remembrance of grave errors of observation, and the most unpardonable hardihood in putting forward pure hypotheses as ascertained scientific truth.

What then is left standing of the scientific structure erected by Paul Bert? His proposal for utilizing, as an anæsthetic for patients under surgical operations, a mixture of protoxide of nitrogen with air at a high pressure. Whether this mixture does or does not possess the qualities attributed to it by M. Paul Bert we cannot undertake to say; but as its use would require that the operation should be performed in a special chamber under a very high atmospheric pressure, the suggestion is clearly without any practical value.

The fact is, that Paul Bert succeeded in passing himself off as a statesman on some men of science, and as a man of science on some statesmen. He knew how to find his advantage in maintaining this double character.

To the policy of our party Paul Bert was simply fatal. My opinion on this point has never varied; I have asserted it again and again, and even to Paul Bert himself, telling him that I was his adversary and his enemy, in spite of my esteem for him as a writer and speaker, and the regard I had for his latent scientific value.

The men of science may say what they please; the character of our race, taken as a whole, is not materialistic. Our great historical developments, our great national actions, bear the stamp, not of self-interest, but of idealism and of chivalry. To attempt to turn France into a country ruled and regulated by a sort of scientific absolutism, where every manifestation of public feeling shall be logically calculated, and shall have for its immediate object a result which can be discounted beforehand, and for its final end the mere increase of our wealth and power, is to take from us all that makes our greatness in the world's history-our independence, our spontaneity, our generosity.

Gambetta, who knew how to interpret so grandly the noble sentiments and large aspirations of the French people, perverted his genius and frustrated his own career when he allowed himself to be led by the positive science of Paul

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Results? What results? Tonquin, with its train of political dissensions and a deficit. Tonquin, which has killed Paul Bert.

Gambetta was greatly amused at my hostility to Paul Bert; he told me it was very feminine and very illogical; and on the rare occasions when we met, toward the close of his life, in the days when those who surrounded him had already come to calling him "the Dictator,' he never failed to speak of Paul Bert, and burst into admiring ejaculations about everything he did.

[ocr errors]

I saw Gambetta at Saint Cloud the Sunday after the mishap at Charonne. He had just been taking the chair at the Château d'Eau, at an anti-clerical meeting of Paul Bert's.

He came in a little late to dinner. Some dozen of us were already assembled on a flight of steps at the bottom of the garden when he appeared. He spied me at once, across the green lawn and a vase of tall fuchsias, and called out in his sonorous voice:

'Admirable ! superb! extraordinary! Never since Voltaire has such an irrefutable indictment been brought against the clergy! And what a style! What consummate art!''

"And what bad policy!" said a great banker who was with us, in a low voice,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

on again by the Paul Bert process. But earnest in a talk he had with me, which the tail declines to be cut. I will give further on.

[ocr errors]



The Charonne people, Gambetta, are no better than so many ship-rats on their way to New Caledonia."

As a colleague of Gambetta's in his great ministry, Paul Bert soon showed that he did not know what he wanted. He brought forward project after project, experiment after experiment, and succeeded in none of them, and then was furious at finding no immediate solution. He shut himself up, and never emerged but in a passion. Exacting, imperious, autocratic as he was, he found time, in sixty days of power, to unsettle everything, to turn everything upside down, to provoke opposition to his projects on all hands, and to produce nothing but embarrassment in the public services and consternation among his friends. With his mania for experiment, and with all his scientific merits turned to political defects, what could he be in politics but a disturbing force? Heartily approving the Tonquin expedition at its outset, he gradually separated himself from his friends because they would not carry out his theories of colonization; for this determined centralist, this rampant supporter of governmental omnipotence, went in for local government in the colonies. Having no personal opinions, nothing but his habits of observation, the actual demonstration of facts had had great weight with him. He had travelled in Algeria. He had lived among the Arabs. He therefore accepted colonial autonomy. He wrote an interesting pamphlet on the subject, and sent it to me with the superscription: "To my enemy, Mme. Adam ;" and as it was really a striking pamphlet, and afforded an opportunity for favorable criticism, I wrote and gave him his due.

Paul Bert had long been worrying the Chamber to send out a civil governor to Tonquin. When it was decided that the thing should be done he found himself very naturally designated for the post, and he consented to fill it.

The Figaro published an account of a conversation which took place before he left between him and a member of its editorial staff. The conversation is curious, and shows him to have been in

[ocr errors]

“I have no illusions," he said, as to the difficulties of the mission intrusted to me, but I could not refuse it. My position in fact was a delicate one. It was I who had advised Gambetta to annex Tonquin; I considered it a necessary dependency. Since then I have been always combating the policy adopted there; I deplored the mistakes committed by leader after leader; and both in the Chamber and in the Press I was always urging the appointment of a civil governor. Now they come to me and ask me to be that civil governor, to try the system I have been advocating, to take the responsibility of carrying out my own colonial theories. Well, I have accepted it, and I am off. I start to-morrow with all my family.


der some real service to my country. Besides, I confess that I do expect to renI have long been a student of this great question of colonial policy, which everybody is now so full of. I have spent part of my life among the Arabs; I have investigated their character and customs; I have noted the defects of our system of conquest. Since my return to France, not a single book on the East has appeared that I have not thoroughly mastered, and, as it were, dissected. And if, as I admit, the Annamite is a new subject with which I have never yet had to deal, at least I fancy I shall understand the Annamite a good deal better than people who have never seen him.

