Page images
PDF
EPUB

Il faudra, en outre, voir comment se comportera la nation sous le régime qui pourra remplacer le système actuel ; car, on l'a souvent remarqué, pour bien juger l'influence d'un gouvernement sur une société, il faut pouvoir apprécier la conduite de cette société après que ce gouvernement a disparu. De 1789 à 1795, au sortir du régime énervant de l'ancienne monarchie, la France s'est livrée à des attentats sans exemple dans l'histoire. En 1848, au sortir de trente ans de luttes parlementaires, et quoique plongée à l'improviste dans l'anarchie, elle a su se préserver de ces crimes qui déshonorent un peuple. Le sentiment de la justice et de la liberté ne s'est point éclipsé. Le soleil s'était couché: mais on a continué à vivre et à combattre dans le crépuscule.' -pp. 122-3-4.

Who will not feel the force of the contrast which he draws between that period and the stage of torpor and retroaction at which France had arrived when he penned his reflections ?

• A l'heure qu'il est, la France a peut-être encore plus de liberté qu'elle n'en veut ; elle irait jusqu'à supporter l'oppression. Cette oppression n'existe pas, et ne saurait exister, car on n'opprime que ce qui vit. A l'heure qu'il est, rien n'est gêné, car rien ne se meut; rien n'est comprimé, car rien ne résiste. Tout dort, tout se repose, tout se renouvelle peut-être. Mais quand l'heure du réveil sonnera, quand cette France aura goûté dix, vingt années de repos, de calme, de prospérité, de sécurité complète; quand elle sera tentée de se dire qu'elle s'ennuie ; quand éclatera le besoin de respirer, de voir, de parler, de juger, de critiquer, qui n'a jamais pu être extirpé de ce pays, pas plus sous l'ancien régime que sous Napoléon : c'est alors qu'il faudra bien donner quelque issue à cet instinct impérieux, à cette force latente mais irrésistible. C'est alors qu'on verra si les nouvelles institutions de la France sont assez élastiques pour se prêter à ce retour de la vie, du bruit, de la lutte. Je veux le croire; mais si elles ne s'y prêtaient pas, je suis convaincu que le souverain que la France s'est donné, avec l'habileté qui le caractérise, ne permettra pas à l'orage de grossir. Autrement l'orage l'emporterait, lui et son quvre.'-p. 182.

Who will not thank our author for the following masterly description of universal suffrage? We, indeed, have not learnt it so; and probably no man among us could have so described it:

Le suffrage universel peut être regardé comme le plus grand danger de la liberté. C'est un mécanisme par lequel la foule, maîtresse pour un jour, peut se rendre esclave pour des siècles, et rendre tout esclave comme elle.

• Il serait insensé de méconnaître la valeur de ce mécanisme. On pent dire que le suffrage universel jouera désormais en politique le même rôle que la poudre à canon dans l'art de la guerre, ou la vapeur dans l'industrie. L'introduction de cette arme nouvelle et formidable change toutes les conditions de la lutte. Elle met à la disposition du pouvoir, qui finira toujours par s'en emparer, une force jusqu'à présent

inconnue.

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

inconnue. C'est un levier qui peut être manié par la main la moins habile et la moins scrupuleuse, mais qui donne à cette main un ascendant irrésistible. C'est, en outre, un masque immense, derrière lequel toutes les servilités, toutes les bassesses, toutes les défaillances peuvent chercher un abri commode et sûr. C'est une mer où vont se perdre toutes les combinaisons et toutes les règles de la politique ancienne, mais où le mensonge, le préjugé, l'ignorance, peuvent aussi centupler leur énergie. La sagesse et la dignité humaines y sont toutes deux condamnées à de rudes épreuves. Talent, vertu, renommée, courage, intégrité, expérience, tous ces titres à l'ancienne popularité, toutes

ces forces diversement énergiques, tout cela est noyé dans les fots du suffrage universel, comme le serait un flacon de vin généreux versé dans un étang.'--Pp. 185-6.

