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in the public journals, which nearly unanimously assailed CHAP. the proposed measure with a degree of vehemence unexampled even in those days of rival governments and
1820. desperate party contests. On the one hand, it was said Censorship
of the press. by M. Manuel, M. Lafayette, and M. Camille-Jourdan : A “ The censorship is essentially partial ; it has always been in ainst so, and it is impossible it should be otherwise, for it is position. absolute government in practice. You have already suspended individual liberty, and you are now about to add to the rigour of arbitrary detention by the censure, for you render it impossible for the Ministers to be made aware of their error. You ask for examples of the abuse of the censorship; they are innumerable: the most arbitrary spirit prevailed when it was last established, for they erased even the speeches of your own colleagues, when they were in defence against attacks. To what do you aspire with these ill-timed attempts at repression ? To extinguish the volcano ? Do you not know that the flame is extending beneath your feet, and that, if you do not give it an adequate means of escape, it will occasion an explosion which will destroy you all ? While the liberty of Europe is advancing with the steps of a giant, and when France wishes, and ought to be at the head of that great development of the dignity and faculties of man, a government, to whom, indeed, hypocrisy can no longer be objected, is endeavouring to drag you into a backward course, and to widen more and more the breach which already yawns in the nation. Whither are we tending? You accumulate lettres de cachet and censors ! I am no panegyrist of the English government, but I do not believe that any minister could be found so bold as to propose, in that country, at the same time, the censorship of the press, and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act.
“ To prevent is not to repress, say the partisans of the censorship. Never was a more deplorable illusion. To Concluded. subject the journals to such fetters is to strike at the
CHAP. liberty of the press in its very heart. The liberty of the
periodical press is the life-blood of freedom. Vigilant 1820.
advanced guards, ever wakeful sentinels, their sheets are to representative governments what language is to man. They serve as the medium of communication between distant places, whose interests are the same; they leave no opinion without defence, no abuse in the shade, no injustice without an avenger. The Government is not less aided by its efforts. The Ministry know beforehand what it has to hope or to fear; the people, who are their friends, and who their enemies; and to them we owe that early communication of intelligence, and that rapid expression of wishes, which is an advantage which nothing else can supply. Attack openly the liberty of the press, or respect that of the public journals; but recollect that the charter has not separated them, and that it has withdrawn both alike from every species of censorship. This is not a question of principle; it is a question of life or death. We have arrived at that point, that if our personal freedom, the liberty of the press, and the liberty of elections, are taken away, the charter has become a mockery, the constitutional monarchy is at an end. Nothing remains for us but anarchy or despotism. Power will rest with the strongest ; and if so, woe to the feeble
majority in this Chamber which now directs it. Nothing 1. Ann. Hist. can long remain strong which is not national. Do not iii. 67, 68,
denationalise the throne : if you do so, your majority will soon be broken to pieces.”1
On the other hand, it was contended by Baron Pas56. Answer by quier and Count Siméon: “ It is books, and not pamerialists." phlets, which have enlightened the world. Cast your eyes
on the condition to which the unrestricted liberty of the journals has brought society, and everywhere you will see the passions roused to the highest degree, hatreds envenomed, the poniards of vengeance sharpened—and the horrible catastrophe which we all deplore is a direct consequence of it. Consider the character of that crime :
one special character distinguishes it, and that is fanati- CHAP. cism. But what sort of fanaticism? Every age has had – its own, and ours is not less clearly defined than that 18 which, two hundred years ago, sharpened the dagger of Ravaillac. It is not now the pulpit, it is the journals which encourage fanaticism ; it is no longer religious, but political. Where are the organs of that fanaticism which threatens to tear society in pieces to be found ? By whom is it cherished, flattered, exalted? Who can deny that it is the journals and periodical publications that do this ? Men eminent for their talents, respectable for their virtues, influential from their position, have not disdained to descend into this arena, and to employ their great abilities to move the people. Others, borrowing every mask, have learned and employed every art to turn to their advantage the most shameful projects, the most infamous objects which the heart of man can harbour. Such is the government of journals ; powerful to destroy, they are powerless to save. They have destroyed the Constitution of 1791, which gave them liberty; they destroyed that Convention which made the world tremble.
