus situated, having lost the ownership of their places and the independence of their lives, through the maintenance of the consular and imperial institutions, through removal, through the destruction of the canonical and civil guarantees which formerly protected the lower clergy, through the suppression of the officialité, through the reduction of chapters to the state of vain shadows, through the rupture or laxity of the local and moral tie which once attached every member of the clergy to a piece of land, to an organized body, to a territory, to a flock, and through the lack of ecclesiastical endowment, through the reduction of every ecclesiastic, even a dignitary, to the humble and precarious condition of a salaried dependent.
A régime of this kind institutes in the body subject to it an almost universal dependence, and hence entire submission, passive obedience, and the stooping, prostrate attitude of the individual no longer able to stand upright on his own feet. The clergy to which it is applied cannot fail to be managed from above, which is the case with this one, through its bishops, the Pope’s lieutenant-generals, who give the countersign to all of them. Once instituted by the Pope, each bishop is the governor for life of a French province and all-powerful in his circumscription; we have seen to what height his moral and social authority has risen, how he has exercised his command, how he has kept his clergy under discipline and available, in what class of society he has found his recruits, through what drill and what enthusiasm every priest, including himself, is now a practised soldier and kept in check; how this army of occupation, distributed in ninety regiments and composed of fifty housand resident priests, is completed by special bodies of troops subject to still stricter discipline, by monastic corporations, by four or five thousand religious institutions, nearly all of them given to labor and benevolence; how, to the subordination and correct deportment of the secular clergy is added the enthusiasm and zeal of the regular clergy, the entire devotion, the wonderful self-denial of thirty thousand monks and of one hundred and twenty-seven thousand nuns; how this vast body, animated by one spirit, marches steadily along with all its lay supporters towards one end, ever the same, the maintenance of its dominion over all the souls that it has won over, and the conquest of all the souls over which it has not yet established its domination.
Nothing could be more antipathetic to the French State. Built up like the Church, after the Roman model, it is likewise authoritative and absorbent. In the eyes of Napoleon, all these priests appointed or sanctioned by him, who have sworn allegiance to him, whom he pays annually or quarterly, belong to him in a double sense, first under the title of subjects, and next under the title of clerks. His successors are still inclined to regard them in the same light; in their hands the State is ever what he made it, that is to say a monopolizer, convinced that its rights are illimitable and that its interference everywhere is legitimate, accustomed to governing all it can and leaving to individuals only the smallest portion of themselves, hostile to all bodies that might interpose between them and it, distrustful and ill-disposed towards all groups capable of collective action and spontaneous initiation, especially as concerns proprietary bodies. A self-constituted daily overseer, a legal guardian, a perpetual and minute director of moral societies as of local societies, usurper of their domains, undertaker or regulator of education and of charitable enterprises, the State is ever in inevitable conflict with the Church. The latter, of all moral societies, is the most active; she does not let herself be enslaved like the others, her soul is in her own keeping; her faith, her organization, her hierarchy and her code are all her own. Against the rights of the State based on human reason, she claims rights founded on divine revelation, and, in self-defence, she justly finds in the French clergy, as the State organized it in 1802, the best disciplined militia, the best classified, the most capable of operating together under one countersign and of marching in military fashion under the impulsion that its ecclesiastical leaders choose to give it.
Elsewhere, the conflict is less permanent and less sharp; the two conditions which aggravate it and maintain it in France are, one or both, wanting. In other European countries, the Church has not the French form imposed upon it and the difficulties are less; in the United States of America, not only has it not undergone the French transformation, but the State, liberal in principle, interdicts itself against interventions like those of the French State and the difficulties are almost null. Evidently, if there was any desire to attenuate or to prevent the conflict it would be through the first or the last of these two policies. The French State, however, institutionally and traditionally, always invasive, is ever tempted to take the contrary course. —At one time, as during the last years of the Restoration and the first years of the second Empire, it allies itself with the Church; each power helps the other in its domination, and in concert together they undertake to control the entire man. In this case, the two centralizations, one ecclesiastic and the other laic, both increasing and prodigiously augmented for a century, work together to overpower the individual. He is watched, followed up, seized, handled severely, and constrained even in his innermost being; he can no longer breathe the atmosphere around him; we can well remember the oppression which, after 1823 and after 1852, bore down on every independent character and on every free intellect.—At another time, as under the first and the third Republic, the State sees in the Church a rival and an adversary; consequently, it persecutes or worries it and we of to-day see with our own eyes how a governing minority, steadily, for a long time, gives offence to a governed majority where it is most sensitive; how it breaks up congregations of men and drives free citizens from their homes whose only fault is a desire to live, pray and labor in common; how it expels nuns and monks from hospitals and schools, with what detriment to the hospital and to the sick, to the school and to the children, and against what unwillingness and what discontent on the part of physicians and fathers of families, and at what bungling waste of public money, at what a gratuitous overburdening of taxation already too great.
Other disadvantages of the French system are still worse.—In this century, an extraordinary event occurs. Already, about the middle of the preceding century, the discoveries of savants, coördinated by the philosophers, had afforded the sketch in full of a great picture, still in course of execution and advancing towards completion, a picture of the physical and moral universe. In this sketch the point of sight was fixed, the perspective designed, the various distances marked out, the principal groups drawn, and its outlines were so correct that those who have since continued the work have little to add but to give precision to these and fill them up. In their hands, from Herschel and Laplace, from Volta, Cuvier, Ampère, Fresnel and Faraday to Darwin and Pasteur, Burnouf, Mommsen and Renan, the blanks on the canvas have been covered, the relief of the figures shown and new features added in the sense of the old ones, thus completing it without changing in any sense the expression of the whole, but, on the contrary, in such a way as to consolidate, strengthen and perfect the master-conception which, purposely or not, had imposed itself on the original painters, all, predecessors and successors, working from nature and constantly inviting a comparison between the painting and the model.—And, for one hundred years, this picture, so interesting, so magnificent, and the accuracy of which is so well guaranteed, instead of being kept private and seen only by select visitors, as in the eighteenth century, is publicly exposed and daily contemplated by an ever-increasing crowd. Through the practical application of the same scientific discoveries, owing to increased facilities for travel and intercommunication, to abundance of information, to the multitude and cheapness of books and newspapers, to the diffusion of primary instruction, the number of visitors has increased enormously. Not only has curiosity been aroused among the workmen in towns, but also with the peasants formerly plodding along in the routine of their daily labor, confined to their circle of six leagues in circumference. This or that small daily journal treats of divine and human things for a million of subscribers and probably for three millions of readers.—Of course, out of a hundred visitors, ninety of them are not capable of comprehending the sense of the picture; they give it only a cursory glance; moreover, their eyes are not properly educated for it, and they are unable to grasp masses and seize proportions. Their attention is generally arrested by a detail which they interpret in a counter-sense, and the mental image they carry away is merely a fragment or a caricature; at bottom, if they do come to see a magisterial work, it is through amour-propre and that the spectacle, which some of them enjoy, should not remain to a privileged few. Nevertheless, however imperfect and confused their impressions, however false and ill-founded their judgments, they have learned something important and one true idea of their visit remains with them: of the various pictures of the world not one is painted by the imagination but from nature.
Now, between this picture and that which the Catholic Church presents to them, the difference is enormous. Even with rude intellects, or otherwise occupied, if the dissimilarity is not clearly perceived it is vaguely felt; in default of scientific notions, the simple hearsays caught on the wing and which seem to have flickered through the mind like a flash of light over a hard rock, still subsist there in a latent state, amalgamating and agglutinating into a solid block until at length they form a massive, refractory sentiment utterly opposed to faith.—With the Protestant, the opposition is neither extreme nor definitive. His faith, which the Scriptures give him for his guidance, leads him to read the Scriptures in the original text and, hence, to read with profit, to call to his aid whatever verifies and explains an ancient text, linguistics, philology, criticism, psychology, combined with general and particular history; thus does faith lay hold on science as an auxiliary. According to diverse souls, the rôle of the auxiliary is more or less ample; it may accordingly adapt itself to the faculties and needs of each soul, and hence extend itself indefinitely, and already do we see ahead the time when the two collaborators, enlightened faith and respectful science, will together paint the same picture, or each separately paint the same picture twice in two different frames.—With the Sclavonians and Greeks, faith, like the Church and the rite, is a national thing; creed forms one body with the country, and there is less disposition to dispute it; besides, it is not irksome; it is simply a hereditary relic, a domestic memorial, a family icon, a summary product of an exhausted art no longer well understood and which has ceased to produce. It is rather sketched out than completed, not one feature having been added to it since the tenth century; for eight hundred years this picture has remained in one of the back chambers of the memory, covered with cobwebs as ancient as itself, badly lighted and rarely visited; everybody knows that it is there and it is spoken of with veneration; nobody would like to get rid of it, but it is not daily before the eyes so that it may be compared with the scientific picture.—Just the reverse with the Catholic picture. Each century, for eight hundred years, has applied the brush to this picture; still, at the present time we see it grow under our eyes, acquiring a stronger relief, deeper color, a more vigorous harmony, a more definite and striking expression. To the articles of belief which constitute the creed for the Greek and Sclavic church, thirteen subsequent councils have added to it many others, while the two principal dogmas decreed by the last two councils, Transubstantiation by the council of Trent and the Infallibility of the Pope by that of the Vatican, are just those the best calculated to hinder forever any reconciliation between science and faith.
Thus, for Catholic nations, the dissimilarity, instead of diminishing, is aggravated; both pictures, one painted by faith and the other by science, become more and more dissimilar, while the profound contradiction inherent in the two conceptions becomes glaring through their very development, each developing itself apart and both in a counter-sense, one through dogmatic verdicts and through the strengthening of discipline and the other by ever-increasing discoveries and by useful applications, each adding daily to its authority, one by precious inventions and the other by good works, each being recognized for what it is, one as the leading instructor of positive truths and the other as the leading instructor of sound morality. Hence, a combat and painful anxieties in the Catholic breast, as to which of the two conceptions must be accepted as guide. To every sincere mind and to one capable of entertaining both, each is irreducible to the other. To the vulgar mind, unable to combine both in thought, they exist side by side and clash with each other only occasionally when action demands a choice. Many intelligent, cultivated people, and even savants, especially specialists, avoid confronting them, one being the support of their reason and the other the guardian of their conscience; between them, in order to prevent any possible conflict, they interpose in advance a wall of separation, “a compartment partition,” which prevents them from meeting and clashing. Others, at length, clever or not too clear-sighted politicians, try to force their agreement, either by assigning to each its domain and in prohibiting mutual access, or by uniting both domains through the semblance of bridges, by imitation stairways, and other illusory communications which the phantasmagoria of human eloquence can always establish between incompatible things and which procure for man, if not the acquisition of a truth, at least a pleasure in the play of words. The ascendency of the Catholic faith over these uncertain, inconsequent, tormented souls is more or less weak or strong according to time, place, circumstance, individuals and groups; in the larger group it has diminished, while it has increased in the smaller one.
The latter comprises the regular and secular clergy with its approximate recruits and its small body of supporters; never was it so exemplary and so fervent; the monastic institution in particular never flourished so spontaneously and more usefully. Nowhere in Europe are more missionaries formed, so many “brethren” for small schools, so many volunteers, male and female, in the service of the poor, the sick, the infirm and of children, such vast communities of women freely devoting their lives to teaching and to charity. Life in common, under uniform and strict rules, to a people like the French, more capable than any other of enthusiasm and of emulation, of generosity and of discipline, naturally prone to equality, sociable and predisposed to fraternity through the need of companionship, sober, moreover, and laborious, a life in common is no more distasteful in the convent than in the barracks, nor in an ecclesiastical army more than in a lay army, while France, always Gallic, affords as ready a hold nowadays to the Roman system as in the time of Augustus. When this system obtains a hold on a soul it keeps its hold, and the belief it imposes becomes the principal guest, the sovereign occupant of the intellect. Faith, in this occupied territory, no longer allows her title to be questioned; she condemns doubt as a sin, she interdicts investigation as a temptation, she presents the peril of unbelief as a mortal danger, she enrolls conscience in her service against any possible revolt of reason. At the same time that she guards herself against attacks, she strengthens her possession; to this end, the rites she prescribes are efficient, and their efficiency, multiplicity and convergence—confession and communion, retreats, spiritual exercises, abstinences, and ceremonies of every kind, the worship of saints and of the Virgin, of relics and images, orisons on the lips and from the heart, faithful attendance on the services and the exact fulfilment of daily duties—all attest it.
Through its latest acquisitions and the turn it now takes, Catholic faith buries itself in and penetrates down to the very depths of the sensitive and tried souls which it has preserved from foreign influences; for it supplies to this chosen flock the aliment it most needs and which it loves the best. Below the metaphysical, abstract Trinity, of which two of the three persons are out of reach of the imagination, she has set up an historical Trinity whose personages are all perceptible to the senses, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The Virgin, since the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, has risen to an extraordinary height; her spouse accompanies her in her exaltation; between them stands their son, child or man, which forms the Holy Family. No worship is more natural and more engaging to chaste celibates in whose brain a pure, vague vision is always present, the revery of a family constituted without the intervention of sex. No system of worship furnishes so many precise objects for adoration, all the acts and occurrences, the emotions and thoughts of three adorable lives from birth to death and in the beyond, down to the present day. Most of the religious institutions founded within the past eighty years devote themselves to meditation on one of these lives considered at some one point of incident or of character, either purity, charity, compassion or justice, conception, nativity or infancy, presence in the Temple, at Nazareth, at Bethany, or on Calvary, the passion, the agony, the assumption or apparition under this or that circumstance or place, and the rest. There are now in France, under the name and patronage of Saint Joseph alone, one hundred and seventeen congregations and communities of women. Among so many appellations, consisting of special watchwords designating and summing up the particular preferences of a devout group, one name is significant; there are seventy-nine congregations or communities of women which have devoted themselves to the heart of Mary or of Jesus or to both together. In this way, besides the narrow devotion which is attached to the corporeal emblem, a tender piety pursues and attains its supreme end, the mute converse of the soul, not with the dim Infinite, the indifferent Almighty who acts through general laws, but with a person, a divine person clothed with the vesture of humanity and who has not discarded it, who has lived, suffered and loved, who still loves, who, in glory above, welcomes there the effusions of his faithful souls and who returns love for love.
All this is incomprehensible, bizarre or even repulsive to the public at large, and still more so to the vulgar. It sees in religion only what is very plain, a government; and in France, it has already had enough of government temporally; add a complementary one on the spiritual side and that will be more and too much. Alongside of the tax-collector and the gendarme in uniform, the peasant, the workman and the common citizen encounter the curé in his cassock who, in the name of the Church, as with the other two in the name of the State, gives him orders and subjects him to rules and regulations. Now every rule is annoying and the latter more than the others; one is rid of the tax-collector after paying the tax, and of the gendarme when no act is committed against the law; the curé is much more exacting; he interferes in domestic life and in private matters and assumes to govern man entirely. He admonishes his parishioners in the confessional and from the pulpit, he lords it over them even in their inmost being, and his injunctions bind them in every act, even at home, around the fireside, at table and in bed, comprising their moments of repose and relaxation, even hours of leisure and the time they give to the dramshop. Villagers, after listening to a sermon against the tavern and drunkenness, murmur and are heard to exclaim: “Why does he meddle with our affairs? Let him say his mass and leave us alone.” They need him for baptism, marriage and burial, but their affairs do not concern him. Moreover, among the observances he prescribes, many are inconvenient, tasteless or disagreeable—fastings, Lent, a passive part in a Latin mass, prolonged services, ceremonies of which the details are all insignificant, but of which the symbolic meaning is to-day of no account to people in attendance; add to all this the mechanical recitation of the Pater and of the Ave, genuflections and crossing one’s self, and especially obligatory confession at specified dates. The laboring man, nowadays, does without these constraints as well as the peasant. In many villages, there is nobody at high mass on Sundays but women, and often, in small numbers, one or two troops of children led by the clerical instructor and by the “Sister,” with a few old men; the great majority of the men remain outside, under the porch and on the square before the church, chatting with each other about the crops, on local news and on the weather.
In the eighteenth century, when a curé was obliged to report to the “intendant” the number of inhabitants of his parish, he had only to count his communicants at the Easter service; their number was about that of the adult and valid population, say one half or two fifths of the sum total. Now, at Paris, out of two millions of Catholics who are of age, about one hundred thousand perform this strict duty, aware of its being strict and the imperative prescription of which is stamped in their memory by a rhyme which they have learned in their infancy; out of one hundred persons, this is equal to five communicants, of which four are women and one is a man, in other words, about one woman out of twelve or thirteen and one man out of fifty. In the provinces, and especially in the country, there is good reason for doubling and even tripling these figures; in the latter case, the most favorable one and, without any doubt, the rarest, the proportion of professed Christians is that of one to four among women and one man out of twelve. Evidently, with the others who make no profession, with the three women and the eleven other men, their faith is only verbal; if they are still Catholics, it is on the outside and not within.
Besides this separation from the main body and this indifference, other signs denote disaffection and even hostility.—In Paris, at the height of the Revolution, in May and June 1793, the shopkeepers, artisans and market-women, the whole of the common people, were still religious, “kneeling in the street” when the Host passed by, and before the relics of Saint Leu carried along in ceremonial procession, passionately fond of his worship, and suddenly melted, “ashamed, repentant and with tears in their eyes,” when, inadvertently, their Jacobin rulers tolerated the publicity of a procession. Nowadays, among the craftsmen, shopkeepers and lower class of employés, there is nothing more unpopular than the Catholic Church. Twice, under the Restoration and the second Empire, she has joined hands with a repressive government, while its clergy has seemed to be not merely an efficient organ but, again, the central promoter of all repression.—Hence, accumulated bitterness that still survives. After 1830, the archbishopric of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois is sacked; in 1871 the archbishop and other ecclesiastical hostages are murdered. For two years after 1830 a priest in his cassock dared not show himself in public; he ran the risk of being insulted in the streets; since 1871, the majority of the Parisian electors, through the interposition of the Municipal Council which they elect over and over again, persists in driving “Brethren” and “Sisters” from the schools and hospitals in order to put laymen in their places and pay twice as much for work not done as well. In the beginning, antipathy was confined to the clergy; through contagion, it has extended to doctrine, to faith, to entire Catholicism and even to Christianity itself. Under the Restoration, they were styled, in polemic language, the priest party, and under the second Empire, the clericals; afterwards, confronting the Church and under a contrary name, the anti-clerical league was formed by its adversaries, a sort of negative church which possesses, or tries to, its own dogmas and rites, its own assemblies and discipline; in the mean time, for lack of something better, it has its own fanaticism, that of aversion; on the word being given, it marches, rank and file, against the other, its enemy, and manifests, if not its belief, at least its unbelief in refusing or in avoiding the ministration of the priest. In Paris, twenty funerals out of a hundred, purely civil, are not held in a church; out of one hundred marriages, twenty-five, purely civil, are not blessed by the Church; twenty-four infants out of a hundred are not baptized.
And, from Paris to the provinces, both sentiment and example are propagated. For sixteen years, in our parliaments elected by universal suffrage, the majority maintains that party in power which wars against the Church; which, systematically and on principle, is and remains hostile to the Catholic religion; which has its own religion for which it claims dominion; which is possessed by a doctrinal spirit, and, in the direction of intellects and souls, aims at substituting this new spirit for the old one; which, as far as it can, withdraws from the old one its influence, or its share in education and in charity; which breaks up the congregations of men, and overtaxes congregations of women; which enrolls seminarians in the army, and deprives suspect curés of their salaries; in short, which, through its acts collectively and in practice, proclaims itself anti-Catholic. Many of its acts certainly displease the peasant. He would prefer to retain the teaching “brother” in the public school and the “sister” in the hospital as nurse or as teacher in the school; both would cost less, and he is used to their dark dresses and their white caps; moreover, he is not ill-disposed towards his resident curé, who is a “good fellow.” Nevertheless, in sum, the rule of the curé is not to his taste; he does not wish to have him back, and he distrusts priests, especially the aspect of their allies who now consist of the upper bourgeoisie and the nobles. Hence, out of ten million electors, five or six millions, entertaining partial dislikes and mute reservations, continue to vote, at least provisionally, for anti-Christian radicals. All this shows that, through an insensible and slow reaction, the great rural mass, following the example of the great urban mass, is in train to again become pagan ; for one hundred years the wheel turns in this sense, without stopping, and this is serious, still more serious for the nation than for the Church.—In France, as things are, inward Christianity, through the double effect of its Catholic and French envelope, has grown warmer in the cloister and cooler in society, and it is in society that its heat is essential.
I. Public instruction and its three effects.—Influences of the master, of the pupils on each other, and of discipline.—Case in which all three tend towards producing a particular type of man. II. Napoleon’s aim.—University monopoly.—Revival and multitude of private schools.—Napoleon regards them unfavorably.—His motives.—Private enterprises compete with public enterprise.—Measures against them.—Previous authorization necessary and optional suppression of them.—Taxes on free education in favor of the university.—Decree of November, 1811.—Limitation of secondary teaching in private schools.—How the university takes away their pupils.—Day-schools as prescribed.—Number of boarders limited.—Measures for the restriction or assimilation of ecclesiastical schools.—Recruits forcibly obtained in prominent and ill-disposed families.—Napoleon the sole educator in his empire. III. His machinery.—The educating body.—How its members come to realize their union.—Hierarchy of rank.—How ambition and amour-propre are gratified.—The monastic principle of celibacy.—The monastic and military principle of obedience.—Obligations contracted and discipline enforced.—The École Normale and recruits for the future university. IV. Object of the educational corps and adaptation of youth to the established order of things.—Sentiments required of children and adults.—Passive acceptance of these rules.—Extent and details of school regulations.—Emulation and the desire to be at the head.—Constant competition and annual distribution of prizes. V. Military preparation and the cult of the Emperor.
At fixed intervals a man, in a room, gathers around him children, youths, a group of young people, ten, twenty, thirty or more; he talks to them for one or two hours and they listen to him. They sit alongside of each other, look in each other’s faces, touch each other’s elbows, feel that they are fellow-disciples, of the same age and occupied alike; they form a society and in two ways, one with another and all with the master. Hence they live under a statute: every society has one of its own, spontaneous or imposed on it; as soon as men, little or big, come together in any number, in a drawing-room, in a café, in the street, they find themselves subject to a local charter, a sort of code which prescribes to them, or interdicts a certain sort of conduct. And so with the school: positive rules along with many tacit rules are here observed and these form a mould which stamps on minds and souls a lasting imprint. Whatever a public lesson may be, whatever its object, laic or ecclesiastic, whether its subject-matter is religious or scientific, from the bottom to the top of the scale, from the primary school and the catechism up to the great seminary, in upper schools and in the faculties, we find in abridgment the academic institution. Of all social engines, it is probably the most powerful and the most efficacious; for it exercises three kinds of influence on the young lives it enfolds and directs, one through the master, another through con-discipleship and the last through rules and regulations.
