French and English: Second Paper



DURING all the difficult time of the French passage from real monarchy to real democracy, the English had a way of treating the French democratic evolution which was peculiarly their own. They refused to see anything natural or regular in the remarkable process that was going on before their eyes, and perceived only a series of accidents combined with spasmodic human efforts in one direction or another. They did not discern that through the accidents and the efforts a great natural force was acting with real, though not always visible, constancy, — the great force which is impelling modern societies to work for democratic objects and assume democratic forms.

I have been struck by a passage in one of Mr. W. R. Greg’s well-known essays in Enigmas of Life, where he speaks with a total absence of sympathy for the growth of democratic institutions in France, and betrays the curious but common English belief that, if somebody had done something that was easy at a particular time, such institutions might have been prevented from taking root in the country.

“ In France,” Mr. Greg wrote, “ as is every year becoming more recognized by all students of her history, the ochlocracy, which is now driving her to seemingly irretrievable downfall, is traceable to the fatal weakness of monarch and ministers alike in February, 1848, when a parliamentary demand for a very moderate extension of a very restricted franchise was allowed to become, first a street riot, and then a mob revolution, though ordinary determination and consistency of purpose among the authorities might have prevented it from ever growing beyond the dimensions of a mere police affair, and have crushed it at the outset.”

This, I should say, is an extremely English way of looking at French affairs. The “ ochlocracy ” (why not simply have said “ popular government ” ?) is driving France to irretrievable downfall, — a result not wholly displeasing to her neighbors, — and the democratic development might have been prevented if the bourgeois king and his ministers had only shown “ ordinary determination.” A wiser king than Louis Philippe would, no doubt, have made the change to complete democracy gentler and easier by timely concessions; but the ultimate establishment of democratic institutions was inevitable in any case, and inevitable long before Louis Philippe ascended his precarious throne. It was inevitable from the hour when Mirabeau gave his immortal answer to the Marquis de Dreux-Brézé: “Nous sommes ici par la volonté du peuple, et nous n’en sortirons que par la puissance des baïonnettes.” From that hour, on the 23d of June, 1789, when the “ will of the people” was openly recognized in a French parliament as superior to the will of the king, the establishment of what Mr. Greg called an ochlocracy, in its complete development, was simply a question of time.

It is not an easy transition to democratic government in an old country like France, where the monarchy, in such comparatively recent times as those of Louis XIV., had been the strongest and most splendid monarchy in the world, the realization of that ideal monarchy in which the king is not simply a figure-head, but a governor, whom all in his realm obey, they being his real, not nominal, subjects, thrown under his feet by a destiny outside of choice. Neither was Louis XIV. simply a governor ; he was at the same time a kind of demi-god, who dwelt in the midst of a ceremonious cultus, whereof he was the centre and the object. And although this great prince had degraded the nobility into courtiers, the noble class was still a numerous and a coherent caste, which had to be pulverized by democratic legislation before the democratic principle could be finally established. Surely, it is not surprising that every step in advance should have been followed by a reaction. Restorations, periods of lassitude, experiments, mistakes, — all these were the natural concomitants of a transition for which French history shows no precedent; yet so long as the transition was actually in progress how few Englishmen understood it, — how few of them perceived that the modern democratic idea was always, in spite of appearances, steadily making its way ! The received English fashion of talking about the French was to attribute every oscillation to their fickleness, to their lack of settled opinions and fixed tendencies. When the old and new parties were more evenly balanced than they are now, the oscillations were most disturbing in their magnitude, and it was easily, though unphilosophically, assumed that the French could never again have stable institutions. This view was uncivilly expressed by Tennyson (who loves not France), in verses that asked the French why they changed the names of their streets, and told them they were fools for doing so, as they would want all the old names again. It was easy for the English to assume this tone towards their neighbors, as they had themselves gone through their own revolutionary period, and secured the means of altering everything in the future by a vote of the House of Commons. The revolutionary period occurred later in French history, but there are so many points of resemblance between the two that history has almost repeated itself. Our ancestors decapitated a king, and the French decapitated theirs; the difference being that the axe was used in one case, and a more ingenious mechanical contrivance in the other. After the execution of Charles I. the English were not yet ripe for liberty, so they fell under the dictatorship of a soldier. After the execution of Louis XVI. the French were in too crude a state for a parliament to work smoothly, so, after some experiments, they fell under the dictatorship of a soldier. When the English were not disposed to endure the Stuarts any longer, they sent them across the Channel. When the French were not disposed to endure the Bourbons any longer, they sent them across the Channel. The constant tendency in both countries has been to increase the power of the representative chamber and diminish that of the nominal head of the state, with this final result: that in France the National Assembly (the two chambers meeting as one) is declared to be sovereign, and in England the Marquis of Hartington has openly attributed sovereignty to the House of Commons, quoting Professor Dicey in reply to an old-fashioned member, who stood aghast at what seemed to him an almost treasonable employment of the word.1