"And so, notwithstanding my age and my family, and the daily drudgery of my political and scientific work, I have consented to go into this distant exile.

[ocr errors]


And then, believe me," he concluded, as we parted, people have an absurdly exaggerated idea about difficulties and diseases. You may be very sure Tonquin is not at all what we imagine it."

On the thirtieth of last January I was sitting at my writing-table, when, without knock or announcement of any sort, Paul Bert walked in. With that assurance, that audacity-that really courageous audacity-of his, he had forced his way in, paying no attention to my servant's remonstrances.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

I would have his memory yet more glorious than it is, and I shall do everything in my power to make it so; I shall contribute all I can to it. But what are his friends doing? They are defacing his monument, crumbling it, destroying it.

How they have all rushed off in a body to swell the cortège of Ferry, who is no better than a caricature of him!" Ferry is the most to blame," I said. Yes-a thousand times yes. There we are quite agreed.'


[ocr errors]

Agreed now," I said; "but you, too, did not you join the cortège ?"

[ocr errors]

"What Ferry is responsible for is nothing short of crime," slowly enunciated Paul Bert. And it is lucky for me that I am going away, so that I shall not be mixed up any more with that man's policy."

"But why did you not rather withdraw from political life? In going out there as governor, you are still mixed up with it. You might have applied for a great scientific mission, and gone out to Tonquin as a scholar, a man of erudition. You might have made yourself very useful among the Mandarins. You are made for observation, for research, and not for action."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


good luck or ill luck at your beck. is not a question of Paul Bert, whom you abominate, but of a Frenchman who is going far away to try and get a little good out of the enormous sacrifices that have been made. Look you, Madame le Grecque, will you not put up a little prayer to Neptune for the voyager?''

"What are you going to do out there?" I asked. "What is your programme? What are your plans? Opportunists don't have any, generally speaking. You have something of the Saint-Simonian about you; you can find the progressive element easily enough in a fact which comes ready to hand, but you can do nothing till you have got the fact-a capital principle when you are in opposition, because then your adversaries have to find the facts; but a wretched principle for a Government, which has to produce the fact itself."

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

"I am going to try to conquer the Annamites," answered Paul Bert, not to conquer Annam. I am going to study their race, their ritual, the habits of thought of the literary caste, of the Mandarins."

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

There, you see," said I, an academic mission would have served your purpose completely. The man of science is uppermost in you still. Your character as Governor will alienate the Mandarins; that of a delegate of the Institute would have attracted them."

"But I wish to raise the people. I wish to rescue them from the domination of the Mandarins. To do that, I must be in power.'

[ocr errors]

And there is a contradiction to begin with, for you cannot both protect the people and please the Mandarins. Whatever you do, don't go expecting to find a solution all at once. In a country like that, where the very smallest custom has lasted for centuries, don't begin by upsetting everything, as you generally do. And you must not think there is nothing but Annamites in Annam; there is a whole Oriental atmosphere, in which dangers of all sorts are constantly brewing for the colonist or the conqueror. I still fear that if we should get involved in any European complications, China will after all possess herself of those tempting provinces on which we have spent so much.

[ocr errors][merged small]


[ocr errors]

superb assurance, China is no enemy of ours. She is too much afraid of England and Germany and Russia. I shall try to convince her that it is her interest not to add us to the list of her enemies. And the climate? What are you going to make of that terrible climate, that Minotaur which devours our children and wastes our strength-that accursed possession, that graveyard of Frenchmen?"

"The climate ?" said Paul Bert, smiling. "I shall treat it with contempt. I do not think it dangerous. You see I

do not, for I am taking my wife and children with me to Hué. Besides, on all that stretch of coast, I shall easily find a healthy place. There must be

one somewhere.

46 Take care. That coast has many windings, and you may light on the unhealthy spot instead of the healthy.'

[ocr errors]

"I believe in my mission," he answered sharply. "Besides, I am going to be very prudent. I shall keep in mind what Claude Bernard used to say to me- When you make a discovery, be your own first critic.' You will see. I shall win over the Tonquinese people to the French cause; I shall free them from their oppressors; and I shall find means to satisfy the oppressors themselves, besides.''

[ocr errors]


It will take you twenty years, said, to produce a single one of these results.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Cabinet du Résident Général. ADEN, Feb. 26, 1886. "The ancients, when they were engaging in a great work, sacrificed a white kid to the propitious divinities, and a black kid to the unpropitious.