On the one hand, the master, who passes for a savant, teaches with authority and the scholars, who feel that they are ignorant, learn with confidence.—On the other hand, outside of his family and the domestic circle, the pupil finds in his group of comrades a new, different and complete world which has its own ways and customs, its own sense of honor and its own vices, its own view of things (esprit de corps), in which independent and spontaneous judgments arise, precocious and haphazard divinations, expressions of opinion on all things human and divine. It is in this environment that he begins to think for himself, in contact with others like himself and his equals, in contact with their ideas, much more intelligible and acceptable to him than those of mature men, and therefore much more persuasive, contagious and exciting; these form for him the ambient, penetrating atmosphere in which his thought arises, grows and shapes itself; he here adopts his way of looking at the great society of adults of which he is soon to become a member, his first notions of justice and injustice, and hence an anticipated attitude of respect or of rebellion, in short, a prejudice which, according as the spirit of the group is reasonable or unreasonable, is either sound or unsound, social or antisocial.—Finally, the discipline of the school has its effect. Whatever its rules and regulations may be, whether liberal or despotic, lax or strict, monastic, military or worldly, whether a boarding or a day school, mixed or exclusive, in town or in country, with greater or less stress no gymnastic training or on brain-work, with the mind given to studying objects or to the study of words, the pupil enters into an order of things fashioned for him beforehand. According to the diversities of the system (cadre) he practises different exercises; he contracts different habits; he is developed or stunted physically or morally, in one sense or in a contrary sense. Hence, just as the system is good or bad, he becomes more or less capable or incapable of bodily or mental effort, of reflection, of invention, of taking the initiative, of starting an enterprise, of subordinating himself to a given purpose, of willing, persistent association, that is to say, in sum, of playing an active and useful part on the stage of the world he is about to enter upon. Observe that this apprenticeship in common, sitting on benches according to certain regulations and under a master, lasts six, ten, fifteen years and often twenty; that girls are not exempt from it; that not one boy out of a hundred is educated to the end at home by a private teacher; that, in secondary and even in superior instruction, the school wheel turns uniformly and without stopping ten hours a day if the scholar boards outside, and twenty-four hours a day if he boards within; that at this age the human clay is soft, that it has not yet received its shape, that no acquired and resistent form yet protects it from the potter’s hand, against the weight of the turning-wheel, against the friction of other morsels of clay kneaded alongside of it, against the three pressures, constant and prolonged, which compose public education.
Evidently, there is here an enormous force, especially if the three pressures, instead of opposing each other, as often happens, combine and converge towards the production of a certain finished type of man; if, from infancy to youth and from youth to adult age, the successive stages of preparation are superposed in such a way as to stamp the adopted type deeper and with more exactness; if all the influences and operations that impress it, near or far, great or small, internal or external, form together a coherent, defined, applicable and applied system. Let the State undertake its fabrication and application, let it monopolize public education, let it become its regulator, director and contractor, let it set up and work its machine throughout the length and breadth of the land, let it, through moral authority and legal constraint, force the new generation to enter therein—it will find twenty years later in these minors who have become major, the kind and number of ideas it aimed to provide, the extent, limit and form of mind it approves of, and the moral and social prejudice that suits its purposes.
Such is the aim of Napoleon: “In the establishment of an educational corps,” he says to himself, “my principal aim is to secure the means for directing political and moral opinions.” Still more precisely, he counts on the new institution to set up and keep open for inspection a universal and complete police repertory. “This body must be organized in such a way as to keep notes on each child after the age of nine years.” Having seized adults he wants to seize children also, watch and shape future Frenchmen in advance; brought up by him, in his hands or in sight, they become ready-made auxiliaries, docile subjects and more docile than their parents. Amongst the latter, there are still too many unsubmissive and refractory spirits, too many royalists and too many republicans; domestic traditions from family to family contradict each other or vary, and children grow up in their homes only to clash with each other in society afterwards. Let us anticipate this conflict; let us prepare them for concord; all brought up in the same fashion, they will some day or other find themselves unanimous, not only apparently, as nowadays through fear or force, but in fact and fundamentally, through inveterate habit and by previous adaptation of imagination and affection. Otherwise, “there will be no stable political state” in France ; “so long as one grows up without knowing whether to be republican or monarchist, Catholic or irreligious, the State will never form a nation; it will rest on uncertain and vague foundations; it will be constantly exposed to disorder and change.”—Consequently, he assigns to himself the monopoly of public instruction; he alone is to enjoy the right to manufacture and sell this like salt and tobacco; “public instruction, throughout the Empire, is entrusted exclusively to the university. No school, no establishment for instruction whatever,” superior, secondary, primary, special, general, collateral, laic or ecclesiastic, “may be organized outside of the imperial university and without the authorization of its chief.”
Every manufactory of school product within these boundaries and operating under this direction is of two sorts. Some of them, in the best places, interconnected and skilfully grouped, are national factories founded by the government, or at its command, by the communes,—faculties, lycées, colleges, and small communal schools; others, isolated and scattered about, are private factories founded by individuals, such as boarding-schools and institutions for secondary instruction, small free schools. The former, works of the State, ruled, managed, supported and turned to account by it, according to the plan prescribed by it and for the object it has proposed, are simply a prolongation of itself; it is the State which operates in them and which, directly and entirely, acts through them: they enjoy therefore all its favor and the others all its disfavor. The latter, during the Consulate, revived or sprung up by hundreds, in all directions, spontaneously, under the pressure of necessity, and because the young need instruction as they need clothes, but haphazard, as required according to demand and supply, without any superior and common regulation—nothing being more antipathetic to the governmental genius of Napoleon: “It is impossible,” he says, “to remain longer as we are, since everybody can start an education shop the same as a cloth shop” and furnish as he pleases, or as his customers please, this or that piece of stuff, even of poor quality, and of this or that fashion, even extravagant or out of date: hence so many different dresses, and a horrible medley. One good obligatory coat, of stout cloth and suitable cut, a uniform for which the public authority supplies the pattern, is what should go on the back of every child, youth or young man; private individuals who undertake this matter are mistrusted beforehand. Even when obedient, they are only half-docile; they take their own course and have their own preferences, they follow their own taste or that of parents. Every private enterprise, simply because it exists and thrives, constitutes a more or less independent and dissentient group. Napoleon, on learning that Sainte-Barbe, restored under the direction of M. de Lanneau, had five hundred inmates, exclaims : “How does it happen that an ordinary private individual has so many in his house?” The Emperor almost seems jealous; it seems as if he had just discovered a rival in one corner of his university domain; this man is an usurper on the domain of the sovereign; he has constituted himself a centre; he has collected around him clients and a platoon; now, as Louis XIV. said, the State must have no “platoons apart.” Since M. de Lanneau has talent and is successful, let him enter the official ranks and become a functionary. Napoleon at once means to get hold of him, his house and his pupils, and orders M. de Fontaines, Grand-Master of the University, to negotiate the affair; M. de Lanneau will be suitably compensated; Sainte-Barbe will be formed into a lycée, and M. de Lanneau shall be put at the head of it. Let it be noted that he is not an opponent, a man that is not all right. M. de Fontaines himself praises his teaching, his excellent mind, his perfect exactitude, and calls him the universitarian of the university. But he does not belong to it, he stands aloof and stays at home, he is not disposed to become a mere cog-wheel in the imperial manufactory. Therefore, whether he is aware of it or not, he does it harm, and all the more according to his prosperity; his full house empties the lycées; the more pupils he has the less they have. Private enterprises in their essence enter into competition with public enterprise.
For this reason, if tolerated by the latter, it is reluctantly and because nothing else can be done; there are too many of them; the money and the means to replace them at one stroke would be wanting. Moreover, with instruction, the consumers, as with other supplies and commodities, naturally dislike monopoly; they must be gradually brought to it; resignation must come to them through habit. The State, accordingly, may allow private enterprises to exist, at least for the time being. But, on condition of their being kept in the strictest dependence, of its arrogating to itself the right over them of life and death, of reducing them to the state of tributaries and branches, of utilizing them, of transforming their native and injurious rivality into a fruitful and forced collaboration. Not only must private schools obtain from the State its express consent to be born, for lack of which they are closed and their principals punished, but again, even when licensed, they live subject to the goodwill of the Grand-Master, who can and must close them as soon as he recognizes in them “grave abuses and principles contrary to those professed by the University.” Meanwhile, the University supports itself with their funds; since it alone has the right to teach, it may profit by this right, concede for money the faculty of teaching or of being taught alongside of it, oblige every head of an institution to pay so much for himself and so much for each of his pupils; in sum, here as elsewhere, in derogation of the university blockade, as with the continental blockade, the State sells licenses to certain parties. So true is this that, even with superior instruction, when nobody competes with it, it sells them; every graduate who gives a course of lectures on literature or on science must pay beforehand, for the year, seventy-five francs at Paris and fifty francs in the provinces. Every graduate who lectures on law or medicine must pay beforehand one hundred and fifty francs at Paris and one hundred francs in the provinces. There is the same annual duty on the directors of secondary schools, boarding-schools and private institutions. Moreover, to obtain the indispensable license, the master of a boarding-school at Paris must pay three hundred francs, and in a province two hundred francs; the principal of an institution in Paris pays six hundred francs, and in the provinces four hundred francs; besides that, this license, always revocable, is granted only for ten years; at the end of the ten years the titulary must obtain a renewal and pay the tax anew. As to his pupils, of whatever kind, boarding scholars, day scholars, or even gratis, the University levies on each a tax equal to the twentieth of the cost of full board; the director himself of the establishment is the one who fixes and levies the tax; he is the responsible collector of it, book-keeper and the debtor. Let him not forget to declare exactly the terms of his school and the number of his pupils; otherwise, there is investigation, verification, condemnation, restitution, fine, censure, and the possible closing of his establishment.
Regulations, stricter and stricter, tighten the cord around his neck and, in 1811, the rigid articles of the last decree draw so tight as to insure certain strangling at short date. Napoleon counts on that. For his lycées, especially at the start, have not succeeded; they have failed to obtain the confidence of families; the discipline is too military, the education is not sufficiently paternal, the principals and professors are only indifferent functionaries, more or less egoist or worldly; only former subaltern officers, rude and foul-mouthed, serve as superintendents and assistant-teachers; the holders of State scholarships bring with them “habits fashioned out of a bad education,” or by the ignorance of almost no education at all, so that “for a child that is well born and well brought up,” their companionship is disproportionate and their contact as baneful as it is repulsive. Consequently, the lycées during the first years, solely filled with the few holders of scholarships, remain deserted or scarcely occupied, whilst “the élite of the young crowd into private schools more or less dear.”
This élite of which the University is thus robbed must be got back. Since the young do not attend the lycée because they like it, they must come through necessity; to this end, other issues are rendered difficult and several are entirely barred; and better still, all those that are tolerated are made to converge to one sole central outlet, a university establishment, in such a way that the director of each private school, changed from a rival into a purveyor, serves the university instead of injuring it and gives it pupils instead of taking them away. In the first place, his high standard of instruction is limited; even in the country and in the towns that have neither lycée nor college, he must teach nothing above a fixed degree; if he is the principal of an institution, this degree must not go beyond the class of the humanities; he must leave to the faculties of the State their domain intact, differential calculus, astronomy, geology, natural history and superior literature; if he is the master of a boarding-school, this degree must not extend beyond grammar classes, nor the first elements of geometry and arithmetic; he must leave to State lycées and colleges their domain intact, the humanities properly so called, superior lectures and means of secondary instruction.—In the second place, in the towns possessing a lycée or college, he must teach at home only what the University leaves untaught; he is not deprived, indeed, of the younger boys; he may still instruct and keep them; but he must conduct all his pupils over ten years of age to the college or lycée, where they will regularly follow the classes as day-scholars. Consequently, daily and twice a day, he marches them to and fro between his house and the university establishment; before going, in the intermission, and after the class is dismissed he examines them in the lesson they have received out of his house; apart from that, he lodges and feeds them, his office being reduced to this. He is nothing beyond a watched and serviceable auxiliary, a subaltern, a University tutor and “coach,” a sort of unpaid, or rather paying, schoolmaster and innkeeper in its employ.
All this does not yet suffice. Not only does the State recruit its day-scholars in his establishment but it takes from him his boarding-scholars. “On and after the first of November 1812, the heads of institutions and the masters of boarding-schools shall receive no resident pupils in their houses above the age of nine years, until the lycée or college, established in the same town or place where there is a lycée, shall have as many boarders as it can take.” This complement shall be three hundred boarders per lycée; there are to be “eighty lycées in full operation” during the year 1812, and one hundred in the course of the year 1813, so that, at this last date, the total of the complement demanded, without counting that of the colleges, amounts to thirty thousand boarding-scholars. Such is the enormous levy of the State on the crop of boarding-school pupils. It evidently seizes the entire crop in advance; private establishments, after it, can only glean, and through tolerance. In reality, the decree forbids them to receive boarding-scholars; henceforth, the University will have the monopoly of them.
The proceedings against the small seminaries, more energetic competitors, are still more vigorous. “There shall be but one secondary ecclesiastical school in each department; the Grand-Master will designate those that are to be maintained; the others are to be closed. None of them shall be in the country.” All those not situated in a town provided with a lycée or with a college shall be closed. All the buildings and furniture belonging to the ecclesiastic schools not retained shall be seized and confiscated for the benefit of the University. “In all places where ecclesiastical schools exist, the pupils of these schools shall be taken to the lycée or college and join its classes.” Finally, “all these schools shall be under the control of the University; they must be organized only by her; their prospectus and their regulations must be drawn up by the council of the University at the suggesiton of the Grand-Master. The teaching must be done only by members of the University at the disposition of the Grand-Master.”—In like manner, in the lay schools, at Sainte-Barbe for example, every professor, private tutor, or even common superintendent, must be provided with a special authorization by the University. Staff and discipline, the spirit and matter of the teaching, every detail of study and recreation, all are imposed, conducted and restrained in these so-called free establishments; whatever they may be, ecclesiastic or laic, not only does the University surround and hamper them, but again it absorbs and assimilates them; it does not even leave them anything distinctly external. It is true that, in the small seminaries, the exercises begin at the ringing of a bell, and the pupils wear an ecclesiastic dress; but the priest’s gown, adopted by the State that adopts the Church, is still a State uniform. In the other private establishments, the uniform is that which it imposes, the lay uniform, belonging to colleges and lycées “under penalty of being closed”; while, in addition, there is the drum, the demeanor, the habits, ways and regularity of the barracks. All initiative, all invention, all diversity, every professional or local adaptation is abolished. M. de Lanneau thus wrote : “I am nothing but a sergeant-major of languid and mangled classes . . . to the tap of a drum and under military colors.”
There is no longer any public or even private refuge against the encroachments of this “university” institution; for the last of all, domestic education at home, is not respected. In 1808, “among the old and wealthy families which are not in the system,” Napoleon selects ten from each department and fifty at Paris of which the sons from sixteen to eighteen must be compelled to go to Saint-Cyr and, on leaving it, into the army as second lieutenants. In 1813, he adds ten thousand more of them, many of whom are the sons of Conventionalists or Vendéans, who, under the title of guards of honor, are to form a corps apart and who are at once trained in the barracks. All the more necessary is the subjection to this Napoleonic education of the sons of important and refractory families, everywhere numerous in the annexed countries. Already in 1802, Fourcroy had explained in a report to the legislative corps the political and social utility of the future University. Napoleon, at his discretion, may recruit and select scholars among his recent subjects; only, it is not in a lycée that he places them, but in a still more military school, at La Flèche, of which the pupils are all sons of officers and, so to say, children of the army. Towards the end of 1812, he orders the Roman prince Patrizzi to send his two sons to this school, one seventeen years of age and the other thirteen ; and, to be sure of them, he has them taken from their home and brought there by gendarmes. Along with these, ninety other Italians of high rank are counted at La Flèche, the Dorias, the Pallavicinis, the Alfieris, with one hundred and twenty young men of the Illyrian provinces, others again furnished by the countries of the Rhine confederation, in all three hundred and sixty inmates at eight hundred francs per annum. The parents might often accompany or follow their children and establish themselves within reach of them. This privilege was not granted to Prince Patrizzi; he was stopped on the road at Marseilles and kept there.—In this way, through the skilful combination of legislative prescriptions with arbitrary appointments, Napoleon becomes in fact, directly or indirectly, the sole head-schoolmaster of all Frenchmen old or new, the unique and universal educator in his empire.
To effect this purpose, he requires a good instrument, some great human machine which, designed, put together and set up by himself, henceforth works alone and of its own accord, without deviating or breaking down, conformably to his instructions and always under his eye, but without the necessity of his lending a hand and personally interfering in its predetermined and calculated movement. The finest engines of this sort are the religious orders, masterpieces of the Catholic, Roman and governmental mind, all managed from above according to fixed rules in view of a definite object, so many kinds of intelligent automatons, alone capable of working indefinitely without loss of energy, with persistency, uniformity and precision, at the minimum of cost and the maximum of effect, and this through the simple play of their internal mechanism which, fully regulated beforehand, adapts them completely and ready-made to this special service, to the social operations which a recognized authority and a superior intelligence have assigned to them as their function.—Nothing could be better suited to the social instinct of Napoleon, to his imagination, his taste, his political policy and his plans, and on this point he loftily proclaims his preferences. “I know,” says he to the Council of State, “that the Jesuits, as regards instruction, have left a very great void. I do not want to restore them, nor any other body that has its sovereign at Rome.” Nevertheless, one is necessary. “As for myself, I would rather confide public education to a religious order than leave it as it is to-day,” which means free and abandoned to private individuals. “But I want neither one nor the other.” Two conditions are requisite for the new establishment. First of all, “I want a corporation, because a corporation never dies”; it alone, through its perpetuity, maintains teaching in the way marked out for it, brings up “according to fixed principles” successive generations, thus assuring the stability of the political State, and “inspires youth with a spirit and opinions in conformity with the new laws of the empire.” But this corporation must be laic. Its members are to be State and not Church “Jesuits”; they must belong to the Emperor and not to the Pope, and will form, in the hands of the government, a civil militia composed of “ten thousand persons,” administrators and professors of every degree, comprehending schoolmasters, an organized, coherent and lasting militia.
As it must be laic, there must be no hold on it through dogma or faith, paradise or hell, no spiritual incitements; consequently, temporal means are to be employed, not less efficacious, when one knows how to manage them,—amour propre, emulation, imagination, ambition, the grandiose, vague hope of indefinite promotion, in short, the means and motives already maintaining the temper and zeal of the army. “The educational corps must copy the classification of military grades;” an “order of promotion,” a hierarchy of places is to be instituted; no one will attain superior rank without having passed through the inferior; “no one can become a principal without having been a teacher, nor professor in the higher classes without having taught in the lower ones.”—And, on the other hand, the highest places will be within reach of all; “the young, who devote themselves to teaching, will enjoy the perspective of rising from one grade to another, up to the highest dignities of the State.” Authority, importance, titles, large salaries, preëminence, precedence,—these are to exist in the University as in other public careers and furnish the wherewithal for the most magnificent dreams. “The feet of this great body will be on the college benches and its head in the senate.” Its chief, the Grand-Master, unique of his species, less restricted, with freer hands than the ministers themselves, is to be one of the principal personages of the empire; his greatness will exalt the condition and feeling of his subordinates. In the provinces, on every fête-day or at every public ceremony, people will take pride in seeing their rector or principal in official costume seated alongside of the general or prefect in full uniform.
The consideration awarded to their chief will reflect on them; they will enjoy it along with him; they will say to themselves that they too, like him and those under him, all together, form an élite; by degrees, they will feel that they are all one body; they will acquire the spirit of the association and attach themselves to the University, the same as a soldier to his regiment or like a monk to his brethren in a monastery.
Thus, as in a monastic order, one must join the University by “taking the cowl.” “I want,” says Napoleon, “some solemnity attached to this act. My purpose is that the members of the corps of instruction should contract, not as formerly, a religious engagement, but a civil engagement before a notary, or before the justice of the peace, or prefect, or other (officer). . . . They will espouse public education the same as their forerunners espoused the Church, with this difference, that the marriage will not be as sacred, as indissoluble. . . . They will engage themselves for three, six, or nine years, and not resign without giving notice a certain number of years beforehand.” To heighten the resemblance, “the principle of celibacy must be established, in this sense, that a man consecrated to teaching shall not marry until after having passed through the first stages of his career;” for example, “schoolmasters shall not marry before the age of twenty-five or thirty years, after having obtained a salary of three or four thousand francs and economized something.” But, at bottom, marriage, a family, private life, all natural and normal matters in the great world of society, are causes of trouble and weakness in a corps where individuals, to be good organs, must give themselves up wholly and without reserve. “In future, not only must schoolmasters, but, again, the principals and censors of the lycées, and the principals and rulers of the colleges, be restricted to celibacy and a life in common.”—The last complementary and significant trait, which gives to the laic institution the aspect of a convent, is this: “No woman shall have a lodging in, or be admitted into, the lycées and colleges.”
Now, let us add to the monastic principle of celibacy the monastic and military principle of obedience; the latter, in Napoleon’s eyes, is fundamental and the basis of the others; this principle being accepted, a veritable corporation exists; members are ruled by one head and command becomes effective. “There will be,” says Napoleon, “a corps of instructors, if all the principals, censors and professors have one or several chiefs, the same as the Jesuits had their general and their provincial,” like the soldiers of a regiment with their colonel and captain. The indispensable link is found; individuals, in this way, keep together, for they are held by authorities, under one regulation. As with a volunteer in a regiment, or a monk who enters a convent, the members of the University will accept its total régime in advance, present and future, wholly and in detail, and will subject themselves under oath. “They are to take an engagement to faithfully observe the statutes and regulations of the University. They must promise obedience to the Grand-Master in everything ordered by him for the service of the Emperor, and for the advantage of education. They must engage not to quit the educational corps and abandon their functions before having obtained the Grand-Master’s consent. They are to accept no other public or private salaried function without the authentic permission of the Grand-Master. They are bound to give notice to the Grand-Master and his officers of whatever comes to their knowledge that is opposed to the doctrine and principles of the educational corps in the establishments for public instruction.” There are many other obligations, indefinite or precise, of which the sanction is not only moral, but, again, legal, all notable and lasting, an entire surrender of the person who suffers more or less profoundly at having accepted them, and whose forced resignation must be insured by the fear of punishment. “Care must be taken to insure severe discipline everywhere: the professors themselves are to be subject in certain cases to the penalty of arrest; they will lose no more consideration on this account than the colonels who are punished in the same manner.” It is the least of all penalties; there are others of greater and greater gravity, “the reprimand in presence of an academical board, censure in presence of the University board, transfer to an inferior office, suspension with or without entire or partial deprivation of salary, half-pay or put on the retired list, or stricken off the University roll,” and, in the latter case “rendered incapable of obtaining employment in any other public administration.” “Every member of the University who shall fail to conform to the subordination established by the statutes and regulations, or in respect due to superiors, shall be reprimanded, censured or suspended from his functions according to the gravity of the case.” In no case may he withdraw of his own accord, resign at will, and voluntarily return to private life; he is bound to obtain beforehand the Grand-Master’s assent; and, if the latter refuses this, he must renew his application three times, every two months, with the formalities, the delays and the importunacy of a long procedure; failing in which, he is not only stricken from the rolls, but again “condemned to a confinement proportioned to the gravity of the circumstances,” and which may last a year.
A system of things ending in a prison is not attractive, and is established only after great resistance. “We were under the necessity,” says the superior council, “of taking candidates as they could be found, differing infinitely in methods, principles and sentiments, accustomed to almost unlimited pardon or, at least, to being governed by the caprices of parents and nearly all disliking the régime attempted to be enforced on them.” Moreover, through this intervention of the State, “the local authorities find one of their most cherished perogatives wrested from them.” In sum, “the masters detested the new duties imposed on them; the administrators and bishops protested against the appointments not made at their suggestion; fathers of families complained of the new taxes they had to pay. It is said that the University is known only by its imposts and by its forced regulations; again, in 1811, most of its masters are incompetent, or indocile, and of a bad spirit.—There is still another reason for tightening the cord that binds them to the corporation. “The absolute subordination of every individual belonging to the University is its first necessity; without discipline and without obedience, no University could exist. This obedience must be prompt, and, in grave cases, where recourse must be had to the authority of the government, obedience must always be provisional.” But, on this incurably refractory staff, compression will not suffice; it has grown old and hardened; the true remedy, therefore, consists in replacing it with a younger one, more manageable, expressly shaped and wrought out in a special school, which will be for the University what Fontainebleau is for the army, what the grand seminaries are for the clergy, a nursery of subjects carefully selected and fashioned beforehand.
