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BOOK NOTICE., Issue 8026, 1 October 1889
Jaques Bonhomme: John Bull on the Continent. By Max O’Rell. J. Smithwaite, Dunedin.
This is one of those piquant, pleasant volumes, written in the peculiar style which Max O’Rell has adopted. It describes French society in its various phases and grades, showing the influence of education and custom in the formation of national character. The pictures he draws are very much in favor of life in France as compared with life in England and other countries; but, even on his own showing, his patriotic conclusions are scarcely warranted by the premises, and, possibly, conscious that others may differ from him in opinion, he asks his readers to excuse him if he “should go the length of showing a little partiality for (his) own country,” and challenges “those of his English readers who do not love England ” to cast the stone at him. As this appeal to amw patricc is put forward as an aegis behind which to justify some comparisons which might otherwise offend, he evidently regards himself perfectly safe. His little book may be fairly entitled 4 A Tourist’s Guide to French Life and Character.’ One phase of French civilisation in the administration of justice we quote for the amusement of our readers. It presents a marked contrast to British institutions, and is to our minds utterly inconsistent with the liberty and independence essential to a democracy. 4 ‘Let us see,” says O’Rell, “how French justices proceed with ’Frenchmen in trouble.’ When in England a man is arrested and informed of the charge brought against him, he says: ‘Very well, you will have to prove it ’; and the inspector at the police station says to him: 4 1 must caution you against making any statement — in fact, anything you may say will be used as evidence against you.’ When, in France, a man is accused—say, for instance, of stealing a watch—he is brought before the Commissary of Police, who invariably says to him : 4 You are charged with stealing a watch ; the best thing you can do is to make a full confession, and the judge will bo lenient with you.’ If he is guilty, and knows that the case is clear against him, he immediately makes a clean breast of it, and, as a rule, is quickly and leniently dealt with. But if he is innocent, or, if guilty, he thinks he may get out of the scrape, he, of course, answers 4 You are mistaken; lam not guilty,’ and his troubles begin. He is sent to prison, and the following day is taken before the examining judge, called juge (Vinstruclion—not in public, but in a private room. There the magistrate says to him point blank : 4 You say you are not guilty, of course ; if we were to listen to all of you, none would be guilty. Now, enough of that nonsense. You are charged with stealing a watch ; prove that you are innocent.’ Now, if the prisoner is guilty, it must be difficult to prove that he is innocent; but, for that matter, if he is innocent it may be just as difficult. ... 4 So you persist in your
denial,’ says the examining judge to the French prisoner. 1 Very well; I will send you back to your prison. I hope that the next time I send for you you will have reflected, and discovered that the best way to serve your own interests is to make a full confession.' . . . The prisoner goes
back to gaol, and the magistrate begins to get up a case against him. . . . How long is he to remain in preliminary imprisonment before being sent to a tribunal ? This entirely depends on the good pleasure of the examining magistrate, who is allowed by law to keep him a year under examination. ” _____
BOOK NOTICE., Issue 8026, 1 October 1889
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