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THE MONSTER TRIAL. So little is the general course of French affairs attended to in this country, that when, as at present, some single event, either from its importance or its strangeness, attracts a certain degree of notice, its causes, and all which could help to explain it, have been forgotten. It is true that the most assiduous reader of only the English newspapers, even if he retained all he had read, would understand little or nothing of the real character of events in France; for the editors of the English newspapers are as ignorant of France as they probably are of Monomotapa ; and their Paris correspondents, being mostly Frenchmen, write as if for Frenchmen, and repeat the mere gossip of the day, pre-supposing as already known all which Englishmen would care to know. By being the solitary exception to this rule, the writer who signed
0. P. Q.' in the Morning Chronicle' gained a temporary popularity, merely because, unlike the rest of the fraternity, he assumed that his readers knew nothing, and had to learn everything. In the · Examiner' alone, for the last four years, those who take interest in the fate of that great country, which divides with ourselves the moral dominion of Europe, have had the passing events placed carefully before them with regular explanatory comments.
From that paper we quote part of an article which appeared on the 26th January, 1834, descriptive of the character and objects of that portion of the French republicans against whom the procèsmonstre is mainly directed.
• The Société des Droits de l'Homme is at present the hobgoblin or bugbear of the jusle milieu. The language and manner of the partisans of Louis Philippe with respect to tliat association are a curious medley of affected contempt and intense personal hatred, not without an admixture of fear. They are constantly and studiously imputing to the members of the society the absurdest opinions and the most criminal purposes ; they are incessantly averring, with a degree of emphasis which betrays a lurking doubt, that those opinions and purposes are abhorred, by the French people, and that the society has not, and never will have, the support of any class whatever, even the lowest. Yet, in the very same breath in which they declare it to be harmless by reason of its insignificance, they proclaim it so mischievous and so formidable, that society is certain to perish unless it be put down, by whatever means.
'In truth, the alarmists are equally wrong in both feelings, whether the feelings be sincere or affected. This much-talked-of association is not to be despised; neither, on the other hand, is it to be feared. It does not aim at subverting society, and society would be too strong for it if it did. Were we to believe some people, the edifice of society is so tottering, and its foundations so unstable, that a breath is enough 10 blow it down; nay, there cannot be any stir in the surrounding atmosphere, nor any knocking upon the ground, without its certain destruction." But we have another idea of society than this; for us it is something more steady and solid than a house of cards. The evil we are apprehensive of is stagnation, not movement; we can anticipate nothing in the present age but good, from the severest, from even the most hostile scrutiny of the first principles of the social union. Instead of expecting society to fall to pieces, our fear is lest (the old creeds, which formerly gave to the established order of things a foundation in men's consciences, having become obsolete) the fabric should mechanically hold together by the mere instinctive action of men's immediate personal interests, without any
basis of moral conviction at all. Rather than see this we should prefer to see the whole of the working classes speculatively Owenites or Saint Simonians. We are not frightened at anti-property doctrines. We have no fear that they should ever prevail so extensively as to be dangerous. But we have the greatest fear lest the classes possessed of property should degenerate more and more into selfish, unfeeling Sybarites, receiving from society all that society can give, and rendering it no service in return, content to let the numerical majority remain sunk in mental barbarism and physical destitution. * * * * * *
• The Society of the Rights of Man some months ago embodied their principles on the subject of property in the form of a manifesto, along with which they republished, as a compendium of their opinions, a Declaration of the Rights of Man, whic! was proposed by Robespierre to the National Convention to be prefixed to their republican constitution, and was by that body rejected. The name of Robespierre was well calculated to excite a prejudice against this document, but any thing more harmless than its contents can scarcely be conceived. Such, however, was not the impression of the Parisian public. The writer of this was at Paris when the document made its appearance, and he well remembers his astonishment at the nature and intensity of the sentiments it appeared to excite. Those who did not deem it too contemptible to be formidable were filled with consternation. The Government party, the Carlists, the Liberals, were unanimous in crying anarchy and confusion ; even Republicans shook their heads and said, “This is going too far." And what does the reader imagine was the proposition which appeared so startling and so alarming to all parties? It was no other than the definition which, in the Robespierrian declaration of rights, was given of the "right of property,” and ran as follows :
“The right of property is the right which every one possesses of using and enjoying the portion of wealth which is guaranteed to him by the law.” (La portion de biens qui lui est garantie par la loi.)
