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thing which he did himself, and which our British Government, had it then been armed with the necessary powers, would, without doubt, have been bound to prevent him from doing.
The natural and salutary jealousy, which every people should cherish of foreign interference in its affairs, is further aggravated in the case before us by the fact that the demand raises a question of much greater breadth than it seems at first sight to involve. It touches a subject-matter, in which honour is tenderly and vitally concerned. It was urged originally in terms of railing accusation, rather than of rational argument. And it required us to change our laws not only without clear indications of the ground or the extent of the alteration, but also without the decency of a previous attempt to put them into exercise, so as at least to lay some intelligible ground for the indictment against them.
Of the three parties in the cause, as it appears to us, no one stands so well as the people of England. Thus far, they at least have known their own minds, adhered to their own standing ground, and disembarrassed themselves, that there might be no mistake as to their views, of the late Ministry, as a medium of representation which exhibited them falsely to the Government of France. They have acted with the spirit that became them; and our belief is, that both in France and elsewhere their courage has been admired, their prudence not denied. But let them not be misunderstood. It is not because they sympathise with revo lution ; it is not because they are averse to the Emperor. No one, we are persuaded, acquainted with the real feeling of England will assign to either of these two causes those intelligible manifestations of its will, by which the country placed an extinguisher on the Bill for altering the Law of Conspiracy to Murder, and hurled from power by a judgment almost unanimous the parents of that ill-starred and detested measure.
In order to form anything like an historical appreciation of their conduct and feelings, we must go back to the date of the guilty and destructive attempt to assassinate the Emperor and Empress of the French, as they were about to alight at the Opera on the evening of the 14th of January.
When the news of that sanguinary attempt arrived, it was universally both deplored and condemned without mitigation or reserve by the English people of all ranks and classes. Nothing was known, at the moment, of the fact, or of the imputation, that the perpetrators of the act had commenced their macbinations in England. It was not dreamed that a case was to be got up, with the aim of making us and our laws responsible for this conspiracy. The sentiments that prevailed among us were
thoroughly natural and impartial sentiments, for they were formed while we thought that we were spectators, and had no idea that we were parties. They are, therefore, good evidence of the state of feeling in this country towards the Emperor and the Empire; and they will suffice to show whether we gave to our ally, at that critical moment, less or more than his due.
The feelings of the British people had undergone great changes with the lapse of time and with the progress of events. At the period when the attentat of the 2nd of December, 1851, occurred, that, too, was strongly and almost universally condemned in this country. Lord Palmerston, indeed, hastened at once to offer his hearty compliments to the triumphant ex-President and Emperordesignate, without committing his colleagues. But his admiration of vigour was in this case shared by few of his country
For a length of time it was evident, that approval in England lagged greatly in the rear of acceptance by France. The offence of Louis Napoleon was patent to our view; it lay in the breach of his official oath, in his trampling on liberty and law, and in his travelling to the summit of power through violence and blood. His apologies, on the other hand, were such as we had neither full means nor a ready disposition to appreciate ; the_fitful and unstable movement of representative government in France, the unstable and bewildered state of the public mind, the plea of counterplots on the part of his enemies, the power of his name in that country, his belief that in that power lay the only safety for order, for property, and for life; and the assumption, natural there, though unintelligible here, that, when brought into conflict with these primary objects, freedom itself must kick the beam.
The very sound of arguments such as these excites in the English mind an instinctive revulsion. Liberty has been with us the rare ally of excess, but its constant corrective ; the standing source and guarantee of peace and order, of stability in institutions, and of loyalty to the throne. We are hardly able to conceive that a nation like the French have been smitten by a Divine decree with an incapacity to enjoy and turn to account this inestimable boon, or that it would not with them, as with us, had it only been allowed fair play, have found in time the best remedies, alike the gentlest and the most effectual, for its own disorders and defects. Hence even the most thoughtful and tolerant of our countrymen on the whole withheld their sympathy from the inception of the Empire. But tolerance is not prominent among the English virtues : and that great portion of the British people, who are more self-willed and summary in their modes of judgment, found a short road to an adverse conclusion. At the same time there prevailed throughout the country a thorough friendliness towards France: nor could we be so blind and stupid as to hesitate a moment, either inwardly or outwardly, in acknowledging her absolute and exclusive right to solve political problems for herself and in her own fashions. These considerations availed to keep down the strong revulsion which was excited throughout England by the gigantic and successful coup d'état ; but yet not to reverse the current of inward feeling to which that revulsion had been due.
