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of the press,
commencement of 1835, at which time there were but two hundred and ninety-nine. Paris, with its one million of inhabitants, has nearly half as many periodicals as have the Departments, with their thirty-two millions. The metropolis is the centre of bold thinkers and of strong writers. It is the centre of great political and literary action, and here centres the powerful agitation
agitation whose results are not confined within these narrow walls, but which branch out and penetrate into the farthest borders of the realm.
Liberty now reigns in France, say thousands. Is the French Press free? you may ask. May it publish whatever it please, checked only by the fear of judicial prosecution? The question is an interesting one. By the Press, I mean the knowledge and the opinions it reveals, which in such revelation becomes the clearest, loudest, most emphatic exponent of the progress of the age. The Constitutional Charter, in its article seventh, says :- Les Français ont le droit de publier, et de faire imprimer leurs opinions en se conformant aux lois. La censure ne pourra jamais etre retablie.' Under this article, the law provides that any one, arrived at age and enjoying civil rights, may establish a press. This establishment, however, is usually made by an association with a capital of from five to seven hundred thousand francs. If the journal is to deal in politics, the company are bound to deposite with the government a cautionnement, or security, to the amount of one hundred thousand francs. The Charte, as we have seen, says that Frenchmen may publish their opinions
en se conformant aux lois. What now is the surface of the circle upon which French law permits the French Press to move; or rather, what is the circumference of that circle? Is it small, or is it comprehensive ? An answer to these questions must furnish a picture of the condition, authorized by law, of this Press, so far at least as its liberty is concerned. That circumference is small. The laws prescribing it are vaguely framed, and difficult are they of interpretation. Almost every week witnesses a transgression of it. Five days ago, I write upon the 11th January, 1837, —the Siècle, the Temps, the Courrier Français; and on Monday last, the France, the Quotidienne, the Gazette de France; and on the Tuesday following, the Mode, appeared before the Cour d'Assises to answer for having thus transgressed. The laws of the 9th September, 1835, are those which have most fearfully narrowed the freedom of the French Press. The two great ends which those laws contemplate-I take the words from the Charte of 1830, a governmental organ -are first, 'de detruire, ou du moins, de réduire au silence la presse anti-dynastique,' (the legitimatist press); and secondly,'d'enfermer la presse dynastique, (the opposition) dans les limites du droit du discussion. What are some of these laws? Whoever soit
des écrits, des imprimés, des dessins, des gravures, des placards, &c., &c., &c.' attacks the principle on which the government of 1830 is established ; or refers to the king the blame and responsibility of the acts of goyernment; or attributes the rights of the throne of
France to any other than Louis Philippe and his posterity; or publicly avows his adhesion to a republican, or any other government incompatible with the charter of 1830; or expresses any threat respecting the constitutional monarchy, or any hope or wish favorable to the fallen dynasty; or attacks the constitutional authority of the king, or the inviolability of his person; or assails any members of the royal family, the rights and authority of the chambers, or the established reli. gion :-whoever commits any of these offences, shall be punished with imprisonment from one month to five years, and with a fine of from three hundred to six thousand francs. These are some of the famous laws of September. Through them may be beheld the present spirit of French legislation on the Press. They stand forth, another living witness to the old truth, that possessors of political power, too often forgetting the principles which elevated them, will shake tyranny with a cordial hand, if thereby they may sit surer in their seats. It was an assault upon the Press which wrought the last revolution. For that assault, the Bourbons pine away in exile at Prague, and Charles X. moulders in an obscure tomb at Goritz. The tendency of recent legislation is to renew the scenes of 1830. There are, moreover, other restrictive laws-laws of 1819 and 1822—laws whose spirit is severe, and whose language like that of those recently enacted, is comprehensive and most vague. What is the publication which shall constitute an offence? "You shall not assail the inviolability of Louis Philippe,' says
the law. And what is an assault upon that inviolability? The journalist is in perpetual doubt. You shall not make remount to the king, the responsibilities of governmental acts.' What shall constitute an offence under such a prohibition ? Last week the Siècle was seized by order of the minister. In commenting upon that seizure, the Journal des Debats, a governmental paper too, says, “ We have attentively read the article alluded to, and cannot possibly discover a reason for the proceedings of the minister.' What was that reason ? Count Persil imagined that therein he beheld an attempt to prove that the responsibility of certain recent public acts rested, not on the shoulders of his ministers, but on Louis Philippe. His life was hence endangered. Judgment by default, however, was against the Siècle. Its gerant was condemned in a fine of two thousand francs, and to an imprisonment for two months. But let us suppose the journal acquitted. It is triumphant. Still the government has had the benefit of the seizure. It has harassed the Siècle. It has interrupted its free course into the hands of its subscribers. It has prevented its feared sentiments from working their feared results. A seizure, as it is called, is no small vexation. It is made by a commissary of the police. Into his hands is placed, on a complaint to a Juge d'Instruction, by a procureur-du-roi—the complaint itself being made on the suggestion of the minister of justice-a warrant, signed by said judge, ordering him to go at once to the office of the journal containing any exceptionable matter, to the post-office, and to what other place soever it may be necessary, and there to seize upon all the copies of said journal, and to convey them to the registry of the tribunal. The objectionable ideas are thus arrested ere they have passed into the cities and villages of the departments, or have even contaminated the salons of the metropolis. The censorship is abolished, says the Charter. Alas, its form only is abolished. Its spirit, its vigor, its terrible power, still survive. These seizures are extremely frequent. The La France has just been seized for representing the laws of September as ineffectual. The Messager
. and the Journal de Paris were lately seized. And why? No reason was assigned. The act was denounced as insufferable tyranny. A suspected person had then been dragged to prison without an informa-, tion of his crime. Such things, you will say, are damning proofs of rottenness in the state.
The object of these seizures is twofold ;—to harass the party whose organ is thus seized, and to prevent from passing, through this channel, into the minds of the French people, ideas which may jeopardize the government of 1830. Behold one of the means for preserving firm the foundations of the throne! To
Το keep in subjection the political passions of France, her political mouth is half muzzled. The legitimate consequences of this policy begin to be revealed. The wrathful heart, particularly of a Frenchman, will out. If it may not speak through the press, it will through the dagger and the pistol.