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R. BODLEY'S “France” is a work of considerable insight,

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if not in inference; so that the Liberal reader, whose tendencies and whose forecast in politics are naturally opposed to Mr. Bodley's, gives pause in his dissent at every second page, and notes some fact keenly noted, some truth finely rendered. If the course of history should falsify every one of Mr. Bodley's predictions (and this we are fairly sure will be the case), his book may still be read as a singularly accurate record of France as it strikes an intelligent contemporary in the tenth decade of the nineteenth century.

The foundation of Mr. Bodley's criticism, the base of his prophecy, is the Napoleonic origin of modern France. This is undeniable. Napoleon, whose achievement as a conqueror was so short-lived, sarvives as an administrator not only in France, but in all Latin Europe. To quote our author :

“ The whole centralised administration of France, which in its stability has survived every political crisis, was the creation of Napoleon and the keystone of his fabric. It was he who organised the existing administrative divisions of the departments, with the officials supervising them, and the local assemblies attached to them. . . . (His work) was not perfect; no human work is; but admirably suited to the French temperament is the organisation which, created in less than a decade amid the alarms of war, has not only performed its functions for three generations, but stands erect as the framework to keep French society together amid the fever of insurrection or the more lingering disorder of parliamentary anarchy, just as though it owed its stability to the growth of ages” (vol. i. 108-109).



And Mr. Bodley laments that, by a fatal error, & parliamentary

system was grafted on to this imperial organism, which ever since, in porpetual throos, strives to reject and expel the foreign body that by the constitution of its nature it never can assimilate. The creation of an absolute Sovereign, the centralised administration of France tends towards absolutism, tends towards empire: a strong and stable executive being the necessary complement of its orderly hierarchies. “ The day will come,” says Mr. Bodley, “when no power will prevent France from hailing a hero of her choice." The democratic element so curiously blended with the codes and hierarchies of modern France will assert itself sooner or later, and claim, as the right of the people, the choice of the régime under which they shall be governed.

Such is Mr. Bodley's theme. It represents accurately enough the spirit of one great part of France, a spirit which has made itself beard and felt with no small effect in the last few months : a large section of military, aristocratic, and clerical France is wholly of Mr. Bodley's opinion. And the future, which is unknowable and unforetellable, because it is the future, may just conceivably approve these prophecies. Some fortunate adventurer may fly his eagles any day from any port in France. From the Liberal point of view, which Mr. Bodley leaves almost entirely unrepresented, that is the great though improbable danger of the hour. Weary of the ineptitude, the expense, the vacillation, the corruption-all the petty faults of a centralised but parliamentary Republic-France may welcome any change, however fatal. Let us offer her more than one choice !


No one more than Mr. Bodley is sensible of the infinite diversity of France. More, perhaps, than any other nation she realises that variety in unity which appears to be, in all her orders of activity, the constant aim of nature. “ The greatness of France has sprung from the diversity of intellect which has formed and illustrated the French language," writes Mr. Bodley, and this diversity of intellect, as he well observes, is constantly fed by the myriad springs of differing races and tradition which define the Breton of Quimper from the Lorrainer of the Vosges, and the Provençal of Tarascon from the wealthy farmer of the Beauce—all wholly onlike in character and origin, but equally French and heirs of an indivisible tradition. And yet Mr. Bodley does not suggest that, if something be rotten in the state of France, if something gall the great nation constantly, causing brusque swerves and plunges in her capricious yet uninterrupted progress, it may be due less to the defective control of a democracy over a land so various than to the excessive centralisation of a system which does not take sufficiently into account the local needs and responsibilities of the territory governed. All France is measured by the standard of Paris. The same central power administers localities as different as the wine-growing hills round Bordeaux and the manufacturing districts of the Pas du Calais. The same Parisian may be sent to reign as prefect one year in Provence and the next in Brittany ; he reigns, but he does not govern; he does not even administer, neither he nor any of his subordinates ; he informs the central power of the needs of his subjects. The bureaux of Paris decide if such and such a warder may be appointed in such and such a gaol ; if the doctor of a certain mad-asylum may prolong his leave; if the name of such a street may be changed according to the wish of its inhabitants ; if a medical aid society may come into being or be dissolved; and authorise the nomination of a captain of the fire brigade, a village schoolmaster, or a lock-man-for in none of these weighty matters is the prefect competent.* It is strange, bụt it is trae, that in France, to-day, while the Conservatives and Imperialists, with Mr. Bodley, cling to the vast administrative system which sprang from the genius of Napoleon and the traditions of the Revolution, the Liberal party, on the other hand, striking farther back, would fain revive what was best and most national in the preRevolutionary order. The provincial Intendant of the eighteenth century was, in M. Faguet's phrase, “a personality and not a cogwheel," a centre of activity:

“On eut considéré comme du dernier bouffon d'envoyer Monsieur Turgot, intendant du Limousin, en Picardie vers 1768, au moment où il était en train de transformer le Limousin. Mais il n'y a aucun inconvénient aujourdhui à envoyer à Lille M. le Préfet de Limoges, soit à la première, soit à la dixième année de son séjour à Limoges, puisqu'il y fait la dixième année exactement la même chose que la première, et puisqu'il fera à Lille exactement la même chose qu' à Limoges” (E. Faguet, loc. cit.).

