« ZurückWeiter »
At a late sitting of the Chamber of Deputies M. Paul de Cassagnac quoted the familiar anecdote about Marshal de MacMahon and the negro. Everybody knows the story, for it has become classic; but, as a matter of fact, it was never anything but a legend and that is perhaps why its authenticity is never questioned. I have a notion however that the gallant Marshal in heaven may not object to having the exact truth told.
Nobody is in a better position to do this than myself, who actually assisted, in a way, at the birth of this famous bon-mot. One day about the middle of May, while the Marshal was still President of the Republic, he paid official visit to the school at Saint-Cyr; and after the grand review in the courtyard, he requested, according to custom, that the pupils who had the best record should be presented to hin by the officer in command. Among them was a young negro, the son of an African chief who had been very friendly to France; and the boy had been educated at Saint-Cyr, at the expense of the state precisely in acknowledgment of the services rendered by his father. Wishing to be particularly gracious in his treatment of this young man, the Marshal tapped him familiarly on the shoulder and said:—“Well, my friend, and how do you like France?"
“Very much, M. le Maréchal.”
"Have they treated you well at school?”
"Very well, indeed, M. le Maréchal."
“And you,” said Gen. MacMahon, turning to the officer, “Are you satisfied with this lad?”
"Entirely so, M. le President! He has been an excellent pupil-very industrious, and altogether irreproachable.”
"Bravo!" said the General, and turning to the young man again, he shook him warmly by the hand and added:“Go on as you have begun!"
Nothing, of course, could have been simpler or more natural. But I was dining that evening at Mme. Adam's where Edmond About, who was the life of those political gatherings, gave his version of the affair. Gambetta was there, and Girardin, John LeMoinue, Challamel-Lacour, Le Royer, and several others to whom About told the story as follows:
“Ah, ha!" says the Marshal to the young man, “So you're the negro!"
“Yes, M. le Maréchal.”
“Very well, my friend. Go on as you have begun."
The success of this sally may be imagined. That night at the reception which followed the dinner, everybody was repeating it and the next day it was all over Paris. It won the good Marshal a reputation for artlessness which contributed not a little, among other things, to his defeat on the 16th of May. Great events often spring from small causes.
Edmond About's witticisms also gave rise to a whole series of similar anecdotes, which ended by completely riddling the reputation for intelligence of the unlucky Marshal.
The press took up the game and played it merrily. All sorts of silly stories, old and new, were fathered upon MacMahon, who to do him jastice, was exactly as impassive under the hail-storm of ridicule as he had been in the fire of battle. But this fire was fed with a will. Not merely the little illustrated papers, but the gravest of our political journals, went into the business with enthusiasm. The thing was often overdone, but a legend had
.Translated for The Living Age.
been created, and the great public swal- Marshal's visit to Normandy. At lowed everything with entire credulity. Lisieux, he had, very properly, held an
Men retailed, for example, ineptitudes official reception; and a large contin. like the following:
'gent of the clergy had come to pay The Marshal was one day crossing their respects, headed by a very venerthe Place des Pyramides with the Duc able ecclesiastic, the dean of all the de Broglie. “Look here, my dear duke," priests in that region. The old man, says he, “I wish you would tell me so said the papers, delivered his ad, exactly who Joan of Arc was?"
dress of welcome in a high, quavering "She was a very distinguished voice, whereupon the Head of the Frenchwoman, M. le Maréchal! She State, with a vague notion of compli, was one of the most illustrious heroines menting him upon his remarkable state in our history. She was burned alive of preservation inquired:by the English—"
“And how old are you, Mr. Dean?” “Oh come, my dear duke! You must “Ninety-five, M. le. Maréchal.” be joking!”
“Ninety-five," exclaimed the Presi“I assure you not, M. le Maréchal! It dent admiringly, "and not dead yet!" , is matter of history,"
Of course the gallant general never "Don't tell me any such nonsense!" said anything of the kind. But we replied the Marshal rather sharply. “A telegraphed the tale to the Paris papers woman burned alive by the English! -our only excuse being, that we did Why, think of the talk it would have not invent it. It was brought in to us made!”