There is, however, one very real and essential difference between the English and the French progress towards democracy. The point of departure is the same, the sovereignty of the king ; the point of arrival is the same, the sovereignty of the people; but the intermediate stage is not the same. Thanks to the strength of her aristocracy, and especially to its fine energy and spirit, England has been able to pass through a highly convenient intermediate stage, that of an aristocratic republic preserving monarchical appearances. France has not been able to do this, because she had not the kind and quality of aristocracy that was necessary for such a work. In all very disturbing changes there is nothing so convenient, nothing so conducive to prudent deliberation, as a shelter whilst the change is going on. If you destroy your old house to build a new one on its site, you will be glad to hire a temporary residence in the neighborhood. The English were most fortunate in this, that they had a fine, substantial-looking mansion to retire to, a dignified building, that looked as if it would last forever; the French were out in the cold, and had to dwell in tents, by which figure of speech I mean their temporary written constitutions.

Ah, those temporary constitutions,— what occasions for the enemy to rejoice ! How many there have been of them I cannot exactly inform the reader. Dicey gives a minimum of sixteen ; there may have been more. The number of them is of no importance ; the state of mind that produced them is alone of any real consequence.

It has commonly been assumed by the English that a state of mind which could produce so many constitutions was animated by the love of change. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. Those who love change provide for it by the most elastic arrangements, in order to leave everything open. The state of feeling that induces men to bind themselves, or try to bind themselves, by written rules for their future guidance is a desire for order and permanence. All that can be truly said against the French is that their hopes of orderly arrangements were premature. During many years they failed to perceive that their political life was still too much unsettled to be cast into fixed forms. At last, without abandoning the safeguard of a written constitution, which they still believe to be necessary in their case, they have provided for future changes by making revision possible under conditions that have hitherto completely assured the maintenance of order.

The comparison with England is unfair in two ways. The English critic takes France during her revolutionary period and compares her with England at another stage, when she has got through her revolutionary period and is in her reforming period. A more just comparison would be to take England between 1630 and 1730, and France between 1780 and 1880. The other injustice in the comparison with England is due to the fact that in England it has not been customary to make written constitutions. In that country, changes which elsewhere would be considered revolutionary can be quietly accomplished with all the external appearances of conservatism. The enormous change by which cabinet government was instituted was equal to any revolution, but it took place silently under the old external forms, and only students are aware of it. The other change, by which the modern House of Commons has gradually absorbed all power into its own hands, is far more fundamental and portentous than the mere deposition of one royal family to replace it with another, yet it has made so little noise that we are only just opening our eyes to the accomplished fact.1 There have, no doubt, been equally great changes in France, but in that country they have been both visible and noisy.

Although Sir Henry Maine is a severe critic of popular government, he recognizes its tendency to fix things by custom and be ultimately conservative. My belief about the French is that their real tendency is decidedly not revolutionary, but towards a democratic conservatism, and that they move towards this end by gradually including first one thing and then another in the catalogue of fixed usages. Of the novelties proposed by the first republic, the calendar has been dropped as unnecessary (though it was both beautiful and rational) ; but others, such as the decimal system of coinage and weights and measures, and the division of the country into departments, are now as definitively parts of fixed custom as if thev had existed for a thousand years. The same may be said of the university system organized by Napoleon I., and in a general way of the departmental administration. Since its introduction, for good or for evil, universal suffrage has entered into the fixed habits of the country, and is now as firmly established as the tricolor. I see no reason for supposing that the form of government itself may not be fixed by custom in the same way, and my belief is that the fixing process has already begun.

