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Conduct of the English Legitimists.
promptitude, or determination of the people at large in defence of the powers established.
It deserves, however, to be considered that at this period insurrections, though not domesticated in the minds of citizens as legitimate incidents of political life, were reckoned among the natural resources of foreign cabinets; and, as disputed successions were then common in Europe, the encouragement of a pretender to a hostile crown became a recognised expedient with belligerent States. Our Jacobitism owed as much perhaps to French intrigues as to Scottish traditions; and the hopes of malcontents often turned less on popular tumults than on the apparition of a score of battalions from Dunkirk or Cadiz. In this way not only was the revolutionary spirit kept alive, but a character was communicated to party struggles wholly different from any thing visible in our own days. The English Legitimists were prompted by the Alberonis and Fleurys of the Continent; and the ministers of our first Georges had to attend not less to the intrigues of Versailles and Madrid, than to the menaces of domestic conspirators.
But when these several points have been taken into candid consideration, it will, we think, be evident that the constitutional monarchy as established by the English Revolution was exposed to fewer hazards than the corresponding settlement in France, and demanded, therefore, proportionately less skill and fortune for its maintenance. The Legitimist opposition was indeed strong — so strong, in fact, owing to circumstances already mentioned, that the probabilities, fairly estimated, were perhaps in favour of its prevailing, at some time or other, over the constituted authorities. Nothing indicates these risks more clearly than the extreme inconstancy of the statesmen and politicians of the day. As far as we can judge, the House of Hanover, at starting, had no such steadfast support as was possessed by the House of Orleans. We do not hear of parleys between Louis Philippe's ministers and Charles X. Whereas there was scarcely an adviser of Anne or George I. who was not suspected, with more or less reason, of correspondence with the court of the Pretender. Common charity compels us to suppose that a question so treated by such characters must have been considered an open one; and that the success of the English Revolution, in so far as it was represented by the security of the new dynasty, was for many years doubtful indeed. de lo
The contrast of French history on these points is sufficiently remarkable as to account for much of the difference exhibited by the ultimate results. In the first place, the settlement of July was not effected under circumstances any way similar to
of France had bee two periods, difficult to infere
those, which are described by M. Guizot as having been so favourable to the settlement of 1688. Omitting, however, these particular considerations, we may pass to others of more obvious importance. Indeed it would have been difficult to infer, from the respective histories of the two periods, that the constitutional monarchy of France had been originally established under less fortunate auspices than that of England; since, as we have before remarked, the stability of the former settlement was, to all appearance, the better secured of the two. In 1840, the success of the French Revolution, that is to say of the great series of experiments between 1789 to 1830, seemed to be assured; in 1698, that of the English Revolution seemed scarcely probable. But it was not because the provisions of the new Charte were intemperate or ill-conceived, or because the change had been effected by violence and against the feelings of any large section of the French people, that the constitutional settlement of 1830, and therein the Revolution which it had been thought to consummate, proved unsuccessful. Its fabric has not been overthrown by any of the parties which opposed the construction. As far as the catastrophe of February can be regarded at all in the light of an ordinary contingency, it is due to the operation of a spirit from the influence of which the English settlement was wholly exempt. Louis Philippe's government had to contend against the spirit of revolution as well as that of reaction. The latter was successfully opposed; and indeed the Legitimist party by which it was represented is the only party which has never been uppermost throughout the recent vicissitudes; but the former prevailed – not perhaps in the fair course of events, but still with a clear indication of its line of operations.
There were, as we have said, three parties dissenting from the constitutional settlement of 1830 — the Legitimists, the Imperialists, and the Republicans. At that moment, perhaps, the first of these was the only one from which serious opposition was to be apprehended. No great consideration seemed due to the second; but in the third were contained the real elements of danger. The principles of this party rested, not on traditions or attachments, but solely on the conclusions of political theories ; and it is in this most important particular that the position of the French constitutional monarchy differed so essentially from that of its English prototype. The government of Louis Philippe had not only to contend—which it did successfully-against a spirit analogous to that of Jacobitism, but also against a spirit most unlike the former both in its origin and tendency. We seem here, in fact, to be approaching the true point of distinc
Feb. 24. 1848: No Ground of Inference.
