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THE FRENCH REPUBLIC.
(From Brownson's Quarterly Review for July, 1851.]
We always read with interest the eloquent parlimentary speeches of Count de Montalembert, for we always find in them a noble spirit, and principles becoming the Christian and the statesinan; but we have read none of them with deeper interest or more pleasure than the one now before us; nor any one which has given us so strong a proof of his practical wisdom, and real independence of character. M. de Montalembert is not the man of a party; he is a Christian and a Frenchman. He himself was known to our public, in 1830, as connected with the Abbé de la Mennais, in the religious and political movement represented to some extent by L'Avenir, and which sought to induce the church to accept and foster the democratic tendencies of the European populations. The movement, under some of its aspects, was noble and praiseworthy, but under others it was injudicious and revolutionary, and calculated to embroil the church with the temporal governments, to the serious detriment of religion. It was therefore disapproved at Rome, and forth with abandoned by M. de Montalembert, and nearly all those who had projected and sustained it, with the exception of the unhappy Abbé de la Mennais hiniself, who finally for his persistence incurred excommunication from the church.
In the chamber of peers, of which he was an hereditary member, M. de Montalembert, under the monarchy of July, was not an Orleanist nor a legitimist, a republican nor a dynastic oppositionist, but was generally in opposition to the government, with strong sympathies with the European liberal movement. He did not oppose the Orleans dynasty, he did not advocate a republic, but he opposed the government, because it showed itself hostile to religious and civil freedom. His sympathies were with the party struggling for larger liberty, and his parliamentary labors were specially directed to obtaining the freedom of education, which was enslaved by the state through the infidel university, established in its main features by the convention. He may be said during this period to have represented in parliament the Catholic party of young France.
* Discours prononcé par M DE MONTALEMBERT, Représentant du Peuple (Doubs) dans la D scussion du Projet de Loi tendant à ouvrir au Ministre des Finances un Crédit de 1,800,000 Francs, pour Frais de Représentation du Président de la République, Séance du 10 février, 1851,
In February, 1848, came the revolution that overthrew and exiled the Orleans dynasty, and proclaimed the French republic. M. de Montalembert was returned a member of the constituent assembly, or convention summoned to give France a constitution, and reëstablish social and political order. In this assembly he took his stand, not as a republican nor as an anti-republican, not as a legitimist nor as an anti-legitimist, but as the advocate of order and defender of religious liberty. He saw that the first want of France was legal order, and that every attempt to found such order without a religious basis must prove abortive. Hence the freedom of the church and the establishment of social order became his watch words; and he proved himself ready to coöperate with any party devoted to the maintenance of order, and able and willing to recognize, as its indispensable conditions, the full freedoin of the church and of Catholic education. This position he still maintains. Without any preferences for a republic as snch, he seems, now that the republican order has been proclaimed, fully disposed to accept it, to give it a fair trial, and a loyal support so long as it is able to maintain social and political order for his conntry. As he would never have conspired to overthrow the monarchy for the sake of introducing the republic, so he will never conspire to overthrow the republic for the sake of restoring the monarchy, either in the family of the Bourbons or in that of the Bonapartes. In the present crisis in European, and especially in French affairs, the most pressing question, he holds, lies not between one forın of government and another, but between government and no government, between order and anarchy, civilization and barbarism; and any existing government, able to sustain order and provide for the wants of civilized society, ought to be loyally supported, irrespective of the claims or pretensions of particular families or individuals. Governments are instituted for the public good, and power is a sacred trust from God, not a personal right of its depositaries; and whenever these have lost it, it must be suffered to pass into other hands if the public good clearly demand it, for society is paramount to the individual.
We have, ever since we can remember, advocated, and we trust we ever shall advocate, the jus divinum, or government by divine right; for we hold that under the law of nature all men are equal, and that no man, in his own name, has the right to govern another. All dominion of man over man is of the essence of despotism. All power is of God, and no power is legal save as ordained of God; and no man has any right to exercise any authority save as the vicar or delegate of Almighty God, immediately, or mediately, appointed by him to govern. Ministers may be variously appointed according to the respective constitutions of different countries; they may obtain office hereditarily, or by popular election ; but always their ultimate right to govern derives from God, and they hold it only as his delegates. They are, therefore, bound to exercise it according to his will, that is, according to the laws of eternal justice. This is what we mean by the jus divinum, and holding this, we hold that whoso resists government in the discharge of its legal functions resists the ordinance of God, and purchases to himself damnation.