After all this, our readers will not be ill-prepared for the telling description which M. Montalembert gives of his own position, in relation to liberty and religion :-La devise de ma vie a été celle de ce vieux Polonais de la confédération de Bar: j'ai aimé la Liberté plus que tout au monde, et la religion Catholique plus que la Liberté mème.' Or, again, for another of his autographical portraits, which, perhaps owing to the nature of his subject, are, to say the truth, not few:

* Je n'ai donc pas l'espoir de lutter contre le torrent avec quelque succès, comme il y a quatre ans. Mais je ne veux pas qu'on dise dans l'avenir, quand chaque acte, chaque parole sera relevée par des juges impitoyables, que cette grande palinodie a eu lieu sans soulever aucune protestation. On saura qu'il y a eu au moins un vieux soldat du catholicisme et de la liberté, qui avant 1830 avait distingué la cause catholique de la cause royaliste ; qui sous le régime de juillet a plaidé la cause de l'indépendance de l'Eglise à l'encontre du pouvoir civil; qui en 1848 a combattu de toutes ses forces la prétendue identité du christianisme et de la démocratie, et qui en 1852 a protesté contre le sacrifice de la liberté à la force sous prétexte de religion.'-p. 87.

Well said and done, vieux soldat du catholicisme et de la liberté ! We are not, rely upon it, so shut up in our insularity, as to be incapable of a fervid thrill of joy at the thought that amidst a scene of wide-spread moral and social desolation one knightly banner yet waves aloft, on which are twined fraternally together the scrolls of Christian belief and of civil freedom. There it is: the words we hear are words of truth, in accents of sincerity; they are words, upon the combined, faithful, and effective use of which is bung the whole future welfare of mankind; and to him who utters them we are bound to say, • The Lord prosper you : we wish you good luck in the name of the Lord.' But, after all, we must be upon our guard against imposture.

Not

Not that kind of imposture which a wilful cozener palms upon the world, but that subtler and more ensnaring illusion which first takes captive and enlists in its service all the graces at once of character and of diction, and then, by their means disarming wholesome jealousy, gains a securer possession of the public mind. What then, let us ask, is all this about? Does this book proclaim the advent of a new and happy era, in which the Roman Church is to be the sincere ally of constitutional liberty ; or, at any rate, the accession of a great convert to the cause of truth and freedom, or the revived activity of a champion who had seemed to slumber, and who now again has buckled on his armour ?

This is a question of deep importance. Count Montalembert, with all other votaries of the same system who resemble him in their generous appreciation of English institutions, and in the value they set upon English opinion, should know that there perhaps never was a time when the Church of Rome, that vast incorporation which covers from one-third to one-half of Christendom, stood worse among us than at the present moment; and this not with reference to any momentary cause or any passing excitement; not even because in the depths of dogmatic controversy new sources of exasperation have been opened up; nor yet because we have found her, beyond doubt, an inconvenient neighbour, puzzling our people, deranging the action of our Church, and powerfully stimulating our intestine jealousies; but for a still deeper and more painful reason than any of these, namely, from the profound contrast, of which we as a people are conscious, between the living authorities of the Church of Rome and ourselves, in respect to the very elements of moral principle, and foundations of duty, as applied to public policy and transactions; those elements, to which Christianity itself is not too lofty to make its appeal; those foundations, those eternal laws of right, upon which, and upon which alone, discipline or ritual, hierarchy or dogma can securely rest. The vehement excitement occasioned among us by the Brief of 1850 and the Durham Letter has passed away: the mood of patience has resumed its accustomed sway over a nation less, after all, resembling bulls than oxen. But, as a people, we have marked from day to day the proceedings of the Roman Church-that is to say, of its ecclesiastical rulers-in Italy, in Belgium, in France; and those proceedings have left upon the mind of England an impression that is much more likely to be deepened than obliterated. The portrait that Church has drawn, and is drawing, of herself in continental Europe at this moment, to say nothing of Ireland, is one whose lineaments cannot be forgotten ;-tyranny,