tion between the two cases; but, unhappily, it is at this very conjuncture that our materials suddenly fail us, and preclude, as we before hinted, any continuation of the argument to ito proper conclusion. For, in point of fact, the triumph of the Republican party in 1848 was an event so anomalous — so little depending on adequate causes, and so little indicative, as the sequel has shown, of the genuine sentiments of the nation, that no prediction can be hazarded of the course which affairs might have taken, apart from that extraordinary disturbance. If we could consider that MM. Lamartine and Louis Blanc represented the real opinions of the French people, and that to the irresistible preponderance of these opinions the catastrophe of February was fairly due, we should then be enabled to conclude at once that the constitutional monarchy of France was superseded by a more advanced developement of liberalism, and that the French Revolution failed because it had not proceeded far enough to satisfy the nation. But we are now perfectly aware that this is not the case; and that any conclusion founded on the assumption that France deliberately preferred Republicanism to Monarchy, would be altogether unsound. All argument is extinguished by a state of things, in which the established institutions are notoriously no indications of the sentiments of the people. The French Revolution has certainly failed — so much is clear and undeniable; and we have endeavoured to show why such a result was more likely in this case than in that of our own country. But it is impossible to determine the causes of this failure, until we can ascertain the political principles to which those of the constitutional monarchy have been compelled to give way. When we can discover what France really wanted, we can speculate on the inadequacy of Louis Philippe's government to satisfy these desires. When we have ascertained what the opinions of Frenchmen really are, we can compare them with those which have been superseded. At present we have no means of knowing whether the nation wished to go backwards or forwards — to recall the dynasty dismissed in 1830, or to rid itself of all dynasties whatever. There is certainly no more reason for presuming France to be Republican than Legitimist. Nay, from what we have now seen, we are fairly entitled to doubt whether even the settlement last overthrown was positively objectionable in the eyes of the country at the time of its fall. It would be one step gained towards a conclusion if we could assume that, whatever France desired it certainly did not desire an Orleanist monarchy. But we can venture on no such assumption. There is reason, on the contrary, to suppose, that if the suffrages of the nation could have been fairly taken on the 1st of March, 1848, they would have been in favour of resuming the position abandoned on the 24th of February. Ordinarily speaking, when we discuss a successful revolution, we are considering a violent but genuine expression of popular will. In the case of France, there is no such evidence before us; and all argument falls consequently to the ground. W e
It has, however, been urged, that the indifference which permitted a political club to subvert a powerful government, was of itself evidence that the constitutional monarchy as represented by the House of Orleans was unacceptable to the majority of the nation; and that though it has certainly not been proved that France desired a Republic, it may be inferred that she did not want King Louis Philippe. We have already observed that these apathetic symptoms were not peculiar to France in 1848; and if we insist on the inference above mentioned, we must acknowledge at the same time that the House of Hanover was exposed to the same liabilities as the House of Orleans; or, in other words, that but for the fortune of accidents, our revolution would have been just as unsuccessful' as the French. The most cursory reference to histories of the time, will, as we have said, satisfy any reader in a very few moments that the indifference of the English nation to the tumults of the Jacobites was at least as marked as that of the French to the insurrections of the republicans. But we suspect that too much has been made of a fact which can be explained upon suppositions less arbitrary that that of a national indifference to the fate of a dynasty chosen by the voice of the people only fifteen years before. The unpopularity of an administration, or the accidents of a political crisis, supply causes amply sufficient to bring about such a momentary result.
Yet it cannot be denied that in one important respect the institutions of France under the constitutional monarchy did appear inadequate to the legitimate wants of the nation. They showed no expansibility. They provided no regular means of expression for the popular will; nor any machinery by which such will could acquire force and effect. Whatever judgment might have dictated the original constitution of the Chamber of Deputies it obviously was not, in 1848, any representation of the people deserving the name. It has been the great merit of our own institutions that they not only answered their original purpose, but readily admitted of adaptation to the wants of successive generations. Whether the principal credit be due to the Long Parliament or to the Convention, whether our civil and political privilegres are to be dated from 1641 or 1688, we will not attempt to decide; but the present prosperity of England is o nly owing not more to what the Bill of Rights did, than
permitted. More has been done since our Revolution it, nor is the difference much less between 1850 and
1750, than between 1750 and 1650.* Compared with the popular claims now recognised, we may almost say that in King George the First's reign, the people could not control the taxation of the country, or pretend to equality in the eyes of the law. If we could be carried back to the times immediately succeeding our Revolution, we should be puzzled, with our present ideas, to appreciate the liberties which had been won by the struggle. Class privileges, which would now be deemed intolerable, long survived the landing of William of Orange and the Act of Settlement. These gradually disappeared in accordance with the natural growth of political ideas, acting through the political machinery which the Revolution had established ;-—and thus we have become what we are. But in France the constitution appeared unsusceptible of any accommodation to the wants of a people proverbially precocious and changeable. It was almost laid down as a maxim that no Parliamentary reform could take place; although, under existing circumstances, the Parliamentary representation of the people was a palpable farce. It may perhaps be thought, therefore, that the true cause of failure in the French Revolution lay either in the unelastic character of the institutions as introduced, or the inflexible tenacity of those by whom the government was administered. In fact, it is to the secauses that the catastrophe of February has been sometimes emphatically attributed sine
Some truth is probably contained in the argument, but a little reflection will suggest considerations on the other side. It will not be denied that one of the first duties of Louis Philippe's ministers was to maintain Louis Philippe on the throne; and it is, we think, questionable whether this primary condition was compatible with the concession of those electoral reforms which were demanded by their adversaries. Owing to that division of parties which we have described, and to the strength and animation possessed by each, Louis Philippe's ministers found themselves, on those questions, in a position of remarkable difficulty. Measured against any party singly the Orleanists were the stronger, and, under the existing constitution, were a match even for any probable parliamentary combination. But they were not numerous enough to supply, like the Hanoverian party in England, a ministry and an opposition from their own body; nor was it by any means certain that the desired extension of the franchise at that moment would leave their relative superiority unimpaired. M. Odillon Barrot had no means of forming a government on principles consistent with the maintenance