Such is the object of the “École normale.” Young students enter it at the age of seventeen and bind themselves to remain in the University at least ten years. It is a boarding-school (internat), and they are obliged to live in common: “individual exits are not allowed,” while “the exits in common . . . in uniform . . . can be made only under the direction and conduct of superintendent masters. . . . These superintendents inspect the pupils during their studies and recreations, on rising and on going to bed and during the night. . . . No pupil is allowed to pass the hours of his play-spell in his own room without permission of the superintendent. No pupil is allowed to enter the hall of another division without the permission of two superintendents. . . . The director of studies must examine the books of the pupils whenever he deems it necessary, and as often as once a month.” Every hour of the day has its prescribed task; all exercises, including religious observances, are prescribed, each in time and place, with a detail and minuteness, as if purposely to close all possible issues to personal initiation and everywhere substitute mechanical uniformity for individual diversities. “The principal duties of the pupils are respect for religion, attachment to the sovereign and the government, steady application, constant regularity, docility and submission to superiors; whoever fails in these duties is punished according to the gravity of the offence.”—In 1812, the Normal School is still a small one, scarcely housed, lodged in the upper stories of the lycée Louis le Grand, and composed of forty pupils and four masters. But Napoleon has its eyes on it and is kept informed of what goes on in it. He does not approve of the comments on the “Dialogue de Sylla et d’Eucrate,” by Montesquieu, on the “Éloge de Marc Aurèle,” by Thomas, on the “Annales” of Tacitus: “Let the young read Cæsar’s commentaries. . . . Corneille, Bossuet, are the masters worth having; these, under the full sail of obedience, enter into the established order of things of their time; they strengthen it, they illustrate it,” they are the literary coadjutors of public authority. Let the spirit of the Normal School conform to that of these great men. The University establishment is the original, central workshop which forges, finishes and supplies the finest pieces, the best wheels. Just now the workshop is incomplete, poorly fitted out, poorly directed and still rudimentary; but it is to be enlarged and completed and made to turn out more and better work. For the time being, it produces only what is needed to fill the annual vacancies in the lycées and in the colleges. Nevertheless, the first decree states that it is “intended to receive as many as three hundred youths.” The production of this number will fill all vacancies, however great they may be, and fill them with products of superior and authentic quality. These human products thus manufactured by the State in its own shop, these school instruments which the State stamps with its own mark, the State naturally prefers. It imposes them on its various branches; it puts them by order into its lycées and colleges; at last, it accepts no others; not only does it confer on itself the monopoly of teaching, but again the preparation of the masters who teach. In 1813, a circular announces that “the number of places that chance to fall vacant from year to year, in the various University establishments, sensibly diminishes according as the organization of the teaching body becomes more complete and regular in its operation, as order and discipline are established, and as education becomes graduated and proportionate to diverse localities. The moment has thus arrived for declaring that the Normal School is henceforth the only road by which to enter upon the career of public instruction; it will suffice for all the needs of the service.”
What is the object of this service?—Previous to the Revolution, when directed by, or under the supervision of, the Church, its great object was the maintenance and strengthening of the faith of the young. Successor of the old kings, the new monarch underlines among “the bases of education,” “the precepts of the Catholic religion,” and this phrase he writes himself with a marked intention; when first drawn up, the Council of State had written the Christian religion; Napoleon himself, in the definitive and public decree, substitutes the narrowest term for the broadest. In this particular, he is politic, taking one step more on the road on which he has entered through the Concordat, desiring to conciliate Rome and the French clergy by seeming to give religion the highest place.—But it is simply a place for show, similar to that which he assigns to ecclesiastical dignitaries in public ceremonies and on the roll of precedencies. He does not concern himself with reanimating or even preserving earnest belief; far from that, “it should be so arranged,” he says, “that young people may be neither too bigoted nor too incredulous: they should be adapted to the state of the nation and of society.” All that can be demanded of them is external deference, personal attendance on the ceremonies of worship, a brief prayer in Latin muttered in haste at the beginning and end of each lesson, in short, acts like those of raising one’s hat or other public marks of respect, such as the official attitudes imposed by a government, author of the Concordat, on its military and civil staff. They likewise, the lyceans and the collegians, are to belong to it and do already, Napoleon thus forming his adult staff out of his juvenile staff.
In fact, it is for himself that he works, for himself alone, and not for the Church whose ascendency would prejudice his own; besides, in private conversation, he declares that he wishes to supplant it; his object in forming the University is first and especially “to take education out of the hands of the priests. They consider this world only as a diligence for transportation to the other,” and Napoleon “wants the diligence filled with good soldiers for his armies,” good functionories for his administrations, and good, zealous subjects for his service.—And, thereupon, in the decree which organizes the University, and following after this phrase written for effect, he states the real and fundamental truth. “All the schools belonging to the University shall take for the basis of their teaching loyalty to the Emperor, to the imperial monarchy to which the happiness of the people is confided and to the Napoleonic dynasty which preserves the unity of France and of all liberal ideas proclaimed by the Constitutions.” In other terms, the object is to plant civil faith in the breasts of children, boys and young men, to make them believe in the beauty, goodness and excellence of the established order of things, to predispose their minds and hearts in favor of the system, to adapt them to this system, to the concentration of authority and to the centralization of services, to uniformity and to “falling into line” (encadrement), to equality in obeying, to competition, to enthusiasm, in short, to the spirit of the reign, to the combinations of the comprehensive and calculating mind which, claiming for itself and appropriating for its own use the entire field of human action, sets up its corner-posts everywhere, its barriers, its rectilinear compartments, lays out and arranges its racecourses, brings together and introduces the runners, urges them on, stimulates them at each stage, reduces their soul to the fixed determination of getting ahead fast and far, leaving to the individual but one motive for living, that of the desire to figure in the foremost rank in the career where, now by choice and now through force, he finds himself inclosed and launched.
For this purpose, two sentiments are essential with adults and therefore with children: the first is the passive acceptance of a prescribed regulation, and nowhere does a rule applied from above bind and direct the whole life by such precise and multiplied injunctions as under the University régime. School life is circumscribed and marked out according to a rigid, unique system, the same for all the colleges and lycées of the Empire, according to an imperative and detailed plan which foresees and prescribes everything even to the minutest point, labor and rest of mind and of body, material and method of instruction, class-books, passages to translate or to recite, a list of fifteen hundred volumes for each library with a prohibition against introducing another volume into it without the Grand-Master’s permission, hours, duration, application and sessions of classes, of studies, of recreations and of promenades, that is to say, the premeditated stifling of native curiosity with the masters and still more, with the scholars, of spontaneous inquiry, of inventive and personal originality, so great that one day, under the second Empire, a minister, drawing out his watch, could exclaim with satisfaction, “At this very time, in such a class, all the scholars of the Empire are studying a certain page in Virgil.”—Well-informed, judicious, impartial and some kindly-disposed foreigners, on seeing this mechanism which everywhere substitutes for the initiative from below the compression and impulsion from above, are very much surprised. “The law means that the young shall never for one moment be left to themselves; the children are under their masters’ eyes all day” and all night. Every step outside of the regulations is a false one and always arrested by the ever-present authority. And, in cases of infraction, punishments are severe; “according to the gravity of the case, the pupils will be punished by confinement from three days to three months in the lycée or college, in some place assigned to that purpose; if fathers, mothers or guardians object to these measures, the pupil must be sent home and can no longer enter any other college or lycée belonging to the university, which, as an effect of university monopoly, thereafter deprives him of instruction, unless his parents are wealthy enough to employ a professor in the house. “Everything that can be effected by rigid discipline is thus obtained and better, perhaps, in France than in any other country,” for if, on leaving the lycée, young people have lost a will of their own, they have acquired “a love of and habits of subordination and punctuality” which are elsewhere wanting.
Meanwhile, on this narrow and strictly defined road, whilst the regulation supports them, emulation pushes them on. In this respect, the new university corps, which, according to Napoleon himself, must be a company of “lay Jesuits,” resumes to its advantage the double process which its forerunners, the former Jesuits, had so well employed in education; on the one hand, constant direction and incessant watchfulness; on the other hand, the appeal to amour-propre and to the excitements of parades before the public. If the pupil works hard, it is not for the purpose of learning and knowing, but to be the first in his class; the object is not to develop in him the need of truthfulness and the love of knowledge, but his memory, taste and literary talent; at best, the logical faculty of arrangement and deduction, but especially the desire to surpass his rivals, to distinguish himself, to shine, at first in the little public of his companions, and next, at the end of the year, before the great public of grown-up men. Hence, the weekly compositions, the register of ranks and names, every place being numbered and proclaimed; hence, those annual and solemn awards of prizes in each lycée and at the grand competition of all lycées, along with the pomp, music, decoration, speeches and attendance of distinguished personages. The German observer testifies to the powerful effect of a ceremony of this kind : “One might think one’s self at the play, so theatrical was it;” and he notices the oratorical tone of the speakers, “the fire of their declamation,” the communication of emotion, the applause of the public, the prolonged shouts, the ardent expression of the pupils obtaining the prizes, their sparkling eyes, their blushes, the joy and the tears of the parents. Undoubtedly, the system has its defects; very few of the pupils can expect to obtain the first place; others lack the spur and are moreover neglected by the master. But the élite make extraordinary efforts and, with this, there is success. “During the war times,” says again another German, “I lodged a good many French officers who knew one half of Virgil and Horace by heart.” Similarly, in mathematics, young people of eighteen, pupils of the Polytechnic School, understand very well the differential and integral calculus, and, according to the testimony of an Englishman, “they know it better than many of the English professors.”
This general preparation, Napoleon lays it out with precision and directs it in the sense of his policy, and, as he has special need of soldiers, the school, in his hands, becomes the vestibule of the barracks. From its origin, the institution has received the military turn and spirit, and this form, which is essential to him, becomes more and more restricted. In 1805, during four months, Fourcroy, ordered by the Emperor, visits the new lycées “with an inspector of reviews and a captain or adjutant-major, who everywhere gives instruction in drill and discipline.” The young have been already broke in; “almost everywhere,” he says on his return, “I saw young people obey without murmur or reflection younger and weaker corporals and sergeants than themselves, raised to a merited rank through their behavior and progress.” He himself, although a liberal, finds reasons which justify to the legislative body this unpopular practice; he replies to the objections and alarm of the parents “that it is favorable to order, without which there are no good studies,” and moreover “it accustoms the pupils to carrying and using arms, which shortens their work and accelerates their promotion on being summoned by the conscription to the service of the State.” The tap of the drum, the attitude in presenting arms, marching at command, uniform, gold lace, and all that, in 1811, becomes obligatory, not only for the lycées and colleges, but again, and under the penalty of being closed, for private institutions. At the end of the Empire, there were enumerated in the departments alone which composed old France 76,000 scholars studying under this system of excitation and constraint. “Our masters,” as a former pupil is to say later on, “resembled captain-instructors, our study-rooms mess-rooms, our recreations drills, and our examinations reviews.” The whole tendency of the school inclines to the army and merges therein on the studies being completed—sometimes, even, it flows into it before the term is over. After 1806, the anticipated conscriptions take youths from the benches of the philosophy and rhetoric classes. After 1808, ministerial circulars demand of the lycées boys (des enfans) who are well disposed, scholars of eighteen and nineteen who “know how to manœuvre,” so that they may at once be made under-officers or second-lieutenants; and these the lycées furnish without any difficulty by hundreds; in this way, the beardless volunteer entering upon the career one or two years sooner, but gaining by this one or two grades in rank.—“Thus,” says a principal of one of the colleges, “the brain of the French boy is full of the soldier. As far as knowledge goes there is but little hope of it, at least under existing circumstances.” In the schools, says another witness of the reign, “the young refuse to learn anything but mathematics and a knowledge of arms. I can recall many examples of young lads of ten or twelve years who daily entreated their father and mother to let them go with Napoleon.”—In those days, the military profession is evidently the first of all, almost the only one. Every civilian is a pékin, that is to say an inferior, and is treated as such. At the door of the theatre, the officer breaks the line of those who are waiting to get their tickets and, as a right, takes one under the nose of those who came before him; they let him pass, go in, and they wait. In the café, where the newspapers are read in common, he lays hold of them as if through a requisition and uses them as he pleases in the face of the patient bourgeois.
The central idea of this glorification of the army, be it understood, is the worship of Napoleon, the supreme, unique, absolute sovereign of the army and all the rest, while the prestige of this name is as great, as carefully maintained, in the school as in the army. At the start, he put his own free scholars (boursiers) into the lycées and colleges, about three thousand boys whom he supports and brings up at his own expense, for his own advantage, destined to become his creatures, and who form the first layer of the school population; about one hundred and fifty of these scholarships to each lycée, first occupants of the lycée and still for a long time more numerous than their paying comrades, all of a more or less needy family, sons of soldiers and functionaries who live on the Emperor and rely on him only, all accustomed from infancy to regard the Emperor as the arbiter of their destiny, the special, generous and all-powerful patron who, having taken charge of them now, will also take charge of them in the future. A figure of this kind fills and occupies the entire field of their imagination; whatever grandeur it already possesses it here becomes still more grand, colossal and superhuman. At the beginning their enthusiasm gave the pitch to their co-disciples; the institution, through its mechanism, labors to keep this up, and the administrators or professors, by order or through zeal, use all their efforts to make the sonorous and ringing chord vibrate with all the more energy. After 1811, even in a private institution, “the victories of the Emperor form almost the only subject on which the imagination of the pupils is allowed to exercise itself.” After 1807, at Louis le Grand, the prize compositions are those on the recent victory of Jena. “Our masters themselves,” says Alfred de Vigny, “unceasingly read to us the bulletins of the Grande Armée, while cries of Vive l’Empereur interrupted Virgil and Plato.” In sum, write many witnesses, Bonaparte desired to bestow on French youths the organization of the “Mamelukes,” and he nearly succeeded. More exactly and in his own words, “His Majesty desired to realize in a State of forty millions of inhabitants what had been done in Sparta and in Athens.”—“But,” he is to say later, “I only half succeeded. That was one of my finest conceptions”; M. de Fontanes and the other university men did not comprehend this or want to comprehend it. Napoleon himself could give only a moment of attention to his school work, his halting-spells between two campaigns; in his absence, “they spoiled for him his best ideas”; “his executants” never perfectly carried out his intentions. “He scolded, and they bowed to the storm, but not the less continued on in the usual way.” Fourcroy kept too much of the Revolution in mind, and Fontanes too much of the ancient régime; the former was too much a man of science, and the latter too much a man of letters; with such capacities they laid too great stress on intellectual culture and too little on discipline of the feelings. In education, literature and science are “secondary” matters; the essential thing is training, an early, methodical, prolonged, irresistible training which, through the convergence of every means—lessons, examples and habits—inculcates “principles,” and lastingly impresses on young souls “the national doctrine,” a sort of social and political catechism, the first article of which enjoins fanatical docility, passionate devotion, and the total surrender of one’s self to the Emperor.
I. Primary instruction.—Additional and special restrictions on the teacher.—Ecclesiastical supervision.—Napoleon’s motives.—Limitation of primary instruction.—Ignorantin monks preferred.—The imperial catechism. II. Superior instruction.—Characters and conditions of scientific universities.—Motives for opposition to them.—In what respect adverse to the French system.—How he replaces them.—Extent of secondary instruction.—Meets all wants in the new social order of things.—The careers it leads to.—Special schools.—Napoleon requires them professional and practical.—The law school. III. Crowning point of the university edifice.—Faith based on criticism.—How it binds men together and forms a lay Church.—Social power of this Church.—Scientific and literary authorities.—How Napoleon enrolls them.—The Institute, an appendage of the State. IV. Hold of the government on its members.—How he curbs and keeps them down.—Circle in which lay power may act.—Favor and freedom of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences.—Disfavor and restrictions on the moral sciences.—Suppression of the class of moral and political sciences.—They belong to the State, included in the imperial domain of the Emperor.—Measures against Ideology, philosophic or historic study of Law, Political Economy and Statistics.—Monopoly of History. V. Measures against writers so called and popularizers.—Censorship, control of theatres, publications and printing.—Extent and minuteness of the repression.—Persistency in direction and impulsion.—The logical completeness and beauty of the whole system his final object.—How he accomplishes his own destruction.
Such is secondary education, his most personal, most elaborate, most complete work; the other two stories of the educational system, under and over, built in a more summary fashion, are adapted to the middle story and form, the three together, a regular monument, of which the architect has skilfully balanced the proportions, distributed the rooms, calculated the service and designed the façade and scenic effect.
“Napoleon,” says a contemporary adversary, “familiar with power only in its most absolute form, military despotism, tried to partition France in two categories, one composed of the masses, destined to fill the ranks of his vast army, and disposed, through the brutishness which he was willing to maintain, to passive obedience and fanatical devotion; the other, more refined by reason of its wealth, was to lead the former according to the views of the chief who equally dominated both, for which purpose it was to be formed in schools where, trained for a servile and, so to say, mechanical submission, it would acquire relative knowledge, especially in the art of war and with regard to a wholly material administration; after this, vanity and self-interest were to attach it to his person and identify it, in some way with his system of government.”—Soften this over-sombre picture one degree and it is true. As to primary instruction, there was no State appropriation, no credit inscribed on the budget, no aid in money, save twenty-five thousand francs, allotted in 1812, to the novices of the Frères Ignorantins and of which they received but 4,500 francs; the sole mark of favor accorded to the small schools is an exemption from the dues of the University. His councillors, with their habits of fiscal logic, proposed to exact this tax here as elsewhere; a shrewd politician, he thinks that its collection would prove odious and he is bound not to let his popularity suffer among villagers and common people; it is two hundred thousand francs a year which he abstains from taking from them; but here his liberalities in behalf of primary instruction stop. Let parents and the communes take this burden on themselves, pay its expenses, seek out and hire the teacher, and provide for a necessity which is local and almost domestic. The government, which invites them to do this, will simply furnish the plan, that is to say, a set of rules, prescriptions and restrictions.
At first, there is the authorization of the prefect, guardian of the commune, who, having invited the commune to found a school, has himself, through a circular, given instructions to this end, and who now interferes in the contract between the municipal council and the teacher, to approve of or to rectify its clauses—the name of the titulary, duration of his engagement, hours and seasons for his classes, subjects to be taught, the sum total and conditions of his pay in money or in kind; the school grant must be paid by the commune, the school tax by the pupils, the petty fees which help pay the teacher’s living expenses and which he gets from accessory offices such as mayor’s clerk, clock-winder, sexton, bell-ringer and chorister in the church. —At the same time, and in addition, there is the authorization of the rector; for the small as well as the average or larger schools are included in the University; the new master becomes a member of the teaching body, binds himself and belongs to it by oath, takes upon himself its obligations and submissions, comes under the special jurisdiction of the university authorities, and is inspected, directed and controlled by them in his class and outside of his class.—The last supervision, still more searching and active, which close by, incessantly and on the spot, hovers over all small schools by order and spontaneously, is the ecclesiastical supervision. A circular of the Grand-Master, M. de Fontanes, requests the bishops to instruct “messieurs les curés of their diocese to send in detailed notes on their parish schoolmasters;” “when these notes are returned,” he says, “please address them to me with your remarks on them; according to these indications I will approve of the instructor who merits your suffrage and he will receive the diploma authorizing him to continue in his functions. Whoever fails to present these guarantees will not receive a diploma and I shall take care to replace him with another man whom you may judge to be the most capable.”
If Napoleon thus places his small schools under ecclesiastical oversight, it is not merely to conciliate the clergy by giving it the lead of the majority of souls, all the uncultivated souls, but because, for his own interests, he does not want the mass of the people to think and reason too much for themselves. “The Academy inspectors,” says the decree of 1811, “will see that the masters of the primary schools do not carry their teaching beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.” Beyond this limit, should the instructor teach a few of the children the first elements of Latin or geometry, geography or history, his school becomes secondary; it is then ranked as a boarding-school, while its pupils are subjected to the university recompense, military drill, uniform, and all the above specified exigencies; and yet more—it must no longer exist and is officially closed. A peasant who reads, writes and ciphers and who remains a peasant need know no more, and, to be a good soldier, he need not know as much; moreover, that is enough, and more too, to enable him to become an under and even a superior officer; take, for instance, Captain Coignet, whose memoirs we have, who, to be appointed a second-lieutenant, had to learn to write and who could never write other than a large hand, like young beginners.—The best masters for such limited instruction are the Brethren of the Christian Schools and these, against the advice of his counsellors, Napoleon supports: “If they are obliged,” he says, “by their vows to refrain from other knowledge than reading, writing and the elements of arithmetic, . . . it is that they may be better adapted to their destiny.” “In comprising them in the University, they become connected with the civil order of things and the danger of their independence is anticipated.” Henceforth, “they no longer have a stranger or a foreigner for their chief.” “The superior-general at Rome has renounced all inspection over them; it is understood that in France their superior-general will reside at Lyons.” The latter, with his monks, fall into the hands of the government and come under the authority of the Grand-Master. Such a corporation, with the head of it in one’s power, is a perfect instrument, the surest, the most exact, always to be relied on and which never acts on one side of, or beyond, the limits marked out for it. Nothing pleases Napoleon more, who, in the civil order of things, wants to be Pope; who builds up his State, as the Pope his Church, on old Roman tradition; who, to govern from above, allies himself with ecclesiastical authority; who, like Catholic authorities, requires drilled executants and regimental manœuvres, only to be found in organized and special bodies of men. The general inspectors of the University give to each rector the following instructions as a watchword: “Wherever the Brethren of the Christian Schools can be found, they shall,” for primary teaching, be “preferred to all others.” Thus, to the three classes of subjects taught, a fourth must be added, one not mentioned by the legislator in his law, but which Napoleon admits, which the rectors and prefects recommend or authorize, and which is always inscribed in the contract made between the commune and the instructor. The latter, whether layman or frère ignorantin, engages to teach, besides “reading, writing and decimal arithmetic,” “the catechism adopted by the Empire.” Consequently, as the first communion (of the pupil) draws near, he is careful, for at least two years, to have his scholars learn the consecrated text by heart, and to recite this text aloud on their benches, article by article; in this way, his school becomes a branch of the Church and, hence, like the Church, a reigning instrumentality. For, in the catechism adopted for the Empire, there is one phrase carefully thought out, full and precise in its meaning, in which Napoleon has concentrated the quintessence of his political and social doctrine and formulated the imperative belief assigned by him as the object of education. The seven or eight hundred thousand children of the lower schools recite this potent phrase to the teacher before reciting it to the priest: “We especially owe to Napoleon I., our Emperor, love, respect, obedience, fidelity, military service, and the dues (tributs) prescribed for the preservation and defence of the Empire and the throne. . . . For it is he whom God has raised up in times of difficulty, to restore public worship and the holy religion of our forefathers, and to be its protector.”
Superior instruction, the most important of all, remains; for, in this third and last stage of education, the minds and opinions of young people from eighteen to twenty-four years of age are fully formed; it is then that, already free and nearly ripe, these future occupants of busy careers, just entering into practical life, shape their first general ideas, their still hazy and half-poetic views of things, their premature and foregone conclusions respecting man, nature, society and the great interests of humanity.
If it be desirable that they should arrive at sound conclusions, a good many standards of merit must be established for them, substantial, convergent, each with its own rounds of the ladder superposed, each expressly designating the absent, doubtful, provisional or simply future and possible rounds, because they are in course of formation or on trial.—Consequently, these must all be got together in some circumscription, in contiguous structures, not alone the body of professors, the speaking-trumpets of science, but collections, laboratories and libraries which constitute the instruments; moreover, besides ordinary and regular courses of lectures, there must be recitation-rooms, appointed hours, with full liberty and faculty to teach for every man of knowledge and enterprise who, having something to say, likes to say it to anybody that chooses to listen. Thus, a sort of oral encyclopedia is organized, an universal exposition of human knowledge, a permanent exposition constantly renewed and open, to which its visitors, provided with a certificate of average instruction as an entrance ticket, will see with their own eyes, besides completed science that which is in the way of formation, besides discoveries and proofs the way of discovering and proving, namely the method, history and general progress, the place of each science in its group, and of this group its place in the general whole. Owing to the extreme diversity of subjects taught there will be room and occupation for the extreme diversity of intelligences; young minds can choose for themselves their own career, mount as high as their strength allows, climb up the tree of knowledge each on his own side, with his own ladder, in his own way, now passing from the branches to the trunk and again from the trunk to the branches, now from a remote bough to the principal branch and from that again back to the trunk.
