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the French Revolution, the Commune,—have been nothing so much as terrible screams from a Humanity crushed and hunted into a corner. If the movements which ended in these outbreaks be studied, they will be found one and all to have been efforts on the part of the People to realize exactly the same thoughts as those expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. The similarity of their objects in every country and all ages, and their likeness to those of Jesus Christ, is a wonderful testimony to the truth that the Gospel of Jesus Christ exactly corresponds to the wants of Humanity.
In that terrible edict by which the Imperial authority in the reign of Charles V. sought to stamp out Anabaptism by rendering every man, woman, or child suspected of it an outlaw, liable to death, there is a striking proof of the fact that its doctrine was fundamentally the cry of the oppressed in every age :—"We learn daily that, notwithstanding our warnings and commands, the sect of the Anabaptists, interdicted and condemned already many centuries past, augments day by day and gains continually in power and in influence." For this universal Reign of Justice, after which the common people everywhere so persistently aspire, always appears to the governing classes in a light either ridiculous or terrifying. As long as it is an ideal, they mock it as impracticable; directly it seeks to realize itself in acts, they crush it as social anarchy. Thus the people arc driven mad, and their cause becomes stained with outrages which every one shudders to think of, and those who shared in them, perhaps, most of all.
And so, too, in the minds of many who sincerely love justice, but who set an undue value on accepted notions of truth and the established order of society, the mountain of prejudice against the popular ideal of Christ's doctrine rises higher from age to age.
Perhaps a view of it through the softened medium of the mind of a man of genius and a great painter and humourist may tempt such persons to throw aside prejudice and to study for themselves the thought of the common people in all ages.
May this short paper then prove like the tree Moses was instructed to throw into the bitter waters of Marah,—may it especially lead those who have at heart the religious welfare of the people, to see that the Gospel they are asking for is one in harmony with their ideal of a Universal Reign of Justice—the doctrine of the Sermon on the Mount.
Vol. Xliii. o o
IN almost all the chief towns of France there are special tribunals —called Cornells de Prud'hommes—for the settlement of differences between masters and workmen, and between workmen among themselves, in matters relating to trade. The meaning of the phrase is, a board or council of wise and experienced men. Its actual working can best be explained by an illustrative instance, such as may be found on almost any day in one of the manufacturing or industrial towns. The particular illustration is taken from a court held at the Tribunal of Commerce, opposite the Palace of Justice, in Paris. Entering the middle door and proceeding upstairs, we pass a long corridor containing a stuffed bench for the witnesses, a chair, and a table furnished with the usual inkstand and saucer of pounce, at which the office messenger is to sit and pretend to write while awaiting the bell-ringing from any of the rooms. Opening out of this corridor are doors labelled, " Cabinet of the Secretary," " Cabinet of Monsieur the President/' "Hall of Conciliation," and so forth. The hall, which is rather a low room for its size of 30 feet long by 16 feet broad, is lighted by two windows, and is divided by a bar into two unequal parts. Within the bar, and between the two windows, there is a small table, at which sit the President for the day and another member of the council. At the right hand of the President is the secretary, at a second table. The President, who is a master manufacturer, is a tall, stout, well-made man, about sixty years of age, his closely shaven face and short grizzly hair showing an intellectual head and a firm mouth. His companion on the bench is a working-man about forty years old, with long black hair and thick moustache, worn without whiskers or beard. What his oval face loses in symmetry is gained in force by the projection of his temples. He seems to be in perfect accord with
the other member of the council, and it is amusing to observe the hearty and energetic way in which, while the President, for the sake of appearances, holds a large sheet of paper before them, they lay their heads together and whisper, gesticulating the while, as is the universal custom with Frenchmen. Both councillors wear badges of office, consisting of a black ribbon round the neck, from which hangs an oval silver plate of some three inches in depth, with about a dozen radiating points, each tipped with a silver dot.
Outside the bar, one at each end, sit a policeman and the office messenger; or, rather, they are supposed to be sitting, but the latter is always bustling about with fussy importance. There are half a dozen benches, covered with green cloth, to accommodate the people waiting to be " conciliated." One thing to be remarked is the perfect verbal courtesy that marks the proceedings, just such as a stranger observes in the streets, in the shops, and in public vehicles. The workman is styled " Monsieur" in the same way as the master, or the "patron/' as the latter is always described in the proceedings. When only one party to a case is present, it is adjourned for the issuing of a more formal citation; when botli are absent the case is considered as settled. One case will suffice to show the general nature of the proceedings. It was brought by Monsieur Adolph against his late " patron," Monsieur Coutray. The former had come just as he was used to attire himself for work. The latter had arrayed himself, or had been arrayed by other hands, in all his glory. He had brought with him Madame Coutray, or she had brought him. At first it did not clearly appear which was the case, but ere long it was evident who was the real "patron." The office messenger, whose foresight and personal honour could not but be admired, succeeded in persuading Madame to sit near him, and he at once constituted himself her controller, but with varying degrees of success as the case went on. The complainant took his place on the President's right hand side of the bar, and the respondent on the opposite side. The President held a paper containing a summary of the demand, and looking at this he asked the complainant what he wanted. Whereupon Monsieur Adolph, although with none of the usual volubility of French workmen, said :—
"I want to be paid a week's money, because Monsieur Coutray showed me to the door without notice."
