The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas et Prevalebit. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1881. France and M. Gambetta.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 4 30 p. m. j
For eleven years past, under the outward form of a .Republic, France has been governed by one man, that man being M. Gambetta. If he chose, he could say with quite as much truth as Louis XIV. ever did, “ L’ etat ’cest mot.” Of Jewish extraction and a Frenchman by birth, he may be said to be a born financier and diplomatist, and his remarkable powers, both as lawyer and orator, attracted public notice in the last days of Imperialism, by his brilliant defence of a prisoner before the Supreme Criminal Court of France. On entering Parliament he became at once a man of mark. Shut up in Paris when it was closely invested by the Prussians, he escaped in a balloon, made his way to "fours, where the Assembly was then sitting, and through his eloquence, capacity, and energy became immediately the life and soul of the defence. On the peace being declared with Germany, and the French Republic being consolidated, he was again returned to Parliament by an overwhelming majority, and could haw: been elected by just as many constituencies as he chose to be a candidate for. He made no attempt to secure the highest post in the State—the Presidency of the Republic —for himself, quite satisfied in the real power without the show of it. Like, our own Karl of Warwick four hundred years ago, he has been the king-maker whoever might be the king. Alike under Thiers, Macmahon, and Grevy, he was the mysterious power in the background which everyone obeyed. The Cabinets he supported stood, and the Cabinets he opposed soon came to grief. And on the whole his power was used well, for the benefit of his country and of the civilised world. Through confidence in him the country promptly paid off the heaviest war indemnity ever levied on any nation, and, by virtue of its innate resources, became soon as wealthy as before. France remained prudently at peace with all Furope, and the internal government of the country became steadily improved. In an evil hour he countenanced and supported the unjust and aggressive war with Tunis—the successes in which have been accompanied by so much blundering, < < .r, • • -'t'J.'TUTij I 1
loss of men, and loss of money, that France is already thoroughly dissatisfied, and even M. Gambetta is charged with having urged on the war for his own private and pecuniary ends. In France the favorite of the hour is soon ruined, if his reputation is once blown upon, unless he accomplishes something startling to retrieve himself, and accordingly, when the late Cabinet were dismissed, there was a general cry on the part of both foes and friends for M. Gambetta to take the post of Premier. He has done so and formed an administration.
It is not a strong one, however, and is not thought likely to last. At the last election M. Gambetta only received just sufficient support to be. returned to the Assembly. Whether it be that in forming his Cabinet he has avoided choosing men of sufficient public repute to be possible rivals to himself, or whether it be that the ablest public men do not care to be palpably overshadowed by a leader of vast reputation, or whether it be that, for various reasons, the Ministry are not considered in France likely to have a long lease of official life, it is certain that the present Ministry is not thought to be a combination at all equal to what was expected. In Germany, where French affairs are for palpable reasons closely watched, the present French Ministry is openly laughed at. To Great Britain, though the prosperity of her nearest and greatest neighbor is an object greatly to be desired, there may be no loss, but a gain, in the weakness of the French Ministry. The commercial treaty between Great Britain and France which has been so enormously advantageous to both countries, and has formed millions of money into both Treasuries, will expire definitely next February. It is reported, and is probably true, that M. Gambetta intends to signalize himself by setting popular prejudice at defiance and renewing the treaty. It is a bold stroke of policy and a wise one, but whether it is to be successful or not is a matter which it is impossible at present to forsee.