And more than this, thanks to the coördination of lessons well classified, there is, for each course of lectures, the means for arriving at full details in all particulars; the young students can talk amongst themselves and learn from each other, the student of moral science from the student of the natural sciences, the latter from the student of the chemical or physical sciences, and another from the student of the mathematical sciences. Bearing still better fruit, the student, in each of these four circumscriptions, derives information from his co-disciples lodged right and left in the nearest compartments, the jurist from the historian, from the economist, from the philologist, and reciprocally, in such a way as to profit by their impressions and suggestions, and enable them to profit by his. He must have no other object in view for three years, no rank to obtain, no examination to undergo, no competition for which to make preparations, no outward pressure, no collateral preoccupation, no positive, urgent and personal interest to interfere with, turn aside or stifle pure curiosity. He pays something out of his own pocket for each course of lectures he attends; for this reason, he makes the best choice he can, follows it up to the end, takes notes, and comes there, not to seek phrases and distraction, but actualities and instruction, and get the worth of his money. It is admitted that knowledge is an object of exchange, so much alimentary food stored up and sold by the masters; the student who takes it on delivery first of all sees to it that it is of superior quality, of authentic derivation and very nutritious; the masters, undoubtedly, through amour-propre and conscience, try to furnish it of this sort; but he is the one who helps himself to it, just here where he judges it to be what he wants, in this particular storehouse rather than in others, from this or that lecture-stand, official or not. To impart and to acquire knowledge for itself and for it alone, without subordinating this end to another distinct and predominant end, to direct minds towards this object and in this way, under the promptings and restraints of supply and demand, to open up the largest field and the freest career to the faculties, to labor, to the preferences of the thinking individual, master or disciple,—such is the spirit of the institution. And, evidently, that it may be effective according to this spirit, it needs an independent, appropriate body, that is to say, autonomous, sheltered against the interference of the State, of the Church, of the commune, of the province, and of all general or local powers, provided with rules and regulations, made a legal, civil personage, with the right to buy, sell and contract obligations, in short proprietorship.
This is no chimerical plan, the work of a speculative, calculating imagination, which appears well and remains on paper. All the universities of the middle ages were organized according to this type. It found life and activity everywhere and for a long time; the twenty-two universities in France previous to the Revolution, although disfigured, stunted and desiccated, preserved many of its features, certain visible externals, and, in 1811, Cuvier, who had just inspected the universities of lower Germany, describes it as he found it, on the spot, confined to superior instruction, but finished and complete, adapted to modern requirements, in full vigor and in full bloom.
There is no room in the France to which Cuvier returns for institutions of this stamp; they are excluded from it by the social system which has prevailed.—First of all, public law, as the Revolution and Napoleon comprehended it and enacted it, is hostile to them; for it sets up the principle that in a State there must be no special corporations permanent, under their own control, supported by mortmain property, acting in their own right and conducting a public service for their own benefit, especially if this service is that of teaching; for the State has taken this charge upon itself, reserved it for itself and assumed the monopoly of it; hence, the unique and comprehensive university founded by it, and which excludes free, local and numerous universities. Thus, in its essence, it is the self-teaching State and not self-teaching science; thus defined, the two types are contradictory; not only are the two bodies different, but again the two spirits are incompatible; each has an aim of its own, which is not the aim of the other. In a special sense, the use to which the Emperor assigns his university is contrary to the aim of the German universities; it is founded for his own advantage, that he may possess “the means for shaping moral and political opinions;” with this object in view it would be wrong for him to allow several establishments within reach of students in which they would be directed by science alone; it is certain that, in many points, the direction here given to youth would poorly square with the rigid, uniform, narrow lines in which Napoleon wishes to confine them. Schools of this kind would get to be centres of opposition; young men thus fashioned would become dissenters; they would gladly hold personal, independent opinions alongside, or outside, of “the national doctrine,” outside of Napoleonic and civil orthodoxy; and worse still, they would believe in their opinions. Having studied seriously and at first sources, the jurist, the theologian, the philosopher, the historian, the philologist, the economist might perhaps cherish the dangerous pretension of considering himself competent even in social matters; being a Frenchman, he would talk with assurance and indiscretion; he would be much more troublesome than a German; it would soon be necessary to send him to Bicêtre or to the Temple.—In the present state of things, with the exigencies of the reign, and even in the interests of the young themselves, it is essential that superior instruction should be neither encyclopedic nor very profound. Were this a defect, Frenchmen would not perceive it; they are accustomed to it. Already, before 1789, the classes in the humanities were generally completed by the class in philosophy; in this class logic, morals and metaphysics were taught; while on God, nature, the soul and science, the young student, played with, adopted and bandied about with more or less skill, the formulæ he had learned by rote. Less scholastic, abridged, and made easy, this verbal exercise was maintained in the lycées; under the new régime, as well as under the old one, a string of abstract terms, which the professor thought he could explain and which the pupil thought he understood, involves young minds in a maze of high, speculative conceptions, beyond their reach and far beyond their experience, education and years. Because pupils play with words, they fancy that they possess ideas, which fancy deprives them of any desire to obtain them. Consequently, in this great French establishment, young people do not remark the lack of veritable Universities; a liberal, broad spirit of inquiry is not aroused in them; they do not regret their inability to have compassed the cycle of varied research and critical investigation, the long and painful road which alone surely leads to profound general conceptions, those grand ideas which are verifiable and solidly based. And, on the other hand, this quick, summary mode of preparation suffices for the positive and appreciable needs of the new society. The question is to fill the gaps made in it by the Revolution; the indispensable contingent of cultivated youth thus demanded, forms an annual recruitment that must be supplied. Now, after as before the Revolution, by this name is understood all who have passed through the entire series of classes; under this régime, subject to the drill in Latin and mathematics, young men have acquired the habit of using clear, connected ideas, a taste for close reasoning, the art of condensing a phrase or a paragraph, an aptitude for attending to the daily business of a worldly, civil life, especially the faculty of carrying on a discussion, of writing a good letter, even the talent for composing a good report or memorial. A young man with these acquirements, some scraps of natural philosophy, and with still briefer notions of geography and history, has all the general, preliminary culture he needs, all the information he requires for aspiring to one of the careers called liberal. The choice rests with himself; he will be what he wants to be, or what he can be—professor, engineer, physician, member of the bar, an administrator or a functionary. In each of his qualifications he renders an important service to the public, he exercises an honorable art; let him be able or an expert, that concerns society. But that alone is all that society cares about; it is not essential that it should find in him additionally an erudite or a philosopher. Let him be competent and worthy of confidence in his limited art, let him know how to teach classes or frame a course of lectures, how to build a bridge, a bastion, an edifice, how to cure a disease, perform an amputation, draw up a contract, manage a case in court, and give judgment; let the State, for greater public convenience, prepare, authenticate, and indorse this special capacity, let it verify this by examinations and diploma, let it make of this a sort of coin of current value, duly minted and of proper standard; let this be protected against counterfeits, not only by its preferences but again by its prohibitions, by the penalties it enacts against the illegal practice of pharmacy and of medicine, by the obligations it imposes on magistrates, lawyers and ministerial officials not to act until obtaining this or that grade,—such is what the interest of society demands and what it may exact. According to this principle, the State institutes special schools, and, through the indirect monopoly which it possesses, it fills them with listeners; henceforth, these are to furnish the youth of France with superior education.
From the start, Napoleon, as logician, with his usual lucidity and precision, lays it down that they shall be strictly practical and professional. “Make professors (régents) for me,” said he one day in connection with the Ecole normale, “and not littérateurs, wits or seekers or inventors in any branch of knowledge.” In like manner says he again, “I do not approve of the regulation requiring a man to be bachelor (bachelier) in the sciences before he can be a bachelor in the medical faculty; medicine is not an exact and positive science, but a science of guess and observation. I should place more confidence in a doctor who had not studied the exact sciences than in one who possessed them. I preferred M. Corvisart to M. Hallé, because M. Hallé belongs to the Institute. M. Corvisart does not even know what two equal triangles are. The medical student should not be diverted from hospital practice, from dissections and studies relating to his art.”
There is the same subordination of science to art, the same idea for immediate or near application, the same utilitarian tendency in view of a public function or of a private career, the same contraction of studies in the law school, in that order of truths of which Montesquieu, a Frenchman, fifty years before, had first seized the entire body, marked the connections and delineated the chart. The question is, laws and the “spirit of laws,” written or not written, by which diverse human societies live, of whatever form, extent and kind,—the State, commune, Church, school, army, agricultural or industrial workshop, tribe or family; now, whether existences or fossils, these are realities, open to observation like plants or animals; one may, the same as with animals and plants, observe them, describe them, compare them together, follow their history from first to last, study their organization, classify them in natural groups, disengage the distinctive and dominant characteristics in each, note its ambient surroundings and ascertain the internal or external conditions, or “necessary relationships,” which determine its failure or its bloom. For men who live together in society and in a State, no study is so important; it alone can furnish them with a clear, demonstrable idea of what society and the State are; and it is in the law schools that this capital idea must be sought by cultivated youth. If they do not find it there, they invent one to suit themselves. As 1789 drew near, the antiquated, poor, barren, teaching of law, fallen into contempt and almost null, offered no sound, accredited doctrine which could impose itself on young minds, fill the void and prevent the intrusion of fancy. It did intrude itself: in the anti-social Utopia of Rousseau, in his anarchical and despotic Social Contract. To hinder it from returning, the best thing to do was not to make the same mistake, not to leave the lodging empty, to install in it a fixed occupant beforehand, and to see that this fixed occupant, which is science, may at all times represent its title of legitimate proprietor, its method analogous to that of the natural sciences, its studies of detail from life and, in the texts, its strict inductions, its concordant verifications, its progressive discoveries, in order that, confronting every chance system and without these titles, minds may of themselves shut their doors, or only open them provisionally, and always with a care to make the intruder present his letters of credit—that is the social service rendered by instruction in Law as given in the German mode, as Cuvier had just described it. Before 1789, in the University of Strasbourg, in France, it was thus given; but, in this State and with this amplitude, it is not suitable under the new régime, and still less than under the old one.
Napoleon, in his preparation of jurists, wants executants and not critics; his faculties must furnish him with men able to apply and not to give opinions on his laws. Hence, in the teaching of the law, as he prescribes it, there must be nothing of history, of political economy or of comparative law; there must be no exposition of foreign legislation, of feudal or custom law, or of canon law; no account of the transformations which governed public and private law in Rome down to the Digest and, after that, in France, down to the recent codes; nothing on remote origins, on successive forms and the diverse and ever-changing conditions of labor, property and the family; nothing which, through the law, exposes to view and brings us in contact with the social body to which it is applied. That is to say, this or that active and human group, with its habits, prejudices, instincts, dangers and necessities; nothing but two dry, rigid codes, like two aerolites fallen from the sky ready-made and all of a piece, at an interval of fourteen centuries; at first, the Institutes, “by cutting out what is not applicable to our legislation and replacing these matters by a comparison with much finer laws scattered through other books of Roman law,” similar to the classesin the humanities, where Latin literature is reduced to the finest passages of the classic authors; next, the French code, with the comments on it due to the decisions of the court of appeals and the court of cassation. All the courses of lectures of the school shall be obligatory and arranged as a whole, or tacked on to each other in a compulsory order; each step the student takes shall be counted, measured and verified every three months by a certificate, and each year by an examination; at these examinations there shall be no optional matters, no estimate of collateral studies or those of complimentary or superior importance. The student finds no attraction or benefit in studies outside of the programme, and, in this programme he finds only official texts, explained by the bill of fare, one by one, with subtlety, and patched together as well as may be by means of distinctions and interpretations, so as to provide the understood solution in ordinary cases and a plausible solution in disputed cases, in other terms, a system of casuistry.
And this is just the education which suits the future practitioner. As a celebrated professor of the second Empire says, “our young graduates need a system of instruction which enables them to pass without perplexity or discouragement from the school to the halls of justice;” to have the 2281 articles of the civil code at their fingers’ ends, also the rest, hundreds and thousands of them, of the other four codes; to find at once in relation to each case the set of pertinent articles, the general rule, neither too broad nor too narrow, which fits the particular case in question. As for law taken in itself and as a whole, they have none of that clear, full conception of it to which a comprehensive and curious mind aspires. “I know nothing of the civil code,” said another professor, older and in closer proximity with the primitive institution, “I teach only the Code Napoléon.” Accordingly, with his clear-sightedness and his practical and graphic imagination, Napoleon could perceive in advance the coming and certain products of his machine, the magistrates in their bonnets, seated or standing in their court-rooms, with the lawyers in their robes facing them pleading, and, farther on, the great consumers of stamped papers in their bureaus encumbered with files of documents with the attorneys and notaries engaged in drawing them up; elsewhere, prefects, sub-prefects, prefect councillors, government commissioners and other officials, all at work and doing pretty well, all of them useful organs but mere organs of the law. The chances were small, fewer than under the ancient régime, for an erudite and independent thinker, a Montesquieu, to issue from that school.
Everywhere else, the direction and reach of superior instruction are similar. In the Faculties of Science and Literature, much more than in the Faculties of Medicine and of Law, the principal employment of the professors is the collation of grades.—They likewise confer the titles of bachelor, licentiate and doctor; but the future bachelor is not prepared by them; the lycée furnishes him for the examination, fresh from its benches; they have then no auditors but future licentiates, that is to say a few schoolmasters and a licentiate at long intervals who wants to become a doctor in order to mount upward into the university hierarchy. Besides these, occasional amateurs, nearly all of ripe age, who wish to freshen their classic souvenirs, and idlers who want to kill time, fill the lecture-room. To prevent empty benches the lecture course becomes a conférence d’Athenée, which is pleasant enough or sufficiently general to interest or, at least, not to repel people of society. Two establishments remain for teaching true science to the workers who wish to acquire it; who, in the widespread wreck of the ancient régime have alone survived in the Museum of Natural History, with its thirteen chairs, and the College of France, with nineteen. But here, too, the audience is sparse, mixed, disunited and unsatisfactory; the lectures being public and free, everybody enters the room and leaves as he pleases during the lecture. Many of the attendants are idlers who seek distraction in the tone and gestures of the professors, or birds of passage who come there to warm themselves in winter and to sleep in summer. Nevertheless, two or three foreigners and half a dozen Frenchmen thoroughly learn Arabic or zoölogy from Silvestre de Sacy, Cuvier or Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. That answers the purpose; they are quite enough, and, elsewhere too in the other branches of knowledge. All that is required is a small élite of special and eminent men—about one hundred and fifty in France in the various sciences, and, behind them, provisionally, two or three hundred others, their possible successors, competent and designated beforehand by their works and celebrity to fill the gaps made by death in the titulary staff as these occur. The latter, representatives of science and of literature, provide the indispensable adornment of the modern State. But, in addition to this, they are the depositaries of a new force, which more and more becomes the principal guide, the influential regulator and even the innermost motor of human action. Now, in a centralized State, no important force must be left to itself; Napoleon is not a man to tolerate the independence of this one, allowing it to act apart and outside of limitations; he knows how to utilize it and turn it to his own advantage. He has already grasped another force of the same order but more ancient, and, in the same way, and with equal skill, he also takes hold of the new one.
In effect, alongside of religious authority, based on divine revelation and belonging to the clergy, there is now a lay authority founded on human reason, which is exercised by savants, erudites, the learned and philosophers. They too, in their way, form a clergy, since they frame creeds and teach a faith; only, their preparatory and dominant disposition is not a docile mind and trust, but distrust and the necessity of critical examination. With them, nearly every source of belief is supicious. At bottom, among the ways of acquiring knowledge, they accept but two, the most direct, the simplest, the best tested, and again on condition that one proves the other, the type of the first being that process of reasoning by which we show that two and two make four, and the second that experience by which we demonstrate that heat above a certain degree melts ice, and that cold below a certain degree freezes water. This is the sole process that is convincing; all others, less and less sure in proportion as they diverge from it, possess only a secondary, provisional and contestable value, that which it confers on them after verification and check.—Let us accordingly avail ourselves of this one, and not of another, to express, restrain or suspend our judgment. So long as the intellect uses it and only it, or its analogues, to affirm, set aside or doubt, it is called reason, and the truths thus obtained are definitive acquisitions. Acquired one by one, the truths thus obtained have long remained scattered, in the shape of fragments; only isolated sciences have existed or bits of science; about the middle of the eighteenth century these separate parts became united and have formed one body, a coherent system; out of this, then called philosophy, that is to say a view of nature as a whole, consisting of perfect order on lasting foundations, a sort of universal network which, suddenly enlarged, stretches beyond the physical world to the moral world, taking in man and men, their faculties and their passions, their individual and their collective works, various human societies, their history, customs and institutions, their codes and governments, their religions, languages, literatures and fine arts, their agriculture, industries, property, the family and the rest. Then also, in each natural whole the simultaneous or successive parts are connected together; a knowledge of their mutual ties is important, and, in the spiritual order of things, one accomplishes this, as in the material order, through scientific distrust, through critical examination by the process of tests.
Undoubtedly, in 1789, the work in common on this ground had resulted only in false conceptions; but this is because another than the testing process was applied, hasty, plausible, popular, risky and deceptive. People wanted to go fast, conveniently, directly, and, for guide, accepted unreason under the name of reason. Now, in the light of disastrous experience, there was a return to the narrow, stony, long and painful road which alone leads, both, in speculation, to truth and, in practice, to salvation.—Besides, this second conclusion, like the first one, was due to recent experience; henceforth it was evident that, in political and social matters, ideas quickly descend from speculation to practice. When anybody talks to me about stones, plants, animals and the stars I must, to listen, be interested in these; if anybody talks to me about man and society, it suffices that I am a man and a member of that society; for then it concerns myself, my nearest, daily, most sensitive and dearest interests; by virtue of being a tax-payer and a subject, a citizen and an elector, a property-owner or a proletaire, a consumer or a producer, a free-thinker or a Catholic, a father, son or husband, the doctrine is addressed to me; to affect me it has only to be within reach, through interpreters and others that promulgate it.—This office appertains to writers great or small, particularly to the educated who possess wit, imagination or eloquence, a pleasing style, the art of finding readers or of making themselves understood. Owing to their interposition, a doctrine wrought out by the specialist or thinker in the closet, spreads around through the novel, the theatre and the lecture-room, by pamphlets, the newspaper, dictionaries, manuals and conversation, and, finally, by teaching itself. It thus enters all houses, knocks at the door of each intellect, and, according as it works its way more or less forcibly, contributes more or less efficaciously to make or unmake the ideas and sentiments that adapt it to the social order of things in which it is comprised.
In this respect it acts like positive religions; in its way and on many accounts, it is one of them. In the first place, like religion, it is a living, principal, inexhaustible fountain-head, a high central reservoir of active and directing belief. If the public reservoir is not filled by an intermittent flow, by sudden freshets, by obscure infiltrations of the mystic faculty, it is regularly and openly fed by the constant contributions of the normal faculties. On the other hand, confronting faith, by the side of that beneficent divination which, answering the demands of conscience and the emotions, fashions the ideal world and makes the real world conform to this, it poses the testing process which, analyzing the past and the present, disengages possible laws and the probabilities of the future. Doctrine likewise has its dogmas, many definitive and others in the way of becoming so, and hence a full and complete conception of things, vast enough and clear enough, in spite of what it lacks, to take in at once nature and humanity. It, too, gathers its faithful in a great church, believers and semi-believers, who, consequently or inconsequently, accept its authority in whole or in part, listen to its preachers, revere its doctors, and deferentially await the decisions of its councils. Wide-spread, still uncertain and lax under a wavering hierarchy, the new Church, for a hundred years past, is steadily in the way of consolidation, of progressive ascendency and of indefinite extension. Its conquests are constantly increasing; sooner or later, it will be the first of social powers. Even for the chief of an army, even for the head of a State, even to Napoleon, it is well to become one of its great dignitaries; the second title, in modern society, adds a prestige to the first one: “Salary of His Majesty the Emperor and King as member of the Institute, 1500 francs;” thus begins his civil list, in the enumeration of receipts. Already in Egypt, intentionally and for effect, he heads his proclamations with “Bonaparte, commander-in-chief, member of the Institute.” “I am sure,” he says, “that the lowest drummer will comprehend it!”
Such a body, enjoying such credit, cannot remain independent. Napoleon is not content to be one of its members. He wants to hold it in his grasp, have it at his own disposition, and use it the same as a member or, at least, contrive to get effective control of it. He has reserved to himself an equally powerful one in the old Catholic Church; he has reserved to himself like equivalents in the young lay Church; and, in both cases, he limits them, and subjects them to all the restrictions which a living body can support. In relation to science and religion he might repeat word for word his utterances in relation to religion and to faith. “Napoleon has no desire to change the belief of his populations; he respects spiritual matters; he wishes simply to dominate over them without touching them, without meddling with them; all he desires is to make them square with his views, with his policy, but through the influence of temporalities.” To this end, he negotiated with the Pope, reconstructed, as he wanted it, the Church of France, appointed bishops, restrained and directed the canonical authorities. To this end, he settles matters with the literary and scientific authorities, gets them together in a large hall, gives them arm-chairs to sit in, gives by-laws to their groups, a purpose and a rank in the State, in brief, he adopts, remakes, and completes the “National Institute” of France.
This Institute, in conformity with the traditions of the old monarchy and with the plans, sketched out and decreed by the revolutionary assemblies, in conformity with the immemorial principle of French law which enlarges the interference of the central power, not only in relation to public instruction but to science, literature and the fine arts, is a creature and an appendage of the State. It is the State which has produced and shaped it, which has given to it its title, which assigns it its object, its location, its subdivisions, its dependencies, its correspondences, its mode of recruitment, which prescribes its labors, its reports, its tri-monthly and annual sessions, which gives it employment and defrays its expenses. Its members receive a salary, and “the subjects elected must be confirmed by the First Consul.” Moreover, Napoleon has only to utter a word to insure votes for the candidate whom he approves of, or to black-ball the candidate whom he dislikes. Even when confirmed by the head of the State, an election can be cancelled by his successor; in 1816, Monge, Carnot, Guyton de Morveau, Grégoire, Garat, David and others, sanctioned by long possession and by recognized merit, are to be stricken off the list; by the same sovereign right, the State admits and excludes them, the right of the creator over his creation, and, without pushing his right as far as that, Napoleon uses it.
He holds the members of his Institute in check with singular rigidity, even when, outside of the Institute and as private individuals, they fail to observe in their writings the proper rules imposed on every public body. The rod falls heavily on Jerome de Lalande, the astronomical computer who continues the work of Montucla, publicly and in a mortifying way, the blow being given by his colleagues who are thus delegated for the purpose. “A member of the Institute,” says the imperial note, “well known for his attainments, but now fallen into an infantile state, is not wise enough to keep his mouth shut, and tries to have himself talked about, at one time by advertisements unworthy of his old reputation as well as of the body to which he belongs, and again by openly professing atheism, the great enemy of all social organization.” Consequently, the presidents and secretaries of the Institute, summoned by the minister, notify the Institute “that it must send to M. de Lalande and enjoin him not to print anything, not cast a shadow in his old age over what he has done in his vigorous days to obtain the esteem of savants.” M. de Chateaubriand, in his coming reception address, alluding to the revolutionary rôle of his predecessor, Marie Chénier, observed that he could eulogize him only as the man of letters, and, in the reception committee, six out of twelve academicians had accepted the discourse. Thereupon, Fontanes, one of the twelve, prudently abstains from going to Saint-Cloud. M. de Ségur, however, president of the committee, he goes. In the evening, at the coucher, Napoleon advances to him before the whole court and, in that terrifying tone of voice which still vibrates through the dead lines of the silent page, “Sir,” says he to him, “literary people desire to set France in a blaze! . . . How dare the Academy speak of regicides? . . . I ought to put you and M. de Fontanes, as Councillor of State and Grand-Master, in Vincennes. . . . You preside over the second class of the Institute. I order you to inform it that I will not allow politics at its sessions. . . . If the class disobeys I will put an end to it as an objectionable club!”