at dinner, hot and hot, by one of our It is all an old story now, and seems comrades on the high-conservative childish enough when repeated; but at press; one whose journal was among that time it was a regular method of those most devoted to the Marshal. I warfare; and pin-pricks without num- do not say that he requested us to ber made a hole in the end. All the make the anecdote public, but where more because friends as well as foes would be the charm of journalism, if took part in the little game and one can its disciples could not have a little fun be betrayed only by one's friends. I among themselves? was at that time editing the XIXe This is the way we all wrote history; Siécle, and it was my business to keep I do not know that it did Marshal de the public informed concerning the in- MacMahon much harm. Even if his numerable short trips that the Marshal reputation for artlessness had been was making all about France. There well founded, it could not have extin. were a dozen or more of us journalists guished the splendor of his military serengaged upon papers holding the most vices. It was not as a statesman that diverse opinions; but we were the best he was chosen President of the Repubof friends among ourselves, always lic. It was as a soldier pure and simwent to the same hotel, breakfasted ple, and to one and all of the nonsensi. and dined together, and briskly main- cal tales concocted and circulated about tained, when on our travels, the fire of him he might have replied in the picjokes at the Marshal's expense, which turesque words of Bugeaud:enlivened the boulevards of Paris.
"It is not necessary for a soldier to One day the city papers came out have invented powder, if only he with a brand new story apropos of the knows how to use it!" Les Annales.
Emmanuel Arène. LIVING AGE. VOL. VIII.
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN.
The ordinary phrases of sorrow pendence of character are seen both in which are conventional on the death of his political and personal career. He every human being, become genuine started in political life as an Irish Lib. aud heartfelt at the passing away of eral, and an Irish Liberal he remained. the late Lord Chief Justice. No person There was little inducement to a man could resist the attractive influence of who had determined on a political caLord Russell. Of course, like the rest reer to take up this position amid the of us, he had his faults, and on not a contending forces of extreme Ulster few occasions have his rivals in the
Toryism and extreme' uncompromising Law Courts winced under his tempes. Nationalism. An Irish judgeship was tuous outbursts. But these ebullitions not a great prize for a man of Lord of temper were but superficial. They Russell's intellectual power, but this were partly expressions of anger at seemed at one time to be the probable stupidity or carelessness, partly the goal of his life. Though he afterwards outcome of feelings and convictions adopted Home Rule, or rather, perhaps, that were always vehement. As was came to believe that the Home Rule said of Dr. Johnson, Lord Russell had creed which he had sentimentally held nothing of the bear about him but the had been pushed by Mr. Gladstone into skin. In a certain sense he was an in- the region of practical politics, he nevtense partisan; by which we do not er associated himself with the Irish mean that he was not perfectly fair party, but held, as we have said, to his and upright on the Bench, but that he Liberal creed. His personal career was could not espouse any cause without also remarkable. He won his way espousing it with unusual earnestness. without any influence, by sheer intelNo half-and-half measures satisfied lect and force of character. Nobody him; he always attacked, always car- could have supposed that an obried the war into the enemy's country, scure Irish Catholic attorney would could never put up with tepid compro- become Attorney-General, Lord of mise, or the safe middle position. Had Appeal, and Chief Justice of Eng. not his religion stood in the way, we land. Yet this came to pass, and think he might have made the best pos- it came honestly, without intrigue, sible Liberal leader after the retire- as the result of high talent and pow. ment of Mr. Gladstone. He had cour- erful personality. Starting from the age carried to the verge of audacity, bottom of the legal ladder, Russell fluency and dignity of speech, personal passed through both law and politics, magnetism, and untiring industry, never shrinking from the assertion of while he was undoubtedly devoted to his striking personal qualities, and yet what may be called advanced Liberal leaving no shadow of a scandal while principles-the very combination of attaching to himself the warmest requalities needed by the Liberal party. gards even of his opponents and rivals. Dis aliter visum, however, and it is as That is much to say, but it can be honan advocate and a judge rather than estly said. as a statesman that Lord Russell's As a judge, Lord Russell's tenure of name will go down to posterity.
office will always be remembered for Lord Russell's strength and inde- his passionate devotion alike to justice
and to the cause of commercial integrity. It is true that all our judges are supposed to be devoted to justice. But it is one thing to hold calmly the scales of equity perfectly even, and quite another to throw oneself passionately into the cause of right. It was this latter line that Russell took, not only as an advocate, when he was as intense, if not as eloquent, as Erskine, but on the Bench also, where one was apt to forget at times that a judge sat, and to see under the ermine the fiery and intrepid advocate. It may be that Lord Russell at times carried this spirit a little too far, but after all it is well to be reminded that under the judicial robe beats the heart of a man, and that a judge can be as indignant against wrong as any private citizen. The Bar tried none of its favorite tricks sometimes practised on a judge of weak character when Russell sat on the bench. If he had while at the Bar occasionally cowed judges, as it is said he did, on the Bench he always struck a respectful though not servile frame of mind into the members of the Bar. The time-honored methods of “humbugging a jury” were not tried when Lord Russell held court.
