By George W. M. Reynolds
Another glorious victory is gained by the cause of True Freedom: Eugene Sue, the Red Republican and Socialist Candidate, has triumphed by an immense majority of votes over the favourite of the Reactionaries. The writer of tales which everybody has red, has beaten the hero of a romance for which no one could vouch. In spite of the sickening, nauseating, mendacious accounts of Leclerc’s bravery at the barricades,—in spite of the maudlin sympathy which it was the endeavour to create on behalf of the shop-keeper by the representation of his stoic patriotism in fetching out one son to avenge another’s death,—in spite of all the diabolical attempts made by the ruffian Prefect of Politics to put down the public meetings of the veritable Democrats,—in spite of all these influences, I say, truth has prevailed and Eugene Sue is triumphant. Now what will the Times newspaper say? How will it account for its prophecies of the inevitable success of monsieur Leclerc? Never was there a public print so curse by a misinformed, pig-headed, and purblind Paris correspondent as this unfortunate Times which dares to call itself the “leading journal of Europe!” Its predicament was as ludicrously miserable on the occasion of the last elections as it is in the present instance. Both then and now its leaders were assured—most positively assured—that the Red Republicans and Socialists had not a chance. What do the aristocracy and middle-classes of England think of their favourite journal now? will they still look upon its opinions as gospel? Will they still regard its prescience as infallible? Poor wretched drivelling Times—it is not even so truthful, so sapient, or so far seeing as the “Grandmama” Herald!
Let the Democrats of England rejoice at the victory which their cause has obtained in France. Again is the grand truth made patent to all the world, that two-thirds of the French nation, judged by any test that may be put, are Red Republican and Socialist. Who, then, shall dare to say that millions and millions of the most intelligent, enlightened, and logical people on the face of God’s Earth, are all in error and that they have adopted opinions which will prove subversive of society? A year and a half ago the Times ridiculed the French by the averment that “they had a Republic without a single partizan of republicanism.” Wondrous indeed then must be the truthfulness of a Red Republican and social doctrines when they can make millions of proselytes in so short a space! And now observe, that the middle classes in France must be deeply imbued with those principles, in order to enable them again and again to achieve so signal a Triumph. And yet in England for leaders of the middle classes will not even grant universal suffrage to the nation!
I cannot for the moment take leave of the Times without reminding my readers that after the last elections, which resulted in the triumph of the glorious Patriots, Carnot, Vidal, and De Flotte, the Paris correspondent of the English journal just mentioned wrote, day after day, to insist that the French shop-keepers bitterly repented of the votes they had given and had merely purposed to give the government a lesson. Now, either the Times must have made the scandalous misrepresentations wilfully, or it must have been so badly informed as to destroy forever its authority as an organ of intelligence. For, so far from the Parisian middle-classed being sorry for their recent conduct, they have deliberately, intentionally, and nobly enacted the same admirable part over again. In a word, the great majority of the French people are Red Republican and Socialist; and as France is the nation which moves the world, the progress of true democracy throughout Europe cannot be for a moment doubtful.
What dismay—what terror—what dread alarms, has the result of the Paris election created amongst the tyrants and the oppressors of the people in all countries which the glorious intelligence has yet reached!—and what rage, despair, and apprehension must now rack the soul of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte! The Army is against him—the Middle Classes are against him—the millions are against him: and the wretched knot of drivellers, traitors, and intriguers who constitute “The Party of order,” are alone for him.
There never was a period in the annals of the civilised world more solemnly or sublimely interesting than the present one. It is fraught with materials for the study of the philosopher—with striking events for the narrative of the historian—with wondrous phases for the contemplation of the social reformer—and with the gravest subjects for the pen of the journalist and the oratory of the politician. And more than all these, it is pregnant with terror for the oppressor and with hope for the oppressed. Everywhere have worn out institutions been shaken, and the old systems of society subjected to a scrutiny and an exposure which they cannot long survive. Their iniquity, their corruption, and their injustice have been rendered so apparent, that the next revolutionary convulsion on the Continent will be the signal for their utter annihilation. In some countries the result will be brought about by violence: in others by moral means. Where the possessors of power and the privileged orders persist in clinging to the very last unto those systems which benefit the few to the prejudice of the many, torrents of blood will inevitably flow: but where the rulers and the aristocratic exclusives yield in time, freedom may be gained without the loss of a single life.