“ ‘T is hard to settle order once again,” but the French have always been trying to settle order. They are far from being a disorderly people, naturally. What can be more orderly than the elections in France, even in the most exciting times ? Those who vote go to the polling without any noisy demonstration, put their voting papers in the “ urns,” and go home again without more ado; those who abstain from voting pass election Sunday just as usual. In other matters the people submit most patiently to form which they believe to be conducive to order, as may be seen at any railway station, and when there is a queue at the door of a theatre on the day of a popular, or, still better, of a gratuitous, performance.



It is customary with the reactionary parties in France to look to England as the model of everything that is stable ; and as their ignorance of English affairs prevents them from seeing what is going on beneath the surface, they conclude that what they believe to be the British constitution is invested with indefinite durability, whilst the French republican constitution is always about to perish.

In calculating thus, the French reactionists omit one consideration of immense importance. They fail to see that the very presence of old institutions, unless they are so perfectly adapted to modern wants as to make people forget that they are old, is in itself a provocative to the spirit of change, and that it excites a desire for novelty which has never been more common than it is now. The old thing may quicken the impulse to modernize, when a new thing would have left that special passion unawakened.

In many European towns old buildings have been destroyed, not because they were either ugly or in the way, but simply because they were old, and because the modern spirit did not like what was old, and wanted to put it out of sight. Changes have therefore been made in these towns that would not have been thought of in some new American town, where there is nothing to irritate the modern spirit.

It cannot be denied that the presence of some old institutions in England does just now excite the desire for change. Great numbers of the English electors and many of their representatives are animated by the same tendency to destroy and reconstruct which used to be very active in France. It does not require any special clearness of vision to perceive that, so far from having closed the era of great changes, Great Britain and Ireland have only entered upon it.

In France, on the other hand, there is a visible desire for rest, after the most disturbed century of her existence. The one wish of the people is to pursue their vocations in peace, and, if the exact truth must be told, they have no longer the old capacity for political enthusiasm. The true royalist sentiment is almost extinct; if it lingers at all, it is only in a few aristocratic families, and hardly even in these since the death of Henri V. deprived it alike of object and aliment. On the other hand, the republican sentiment, though resolute as to the preservation of republican forms, has certainly become wonderfully cool. The epoch of Gambetta already belongs to the past almost as completely as that of Mirabeau. The coolness of the young men is especially remarkable and significant. They are mostly republicans, it is true, and have no belief in the possibility of a monarchical restoration ; but the more intelligent of them see the difficulties and the defects of a republican government very plainly, and they have a tendency to dwell upon those difficulties and defects in a manner that would astonish the militant republicans of the past. This composed and rational temper is the state of mind that comes upon all of us after the settled possession of an object, and it is a sign of settled possession. “ Modern France,” said an able French lawyer, “has got the political system that answers to her needs.”

In England, the indications of future change become more numerous and more visible every day. This year Mr. Labouchere had so powerful a minority in favor of his resolution against the hereditary principle in the House of Lords that a sign from Mr. Gladstone would have immediately converted it into a majority, and Mr. Gladstone’s support of the resolution was refused in terms scarcely more consolatory for hereditary legislators than those of the resolution itself. The House did not listen to Mr. Labouchere’s speech with indignation, but with amusement, and the only incident of any solemnity was the exclamation of a member who cried out, “The Writing on the Wall! ” when the formidable minority was made known. Now, although the English have no written constitution, all foreigners have hitherto been accustomed to believe in the dignity and permanence of the House of Lords, and they have believed it to be a part of that great reality which was called “ La Constitution Anglaise.” How is it possible to retain these old beliefs after such a parliamentary incident as this ?