fraud,

fraud, base adulation, total insensibility not only to the worth of human freedom, but to the majesty of law and the sacredness of public and private right-these are the malignant and deadly features which we see stamped upon the conduct of the Roman hierarchy, and which have generated in the English mind a profound revulsion from them and all that seems to resemble them. With no small interest, therefore, do we ask, is there at least a beginning ? -can we point to a part or section ?-can we point to Count Montalembert, the lay leader of the Roman Catholics of France, and say, here at least is a man of pith and mark among them, who has registered his vow on behalf of human freedom in conjunction with Christian belief, and around whom its friends may rally?-We lament to say that the perusal of Count Montalembert's book leaves us with no choice but to return a negative answer. It leaves us, if possible, sadder than when we had not yet been informed that he had raised his eloquent voice on behalf of liberty; because it proves to us conclusively that he little knows what freedom means, or he would not so lisp and falter in its language, nor would he consent, as he does, to bear it allegiance only on equivocal, precarious, and even degrading terms. If this is the best tribute the veteran enthusiast of freedom (so he describes himself) can render, what must be the shortcomings of the raw and the unimpassioned? If this is the homage rendered to it among French Roman Catholics by its lovers, what in the wide world must its haters be ?

Every charitable and rational Protestant—and even many who can perceive nothing at all beside Babylon, Antichrist, and the like in the Church of Rome-will feel disposed not to limit their wishes, nor in every case to address them, to departures from her communion, but rather earnestly to sympathise with every manifestation of good within, and not least with those manifestations which seem most conducive to the cure of her peculiar and besetting plagues.– Nor will the lover of historical truth-call himself what he may-follow the fanatical friends or foes of that Church in their assertion that she never changes. On the contrary, he will unhesitatingly admit that she has in her practice given no countenance to that boast or reproach ;-he will, for example, carefully appreciate the wide differences - ecclesiastical, moral, and doctrinal - between Bossuet and De Maistre, between Clement XIV. and Pius IX. He will mourn, from his inmost soul, over the change of spirit that has passed upon the Papal See, between the day when it struck a gallant stroke for mankind by putting down the Jesuits, and the day when it restored them — still more that yet darker day when its present occupant addressed a letter to the bishops of his communion, proclaiming the tenet of the immaculate conception of the Virgin, and proposing that it should forthwith be declared an artiele of that Faith, outside of which there is no covenant of salvation.

that

We Christians, of whatever name, have an immense, an incalculable interest in the gains of that milder, and in the losses and defeats of that fiercer spirit. Nor is it only to the mere shell of doctrine that we should look. As long as the people of England remained under the delusion that the present Pope was a lover of liberty-although he never gave the slightest sign of doctrinal mitigation (being in fact, as is known, a more ultra-montane believer than his learned predecessor Pope Gregory)-English prepossessions against the See of Rome were wonderfully softened. All and any signs of improvement and approximation-civil, moral, social, as well as dogmatichave been hailed by us with cordial joy, and will be so again. It is not, therefore, under adverse prejudice that we put Count Montalembert on his trial as a lover of freedom. If for a moment we felt tempted to depreciate sound political doctrine simply because he who teaches it has not renounced the Pope, the memory of Alfred, the thought of Magna Charta, would flash across the mind, and we should stand rebuked Certainly it is strange in this matter, too, to observe what marvellous varieties. of reading the power of headstrong wilfulness can force into the majestic text of history. Count Montalembert, not unnaturally, tells us (p. 34) that the Revolution of 1688 only sanctioned, to the cost of Roman Catholics, the constitution that Roman Catholics had framed. But Chevalier Bunsen, speaking by the mouth of St. Hippolytus,* says that our constitution is the work of the last three hundred years. One of these distinguished writers thinks we did nothing before the Reformation ; the other, nothing since. A contrast somewhat strange; to omit the greater strangeness, that the Chevalier should reckon the Tudor period as one distinguished beyond others by constitutional development. But we Englishmen; in reckoning backwards through the long line of our political descent, are not accustomed, nor contented, to stop where he would have us. We never yet have disowned, but have ever highly prized, our relationship with the founders of our universities, the builders of our cathedrals, the early sages of our law, the patriarchs of our general and our local liberties ; nor will M. de Montalembert meet injustice at our hands, because he is called, in matter of religion, by the same name at least that they are. Hippolytus and his A je, vol. iv. p. 17.

Exercising,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »