« ElőzőTovább »
his meddling with or disturbing, except with the extremest
dence, however, with which these innovators and off-hand reformers, go to work, we have a striking evidence in the unhesitating adoption of the principle of universal suffrage, by the framers of the new or last constitution adopted by the late grand assemblage of deputies, which came so much nearer forming a full representation of the people of France, than any previous body of the same kind, has ever before done. When we consider the great preponderance in France, of the poor and needy classes over the rich, and the necessity which exists there, for the presence of a large standing force, which is always closely connected, by the mode of recruiting its ranks, with the great body of the people, and which has been accustomed to subsist by conquest and plunder ;* the introduction of the above principle, in mere imitation of this country, where a wholly opposite state of things exists, or where the well-off and propertied classes, so greatly out number the necessitous and destitute; we have a pregnant instance of the disre* gard to all practical considerations, and blind devotion i§ mere abstractions and popular dogmas. which mark all the i proceedings and legislative innovations of the mischievous
• The large army of France forms the same useful safety-valve for tetting of the surplus population and getting rid of the mauvaia mjets—who might prove troublesome at home, as our Western territories do, in this country. While their armies were employed in making foreign conquests, and were maintained abroad, they still more effectually served the purpose of relieving the nation of the presence of that class so numerous in Europe, who are far more useful to their country when out of i', or when employed as soldiers, than when idling at home. Now, however, that the system of foreign conquest is renounced, or at least disavowed by France, and a large body of military is kept in Paris and in its neighborhood, the sympathy of such a body with the people, with whom they are in various ways closely connected, and with whom, therefore, they always take sides and fraternize, in every convulsion, renders the enforcement of any thing like proper control, on the part of the government, wholly inpracticable, and forms a new species of popular tyranny, supported by a standing army, and riding over all order, law and legitimate authority- Such a state of things must, sooner or later, lead to some fearful revolution, or to commotions even more bloody and destructive thin those which have so long rendered France, politically, what Iceland is physically—the region of never ceasing convulsions, of evershaking earthquakes, volcanoes, and still renewing storms.
Since this was written, we have met with the following passage in a letter from Lond in, published in the National Intelligencer of the 3d of July: "It is found that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction among the national guards; in fact, the present. disturbances commenced by a demonstration made by these very men. The artillery of the national guards is notoriously revolutionary, and a decree has been issued by the president of the republic for its being disbanded."
rashness and confix theorists and revolutionary zealots who have so long disturbed and distracted, and who, if not arrested in their mad career, must finally ruin by their rashness and ignorance the beautiful but unhappy country over which, like straw-crowned and blanket-robed maniacs, who have at last had their wild dreams of sovereignty realized, now despotically rule, and fantastically reign. An examination of the leading provisions and fundamental principles of the various constitutions, which have succeeded each other in France at nearly as short intervals as they do in the volume of Mr. Roelker, will serve to show that their framers, unlike the law-givers of antiquity, who assimilated their institutions, as closely as was consistent with the object of rendering them improvements on preceding systems, to the existing condition of the people and the state of the society for which they were legislating, have occupied themselves exclusively with the mere frame-work of government, or with its details as a form of polity, to which it appears to have been their object to impart a theoretical psrfection, rather than to give it a day-useful and practical character. The connection, in a word, between government and society, though the most important of all subjects, is one to which it is evident that French philosophers and constitution-mongers have paid but little attention, and seem to consider as scarcely worthy of their study. Exclusive of the evidence afforded by their universal adoption of universal suffrage, of their disregard of all the lessons of experience, and of the dictates of that sober wisdom, which looks rather at that which "lies before us in daily life," than vainly aims at unattainable good, or possible perfection, we find in all the bills of rights, and the preambles to the constitutions contained in Mr. Roelker's volume, that the institution of property, which forms the very corner-stone of civil society, and a careful protection of which is ever the chief ouject of all wise and wellordered governments, is treated as a mere incidental subject, in the enumeration of the higher objects which it is the ostensible purpose of these elaborate-framed charters to advance and secure. Thus, the constitution of the 24th of June 1793, begins with the following flourish:
"The French people, convinced that oblivion and contempt of the natural rights of man are the only causes of calamities in the world. has resolved to explain these sacred and inalienable rights in a solemn declaration, that all citizens, by comparing always tbe acts of the government with the whole social union, may never suffer themselves to be oppressed and dishonored by tyranny; that the people may always have before its eyes the fundamental pillars of its liberty and welfare, and the authorities the standard of their duties, and the legislator the object of his problem.
"It accordingly makes, in the presence of the Highest Being, the following declaration of the rights of man and of the citizens:
"1. The object of society is the general welfare. Government is instituted to insure to man the free use of his natural and inalienable rights.