With regard to the church, there is no greater prospect of permanence in England than in France itself. England has, for the present, the advantage of being more in advance ; of having got through the conflict with Rome, with the powerful help of Protestantism. The enemy is the same in both cases, but England has had the luck to have a national form of Protestantism, connected with patriotism, on her side. As Protestantism is weak in France, its alliance is of little practical value, and the conflict is between the secular state, simply, and the sacerdotal power. This conflict is in its nature eternal, being between two irreconcilable principles; and it can have only one end, the separation of the churches from the state. But in England, also, the separation of church and state is in the programme of the advancing and popular party, so that there is no greater appearance of stability, on this ground, in one country than in the other. In England the real motive of the agitation against established churches is not religious, but social : it is simply because Dissenters dislike being treated as inferiors; they are weary of being put “ under the ban.” 2 In France the opposition to the sacerdotal power is a fight for political independence, because the church is a great political institution which aims at supremacy over all others, and has never yet been contented with anything less. Now, the condition of affairs between church and state in both France and England has this in common, that religion has little or nothing to do with the matter in either case. In England it is a social, and in France a political question ; consequently in both countries the real and genuine religious hatred which belonged to the old spirit of enmity between Catholic and Protestant has given place to a newer and less virulent kind of antagonism. It seems likely, therefore, that the separation of religion from the state will be accomplished in both countries by the ordinary processes of legislation, probably about the same time, or with the interval of only a few years; and there is no reason to apprehend any civil war about it except the war of speeches and newspaper articles.

I now approach a much more delicate question, — the probable duration of the presidency in France and the monarchy in England. The difference between the two terms of this question is that there is nothing conventionally sacred about the presidency, so that the utility of it and its chances of lasting are discussed with the utmost freedom, whilst the monarchy is a sacred institution, and is therefore not much discussed, except in private. I think, however, that all who have lived in England, or even visited England frequently, during the last twenty years will agree with me in the opinion that the strength of the monarchy is now far less than it used to be in the institution itself, and far more in the personal character of the occupant of the throne. The Queen, as we all know, is as safe as any monarch ever was or could be, but the temper of the country would certainly not now tolerate a tyrannical king, out of mere respect for his office. It remains a question, too, whether the country would endure a king who, without being what might be called a tyrant, was simply determined to make his position a reality. Suppose, for example, that, instead of being a minister, Lord Salisbury, with his governing instincts, had been king. He would have attempted to control many things, but would the loyalty of the country have borne the strain ? What thoughtful English people say now in private amounts to this : that the Queen will certainly remain undisturbed, that her eldest son will probably have a quiet reign, but that beyond him nothing is known. The old positive certainty about the duration of monarchy in England, whatever the quality of the monarch, has given place to personal considerations. Some go so far as to predict a division of the country between two extreme parties: the advocates of a really strong monarchy, with an active, ruling king, and a powerful republican party in the House of Commons. If ever this should come to pass, it is hard to see how civil disturbance can be avoided ; yet, on the other hand, the present state of things cannot last indefinitely, as it depends upon the personal regard which the English people have for Queen Victoria, mingled with their chivalrous feeling towards a monarch of her sex who ascended the throne in her girlhood. On the whole, then, the future must be considered insecure, — far less secure than it appeared to our fathers, for whom the throne, the church establishment, and the House of Lords appeared not less durable than parliamentary representation itself, and ten thousand times more august.

I was brought up in a Tory family of the old school, and I well remember how fixed the constitution appeared to my friends, and the calm, contemptuous pity with which they looked upon the French for not having a fixed constitution like the British. Certainly to them and to all other old-fashioned Tories of that time, the constitution included as essential parts both a state church and hereditary legislators. One of the last letters I received from one of these old Tory friends, a short time before his death, expressed the firm belief that if Gladstone attempted to disestablish the Church of England God would interfere to prevent him, probably by taking away the aged statesman’s life. That temper of reverence which regarded the more august parts of the constitution as sacred and inviolable was, in fact, their best and surest protection; and if they are in some danger now, it is not because the church is worse, for it is better than it was; not because the House of Lords has become less respectable, for the aristocracy is more sober and better educated; certainly not because the Queen is less refined than Queen Elizabeth or Queen Anne ; but simply because the old faith in august institutions is on the wane, and the leaders of thought, instead of having that faith themselves, only suppose that it may be good for the common people. In our day, everything is criticised and asked to show cause why it should not be annihilated. The feeling of permanence and security is gone. The constitution, being unwritten, provides no special safeguards against revolutionary reform, like those in America and France. The youngest radical member may propose to abolish any institution, and if he can get supporters the institution will be saved only by the intervention of a minister who will deprecate present action as premature.