Thus warned, the members of the Institute remain within the circle traced out for them and, for many, the circle is sufficiently large. Let the first class of the Institute, in the mathematical, physical and natural sciences, Lagrange, Laplace, Legendre, Carnot, Biot, Monge, Cassini, Lalande, Burckardt and Arago, Poisson, Berthollet, Gay-Lussac, Guyton de Morveau, Vauquelin, Thénard and Hamy, Duhamel, Lamarck, de Jussieu, Mirbel, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier, pursue their researches; let Delambre and Cuvier, in their quarterly reports, sum up and announce discoveries; let, in the second class of the Institute, Volney, Destutt de Tracy, Andrieux, Picard, Lemercier and Chateaubriand, if the latter desires to take part in its sittings, give dissertations on languages, grammar, rhetoric, rules of style and of taste; let, in the third class of the Institute, Sylvestre de Sacy publish his Arabic grammar; let Langlès continue his Persian, Indian and Tartar studies; let Quatremère de Quincy, explaining the structure of the great chryselephantine statues, reproduce conjecturally the surface of ivory and the internal framework of the Olympian Jupiter; let D’Ansse de Villoison discover in Venice the commentary of the Alexandrian critics on Homer; let Larcher, Boissonade, Clavier, alongside of Coraï publish their editions of the old Greek authors—all this causes no trouble, and all is for the honor of the government. Their credit reflects on the avowed promoter, the official patron and responsible director of science, erudition and talent; therefore, in his own interest, he favors and rewards them. Laurent de Jussieu and Cuvier are titular councillors of the University, Delambre is its treasurer, and Fontanes its Grand-Master. Delille, Boissonade and Royer-Collard and Guizot teach in the faculty of letters; Biot, Poisson, Gay-Lussac, Hamy, Thénard, Brongniart, G. Saint-Hilaire in the faculty of the sciences; Monge, Berthollet, Fourier, Andrieux in the Ecole Polytechnique; Pinel, Vauquelin, de Jussieu, Richèraud, Dupuytren in the Ecole de Médécine; Fourcroy is councillor of State, Laplace and Chaptal, after having been ministers, become senators; in 1813, there are twenty-three members of the Institute in the Senate; the zoölogist Lacépede is grand-chancellor of the Legion of Honor; while fifty-six members of the Institute, decorated with an imperial title, are chevaliers, barons, dukes, and even princes. —This is even one more lien, admirably serving to bind them to the government more firmly and to incorporate them more and more in the system. In effect, they now derive their importance and their living from the system and the government; having become dignitaries and functionaries they possess a password in this twofold capacity; henceforth, they will do well to look upward to the master before expressing a thought and to know how far the password allows them to think.
In this respect, the First Consul’s intentions are manifest from the very first day. In his reconstruction of the Institute he has suppressed “the class of moral and political sciences,” and therefore the first four sections of the class, “analysis of sensations and ideas, moral science, social science and legislation, and political economy;” he cuts off the main branch with its four distinct branches, and what he keeps or tolerates he trims and grafts or fastens on to another branch of the third class, that of the erudites and antiquaries. The latter may very well occupy themselves with political and moral sciences but only “in their relations with history,” and especially with ancient history. General conclusions, applicable theories, on account of their generality, to late events and to the actual situation are unnecessary; even as applied to the State in the abstract, and in the cold forms of speculative discussion, they are interdicted. The First Consul, on the strength of this, in connection with “Dernières vues de politique et de finances,” published by Necker, has set forth his exact rule and his threatening purpose: “Can you imagine,” says he to Rœderer, “that any man, since I became head of the State, could propose three sorts of government for France? Never shall the daughter of M. Necker come back to Paris!” She would then get to be a distinct centre of political opinion while only one is necessary, that of the First Consul in his Council of State. Again, this council itself is only half competent and at best consultative: “You yourselves do not know what government is. You have no idea of it. I am the only one, owing to my position, that can know what a government is.” On this domain, and everywhere on the undefined surroundings of this domain, afar, as far as his piercing eye can penetrate, no independent idea must either be conceived or, especially, published.
In particular, the foremost and guiding science of the analysis of the human understanding, pursued according to the methods and after the examples furnished by Locke, Hume, Condillac and Destutt de Tracy, ideology is proscribed. “It is owing to ideology,” he says, “to that metaphysical obscurity which, employing its subtleties in trying to get at first causes, seeks to base the legislation of a people on that foundation, instead of appropriating laws to a knowledge of the human heart and the lessons of history, that all the misfortunes of our admirable France must be attributed.” In 1806, M. de Tracy, unable to print his “Commentaire sur l’Esprit des Lois” in France, sends it to the president of the United States, Jefferson, who translates it into English, publishes it anonymously, and has it taught in his schools. About the same date, the republication of the “Traité d’économie-politique” of J.-B. Say is prohibited, the first edition of which, published in 1804, was soon exhausted. In 1808, all publications of local and general statistics, formerly incited and directed by Chaptal, were interrupted and stopped; Napoleon always demands figures, but he keeps them for himself; if divulged they would prove inconvenient, and henceforth they become State secrets. The same precautions and the same rigor are extended to books on law, even technical, and against a “Précis historique du droit Romain.” “This work,” says the censorship, “might give rise to a comparison between the progress of authority under Augustus and that going on under the reign of Napoleon, in such a way as to produce a bad effect on public opinion.” In effect, nothing is more dangerous than history, for it is composed, not of general propositions that are unintelligible except to the meditative, but of particular facts accessible and interesting to the first one that comes along.
For this reason, not only the science of sensations and of ideas, philosophic law and comparative law, politics and moral law, the science of wealth and statistics, but again, and especially, the history of France, is a State affair, an object of government; for no object affects the government more nearly; no study contributes so much towards strengthening or weakening the ideas and impressions which shape public opinion for or against him. It is not sufficient to superintend this history, to suppress it if need be, to prevent it from being a poor one; it must again be ordered, inspired and manufactured, that it may be a good one. “There is no work more important. . . . I am very far from counting expense in any matter. It is even my intention to have it understood through the minister that no work better deserves my protection.” Above all, the spirit of the authors who write should be made sure of. “Not only must this work be entrusted to authors of real talent, but again to attached men, who will present facts in this true light and prepare healthy instruction by bringing history down to the year viii.” But this instruction can be healthy only through a series of preliminary and convergent judgments, insinuating into all minds the final approval and well-founded admiration of the existing régime. Accordingly, the historian “must feel at each line” the defects of the ancient régime, “the influence of the court of Rome, of confessional tickets, of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, of the ridiculous marriage of Louis XIV. with Madame de Maintenon, the perpetual disorder in the finances, the pretensions of the parliament, the want of rules and impulse in the administration, . . . in such a way that one breathes on reaching the epoch when one enjoys the benefits of that which is due to the unity of the laws, administration and territory.” The constant feebleness of the government under Louis XIV. even, under Louis XV. and Louis XVI., “should inspire the need of sustaining the newly accomplished work and its acquired preponderance.” On the 18th of Brumaire, France came into port; the Revolution must be spoken of only as a final, fatal and inevitable tempest. “When that work, well done and written in a right direction, appears, nobody will have the will or the patience to write another, especially when, far from being encouraged by the police, one will be discouraged by it.” In this way, the government which, in relation to the young, has awarded to itself the monopoly of teaching, awards to itself in relation to adults, the monopoly of history.
If Napoleon thus guards himself against those who think, it is for no other reason than because their thoughts, once written down by themselves or by others, reach the public, the sovereign alone having the right to talk in public. Between writer and readers, every communication is intercepted beforehand by a triple and quadruple line of defences through which a long, tortuous and narrow wicket is the only passage, and where the manuscript, like a bundle of suspicious goods, is overhauled and repeatedly verified after having obtained its free certificate and its permit of circulation. Napoleon thus declares that “the printing-office is an arsenal which must not be within the reach of everybody. . . . It is very important for me that only those be allowed to print who have the confidence of the government. A man who addresses the public in print is like the man who speaks in public in an assembly, and certainly no one can dispute the sovereign’s right to prevent the first comer from haranguing the public.”—On the strength of this, he makes publishing a privileged, authorized and regulated office of the State. The writer, consequently, before reaching the public, must previously undergo the scrutiny of the printer and bookseller, who, both responsible, sworn and patented, will take good care not to risk their patent, the loss of their daily bread, ruin, and, besides this, a fine and imprisonment.—In the second place, the printer, the bookseller and the author are obliged to place the manuscript or, by way of toleration, the work as it goes through the press, in the hands of the official censors; the latter read it and made their weekly report to the general director of publications; they indicate the good or bad spirit of the work, the “unsuitable or interdicted passages according to circumstances,” the intended, involuntary or merely possible allusions; they exact the necessary suppressions, rectifications and additions. The publisher obeys, the printers furnish proofs, and the author has submitted; his proceedings and attendance in the bureaux are at end. He thinks himself safe in port, but he is not.
Through an express reservation, the director-general always has the right to suppress works, “even after they have been examined, printed and authorized to appear.” In addition to this, the minister of the police, who, above the director-general, likewise has his censorship bureau, may, in his own right, place seals on the sheets already printed, destroy the plates and forms in the printing-office, send a thousand copies of the “Germany” by Madame de Staël to the paper-mill, “take measures to see that not a sheet remains,” demand of the author his manuscript, recover from the author’s friends the two copies he has lent to them, and take back from the director-general himself the two copies for his service locked up in a drawer in his cabinet.—Two years before this, Napoleon said to Auguste de Staël, “Your mother is not bad. She has intelligence, a good deal of intelligence. But she is unaccustomed to any kind of discipline. She would not be six months in Paris before I should be obliged to put her in the Temple or at Bicêtre. I should be sorry to do this, because it would make a noise and that would injure me in public opinion.” It makes but little difference whether she abstains from talking politics: “people talk politics in talking about literature, the fine arts and morality, about everything in the world; women should busy themselves with their knitting,” and men keep silent or, if they do talk, let it be on a given subject and in the sense prescribed.
Of course, the inspection is still more rigorous and more repressive on publicity, more exacting and more persistent.—At the theatre, where the assembled spectators become enthusiastic through the quick contagion of their sensibilities, the police cut out of the “Heraclius” of Corneille and the “Athalie” of Racine from twelve to twenty-five consecutive lines and patch up the broken passages as carefully as possible with lines or parts of lines of their own.—On the periodical press, on the newspaper which has acquired a body of readers and which exercises an influence and groups its subscribers according to an opinion, if not political, at least philosophic and literary, there is a compression which goes even as far as utter ruin. From the beginning of the Consulate, sixty out of seventy-three political journals are suppressed; in 1811, the thirteen that still existed are reduced to four and the editors-in-chief are appointed by the minister of police. The property of these journals, on the other hand, is confiscated, while the Emperor, who had taken it, concedes it, one third to his police and the other two thirds to people of the court or littérateurs who are his functionaries or his creatures. Under this always aggravated system the newspapers, from year to year, become so barren that the police, to interest and amuse the public, contrive a pen warfare in their columns between one amateur of French music and one of Italian music.
Books, almost as rigorously kept within bounds, are mutilated or prevented from appearing. Chateaubriand is forbidden to reprint his “Essay on Revolutions,” published in London under the Directory. In “L’Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem” he is compelled to cut out “a good deal of declamation on courts, courtiers and certain features calculated to excite misplaced allusions.” The censorship interdicts the “Dernier des Abencerrages,” where “it finds too warm an interest in the Spanish cause.” One must read the entire register to see it at work and in detail, to feel the sinister and grotesque minutia with which it pursues and destroys, not alone among great or petty writers but, again, among compilers and insignificant abbreviators, in a translation, in a dictionary, in a manual, in an almanac, not only ideas but suggestions, echoes, semblances and oversights in thinking, the possibilities of awakening reflection and comparison—every souvenir of the ancient régime, this or that mention of Kléber or Moreau, or a particular conversation of Sully and Henry IV.; “a game of loto, which familiarizes youth with the history of their country,” but which says too much about “the family of the grand-dauphin of Louis XVI. and his aunts”; the general work of the reveries of Cagliostro and of M. Henri de Saint-Mesmin, very laudatory of the Emperor, excellent “for filling the soul of Frenchmen with his presence, but which must leave out three awkward comparisons that might be detected by the malevolent or the foolish;” the “translation into French verse of several of David’s psalms,” which are not dangerous in Latin but which, in French, have the defect of a possible application, through coincidence and prophecy, to the Church as suffering, and to religion as persecuted;—and quantities of other literary insects hatched in the depths of publication, nearly all ephemeral, crawling and imperceptible, but which the censor, through zeal and his trade, considers as redoubtable dragons whose heads must be smashed or their teeth extracted.
The next lot proves inoffensive, and, better still, is serviceable, especially the almanacs, “in rectifying the ideas of the people in many respects; for 1812, things will probably be in train for controling their composition, and they must be full of anecdotes, songs and stories adapted to the maintenance of patriotism and of devotion to the sacred person of His Majesty and to the Napoleonic dynasty.”—To this end, the police likewise ameliorates, orders and pays for dramatic or lyric productions of all kinds, cantatas, ballets, impromptus, vaudevilles, comedies, grand-operas, comic operas—a hundred and seventy-six works in one day, composed for the birth of the King of Rome and paid for in rewards to the sum of eighty-eight thousand four hundred francs. Let the administration look to this beforehand so as to raise up talent and have it bear good fruit. “Complaints are made because we have no literature; it is the fault of the minister of the interior.” Napoleon personally and in the height of a campaign interposes in theatrical matters. Afar in Prussia, and at home in France, he leads tragic authors by the hand, Raynouard, Legouvé, Luce de Lancival; he listens to the first reading of the “Mort d’Henri IV.” and the “États de Blois.” He gives to Gardel, a ballet-composer, “a fine subject in the Return of Ulysses.” He explains to authors how dramatic effect should, in their hands, become a political lesson; for lack of anything better, and waiting for these to comprehend it, he uses the theatre the same as a tribune for the reading to the spectators of his bulletins of the grand army.
On the other hand, in the daily newspapers, he is his own advocate, the most vehement, the haughtiest, the most powerful of polemics. For a long time, in the “Moniteur,” he himself dictates articles which are known by his style. After Austerlitz, he has no time to do this, but he inspires them all and they are prepared under his orders. In the “Moniteur” and other gazettes, it is his voice which, directly or by his mouthpieces, reaches the public; it alone prevails and one may divine what it utters! The official shoutings of every group or authority in the State again swell the one great, constant, triumphant adulatory hymn which, with its insistence, unanimity and violent sonorities, tends to bewilder all minds, deaden consciences and pervert the judgment. “Were it open to doubt,” says a member of the tribunate, “whether heaven or chance gives sovereigns on earth, would it not be evident for us that we owe our Emperor to some divinity?”—Another of the choir then takes up the theme in a minor key and thus sings the victory of Austerlitz: “Europe, threatened by a new invasion of the barbarians, owes its safety to the genius of another Charles Martel.” Similar cantatas follow, intoned in the senate and lower house by Lacépède, Pérignot and Garat, and then, in each diocese, by the bishops, some of whom, in their pastoral letters, raise themselves up to the technical considerations of military art, and, the better to praise the Emperor, explain to their parishioners the admirable combinations of his strategic genius.
And truly, his strategy is admirable, lately against Catholic ideas and now against the laic mind. First of all, he has extended, selected and defined his field of operations, and here is his objective point, fixed by himself. “On public affairs, which are my affairs in political, social and moral matters, on history, and especially on actual history, recent and modern, nobody of the present generation is to give any thought but myself and, in the next generation, everybody will follow my example.” With this objective point in view, he has assigned to himself the monopoly of education; he has introduced military discipline and habits and the military spirit into all the public and private educational establishments for secondary instruction; he has reduced and subjected the ecclesiastiaal superintendence of primary education to the minimum; he has removed the last vestige of local, encyclopedic and autonomous universities and substituted for these special and professional schools; he has rendered veritable superior instruction abortive and stifled all spontaneous and disinterested curiosity in youth.—Meanwhile ascending to the source of laic intelligence, he has fastened himself on the Institute. He has effected the necessary amputations, appropriated the credit to himself and imposed his favor or disfavor on the masters of science and literature; then, descending from the source to the canals, constructing dams, arranging channels, applying his constraints and impulsions, he has subjected science and literature to his police, to his censorship and to his control of publishing and printing; he has taken possession of all the publicities—theatre, newspaper, book, pulpit and tribune; he has organized all these into one vast manufactory which he watches over and directs, a factory of public spirit which works unceasingly and in his hands to the glorification of his system, reign and person. Again here, he is found equal and like himself, a stern conqueror making the most of his conquest to the last extreme, a calculator as minute as he is profound, as ingenious as he is consequent, incomparable in adapting means to ends, unscrupulous in carrying them out, fully satisfied that, through the constant physical pressure of universal and crushing dread, all resistance would be overcome, maintaining and prolonging the struggle with colossal forces, but against a historic and natural force lying beyond his grasp, lately against belief founded on religious instinct and on tradition, and now against evidence engendered by realities and by the agency of the testing process; consequently, obliged to interdict the testing process, to falsify things, to disfigure the reality, to deny the evidence, to lie daily and each day more outrageously, to accumulate glaring acts so as to impose silence, to arouse by this silence and by these lies the attention and perspicacity of the public, to transform almost mute whispers into sounding words and insufficient eulogies into open protestations; in short, weakened by his own success and condemned beforehand to succumb under his victories, to disappear after a short triumph, to leave intact and erect the indestructible rival whom he would like to crush as an adversary but turn to account as an instrument.
I. History of the Napoleonic machine.—The first of its two arms, operating on adults, is dislocated and breaks.—The second, which operates on youth, works intact until 1850.—Why it remains intact.—Motives of governors.—Motives of the governed. II. Law of 1850 and freedom of instruction.—Its apparent object and real effects.—Alliance of Church and State.—The real monopoly.—Ecclesiastical control of the University until 1859.—Gradual rupture of the Alliance.—The University again becomes laic.—Lay and clerical interests.—Separation and satisfaction of both interests down to 1876.—Peculiarity of this system.—State motives for taking the upper hand.—Parents, in fact, have no choice between two monopolies.—Original and forced decline of private institutions.—Their ruin complete after 1850 owing to the too-powerful and double competition of Church and State.—The Church and the State sole surviving educators.—Interested and doctrinal direction of the two educational systems.—Increasing divergence in both directions.—Their effect on youth. III. The internal vices of the system.—Barrack or convent discipline of the boarding-school.—Number and proportions of scholars in State and Church establishments.—Starting-point of the French boarding-school.—The school community viewed not as a distinct organ of the State but as a mechanism wielded by the State.—Effects of these two conceptions.—Why the boarding-school entered into and strengthened ecclesiastical establishments.—Effects of the boarding-school on the young man.—Gaps in his experience, errors of judgment, no education of his will.—The evil aggravated by the French system of special and higher schools. IV. Another vice of the system.—Starting-point of superior instruction in France.—Substitution of special State schools for free encyclopedic universities.—Effect of this substitution.—Examinations and competitions.—Intense, forced and artificial culture.—How it reaches an extreme.—Excess and prolongation of theoretical studies.—Insufficiency and tardiness of practical apprenticeship.—Comparison of this system with others, between France before 1789 and England and the United States.—Lost forces.—Mistaken use and excessive expenditure of mental energy.—The entire body of youth condemned to it after 1889. V. Public instruction since 1870.—Agreement between the Napoleonic and Jacobin conception.—Extension and aggravation of the system.—The deductive process of the Jacobin mind.—Its consequences.—In superior and in secondary instruction.—In primary instruction.—Gratuitous, obligatory and laic instruction. VI. Total and actual effect of the system.—Increasing unsuitableness between early education and adult life.—Change for the worse in the mental and moral balance of contemporary youth.
After him, the springs of his machine naturally relax; and, naturally also, of the two groups on which the machine operates, it is the first, that of adult men, which liberates itself less incompletely and the soonest; during the following half century, we see the preventive or repressive censorship of books, journals and theatres, every special instrument that gags free speech, relaxing its hold, breaking down bit by bit and at last tumbling to the ground; even when again set up and persistently and brutally applied, old legal muzzles are never to become as serviceable as before; no government will undertake, like that of Napoleon, to stop at once all outlets of written thought; some will always remain open to a certain extent. Even during the rigorous years of the Restoration and of the second Empire the stifling process is to diminish; mouths open and there is some way of finding utterance, at least in books and likewise through the press, provided one speaks discreetly and moderately in cool and general terms and in a low, even tone of voice. In this direction, the imperial machine, too offensive, soon got out of order; immediately, the iron arm by which it held adults seemed insupportable to them and they were able more and more to bend, push it away or break it. At the present day, nothing remains of it but its fragments; for twenty years it has ceased to work and its parts, even, are utterly useless.—On the contrary, in the other direction, in the second group, on children, on boys, on young men, the second arm, intact down to 1850, then shortened but soon strengthened, more energetic and more effective than ever, maintained its hold almost entirely.
Undoubtedly, after 1814, its mechanism is less rigid, its application less strict, its employment less universal, its operation less severe; it gives less offence and does not hurt as much. For example, after the first Restoration, the decree of 1811 against the smaller seminaries is repealed; they are handed back to the bishops, resume their ecclesiastical character and return to the special and normal road out of which Napoleon forced them to march. The drum, the drill and other exercises too evidently Napoleonic disappear almost immediately in the private and public establishments devoted to common instruction; the school system ceases to be a military apprenticeship and the college is no longer a preparatory annex for the barracks. A little later and for many years, Guizot, Cousin, and Villemain teach in full liberty in the State lecture-rooms with great effect, the highest subjects of philosophy, literature and history before attentive and sympathetic audiences. Afterwards, under the monarchy of July, the Institute, mutilated by the First Consul, is restored and completed, and again finds in the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences the suspicious class which, after the Consulate, was lacking to it. In 1833, one minister, Guizot, provides, through a law which is an institution, for the regular maintenance, obligatory dotation, certain recruitment, quality and universality of primary instruction, while, for eighteen years, the university engine, moderating its pressure or smoothing its sharp points, operates at the three stages of instruction in tolerant or liberal hands, with all the caution compatible with its organization, in such a way as to do a great deal of good without much harm, half-satisfying the majority which, in its entirety, is semi-believer, semi-freethinker, by not seriously offending any body except the Catholic clergy and that unyielding minority which, through doctrinal principle or through religious zeal, assigns to education as a directing end and supreme object, the definitive culture, rooting and flowering of faith. But, in law as well as in fact, the University of 1808 still subsists; it has kept its rights, it levies its taxes, it exercises its jurisdiction and enjoys its monopoly.
In the early days of the Restoration, in 1814, the government maintained it only provisionally; it promised everythin, radical reform and full liberty; it announced that, through its efforts, “the forms and direction of the education of children should be restored to the authority of fathers and mothers, tutors and families.” Simply a prospectus and a puff by the new pedagogue who installs himself and thus, by sounding words, tries to conciliate parents. After a partial draught of a plan and an ordinance quickly repealed, the rulers discover that the University of Napoleon is a very good reigning instrument, much better than that of which they had the management previous to 1789, much easier handled and more serviceable. It is the same with all social instrumentalities sketched out and half-fashioned by the Revolution and completed and set a-going by the Consulate and the Empire; each is constructed “by reason,” “according to principles,” and therefore its mechanism is simple; its pieces all fit into each other with precision; they transmit throughout exactly the impulsion received and thus operate at one stroke, with uniformity, instantaneously, with certitude, on all parts of the territory; the lever which starts the machine is central and, throughout its various services, the new rulers hold this lever in hand. Apropos of local administration, the Duc d’Angoulême said in 1815, “We prefer the departments to the provinces.” In like manner, the government of the restored monarchy prefers the imperial University, sole, unique, coherent, disciplined and centralized, to the old provincial universities, the old scattered, scholastic institution, diverse, superintended rather than governed, to every school establishment more or less independent and spontaneous.
