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1861.] Faults of the Constitution.
267 him out at the end of his four years, incapable of reelection, unpensioned and unprovided for, so that he must have gone from the Elysée Bourbon to a debtor's prison.
• Next, that, intending your President to be the subordinate Minister of the Assembly, you gave him the same origin, and enabled him to say, "I represent the people as much as you do, indeed much more. They all voted for me, only a fraction of them voted for any one of you." Then that origin was the very worst that could possibly be selected, the votes of the uneducated multitude; you must have foreseen that they would give you a demagogue or a charlatan. The absence of a second Chamber, and the absence of a power of dissolution, are minor faults, but still serious ones. When the President and the Assembly differed, they were shut up together to fight it out without an umpire.'
• That we gave the President too much power,' said Beaumont, 'the event has proved. But I do not see how, in the existing state of feeling in France, we could have given him less. The French have no self-reliance. They depend for everything on their administrators. The first revolution and the first empire destroyed all their local authorities and also their aristocracy. Local authorities may be gradually re-created, and an aristocracy may gradually arise, but till these things have been done the Executive must be strong.
If he had been re-eligible, our first President would virtually have been President for life. Having decided
that his office should be temporary, we were forced to forbid his immediate re-election.
With respect to his being left unprovided for, no man who had filled the office decently would have been refused an ample provision on quitting it. As for this man, no provision that we could have made for him, if we had given him three or four millions a year, would have induced him to give up what he considered a throne which was his by descent. He swore to the Constitution with an idée fixe to destroy it. He attempted to do so on the 29th of January 1849, not two months after his election.
'I agree with you that the fault of the Constitution was that it allowed the President to be chosen by universal suffrage; and that the fault of the people was that they elected a pretender to the throne, whose ambition, rashness, and faithlessness had been proved.
• No new Constitution can work if the Executive conspires against it. But deliberating and acting in the midst of émeutes, with a Chamber and a population divided into half a dozen hostile factions, the two Royalist parties hating one another, the Bonapartists bent on destroying all freedom, and the Socialists all individual property, what could we do? My wish and Tocqueville's was to give the election to the Chamber. We found that out of 650 members we could not hope that our proposition would be supported by more than 200. You think that we ought to have proposed two Chambers. The great use of two Chambers is to strengthen the Executive by enabling it to play one against the other; but we felt that our Executive was dangerously strong, and we
Defence of the Constitution.
believed, I think truly, that a single Chamber would resist him better than two could do. The provision which required more than a bare majority for the revision of the Constitution was one of those which we borrowed from America. It had worked well there. In the general instability we wished to have one anchor, one mooring ring fixed. We did not choose that the whole framework of our Government should be capable of being suddenly destroyed by a majority of one, in a moment of excitement and perhaps by a parliamentary surprise.
•With respect to your complaint that, there being no power of dissolution, there was no means of taking the opinion of the people, the answer is, that to give the President power of dissolution would have been to invite him to a coup d'état. With no Chamber to watch him, he would have been omnipotent. • I agree with you
that the Constitution was a detestBut even now, looking back to the times, and to the conditions under which we made it, I do not think that it was in our power to make a good one.'
• Tocqueville,' I said, “told me that Cormenin was your Solon, that he brought a bit of constitution to you every morning, and that it was usually adopted.''
‘Tocqueville's memory,' answered Beaumont, 'deceived him. Cormenin was our president. It is true that he brought a bit of constitution every morning. But it scarcely ever was adopted or capable of being adopted. It was in general bad in itself, or certain to be rejected by the Assembly. He wished to make the President a
"See Vol. I. p. 212.-ED.
puppet. But he exercised over us a mischievous influence. He tried to revenge himself for our refusal of all his proposals by rendering our deliberations fruitless. And as the power of a president over a deliberative body is great, he often succeeded.
Many of our members were unaccustomed to public business and lost their tempers or their courage when opposed. The Abbé Lamennais proposed a double election of the president. But of thirty members, only four, among whom were Tocqueville and I, supported him. He left the committee and never returned to it. Tocqueville and I were anxious to introduce double election everywhere. It is the best palliative of universal suffrage.'
• The double election,' I said, 'of the American President is nugatory. Every elector is chosen under a pledge to nominate a specified candidate.'
. That is true,' said Beaumont, 'as to the President, but not as to the other functionaries thus elected. The senators chosen by double election are far superior to the representatives chosen by direct voting.
*We proposed, too, to begin by establishing municipal institutions. We were utterly defeated. The love of centralisation is almost inherent in French politicians. They see the evil of local government—its stupidity, its corruption, its jobbing. They see the convenience of centralisation-the ease with which a centralised administration works. Feelings which are really democratic have reached those who fancy themselves aristocrats. We had scarcely a supporter.
*We should perhaps have a few now, when experience has shown that centralisation is still more useful to an usurper than it is to a regular Government.'
August 18.-We drove in the afternoon to the coast, and sat in the shade of the little ricks of sea-weed, gazing on an open sea as blue as the Mediterranean.
We talked of America.
'I can understand,' said Madame de Tocqueville, 'the indignation of the North against you. It is, of course, excessive, but they had a right to expect you to be on their side in an anti-slavery war.'
*They had no right,' I said, 'to expect from our Government anything but absolute neutrality.'
* But you need not,' she replied, ‘have been so eager to put the South on the footing of belligerents.'
'On what other footing,' I asked, 'could we put them ? On what other footing does the North put them ? Have they ventured, or will they venture, to hang a single seceder?'
• At least,' she said, 'you might have expressed more sympathy with the North ?'
'I think,' I answered, that we have expressed as much sympathy as it was possible to feel. We deplore the combat, we hold the South responsible for it, we think their capricious separation one of the most foolish and one of the most wicked acts that have ever been committed; we hope that the North will beat them, and we should bitterly regret their forcing themselves back into the Union on terms making slavery worse, if possible, than it is now. We wish the contest to end as quickly