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of the monarchy or of the succession to the throne; and if Louis Philippe's ministers had yielded to his instances, they might very possibly have placed parliamentary power in the hands of parties who would have used it as a mere substitute for insurrection in subverting the established government. Thus we seem again to be brought back to the cause of failure already specified — the plurality of dissentients from the existing order of things. Had there been no Legitimists, the Orleanists might have made head against the Republicans ; had there been no Republicans they might have outlasted the Legitimists; but they were not the exclusive representatives of either liberal or conservative opinions, and were thus too weak to resist parties both above and below them, excepting by a course of policy which contained the seeds of danger within itself.
The chief difficulty in the question before us consists in the ambiguous and indefinite character of the proposition to be discussed. The French Revolution, or in other words, the political experiment which France, as M. Guizot expresses it, entered upon sixty years ago — has certainly proved unsuccessful; by which we mean that it has produced no result in which the nation has been found permanently to acquiesce. France has tried and abandoned an absolute monarchy, a republic, an empire, and, finally, that constitutional government which in other countries was proved to be the true form of polity required. But what were the causes of this ill success as indicated by the catastrophe of February? What kind of institutions or opinions did the French nation wish to substitute for those actually existing, in so far as we can infer from the result? To such inquiry we can make no reply, and every day's experience serves to increase our perplexity and confusion.' That France desired a Republic is what her citizens lose no opportunity of practically denying; that she desires a Legitimate Monarchy is what has not yet been proved. We need take no shame to ourselves for our embarrassment on this point, for the French people are not a whit less bewildered than ourselves. The other day it was positively proposed in the Assembly to take the opinions of the nation upon this question in some fashion or other, and ascertain, if possible, by direct evidence, that particular form of government to which the wishes of the country really pointed. To judge by events we can only conclude that the ideas of the majority of the French nation remain much what they were before the change. The same men (and in absolute default, too, of newer competitors) direct the Assembly and virtually administer the government; the same tone characterises its policy, and the same language is spoken by its organs. Even the indifference, which was manifested in
M. Louis Blanc on the English Constitution.
the days of February towards the monarchy of July has been since compensated by a concern looking very much like regret. Yet if we adopt the supposition, and it is by no means an unreasonable one, that the veritable sentiments of the French people remain substantially unaltered since 1847, the inevitable conclusion is, that the last 'revolution,' considered in the sense we are now attaching to such phenomena, was no revolution at all. It was no genuine expression of national sentiment, and can therefore supply no materials for argument or deduction. In succumbing to such an assault, the French constitutional monarchy underwent no fair condemnation. The calamity which laid it prostrate was altogether without precedent, nor is there much reason for supposing that even a stronger fabric could have withstood so extraordinary a shock. If it is argued that other governments have been more successful, we must remember that all turned upon the effects of a surprise, and that a surprise occurs only once. The mistakes of a night are not likely to be repeated. In fact the proof is before our eyes. The very party which prevailed against Louis Philippe's government has since exerted itself in trebled strength against those who are virtually the same antagonists, and has wholly failed.
These considerations, though they materially affect such an argument as we have been endeavouring to institute, and, indeed, almost debar us, as we have said, from any satisfactory conclusion, have by no means a like influence upon those deductions which it was apparently M. Guizot's intention to exhibit. The Revolution' which he has had before his eyes is especially that of 1848. It was the last in which his countrymen had been engaged; and it was that on the results of which depended the present fortunes of France. Under these circumstances he delivered his reflections upon revolutions in general ; and, as the most obvious method of pointing his moral and confirming bis conclusions, he took the most remarkable example of a successful revolution as a text for his discourse. By a few brief paragraphs and by a thousand incidental suggestions, he showed what, in so far as experience could teach, were the conditions of success in these momentous experiments. That no one of these conditions had been observed in the revolution of February, and that if successful, therefore, it must owe its good fortune to some insensible change in human nature, was what none of his readers could well fail to perceive. Of course M. Louis Blanc would promptly join issue with his adversary, and avow at once that the revolutions of his making were no more to be conducted on old principles than directed to old objects. When the design was merely to substitute one recognised form of government for another, the agency of recognised parties might, perhaps, serve the turn; but not so when society was to be regenerated, and all mortal things to be changed. In fact there is no more especial object of M. Blanc's abomination than this selfsame English Revolution which M. Guizot displays as a model; so that the disputants have no common ground. But there is only one kind of proof in these questions; and while M. Guizot points to England, M. Louis Blanc muet needs point to France. The Socialist historian will, indeed, say that we have only suc
ceeded'in establishing what he has termed, in so many words, the most execrable tyranny which ever existed:' But what has he established himself? At any rate we may appeal to his own practical estimate of the two revolutions. In selecting London for his residence, M. Louis Blanc plainly confesses that constitutional England has advantages of some kind, for himself at least at present, beyond those of republican France.
