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LETTER OF THE FRENCH MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR, MR. DE MORNY, ADDRESSED TO THE PREFECTS OF THE DEPARTMENTS IN THE YEAR 1852.
The minister of the interior addressed the following circular to the prefects of the departments :
“MONSIEUR LE PREFET: You will shortly have to proceed to the elections of the legislative body. It is a grave operation, which will be either a corollary or a contradiction of the vote of the 20th December, according to the employment which you make of your legitimate influence. Bear well in mind that universal suffrage is a new and unknown element, easy for a glorious name to make the conquest of, unique in history, representing in the eyes of the populations authority and power, but very difficult to fix on secondary individualities; consequently, it is not by following former errors that you will succeed. I desire to inform you of the views of the head of the state. You perceive that the constitution has aimed at avoiding all the theatrical and dramatic part of the assemblies, by interdicting the publication of the speeches delivered; in that way the members of those assemblies, not being occupied with the effect which their words in the tribune are to produce, will think more of carrying on seriously the affairs of their country. The electoral law will pronounce on the incompatibilities. The situation of public functionaries in a political assembly is always a very delicate matter, as in voting with the government they lower their proper character, and in voting against it they weaken the principle of authority. The exclusion of functionaries, and the suppression of all indemnity, must necessarily limit, in a country where fortunes are so divided as in ours, the number of men who will be willing and able to fulfil such duties. Nevertheless, as the government is firmly decided never to make use of corruption, direct or indirect, and to respect the conscience of every man, the best means of preserving to the legislative body the confidence of the populations is to call to it men perfectly independent by their situation and character. When a man has made his fortune by labor, manufactures, or agriculture, if he has been occupied in improving the position of his workmen, if he has rendered himself popular by a noble use of his property, he is preferable to what is conventionally called a political man, for he will bring to the preparation of the laws a practical mind, and will second the government in its work of pacification and re-edification. As soon as you shall have intimated to me, in the conditions indicated above, the candidates who shall appear to you to have the most chance of obtaining a majority of yotes, the government will not hesitate to recommend them openly to the choice of the electors. Hitherto, it has been the custom in France to form electoral committees and meetings of delegates. That system was very useful when the vote took place au scrutin de liste. The scrutin de liste created such confusion, and such a necessity for coming to an understanding, that the action of a committee was indispensable; but now these kind of meetings would be attended with no advantage, since the election will only bear on one name; it would only have the inconvenience of creating premature bonds, and appearances of acquired rights which would only embarrass the people, and deprive them of all liberty. You
will, therefore, dissuade the partisans of the government from organizing electoral committees. Formerly, when the suffrage was restricted, when the electoral influence was divided among a few families, the abuse of this influence was most shameful. A few crosses, little merited, and a few places, could always secure the success of an election in a small college. It was very natural that this abuse should cause great dissatisfaction, and that the government should be called on to abstain from any ostensible interference. Its action and its preferences were then occult, and for that very reason compromised its dignity and its authority. But by what favors could the government be now supposed capable of influencing the immense body of the electors ? By places ? The whole government of France has not establishments vast enough to contain the population of one canton. By money? Without speaking of the honorable susceptibilities of the electors, the whole public treasury would not be sufficient for such a purpose. You will remember to what the result of the efforts of the government was reduced on the 10th December, 1848, in favor of the candidate to the presidency who was then in power. With universal suffrage there is but one powerful spring, which no human hand can restrain or turn from the current in which it is directed, and that is public opinion; that imperceptible and indefinable sentiment which abandons or accompanies governments, without their being able to account for it, but which is rarely wrong in doing so; nothing escapes it, nothing is indifferent to it; it appreciates not only acts, but divines tendencies; it forgets nothing, it pardons nothing, because it has, and can have, but one moving power
—the self-interest of each; it is alive to all, from the great policy which emanates from the chief of the state to the most trivial proceedings of the local authorities, and the political opinion of a department depends more than is gene
350 ON CIVIL LIBERTY AND SELF-GOVERNMENT.
rally believed on the spirit and conduct of its administration. For a long time past the local administrations have been subordinate to parliamentary exigencies; they occupied themselves more in pleasing some influential men in Paris than in satisfying the legitimate interests of the communes and the people. These days are happily, it may be said, at an end. Make all functionaries thoroughly understand that they must carefully occupy themselves with the interests of all, and that he who must be treated with the greatest zeal and kindness is the humblest and the weakest. The best of policies is that of kindness to persons, and facility for interests—and that functionaries shall not suppose themselves created for purposes of objection, embarrassment, and delay, when they are so for the sake of dispatch and regularity. If I attach so much importance to these details, it is because I have remarked that inferior agents often believe that they increase their importance by difficulties and embarrassments. They do not know what maledictions and unpopularity they bring down on the central government. This administrative spirit must be inflexibly modified; that depends on you; enter firmly on that path. Be assured that then, instead of seeing enemies in the government and local administration, the people will only consider them a support and help. And when afterwards you, in the name of this loyal and paternal government, recommend a candidate to the choice of the electors, they will listen to your voice and follow your counsel. All the old accusations of oppositions will fall before this new and simple line of policy, and people in France will end by understanding that order, labor, and security can only be established in a durable manner in a country under a government listened to and respected
“ Accept, &c.
“A. DE MORNY."
ABERDEEN, Lord, the public i cussed, i. 260 and sequ. Grave
outstripping government, i. ! errors, i. 262. What is the
advocate ? i. 263. License, i.
| Alexander, dragging Betis around
diation, i. 127.
or democratic, agree on unity lish views, i. 285, and note.
Graduated, in middle ages. I.
on unconstitutionality of laws,
| American Declaration of Inde-
sequ. See Pardoning, abuse American Liberty, i. 277. Is re-
ence on monarchy, i. 277.
United States compared with
tion of church and state, ibid.
United States has been called
i. 280. Equality, i. 280, and
abstract reasoning, i. 282, and
of framers of constitution of
Necessary for freedom, ibid. vernment, i. 283. Voting by