« PreviousContinue »
HODGES, SMITH, AND CO., 104, GRAFTON STREET,
HURST AND BLACKETT, LONDON.
The Editor of THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE begs to notify that he will not undertake to return, or to be accountable for, any manuscripts forwarded to him for perusal.
We reviewed the two first volumes of Louis Napoleon's works in our July number last year. The conclusion we then drew from a consideration of his writings, as affording an insight into his character, was of a mixed description. We expressed our regret at what appeared an idolatry of expediency to the almost total exclusion of principle; but we thought we discovered traces of a mind so eminently practical and sagacious, that on the whole we were induced to augur good, and we concluded that “as it is an arrangement of Providence that the truly useful is in the main the just and right, we may hope that the strong intellect of Napoleon III. will lead him to results which good men would wish to see accomplished.”
Our expectations have been hitherto verified, and we see no reason why we should not entertain as good hopes for the future. His foreign policy has been moderate and peaceful ; and if the internal government of France is still despotic, we may yet give credit to the professed intention of the Emperor, to remove these measures of repression, whenever France is in a condition to do without them. It is his maxim, stated in his former volumes and repeated in this, that “La liberté n'a jamais aidé à former l'edifice politique ; elle le couronne quand le temps le consolide."
It is with a view to ascertain whether this third volume of his
works affords any additional clue to his character, that we now propose to review its contents. According to the editors, these consist of “ Discours, Proclamations, Messages, &c.” They begin with the spring of 1848, and are continued in the order of their dates down till 29th December, 1855. They thus afford material for tracing step by step the progress of Louis Napoleon during this most eventful period of his life. We have in fact an autobiography of these important seven years—an autobiography in a state dress.
As such, however, it augurs considerable boldness in the author. In a life of such startling vicissitude, consistency was not a priori to be expected. The position occupied by him at one time is so different from that attained at another, that it would appear almost inevitable that he should frequently have belied his professions. But Louis Napoleon seems conscious of no such inconsistency ; and startling though the assertion may be, we are of opinion that no inconsistency can be technically brought home to him. His language seems gradually to develope itself with his fortunes ; his opinions at the beginning have a manifest filiation to his opinions at the end, and it would seem as if he had foreknown what he was to be, and had purposely calculated his language, so as to allow of the possibility of reconciling it with that which he foresaw he would require subsequently to use. We believe that in part such was the case, and that this mysterious man had all along the conviction that he would attain imperial power. But the chief secret of his formal consistency, for it is little better, is to be found in the cardinal principle on which he based his political creed, namely, that the will of the masses is the ultima ratio. Such a principle affords him a logical basis alike for democracy and for absolutism. It is the will of the people which he always obeys. He professes to do so to the Constituent Assembly, but he does not say public opinion is on their side. And when universal suffrage declares in his favor, invests him with despotism, and annihilates all republicanism, we still find him on the same text, still speaking of himself as the organ of the public will, the elect of France; as deriving his power from the people, and accountable to them and to them alone for its exercise. Nay, we will find that he can plead his principle in justification of the Coup d'Etat.
"Euvres de Napoleon III. Paris, Henry Pion, Editeur. Amyot, Editeur, 1856. VOL. XLVII.-NO. CCLXXXI.
We think all this was in a consider able degree jesuitical. He was using words in a non-natural sense—satisfying himself with a bare technical consistency, as a substitute for an actual policy of remarkable pliancy; and which, if not dictated by purely selfish ambition, certainly looked very like it, in the ends which it was made to subserve. But as we do not wish to prejudge the case, we are bound to admit that we have arrived at these conclusions from a perusal of the book before us, with hesitation. We will let the Emperor speak for himself ; and as we will follow the arrangement of the book, our readers will have an opportunity of marking the progress in the development of his ideas, and of forming their own opinion of his character.
On the breaking out of the Revolution of 1848, Louis Napoleon wrote to the Provisional Committee, offering to range himself under the flag of the republic. But Lamartine, Ledru Rollin, and Company, had embarrassments enough without the presence in Paris of the heir of the Bonapartes ; and, instead of welcoming his adhesion, used all their power to enforce against him the law which excluded the Bonaparte family from the soil of France. They could not have better
played the game of the future Emperor. In a letter from London to the Assembly, he protests against this attempt. «Why," he says, “am I excluded ? Is it because I have openly professed that I desire the principle of national sovereignty, (which alone can put a term to our dissensions,) to triumph without anarchy ?"