• Such is the superstitious, or rather idolatrous, character of the respect for property in France, ihat this proposition actually appeared an alarming heresy, was denounced with the utmost acrimony by all the enemies of the propounders, and timidly and hesitatingly excused rather than vindicated by their friends. The maxim was evidently too much for all parties; it was a doctrine considerably in advance of them; even republicans required some time to make up their minds. Ardent revolutionists, men who were ready to take up arms at five minutes' notice for the subversion of the existing dynasty, doubted whether they could admit, as a speculative truth, that property is not of natural right, but of human constitution, and is the creature of law. Truly, there is little fear for the safety of property in France. We believe that in no country in the world, not even the United States of America, is property so secure; the most violent convulsion would not endanger it; in a country where nearly two-thirds of the male adult population possess property in land, and where the notions entertained of the inviolability of property are so pedantic and (if we may be permitted the expression) 80 prudish, that there are persons who will gravely maintain that the state has no right to make a road through a piece of land without the owner's consent, even on payment of compensation.
'Strange as it may appear, in the declaration of rights, drawn up by Robespierre, and adopted by the Société des Droits de l'Homme, there is not, with the one exception which we have mentioned, one single proposition on the subject of property which was considered exceptionable even by those who were so scandalized at the above definition. No limitation of the right of property was hinted at; no new or alarming maxim promulgated ; unless such be implied in the recognition of the principle of the English poor laws, that society is bound to provide subsistence and work for its indigent members ; and this document was rejected by the convention, by the body which put to death Louis XVI., and created the revolutionary tribunal, rejected by that body as anarchical. Yet there are people who believe that the principle of the French revolution was spoliation of property! For the thousandth time, we say to the English Tories and Whigs, that they are as utterly ignorant of the French revolution as of the revolutions among the inhabitants of the moon. Acts of injustice were done; rights, which really partook of the nature of property, were not always treated as such ; but the respect of the revolutionary assemblies for all that they considered as entitled to the name of property amounted to actual narrowness and bigotry. We do not affirm this solely of the comparatively moderate and enlightened men who composed the constituent assembly, but in even a greater degree of the violent revolutionists of the convention, to whose obtuser and less cultivated intellects such a prejudice was more natural. In the height of the reign of terror anti-property doctrines would have been scouted, even more decidedly than now; no one dared avow them for fear of the guillotine; nor do such doctrines figure in the history of the revolution at all, save in the solitary instance of the conspiracy of Babæuf, greatly posterior to the fall of Robespierre and the Montagne.' * *
In April, 1834, about three months after the above article was written, the leaders in a general strike of the silk-weavers of Lyons, which had just terminated unsuccessfully, were prosecuted by order of government; and this prosecution, together with the knowledge that the detestable law then in progress through the Chambers for putting down all associations unlicensed by government would be applied to the extinction of trades' unions, pro. voked the unfortunate insurrection at Lyons, which lasted five days, and was with some difficulty suppressed. This was not a political, but a trades' union insurrection. The government, however, took that base advantage of the alarm excited by it which all French governments have long been accustomed to take of all events exciting a panic among those who have something to lose. They got up an insignificant riot in the streets of Paris, called it an insurrection, took the most violent measures for repressing it, (a house was broken open, and all the inhabitants, twenty or thirty in number, butchered by the troops,) and availed themselves of the excuse for seizing the persons and papers of all the leading members of the Société des Droits de l'Homme. Not one of those leaders was even suspected of being concerned in either of the two insurrections, but the opportunity was thought a good one for laying, under colour of law, the clutches of the government upon the correspondence of the society. It is now a year that these distinguished persons have been kept in prison; and that time has been employed in manufacturing, from the papers which government got into its possession, evidence of a plot. The next desideratum was, to bring the prisoners before a tribunal which would be sure to convict them. Paris juries had been tried, and found not sufficiently docile. They had always scouted the miserable attempts to hunt down innocent men on charges of treason and conspiracy; and memorable had been the exposure, on more than one such occasion, of the malignant and fraudulent artifices of the government. There was, however, a resource. In servile imitation of the English constitution, the Chamber of Peers had been, by the French charter, invested with the power of trying ministers for treason or malversation on the prosecution of the Chamber of Deputies. This provision Louis Philippe, following a questionable precedent of Louis the Eighteenth's reign, has applied to the case of persons who are not ministers, nor prosecuted by the Chamber of Deputies; and has brought the pretended authors of the pretended republican conspiracy of Paris, along with the presumed authors of the real trades' union revolt at Lyons, before the Chamber of Peers; that is, before a body named by the government, and mostly holding places under it.