"Well, Monsieur Coutray,'' asked the President, "what say you to that?"
"Monsieur le President," began he, fluently, "this is not a man to my liking. He is- not a serious man. I often found him smoking in a department of the factory where we keep straw, and I spoke to him strongly about it. One Saturday evening I asked him to carry a box to a client's, but he refused, and told me I might carry it myself. So I told him he must go, as I did not want him any longer, and that after the following Saturday there would he no room for him in the factory. On the Sunday morning he came to me and said that his wife had no bread for the children, and he prayed me to take him back. I told him he might come for a few days, so that he might have a chance to find something else. I did this, sir, in charity," added Monsieur Coutray, raising his voice, and gracefully placing a hand on his capacious and snowy shirt-front. "On Monday I sent him to one of my best clients, and he ought to have gone again in the afternoon. But he was absent at two o'clock, at three, at four; and one found him in a doorway, asleep, drunk, and—smoking his pipe.''
Monsieur Coutray paused, to allow this great enormity duly to impress the court, although he did not appear to see the difficulty of his late workman smoking while asleep.
Then he resumed :—
"So on the Saturday night I paid him, and again dismissed him!"
"Well, Monsieur Adolph, is that true?"
"No, Monsieur President; I was neither found in a doorway, nor drunk, nor asleep. As for my pipe, is it that one may not smoke his pipe while walking on the street to go to one's work? The patron once spoke to me about my pipe, and once only, and I immediately put it in my pocket. And on the Saturday night when he asked me to carry the box it was already seven o'clock, and I said it was too late to go so far, and that it was not my work to carry boxes. But I did not insult Monsieur Coutray. When I went again it was not for a few days. And on the Monday, on the Boulevard, he spoke to me at the end of the day, but said nothing of my being asleep, or drunk, or of my pipe; and yet on the Saturday he gave me my money, and told me to go away."
Adolph spoke with hesitancy, and tried to aid his tongue by waving his long arms. It transpired that he was from Alsace, which was the reason why he was not so voluble. Monsieur Coutray was with difficulty restrained from interrupting him repeatedly; and his better half all the time gave great trouble to the officer who was trying to keep her quiet.
"Monsieur le President," at length said the patron, "he came to me on Sunday, weeping. In charity" (again the graceful action on the shirt-front), "I told him to go to his work. He fails me at one of my best clients. He prefers his pipe to my interests. He is not a serious man, such as I love," and so on in an ascending key.
The President cross-examined both parties. He ascertained that the custom of the trade, and of Monsieur Coutray's shop, was to give a week's notice or a week's pay to the workmen on dismissal. Then he said,—
"Monsieur Coutray, if when you found this man smoking in a dangerous place, or when you found him, as alleged, drunk instead of being at his work, you had dismissed him, and he had then brought you here we should have said that you had reason for the dismissal. But seeing that you for a time overlooked these faults, if they occurred, and seeing that it is your custom to give a week's notice, the question before us depends on what passed on the Sunday, when you told Monsieur Adolph that he might come again. Did you then tell him plainly that it was for a few days only, and that he was not to require a week's notice?"
"Monsieur le President, he came to me weeping; and in charity," —but the usual graceful action was this time interrupted by the President saying rather sharply,—
"Pardon, Monsieur Coutray, answer me categorically. Did you tell him that he must not require notice?"
"Monsieur le President," said the bewildered man, who had been perpetually casting furtive glances at his wife, "he came to me weeping, and I"
But the President ceased to pay any attention; and putting up his sheet of paper, he leaned towards the other member of the court. They whispered together, while Monsieur Coutray was letting off his speech again, and while Madame was being calmed and pacified by the office messenger. In about two minutes the President said,—
"The Court has heard both parties, and considered the evidence, and is of opinion that Monsieur Coutray should pay Monsieur Adolph one week's wages,— say, thirty-six francs, and for the two letters of the Court sixty centimes. Do you accept this decision, Monsieur Coutray?"
"But, Monsieur le President, I reclaim one and a half day's wages for the time he did not work," said Coutray, anxious to pull something out of the fire, "when he was drunk and smoking."
"For the drinking I do not know," said the President, " but certainly he did not work one day, so we will say thirty francs sixty centimes."
Monsieur Coutray fumbled in his pockets, as if to find the money, which was not there but in Madame's keeping. He meekly received it from her and placed it on the table. Madame, whose face had suddenly blanched, regained her natural colour and retired, followed by her husband, to the evident relief of the office messenger. Adolph discreetly took a long time to count his money and pay over the sixpence of costs. Then he forgot his cap, and did not remember it, or could not find it, until Madame had ample time to descend the stairs and get part of her way homeward.
With all the amusement afforded by watching this case and others that arose, with the main action and the byplay of incidents in the various scenes, it could not but be acknowledged that justice had been fairly rendered. In this particular case Adolph was doubt