Зображення сторінки
[ocr errors]

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.


American War.


"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 as possible: but we do not think that it can end by the North subjugating the Southerns and forcing them to be its subjects.

'The best termination to which we look forward as possible, is that the North should beat the South, and then dictate its own terms of separation.

'If they wish to go farther than this, if they wish us to love or to admire our Northern cousins in their political capacity, they wish for what is impossible.

We cannot forget that the Abolitionists have been always a small and discredited party ; that the Cuba slave trade is mainly carried on from New York; that they have neglected the obligations formally entered into by them with us to co-operate in the suppression of the slave trade ; that they have pertinaciously refused to allow us even to inquire into the right of slavers to use the American flag; that it is the capital of the North which feeds the slavery of the South; that the first act of the North, as soon as the secession of the South from Congress allowed it to do what it liked, was to enact a selfish protective tariff; that their treatment of us, from the time that they have felt strong enough to insult us, has been one unvaried series of threats, bullying, and injury; that they have refused to submit their claims on us to arbitration, driven out our ambassadors, seized by force on disputed territory, and threatened war on every pretence.'

It is true,' said Beaumont, that during the last twenty years American diplomacy has not been such as to inspire affection or respect. But you must recollect that


Politics of a Farmer.


during all that time America has been governed by the South'

• It is true,' I said, 'that the presidents have generally been Southerns, but I am not aware that the North has ever disavowed their treatment of us. This is certain, that throughout the Union, insolence to England has been an American statesman's road to popularity.'

Monday, August 19.-We walked in the afternoon over the commons overlooking the sea, and among the shady lanes of this well-wooded country.

We came on a group of about twelve or thirteen reapers taking their evening meal of enormous loaves of brown bread, basins of butter, and kegs of cider.

M. Roussell, the farmer in whose service they were, was sitting among them. He was an old friend and constituent of Tocqueville, and for thirty years was Maire of Tocqueville. He has recently resigned. He rose and walked with us to his house.

I was required,' he said, 'to support the prefect's candidate for the Conseil général. No such proposition was ever made to me before. I could not submit to it. The prefect has been unusually busy of late. The schoolmaster has been required to send in a list of the peasants whose children, on the plea of poverty, receive gratuitous education. The children of those who do not vote with the prefect are to have it no longer.'

I asked what were the wages of labour.

* Three francs and half a day,' he said, 'during the harvest, with food—which includes cider. In ordinary



times one franc a day with food, or a franc and a half without food.'

It seems then,' I said, 'tha you can feed a man for half a franc a day?'

• He can feed himself,' said M. Roussell, 'for that, but I cannot, or for double that money.'

The day labourer is generally hired only for one day. A new bargain is made every day.

The house was not uncomfortable, but very untidy. There are no ricks, everything is stored in large barns, where it is safe from weather, but terribly exposed to vermin.

A bright-complexioned servant-girl was in the kitchen preparing an enormous bowl of soup, of which bread, potatoes, and onions were the chief solid ingredients.

*Roussell,' said Beaumont, ‘is superior to his class. In general they are bad politicians. It is seldom difficult to get their votes for the nominee of the prefect. They dislike to vote for anyone whom they know, especially if he be a gentleman, or be supported by the gentry. Such a candidate excites their democratic envy and suspicion. But the prefect is an abstraction. They have never seen him, they have seldom heard of his name.or of that of his candidate, and therefore they vote for him.

'Lately, however, in some of my communes, the peasants have adopted a new practice, that of electing peasants. I suspect that the Government is not displeased.

* The presence of such members will throw discredit

« НазадПродовжити »