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THE FRENCH ELECTIONS., Issue 8026, 1 October 1889
THE FRENCH ELECTIONS.
The result of the French elections is so far satisfactory. The end of the Republic has not come yet. A majority of the new deputies are supporters of the existing form of government. The Paris correspondent of the London ‘ Times ’ says that the moderate Republicans will number from ninety to 120 more than all the other parties combined. This seems to be a very substantial majority, and such it would be reckoned in England. But the defeat of the Ministerial party there would not mean any change in the form of government. The Opposition would simply have their turn of power; but the British Constitution would remain unchanged, and everything would go on the same as before. In France, however, the defeat of the party in power would almost certainly have been tantamount to the overthrow of the Republic. It is not a question between Liberals and Conservatives, but between Constitutional Republicans and a combination of Radicals and Reactionaries. Viewed in this the majority for the party in power is not so great after all; but if it is properly handled it will probably be sufficient to maintain the existing order of things for a few years longer. This, however, is the
real difficulty. There is an ominous dearth of statesmanship amongst the French politicians of the day. During the reign of Louis Philippe a school of statesmen sprang up—some of them brilliant, and all fairly capable and honest. But this band of more or less enthusiastic constitutionalists did not suffice to prevent the Revolution of 1848, and they were utterly broken and dispersed by Louis Napoleon. Under that ruler such statesmanship as existed was, of course, of the kind suited toatyranny—accommodatingand unscrupulous; and accordingly, when the Empire at length fell with a crash, there were few men of light and leading left. Thiers was about the only survivor; and though he wasjnot by any means the best or greatest of Louis Philippe’s statesmen, he put forth, old as he was, almost superhuman exertions in the cause of his unhappy country. Of the younger generation Gambetta alone showed signs of the higher kind of statesmanship, and his career was unhappily cut short before he arrived at the maturity of his powers. M. Ferry is, perhaps, the ablest of the present race of politicians ; but he is personally unpopular, even with his own party. The administration of the Government is thus never in very capable hands. It is understood, moreover, that political purity, even in respect to the public money, is almost unknown. The wonder is, with so much blundering and corruption and so many changes of Ministry, that the Republic should have lasted so long. This fact would seem to say that the French are getting weary of revolutions. Of the two alternatives, it is probably better to tolerate a succession of corrupt and incapable Governments. Almost anything, indeed, is better than anarchy, followed as it mostly is by despotism. The worst thing undoubtedly about the Republic is its aggressive Atheism. There is no reason why abjuration of religion and hatred of the name of God should form part of Republican politics. The whole thing is a huge blunder. Nothing could be more impolitic than to give the Government such a repulsive aspect. As no Government, or succession of Governments, will ever manage to suppress the church, it is really the very height of folly to wage constant war, and especially war it outrance , even with what is called clericalism. It creates a vast number of enemies, and tends towards disorder and the destruction of the Republic itself. One of the reasons of Boulanger’s late popularity lay in the fact that he had no sympathy—no political sympathy, at any rate with the Atheistical propaganda. It is only natural that the clerical party, which no Government can afford to despise, should befriend the politicians who would support and protect its interests. The anti-clerical character of the Republic is unquestionably one of its standing dangers. Although the elections which have just taken place have gone in favor of the Republic, there are still breakers ahead. The discontent which one Government after another seemed only to intensify will soon reappear; and if, as seems almost to be the case, Boulanger has been hopelessly discredited, it will find some other mouthpiece and again threaten the existing order. There can be little doubt that the Republic has in the meantime been, in a manner, saved by the Exhibition. Some months ago a crisis was • certainly imminent. But the big bauble excited the complacent admiration of Frenchmen of all classes, and led to a kind of political truce. It would, so to speak, have been a breach of Gallic politeness to raise barricades and deluge the streets of beautiful Paris with blood while the show was going on, and so many admiring foreigners were in the city. But how long this comparatively amiable state of things will last remains to be seen. The elections appear to have been conducted in an orderly manner, and it may be that a new departure will be taken. A republic would now seem to be the proper, we might almost say the natural, form of government for France. But if the present Republic is to endure it must change its mn.nnp.ra-
It must, for one thing, cultivate as much statesmanship as shall enable it to conciliate the best men, and women too, of all parties. An aggressive Republican Government, like most of those which have lately exasperated the nation aggressive, we mean, towards its own people—is a practical contradiction in terms, and in reality strong only against itself.
THE FRENCH ELECTIONS., Issue 8026, 1 October 1889
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