On the whole subject our conclusion, perhaps, may be briefly this : that the catastrophe of February was too exceptional an incident to justify any certain inference as to the comparative character of the institutions overthrown or the merits of those who suffered by the change; but that if we consider it, for argument's sake, as a genuine republican manifestation, suggested and enforced by the real national will, such assumption will exempt the vanquished party from serious culpability. Louis Philippe's ministers were not in the same position as those of our George I. Had they been so, or, in other words, had the whole strength of the revolutionary party,—that is to say, of the party which prevailed against Charles X.,— been at their service in resisting the assaults of the reactionary party, there is every reason to presume that M. Guizot might have been still performing the part of Walpole, and the House of Orleans have been established on the constitutional throne of France, with fewer dangers and troubles than attended the establishment of the House of Hanover in England. But they encountered obstacles of a character altogether novel. They were attacked, not by regular adversaries, not by a party bent on recovering power, but by the votaries of doctrines heretofore unheard of; by men who grounded a right of perpetual insurrection upon the conclusions of political theories, and who, in the silence of their abodes and on the strength of their private speculations, turned into the streets to subvert a government for no other reason than that it was not the government of their own imaginings. The critical question is, whether these extraordinary assaults could ever have thus succeeded against a government founded on the general consent and affection of the people? To this we can only reply that no government had
241 ever before been subjected to the trial; and we may, perhaps, venture upon adding that the feelings evinced by the French nation in its hours of reflection furnish something like a proof that the constitutional monarchy was not really so destitute of popular good-will as to have lain, under ordinary circumstances, at the mercy of a mob. Whether, however, from accident or some more controllable cause, it is undeniable that the French Revolution of 1789–1830 has failed; but it is likewise evident, in contrasting this failure with the success of our own experiment, that the failure had its origin in liabilities from which we were preserved. Even if the monarchy of July had been the very counterpart of the monarchy of 1688 in every single condition attending its establishment, it would not thereby have been insured against such a shock as that which actually laid it low. We cannot, indeed, think that it was altogether unfavourably constituted; nor do we conceive that it is to this revolution that M. Guizot's well-pointed contrasts are meant to apply. In any case, however, the settlement of 1830 would have been equally unacceptable to those sectaries who recognised no essential difference between one monarchy and another, or between any governments which did not happen to represent their own conceptions. Being unacceptable, it would, according to the doctrines and practice of the sect, have been incessantly attacked; whether with less success or not, we cannot affirm. France, as its statesmen and representatives now manfully acknowledge, was
surprised ’; and against such an unparalleled incident in the political life of a nation it might, perhaps, have been difficult to guard. After the event, wisdom is learnt easily enough, nor do the French people seem very reluctant to acknowledge the truth.
Art. VIII.— Reports on the Slave Trade from Lords and
Commons, 1848–49. A MONG the political problems of the present day, there are
few that have been more embarrassed by the various causes, good and evil, which turn discussion into controversy, than the question, — whether it be wise and right for England to continue her armed opposition to the Slave Trade.
The fact that the Coinmittees of the Lords and Commons came to opposite conclusions upon it, has been made the most of; but, the fact, that whilst the Lords were unanimous, all the principal resolutions of the Commons, condemnatory of the squadron, were carried only by the casting vote of the chairman, has been all but overlooked. As far as we can rely on the authoVOL. XCII. NO. CLXXXV.
rity of the Committees, it must be admitted, that though differences of opinion do exist, the balance is nevertheless sufficiently decisive, and is adverse to the abandonment of our measures of repression. The unequivocal vote of the House of Commons in the present session, and the disinterested and characteristic courage with which Lord John Russell and his colleagues have staked their political existence in support of the same opinion, speak still more positively. They prove distinctly that the feelings of the representatives of the people, and the experience of the responsible Government, have led them to one result.
It has indeed been argued that England can ill afford to continue any considerable expense for the purpose of counteracting evils, however great, which do not immediately affect her own citizens. Our most severe economists insist that it is of such essential importance, that the nation should not expend out of taxes raised from the people one farthing beyond what is absolutely needful, that more support has been obtained for their views in the present instance, than zealous philanthropists were prepared for. But we are for this reason only the more bound to examine the case carefully on every side; and see whether such advantages, economical as well as social, may not accrue from our warfare on the slave trade, as will still make it, from whatever point we look at it, a justifiable part of our national policy.
As there are points on which we have felt some hesitation in forming our own judgment, we cannot but sincerely regret the violence of invective into which both parties have been betrayed. The question involves too many mingled considerations of humanity and prudence ; so much evil is likely to ensue from a false step; the past and the future as well as the present enter so largely into the question, that we are little inclined to indulge in any dogmatism on it. At the same time, we have taken some pains to be right; and we confidently place before our readers the grounds upon which our opinion rests.
Last year when Mr. Milner Gibson proposed to repeal the Brazilian Act, Sir R. Peel answered, that to repeal the existing • Bill would be to substantially proclaim to the world that all • the efforts made to prevent the slave trade, or to mitigate its horrors, were now at an end; and if that should be done, his advice was, that the next thing the House should do, should . be to determine how best to encourage and sanction it, per* mitting Cuba and Brazil to carry it on to their hearts' con
tent.' This remonstrance goes to the root of the matter. And it applies, at least with equal force, to propositions for tampering with the African squadron. Every one at all familiar with the subject will laugh at the notion, that any real im