But it is especially for his devotion to the cause of commercial integrity that Russell of Killowen should be remembered. It is needless to dwell upon the numerous recent scandals in the commercial world. There is good reason to believe that in the main trade is still soundly and honestly conducted. But the mania for mere speculation has unhappily grown rapidly in the last decade through the sudden growth of new opportunities for wealth, and the result has, undoubtedly, been injurious to mercantile morality. Lord Russell lost no occasion for dealing severely with this evil. On the Bench, in the House of Lords, and elsewhere he denounced fraud in the most scathing and impressive way. His outspoken
address to a Lord Mayor on a public ceremony will not, and ought not, soon to pass from public memory, nor can we forget his eager work for the Companies Bill and the Commissions Bill, while his very last speech in the House of Lords opened up to a supine assembly the dishonest commissions by which officials over a large area of London were being corrupted. To no judge of our time are such sincere public thanks due for an energetic effort, in season and out of season, to raise the general level of commercial integrity. Lord Russell showed, indeed, what a powerful factor the judiciary may be in the cause of social reform, and that without descending into the political arena or losing sight of the principles and precedents which should guide the judicial office. We trust that the clear current which he set running may continue under his successor to exercise its purifying work.
A third important service rendered by Lord Russell may properly be referred to here—the advancement of the cause of Arbitration. His excellent address delivered a few years ago before the American Bar Association made a strong impression on those who heard it and on the great public which read it. His services on the Venezuela Commission in Paris were heartily acknowledged by all the parties to that suit. His views as to the possible progress of the principle of Arbitration were derived, not so much from a prolonged study of international law, as from common-sense political and ethical insight into the social needs of the future. This, it seems to us, describes his general views and attitude of mind as a lawyer. He was "learned in the law" as a Chief Justice should be, but it was his broad good sense and feeling of equity, his brushing aside of quibbles and formulas, which strike one even before his legal attainments. The conception of the
a real remedy for wrong, a shield for the oppressed, and a rod for the scoundrel's back, was to Lord Russell a living conception governing the The Economist.
whole of his judicial career. He has left to England a memory which can be both respected and admired.
THE TALE OF THE SEXTON.
Segerstane, segsten, saxton, sacristan, sexton, his name should proclaim our friend the sacristarius or sacrist of the Canon Law. But, alas! the true sacristarius is the clerk to whom the archdeacon has granted the care and custody of the sacred vessels, the ecclesi. astical vestments, the books and the like, which are the treasures of the Church. And he is so called from the sacred things of which he has the keeping, as the place where such things are kept is in Latin called the sacrarium, or with us the vestry. Now there is with us to-day a true sacristarius in the minor canon in certain of our Cathedral churches, on whom it lies to minister to the care of the fabric and ornaments of the edifice, to provide for the altar, and to order and direct the last rites of the departed. But in this sense our sexton is no sacrist. The care of the ornaments and fabric of the parish church is primarily for the wardens, of the graveyard for the parish priest, and he intermeddles with such but as the servant of one or other, or both of such parties. Nor is anything at all entrusted to him by the archdeacon, nor has he the care of the sacrarium.
The Church lawyer of more modern days again has vainly pictured him as the ostiarius, the lowest of the minor orders, whose duty it is to open and shut the inward and outward doors of the church, to admit the faithful, and ward off the schismatic and infidel. The more learned translator of our
1603 canons with greater truth applies this name to the parish clerk. In truth it is of the essence of the sacrist and ostiarius alike that they shall be in orders, and our parish sexton from the day that we first meet him in the fifteenth century seems always a layman or a laywoman, and 'tis clear that the latter may not hold a clerkly office.
The parish sexton in fact springs from the same causes that call into be. ing the churchwarden. The Canon Law gives no office in the Church, not even the humblest, to any man not in orders, and in our cathedral churches, where the national custom comes not into play, the true sacrist has a proper place. But in the parish churches, where, by the national custom, the burden of repairing the nave and of furnishing the church ornaments lies on the shoulders of the lay folk, the wardens as the lay folk's representatives act upon the principle that calls the tune of the piper, and in the teeth of the canonists' rules themselves act as the sacrist, while they good-naturedly leave it to their and the priests' servant to usurp his name.
What manner of man though was he to whom the vestrymen, whose gray goose feathers sped the white shower of death on Towton or Tewkesbury field, paid the due number of pence “pro custodia campanarum" or "for ye sexteneship for ye halfe yere"? Perchance that sexton of thirty years' standing, who plies the spade over Ophelia's