Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Democratic Prince – Exciting Scene In The French Senate

The liberal and even democratic tendencies of the Prince Napoleon are well known, but never has he given his views so unmistakably as in a debate in the French Senate on the 25th ult.  The debate was on the address to the emperor, and the remarks of the prince cause intense excitement among the nobles.  He said:

“I hope France will never be sorry for having surrounded my family with honors.  In any case, my spirit will be with my descendants no longer than they continue to deserve the love and confidence of this great nation.  This is how the emperor understood the hereditary succession.  And what happened subsequently?  When, after immense disasters, a ray of light seemed to break on France, and the emperor returned from the Isle of Elba, to overthrow the government of the Restoration, we know in what eloquent words he threw himself upon the nation, and identified himself with its interest, its honor, its glory.  And what cries did he hear as he advanced from the Mediterranean to Paris, carried on the arms of the people and the army?  “Down with the nobles!”  “Down with the emigrants!”  “Down with the traitors!”

The latter word “traitres” was generally mistaken for “Pretres,” and immense confusion immediately followed.  Some of the senators made taunting remarks, and some called the prince to order.  The prince refused to hear the call to order, however, and proceeded:

“Do you pretend to deprive me of the right to continue my speech?  I neither approve or disapprove; I cite the testimony of many historians.  In my opinion, the empire signifies the destruction of the treaties of 1815, within the limits of the force and the interest of France; it is the maintenance of the grand unity of Italy, in future our indispensable ally.  At home it is that order which has no more ardent defender than myself, combined with wise and serious liberties, foremost among them the liberty of the press; it is popular instruction diffused without limits, but not given by religious congregations; it is the well-being of the masses; it is the destruction of the bigotry of the middle ages which some would impose on us.”  And in reply to some remarks of the Marquis de la Rochsjacquelin, he continued: “For my part I say boldly that I have no fear for a government which is rooted in the hearts of the people; and while it remains true to the principles of nationalities abroad, and to the liberal and popular sentiment at home.  It may defy all, even the agitation of the clergy.  I tell the Marquis that our principles are different.  Neither of us is ashamed of his origin.  Our antecedents, our families are different. – Whereas his honorable ancestors fell on the battle fields of civil war under French arms, our fathers fell at Waterloo under English bullets.”

This again caused an immense sensation, and the Senate was adjourned in an uproar.  These remarks of the Prince Napoleon are significant and are regarded with joy by the French liberals.  Occupying the position he does, the prince must be considered as expressing to some degree at least the views of the emperor, and it is clear the latter is not unmindful or forgetful of the source from whence he received his power – the people.  And it is equally certain that the pampered aristocracy and the lazy church dignitaries are not henceforth to be the controlling element in French politics.  The general opinion at Paris is that the tendency of the debate what to consolidate the alliance between the government and the liberal or republican party.  The London Times the stickler for the divine rights of kings, and the intense admirer of hunkerism, especially English hunkerism, ridicules the whole debate, and Prince Napoleon in particular, as was to be expected.  It also takes the occasion to give a thrust at the United States, and thus compares the scene in the French Senate to a debate in Congress:

“The debate in the French Senate, of which we have given a summary, resembles the worst displays at Washington during the last days of the Union.  If we put ultramontanes and liberals for slaverymen and freesoilers, and the French language for that spoken in America, there is no need of further substitutions.  The spirit is the same, the antipathies and the personal vanity are the same, and, in spite of the precise and somewhat stilted style of French disputation, the coarseness and vindictiveness are exactly the same.  Indeed the formality of the expression in the case of French orators makes the hearty vulgarity of their treatment of each other the more incongruous.  It is like a street fight between to cabmen in kid gloves?” – {Springfield Republican.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 22, 1862, p. 1

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