“ The President of the second French republic,” says Sir Henry Maine, “ was directly elected by the French people, in conformity with the modern practice of the Americans ; and the result was that, confident in the personal authority witnessed to by the number of his supporters. he overthrew the republic, and established a military despotism. The President of the third French republic is elected in a different and a safer way ; but the ministers whom he appoints have seats in the French legislature, mix in its debates, and are responsible to the Lower House, just as are the members of an English cabinet. The effect is that there is no living functionary who occupies a more pitiable position than a French President. The old kings of France reigned and governed. The constitutional king, according to M. Thiers, reigns, but does not govern. The President of the United States governs, but he does not reign. It has been reserved for the President of the French republic neither to reign nor yet to govern.”

All this is said with epigrammatic neatness, but, notwithstanding the deference due to an eminent writer, I find myself unable to realize the idea that the position of the French President is a “ pitiable ” one. I do not quite understand — perhaps nobody quite clearly understands — what reigning without governing may mean. If it means representing the state officially in ceremonial matters, the President certainly does that, but he has more important though less visible functions. He frequently presides over cabinet councils ; he is a sort of permanent minister, with unnumbered opportunities for exercising a moderating influence. There is nothing sacred in his position, but it has sufficient dignity to be regarded by all French republicans as the first prize in the state. The country looks to him with satisfaction as the nearest approach to permanence which a democratic constitution can admit. What Bagehot said of the Queen twenty years ago is in a great measure true of the French President to-day. Amidst the frequent changes of ministers he is comparatively stable. The peasants follow with difficulty the names of successive ministers, but they all know the name of the President, and his portrait is seen everywhere. Their belief about the President is that he is a respectable, trustworthy man : “ C’est un brave homme, Mossieu Grévy, je le crois b’en, moi.” Is that nothing? It is not the Russian’s adoration of the Czar, but it is an element of tranquillity in the state.

President Grévy, especially since his reëlection, represents that desire for stability which is prevalent all over France, except in the Chamber of Deputies. In his important message on reëlection (all the more important from the rarity of such documents from him) he read Parliament a lesson, in the name of the country and in the plainest terms, on the necessity for greater stability in cabinets. Certainly a President who can send such a message to Parliament, in his own words, is in a more dignified position, so far, than if he were a constitutional sovereign reading paragraphs composed for him by ministers, — paragraphs containing, perhaps, the most decided declarations, which the next cabinet will refuse to carry out, and which will be criticised openly and mercilessly in Parliament itself as the work of their real authors.

We know nothing of the future, but there are several reasons for thinking it probable that the presidential office will be maintained for a,long time in France, and pass, perhaps, into a fixed custom. It will be maintained as a function by all men of eminence, who themselves aspire to it as the crown of their own careers; it will be maintained by all lovers of stability as the most stable of the high offices ; and it will be maintained, unless an improbable royalty takes its place, by all who feel the necessity for a stately ceremonial representative of the entire nation.

As with all offices of dignity, its dignity will increase with age. It is already a more respected office since M. Grévy completed his first term.