But, when once the first impression had been got over, powerful causes came into operation, which by degrees brought about a different state of feeling. We found, in the first place, that the name of Napoleon was dissociated from the old traditions of bloodshed and of conquest. We found that it was not only compatible with but significant of a foreign policy towards England at the very least as frank and friendly as we had, even in the best times, experienced at the hands of the Bourbon or the Orleans dynasties. We found that the vital interests of the Emperor were at the time bound up with the English alliance. Presently we found ourselves forced into a joint and common championship of the liberties of Europe, so seriously menaced by the machinations of Russia in the East. The partnership of toil and effort, of danger, of suffering, and of glory, knit together with a rare and happy closeness the feelings both of the governments and of the nations. We saw France right loyally perform all her engagements, and withdraw from her possession of Constantinople, the most tempting of all the prizes of the world, with a disinterestedness as conspicuous, as had been the splendid exertions of her power. The first tempestuous and blood-stained birthday of the Empire now came to be as completely forgotten by the people of England, as if it had never been heard of on this side the Channel. It is certainly a characteristic of our countrymen, that they hate to bear a grudge; and if they cannot get rid of their resentments by a quarrel, they will before long overlook them. The Emperor of the French became nearly as popular in England as the Queen ; and when he visited as a monarch these shores, within which he had long languished as an exile, there was absolutely no tribute of honour that was not lavished upon him. Nay, more, these loud acclamations virtually came from an unanimous people, in a land where unanimity on continental politics is most rare ; for if there were dissentients in that moment of exulting homage to the ally of England, they were abashed into silence, and did not obstruct, even so much as motes do in the sunshine, one ray of the light of public favour,
Critics might have asked whether, by so profuse and unmeasured an effusion of her emotion and her homage, England did not abate something of what was due to her own self-respect, and depart by a few hairs' breadths from that dignified and wise rigour of neutrality, as between successive revolutions on the Continent, which it is so evidently her duty and interest to maintain. But, at all events, it was now clear that the Emperor of the French had reached, with the English people at large, the summit of all honour which a Sovereign other than their own can receive. A curtain was drawn over the past; and on the front of that curtain were embroidered in letters of flame the exploits of his army by the side of our army, and the unbroken series of his own steady demonstrations of fidelity to the alliance with England.
It was, therefore, with a painful surprise that, when the comrades of Orsini had cast their bombs beneath the carriage of the Emperor, the people of England learned that they had been by negligence parties to the plot, and were to be included in the arraignment of the accused. In France, the culprits were arrested by the police, and the Emperor, with an appearance of heat and haste that are unusual in him, announced the necessity of repressive laws. In effect to judge from the manifestations of a press which must be taken to represent the government, it was deemed to be desirable, that the attention of the French nation should be diverted to a foreign country.
It is undeniable that there was a fatal discrepancy between two simultaneous utterances of the government of France; and the logical flaw, which it was so easy to detect, was understood to be in fact the index of a purpose lying beneath the surface. The Emperor we were told was calm, but the country was excited. The fervid affection of the people outran the care and caution of the Government, and spent itself, as we were informed, in energetic demands that a few foreigners, the refuse of all nations, who were harboured in England, should no longer be tolerated in their machinations against the peace of society in that country and against the person of its ruler. But if the French people were thus fervent and thus united in sentiment, and if the nation abhorred the attempts of these aliens who could only find a standing-point abroad, then surely, whatever the call upon us might be, the demand for restrictive laws in France became utterly unintelligible. It was strange indeed that an affectionate people, labouring with loyal emotion which it could ill control against these criminal attempts, should be rewarded, by the very Government which acknowledged and proclaimed its devotion, with the tightening of its bonds, and with the most glaring practical proofs that the people were suspected
by the sovereign. This was not and could not be a mere idolum fori, or error of reasoning; it seemed rather to be a disclosure of the cloven foot.
It is impossible in our judgment to overstate the amount and effect of the error committed on this occasion by the usually sagacious Napoleon III. Its consequences were varied and separate ; but were all alike injurious for England, and disastrous for France. In France the contradiction was glaring between the new restraints* on liberty, and the verbal ascriptions to the people of an overboiling devotion. Nor is it difficult, when words and acts cross the path of one another, to know which will be taken to express the truth. It may be true, that what can now be done in France by law was done before by that portentous modern illegality, the measure of police taken by way of prevention. Still, that the Emperor should inscribe new rigours on the page of law, was a fact of great and formidable significance. It seemed to be an authoritative declaration, that a throne founded on force had not unlearned the bias of its beginnings, and that its original instrument was likewise to be its standing guarantee. Of the effect, however, which has been produced upon the feelings of France by the measure, and by many hundreds of arrests and deportations under its provisions, though we hear much, we are unable adequately to judge: that is a French question, and our very last wish would be to interfere for the purpose of embroiling it. But the bearing upon England was also immediate and powerful. In the first place, the proposal for repressive laws in France, coming contemporaneously with the demand upon England, utterly belied, to our distant apprehensions, the expressions of reliance upon French loyalty-seemed even to turn them into
mockery-and drove us to conclude that these enactments beyond the Channel were part of a scheme and a policy that aimed at putting down the last remnants of liberty, whether in thought or in action. In the second place, it gave a new character to our part of the affair, to the remonstrances which were pressed upon us. The Emperor might, so it appeared to the mind of England, have availed himself of the horror excited by the attempt of January 14, to answer in a generous tone to the awakened sympathies of the French nation. He might have thrown his arms wide to embrace them, have cast himself upon the protection which their love would afford—the only protection that could or can be permanent on his behalf—and by taking that very occasion to add to rather than to pare down the modicum and remnant
* The nature and operation of the new law may be seen from a warrant issued under it, which will be found in the Daily News of April 3, incorporated in a letter from Mazzini to the editor.