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now that twelve years have passed, aud all the facts are known— that but for the intrigues and fears of men like Bazaine, aud Troclm, and Thiers, and the wild intestine hatred that a generation of civil war had bred, and the feebleness and the selfishness that a generation of Empire had bred, the defence would have succeeded.
The Germans knew it, aud feared it. It was impossible for Germany to conquer France had Frenchmen been true to themselves. The grandsons of the men who had repelled Europe at five sides at once were conquered by a nation no bigger, and far less powerful in material resources than themselves. I can never forget how Gambetta himself spoke of this to me. In a long conversation on the war, I asked him years after all was over: " Could then the defence have been continued in 1871?" "Certainly I" he groaned out bitterly, crunching his clasped hands. "Of course it could I" "Then why did they give in?'-' said I. "C'etait le coeur qui leur manquait/' he roared out, bounding off his scat, and his face purple with shame and rage. "Because they were out of heart," said he. And I felt what Danton had been in '93.
It is said this is not very much to have done. Gambetta was au eloquent talker, and did nothing but put iuto eloquent words the thoughts of thousands. In one sense that is true. The statesman ti' hypothesi is not the original thinker; he is never the lonely discoverer of a peculiar truth. Nor is he the mere mouthpiece of other men's schemes. The man who touches the brains and hearts of his time with that sympathetic and guiding note which brings them to one act at the given time—the man who makes the current idea and the dominant feeling burn in thirty millions of spirits at once, who utters the true word at the right time—this is the statesman; and the man of this sort is rare, and appears but once in a generation or two.
The work of Gambetta in 1868, or in 1870, was in the main the work of a single idea. His work in 1877 was far more complex, and far more truly of the political sort. The great struggle irt 1877 between Despotism and Republic—for that was the true issue then, as we now see—was in a marvellous sense the work of Gambetta. The long six months' struggle of France with the Government of Combat, the consummate skill with which all the Republican parties were restrained, sustained, and concentrated, the order, self-restraint, and discipline of the country under a series of reckless provocations, the grasp over an intricate network of electoral movements from one end of France to another, the marvellous success in face of desperate pressure, the ease, order, and completeness of the triumph, its liberal and noble spirit, and the rejection of all vindictive retaliation—this was the work of Gambetta alone. I was myself at that time in all parts of France, and I was in constant intercourse with leaders of the movement in Paris and in the country. One and all would say, "We do not know the data ourselves, hut Gambetta has the whole machinery of the party in his hands. He knows the facts in every constituency in France. He has them all in his head; he assures us of success; and we trust him/' France did trust him in 1877; and the Republic was made.
Thus three times the Republic was due to Gambetta: to his audacity in 1868, to his resolution in 1870, to his sagacity in 1877. And to be the foremost bold man, the foremost resolute man, the foremost sagacious man of your generation, is to be the great man. To be the great man who founds the Republic is to be the man of the century. I take of this century in Europe, Canning, Peel, Cobden, Gladstone, in England; Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi, in Italy; Stein and Bismarck, in Germany; Deak and Kossuth, in Hungary; Lincoln, Grant, and Garfield, in America; and I say that the foundation of the Republic in France is a work far greater and more difficult than any which they undertook.
The Republic in France is the condition of all progress. The old Europe of feudalism cannot disappear, the new Europe of the people cannot begin, till the Republic is founded. It means the definite extinction of hereditary claims of every kind, the final admission of capacity and merit to every function in the State. The Republic is the issue of all modern history since the sixteenth century; it is the condition of all future progress since the eighteenth century ended. It is the great political problem of modern Europe; ripe for solution only in France; already attained in a modified form by England; still hovering in the balance elsewhere. But the problem of the nineteenth century is the establishment of the Republic in France; and the man who as yet has done most to establish it is assuredly Leon Gambetta.
II. I take him next as the statesman of the new social strata; and here again it is certain that no single politician in Europe within this century has been at once a foremost power in Europe, and a man of the people in origin, habit, interest, and sympathy. The type of Lincoln and Garfield is common enough in the United States. But in Europe, in this century, there has been no other example. Men like Cavour and Bismarck are great forces; but they belong by race and training to the old feudal classes. Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli did not belong to them by birth; but their training and their habits were as much those of the governing classes as Lord Derby's or Lord Salisbury's. Mr. Gladstone has the popular fibre and the popular sympathy; but he has never abandoned nor defied the old aristocratic orders. I do not say it would he wise for an English politician to do so; but in France it is the condition of true Republican force. Neither Thiers, nor Grevy, nor any of the elder statesmen have ever stood forth as direct representatives of the people. Gambetta alone, of the men of European position, has done so. His memorable words, that the Government of France must pass to new social strata, was no idle phrase but a reality. Gambetta, even if for a moment he indulged in luxury, lived, and died, and was buried the son of the grocer of Cahors. lie not only felt sympathy with the populace, but he never could cease to be of the populace himself. I have seen him within recent years myself living like any young beginuer in literature or science, as completely a son of the people as when he talked and laughed in the Cafe Procope. I am far from saying that this is necessary or even desirable in every country in Europe; but in France it is. The only possible Republican ruler in France is the man of the people. And it is of prime importance to Europe to show that the son of a country shopman cau reach the first place in bis country before he is forty, and without ceasing to be the son of the shopman. And here again I say that it is a thing of great moment in the world that the death of the son of a provincial tradesman should be an event of European importance, and that he should have the burial of a chief of the State.