I came to you to ask you of which color I was to choose my kid, and, like a good Greek and a good Frenchwoman, you told me white. May the sacrifice bring me good luck, and the divinity continue favorable to me. For the rest, fortunate winds have brought me so far,

[ocr errors]

except on your Greek coast, where the honey is so sweet and the wave so rough. At the mouth of the Emilian Gulf we had the weather Horace wished for Virgil.

"Is this a good omen, or only the victim's wreath? In either case, I am not one of the

submissive, and the Calchas who means to cut my throat had better look out for himself. "I have not Iphigenia's vocation.

[ocr errors]

Happily for many reasons, I have no longer an enemy except among the men with yellow skins and half-shut eyes. And even them I hope soon to reduce to friends.

'I say reduce them, for I cannot hope to charm them into friends.* That is a gift I was not born with, and for long years I have Twenty years! It will take me six stupidly wasted my opportunities of taking inmonths."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"I am sorry for you. You are always the same. You think you can graft reforms, like rats' tails, on the living flesh. Catherine the Great said a fine thing in one of her letters to Voltaire : My dear philosopher, it is not so easy writing on human flesh as it is on paper.' You are going to make laws, to suppress abuses, by proclamation. You ought rather to be preparing time to produce, and custom to undergo, a process of slow but sure modification.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

He seems to have struggled, manfully and wisely, to be worthy of the mission he had wished for and accepted. He found death in a path which was not his own path; but no one now can blame him for having followed it. The debt one pays with one's life cannot be owing still. Let his memory be lightened of one, at least, of the responsibilities he incurred the fatal conquest of Tonquin.

But has he not, in dying, opened the Out there, face to way for others? face with that negligible quantity, the

* Fr. Je dis réduire et non séduire.

Chinese Empire, in that climate where, under the Ministry of M. Ferry, the public health was repeatedly found to be so perfect, should not some one of

those who have got France into the most perilous of all her scrapes be ready to relieve guard at the dead man's post. Contemporary Review.


WE wish Sir John Lubbock, or some other man with the necessary knowledge and lucidity of expression, would deliver a special lecture on the rate of savage progress. He might be able in the course of it to resolve one or two problems presented by savage life which are, to us at least, grave perplexities, weakening the hold on us of the general theory of progress. Sir John holds, as we understand his writings and his abominably reported lecture of Saturday at Toynbee Hall, not only that some savages have progressed, which is past question, many peoples now civilized being the descendants of true savages, but that all savages, like the rest of mankind, tend to progress. Now, is that quite true, or being true, is the rate of progress such that man has any right to hope that savages will, during any period about which it is profitable to speculate, become civilized human beings? Sir John Lubbock tells us that modern savages are not like primitive savages, modern savages having placed themselves in many cases under the yoke of elaborate and complex customs which are signs in their way of progress. We suppose the deduction is true, for though civilized man shows a tendency to abandon custom, or to hold it lightly, semi-civilized man clings to it as his sheet-anchor, the Chinese, for instance, obeying certain rules with a rigidity equal to that of the modern savage. If, therefore, the Chinese were ever savages, which on the theory is certain, their devotion to rigid custom is either a sign of progress or a corollary of it. It is not a sign of rapid progress, devotion to custom being merely a rude way of preserving the accumulated result of experience or the ideas held to be true; but still, it is a sign of advance beyond the true childlike stage. The Chinese certainly have progressed, and as certainly are custom-worshippers. But why is Sir John

Lubbock so sure of his datum that primitive savages were less under the yoke of custom than modern savages are? How do we know what savages were like in those early times, when observers could distinguish nothing except the broadest facts, and travellers described a savage tribe much as English sailors would now? May not an aboriginal race of B. C. 2000 have been governed by a clan system as elaborate as that of Australia, no trace of which has come down to us? It is not likely; but the wisest know nothing about it, and in building a theory on primitive absence of restraint, we are building in reality on a plausible assumption. Then is it clear that the progress, if there is progress, goes on at a rate which affords any hope of great advance during the lifetime of man upon the planet? Take Sir John's Australians, for example. He knows better than we do the nearly irresistible evidence which exists-and was published by ourselves some two years ago-for the antiquity of the Australian aborigines. Either the mounds cf clam shells on his coast were put there by some tricksy spirit intent on deceiving savants, or the native must have lived where the mounds are, fishing and eating, breeding and dying, for some thousands of years. If that savage has progressed, why has his progress been so purposeless, or his rate of progress differed so much from the rate recorded in European and Asiatic annals? To all appearance, he would not become civilized at that rate in scores of thousands of years, and why should he become civilized at all? Because there is a law of progress? Well, grant it as regards certain races, where is the positive evidence of it as regards others? May not the Veddahs be old? It is difficult to argue without going behind history; but does Sir John Lubbock see proof, unquestioned proof we mean, that the black races of Africa

« VorigeDoorgaan »