It is easy to distinguish and point out the countries that will have to pass through a fiery ordeal, and those which will have to pass through peaceful transitions from a state of corruption and danger to a condition of health and security. In England, the grandest reforms may be accomplished by moral means because the very nature of our institutions is such that those which are objectionable are either perishing by their own intrinsic rottenness, or are ready to fall by their own weight. It only requires that continual pressure of Truth which the growing intelligence of the millions has brought to bear upon such institutions, to hasten their decay and accelerate their fall. For instance, the bloated Church establishment, so flagrantly at variance with the true Spirit of Christianity, cannot possibly maintain itself much longer. The dissenters and nonconformists of all sects, grades, and opinions, are the really intellectual and the most enlightened religionists in the country; and they constitute an overwhelming majority in comparison with the votaries and adherence of that Church Establishment. Then again, the Hereditary Aristocracy is perishing by a suicidal process; its avowed antagonism to all real progress—its hatred of the masses generally—its arrogance, greed, ignorance, selfishness, and all the other bad patterns which inspire its exclusive mind, are so many weapons which it is in reality turning against itself. Next come the great Landowners—the monopolists of that garden which God Almighty gave the benefit of all, and not for the advantage of a favoured few: their tremendous privileges received a heavy blow by the abolition of the Corn-Laws—and the destruction of the far more infamous feudalisms of primogeniture, mortmain, and entail, would speedily break up there monopoly altogether. The ridiculous pomp, ostentation, and pageantry connected with the court have even become obnoxious to middle-class leaders; and such men as Hulme, Bright, Cobden, Walmsley, and others of the same school, have not hesitated to denounce that extravagant mummery in the strongest terms. The navy and the army,—the Crown Lands and the Colonies,—the Government Offices and the Diplomatic Departments,—all these have received such a showing-up that to maintain them upon their present basis and in their existing condition for any length of time, is a hope in which none but the most drivelling old Tory can possibly indulge. Then as for Parliamentary Reform and the remodelling of the whole representative system,—these are certainties within the range of prophecy,—not only because the people are resolute on these points, but also because there is such a complete break-up of all the old political parties in the House of Commons that no strong ministry can now be formed on the present system. In fact, with the Whigs continuing to hold power upon the most precarious tenure,—with Peel’s party utterly unable to take their place,—with the Protectionists notoriously incompetent to retain office for three months, even if their opponents should allow them to slip into it,—the state of parties is such that confusion and anarchy must follow unless some influential leader suddenly and promptly takes up the cry of “Reform.” England, then, is in that position which must shortly compel the adoption of a progressive policy, however unwillingly it may be taken up by those time-servers who are likely to yield through selfish expediency rather than from conscientious motives. It requires but a vigorous agitation on the part of the industrious classes throughout the country to evoke that spirit of pliancy: let the seed be sown now—and the harvest will be reaped abundantly in a very short time.
Such is the position of England—a position which guarantees a bloodless triumph of for the true votaries of Democracy. In the United States of America a happy and prosperous people will pass by rapid transitions, easily and without convulsive shocks, from the enjoyment of those glorious political rights which they now possess, to be attainment of those social blessings which constitute the true meaning of liberty, fraternity, and equality. In Sweden and Norway there is likewise every prospect of the masses obtaining their rights and privileges without insurrectionary means:—and the same may be said of Switzerland. But now the picture becomes reversed;—and in pointing to France, the German States, Prussia, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and glorious Hungary, it becomes lamentably evident that the atrocious tyranny of despots or the oppression of worn-out institutions can only be taken off by violence.
In France the existing government stands upon a mine which the most trivial accident may cause to explode at any moment. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte has become not only obnoxious—but what is infinitely worse for his prospects, he has grown contemptible. The French might endure a real lion for a season: but it is against all experience to believe that they can long tolerate the ass in the lion’s skin. Not even the great name of Bonaparte can serve as a cloak, much less an apology, for the most impudent charlatanism. The hand has gone forth—the writing is upon the wall—and the fingers of Red Republicanism have traced the Upharsin of the presidential career of special-constable Louis Napoleon. He is falling—he will fall: and on the ruins of his insane hopes and ambitious prospects will be established the veritable Social and Democratic Republic.
In Spain and Portugal the aspect of affairs is by no means encouraging to the “party of order.” The queens are both countries have done all that they possibly could to render monarchical institutions odious, scandalous, and infamous in the eyes of their subjects. I know not how true it may be, but the Morning Post has openly and fearlessly accused the Portuguese Queen of adultery with the Count de Thomar, her favourite minister;—and a reference to the letter of my Spanish correspondent in another column, will furnish an idea of the estimation in which the Spaniards must now hold the young woman who reigned over them. But, whether these Queens be calumniated or guilty, matters little to be argument. It is enough for the true friends of Democracy to know that Isabella of Spain and Maria of Portugal are regarded with very unloving eyes by the subjects. Whatever their private characters may really be, it is certainly enough that the tyranny which they either practice or countenance has goaded their people to the very verge of desperation;—and the instant but the thrilling cry of “Paris is again in Revolution!” shall echo across the Pyrenees, the Democrats of Spain and Portugal will not look idly or quietly on.
