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Imperialism has fallen; and with it France has for the present disappeared from among the great Powers. With Metz in foreign hands, she is much in the same position as that of Paris when the Prussians had turned upon her the guns of Mont Valerien. Her eastern frontier is wholly exposed; she must feel as Lombardy did while Austria held the Quadrilateral.
As far as material influence is concerned, France is become a second-rate state. She must confine her aim to doing what she has so often done before—influencing the world of ideas. She did this in the Middle Ages in a way which we seldom sufficiently appreciate; she did it in a less
* (1.) Documents Authcntiques Annates. Les Pcipiers Secrets du Second Empire, edition. "Hat lux." Bruxelles: Office <le Publicite. 1870.
(2.) La Guerre de 1870: rEsprit Parisien. produil du regime Imperial. Par Emile LeCL.ERCQ. 5e Idition. Bruxelles. 1870.
(3.) Napoleon I", et son Historien, M. Thiers. Par Jules Barni. Paris, Germer-Bailliere.
New Series.—Vol. XIV., No. 2.
degree during the post-Reformation period, for then her own religious wars and the preponderance of Germany had thrown her somewhat into the shade; she did it most of all when the Encyclopedisteshega.n to claim for her a definite position as the world's teacher. This position she had not formally claimed before. Under the old regime she had been slowly getting welded together; feudalism, carried out more "logically" in France than elsewhere, had kept her provinces almost as. distinct as so many little German kingdoms. I.ouis XL's policy, indeed, did for the French noblesse much what the Wars of the Roses did for ours; and Louis XIV., by giving the higher classes a taste
(4.) Hiitoirc de Napoleon I". Par P.. LanFREY. Paris: Charpentier. 1867-70. Vols. I. to IV.
(5.) Napoleonic Petit. ParV. Hucoi Bruxelles. 1852.
(6.) Romans Nationaux. Par ErckmannChatrian. Paris: HetzeL 1868-70.
(7.) Louis's own Account of the Fight at Dame Europa's School. Literally translated from the French. London: J. Camden Hbtten. 1871.
for Court life, drew them together and trained them to a community of habits and aims; but the mass of provincials were scarcely affected by this centralization of a single class. Louis XIV., however, did one thing more: he secured to Paris that fatal predominance which has ever since made her the arbitress of the national destinies. While saying "fctat S est moi," he so arranged that very soon the Parisians could say, Paris d est la France. The great writers, too, lent their influence to glorify the capital: the town-loving spirit was strong in them all. Paris got more and more supreme, while at the same time the efforts of the Government were divided between crushing out provincial independence and meeting the ruinous expenditure of a Court always luxurious and very often warlike. Hence a tendency in the old regime to a more and more strictly personal government. Feudal liberties were crushed; feudal tyranny was aggravated. The provincial parliaments, and that of Paris into the bargain, gradually lost even the semblance of power; and the old system degenerated into despotism.
The Revolution, while superficially breaking upx this system, left untouched those parts of it which some say are grounded on the peculiarities of French character. It intensified centralization, and it practised most oppressively that interference with the rights of the individual which is of the essence of personal government. The very men who so loudly proclaimed the principles of '89 were found most ready to act on rules which led them straight to the lawless tyranny of the Terror. Their "ideas" were grand, but personal freedom was far too trifling a thing to be allowed to stand in their way for a moment. In one point the Revolution diverged from the old regime: it became intensely and deliberately propagandist—bent, i.e., on carrying forward, with the strength of the whole nation, the mission which the thinkers of Voltaire's day had assigned to themselves. We often find that the man who believes in nothing in particular is the most violent in opposing the belief of others. So it was with the leaders of the Revolution: they were mad to spread their doctrines over Europe; and their doctrines being those of Paris, Paris became (in Frenchmen's
eyes) the recognized head, not of France only, but of the civilized world.
Imperialism was at first a reaction from despotic anarchy; the dread of another Terror made the French welcome with delight a man who seemed strong enough to be "the saviour of society." So it was again in 1849, when the Socialist struggle, in which 13,000 Parisians perished, so alarmed the successful "bourgeois," that to prevent its repetition they condoned the coup d'etat. Ideas, it was said in 1795, were ruining France; the men of ideas had been beaten in the field; Imperialism therefore meant military glory as the basis of French prosperity. Frenchmen were content to believe that (as M. Louis Blanc said the other day at Bordeaux) "glory and liberty are incompatible," and deliberately to choose the former.
