Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

these may form, and have formed, the foundation of stable and permanent governments ; mere reaction, mere denial, mere dissatisfaction, mere vague desires, mere aggression on existing things—never!

To construct a firm and abiding commonwealth out of such materials, and in the face of such obstacles, is the problem the French people are called upon to conduct to a successful issue. Without a positive and earnest creed, without a social hierarchy, without free municipal institutions and the political education they bestow, without a spirit of reverence for rights, and of obedience to authority penetrating all ranks—we greatly doubt whether the very instruments for the creation of a republic are not wanting. A republic does not create these-it needs and postulates their existence."

The immediate prospects of France are gloomy and undecipherable in the extreme. No chief has yet appeared; no goal is yet in view. There is no pilot at the helm, and no haven to steer for. If, indeed, it were possible that, almost by a miracle, the popular armies now organizing in all directions should succeed in driving back or cutting off the invaders, the astonishing rescue would establish the Republic which had effected it, for a time at least, without a rival in the enthusiastic affections of the nation. But even then, in order to secure to it either a permanent life or a beneficent career, a wisdom and a virtue would be needed of which the Republican leaders have as yet given no proof or sign; even then they would have a hard contest to maintain against their own hollow theories and the wild passions and desires of their hungriest and extremest, but at the same time most devoted, supporters. Republicanism, if not repudiated by the proprietary fears of the peasantry and the bourgeoisie, would almost inevitably fall under the insane demands and the attacks in rear of the Socialistic artizans whose views it half shares, and the plundering propensities of the criminals and roughs whose material assistance it dare scarcely alienate by a determined declaration of war. Among the lower classes in France the dreams of the honest are too wild, and the aims of the base are too wicked, not to be almost insuperable dangers to any government but the most resolute and powerful. But if, as seems probable, this disastrous war must end in an unqualified surrender and a mortifying peace, it is difficult even to conjecture by what process society and government can be reconstituted; whence the initiative is to be given—where the materials are to be found. The existing ministers will be too discredited by their defeat to retain a vestige of power, and no rival is at hand to snatch the reins. A fairly elected National Assembly—especially if it could meet in some spot protected from the mob of Paris-might stumble upon some solution of the problem, if it saw as clearly as we seem to see the real need of France—the establishment, namely, of a government powerful in the adhesion of all the influential classes, as well as of the numerical majority; strong enough, there

fore, to curb with an unfearing grasp all the turbulent and vicious elements of the population, and with its strength unimpaired by the incurable paralysis ever clinging to an authority which dates from a violent and guilty origin, and must, therefore, lean on violent and guilty instruments for its maintenance. Even then, however, a rule inaugurated by the soundest and healthiest portion of the nation, and bent upon pursuing wise and honest aims, would find at the very outset a terrible obstacle to deal with, in the return home of an unbroken standing army, 350,000 strong, untaught by captivity or defeat, full of the old bad Imperial traditions and the old bad Algerian habits,—the men insubordinate, the officers luxurious and ignorant, hating Republicans, despising civilians—altogether an evil, noxious, corrupting, unmanageable thing.

W. R. GREG.

ERRATA IN THE ARTICLE ON JOSEPH MAZZINI.

Vol. XV., page 384, first note, for “Spanish and French Bourbons,” read “Spanish

Bourbons and Austrians."
page 397, line 28, for Grand Duke," read Duke of Parma.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

THIS 'HIS is the period of Drift. Swept along by wind and current, our

political and social tendencies appear to be escaping from our governance and to be maneuvred by fate. It needs no deep mind to discover it. Capping leaded leaders in our daily papers, or suggesting to the “artists” of some of the many vulgar comics— sad misnomer !-a subject of grotesque satire, the idea of Drifting is clearly recognised as a thing of the age. Drifting into war, drifting into a conference, drifting into danger, drifting into Church and State controversy, drifting to imperial dissolution—the term is now a favourite one to apply to our political movement—the tendency even seems. to be favourably acquiesced in.

