Page images
PDF
EPUB

abuse or praise the Russians, or write in praise or abuse of any other country or subject, that his readers might have a fancy to admire or hate. All other fashions, however, seem to have their day in France but this, and this is of all days. They never tire of abusing this country. The Carlist turns on the

government-man, and says, 'You truckle to the English. The government-man retorts, Who ever truckled to the English so much as you did, who came into power with his bayonet, and thanked him, under God, for your restoration? The republican reviles them both with all his might, and says that one courts the foreigner as much as the other.

If we speak in this manner, apropos of a mere novel of a few hundred pages, it is because we believe that Monsieur Soulié had his brief given to him, and was instructed to write in a particular vein. His facts, such as they are, have been supplied to him; for there are evidences that the writer has some sort of information upon the subjects on which he writes, and there are proofs of wilful perversions from some quarter or other. Take, for instance, the description of a treadmill. • This punishment of the treadmill consists in hanging slaves by the wrists, in such a manner that their feet are placed upon the wings of a wheel. The wheel always yields under their feet, and thus obliges the patient to seek a footing upon the upper wing: The wheel serves likewise to grind the prisoners' corn. An executioner (bourreau) armed with a hammer (martinet)—the whip appeared too mild to these worthy protectors of the negro race — an executioner, I say, placed by the side of the mill, is employed to excite the indolence of those who do not move quick enough on the wheel: and a physician from time to time feels the pulse of the person under punishment, in order to see how long he can bear the torture.' Now this is written with evident bad faith, very likely not on the writer's

part,
but on the

part

of some one who has seen this instrument of torture, a treadmill, and whose interest it is to maintain the slave trade in the French colonies, and who knows that, in order to enlist the mother-country in his favour, he has no surer means than to excite its prejudices by stories of the cruelties and conspiracies of England. Statements are proved in different modes, arguments are conducted in all sorts of ways; and this novel is an argument for the slave trade, proved by pure lying. Its proofs are lies, and its conclusion is a lie. It stands thus: The English have fomented a demoniacal_conspiracy against the slave trade in the French colonies. The English are our wicked, false, dastardly, natural enemies, and we are bound to hate them. Therefore slavery is a praiseworthy institution and ought to be maintained in the French colonies.' . It is to this

[ocr errors]

The Grand Conspiracy.

245 argument that Monsieur Soulié has devoted three volumes which are signed by his celebrated name.

A romancer is not called upon to be very careful in his logic, it is true; fiction is his calling; but surely not fictions of this nature. Let this sort of argumentation be left to the writers of the leading articles; it has an ill look in the feuilleton, which ought to be neutral ground, and where peaceable readers are in the habit of taking refuge from national quarrels and abuse; from the envy, hatred, and uncharitableness, that inflame the patriots of the Premier Paris. All the villains whom the romancer is called upon to slay, are those whom he has created first, and over whom he may exercise the utmost severities of his imagination. Let the count go mad, or the heroine swallow poison, or Don Alphonso run his rival through the body, or the French ship or army at the end of the tale blow up the English and obtain its victory; these harmless cruelties and ultimate triumphs, are the undoubted property of the novelist, and we receive them as perfectly fair warfare. But let him not deal in specific calumnies, and inculcate, by means of lies, hatred of actual breathing flesh and blood. This task should be left to what are called hommes graves in France, the sages of the war newspapers.

As to these latter, which are daily exposing the deep-laid schemes and hypermachiavellian craft of England, we wonder they have not noticed as yet another sordid and monstrous conspiracy of which this country is undoubtedly the centre. If this audacious plot be allowed to succeed, the nationalities of Europe will gradually, but certainly disappear; the glorious recollections of feats of arms, and the noble emulation to which they give rise, will be effaced by a gross merchant despotism; the spirit of patriotism will infållibly die away, and, to meet the aggressions

of the enemy, the frontier shall be lined with warriors, and the tribune resound with oratory no more. The public press, the guardian of liberty, the father of manly thought, shall be as it were dumb: the 'Siècle?

may cry woe to perfidious Albion, and the public, stricken with a fatal indifference, shall be too stupid to tremble; the National' may shout murder and treason against England, and a degenerate nation only yawn in reply. 'A conspiracy tending to produce this state of things,' we can imagine one of those patriotic journals to say, exists, spreads daily, its progress may be calculated foot by foot álí over Europe. The villains engaged in it are leagued against some of the most precious and ancient institutions of the world. What can be more patriotic than to protect a national industry? their aim is to abolish trade-protection, and to sweep custom-houses from the face of the earth. What can be more noble than love of country and national spirit? these conspiritors would strike at

[ocr errors]

the root of the civic virtues. What can be more heroic than the ardour which inspires our armies, and fills our youth with the generous desire of distinction in war? these conspirators, if they have their

way, will not have an army standing; they will make a mockery and falsehood of glory, the noble aim of gallant spirits; they will smother with the bales of their coarse commerce, the laurels of our former achievements; the swords of Marengo and Austerlitz will be left to rust on the walls of our children; and they will clap corks upon the bayonets with which we drove Europe before us.' The RAILROAD, we need not say, is the infernal English conspiracy to which we suppose the French prophet to allude. It has been carried over to France by Englishmen. It has crept from Rouen to the gates of Paris; from Rouen it is striding towards the sea at Southampton; from Paris it is rushing to the Belgian frontier and the channel. It is an English present. Timete Danaos : there is danger in the gift.