But God authorizes government and invests it with the right to govern for the public good, not for the private good of the governors, and hence power is a trust, and therefore amissible. It may be forfeited, as any other trust, for it may be abused, and it is abused, whenever it is exercised for a private end, in opposition to the public good. It may be lost, also, without the particular fault of its depositaries, by such changes in human affairs as render it impracticable or impossible for them to continue to exercise it compatibly with the peace and welfare of the public, or so as to secure the ends for which government is instituted. In France, the old public order has, by successive revolutions, been completely broken up, and the French statesman is now free, and even bonnd, to take that course which is most in accordance with the true interests of his country, without reference to the rights of particular families, deriving from an order which has in fact passed away.
He is free to support the republic, in total forgetfulness, as it were, of the hereditary claims to reign of the Bourbons or of the Bonapartes, and ought to do so, if in the providence of God and the mutations of human things the republic has become the only practicable order, or the best practicable government for his country; for there is a broad difference between hereditary personal rights and hereditary public trusts; between overthrowing a monarchy for the sake of establishing a republic, and supporting a republic after monarchy has been overthrown; and between struggling to sustain a monarchy that is assailed, and struggling to restore a monarchy that has fallen. The first want of France is government, and its second want is wise and efficient government, able alike to protect itself and the freedom of the subject; and the duty of the French statesman is to provide for these wants in the best and speediest manner now practicable. If they can be best provided for by monarchical restoration, royal or imperial, in the elder or the younger branch of the Bonrbons, then he shonld labor for such restoration; if they can be best provided for by the republic, princely under Louis Napoleon, or citizen under General Cavaignac, then such republic should be accepted and supported. We regard France, since the revolution of February, as to the constitution of political power, as to a great extent thrown back under the law of nature, and as not only free, but bound, to reconstitute government in the manner best adapted to her future welfare, and the question for her to settle is, not the claims of princes, but the political constitution she needs to preserve herself from becoming a prey to the socialists and red-republicans, led on by Mazzini, Ledru-Rollin, and company, those conspirators-general against the rights of nations, the peace of society, and the civilization of Europe.
M. de Montalembert, in the speech before us, as we have intimated, seems disposed to accept and sustain the republic, and the republic with Louis Napoleon for its chief. He is not a Bonapartist; his sympathies are rather with the legitimists; but he contends that Prince Louis has merited well of France and Europe, and, without committing himself for the future, he ably defends the conduct of the president thus far, and awards him the well deserved praise which many from various quarters have denied him. He concedes that the president has committed some faults, the gravest of which, however, was his ill-advised letter on Roman affairs to Colonel Edgar Ney, which he hastened immediately to repair, and which has had no grave consequences. He regrets the dismissal of General Changarnier from his important military command, but thinks it was not wholly without excuse. He also regrets the new ministerial appointments, and would seem to regard the new ministry as not likely to inspire confidence in the friends of order; but he is disposed to judge it by its acts. The president is the responsible head of his administration, and he thus far has proved himself the friend of religion, of order, of legal government, and determined to maintain internal tranquillity, peace and dignity abroad.
To appreciate the merits of the French president, we must take into consideration the very delicate and embarrassing position in which he has been placed from the first. He received it in charge to maintain the republic at home, and the influence and dignity of France abroad. When he was elected, December 10, 1848, the convention had promulgated the constitution,-a miserable abortion, satisfactory to nobody,--and the power of the state was in the hands of the so-called moderate republican party, a feeble minority of the nation, and, whatever their good intentions, without political, and especially administrative capacity. The great majority of the French people were and are monarchists, are not and never have been republicans, and the republic proclaimed by the Parisian mob, in February, 1848, could not have lived a week had it not been acquiesced in and supported by those who did not wish it, had no hand in introducing it, and no sympathy with it. It was impossible for Prince Louis to administer the government without the aid of the monarchists, for the moderate republicans were too few and too imbecile to afford him any real support, and the red-republicans were powerful only in a work of destruction, and were the enemies alike of order at home, and of peace and just influence abroad. He must then conciliate the moderate republicans, secure the aid of the monarchists, and defy the socialists. But if too decidedly republican, he could not count on the support of the monarchists; and if he trusted exclusively to the monarchists, he inight awaken monarchical hopes and prepare the way for a restoration of monarchy, to the destruction of the republic, -or for the division of the monarchical party, which would allow a triumph of the red-republicans to the destruction of social order and the peace of Europe. Here was his great difficulty.
The solution of the difficulty depended on the fact whether the old monarchical party, composed of legitimists, Orleanists, and Bonapartists, had really resolved to let monarchy go, and henceforth to accept without reserve, and to support loyally, the republican order. The republicans themselves could not sustain the republic, for the reds would soon absorb the moderates, as in the old revolution the