“ We are told that the liberty of the press is the soul of representative governments. Doubtless it is so; but it concluded. is not less true that the licentiousness of the press is its most mortal enemy. I do not hesitate to assert there is no political system sufficiently strong to bear the attacks which it has now come to organise amongst us. Possibly the time may come when, as in England, it may be practicable to establish fully the liberty of the press amongst us; but unquestionably that time has not yet arrived. The event we all deplore, the universal débâcle of violence which has succeeded it, is a sufficient proof of this. In the mean time, Government, without the aid of extraordinary powers, cannot command a remedy for these evils ; it has not, and should not have, any influence over the tribunals; the dependence of magistrates would degrade,
CHAP. unsuccessful prosecutions weaken it; verdicts of juries, so
powerful on public opinion, might destroy it. In a word, 1820.
it is necessary to supply the deficiency of repressive, by augmenting the strength of preventive checks ; and this can only be done by the censorship. It is in vain to object to such a power, that it may be converted into the arm of a party. Doubtless it might be so; but that party is the party of France-of the Bourbons—of the charter of freedom. That party must be allowed to triumph, for it is that of regular government. The time has arrived when we must say to the people, “The danger with which you are menaced does not come from your governors ; it comes from yourselves—from the factions, in whose eyes nothing is fixed, nothing sacred, and
which, abandoned to their senseless furies, would not eur, scruple to trample every law under their feet. It is from Feb. 19, 1820; Ann. them that we must wrest their arms, under pain of perishHist. iii, 65, 66. ing in case of failure, for they aim at nothing short of
The Doctrinaires, who felt that their influence was 58. Result of mainly dependent on strength of intellect, and dreaded the debate. March 30. any restriction upon its expression, almost all voted
against the Government on this occasion in the Chamber of Deputies; and in the Peers, M. de Chateaubriand, whose ardent genius revolted at the idea of restraint, was also ranged against them. The Right Centre, however, with that exception, nearly unanimously adhered ; and the result showed how nearly the parties were balanced, now that the Chamber was divided into two only. In the Peers the numbers were 106 to 104; in the lower house, 136 to 110. It is remarkable that, on so vital a point for public freedom, the majority was so much greater in the Commons
than the Peers. On the day after the final division in the * Moniteur, Chamber of Deputies, a commission' was appointed by the 1820; Ann. Minister of the Interior to examine all periodical journals 65, 66, 81. before their publication, and the censorship came into full
for any lengurain the violence
its of national tem
Experience has confirmed the assertion here made, that CHAP. no government has ever been established in France, since the Revolution, which has been able to stand for any length of time against the unrestricted assaults of the Reflections
, on this subpublic press. Whether it is from the vehemence and ect proneness to change in the French character, or from the absence of that steadying mass of fixed interests, which, like the fly-wheel in the machine, steadies its movements, and restrains the actions of the moving power, the fact is certain. No dynasty or administration has ever existed for any length of time, which had not contrived somehow or other to restrain the violence of the periodical press. There is more here than a peculiarity of national temperament, to which, on this side of the Channel, we are so apt to ascribe it. It points to a great truth, of general application and lasting importance to mankind-that is, that the public press is only to be relied on as the bulwark either of freedom or good government, where classes exist in society, and interests in the state, which render the support of truth a matter of immediate profit to those engaged in the great work of enlightening or directing the public mind. Individuals of a noble and lofty character will, indeed, often be found who will sacrifice interest to the assertion of truth, but they are few in number; and though they may direct the thinking few, they cannot be expected, in the first instance at least, to have much influence on the unthinking many. The ability of those engaged in the public press is in general very great; but it is like the ability of the bar—it is employed to support the views which suit the interests of its clients, and more occupied with objects of present interest than with those of ultimate importance. Those who live by the people must please the people. There is no security so complete alike for stable government and public freedom as a free press, when great interests on both sides exist in society, and the national talent is equally divided in pleading their cause respectively. But where, either from the violence of pre