For when the frontier is in a manner destroyed, how will the French youth be able to rush to it? Once have railroads all over Europe, and there is no more use for valour than for post-chaises now on the north road. Both will be exploded institutions. The one expires, because nobody will ride; the other dies, because nobody will fight; it is cheaper, easier, quicker, more comfortable to take the new method of travelling. And as a post-chaise keeper is ruined by a railroad, and as a smuggler is ruined by free trade; those concerned in the maintenance of numberless other ancient usages, interests, prejudices, must look to suffer by coming changes

. Have London at twelve hours' journey from Paris, and even Frenchmen will begin to travel. The readers of the National and the 'Commerce' will have an opportunity of judging for themselves of that monstrous artful island, which their newspapers describe to them as so odious. They will begin to see that hatred of the French nation is not the sole object of the Englishman's thoughts,

their present instructor would have them believe; that the grocer of Bond-street has no more wish to assassinate his neighbour of the Rue St. Honoré, than the latter has to murder his rival of the Rue St. Denis; that the ironmonger is not thinking about humiliating France, but only of the best means of selling his kettles and fenders

. Seeing which peaceful and harmless disposition on our part,the wrath of Frenchmen will melt and give way: or rather let us say, as our island is but a small place, and France a great one—as we are but dull shopkeepers without ideas, and France the spring from which all the Light and Truth of the world issues that when we are drawn so near to it, we shall sink into it and mingle with it as naturally as a drop of rain into the ocean (or into a pail), and at once and for ever be absorbed in the flood of French Civilization.

as

( 247 )

ART. XIII.Biographie des Cotemporains : ESPARTERO. Paris.

1843. The military and political events which terminated in the independence of the United States, may be criticised as dilatory, as fortuitous, and as not marked by the stamp of human genius. That revolution produced more good than great men. If the same may be said of the civil wars of Spain, and its parliamentary struggles after freedom, it should be more a subject of congratulation than of reproach. The greatness of revolutionary heroes may imply the smallness of the many; and, all things duly weighed, the supremacy of a Cromwell or a Napoleon is more a slur upon national capabilities than an honour to them. Let us then begin by setting aside the principal accusation of his French foes against General Espartero, that he is of mediocre talent and eminence. The same might have been alleged against Washington.

Moreover, there is no people so little inclined to allow, to form, or to idolize superiority, as the Spaniards. They have the jealous sentiment of universal equality, implanted into them as deeply as it is into the French. But to counteract it, the French have a national vanity, which is for ever comparing their own country with others. And hence every character of eminence is dear to them; for though an infringement on individual equality, it exalts them above other nations. The Spaniard, on the contrary, does not deign to enter into the minutiæ of comparison. His country was, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the first in Europe ; its nobles the most wealthy, the most magnificent, the most punctilious, the most truly aristocratic; its citizens the most advanced in arts and manufactures, and comfort and municipal freedom ; its soldiers were allowed the first rank, the sailors the same. The Spaniards taught the existence of this, their universal superiority, to their sons; and these again to their offspring, down to the present day. And the Spaniards implicitly believe the tradition of their forefathers, not merely as applied to the past, but as a judgment of the present. They believe themselves to be precisely what their fathers were three hundred years ago. They take not the least count of all that has happened in that period: the revolutions, the changes, the forward strides of other nations, the backward ones of their own. A great man, more or less, is consequently to them of little importance. They are too proud to be vain.

This part of the Spanish character explains not a few of the political events of the countries inhabited by the race. In all those countries, individual eminence is a thing not to be tolerated. It constitutes in itself a crime, and the least pretension to it remains unpardoned. Even Bolivar, notwithstanding his immense claims, and notwithstanding the general admission that nothing but a strong hand could keep the unadhesive materials of Spanish American republics together, even he was the object of such hatred, suspicion, jealousy, and mistrust, that his life was a martyrdom to himself, and his salutary influence a tyranny to those whom he had liberated.

There did exist in Spain, up to the commencement of the present century, a grand exception to this universal love of equality, which is a characteristic of the Latin races. And that was the veneration for royalty, which partook of the oriental and fabulous extreme of respect. Nowhere is this more manifest than in the popular drama of the country: in which the Spanish monarch precisely resembles the Sultan of the Arabian Nights, as the vicegerant of Providence, the universal righter of wrongs, endowed with ubiquity, omnipotence, and all-wisdom. Two centuries' succession of the most imbecile monarchs greatly impaired, if not effaced, this sentiment. The conduct of Ferdinand to the men and the classes engaged in the war of independence, disgusted all that was spirited and enlightened in the nation. A few remote provinces and gentry thought, indeed, that the principle of legitimacy and loyalty was strong as ever, and they rose to invoke it in favour of Don Carlos. Their failure has taught them and all Spain, that loyalty, in its old, and extreme, and chevalier sense, is extinct ; and that in the peninsula, as in other western countries, it has ceased to be fanaticism, and survives merely as a rational feeling:

Royalty is however the only superiority that the Spaniards will admit ; and their jealousy of any other power which apes, or affects, or replaces royalty, is irrepressible. A president of a Spanish republic would not be tolerated for a month, nor would a regent. The great and unpardonable fault of Espartero was, that he bore this name.

Another Spanish characteristic, arising from the same principle or making part of it, is the utter want of any influence on the side of the aristocracy. For a Spanish aristocracy does survive: an aristocracy of historic name, great antiquity, monied wealth, and territorial possession. The Dukedoms of Infantado, Ossune, Montilles, &c., are not extinct; neither are the wearers of these titles exiled or proscribed; nor have their estates been confiscated or curtailed. But they have no influence ; they have taken no part in political events; and are scarcely counted even as pawns on the chess

« PreviousContinue »