"2. These rights are equality, liberty, security, property.1'
Again, it is set forth in section 8, that "Security rests ou the protection given fey society to each of its members, for the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property." In article 122, entitled "The Guaranty of Rights," it is repeated, with unnecessary surplusage, that
"The constitution guarantees to all Frenchmen equality, liberty, security, property," &.c.
The constitution of the 23d of September, 1795, begins in the same strain, or with a similar array of mere abstractions, "signifying nothing," but in which property is, as usual, the last item in the category, and seems rather to be brought in to finish a sounding sentence than as being deemed a necessary addition to the objects specified.
"art. I. The rights of man in society are freedom, equality, security, property."
While the.fine principles and maxims so eloquently set forth in the preamble or proem to the constitution—from which we first quoted—did not, as we need scarcely say, place the unhappy French people a whit nearer to the attainment of the blessings of free government than they were before this specimen of composition was thus ostentatiously prefixed to the new Churte, they might, perhaps, have derived some benefit from a more practical lesson; or had they been more truly taught, that however important freedom and equality and the inalienable rights of man may be, in the estimation of theorists and enthusiasts, they rank but as secondary objects with the wise and prudent legislator, who ever directs his chief attention i
to, and is careful first to throw proper safeguards around those more homely interests and essential rights which men seek to secure\by entering into society and submitting to the restraints of government. That among these the protection of property, (however prosaic the phrase may sound to French philosophes and Parisian revolutionists, who always commence their experiments emeutes, declarations and manifestos, by fine phrases and well-turned sentences on the subject of equality, liberty and fraternity,) is among the first and most important, inasmuch as it is the priticipiurn el fans, or prime source, of all those social arid intellectual improvements by which man is gradually elevated from the savage to the civilized state; by which he at last acquires a knowledge of his dignity and position as a moral being; and finally learns to appreciate and aspire to the possession of that inestimable but regulated liberty, which consists in each individual being allowed to enjoy all his own rights, without infringing upon those of Others. In the late work of Monsieur Guizot, (Democracy in France,) we had confidently expected to meet with at least some passing comments upon the ever-recurring errors and blunders of the constitution-makers of his country, and some reference to those more conservative principles and juster views of government that prevail in England and this country, and which, it might have been supposed, would at length have forced themselves upon the attention of a statesman of his supereminent talents, gieat experience and rare political opportunities. Nevertheless, after having carefully read the volume through, we are constrained to say, that whatever may be its merits as a vindication of the government and administration of the late French king and his ministry, of which Mons. Guizot formed the head, (a subject on which we have no design to enter,) we certainly do not find in it any of those wide and well-considered views, those practical and profound suggestions, or searching examinations into the great constitutional questions of the day, which, more or less, agitate the leading minds of Europe, and which we expected to meet with in the pages of a writer who has been equally distinguished in the cabinet and in the closet, and who, in a period of agitation and unprecedented public difficulties, was placed at the head, and long guided the affairs of one of the most potent and enlightened governments of the old
world. A writer in the Southern Quarterly Review, April, 1849, in an able notice of the work, justly observes that "that with the evidence before him of strifes the most barbarous, governments the most unstable, a people the most capricious, and sanguinary revolutions, that are never natural or gradual, never harmless and never beneficial, which advance the country nothing, which leave its institutions no more settled or secure, its repose no more certain, its hopes no more promising, its virtues no higher, and its self-complacency not a whit subdued, and this at least through a period of one hundred years;—it is truly wonderful that the scales should not have fallen from the eyes of the philosopher, and that his patriotism, purged of all the blinding self-love which might distract and mislead his judgment, should not have become conscious of these mournful truths in regard to his country, which are apparent to all the rest of the world." In reference to those "mournful truths," and others of a still more melancholy character, which the present state of Europe is calculated to impress on all reflecting minds, the author says little that can be considered as either new, instructive' or profound; his views, both in relation to past events and the darkly-lowering future, being merely of a vague and general character, and affording none of those lessons of history, or of the "philosophy teaching by example," which we had expected to meet with from the pen of a distinguished ex-minister, writing of events of which he might truly say he assisted to bring about, "and part of which he was."
In speaking of the late revolution, and the present state of things in France, the writer deals in such mere generalities and pointless truisms as the following, which leave the subject pretty much where he found it, as far, at least, as any clear explanation of the causes of the events by which Louis Philippe was precipitated from his throne, or the indication of any leading national policy, or of the means by which the disorders which agitate that unhappy country may be remedied, is concerned, all of which subjects remain to be somewhat more satisfactorily handled than they are in such passages as these: "All the elements of stability, all the conservative forces in the country, must unite closely and act constantly together. It is no more possible to extinguish democracy in the nation than liberty