This brief question was a pregnant one ; it at one and the same time put his own case on its best footing, and fixed public attention on the dangers to be feared from those who tried to exclude him ; for it was well known that several members of the Provisional Government thought that a particular newspaper clique represented the national sovereignty, and were quite ready to enforce the opinions of this national sovereignty on the country, even at the risk of anarchy.
Meantime, Louis Napoleon is elected as a member of the Assembly for several places; but it is not till the 26th September that he takes his seat in the Assembly. The same day he makes his first speech, which is of the most liberal character, and expresses complete devotion to La Republique. It was favourably received, and the Assembly revoked the law which banished the Bonaparte family.
A month intervened before he spoke again, and it was in answer to some attacks made on him. The reader will admire not only the dignity of the speech, but also its dexterity, considering that he was nearly as much embarrassed by the rashness of his own party as by the animosity of his professed opponents.
“How little do those who accuse me know my heart! If an imperious duty did not restrain me here ; if the sympathy of my fellow citizens did not console me for the animosity of some attacks, and the impetuosity even of some defences, I would long ago have regretted my exile.
“They reproach me with silence ; but there are only a few who have the gift of applying eloquent words to the service of just and healthy ideas."
A cutting allusion this to the eloquent nonsense with which the democratic party consumed the time of the Assembly.
- What France requires,” be continues
“are acts, not words; she requires a firm, tions. It is the role of the “safe intelligent, and wise government ; which man," played to perfection. thinks more of curing the evils of society The result of the canvass was not than of revenging them ; a government
long doubtful; on the 10th December, which puts itself at the head of true ideas,
1848, a day so often appealed to afterin order by doing so to repulse a thousand times better than by
wards by Louis Napoleon, he was
bayonets, theories which are founded neither on reason nor ex
elected president by five and a half perience."
millions of suffrages. "I know they wish to sow my path His address to the representatives, with snares and ainbuscades. I will not fall ten days afterwards, evinced a full into them. I will always follow as I under- appreciation of the vantage ground stand it the line which I have traced for he had thus attained :-_“I will conmyself, without disquieting myself, and sider them enemies of the country," without stopping. Nothing will take from says he, “who will try to change by me my calm; nothing will make me forget
illegal ways, what entire France has my duties. I will not answer those who established.” But on the Republican wish me to speak when I wish to be silent."
principles, every way was illegal ex
cept the one way of an appeal to the Strange that the Assembly did not people. Universal suffrage alone could begin to know what sort of a man change what universal suffrage had they had to deal with ; but at this established. time his personal qualities were the So closes the year 1848, leaving subject of ridicule ; the common Louis Napoleon in the possession, if opinion being that he was even defi not of much power, still of a position cient in ordinary ability
possessing great advantages, from But time rolled on with that fiery which to advance further in his puraccelerated rotation which it has re suit of power-advantages which he cently attained, especially in France. well knew how to make the most of. The candidature for the Presidentship He was the executive chief of the commenced, and to the astonishment state. He was elected by universal of all parties, it was plain that Louis, suffrage, and he was personally rewhose only recognised merit was sponsible to the people. It logically that he was the nephew of Napoleon, followed from the first, that he had had at least as good a chance as the disposal of the army; from the Cavaignac, who had recently done second, that he was capable of re-elecsuch service to the cause of order by tion, for though the letter of the conhis bloody suppression of an insur- stitution might say otherwise, yet rection of that Parisian mob which it, and all other barriers must he and his coadjutors, so long as it give way before the declared will of suited their purpose, flattered as the the sovereign people ; and it followed sovereign people.
from his personal responsibility that Louis Napoleon's address is a mas he was entitled, or rather bound to terpiece. He accepts the character select a ministry which would carry given to him by his enemies. He out his personal views, even though sinks his personality. He is merely a these might be in opposition to the name—a symbol ; otherwise it is sin- opinion of the Assembly. gularly moderate in its professions of The year 1849 was spent by Louis opinion, and might well pass for the Napoleon in developing these advanaddress of a conservative candidate tages, not a little aided by the factious for an English county, He is to de conduct of the Assembly, who never vote himself to the re-establishment failed to give him an excuse for thesteps of order, to the protection of religion, in advance he successively took, by givcombined with a wise toleration of all ing them the aspect of measures nesects and persuasions, and “ Quant cessary for the defence of that authoaux reformes possibles, voici celles rity which the sovereign people had qui me paraissent les plus urgentes," conferred on him. The fact was that and he goes on with a political pro the Assembly was re-actionary; there gramme which is by no means re were a few Bonapartists in it, and a markable except in its admirable me considerable number of Republicans diocrity, which recommended it to ready to risk anarchy to carry out France, tired of theories and revolu. their theories, but the greater num