« НазадПродовжити »
Could not Court Popularity.
of the Gauche; but I never could persuade him to be tolerably civil to them. Once, after I had been abusing him for his coldness to them, he shook hands with Romorantin, then looked towards me for my applause, but I doubt whether he ever shook hands with him again. In fact almost his only point of contact with them was their disapprobation of the inactivity of Louis Philippe. Many of them were Bonapartists like Abbatucci and Romorantin. Some were Socialists, some were Republicans; the majority of them wished to overthrow the Monarchy, and the minority looked forward with indifference to its fall.
• They hated him as much as he did them, much more indeed, for his mind was not formed for hatred. They excluded him from almost all committees.'
Would it not have been wise in him, I asked, to retire from the Chamber during the King's life, or at least until it contained a party with whom he could cordially act?'
Perhaps,' said Beaumont, 'that would have been the wisest course for him and indeed for me. I entered the Chamber reluctantly. All my family were convinced that a political man not in the Chamber was nothing. So I let myself be persuaded. Tocqueville required no persuasion, he was anxious to get in, and when in it was difficult to persuade oneself to go out. We always hoped for a change. The King might die, or he might be forced
-as he had been forced before- to submit to a liberal Ministry which might have been a temporary cure, or even to a Parliamentary reform which might have
been a complete cure. Duchâtel, who is a better politician than Guizot, was superseding him in the confidence of the King and of the Chamber.
"In fact, the liberal Ministry and Parliamentary reform did come at last, though not until it was too late to save the Monarchy.
If Tocqueville had retired in disgust from the Chamber of Deputies, he might not have been a member of the Constituent, or of the Legislative Assembly. This would have been a misfortune-though the shortness of the duration of the first, and the hostility of the President during the second, and also the state of his health, prevented his influencing the destinies of the Republic as much as his friends expected him to do, and indeed as he expected himself.' *I have often,' I said, “wondered how you
and Tocqueville, and the other eminent men who composed the committee for preparing the Constitution, could have made one incapable of duration, and also incapable of change.'
What,' he asked, are the principal faults which you find in the Constitution ?'
'First, I said, “that you gave to your President absolute authority over the army, the whole patronage of the most centralised and the most place-hunting country in the world, so that there was not one of your population of 36,000,000 whose interests he could not seriously affect; and, having thus armed him with irresistible power, you gave him the strongest possible motives to employ it against the Constitution by turning
Faults of the Constitution.
him out at the end of his four years, incapable of reelection, unpensioned and unprovided for, so that he must have gone from the Élysée 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.
that the Constitution was a detestable one.
But 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.'1
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.