DRIFTING TO IMPERIAL DISSOLUTION : I wish before heaven that I could lay hold and arrest the movement with a good, strong Samson's or Cromwell's hand! I cannot; but I have a voice, and I appeal from the politicians to the people of the Empire. Driftwood politicians; sweeping on before the breath of popularity — with no stern, proud principles to rule their motions—both parties of them eddying round and round here in a Reform whirlwind, tossed out of the way there by an Irish gust, spun about again by a GermanFrench tempest, inanely watching the play of a Russian nor'-easter —and liking it ! seeming contented with that lot, absolutely looking

[blocks in formation]

for the winds and currents as god-sends to be yielded to-glad if they blow hard enough to make it clear that is the way they must go. I pray you, any sensible bystander, any interested Briton, whose own and his children's fate is in the boat with these helmsmen; and even you, O captain and mates ! do you call this statesmanship or farce ?

Ought not these men to announce boldly in the face of us all : “This and this is our design—this is our best gospel in such and such a matter : there is the point we mean to try to reach, blow wind or run tide ever so strongly against us: if you don't approve of our intentions, they are honourable, and in all honesty don't expect us to carry out any other. Here we resign to any man who has another plan, if you think it a better one. Our scheme is true, we believe, and will hold on to be true though the very foundations of the world were discovered; and till we can preach it fairly into your convictions, we shall cease to be responsible for the steering ?” If we get not soon some such determined and specific-minded captains, brother citizens, we are lost.

At this moment we are drifting to the disintegration of our Empire. Few believe it. Few have seen the great currents sweeping away off beyond the horizon, commencing their vast circuits even at the antipodes, but ere long the cyclone will burst upon us, and every one, especially the chief officers, will acknowledge a divine wind, and calmly resign themselves to see the vessel rocked and blown to pieces, saving themselves, no doubt, “some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they_" I should like to know where our island of Melita will be, and whether the barbarians are likely to be civil. Meantime, I pray your earnest attention to the matters hereafter to be submitted, too conscious that my voice is weak in contest with the now boisterous elements of Drift, but having faith in my soul that these matters are serious and true.

The idea of the Unity of the Empire has two aspects, both involved iu the term Imperial Federalism. Viewed from the observation-point of a central, organising power, it is imperial; from the local basis of each province or colony, it involves in some degree the notion of federalism. Federalism as an imperial question relates to the union of the different constituents of the empire for imperial purposes : as a local question it has to do with imperial union for the advantage of each constituent.

It will be convenient, therefore, although these divisions must

necessarily have reciprocal relations, to regard distinctly (1) the Imperial and (2) the local aspects of Federalism.

I define Imperial Federalism to be: The doctrine of a legislative union, in the form of a confederation, of each subordinate self-governing community which is now included within the British Empire. To preserve that empire intact, on the ground that such a policy is not only imperial but dictated by the selfish interest of each constituent; to combine in some flexible and comprehensive system the great concourse of subordinate states whereof our empire is composed, for the benefit of all; and lastly, to confirm to every individual member of the Imperial Community those rights and privileges to which he is born-rights and privileges justly inalienable from himself or his children : these three things must be at once the aim and the reason for Imperial Federalism.

The gravity of the questions depending on this doctrine, every day pressing more urgently for solution, must ere long drive it to the front rank of political movement. What shall our Empire be fifty years hence? What shall become of those sons and daughters gone from our bosom to far-off territories, bearing with them a portion of our strength, our civilization, our freedom, our love of motherland? Who are to be the legatees of the vastest national estate ever accumulated in one sovereign hand? Are our colonies destined to be our weakness or our strength--to sap or to solidify our power? Is it the wisest policy to smooth the way to Imperial dissolution, or our duty and policy together, by every honest means, by every honourable bond, to perpetuate Imperial integrity? Are the hopes of unborn generations most engaged in the maintenance of an united empire, or the development of separate nations ? Such, and a hundred other questions, crop up in the hitherto unexplored regions of the subject designated by me Imperial Federalism.

I say unexplored. Federation within the empire is a fact, but Imperial Federalism has, if anything, been but a shadow. The idea, if not new, has never been more than glanced at. Its proportions loomed so wide, so magnificent, enclosed such long and endless wilds of discussion, who can wonder that, until the day of necessity came, men shrank from the exploration ? I think the day of necessity has come—the day when we must either boldly expedite this doctrine or drift to Imperial disorganization.

I have said that federation exists already within the Queen's dominions. In 1856 the proposal to confederate the British North American provinces is stated to have been regarded by Canadian statesmen “as visionary.” In 1867 it was adopted throughout those vast provinces and by the Imperial Government. This should convey to those who are prepared to magnify the obstacles to similar con

« ElőzőTovább »