The Liberals of France would offer their country not a Bonaparte, but a Targot, or rather a generation of Targots ; not a despot to wield more powerfully a government organised to be a magnificent instrument of tyranny, but a wider diffusion of the responsibilities or powers of those in office, greater liberty and activity in spheres remote from the capital, a larger field for private initiative, a higher importance given to the individual, in brief, a restriction of the State to her primary duties of police, engineering, general expenditure and national defences. For the Liberals do not forget that the last term of a centralised despotism, however apparently successful, is certain, speedy, utter, defeat. They remember how soon the sun of Austerlitz set over Waterloo ; and how the coup d'etat led up to Sedan and the Commune.

* For the instances adduced see Emile Faguet, “Décentralisateurs et Fédéralistes," (Revue du Palais, Mai 1, 1898); M. Paul Deschanel's important brochure, “ La Décen. tralisation"; and especially the brochure of M. Ferdinand Dreyfus, "La Décentralisation."

They remember the utter, absolute collapse of the centralised Prussia of Frederick II., twenty years after his death, upon the fields of Jena. The Liberals of France will not listen to Mr. Bodley, charm he never so wisely, promise he peace or glory, when he would fain persuade them, not without a lingering irony, "that France should go to Russia for her models of government, and to Eogland for her friendships.” A fair proportion of Frenchmen would welcome the friendship of England, but the Tsar of France, we venture to say, haunts only the dreams of Mr. Bodley, or, perhaps, those of M. Déroulède, or, again, those of the amiable young Corsican from Wurtemburg, who commands the Lifeguards at St. Petersburg.

We change something of our personality in changing our country. Mr. Bodley has lived seven years in France and his French individuality is not quite the same as his natural English self.

Mr. Bodley is much older when he treats of France. He is of the age of M. Renan, when he wrote the Réforme intellectuelle et morale. He is of the generation of M. Taine in the Régime Moderne. The immense discouragement of 1870–71 has left upon him lingering traces of distrust and pessimism, and that hero-worship dans le vile which follows a defeat. He demands a bulwark against the excesses of the Revolution, he clamours, if not for an emperor, at least for a Stathouder. And we ask ourselves if, while Mr. Bodley has been studying the Régime Moderne of M. Taine (and he did well and wisely to study it), he has not sometimes forgotten to follow the movement which subtly, secretly and still underground as it were during the last twelve years and more, and every year with increasing speed and influence, is unsleepingly at its task of preparing the France of tomorrow; if, while he has been accurately following the debates in the Chamber as reported in the Temps and the Debats (it was his duty as a historian to follow them, a disagreeable duty which he has not shirked), Mr. Bodley has noted the passing of that obscure little Bill of April 1, 1887, which by giving greater importance to the commune inaugurated the first and most necessary measure of the decentralisation of France ? Whilst deploring, as who does not deplore with him, the unspeakable inadequacy of the Chamber, has Mr. Bodley remarked the astonishing growth of private initiative in the provinces ? The thousands of agricultural syndicates which, all over the country, by diminishing or suppressiog the profits of the middleman, add to the wealth of producer and consumer alike; the growth of co-operation or association in all their forms, the impulse towards colonisation which has already made Tunis a commercial success and bids fair to crown with prosperity the ill-omened expedition to Madagascar ? The innumerable mậtual aid societies, on the model of those founded at Le Creusot by the late M. Schneider, which, without State assistance, secure the individual against accident, disease, or lack of work? We think that Mr. Bodley chiefly sees the exterior fabric of France; an imposing administration. But its monotonous and sterile greatness affords & shelter to an ever-increasing swarm of industrious private enterprises. More than once in studying them I have been reminded of those innumerable collegia, burial societies, mutual aid societies, Christian associations, &c., which, towards the end of the Roman Empire, honeycombed the apparently solid fabric of that imperial and highly centralised administration, and which, they and not it, bore within them the secret vitality of the future.


The present task of France, at all events, is not to prepare an empire, but to organise a democracy. Of this democracy, excessive centralisation is a phase of development, a "growing-pain,” perhaps inevitable :

“C'est un apprentissage long et pénible que celui du self-government démocratique, et une étape intermédiaire s'impose ici, c'est la centralisation qui a pour but et pour justification d'aider à cet apprentissage, et dont les Anglais et les Anglais commencent maintenant à comprendre, après nous et à notre exemple, l'évidente bien que regrettable nécessité. Il faut que cet apprentissage se fasse.”*

Thus England, in her passage from monarchy to democracy, turns centralist and invents County Councils and the School Board. But this centralisation is not a permanent condition, only a stage in the progress from a feudal to a democratic condition of society. Cut violently off from all traditions of the past, the France of Napoleon had to create democracy unaided from her own resources, had to invent it out of her own head, and then to impose it, such as it was. After the foyer of revolution France woke to life with a strong heart that beat, though still her members kept the chill of death. And little by little life has crept through all her vast periphery; the furthest pulse begins to answer now to that huge central throb; every cell is astir and animate. And as the great tide of democracy penetrates the whole organism, this influx of life is gradually awaking new needs, new objects, and a new conception of society. With every year a greater number of Frenchmen outgrow that ideal of centralisation which sufficed to yesterday, and deplore the interference of the State in every department of activity. These citizens of to-morrow exact the principle of individual initiative, turn from the monotonous career of the civil servant towards

Louis Paul-Dubois. “ Essai sur les Finances Communales," p. 300. Ouvrage Couronné par les Sciences Morales et Politiques.” Paris. 1898.


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