III. I take him next as the first modern Frenchman who combined Revolutionary ends with Conservative methods—that is to say, who was resolved to carry out the principles of the Revolution, both those of 1789, 1791, and 1848, by means of popular conviction, and not of (oups-de-main and terror. He was, as no other Frenchman in this century has been, trusted at once by the masses of the cities, and by the masses of the peasants. The workmen of the great cities of France are at present in a state of revolutionary excitement; the peasants and farmers of the country are the most purely Conservative class in Europe. I mean by Conservative, averse to all doubtful experiments, whether backwards or forwards. It is quite true that Gambetta was so Conservative that he had lost a large part of his influence with the workmen of Paris and Lyons. He would probably, had he lived, have lost even more. But he died, by free vote, Member for Belleville, the most insurgent quarter of Paris. He who did this at the same time possessed the confidence of the mass of the rural voters- This was to unite Order and Progress, as no other foremost politician of France has ever done in our time. They have to choose the one or the other—the changes desired by the mass of the workmen, or the permanence loved by the mass of the peasants. They are avowed Revolutionists or avowed Conservatives; men who, like Thiers and Grevy, influence the middle class without influencing workmen at all; or men like Clemenceau, who lead the workmen, but have no influence with the rich and the peasantry. Gambetta was the one Frenchman of modern times who could induce the Revolutionists to follow constitutional means to their ends, whilst inducing the Conservatives to face and accept a new order of government. lie had founded, and, had he lived, he would possibly have secured, what M. Lafitte has called an organic, progressive, Republican party.
He had hardly succeeded, when cut short in death. Nor can we he at all sure that in any case he would have succeeded in his task. The situation of Trance is extraordinarily difficult; one that makes government for the moment almost impossible. The democratic mania (and by that I mean the passion of groups and of individuals to reject every centre of power but that which promotes their own particular nostrums), this democratic frenzy has gone so far that we may well doubt if any government by opinion is now possible. Free government means government by cousent of the governed and by rational guidance of their convictions. But when a society has got into that state that the majority of energetic natures hold it as the first duty of a man not to be governed at all; when opinion is in that state that in place of rational convictions society is saturated with prejudices incompatible with each other, and agreeing only in being impervious to reason at all—-then government (by conviction at least) is nearly a hopeless task. I am not saying that France has reached this hopeless state; but the democratic poison has gone nearly as far as is compatible with rational existence. We, to whom the Republic is the normal condition of the most advanced civilization, who call for a social and not a mere plutocratic Republic, are as far as ever from the democratic system. Let us explain these terms which are used so loosely in England. By Republican Government we mean that government which represents the mass of the people without privileged families of any kind, or any governing class, or any hereditary office. It is government in the name of the people, in the interests of all equally, in sympathy with the people; where, so far as the State is concerned, neither birth, nor wealth, nor class, give any prerogative whatever. We mean, in fact, by Republican what is on the lips of all English Liberals, but is so little to be found in the facts of English politics. By Democracy we mean the direct control of the machinery of government by all citizens equally, or rather, by such of them as can succeed in making themselves heard, and for the time paralyzing the rest. This government by everybody in turn is the negation of the true Republican Government; for in place of being the government by conviction and consent of the people in the interest of all, it is the arbitrary enforcement of a set of narrow interests by small groups in endless succession.
The virus of democracy (which, in the sense in which I use it, is so little republican or popular government, that it is rather a scries of impotent tyrannies by petty groups), the virus of democracy may have gone so far in France, that Gambetta would have attempted to organize it in vain. Certain it is, that with all his democratic training, and all his democratic habits, his very existence was an antidote to democracy. Every great personality, every national reputation, every creative political force, is in itself the negation of democracy. Democracy, or everybody ruling for his clay in turn, and in the meantime, till his turn comes, furiously assailing every one whose turn is come, is hushed into silence by the very existence of a great man. A great statesman is ipso facto as fatal to democracy as a great general is incompatible with mutiny. I am not speaking of England nor of the English Parliament, where different circumstances make different conditions. I am speaking of France to-day, and I do not hesitate to say that her one chance of good government lies in the hope that her government will assume a personal and not a democratic form. By personal I do not mean despotic; certainly not military, nothing imperial, not a rule of bayonets, and prisons, and exile, and the state of siege; but the government of a capable man or men, freely accepted and followed by the will of an intelligent people. In a way we have something of the kind here; in a way they have something of the kind in America. The great chance of their having it in France lay in the future of Gambetta. I am far from saying that in such a situation even he would have succeeded; but his life offered chances of such a thing that we look for in vain in France.
Par be it from me to imply that we should approve of all his schemes, or even condone his later policy. I am free to acknowledge that of late I have earnestly repudiated many leading features of his policy. His attack upon the Catholic fraternities, his idea of a State Church, of a State education, of State public works, are contrary, I hold it, to any just and radical principles; whilst the miserable aggression in Tunis, and the criminal spoliation of Egypt, fill us with the warmest indignation. For the most part, in the last two years, I have found myself more often on the side of Clemenceau, and heartily desirous of seeing the policy of Clemenceau succeed.
But in the one great necessity of France, the formation of a governing party or power, perfectly Republican, at once progressive and '-'onservative, I ask myself if Clemenceau has the prospect of succeeding where Gambetta failed. By all means let us support him if prospect there be. But I am not sanguine. Clemenceau is so far unable to deal with Democracy, in that he is himself a fanatical adherent of the Democratic creed. To him the defeating of any personal power is the first duty of a citizen; whereas the formation of a personal power is the first necessity of the Republic. To him Opportunism is the worst of political crimes; whereas Opportunism is simply the basis of all true statesmanship. To him, the beginning and end of politics is the logical fulfilment of the Revolution; whereas the condition of fulfilling the Revolution is to make it the
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