The distrust that English people feel with regard to French institutions is much increased by the conviction that in France the classes of society are hostile, and especially that the poor detest the rich. I find, for instance, in Mr. Matthew Arnold’s article in the Nineteenth Century for February, 1885, the statement about France that “ wealth creates the most savage enmity there, because it is conceived as a means for gratifying appetites of the most selfish and vile kind.” When I read such comprehensive statements I refer to my own experience, if it happens to be of a nature to throw any light upon the subject ; so with regard to this particular statement, I call to mind a considerable number of more or less poor French people, and ask myself in what way they exhibit their savage enmity towards wealth. I am not a rich man, — far from it; but as French people know nothing about my professional income, they think it comes from money in the funds, and take me for a comfortable rentier. Now, I have never once been insulted or rudely spoken to in any way in France for being tolerably well dressed: on the contrary, numbers of people, whose names I do not know, are in the habit of lifting their hats to me ; and if I drive along the road on a market day, when the peasants are returning to their homes, I have to keep my right hand free to answer their salutations by lifting my own hat, according to the courteous French custom. One of my friends, a Frenchman, is really a rich man, and when we walk out together in the town where he is best known, he is constantly raising his hat. I find this practice to be much the same in other towns with well-to-do men who are local notables ; and I know an important village where any one who looks like a gentleman will be saluted by every inhabitant he meets. Now let me compare this state of things with a well-remembered English experience. I do not wish to say anything harsh or unkind of the Lancashire people, and very likely they have improved in this respect, but I distinctly recall the time when well-dressed ladies and gentlemen were often openly criticised by the lower classes, whose tongues were both sharp and merciless, and entirely free from any restraint of deference. One occasion I particularly remember. I happened to be wearing a new topcoat, and was passing near some houses in course of erection. One of the masons shouted out from his ladder something very coarse and ill-natured about my top-coat; so I stopped to reason with him, and said, “ Why cannot you let my coat alone ? I came by it honestly ; it is paid for.” “ Paid for, is’t ? ” he answered, with a sneer of ineffable contempt. “ It wodd n’t ‘a bin if th’ ’ad, ‘ad t’ addle th’ brass.”3 So I went awaydefeated, amidst the jeers of the other workmen. I was once wearing a gold breastpin (men wore gold pins in those days), and a tenant of my own told me that if I did not wear such things I could spend her rent in improvements. A lady, who was a neighbor of ours in Lancashire, happened to be walking in a muddy street, so she lifted her skirts a little. This, unluckily, occurred near a group of factory girls, whose sharp eyes, of course, noticed the lady’s stockings. which were of some unbleached material. Thereupon one factory girl cried out, “ Well, afore Oi’d don stockin’s na better weshed nur them theere ! ”4 and there was a general explosion of laughter, before which the lady was glad to drop the curtain of her skirts. In those days the easy, natural impudence and the aggressive disposition of the Lancashire population, sometimes mingled with anger against the comfortable classes, and sometimes with contemptuous humor, afforded an endless abundance of anecdotes such as these. I may, perhaps, trouble the reader with another, in which there is more real hostility. When I was a boy, an old Lancashire mason was making an alteration in a room that was to be my bedroom. This involved the blocking-up of an old window; and, instead of building a wall of the full thickness, the mason contented himself with a thin wall, leaving a recess. “ I shall be glad of this recess,” I said ; “it will do to put the washing-stand in.” The mention of such a luxury irritated the man’s democratic sentiments, and he swore at the washing-stand and at me with many a bitter oath, although he was working for my uncle.

Even when the Lancashire people did not intend to be uncivil, their manners often asserted a sense of equality that I have never met with from the corresponding class in France. I have often stayed in Lancashire with a friend, now no more, who was one of the richest men in his neighborhood, and in Lancashire this means great wealth. As there was an old intimacy between us, we called each other by our Christian names : he was Henry, and I was Philip. This was natural in our case ; but what seemed less explicable was that when we walked out together, and met the wage-earning people in the neighborhood, the men would keep their hands in their pockets, and sometimes, as a sort of special favor, cock their heads on one side by way of a bow. and say, “Well, ’Ennery!” in token of friendiy recognition. Assuredly, there was not, in such a salutation, any trace of “ savage enmity” against wealth, but neither was there any especial respect for it. Either because rich men were common in Lancashire, or because the people were extremely independent, wealth used to get but a very moderate amount of deference there.