Nothing can denote more complete ignorance of France than the daily speculations in our liberal newspapers as to the embarrassments which the Chamber of Peers is supposed to have brought upon itself by consenting to be made the tool of the government in this matter, and the loss it is likely to sustain in public estimation. The Chamber of Peers is so happily situated, that it cannot possibly suffer any loss of public estimation; any change on that score must be to its advantage. It is as completely insignificant as our House of Lords would be if it were a body of mere pensioners, not hereditary, containing as little talent as at present, and scarcely any fortune. The Chamber of Peers, previously to this trial, was heartily despised. It may now attain the more honourable, and, to a Frenchman especially, far more enviable position of being hated. By showing that it has still the power in spite of the imbecility inherent in its constitution) of making itself formidable as an instrument of tyranny in the hands of the other two branches of the legislature, it may have a chance, which it certainly had not before, of regaining a certain sort of consideration. The Monster Trial is its last throw for political importance.
SKETCHES OF DOMESTIC LIFE.- No. IV.
Dorcas Bell was the youngest child of a humble family, which had gradually fallen lower and lower in the world, through the incidental calamities of frequent sickness, and occasional want of employment; yet Dorcas was fourteen years of age ere she left her home to go into the world in the capacity of a common servant.
With pretensions as humble as her condition, she was not eligible to any but a servitude of a lowly grade, and such she met in the house of a small tradesman.
To many of this class, more than to any other, adheres that servile, sordid feeling which is incident to those whose position places them in the crouching attitude of dependence, and stimusates them with the desire for accumulation. Some years since, the period in which this story is laid, this class was tinctured with a deeper die of meanness than now—now that the lights of knowledge are being generally diffused, and the consciousness of common rights, spreading even to the counter and the court, makes * darkness visible,' and counteracts the caterpillar principle' in both.
Into the family of Abel Barton, grocer and tea-dealer, Dorcas was admitted. There, amid ignorance, uncouthness, and some share of opulence, reigned the exterminating spirit of custe-that spirit which drives the wretched pariah beyond the pale of social communion--that spirit over which, when we see it mark the pagan, we mourn, but when we see it brand the christian, we marvel!
Dorcas came to the house of servitude from the house of mourning; not long before, her father had been called away, and the grave had just closed upon him as the world opened upon her. She came among strangers, not merely a stranger, but a degraded stranger; and a spirit already bowed by grief was soon bent yet lower by oppression.
The home which she had left had, it is true, never afforded her anything but hard fare and hard work; but there the cordial hand of equality had clasped her own, and the familiar voice of affection had spoken her name. In her master's house she was better clothed and better fed: but indifference, if not disdain, met her in every look; cold, if not unkind, command enjoined her duties ; regardless, if not ungrateful, apathy received her services. With what zeal were these at first rendered! How eager she was to earn the sympathy for which every unsophisticated creature yearns! Nay, even the sophist and the slave of lucre has a corner of his heart in which the heaven-lighted spark twinkles—for it No. 102.