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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/324

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318
PARLIAMENTS.

That the existence of the late French Assembly was brought suddenly to a close was known to every one; but few persons except those who have read the verbatim reports published in the official journal have any notion in what a very singular way a French Assembly goes on while it is still in existence, and what very troubled scenes prevail during its discussions. It is hard to understand how discussion goes on at all in an Assembly which permits itself to behave in such an extraordinary way. The interruptions to a speech often take up more space in the report than the speech itself. A running fire of provocative comments is kept up, and excited members shake their fists at each other, and are continually dashing into what is called the hemicycle in order to vent their fury against the occupant of the tribune. Perhaps no sitting of the late Assembly was more perturbed than its last, when it adopted the order of the day against the new government. Three speakers, all Republicans, alone spoke, and they neither had much to say nor said much; but they were so often interrupted that it took many columns of the official journal to report all that was said. M. Louis Blanc was one of the speakers, and said, in his accustomed rhetorical way, that just indignation was the salt which kept nations from corruption. On this his speech was interrupted by a member who thought it appropriate to observe that French citizens are not hams. M. Blanc proceeded to say that the republic would survive the attacks made on it, and on this one of his antagonists invited him to favor them with a lecture on '93 and the Commune. A supporter of the orator sprang forward to exclaim that this was a cowardly remark. The president implored him to come out of the hemicycle, and he obeyed; but disorder soon again prevailed. M. Blanc remarked that the Duke of Broglie often invoked order without understanding what it meant; and on this that notorious personage M. Paul de Cassagnac called out that M. Blanc had better say at once that the duke was une bête, but at least he could not be said to be a red beast. A little later on there was a general cry from the Left that M. Paul de Cassagnac ought to hold his tongue, to which he replied that he should hold his tongue only if he pleased. The president on this remarked that he must bow to the decisions of the Chamber, and received the reply that M. de Cassagnac would bow or not as he thought best. What could an affronted president do? We do not know, and perhaps M. Grévy did not exactly know, but what he did was to observe, "C'est un scandale que cette attitude-là" and then the debate went on in its usual confused manner. Vivacity is a good thing in its way; but the French carry their vivacity in parliament to a point which is calculated to distress the calm admirer of representative institutions.

The latest flower of parliamentary life is, however, said to be the loveliest, and experienced observers ask us to study and appreciate the demeanor and conduct of the Ottoman Assembly. The Turks are stated to take their parliamentary pleasure in a very serious and satisfactory way. They do not sit, as it was anticipated, cross-legged on the ground, but bolt upright on benches in a state of grave discomfort. They have desks provided for them which they do not use. They make short speeches with sufficient fluency and much earnestness, and, above all, they actually listen with keen attention to what is said by successive speakers. There is no want of independence about them; they attack obnoxious ministers freely, sometimes refuse what is demanded of them, and bring to the notice of the sultan and the public the grievances which torment them. All this is very creditable to them, but they are quite powerless. The ministers whom they denounce flourish as supreme as ever. They tell the tales of suffering which they have witnessed in their provinces, but no one takes any heed. When our spangled friend the shah returned to his humble home, he hit on the ingenious expedient of having boxes put up in the streets where complaints of misgovernment were to be deposited. And he hoped, if he could but understand what his subjects wanted, to rival in a distant way the progress of the West. His feeble attempts at reform were, however, immediately suppressed by those who surrounded him, and the Ottoman parliament seems destined to fulfil a position not very unlike that of the shah's boxes. The sultan is said to look on his parliament with favor, and not to be above enjoying the denunciations of his favorites. But he does not venture to dismiss the imperious pashas who have got hold of him. He has something more pressing to think of than the grievances of his subjects. He has ever in his mind the thought how easily a dagger or a prison might terminate his career. A palace revolution is the eternal spectre of Oriental despots, and the fear of such a revolution always comes between the