In the first place, it gains thereby a vast staff of salaried dependents, the entire teaching staff, on which it has a hold through its favors or the reverse through ambition and the desire for promotion, through fear of dismissal and concern for daily bread, at first, 22,000 primary teachers, thousands of professors, directors, censors, principals, regents and subordinates in the thirty-six lycées, three hundred and sixty-eight colleges and twelve hundred and fifty-five institutions and boarding-schools; after this, many hundreds of notable individuals, all the leading personages of each university circumscription, the administrators of twenty-eight academies, the professors of the twenty-three literary faculties, of the ten faculties of the sciences, of the nine faculties of law, and of the three faculties of medicine. Add to these, the savants of the Collège de France and École Polytechnique, every establishment devoted to high, speculative or practical instruction: these are highest in repute and the most influential; the heads of science and of literature are possessed. Through them and their seconds or followers of every degree, in the faculties, lycées, colleges, minor seminaries, institutions, boarding schools, and small schools, beliefs or opinions can be imposed on, or suggested to, two thousand law students, four thousand medical students, eighty-one thousand pupils in secondary education and seven hundred thousand scholars in the primary department. Let us retain and make use of this admirable engine, but let us apply it to our own purposes and utilize it for our service. Thus far, under the Republic and the Empire, its fabricators, more or less Jacobin, have worked it as they thought best, to the “left”; let us work as it suits us, to the “right.” All that is necessary is to turn it in another direction and for good; henceforth, “the basis of education shall be religion, monarchy, legitimacy and the charter.”
To this end, we, the dominant party, use our legal rights. In the place of bad wheels we put good ones. We purify our staff. We do not appoint or leave in place any but safe men. At the end of six years, nearly all the rectors, proviseurs and professors of philosophy, many other professors and a number of the censors, are all priests. At the Sorbonne, M. Cousin has been silenced and M. Guizot replaced by M. Durosoir. At the Collège de France we have dismissed Tissot and we do not accept M. Magendie. We “suppress” in block the Faculty of Medicine in order that, on reorganizing it, our hands may be free and eleven professors with bad notes be got rid of, among others Pinel, Dubois, de Jussieu, Desgenettes, Pelletan and Vauquelin. We suppress another centre of insalubrity, the upper École Normale, and, for the recruitment of our educational body, we institute at the principal seat of each academy a sort of university novitiate where the pupils, few in number, expressly selected, prepared from their infancy, will imbibe deeper and more firmly retain the sound doctrines suitable to their future condition.
We let the small seminaries multiply and fill up until they comprise 50,000 pupils. It is the bishop who founds them; no educator or inspector of education is so worthy of confidence. Therefore, we confer upon him “in all that concerns religion,” the duty “of visiting them himself, or delegating his vicars-general to visit them,” the faculty “of suggesting to the royal council of public instruction the measures which he deems necessary.” At the top of the hierarchy sits a Grand-Master with the powers and title of M. de Fontanes and with an additional title, member of the cabinet and minister of public instruction, M. de Freyssinous, bishop of Hermopolis, and, in difficult cases, this bishop, placed between his Catholic conscience and the positive articles of the legal statute, “sacrifices the law” to his conscience. —Such is what can be made out of the scholastic instrument. After 1850, it is to be used in the same way and in the same sense; after 1796, it was made to work, and, after 1875, it is to be made to work as vigorously in the opposite sense. Whatever the rulers may be, whether monarchists, imperialists or republicans, they are the masters who use it for their own advantage; for this reason, even when resolved not to abuse the instrument, they keep it intact; they reserve the use of it for themselves, and pretty hard blows are necessary to sever or relax the firm hold which they have on the central lever.
Save these excesses and especially after these excesses come to an end, when the government, from 1828 to 1848, ceases to be sectarian, and the normal play of the institution is no longer vitiated by political interference, the governed accept the University in block, just as their rulers maintain it: they also have motives of their own, the same as for submitting to other engines of Napoleonic centralization.—And first of all, as a departmental and communal institution, the university institution operates wholly alone; it exacts little or no collaboration on the part of those interested; it relieves them of any effort, dispute or care, which is pleasant. Like the local administration, which, without their help or with scarcely any, provides them with bridges, roads, canals, cleanliness, salubrity and precautions against contagious diseases, the scholastic administration, without making any demand on their indolence, puts its full service, the local and central apparatus of primary, secondary, superior and special instruction, its staff and material, furniture and buildings, masters and schedules, examinations and grades, rules and discipline, expenditure and receipts, all at its disposition. As at the door of a table d’hôte, they are told, “Come in and take a seat. We offer you the dishes you like best and in the most convenient order. Don’t trouble yourself about the waiters or the kitchen; a grand central society, an intelligent and beneficent agency, presiding at Paris takes charge of this and relieves you of it. Pass your plate, and eat; that is all you need care about. Besides, the charge is very small.”
In effect, here as elsewhere, Napoleon has introduced his rigid economical habits, exact accounts and timely or disguised tax-levies. A few additional centimes among a good many others inserted by his own order in the local budget, a few imperceptible millions among several hundreds of other millions in the enormous sum of the central budget, constitute the resources which defray the expenses of public education. Not only does the quota of each taxpayer for this purpose remain insignificant, but it disappears in the sum total of which it is only an item that he does not notice.—The parents, for the instruction of a child, do not pay out of their pockets directly, with the consciousness of a distinct service rendered them and which they indemnify, but twelve, ten, three, or even two francs a year; again, through the increasing extension of gratis instruction, a fifth, then a third, and later one half of them are exempt from this charge.
For secondary instruction, at the college or the lyceé, they take out of their purses annually only forty or fifty francs; and, if their son is a boarder, these few francs mingle in with others forming the total sum paid for him during the year, about 700 francs, which is a small sum for defraying the expenses, not only of instruction, but, again, for the support of the lad in lodging, food, washing, light, fire and the rest. The parents, at this rate, feel that they are not making a bad bargain; they are not undergoing extortion, the State not acting like a rapacious contractor. And better yet, it is often a paternal creditor, distributing, as it does, three or four thousand scholarships. If their son obtains one of these, their annual debt is remitted to them and the entire university provision of instruction and support is given to them gratis. In the Faculties, the payment of fees for entrance, examinations, grades and diplomas is not surprising, for the certificates or parchments they receive in exchange for their money are, for the young man, so many positive acquisitions which smooth the way to a career and serve as valuable stock which confers upon him social rank. Besides, the entrance to these Faculties is free and gratuitous, as well as in all other establishments for superior instruction. Whoever chooses and when he chooses may attend without paying a cent.
Thus constituted, the University seems to the public as a liberal, democratic, humanitarian institution and yet economical, expending very little. Its administrators and professors, even the best of them, receive only a small salary—6000 francs at the Muséum and the Collège de France, 7500 at the Sorbonne, 5000 in the provincial Faculties, 4000 or 3000 in the lycées, 2000, 1500 and 1200 in the communal colleges—just enough to live on. The highest functionaries live in a very modest way; each keeps body and soul together on a small salary which he earns by moderate work, without notable increase or decrease, in the expectation of gradual promotion or of a sure pension at the end. There is no waste, the accounts being well kept; there are no sinecures, even in the libraries; no unfair treatment or notorious scandals. Envy, notions of equality scarcely exist; there are enough situations for petty ambitions and average merit, while there is scarcely any place for great ambitions or great merit. Eminent men serve the State and the public cheaply for a living salary, a higher rank in the Legion of Honor, sometimes for a seat in the Institute, or for European fame in connection with a university, with no other recompense than the satisfaction of working according to conscience and of winning the esteem of twenty or thirty competent judges who, in France or abroad, are capable of appreciating their labor at its just value.
The last reason for accepting or tolerating the University; its work at home, or in its surroundings, develops gradually and more or less broadly according to necessities.—In 1815, there were 22,000 primary schools of every kind; in 1829, 30,000; and in 1850, 63,000. In 1815, 737,000 children were taught in them; in 1829, 1,357,000; and in 1850, 3,787,000. In 1815, there was only one normal school for the education of primary teachers; in 1850, there are 78. Consequently, whilst in 1827, 42 out of 100 conscripts could read, there were in 1877, 85; whilst in 1820, 34 out of 100 women could write their names on the marriage contract, in 1879 there are 70.—Similarly, in the lycées and colleges, the University which, in 1815, turned out 37,000 youths, turns out 54,000 in 1848, and 64,000 in 1865; many branches of study, especially history, are introduced into secondary instruction and bear good fruit.—Even in superior instruction which, through organization, remains languid, for parade, or in a rut, there are ameliorations; the State adds chairs to its Paris establishments and founds new Faculties in the provinces. In sum, an inquisitive mind capable of self-direction can, at least in Paris, acquire full information and obtain a comprehensive education on all subjects by turning the diverse university institutions to account.—If there are very serious objections to the system, for example, regarding the boarding part of it (internat), the fathers who had been subject to it accept it for their sons. If there were very great defects in it, for example, the lack of veritable universities, the public which had not been abroad and ignores history did not perceive them. In vain does M. Cousin, in relation to public instruction in Germany, in his eloquent report of 1834, as formerly Cuvier in his discreet report of 1811, point out this defect; in vain does M. Guizot, the minister, propose to remove it: “I did not find,” says he, “any strong public opinion which induced me to carry out any general and urgent measure in higher instruction. In the matter of superior instruction the public, at this time, . . . was not interested in any great idea, or prompted by any impatient want. . . . Higher education as it was organized and given, sufficed for the practical needs of society, which regarded it with a mixture of satisfaction and indifference.”
In the matter of education, not only at this third stage but again for the first two stages, public opinion so far as aims, results, methods and limitations is concerned, was apathetic; that high science which, in the eighteenth century, with Jean-Jacques, Condillac, Valentin, Haüy, Abbé de l’Epée and so many others, sent forth such powerful and fruitful jets, had dried up and died out; transplanted to Switzerland and Germany, pedagogy yet lives but it is dead on its native soil. There is no longer in France any persistent research nor are there any fecund theories on the aims, means, methods, degrees and forms of mental and moral culture, no doctrine in process of formation and application, no controversies, no dictionaries and special manuals, not one well-informed and important Review, and no public lectures. An experimental science is simply the summing-up of many diverse experiences, freely attempted, freely discussed and verified, and through the forced results of the university monopoly these are wanting; among other results of the Napoleonic institution, one could affirm, after 1808, the decadence of pedagogy and foresee its certain end at short date. Neither parents, nor masters nor the young cared anything about it; outside of the system in which they live they imagine nothing; they are accustomed to it the same as to the house in which they dwell. They may grumble sometimes at the arrangement of the rooms, the low stories and narrow staircases, against bad lighting, ventilation and want of cleanliness, against the exactions of the proprietor and concierge; but, as for transforming the building, arranging it otherwise, reconstructing it in whole or in part, they never think of it. For, in the first place, they have no plan; and next, the house is too large and its parts too well united; through its mass and size it maintains itself and would still remain indefinitely if, all at once, in 1848, an unforeseen earthquake had not made breaches in its walls.
The day before the 24th of February M. Cousin, meeting M. de Remusat on the quay Voltaire, raised his arms and exclaimed: “Let us fall on our knees to the bishops—they alone can save us now!” While M. Thiers, with equal vivacity, in the parliamentary committee exclaimed: “Cousin, Cousin, do you comprehend the lesson we have received? Abbé Dupanloup is right.” Hence the new law. M. Beugnot, who presented it, clearly explains its aims and object: the rulers “must assemble the moral forces of the country and unite them with each other to combat with and overthrow the common enemy,” the anti-social party, “which, victorious, would have no mercy on anybody,” neither on the University nor on the Church. Consequently, the University abandons its monopoly: the State is no longer the sole purveyor of public instruction; private schools and associations may teach as they please and not in the way it teaches; it will no longer inspect “instruction,” but simply “morality, hygiene, and salubrity;” they are out of its jurisdiction and exempt from its taxes. Therefore, its establishments and free establishments will no longer be dangerous adversaries, but “useful co-operators;” they will owe and give to each other “good advice and good examples;” it will maintain for both “an equal interest;” henceforth, its University “will be merely an institution supported by it to quicken competition and make this bear good fruit,” and, to this end, it comes to an understanding with its principal competitor, the Church.
But in this coalition of the two powers it is the Church which has the best of it, takes the upper hand and points out the way. For, not only does she profit by the liberty decreed, and profit by it almost alone, founding in twenty years afterwards nearly one hundred ecclesiastical colleges and putting the Ignorantin brethren everywhere in the primary schools; but, again, by virtue of the law, she places four bishops or archbishops in the superior council of the University; by virtue of the law, she puts into each departmental academic council the bishop of the diocese and a priest selected by him; moreover, through her credit with the central government she enjoys all the administrative favors. In short, from above and close at hand, she leads, keeps in check, and governs the lay University and, from 1849 to 1859, the priestly domination and interference, the bickerings, the repressions, the dismissals, the cases of disgrace, are a revival of the system which, from 1821 to 1828, had already been severe. As under the Restoration, the Church had joined hands with the State to manœuvre the school-machine in concert with it; but, under the Restoration, she reserves to herself the upper hand, and it is she who works the machine rather than the State. In sum, under the name, the show, and the theoretical proclamation of liberty for all, the University monopoly is reorganized, if not by law, at least in fact, and in favor of the Church.
Towards 1859, and after the war in Italy, in relation to the Pope and the temporal power, both join hands, relax their grasp, and then separate; there is a dissolution of partnership; their interests cease to agree, and two words come into use, both predestined to great fortune, on the one side the “laic” interest and on the other side the “clerical” interest; henceforth, the government no longer subordinates the former to the latter and, under the ministry of M. Duruy, the direction of the University becomes frankly laic. Consequently, the entire educational system, in gross and in its principal features, is to resemble, until 1876, that of July. For sixteen years, the two great teaching powers, the spiritual and the temporal, unable to do better, are to support each other but act apart, each on its own ground and each in its own way; only the Church no longer acts through the toleration and gracious permission of the University, but through the legal abolition of the monopoly and by virtue of a written law. The whole composes a passable régime, less oppressive than those that preceded it; in any event, the two millions of devout Catholics who consider unbelief as a terrible evil, the fathers and mothers who place instruction below education and desire above all things to preserve the faith of their children up to adult age, now find that ecclesiastical establishments are well-conducted hot-houses and well protected against modern draughts of air. One urgent need of the first order, legitimate, deeply felt by many men and especially by women, has received satisfaction; parents who do not experience this want, place their children in the lycées; in 1865, in the smaller seminaries and other ecclesiastical schools there are 54,000 pupils and in the State colleges and lycées 64,000, which two bodies balance each other.
But even that is a danger. For, naturally, the teaching State finds with regret that its clients diminish; it does not view the rival favorably which takes away so many of its pupils. Naturally also, in case of an electoral struggle, the Church favors the party which favors it, the effect of which is to expose it to ill-will and, in case of political defeat, to hostilities. Now, the chances are, that, should hostile rulers, in this case, attempt to strike it in its most vulnerable point, that of teaching, they might set aside liberty, and even toleration, and adopt the school machine of Napoleon in order to restore it as best they could, enlarge it, derive from it for their own profit and against the Church, whatever could be got out of it, to use with all their power according to the principles and intentions of the Convention and the Directory. Thus, the compromise accepted by Church and State is simply a provisional truce; to-morrow, this truce will be broken; the fatal French prejudice which erects the State into a national educator is ever present; after a partial and brief slackening of its energy, it will try to recover its ascendancy and recommence its ravages.—And, on the other hand, even under this régime, more liberal than its predecessor, real liberty is much restricted; instead of one monopoly, there are two. Between two kinds of establishments, one laic, resembling a barracks, and the other ecclesiastical, resembling a seminary or convent, parents may choose and that is all. Ordinarily, if they prefer one, it is not because they consider it good, but because, in their opinion, the other is worse, while there is no third one at hand, built after a different type, with its own independent and special character, adapting itself to their tastes and accommodating itself to their necessities.
In the early years of the century there were thousands of secondary schools of every kind and degree, everywhere born or reborn, spontaneous, local, raised up through the mutual understanding of parents and masters, and, consequently, subject to this understanding, diverse, flexible, dependent on the law of supply and demand, competitive, each careful to keep its own patrons, each compelled, like every other private enterprise, to adjust its working to the views and faculties of its clients. It is very probable that, if these had been allowed to exist, if the new legislator had not been radically hostile to permanent corporations, endowments, and mortmain titles; if, through the jealous intervention of his Council of State and the enormous levies of his fiscal system, the government had not discouraged free associations and the free donations to which they might have been entitled, the best of these secondary schools would have survived: those which might have been able to adapt themselves to their surroundings would have had the most vitality; according to a well-known law, they would have prospered in branching off, each in its own sense and in its own way.—Now, at this date, after the demolitions of the Revolution, all pedagogic roads were open and, at each of their starting-points, the runners were ready, not merely laics but, again, independent ecclesiastics, liberal Gallicans, surviving Jansenists, constitutional priests, enlightened monks, some of them philosophers and half-laic in mind or even at heart, using Port-Royal manuals, Rollin’s “Traité des Études” and Condillac’s “Cours d’Etudes,” the best-tried and most fecund methods of instruction, all the traditions of the seventeenth century from Arnauld to Lancelot and all the novelties of the eighteenth century from Locke to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, all wide-awake or aroused by the demands of the public and by this unique opportunity and eager to do and to do well. In the provinces as at Paris, people were seeking, trying and groping. There was place and stimulant for original, sporadic and multiple invention, for schools proportionate with and suited to various and changing necessities, Latin, mathematical or mixed schools, some for theoretical science and others for practical apprenticeship, these commercial and those industrial, from the lowest standpoint of technical and rapid preparation up to the loftiest summits of speculative and prolonged study.
On this school world in the way of formation, Napoleon has riveted his uniformity, the rigorous apparatus of his university, his unique system, narrow, inflexible, applied from above, and with what restrictions, with what insistence, with what convergence of means, what prohibitions, what taxes, what application of the university monopoly, what systematic hostility to private establishments!—In the towns, and by force, they become branches of the lycée and imitate its classes; in this way Sainte-Barbe is allowed to subsist at Paris and, until the abolition of the monopoly, the principal establishments of Paris, Massin, Jauffrey, Bellaguet, existed only on this condition, that of becoming auxiliaries, subordinates and innkeepers for lycée day-scholars; such is still the case to-day for the lycées Bossuet and Gerson. In the way of education and instruction the little that an institution thus reduced can preserve of originality and of pedagogic virtue is of no account.—In the country, the Oratoriens who have repurchased Juilly are obliged, in order to establish a free and durable school of “Christian and national education,” to turn aside the civil law which interdicts trusts and organize themselves into a “Tontine Society” and thus present their disinterested enterprise in the light of an industrial and commercial speculation, that of a lucrative and well-attended boarding-school. Still at the present day similar fictions have to be resorted to for the establishment and duration of like enterprises.
Naturally, under this prohibitive régime, private establishments are born with difficulty; and afterwards, absorbed, mutilated and strangled, they find no less difficulty in keeping alive and thus degenerate, decline and succumb one by one. And yet, in 1815, not counting the 41 small seminaries with their 5000 scholars, there still remained 1,225 private schools, with 39,000 scholars, confronting the 36 lycées and 368 communal colleges which, together, had only 37,000 scholars. Of these 1,255 private schools there are only 825 in 1854, 622 in 1865, 494 in 1876, and, finally, in 1887, 302 with 20,174 scholars; on the other hand, the State establishments have 89,000 schools, and those of the Church amount to 73,000. It is only after 1850 that the decadence of laic and private institutions is precipitated; in effect, instead of one competitor, they have two, the second as formidable as the first one, both enjoying unlimited credit, possessors of immense capital and determined to spend money without calculation, the State, on one side abstracting millions from the pockets of the taxpayers and, on the other side, the Church deriving its millions from the purses of the faithful: the struggle between isolated individuals and these two great organized powers who give instruction at a discount or gratis is too unequal.
Such is the actual and final effect of the first Napoleonic monopoly: the enterprise of the State has, by a counter-stroke, excited the enterprise of the clergy; both now complete the ruin of the others, private, different in kind and independent, which, supported wholly by family approbation, have no other object in view than to render families content. On the contrary, along with this purpose, the two survivors have another object, each its own, a superior and doctrinal object, due to its own particular interest and antagonism to the opposite interest; it is in view of this object, in view of a political or religious purpose, that each in its own domicile directs education and instruction; like Napoleon, each inculcates on, or insinuates into, young minds its social and moral opinions which are very decided and become energetic. Now, the majority of parents, who prefer peace to war, desire that their children should entertain moderate and not bellicose opinions. They would like to see them respectful and intelligent, and nothing more. But neither of the two rival institutions thus limits itself; each works beyond and aside, and when the father, at the end of July, goes for his son at the ecclesiastical college or laic institution, he risks finding in the young man of seventeen the militant prejudices, the hasty and violent conclusions and the uncompromising rigidity of either a “laïcisant” or a “clérical.”
Meanwhile, the innate vices of the primitive system have lasted and, among others, the worst of all, the internat under the discipline of barracks or convent, while the university, through its priority and supremacy, in contact with or contagiously, has communicated this discipline at first to its subordinates, and afterward to its rivals.—In 1887, in the State lycées and colleges, there are more than 39,000 boarding-schools (internes) while, in the ecclesiastic establishments, it is worse: out of 50,000 pupils there, over 27,000 are internes, to which must be added the 23,000 pupils of the small seminaries, properly so called, nearly all of them boarders; in a total of 163,000 pupils we find 89,000 internes. Thus, to secure secondary instruction, more than one-half of the youth of France undergo the internat, ecclesiastic or laic. This is peculiar to France, and is due to the way in which Napoleon, in 1806, seized on and perverted all school enterprises.
Before 1789, in France, this enterprise, although largely trammelled and impeded by the State and the Church, was not violated in principle nor perverted in essence; still at the present day, in Germany, in England, in the United States, it exists and is developed in accordance with its nature. It is admitted to be a private enterprise, the collective and spontaneous work of several associates voluntarily bound together, old founders, actual and future benefactors, masters and parents and even scholars, each in his place and function, under a statute and according to tradition, in such a way as to last in itself indefinitely, in order to provide, like a gas company on its own responsibility, at its own risk and expense, an object of consumption for those who want it; in other terms, the school enterprise must, like any other undertaking, render acceptable what it offers in satisfaction of the needs it provides for.—Naturally, it adapts itself to these needs; its directors and those concerned in it do what is necessary. With hands free, and grouped around an important interest evidently for a common purpose, mutually bound and veritable associates not only legally but in feeling, devoted to a local enterprise and local residents for many years, often even for life, they strive not to work against the rooted dislikes of the young and of families; to this end, they agree amongst themselves and with the parents.
This is why, outside of France, the French internat, so artificial, so forced, so exaggerated, is almost unknown. In Germany, out of one hundred pupils in the gymnases, which correspond to our lycées, there are scarcely ten boarders lodged and fed in the gymnase; the rest, even when their parents do not dwell near by, remain day-scholars, private guests in the families that harbor them, often at a very low price and which take the place of the absent family. No boarders are found in them except in a few gymnases like Pforta and by virtue of an ancient endowment. The number, however, by virtue of the same endowment, is limited; they dine, in groups of eight or ten, at the same table with the professors lodged like themselves in the establishment, while they enjoy for a playground a vast domain of woods, fields and meadow.—The same in England, at Harrow, Eton and Rugby. Each professor, here, is keeper of a boarding-house; he has ten, twenty and thirty boys under his roof, eating at his table or at a table the head of which is some lady of the house. Thus, the youth goes from the family into the school, without painful or sudden contrasts, and remains under a system of things which suits his age and which is a continuation, only enlarged, of domestic life.