And who does not know—who does not feel convinced beyond all possibility of doubt, that the moment the brave Republicans of Paris shall rise again, the cowardly old Pope will decamp from Rome, with a greater precipitation than ever, to make room for the glorious Mazzini? The miserable, narrow-minded, bigoted ecclesiastic, who dares to call himself the Apostle of that Christ whose worshippers he instigated the Franco-Algerine marauders to butcher and massacre—who retains his States through pools of blood shed to minister to his ambition and his worldly mindedness,—and who has been piety to pronounce blessings where the widows and orphans of murdered or exiled patriots are invoking curses upon his head,—this old man who has so much to answer for will not retain his ill-recovered power a single week after the coming overthrow of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. With the downfall of the Popedom, adieu to tyranny in Naples—farewell to Royalty in Sardinia. Italy will be emancipated; and from the Alps to the Gulf of Taranto, the paeans of an enfranchised people shall gladden the hearts of Garibaldi the Brave and Mazzini the Incorruptible.
Then, too, in that good time which is fast approaching, the banner of the Magyar shall again be fanned by the breath of Liberty. A day of terrible retribution will it be for the Austrian miscreants who hanged the Patriots, scourged the women, and massacred the innocent children of Hungary. But a glorious day will it be for European democracy, when the admirable Kossuth, whom the villainous scavengers of a hireling press have dared to calumniate, shall once more preside over the councils of the nation that he loves so well. Then, despite the execrable perfidy of Georgey—despite the sanguinary policy of the Austrian Kaiser,—despite the sword of the bloodstained fiend Haynau—and despite also of the English Times, Kossuth shall become the regenerator and avenger of his country.
Austria, deprived of Hungary and the Italian provinces, will be reduced to a fifth-rate power—its limits circumscribed to those of the medieval Ducky ere its rulers placed the crown of the Caesars on their brow. But the brave Viennese will not tolerate any imperial, nor royal, nor ducal authority: they will remember the atrocities of Windischgratz and the cruelties of Ban Jellachich—and they will host the banner of democracy on the summit of Saint Stephen’s.
But when all these grand events are occurring in the countries already named, Prussia and the German states will not remain tranquil. The citizens of Berlin have not forgotten the cannonading with which their king, who rules “by the grace of God,” treated them in the month of March, 1848: neither have they lost sight of his numerous oaths glibly pronounced and as readily broken—his impudence octroying them a constitution, instead of allowing the national representatives to form one—his treachery towards the Frankfort Parliament, and his miserable trickery and establishing the Erfurt farce,— nothing about this will the Prussians forget when the proper time arrives for them to proclaim how deeply the remembrance of their wrongs is seared upon their hearts. As for the petty kings and trumpery dukes of the smaller states, they only retain their at this power this moment through the protection of Prussia; and when the cause of democracy triumphs at Berlin, it will spread like wild-fire throughout the Germanic Confederation.
All these results are inevitable. Nor are they far distant. The experience of 1848 and teachings of the seventeen revolutions which occurred in Europe at that epoch, warrant all predictions which I have hastily sketched. Prior to the glorious days of February in the above-mentioned year, had any man written or spoken prophetically of an Emperor of Austria running away from his capita—of a King of Prussia remaining a prisoner, with paralysed energies, in his Palace—of a King of Naples granting a Constitution—of a Baden army laying down its muskets to a man—of a Tuscan Grand Duke flying from presence of Democracy—or of a Pope bolting in the most ignominious and cowardly manner possible, while a modern Rienzi arose in his place,—had all these things been predicted even a week before they began to happen, the prophet would have been laughed at as a madman. But they did all happen, nevertheless. Aye—and they shall happen again too, within a very short time. But the results may not prove quite so satisfactory to “the party of order” on a future occasion has they did on the last. For inasmuch as most of the fugitive monarchs have now returned to their seats of tyranny, when they run off or are driven away the next time, they shall never come back! The democrats of the Continent have been duped once: they will be deceived no more.
But while waiting to become the Spectators of those glorious deeds that are soon to be enacted on the theatre of Europe, let the industrious classes of England remember that if their democratic brethren abroad are compelled to bide their time, they may nevertheless be agitating at home. Because the former struggle will be one of violence, for which a favourable opportunity must be awaited: whereas the movement here is a peaceful, a legal, and a constitutional one, relying only on moral means and bloodless agencies, and therefore fitted for all Seasons and all occasions. Let meetings be held—let tracts be circulated—let cheap political periodicals be established—and let the working men assemble of an evening to read or hear read the journals that are favourable to their cause. Especially let them study foreign politics, which open so vast a field for their enlightenment and furnish so many glorious champions worthy of their admiration. Let them teach their children to mingle in their prayers the names of Kossuth, Mazzini, Ledru-Rollin, and Louis Blanc: let them rear their offspring in adoration of the nobles of nature, instead of teaching them to cringe and bow to the aristocracy created by title and by privilege. In conclusion let them remember that MAN is the highest distinction which God recognised when He made all living things—and that there is no real or estimable aristocracy save that of Mind and of Virtue.
Citation: G.W.M. Reynolds, ‘The Prospects of the Democratic Cause’, Reynolds’s Weekly Newspaper, 5 May 1850, p. 1.