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A commercial treaty! - with a country in a state of revolution, torn to pieces by violent factions, each of which can only gain power by pursuing a policy diametrically opposed to its predecessors — a country challenged by the claims of three antago, nist dynasties, and threatened, amid the shifting splendour of these evanescent crowns, by the armed phantom of a republican president- a country where the most solemn institutions of the state are daily changing, where property is insecure, industry paralysed, credit impaired; where all is experiment, and nothing experience — a commercial treaty with such a country, instead of a mature and durable arrangement based on the recognised interests of two states, can only be a temporary expedient to prop up the false and flimsy existence of confederate intriguers.
A commercial treaty, and with France! And how have these dainty negotiations sped ? 'Tis a curious story; and were I not conscious that I should only be wasting my time in chasing a shadow, I might say much upon it. Yet one instance is always worth two arguments; and an anecdote is, at least, amusing.
All know that the iron trade is one of the principal branches of our industry; and, certainly, there is no country where more iron is consumed
than in France. It is, perhaps, in our power to supply the French with iron at a half of the rate at which they can themselves produce it. Here, at least, was some ground to work upon. A cheap article, although supplied by England, since it is an advantage for the working people, would apparently be popular even with the Mouvement. But the French ministry, when applied to upon this head, with all their liberalism, and all their political economy, hesitate: they fear, forsooth, the popular indignation at being forced to make even a good bargain! Such was the pretence. But what is the truth ? All know that in France the far greater portion of iron is smelted by charcoal. M. Casimir Perier and his family are the greatest wood proprietors in France, and find in the French furnaces their best customers. M. Sebastiani, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, derives the principal part of his income from woods. Marshal Soult is also a very rich wood proprietor; and, only the year before he became minister, invested a great part of his fortune in coal mines and in furnaces. M. Montalivet is in the same comfortable predicament. The Director of the Mines in partnership with Marshal Soult, has considerable
* They derive also a large portion of their great income from coal mines in French Flanders.
investments in that branch of industry over whose interests he watches with sincere solicitude; and last -- but, oh! — not least — that Royal Merchant, as well as Citizen Monarch, Louis-Philippe, King of the French, and now - I presume, by virtue of the honourable inheritance which he shares with Madame de Dawes-Feuchères Prince of Condé, not content with his steam-engines and his canals - not even content with being the first sugar-baker and the first tallow-chandler of young France -- is, besides being lord of many forests, the principal iron-founder in the country where he has succeeded so worthily to the throne of Francis the First and Henry the Fourth. Magnanimous country! — where Sophie l'avisée is wooed instead of la belle Gabrielle ; and the chivalry of France is represented no longer by Bayard, but by M. Thiers !
From the ridiculous to the sublime is also but a step. Let us take it.
I do not believe in any sentimental alliances between states; but if there be any bond of union between nations, which is not formed by the ligaments of gross interest, that bond is Religion. Now there certainly can be no great sympathy on this subject between the two countries; and if, as I believe, France be still a Catholic country, how
stand we then ? Let us not be deceived by the coteries of Parisian esprits forts, and judge of the feeling of the nation from the limited circle of its metropolis. In France there are 36,000 priests devoted to their duties, and whom it is no longer in the power of the philosophes to render odious, by false pictures of their immense wealth and exaggerated descriptions of their luxurious indolence. No one who knows me would, I trust, suspect me of being a bigot, but as a politician I must speak the truth. Let us not suppose,
my Lord Brougham and M. Dupin correspond, because M. Guizot and Lord John Russell may exchange at the same time compliments and their luminous volumes, because the Catholic lyre of Lamartine pours forth its melancholy passion over the ultra Protestantism of our Byron, letus not be induced by this agreeable toleration, to imagine, for an instant, that the most refined and sceptical class of Parisian society represents the feelings, any more than the creed of the French nation. There is not a greater difference of manufacturing interests than of religious sentiment between the artisans of Rouen and Birmingham; or the vignerons of Provence, and the hop-gardeners of Kent or Worcestershire. The international influence of Religion seems dead -- " it is not dead
but sleepeth.” It would have awaked in Belgium, but that the three days of July gave matters another direction; and a prudent statesman should be prepared to see that powerful principle again mixing itself with national questions. For my own part, I am satisfied that there is much more religion in France than either the French or British philosophers choose to believe; nay, that it is capable of being excited to an enthusiasm which might influence public affairs : as if for instance, the advocates for war and bigots of popery were, for once, to unite in preaching a crusade for the deliverance from the heretical yoke of England, of Roman Catholic Ireland ! How far would our own recent conduct with regard to Greece, Belgium, and Portugal justify such an attempt ?
Tis an awkward question; and I leave it!