The Royal Family of France (Henry)/Introduction
We do not belong, it is true, to the schools of Politics or Diplomacy, to that privileged class of men who are vowed to the study of international evils and of the means to combat them. To a certain extent, therefore, it is a bold act on our part to dare set before the eyes of men of practical experience an Essay which cannot but betray a lack of science, as well as of the requisite capacity for treating of so delicate a subject as the history of the completely legitimate, though shamefully usurped, rights of the Royal Family of a foreign country. But since educated men are ever indulgent to one who, in good faith, and with praiseworthy intent, desires to contribute, as far as he can, to the welfare of his fellows, whether friends or strangers, we think that our rashness will find an excuse in his eyes, on the ground of the feelings which have prompted this humble work.
If in this short Essay there is nothing entirely new or original, it can at least serve to induce competent readers, impressed with the advantages which may accrue to mankind from the deep study of the rights of each individual, to enter upon the necessary research with the devotion and attention that is due to so deeply interesting a subject.
History Proper is the written testimony of our fellow-men's past or present deeds, of our fellow-men's exemplary loyalty to truth and justice, or of their cowardly subserviency to lies and injustice. This idea sums up, on the one hand, the whole and sole source of a man's right to his fellow-man's gratitude or scorn; whilst it plainly shows, on the other side, why many a man indefatigably searches through and other men deliberately shun the eloquent and impressive Annals of Time. We are writing from both past and present History, and our fervent hope is, that this our present work may prove a timely warning against any ignorant, misunderstood, or distorted reading of the History of France, especially for the last thirty-five years. We do not profess to judge; we are studying the History of France, which we are bidden to teach the young entrusted to our care. We will not substitute our own views: we simply take to and shape our task according to the safe control of French tradition and the realities of French life. We are not slavishly bound to any foregone conclusions, and our only guide in our study of History, of opinions, and of principles, is the past and existing state of things, which decidedly is the most eloquent protest against the immoral and unlawful perpetrations of many contemporary politicians in Europe just now. In the present age, other views may be common; but many there are still who would rather remain old-fashioned enough to keep faith to old creeds, and who dare reply to the modern sceptic, that, in spite of his science, there are "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy." There is a time when it is clearly demonstrable that men cease to be Representatives of the people. That time seems now arrived for France. The French Parliament now sitting at Paris do not represent the people, and it is not cancelling a piece of parchment that can win back a nation. Legislators—be they of the deepest tint of aristocracy or a horde of hoary jobbers and "gentlemen of the road"—must respect the fears and resentments of the bulk of that nation.
A fair field given them and yet unwon, a continuous waste of time and public money, and disquieting signs of the times, with a pregnant significance of their own, only show for the third time—no fair-minded observer is ignorant of this curious phenomenon—that French Republicans naturally and inevitably lead their country to the ever same end: breaking the heart and sucking the brains of France, and unsettling the peaceful relations of European Powers. In short, whatever be the policy and views of the men of that party—be they those of a tame and apathetic King Pétaud or those of the one-eyed Opportunists with their packs of mad and sanguinary hounds—the ever same conclusion appears the only practical and wise one to come to with nations strangers to such Schools of politics: some evils, worse than any we know of lurk beneath the attractive name of a pure "Democracy," Republican first, and patriotic next.
In the present instance, we are judging from the stormy sky. And we may safely foreshadow the future by the past, and predict with certainty that the end (however far distant it may be), will crown the conduct of the piece at the Elysium: political dishonour and suicide will terminate the career of contemporary Republicans in France, just like the exasperating and disgusting policy of their predecessors stopped short the latter on their perilous way, and caused the ignominious and timely fall of the first two Republics. Were they fair-minded men, Republicans and other partisans everywhere else, as much as among Frenchmen, would read History, and take its warnings to heart, clinging as fast to History and to the good institutions of their country, as to a life-saving buoy. Molyneux, who first formulated the case of Ireland, lays down a proposition which is as true of the current political and social transactions of the French, as of the transaction to which he applies it: "If a villain, with a pistol at my breast, makes me convey my estate to him, no one will say that this gives him any right, and yet such a title as this has an unjust conqueror (Republican or Imperial, political or social), who, with a sword at my throat, forces me into submission."
It is acknowledged all over the world, that MM. Léon Gambetta and Clemenceau are the past, present, and coming Head Managers of the Third Commonwealth of the French. As to M. Gambetta, facts show how soon and how miserably that dethroned Numidian god failed when at the helm, mercilessly used up in no time, caught in his own net of woven fancies, "of Heaven, and earth, and God, and men forlore," after scorning the base degrees whereby he did ascend. "Luckless speech," with "bootless boast," sum up his past official career, for which an Englishman would have to pay full dear by being sent "upon the lonesome wild," and there sing his solitary song. Is France greater in truth, and the middle or labouring classes in France happier? Quite the reverse, to all appearances. As was expected by those who know Frenchmen: high-sounding speeches, dishonoured pledges, political uneasiness, social disturbances, a fast approaching civil war, a ferocious bigotry (the laughing-stock of Europe) which robs Frenchmen of even "freedom to worship God," the rottening of the sound imaginations and feelings of a nation naturally generous, moral, religious, highly intelligent, and brave, but unstable, alas! as water, and pliable as the reed that is shaken by the wind. That constitutes MM. Léon Gambetta's and Clemenceau's balance-sheet for 1875-1882. Such are the results naturally to be expected from any man engaged in politics, who hangs on weak concessions for party ends, made especially to a "popular" clamour of which the distinctly cowardly and brutal features cannot and shall not be tolerated by Monarchical Europe.
"Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
Shame and ruin wait for you!"
Past and current History at least allow a stranger to think that French Monarchists, Conservative and Liberal, have given and would give again a better account of themselves, and that both France and all classes of Frenchmen would more comfortably fare at the hands of men who own a nature not less patriotic (to say the least), are possessed of more self-reverence, self-knowledge, and self-control; of a knowledge of both France and the world at large not less practical, far wider, less narrow and in truth less prejudiced, nay, more sincere than the bubbling and muddling sets of current Republicans. Who is there who, being thoroughly acquainted with our neighbouring friends over the Channel, will deny that, both at home and abroad, France will prove happier under less visionary theorists and less furious patriots? More hopefulness and quietude, at all events, more religion and morality therefrom, more oneness in feeling and interest between French people decidedly would grow speedily in the place of sensitive and selfish Babelites who grow nothing else but social disaffection and political Revolution. For these unfortunate ones we heartily utter Pindar's fervent request to Jupiter:—
"Grant them, O Jove! each crooked path to shun,
Single and straight their honest race to run!
So may theirs be
No name to tinge with shame their children's cheek!
Gold, lands, let others seek;
They ask an honoured grave, the good to adorn,
And load the vile with scorn."
Wishing for them Shakespeare's consoling and truly patriotic speed:—
"Fear no more the heat of the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages."
- November, 1882.
M. Léon Gambetta's death.
We may not here dwell on the startling passing away of M. Gambetta since we wrote this Essay. May God have dealt very graciously with him! Anyhow, we see that God alone is All-wise; and the enemies alike of His religion and kings no longer see how to defend that presumptuous wisdom which too long they believed infallible; and for the moment those giddy men are staggering in disappointment and exasperation by the shock of their chief's death. Let us mourn over their strange insensibility or, worse still, over the mischief which their shortsightedness inflicts on the men and women of France, and indeed very truly on themselves.
L. E. H.