Frederick Engels in The Northern Star

Extraordinary Revelations. — Abd-El-Kader. — Guizot’s Foreign Policy

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 469;
Written: in mid-January 1848;
First published: in The Northern Star, January 22, 1848.

A curious document has just been published and distributed ["Réponse de M. Petit, ex-receveur des finances A Corbeil, aux calumnies répandues à l'occasion de son procès en séparation."] as if for a New Year’s gift to the Chamber of Deputies. It is a statement of facts explaining how a certain M. Petit got the place of a tax collector (receveur particulier) at Corbeil, near Paris, and has been published by M. Petit himself. M. Petit has been forced to this act in consequence of a suit for separation pending between himself and his wife, and in which action it had been alleged that he had bought his place by prostituting his wife to a gentleman intimately connected with M. Guizot. He now declares in his publication —

“Yes, my place was bought, as all places are bought now-a-day; but it was bought not with prostitution, but with hard cash only.”

Then he goes on to detail how he first aspired to the office of a Councillor Referendary at the Court of Accounts. How the ministry promised him that place, if he only could procure the resignation of one of the councillors; how the minister’s secretary intimated to him, which of the councillors would most likely sell their charge; how he then, for 15,000 francs, procured the wished-for resignation; how then he was told he must procure a resignation of a Councillor Referendary, not of the second, but of the first class, as the government wanted such a one in order to fulfil a promise made by them on their coming into office; how by makeshifts of different sorts, the difference of price of the two resignations was made up; how at last the resignation was procured; how then the ministry wanted not only a resignation like that tendered, but one of a higher degree still, of a Master Councillor; how this new resignation was also procured by the means of “cash down”; how finally it was offered to M. Petit to accept the tax collectorship of Corbeil, rather than the place in the Court of Accounts; how M. Petit accepted this; how then the different resignations were signed and exchanged against the amounts of money stipulated; and how, two days later, the whole of the royal ordinances were published, accepting the resignations, and promoting and naming the several individuals concerned, to the offices stipulated by the transaction.

These are the principal facts of the matter. There are some others of less importance, proving how M. Petit, as soon as he was once hooked by having paid the first sum, was made to pay more and more. But these I pass over. I only mention, that in the publication of M. Petit all the names are given in full.

You will easily imagine what a noise this little pamphlet has made in Paris. All papers are full of it, and the more so, as the Minister of Finance (to which department the Court of Accounts belongs) under whose direction the above transactions took place, had openly denied anything of the sort ever having occurred, when questioned about it in the Chamber by M. Luneau. M. Luneau, at the time, declared the sale of places in the above department to be a matter of public notoriety. Known to the majority, as well as to the opposition. Known to every one, in short, except, it appeared, to the minister himself. M. Lacave met this by a flat denial.[251] Now the matter has come out in a manner which makes all burking impossible. And yet, although all Paris has been full of it for almost a week past, the government has not opened its mouth.

We only repeat the words of M. Dupin the elder, pronounced when M. Luneau brought the matter forward in the Chamber —

“It was hardly worth while to make a revolution to abolish the venality of places, if this infamous system is suffered to lift up its head again.”

The next subject occupying the papers is the capture of Abd-el-Kader, [252] and the resolution which the government will come to as to his future location. There is no doubt they will confirm and execute the Duke D'Aumale’s promise, and send the Emir to Egypt. [253] It is curious that almost all the papers of the Opposition, from the National to the Constitutionnel, demanded the breach of that promise. Now, there is no doubt the promise was granted conditionally, and leaving the government free to confirm, or not to confirm it. The refusal of confirmation would not directly imply, as the Sun has it, an infamy. But there is no doubt, either, that a similar act on the part of any other government, particularly the English, would have been treated by those very same papers as the most infamous treason. It is evident, that, it being impossible to replace matters in the same state as they were when Abd-el-Kader conditionally surrendered, it would imply a want of generosity of the first order to refuse to him the confirmation of the conditions of surrender. But in such questions these national papers are blind, and would commit the same acts for whose commission they blame others. The only two papers which have spoken in favour of confirming the treaty with Abd-el-Kader, are the Presse and the Réforme. The first, a monarchical paper, wanted it confirmed, because the government could not give the lie to a son of the king, to a son of France; thus reviving the old title of the princes of Royal blood before the revolution.

“No”, said the Réforme, “the matter is a delicate one — the honour of our country is implied; in such matters we had better be too generous than too narrow, and therefore, confirm the word given, were it even that of a prince.”

Again, the Réforme alone has taken the right view of the matter.

Upon the whole it is, in our opinion, very fortunate that the Arabian chief has been taken. The struggle of the Bedouins was a hopeless one, and though the manner in which brutal soldiers, like Bugeaud, have carried on the war is highly blamable, the conquest of Algeria is an important and fortunate fact for the progress of civilisation. The piracies of the Barbaresque states, never interfered with by the English government as long as they did not disturb their ships, could not be put down but by the conquest of one of these states. And the conquest of Algeria has already forced the Beys of Tunis and Tripoli, and even the Emperor of Morocco, to enter upon the road of civilisation. They were obliged to find other employment for their people than piracy, and other means of filling their exchequer than tributes paid to them by the smaller states of Europe. And if we may regret that the liberty of the Bedouins of the desert has been destroyed, we must not forget that these same Bedouins were a nation of robbers, — whose principal means of living consisted of making excursions either upon each other, or upon the settled villagers, taking what they found, slaughtering all those who resisted, and selling the remaining prisoners as slaves. All these nations of free barbarians look very proud, noble and glorious at a distance, but only come near them and you will find that they, as well as the more civilised nations, are ruled by the lust of gain, and only employ ruder and more cruel means. And after all, the modern bourgeois, with civilisation, industry, order, and at least relative enlightenment following him, is preferable to the feudal lord or to the marauding robber, with the barbarian state of society to which they belong.

M. Guizot has laid before the Chambers part of the diplomatic correspondence relating to Switzerland and Italy. The first proves again that he has been regularly done by Lord Palmerston, and both prove the intimate alliance France has entered into with Austria. That was the last infamy which as yet had been spared to Louis-Philippistic France. The representative of tyranny, of oppression attained by means the most infamous, — the country of stability and reaction, the ally of France, as reconstituted by two revolutions! Deeper she cannot sink. But this is quite well. The deeper the bourgeoisie brings down this country, the nearer draws the day of reckoning. And it will come, before the bourgeoisie think of it. There is a party they do not take into account, and that party is the noble, the generous, the brave French people.

The dispute between the Réforme and the National. has been submitted to a jury selected by both parties. All hostilities are suspended. By the end of this month the decision will be given. May it be as it will, we hope the Réforme will continue in the only course which can save the Democracy of France.