Of course the Imperialism of 1852 differs somewhat from that of 1804, but it is the same in its intense selfishness, and its thorough insincerity. Lender the second Empire there have been commercial treaties and alliances, and the working class has found good wages, so long as it has been content with political nothingness; but the two will be seen to be the same in principle. Each has the radical evil of depending on success in war, or peace, or both, for its stability; and this necessary instability makes them more hopeless as systems than the old r&gime, with all its corruptness, or even than the wild theories of the Republic*
But it is needless to enlarge on the manifest causes which make a hereditary monarchy stable so long as it is not wholly intolerable. The same causes make the best of "tyrannies" (in the Greek sense of the word) unstable. Men as " logical" as Frenchmen are sure to feel that if such a government is not fulfilling the purpose of its creation, it had better cease to exist; and feeling with Frenchmen generally means action.
* The ex-Emperor's selfishness is proved by his never having tried to introduce anything answering to our Poor Law, with the working of which he must have been thoroughly acquainted. Our system is far from perfect; but it saves us from those terrible food-revolutions, one of which has so lately made Paris such a pitiable sight. Louis 'Napoleon preferred the French voluntary system, because he always hoped to get the ouvriert in hand (as he had got the peasants), and to use them too, against any rising of the more intelligent classes.
The first Napoleon had immense success on his side; he " saved France," in his own fashion, and so long as he was successful, very few Frenchmen cared to inquire into the soundness of the method employed. The third Napoleon had in his favor the remembrance of his uncle's success, and the fact that the regne du bavardage had failed as completely in 1849 as it had done in the days of the Directory. Both were helped, too, by tile systematic lying of their newspapers, which, amid the enforced silence of all •who would not speak as they did, could say what they pleased without fear of contradiction. Both, too, were able administrators: Louis points out, in "his own Account of the Fight at Dame Europa's School"—a bitter satire on the selfish insincerity of Imperialism—how hard he worked for years, and how by repressing them with one hand and giving them employment with the other, he controlled the terrible Paris canaille. This is, in fact, his solitary claim for forgiveness. But both fell when the moment of pressure came, and the fall of the nephew is irreparable: for him there can be no "hundred days ;" even the boundless capabilities of treachery which he found in Bazaine failed to do anything but seal his fate by convincing France that, whereas the uncle shed French blood like water in support of his selfish ambition, the nephew actually paltered with the enemy, and betrayed the strongest fortress in the country, in the vain hope of securing foreign support.
It is plain to the most superficial observer that of all the things which have collapsed in France since last July, none has collapsed so hopelessly as Imperialism. When the ex-Emperor rushed into war as the only way of staving off a revolution, France showed herself (as she so often has done at critical periods of her history) culpably passive. There were complaisant prefects who assured his Majesty that his people went with him heart and soul; there were crowds, hired or not, such as can always be collected in any great city, who shouted Vive la guerre and d, Berlin; but the peasantry still believed that the Empire meant peace; and when they afterwards found war come upon them, they fancied (so strong was their faith in Napoleon) that it was the Prussians who were the aggressors. Just in the same
way on the eve of the Spanish war, in 1808, the servile Senate said: "Sire, the will of the French people goes along with you. This Spanish war is just and necessary. Fathers envy their sons the glory of rushing to join your ranks, and of winning another Marengo and another Austerlitz." And this farce was kept up at a time when the conscription had grown so odious that the Government had to imitate Louis XIV.'s dragonnades, and to quarter garnisaires upon the families of those lads who had escaped to the woods, or had fled across the frontier.
France was passive in July, 1870, as she was more than once during the first Napoleon's career; the difference is, that the nephew's army, on which he was supposed to have lavished so much thought and money, and which, since the coup d'itat, he had pampered into prretorian insolence, failed him utterly both for defence and offence; whereas the uncle always had something which he could trust to fight well, if not to win battles.
Since Sedan, France, no longer passive, has worked wonders; and every step in her work has made a relapse to the old state of things more impossible. "The man of Sedan," it was felt all along, could never return, except behind Prussian bayonets. Had he, on that last fatal day, cut his way, at whatever loss, through the encompassing host, and, throwing himself on Paris, raised a levee en masse to the old cry of "the country in danger," matters might have turned out very differently, both for him and for France; but he could not have so acted without denying his own principles. His whole career had been an attempt to juggle with universal suffrage while practising the narrowest despotism, and now to appeal in real earnest to popular principles, and to give the pledges necessary to make that appeal a serious one, was an impossibility for the man who had eagerly snatched at the chances of war which the crafty Bismarck threw in his way rather than honestly carry out the liberal measures which he had at last been forced to adopt. There is a point beyond which charlatanism cannot go. Thrice had the uncle felt that this kind of appeal is useless when it is contrary to a man's whole antecedents: once at Arcis-sur-Aube, when in the midst of the battle, Sebastiani said, "Are these all your Majesty's forces?' "Every man