Quite the opposite, and against the true spirit of the school, the French college or lycée is for eighty years an enterprise of the State, the local extension of a central enterprise, one of the hundred branches of the great university trunk, possessing no roots of its own and with a directing or teaching staff composed of functionaries similar to others, that is to say transferable, restless and preoccupied with promotion, their principal motive for doing well being the hope of a higher rank and of getting a better situation, and hence almost separated in advance from the establishment in which they labor and, besides that, led, pushed on, and restrained from above, each in his own particular sphere and in his limited duty, the principal (proviseur) confined to his administrative position and the professor to his class, expressly forbidden to leave it, no professor “under any pretext to receive in his house as boarders or day-scholars more than ten pupils,” no woman allowed to lodge inside the lycée or college walls, all,—proviseur, censor, cashier, chaplain, head-masters and assistants, fitted by art or force to each other like cogwheels, with no deep sympathy, with no moral tie, without collective interests, a cleverly designed machine which, in general, works accurately and smoothly, but with no soul because, to have a soul, it is of prime necessity to have a living body. As a machine constructed at Paris according to a unique pattern and superposed on people and things from Perpignan to Douai and from Rochelle to Besançon, it does not adapt itself to the requirements of its public; it subjects its public to the exigencies, rigidity and uniformity of its play and structure. Now, as it acts mechanically only, through outward pressure, the human material on which it operates must be passive, composed, not of diverse persons, but of unities all alike; its pupils must be for it merely numbers and names.—Owing to this, our internats, those huge stone boxes set up and isolated in each large town, those lycées parcelled out to hold three hundred, four hundred, even eight hundred boarders, with immense dormitories, refectories and playgrounds, recitation-rooms full to overflowing, and, for eight or ten years, for one half of our children and youths, an anti-social unnatural system apart, strict confinement, no going out except to march in couples under the eyes of a sub-teacher who maintains order in the ranks, promiscuity and life in common, exact and minute regularity under equal discipline and constant constraint in order to eat, sleep, study, play, promenade and the rest,—in short, communism.
From the University this system is propagated among its rivals. In conferring grades and passing examinations, it arranges and overburdens the school programme of study; hence, it incites in others what it practises at home, the over-training of youth, and a factitious, hot-house education. On the other hand, the internat is, for those who decide on that, less troublesome than the day-school; also, the more numerous the boarders in any one establishment, the less the expense; thus, in order to exist in the face of the university establishments, there must be internats and internats that are full. Ecclesiastical establishments willingly resign themselves to all this; they are even inclined that way; the Jesuits were the first ones, under the old monarchy, who introduced cloistered and crowded boarding-houses. In its essence, the Catholic Church, like the French State, is a Roman institution, still more exclusive and more governmental, resolved to seize, hold on to, direct and control man entirely, and, first of all, the child, head and heart, opinions and impressions, in order to stamp in him and lastingly the definitive and salutary forms which are for him the first condition of salvation. Consequently, the ecclesiastical cage is more strict in its confinement than the laic cage; if the bars are not so strong and not so rough, the grating, finer and more yielding, is more secure, closer and better maintained; they do not allow any holes or relaxation of the meshes; the precautions against worldly and family interference, against the mistakes and caprices of individual effort, are innumerable, and form a double or even triple network. For, to school discipline is added religious discipline, no less compulsory, just as rigid and more constant—daily pious exercises, ordinary devotions and extraordinary ceremonies, spiritual guidance, influence of the confessional and the example and behavior of a staff kept together around the same work by the same faith. The closer the atmosphere, the more powerful the action; the chances are that the latter will prove decisive on the child sequestered, sheltered and brought up in a retort, and that its intellect, faith and ideas, carefully cultivated, pruned and always under direction, will exactly reproduce the model aimed at.—For this reason, in 1876, 33,000 out of the 46,000 pupils belonging to the 309 ecclesiastical establishments of secondary instruction, are internes, and the Catholic authorities admit that, in the 86 small seminaries, no day-scholars, no future laics, are necessary.
This conclusion is perhaps reasonable in relation to the 23,000 pupils of the small seminaries, and for the 10,000 pupils in the great seminaries; it is perhaps reasonable also for the future officers formed by the State at La Flèche, Saint-Cyr, Saumur, and on the Borda. Whether future soldiers or future priests, their education fits them for the life they lead; what they are to become as adults, they already are as youths and children; the internat, under a convent discipline or that of the barracks, qualifies them beforehand for their profession; since they must possess the spirit of it they must contract its habits; having accepted the form of their pursuit they more easily accept its constraints and all the more that the constraints of the regiment will be less for the young officer than recently at Saint-Cyr, and for the young ministrant in the rural parish than lately in the great seminary.—Quite the reverse for the 75,000 other internes of public or private establishments, ecclesiastic or laic, for the future engineers, doctors, architects, notaries, attorneys, advocates and other men of the law, functionaries, land-owners, chiefs and assistants in industry, agriculture and commerce; for the internat affords precisely the opposite education required for a laic and civil career. These carry away from the prolonged internat a sufficient supply of Latin or of mathematics; but they are lacking in two acquisitions of capital import: they have been deprived of two indispensable experiences; on entering society the young man is ignorant of its two principal personages, man and woman, as they are and as he is about to meet them in society. He has no idea of them, or rather he has only a preconceived, arbitrary and false conception of them.—He has not dined, commonly, with a lady, head of the house, along with her daughters and often with other ladies; their tone of voice, their deportment at table, their toilette, their greater reserve, the attentions they receive, the air of politeness all around, have not impressed on his imagination the faintest lines of an exact notion; hence, there is something wanting in him in relation to how he should demean himself; he does not know how to address them, feels uncomfortable in their presence; they are strange beings to him, new, of an unknown species.—In a like situation, at table in the evening, he has never heard men conversing together: he has not gathered in the thousand bits of information which a young growing mind derives from general conversation: about careers in life, competition, business, money, the domestic fireside and expenses; about the cost of living which should always depend on income; about the gain which nearly always indicates the current rates of labor and of the social subjection one undergoes; about the pressing, powerful, personal interests which are soon to seize him by the collar and perhaps by the throat; about the constant effort required, the incessant calculation, the daily struggle which, in modern society, makes up the life of an ordinary man. All means of knowing have been denied him, the contact with living and diverse men, the images which the sensations of his eyes and ears might have stamped on his brain. These images constitute the sole materials of a correct, healthy conception; through them, spontaneously and gradually, without too many deceptions or shocks, he might have figured social life to himself, such as it is, its conditions, difficulties, and its risks;—he has neither the sentiment of it nor the presentiment. In all matters, that which we call common-sense is never but an involuntary, latent summary, the lasting, substantial and salutary depot left in our minds after many direct impressions. With reference to social life, he has been deprived of all these direct impressions and the precious depot has never been formed in him.—He has scarcely ever conversed with his professors; their talk with him has been about impersonal and abstract matters, languages, literatures and mathematics. He has spoken but little with his teachers, except to contest an injunction or grumble aloud against reproof. Of real conversation, the acquisition and exchange of ideas, he has enjoyed none, except with his comrades: if, like him, all are internes, they can communicate to each other only their ignorance; if day-scholars are admitted, they are active smugglers or willing agents who bring into the house and circulate forbidden books and obscene journals, along with the filthy provocatives and foul atmosphere of the streets.—Now, with excitations of this class or in this wise, the brains of these captives, as puberty comes on and deliverance draws near, work actively and we know in what sense and in what counter-sense, how remote from observable and positive truth, how their imagination pictures society, man and woman, under what simple and coarse appearances, with what inadequacy and presumption, what appetites of liberated serfs and juvenile barbarians, how, as concerns women, their precocious and turbid dreams first become brutal and cynical, how, as concerns men, their unballasted and precipitous thought easily becomes chimerical and revolutionary. The downhill road is steep on the bad side, while, to put on the drag or to remount it, the young man who takes the management of his life into his own hands must know how to use his own will and persevere to the end.
But a faculty is developed only by exercise, and the French internat is the engine the most effective for hindering the exercise of this one.—The youth, from the first to the last day of his internat, has never been able to deliberate on, choose and decide what he should do at any one hour of his school-days; except to idle away time in study-hours, and pay no attention at recitations, he could not exercise his will. Nearly every act, especially his outward attitudes, postures, immobility, silence, drill and promenades in rank, is only obedience to orders. He has lived like a horse in harness, between the thills of his cart; this cart itself, kept straight by its two wheels, must not leave the rectilinear ruts hollowed out and traced for it along the road; it is impossible for the horse to turn aside. Besides, every morning he is harnessed at the same hour, and every evening he is unharnessed at the same hour; every day, at other hours, he has to rest and take his ration of hay and oats. He has never been under the necessity of thinking about all this, nor of looking ahead or on either side; from one end of the year to the other, he has simply had to pull along guided by the bridle or urged by the whip, his principal springs of action being only of two kinds, on the one hand more or less hard guidance and urgings, and on the other hand indocility and more or less indolence and fatigue; he has been obliged to choose between the two. For eight or ten years, his initiative is reduced to that—no other employment of his free will. The education of his free will is thus rudimentary or null.
On the strength of this our system supposes that it is complete and perfect. We cast the bridle on the young man’s neck and hand him over to his own government. We admit that, by extraordinary grace, the scholar has suddenly become a man; that he is capable of prescribing and following his own orders; that he has accustomed himself to weighing the near and remote consequences of his acts, of imputing them to himself, of believing himself responsible for them; that his conscience, suddenly emancipated, and his reason, suddenly adult, will march straight on athwart temptations and immediately recover from slips. Consequently, he is set free with an allowance in some great city; he registers himself under some Faculty and becomes one among ten thousand other students on the sidewalks of Paris.—Now, in France, there is no university police force to step in, as at Bonn or Göttingen, at Oxford or Cambridge, to watch his conduct and punish him in the domicile and in public places. At the schools of Medicine, Law, Pharmacy, Fine-Arts, Charters, and Oriental Languages, at the Sorbonne and at the École Centrale, his emancipation is sudden and complete. When he goes from secondary education to superior education he does not, as in England and in Germany, pass from a restricted liberty to one less restricted, but from a cloisteral discipline to complete independence. In a furnished room, in the promiscuity and incognito of a common hotel, scarcely out of college, the novice of twenty years finds at hand the innumerable temptations of the streets, the dram-shops, the beer-shops, public balls, obscene publications, chance acquaintances, and the liaisons of the gutter. Against all this his previous education has disarmed him. Instead of creating a moral force within him, the long and strict internat has maintained moral debility. He yields to opportunity, to example; he goes with the current, he floats without a rudder, he lets himself drift. As far as hygiene, or money, or sex, is concerned, his mistakes and his follies, great or small, are almost inevitable, while it is an average chance if, during his three, four or five years of full license, he does not become entirely corrupt.
Let us now consider another effect of the primitive institution, not less pernicious. On leaving the lycée after the philosophy class, the system supposes that a general education is fully obtained; there is no question of a second one, ulterior and superior, that of universities. In place of these encyclopedic universities, of which the object is free teaching and the free progress of knowledge, it establishes special State schools, separate from each other, each confined to a distinct branch, each with a view to create, verify and proclaim a useful capacity, each devoted to leading a young man along, step by step, through a series of studies and tests up to the title or final diploma which qualifies him for his profession, a diploma that is indispensable or, at least, very useful since, without it, in many cases, one has no right to practise his profession and which, thanks to it, in all cases, enables one to enter on a career with favor and credit, in fair rank, and considerably promoted.—On entering on most careers called liberal, a first diploma is exacted, that of bachelor of arts, or bachelor of sciences, sometimes both, the acquisition of which is now a serious matter for all French youth, a daily and painful preoccupation. To this end, when about sixteen, the young man works, or, rather, is worked upon. For one or two years, he submits to a forced culture, not in view of learning and of knowing, but to answer questions well at an examination, or tolerably well, and to obtain a certificate, on proof or on semblance of proof, that he has received a complete classical education.—Next after this, at the medical or law school, during the four prescribed years, sixteen graduated inscriptions, four or five superposed examinations, two or three terminal verifications, oblige him to furnish the same proof, or semblance of proof, to verify, as each year comes round, his assimilation of the lessons of the year, and thus attest that, at the end of his studies, he possesses about the entire scope and diversity of knowledge to which he is restricted.
In the schools where the number of pupils is limited, this culture, carried still farther, becomes intense and constant. In the École Centrale and in the commercial or agronomic schools, in the École des Beaux-Arts or des Chartes, the pupil is there the entire day; in the military schools, in the École Polytechnique or Normale, he is there all day and all night,—he is housed in a barracks.—And the pressure on him is twofold—the pressure of examinations and that of competition. On entering, on leaving, and during his stay there, not only at the end of each year but every six or three months, often every six weeks, and even every fortnight, he is rated according to his compositions, exercises and interrogatories, getting so many marks for his partial value, so many for his total value and, according to these figures, classed at a certain rank among his comrades who are his rivals. To descend on the scale would be disadvantageous and humiliating; to ascend on the scale is advantageous and glorious. Under the impulse of this motive, so strong in France, his principal aim is to go up or, at least, not to go down; he devotes all his energy to this; he expends none of it on either side or beyond; he allows himself no diversion, he abstains from taking any initiative; his restrained curiosity never ventures outside of the circle traced for him; he absorbs only what he is taught and in the order in which it is taught; he fills himself to the brim, but only to disgorge at the examination and not to retain and hold on to; he runs the risk of choking, and when relieved, of remaining empty. Such is the régime of our special schools. They are a systematic, energetic and prolonged system of gardening; the State, the gardener-in-chief, receiving or selecting plants which it undertakes to turn out profitably, each of its kind. To this end, it separates the species, and ranges each apart on a bed of earth; and here, all day long, it digs, weeds, rakes, waters, adds one manure after another, applies its powerful heating apparatus and accelerates the growth and ripening of the fruit. On certain beds its plants are kept under glass throughout the year; in this way it maintains them in a steady, artificial atmosphere, forcing them to more largely imbibe the nutritive liquids with which it floods the ground, thus causing them to swell and become hypertrophic, so as to produce fruits or vegetables for show, and which it exposes and which bring it credit; for all these productions look well, many of them superb, while their size seems to attest their excellence; they are weighed beforehand and the official labels with which they are decorated announce the authentic weight.
During the first quarter, and even the first half, of the century, the system remained almost unobjectionable; it had not yet pushed things to extremity. Down to 1850 and later, all that was demanded of the young, in their examinations and competitions, was much less the extent and minutia of knowledge than proofs of intelligence and the promise of capacity: in a literary direction, the main object was to verify whether the candidate, familiar with the classics, could write Latin correctly and French tolerably well; in the sciences, if he could, without help, accurately and promptly solve a problem; if, again unaided, he could, readily and accurately to the end, state a long series of theorems and equations without divergence or faltering; in sum, the object of the test was to verify in him the presence and degree of the mathematical or literary faculty.—But, since the beginning of the century, the old subdivided sciences and the new consolidated sciences have multiplied their discoveries and, necessarily, all discoveries end in finding their way into public instruction. In Germany, for them to become installed and obtain chairs, encyclopedic universities are found, in which free teaching, pliant and many-sided, rises of itself to the level of knowledge. With us, for lack of universities, they have had only special schools; here only could a place be found for them and professors obtained. Henceforth, the peculiar character of these schools has changed: they have ceased to be strictly special and veritably professional.—Each school, being an individuality, has developed apart and on its own account; its aim has been to domiciliate and furnish under its own roof all the general, collateral, accessory and ornamental studies which, far or near, could be of service to its own pupils. No longer content with turning out competent and practical men, it has conceived a superior type, the ideal model of the engineer, physician, jurist, professor or architect; and, to manufacture this extraordinary and desirable type, it has imagined a quantity of supererogatory courses of lectures for show, and to obtain which, it has enhanced the advantage to a young man of giving him not alone technical knowledge, but knowledge in the abstract, multiple and great variety of information, complementary culture and lofty general ideas, which render the specialist a savant, properly so called, and a man of a very broad mind.
To this end, it has appealed to the State. The State, the contractor for public instruction, the founder of every new professional chair, appoints the occupant, pays the salary and, when in funds, is not ill-disposed, for it thus gains a good reputation, an increase of granting power and a new functionary. Such is the why and wherefore, in each school, of the multiplication of professorships: schools of law, of medicine, of pharmacy, of charters, of fine arts, polytechnic, normal, central, agronomic and commercial schools, each becoming, or tending to become, a sort of university on a small scale, bringing together within its walls the totality of teachings which, if the student profits by them, renders him in his profession an accomplished personage. Naturally, to secure attendance at these lectures, the school, in concert with the State, adds to the exigencies of its examinations, and soon, for the average of intellects and for health, the burden imposed by it becomes too heavy. Particularly, in the schools to which admission is gained only through competitions the extra load is still more burdensome, owing to the greater crowd striving to pass; there are now five, seven and even eleven candidates for one place. With this crowd, it has been found necessary to raise and multiply the barriers, urge the competitors to jump over them, and to open the door only to those who jump the highest and in the greatest number. There is no other way to make a selection among them without incurring the charge of despotism and nepotism. It is their business to have good legs and make the best of them, and after that to submit to methodical training, to drill and drag along the whole year and for several years in succession up to the final struggle, without thinking of any but the barriers in front of them on the race-course at the appointed date, and which they must spring over to get ahead of their rivals.
At the present day, after the complete course of classical studies, four years in school no longer suffice for obtaining the degrees of a doctor in medicine or doctor in law. Five or six years are necessary. Two years are necessary between the baccalauréat ès-lettres and the various licenses ès-lettres or sciences, and from these to the corresponding aggrégations two, three years, and often more. Three years of preparatory studies in mathematics and of desperate application lead the young man to the threshold of the École Polytechnique; after that, after two years in school and of no less sustained effort, the future engineer passes three not less laborious years at the École des Ponts et Chaussées or des Mines, which amounts to eight years of professional preparation. Elsewhere, in the other schools, it is the same thing with more or less excess. Observe how days and hours are spent during this long period. The young men have attended lecture-courses, masticated and remasticated manuals, abbreviated abridgments, learned by heart mementoes and formulæ, stored their memories with a vast multitude of generalities and details. Every sort of preliminary information, all the theoretical knowledge which, even indirectly, may serve them in their future profession or which is of service in neighboring professions, are classified in their brains, ready to come forth at the first call, and, as proved by the examination, disposable at a minute; they possess them, but nothing otherwise or beyond. Their education has all tended to one side; they have undergone no practical apprenticeship. Never have they taken an active part in or lent a hand to any professsional undertaking either as collaborators or assistants. The future professor, a new aggrégé at twenty-four years of age, who issues from the École Normale, has not yet taught a class, except for a fortnight in a Paris lycée. The future engineer who, at twenty-four or twenty-five years of age leaves the École Centrale, or the École des Ponts, or École des Mines, has never assisted in the working of a mine, in the heating of a blast-furnace, in the piercing of a tunnel, in the laying-out of a dike, of a bridge or of a roadway. He is ignorant of the cost and has never commanded a squad of workmen. If the future advocate or magistrate has not made up his mind to remain a notary’s or lawyer’s clerk at twenty-five years of age, even a doctor of law with his insignia of three “white balls,” he knows nothing of business; he merely knows his codes; he has never examined pleadings, conducted a case, drawn up an act or liquidated an estate. From eighteen to thirty, the future architect who competes for a prix de Rome may stay in the École des Beaux-Arts, draw plan after plan there, and then, if he obtains the prix, pass five years at Rome, make designs without end, multiply plans and restorations on paper, and at last, at thirty-five years of age, return to Paris with the highest titles, architect of the government, and ambitious to erect edifices without having taken even a second or third part in the real construction of a single house.—None of these men so full of knowledge know their trade and each, at this late hour, is expected to improvise himself a practitioner, in haste and too fast, encountering many drawbacks at his own expense and at the expense of others, along with serious risks for the first commissions he receives.
Before 1789, says a witness of both the ancient and the modern régime, young Frenchmen did not thus pass their early life. Instead of dancing attendance so long on the threshold of a career, they were inducted into it very early in life and at once began the race. With very light baggage and readily obtained “they entered the army at sixteen, and even fifteen years of age, at fourteen in the navy, and a little later in special branches, artillery or engineering. In the magistracy, at nineteen, the son of a conseiller-maître in parliament was made a conseiller-adjoint without a vote until he reached twenty-five; meanwhile, he was busy, active and sometimes was made the reporter of a case. Not less precocious were the admissions to the Cour des Comptes, to the Cour des Aides, to inferior jurisdictions and into the bureaux of all the financial administrations.” Here, as elsewhere, if any rank in law was exacted the delay that ensued was not apparent; the Faculty examinations were not simulachres; for a sum of money, and after a more or less grave ceremonial, a needed diploma was obtained almost without study. —Accordingly, it was not in school, but in the profession, that professional instruction was acquired; strictly speaking, the young man for six or seven years, instead of being a student was an apprentice, that is to say a working novice under several master-workmen, in their workshop, working along with them and learning by doing work, which is the best way of obtaining instruction. Struggling with the difficulties of the work he at once became aware of his incompetency; he became modest and was attentive; with his masters, he kept silent, and listened, which is the only way to understand. If he was intelligent he himself discovered what he lacked; as he found this out he felt the need of supplying what he needed; he sought, set his wits to work, and made choice of the various means; freely and self-initiating he helped himself in his general or special education. If he read books, it was not resignedly and for a recitation, but with avidity and to comprehend them. If he followed lecture-courses it was not because he was obliged to, but voluntarily, because he was interested and because he profited by it.—Magistrate at seventeen, the witness I cite attended at the lycée the lectures of Garat, La Harpe, Fourcroy and Duparcieux and, daily, at table or in the evening, listened to his father and his friends discussing matters which, in the morning, had been argued in the Palais de Justice or in the Grand-Chambre. He imbibed a taste for his profession. Along with two or three prominent advocates and other young magistrates like himself, he inscribed his name for lectures at the house of the first president of the first court of inquiry. Meanwhile, he went every evening into society; he saw there with his own eyes the ways and interests of men and women. On the other hand, at the Palais de Justice, a conseiller-écoutant he sat for five years, alongside of the conseillers-juges and often, the reporter of a case, he gave his opinion. After such a novitiate, he was competent to form a judgment in civil or criminal cases with experience, competency and authority. From the age of twenty-five, he was prepared for and capable of serious duties. He had only to live and perfect himself to become an administrator, deputy or minister, a dignitary as we see under the first Empire, under the Restoration, under the July monarchy, that is to say the best informed, well-balanced, judicious political character and, at length, the man of highest consideration of his epoch.
Such is also the process which, still at the present day, in England and in America secures future ability in the various professions. In the hospital, in the mine, in manufactories, with the architect, with the lawyer, the pupil, taken very young, goes through his apprenticeship and subsequent stages about the same as a clerk with us in an office or an art-student in the studio. Preliminarily and before entering it, he has attended some general seminary lecture which serves him as a ready-made basis for the observations he is about to make. Meanwhile, there are very often technical courses within reach, which he may attend at his leisure in order to give shape to his daily experiences as these happen to accumulate. Under a régime of this stamp practical capacity grows and develops of itself, just to that degree which the faculties of the pupil warrant, and in the direction which his future aims require, through the special work to which he wishes for the time being to adapt himself. In this way, in England and in the United States, the young man soon succeeds in developing all he is good for. From the age of twenty-five and much sooner, if the substance and bottom are not wanting, he is not only a useful executant, but again a spontaneous creator, not merely a wheel but besides this a motor force. In France, where the inverse process has prevailed and become more and more Chinese at each generation, the total of the force lost is immense.