I lived at one time close to Towneley Park, and remember that although we always called the then representative of that very wealthy and very ancient family Mr. Towneley, till he became colonel of the local militia regiment, after which we gave him his military itle, the peasantry spoke of him either as “ Tayunly ” or as “ Charles,” and his brother they called “John.” In a French neighborhood this familiarity would be simply inconceivable. The greatest land-owner is always either called by his title, or at least gets the usual “ Monsieur.” He is Monsieur le Marquis, or Monsieur de Quelquechose, and often, with a mixture of local feeling and respect, he is “Notre Monsieur,” to distinguish him from other people’s Messieurs. I never in my life heard a French peasant call a country gentleman by his bare name, or by his Christian name only. I know all the tenants on an estate where the rents were raised in a manner that created the greatest dissatisfaction, but, whilst expressing this dissatisfaction in just and straightforward language, the tenants never infused any hatred into their talk, as Irish tenants would probably have done, nor did they abandon the usual respectful forms in speaking of the landlord, or adopt anything like Lancashire familiarity. They said that Monsieur de B. was hard with them, and that he was acting against his own interest, which he did not seem to understand, as it was impossible for a tenant to work the farms permanently on the new terms. This is the whole substance of what they said, the complete expression of their “ savage enmity.” The worst I wish them is that a day may come when they will no longer be obliged to pay additional rent as interest on their own improvements.

I have sometimes heard peasants say rather severe things of gentlefolks, but not in a malignant way, and rather in amusement at their own sharpness than in hostility to the rich. On the other hand, when a rich man is really kind to them and good to the poor, how readily and willingly his kindness is acknowledged ! “ C’est un bon monsieur,” they say; or, if they include his family, “ Ce sont de braves gens, c’est du bon monde.” I know an honest French country gentleman and his wife, who are always ready with kindness and money when there is any case of real distress, and I do not believe that there is any country in the world where they would be more esteemed than they are in their own neighborhood.

At election times I never found that it was a ground of objection to a republican candidate that he was a rich man. Social hostility becomes intense only when it is excited by political hostility. There has been a sort of understanding amongst many reactionary rich people in France, since the last elections, to give as little employment as possible to the wage-earning classes, in order to punish them for voting in favor of republican candidates. This has excited much natural indignation amongst the working-classes, who think they have as good a right to vote according to their own judgment as any other electors, and who consider that wealth has its duties as well as its pleasures ; but when those duties are even partially and incompletely fulfilled, when there is even any visible desire to fulfill them, there is no hostility against riches, except amongst anarchists and agitators.

Philip Gilbert Hamerton.

  1. For the reader’s convenience I quote four passages from Dicey on the subject of sovereignty in England. The references are to the first English edition.
  2. “ If the true ruler or political sovereign of England were, as was once the case, the king, legisIation might be carried out in accordance with the king’s will by one of two methods.” (The Law of the Constitution, page 354.)
  3. “ Parliament is, from a merely legal point of view, the absolute sovereign of the British Empire.” (Id., page 354.)
  4. “The electorate is, in fact, the sovereign of England. It is a body which does not, and from its nature hardly can, itself legislate, and which, owing chiefly to historical causes, has left in existence a theoretically supreme legislature.” (Id., page 355.)
  5. “ Our modern code of constitutional morality secures, though in a roundabout way, what is called abroad ‘ the sovereignty of the people.’ ” (Id., page 355.)
  6. “In spite of appearances,” said Mr. Frederic Harrison on the 1st of January, 1886, “and conventional formulas, habits, and fictions to the contrary, the House of Commons represents the most absolute autocracy ever set up by a great nation since the French Revolution. Government here is now merely a committee of that huge democratic club, the House of Commons, without any of the reserves of power in other parts of the Constitution which are to be found in the constitutions of France and the United States.” Only the most intelligent English people are beginning to perceive the possible future inconveniences of this camera! autocracy.
  7. I remember reading a letter from a Dissenter who had visited America, describing the (to him) novel and delightful sensation of being in a country where he was not put “under the ban” on account of his religious opinions, and the sensation he had felt on returning to England, where, as a Dissenter, he felt at every step that he was placed in an inferior caste. These social experiences of Dissenters are the origin of the unceasing warfare that is now sapping the foundations of the establishment.
  8. “ Paid for, is it ? It would not have been if thou hadst had to earn the money.”
  9. “ Well, before I ‘d put on stockings no better washed than those ! ”