The most productive period of human life extends from fifteen or sixteen up to twenty-five or twenty-six; here are seven or eight years of growing energy and of constant production, buds, flowers and fruit; during this period the young man sketches out his original ideas. But, that these ideas may be born in him, sprout, and flourish they must, at this age, profit by the stimulating or repressive influence of the atmosphere in which they are to live later on; here only are they formed in their natural and normal environment; their germs depend for their growth on the innumerable impressions due to the young man’s sensations, daily, in the workshop, in the mine, in the court-room, in the studio, on the scaffolding of a building, in the hospital, on seeing tools, materials and operations, in talking with clients and workmen, in doing work, good or bad, costly or remunerative; such are the minute and special perceptions of the eyes and the ears, of touch and even smell which, involuntarily gathered in and silently elaborated, work together in him and suggest, sooner or later, this or that new combination, economy, perfection or invention. The young Frenchman, just at this fecund age, is deprived of all these precious contacts, of all these assimilating and indispensable elements. During seven or eight years, he is shut up in school, remote from the direct and personal experience which might have given him an exact and vivifying notion of men and things, and of the various ways of handling them. All this time his inventive faculties are deliberately sterilized; he can be nothing but a passive recipient; whatever he might have produced under the other system he cannot produce under this one; the balance of debit and credit is utter loss.—Meanwhile, the cost has been great. Whilst the apprentice, the clerk busy with his papers in his office, the interne with his apron on standing by the bedside of the patient in the hospital, pays by his services, at first for his instruction, then for his breakfast, and ends in gaining something besides, at least his pocket-money, the student under the Faculty, or the pupil in a special school is educated and lives at the expense of his family or of the State; he gives back in exchange no work that is useful to mankind, none that is worth anything on the market; his actual consumption is not compensated for by his actual production. Undoubtedly, he cherishes the hope that some day or other he will obtain compensation, that he will refund later and largely both capital and interest, and all the advances made; in other words, his future services are discounted and, as far as he is concerned, he speculates on a long credit.—It remains to be seen whether the speculation is a good one; whether, at last, the receipts will cover the expenses, in short, what will be the net or average returns to the man thus fashioned.
Now, among the forces expended, the most important to take into account is the time and attention of the pupil, the sum of his efforts, this or that quantity of mental energy; he has only a limited provision of this, and, not only is the proportion of this which the system consumes excessive, but, again, the application of it which the system enforces is not remunerative. The provision is exhausted and by a wrong use of it, with scarcely any profit.—In our lycées, the pupil sits at his task more than eleven hours a day; in a certain ecclesiastical college it is twelve hours, and, from the age of twelve years, through the necessity of being first in competition as well as for securing the greatest number of admissions through various examinations.—At the end of this secondary education there is a graduated scale of successive tests, and first the baccalauréat. Fifty out of one hundred candidates fail and the examiners are indulgent. This proves, first of all, that the rejected have not profited by their studies; but it likewise proves that the programme of the examination is not adapted to the general run of minds, nor to the native faculties of the human majority; that many young men capable of learning by the opposite method learn nothing by this one; that education, such as it is, with the kind and greatness of the central labor it imposes, with its abstract and theoretical turn, exceeds the average compass of memories and understandings.—Particularly, during the last year of classical studies, the pupils have had to follow the philosophy lectures: in the time of M. Laromiguière, this might be useful to them; in the time of M. Cousin, the course, so far, did but little harm; at the present day, impregnated with neo-Kantism, it injects into minds of eighteen, seventeen, and even sixteen years, a metaphysical muddle as cumbersome as the scholasticism of the fourteenth century, terribly indigestible and unhealthy for the stomachs of novices; they swallow even to bursting and throw it off at the examination just as it comes, entirely raw for lack of the capacity to assimilate it.—Often, after failure at the baccalauréat, or on entering the special schools, the young people go into, or are put into, what they call “a box” or an “oven,” a preparatory internat, similar to the boxes in which silkworms are raised and to the ovens where the eggs are hatched. In more exact language it is a mechanical “gaveuse” in which they are daily crammed; through this constant, forced feeding, their real knowledge is not increased, nor their mental vigor; they are superficially fattened and, at the end of the year, or in eighteen months, they present themselves on the appointed day, with the artificial and momentary volume they need for that day, with the bulk, surface, polish and all the other requisite externals, because these externals are the only ones that the examination verifies and imposes. All of the special and systematic studies which prepare young men for the École de Saint-Cyr and for the polytechnic, naval, central, normal, agricultural, commercial and forestry schools operate, a little less rudely, but in the same way and with the same object, in our lycées and colleges; in these too, these studies are cramming machines which prepare the pupil for examination purposes. In like manner, above secondary education, all our special schools are public cramming machines; alongside of them are private schools advertised and puffed in the newspapers and by posters on the walls, preparing young men for the licence degree in Law and for the third and fourth examinations in Medicine. Some day or other, others will probably exist to prepare them for Treasury inspectors, for the “Cour des Comptes,” for diplomacy, by competition, the same as for the medical profession, for a hospital surgeon and for aggregation in law, medicine, letters or the sciences.
Undoubtedly, some minds, very active and very robust, withstand this régime; all that is ingurgitated they absorb and digest. After leaving the school and having passed through all grades they preserve the faculty of learning, investigating and inventing intact, and compose the small élite of savans, men of letters, artists, engineers and physicians who, in the international exposition of superior talent, maintain France in its ancient rank.—But the rest, in very great majority, nine out of ten at least, have lost their time and trouble, many years of their life and years that are useful, important and even decisive: take at once one-half or two-thirds of those who present themselves at the examinations, I mean the rejected, and then, among the admitted who get diplomas, another half or two-thirds that is to say, the overworked. Too much has been required of them by exacting that, on such a day, seated or before the blackboard, for two entire hours, they should be living repertories of all human knowledge; in effect, such they are, or nearly so, that day, for two hours; but, a month later, they are so no longer; they could not undergo the same examination; their acquisitions, too numerous and too burdensome, constantly drop out of their minds and they make no new ones. Their mental vigor has given way, the fecund sap has dried up; the accomplished man appears, but often that is the last of him. The steady, sober man, married, content to plod along indefinitely in the same circle, intrenches himself in his restricted vocation and does his duty, but nothing more. Such are the average returns—assuredly, the receipts do not balance the expenses. In England and in America where, as before 1789 in France, the inverse method is followed, the returns are equal or superior, and they are obtained with greater facility, with more certainty, at an age less tardy, without imposing such great and unhealthy efforts on the young man, such large expenditure by the State, and such long delays and sacrifices on families.
Now, in the four Faculties of Law, Medicine, Science and Letters, there are this year 22,000 students; add to these the pupils of the special schools and those who study with the hope of entering them, in all probably 30,000. But there is no need of counting them; since the suppression of the one-year voluntariat, the entire body of youths capably of study, who wish to remain only one year in barracks and not remain there to get brutalized during three years, flocks to the benches of the lycée or to those of a Faculty; the sole object of the young man is not, as before, to reach the baccalauréat; it is essential that he should be admitted, after a competition, into one of the special schools, or obtain the highest grades and diplomas in one of the Faculties; in all cases, he is bound to successfully undergo difficult and multiplied examinations. At the present time, there is no place in France for an education in an inverse sense, nor for any other of a different type. Henceforth, no young man, without condemning himself to three years of barrack life, can travel at an early age for any length of time, or form his mind at home by free and original studies, stay in Germany and follow speculative studies in the universities, or go to England or to America to derive practical instruction from factory or farm. Captured by our system, he is forced to surrender himself to the mechanical routine which fills his mind with fictitious tools, with useless and cumbersome acquisitions that impose on him in exchange an exorbitant expenditure of mental energy and which is very likely to convert him into a mandarin.
Such is the singular and final result brought about by the institution of the year x, due to the intervention of the grossly levelling Jacobin spirit. Indeed, since 1871, and especially since 1879, this spirit, through Napoleonic forms, has given breath, impulse and direction, and these forms suit it. On the principle that education belongs to the State, Napoleon and the old Jacobins were in accord; what he in fact established they had enounced dogmatically; hence the structure of his university-engine was not objectionable to them; on the contrary, it conformed to their instincts. Hence, the reason why the new Jacobins, inheritors of both instinct and dogma, immediately adopted the subsisting engine; none was more convenient, better calculated to meet their views, better adapted in advance to do their work. Consequently, under the third Republic, as under anterior governments, the school machine continues to turn and grind in the same rut, through the same working of its mechanism, under the same impulse of its unique and central motor, conformably to the same Napoleonic and Jacobin idea of the teaching State, a formidable conception which, more invasive every year, more widely and more rigorously applied, more and more excludes the opposite conception, the remission of education to those interested in it, to those who possess rights, to parents, to free and private enterprises which depend only on personal exertions and on families, to permanent, special, local corporations, proprietary and organized under statutes, governed, managed and supported by themselves. On this model, a few men of intelligence and sensibility, enlightened by what is accomplished abroad, try to organize regional universities in our great academic centres, and the State may, perhaps, grant, if not the thing itself, at least the semblance of the thing, but nothing more. Through its right of public administration, through the powers of its Council of State, through its fiscal legislation, through the immemorial prejudices of its jurists, through the routine of its bureaux, it is hostile to a corporate personality; never can their project be considered a veritable civil personage; if the State consents to endow a group of individuals with civil powers, it is always on condition that they be subjects to its narrow tutelage and be treated as minors and children.—Besides, these universities, even in possession of their majority, are to remain as they are, so many laboratories for grades: they must no longer serve as an intellectual refuge, an oasis at the end of secondary instruction, a station for three or four years for free curiosity and disinterested self-culture. Since the abolition of the voluntariat for one year, a young Frenchman no longer enjoys the leisure to cultivate himself in this way; free curiosity is interdicted; he is too much harassed by a too positive interest, by the necessity of obtaining grades and diplomas, by the preoccupations of examinations, by the limitations of age; he has no time to lose in experiments, in mental excursions, in pure speculation. Henceforth, our system allows him only the régime to which we see him subject, namely the rush, the puffing and blowing, the gallop without stopping on a race-course, the perilous jumps at regular distances over previously arranged and numbered obstacles. Instead of being restricted and attenuated, the disadvantages of the Napoleonic institution spread and grow worse, and this is due to the way in which our rulers comprehend it, the original, hereditary way of the Jacobin spirit.
When Napoleon built his University he did it as a statesman and a man of business, with the foresight of a contractor and practical man, calculating outlay and receipts, means and resources, so as to fashion at once and with the least expense, the military and civil instruments which he lacked and of which he always had too few because he consumed too many: to this precise, definite purpose he subjected and subordinated all the rest, including the theory of the educational State; she was for him simply a sum-total, a formula, a thing for show. On the contrary, for the old Jacobins, she was an axiom, a principle, an article in the Social Contract; by this contract, the State had charge of public education; it had the right and its duty was to undertake this and manage it. The principle being laid down, as convinced theorists and blindly following the deductive method, they derived consequences from it and rushed ahead, with eyes shut, into practical operation, with as much haste as vigor, without concerning themselves with the nature of human materials, of surrounding realities, of available resources, of collateral effects, nor of the total and final effect. Likewise with the new Jacobins of the present day, according to them, since instruction is a good thing, the broader and deeper it is the better; since broad and deep instruction is very good, the State should, with all its energy and by every means in its power, inculcate it on the greatest possible number of children, boys and adolescents. Such, henceforth, is the word of command from on high, transmitted down to the three stages of superior, secondary and primary instruction.
Consequently, from 1876 to 1890, the State expends for superior instruction, in buildings alone, 99,000,000 francs. Formerly, the receipts of the Faculties about covered their expenses; at the present day, the State allows them annually 6,000,000 francs more than their receipts. It has founded and supports 221 new (professional) chairs, 168 complementary courses of lectures, 129 conférences and, to supply the attendants, it provides, since 1877, 300 scholarships for those preparing for the licence and, since 1881, 200 scholarships for those preparing for the aggrégation. Similarly, in secondary instruction, instead of 81 lycées in 1876, it has 100 in 1887; instead of 3,820 scholarships in 1876, it distributes, in 1887, 10,528; instead of 2,200,000 francs expended for this branch of instruction in 1857, it expends 18,000,000 in 1889.—Through this surcharge of instruction, the greater the surcharge of examinations: was it well to “assign to the grades” that the State exacts, and confer “more science than in the past, which is what was everywhere done where it seemed necessary.” Naturally, and through contagion, the obligation of possessing more knowledge descended to secondary instruction. In effect, after this date, we see no neo-Kantian philosophy descending like hail from the metaphysical ether above on the lowest lycée classes, to the lasting injury of seventeen-year-old brains; again, after this date, we see in the class of special mathematics the thorny vegetation of complicated problems, so rank and so excessively intermingled that, nowadays, the candidate for the Polytechnic School must, to gain admission, expound theorems that were only mastered by his father after he got there.—Hence, “boxes” and “ovens,” private internats, the preparatory laic or ecclesiastical schools and other “scholastic cramming-machines”; hence, the prolonged mechanical effort which forces each intellectual sponge to imbibe all the scientific fluid it will hold, even to saturation, and maintain it in this state of extreme repletion if only for two hours during an examination, after which it may subside incontinently and filter away; hence, that mistaken use, that inordinate expenditure, that precocious usury of mental energy, and the whole of that pernicious system which oppresses the young for so long a time, not for their advantage, but to their detriment on arriving at maturity.
To reach the uncultivated masses, to address the popular intellect and imagination, one must use absolute, simple catchwords; in the matter of primary instruction, the simplest and most absolute is that which promises and offers it to all children, boys and girls, not merely universal, but, again, complete and gratuitous. To this end, from 1878 to 1891, the State has expended for school buildings and installations 582,000,000 francs; for salaries and other expenses it furnished the latter year 131,000,000. Somebody pays for all this, and it is the tax-payer, and by force; aided by gendarmes, the collector puts his hand forcibly into all pockets, even those containing only sous, and withdraws these millions. Gratuitous instruction sounds well and seems to designate a veritable gift, a present from the great vague personage called the State, and whom the general public dimly sees on the distant horizon as a superior, independent being, and hence a possible benefactor. In reality, his presents are made with our money, while his generosity consists in the fine name with which he here gilds his fiscal exactions, a new constraint added to so many others which he imposes on us and which we endure. —Besides, through instinct and tradition, the State is naturally inclined to multiply constraints, and this time there is no concealment. From six to thirteen years of age, primary instruction becomes obligatory; the father is required to prove that his children receive it, if not at the public school at least in a private school or at home. During these seven years it continues, and ten months are devoted to it each year. The school takes and keeps the child three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon; it pours into these little heads all that is possible in such a length of time, all that they can hold and more too,—spelling, syntax, grammatical and logical analysis, rules of composition and of style, history, geography, arithmetic, geometry, drawing, notions of literature, politics, law, and finally a complete moral system, “civic morality.”
That it is very useful for every adult to know how to read, write and cipher, and that, for this motive, the State should exact from the child the minimum of this knowledge, may not meet with disapproval as a State exaction; for the same motive, and on the same principle, provision should be made for swimming-schools in every village and town on the sea-coast, or on the streams and rivers; every boy should be obliged to learn how to swim.—That it may be useful for every boy and girl in the United States to pass through the entire system of primary instruction is peculiar to the United States and is comprehensible in an extensive and new country where multiplied and diverse pursuits present themselves on all sides; where every career may lead to the highest pinnacle; where a rail-splitter may become president of the republic; where the adult often changes his career and, to afford him the means for improvising a competency at each change, he must possess the elements of every kind of knowledge; where the wife, being for the man an object of luxury, does not use her arms in the fields and scarcely ever uses her hands in the household.—It is not the same in France. Nine out of ten pupils in the primary school are sons or daughters of peasants or of workmen and will remain in the condition of their parents; the girl, adult, will do washing and cooking all her life at home or abroad; the son, adult, confined to his occupation will work all his life in a shop or on his own or another’s field. Between this destiny of the adult and the plenitude of his primary instruction, the disproportion is enormous; it is evident that his education does not prepare him for the life he has to lead; but for another life, less monotonous, under less restraint, more cerebral, and of which a faint glimpse disgusts him with his own; at least, it will disgust him for a long time and frequently, until the day comes when his school acquisitions, wholly superficial, shall have evaporated in contact with the ambient atmosphere and no longer appear to him other than empty phrases; in France, for an ordinary peasant or workman, so much the better if this day comes early.
At the very least, three quarters of these acquirements are for him superfluous. He derives no advantage from them, neither for inward satisfaction nor for getting ahead in the world; and yet they must all be gone through with. In vain would the father of a family like to curtail them, to limit the mental acquirements of his children to attainments that they can make use of, to reading, writing and arithmetic, to giving to these just the necessary time, at the right season, three months for two or three winters, to keep his twelve-year-old daughter at home to help her mother and take care of the other children, to keep his boy of ten years for pasturing cattle or for goading on oxen at the plough. In relation to his children and their interests as well as for his own necessities, he is suspect, he is not a good judge; the State has more light and better intentions than he has. Consequently, the State has the right to constrain him and in fact, from above, from Paris, the State does this. Legislators, as formerly in 1793, have acted according to Jacobin procedure, as despotic theorists; they have formed in their minds a uniform, universal, simple type, that of a child from six to thirteen years as they want to see it, without adjusting the instruction they impose on it to its prospective condition, making abstraction of his positive and personal interest, of his near and certain future, setting the father aside, the natural judge and competent appreciator of the education suitable to his son and daughter, the sole authorized arbiter for determining the quality, duration, circumstances and counterpoise of the mental and moral manipulation to which these young lives, inseparable from his own, are going to be subject away from home.—Never, since the Revolution, has the State so vigorously affirmed its omnipotence, nor pushed its encroachments on and intrusion into the proper domain of the individual so far, even to the very centre of domestic life. Note that in 1793 and 1794 the plans of Lepelletier de Saint-Fargeau and of Saint-Just remained on paper; the latter for ten years have been in practical operation.
At bottom, the Jacobin is a sectarian, the propagator of his own faith, and hostile to the faith of others. Instead of admitting that people’s conceptions are different and rejoicing that there are so many of them, each adapted to the human group which believes in it, and essential to believers to help them along, he admits but one, his own, and he uses power to force it upon adherents. He also has his own creed, his catechism, his imperative formula, and he imposes them.—Henceforth, education shall be not only free and obligatory but again laic and nothing but laic. Thus far, the great majority of parents, most of the fathers and all of the mothers, were desirous that it should at the same time be religious. Without speaking of professing Christians, many heads of families, even lukewarm, indifferent or skeptical, judge that this mixture of the two is better for children, and especially for girls. According to them, knowledge and faith should not enter into these young minds separate, but combined and as one aliment; at least, in the particular case in which they were concerned, this, in their view, was better for the child, for themselves, for the internal discipline of the household, for good order at home for which they were responsible, for the maintenance of respect, and for the preservation of morals. For this reason, the municipal councils, previous to the laws of 1882 and 1886, still free to choose instruction and teachers as they pleased, often entrusted their school to the Christian Brethren or Sisters under contract for a number of years, at a fixed price, and all the more willingly because this price was very low. Hence, in 1886, there were in the public schools 10,029 teachers of the Christian Brethren and 39,125 of the Sisters. Now, since 1886, the law insists that public instruction shall be not only laic, but that lay teachers only shall teach; the communal schools, in particular, shall be all laicized, and, to complete this operation, the legislator fixes the term of delay; after that, no congregationist, monk or nun, shall teach in any public school.
Meanwhile, each year, by virtue of the law, the communal schools are laicized by hundreds, by fair means or foul; although this is by right a local matter, the municipal councils are not consulted; the heads of families have no voice in this private, domestic interest which touches them nearly, and on such a sensitive point. And likewise, in the cost of the operation their part is officially imposed on them; at the present day, in the sum-total of 131,000,000 francs which primary instruction costs annually, the communes contribute 50,000,000 francs; from 1878 to 1891, in the sum-total of 582,000,000 francs expended on school buildings, they contributed 312,000,000 francs.—If certain parents are not pleased with this system they have only to subscribe amongst themselves, build a private school at their own expense, and support Christian Brothers or Sisters in these as teachers. That is their affair; they will not pay one cent less to the commune, to the department or to the State, so that their tax will be double and they will pay twice, first for the primary instruction which they dislike, and next for the primary instruction which suits them.—Thousands of private schools are founded on these conditions. In 1887, these had 1,091,810 pupils, about one fifth of all children inscribed in all the primary schools. Thus one fifth of the parents do not want the laic system for their children; at least, they prefer the other when the other is offered to them; but, to offer it to them, very large donations, a multitude of voluntary subscriptions, are necessary. The distrust and aversion which this system, imposed from above excites can be measured by the number of parents and children and by the greatness of the donations and subscriptions. Note, moreover, that in many of the other communes, in all places where the resources, the common understanding and the generosity of individual founders and donators are not sufficient, the parents, even distrustful and hostile, are now constrained to send their children to the school which is repugnant to them.—In order to be more precise, imagine an official and daily journal entitled Laic journal, obligatory and gratuitous for children from six to thirteen, founded and supported by the State, at an average cost of 582,000,000 francs to set it agoing, and 131,000,000 francs of annual expenditure, the whole taken from the purses of taxpayers, willingly or not; take it for granted that the 6,000,000 children, girls and boys, from six to thirteen, are forced subscribers to this journal, that they get it every day except Sundays, that, every day, they are bound to read the paper for six hours. The State, through toleration, allows the parents who do not like the official sheet to take another which suits them; but, that another may be within reach, it is necessary that local benefactors, associated together and taxed by themselves, should be willing to establish and support it; otherwise, the father of a family is constrained to read the laic journal to his children, which he deems badly composed and marred by superfetations and shortcomings, in brief, edited in an objectionable spirit. Such is the way in which the Jacobin State respects the liberty of the individual.
On the other hand, through this operation, it has extended and fortified itself; it has multiplied the institutions it directs and the persons whom it controls. To direct, inspect, augment and diffuse its primary instruction, it has maintained 173 normal schools for teachers, male and female, 736 schools and courses of lectures in primary, superior and professional instruction, 66,784 elementary schools, 3,597 maternal schools, and about 115,000 functionaries, men and women. Through these 115,000 agents, representatives and mouthpieces, laic Reason, which is enthroned at Paris, sends its voice even to the smallest and most remote villages. It is Reason, as our rulers define it, with the inclination, limitations and prejudices they have need of, a little near-sighted and half-domesticated daughter of the other, the formidable, blind, brutal, ancestral madman who, in 1793 and 1794, sat under the same name and in the same place. With less of violence and of blundering, but by virtue of the same instinct and with the same onesidedness, the latter employs the same propagandism; she too aims at getting possession of new generations, and through her programmes and manuals, her sketches and summaries of the Ancient Régime, the Revolution and the Empire, her own views of recent or contemporary matters, through her formulæ and suggestions in relation to moral, social and political affairs, it is herself, and she alone, that she preaches and glorifies.
Thus is the French enterprise of education by the State completed in France. When an affair is not left in the hands of interested parties and a third party, whose interest is different, takes it in hand, it cannot end well; sooner or later, its original defect manifests itself and through unlooked-for results. Here, the principal and final effect is the growing disparity between education and life. At the three stages of instruction, for infancy, adolescence and youth, the theoretical and school preparation at the desk, through books, is prolonged and overcharged in view of the examination, the grade, the diploma and the certificate; in view of that only, and by the worst means, through the application of an unnatural and anti-social system, through excessive delay in practical apprenticeship, through the internat, through artificial stimulation and mechanical cramming, through overwork, without any consideration of the future, of the adult epoch and the duties of the complete man, leaving out the real world in which the young man is about to enter, the state of society to which he must adapt or resign himself beforehand, the human struggle in which to defend himself or keep erect he must be fully armed, equipped, drilled and hardened. That indispensable equipment, that most important of all acquirements, that solid good-sense, strong will and steady nerves, our schools do not furnish him with; quite the contrary; far from qualifying him for his approaching and final condition they disqualify him for it. Accordingly, his entrance into the world and his first steps on the field of practical life are generally a series of painful falls; he remains bruised and hurt a long time and is often lastingly maimed. This experience is both rude and dangerous. The moral and mental balance is disturbed and risks never being restored. His illusions vanish too suddenly and too completely. His deceptions have been too great and his disappointments too severe; the heart of the young man has sunk too often. Often, with his intimates, soured and played upon like himself, he is tempted to tell us: “Through your education you have led us to believe, or you have let us believe, that the world is made in a certain fashion. You have deceived us. It is much uglier, more dull, dirtier, sadder and harder, at least to our sensibility and to our imagination: you judge us as overexcited and disordered; if so, it is your fault. For this reason, we curse and scoff at your world and reject your pretended truths which, for us, are lies, including those elementary and primordial verities which you declare are evident to common sense, and on which you base your laws, your institutions, your society, your philosophy, your sciences and your arts.” —And such is what our contemporary youth, through their tastes, opinions and aims in letters, arts and life, have loudly proclaimed for the past fifteen years.