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M. CLEMENCEAU AND HIS PROBLEMS
BY CHARLES DAWBARN
activities. Even when the Allied con
ferences are being held at Versailles, be For the first time in his long life, M. sleeps a while after lunch. And from Clemenceau has tasted the sweets as his siesta he arises a new man. well as realized the dangers of an over- Nothing must interfere with his res whelming popularity. It is an amaz- not even the remorseless round of a ing experience for a man approaching newspaper. Even in conducting his four-score years, to have reached the L'Homme Libre (of limited though inpinnacle of fame and the height of use- fluential circulation), he has adhered to fulness to his country. That he has his rule of early to bed and early to done so in the face of colossal difficul- rise. His practice as a journalist was ties, when the country was the prey to complete his day's article before of scandals of a particularly distressing seven A.M. Then would come his walk sort, is no less testimony to his cour- along the quays, or else in the neighborage than to his vitality. Both qualities hood of the Tour Eiffel, where he lives: are conspicuous, and both are typically and, after that, he received callers —3 French. There have been Frenchmen friendly and intimate ceremony, whick before of surpassing vigor at his age lasted well into the morning. Natura - indeed, French energy and mental ly, to accommodate himself to such mobility seem to conserve men as well unusual hours for literary composition as to wear them out; there have been his bedtime was advanced; and evez men like Hugo and Henri Rochefort, as head of the government he has gesRodin, and even Alexandre Ribot, one erally retired by eight o'clock, after : of the war premiers of France; but frugal supper of a glass of milk. M. Clemenceau excels them all in the I have been present at several of b vigor and force of his bearing, in his early morning receptions. He tall vehemence and mastery of men ex- with freedom and vivacity and an ispressed in flashing eye, sonorous voice, exhaustible good humor. But he is very emphatic gesture.
definite. Though a philosopher, he lets What is the secret of his youth? The no subtleties appear in his manner of sobriety of his habits, his Spartan way judging persons and events. They are of life, is partly responsible; but the thus and so, or they are not. There is fresh and eager interest of his mind is no shadow-land of half-negations, de more powerful still. He has the pre- apologetic apprehension of overstatin cious faculty of Sarah Bernhardt and the case. Every word expresses the Napoleon of sleeping at any instant. firm conviction of the soul. That The fatigue of any journey is relieved why he is so much admired and believby this recreative power, and even a ed in in this land of nuances, — of short motor-ride affords a few moments intellectual tints and delicate reason of complete repose, a truce in his vast ings. When tête-a-tête with you, be
will talk sitting in the centre of his waiting for a new opening in politics. work-table, which resembles a paint. He had been thrust into opposition er's palette. He has a way of opening by cruel misfortune. Insult had been and shutting his eyes, which suggests heaped upon him, calumny upon calthe Oriental. He looks Mongolian. umny. He was said to have been paid The shape of the face, with its high by England for his advice to France to cheek-bones, the parchment-like skin, refrain from participating in the first the heavy white moustache drooping Egyptian campaign. In bitterness of over the mouth, heighten this effect. spirit he sat him down to write satiric
And no doubt there is a side of the novels at fifty years of age. Probably 'Tiger's' character, which is almost they reflect in some degree the disChinese in its deep abstraction. If one torted features of his own experience. part of his nature is essentially Gallic He shows the meanness of conscious in its fire and emphasis, its passion and virtue, the exploitation of misfortune
violence, - even its capriciousness, which often accompanies success, the ** the other part is the high and dry phi- cynicism and moral perversion which !. losopher loving learning for its own underlie many worldly estimates.
sake, and given to reflection; looking You suspect that M. Clemenceau, out upon life through horn-rimmed who has so heavy a hand and so fierce spectacles, and finding it queer and ill- a voice for the weaknesses of internabalanced and rather excessive. I can tionalism, is himself a social reformer. imagine him like the hero in his own And you will come upon passages in play Le Voile du Bonheur, which de his suggestive books, which show how scribed the experiences of a Mandarin warm is his heart for the poor, how who, on recovering from blindness, be strong his horror of oppression, how comes suddenly aware of the infidelity persistent his love of liberty and his of his wife and the ingratitude of his sympathy with those who fight for it. children, and desires to be blind again. But he has no love for license; an
It is a sad, rather cynical estimate of archy is abomination. You and I are humanity, the kind that one would ex- on different sides of the barricade,' he pect of a man with no illusions. If once told a deputation of revolutionM. Clemenceau has any left, they are aries who waited on him to urge the reserved, I fancy, for the humble of rights of a May Day demonstration. the earth, the heroic poilu and his kin- ‘On different sides of the barricade' dred, and the heroes of civil life, rather expresses admirably the distinction be than for those of loud profession and of tween him and those who would find easy conscience toward God and man. warrant for their lawlessness in his If he refuses to be bound by formulæ, past attitude toward authority. But he yet believes in human progress and never in his salad days, as Communisin the perfectibility of our poor nature. tic Mayor of Montmartre forty-seven But that perfectibility will not be spon- years ago, did he fail in the high purtaneous: it must result from acts and pose of his protest. Because he was a measures adapted to that end. Thus banner-man in a popular procession, he he is a man of practical aims, though did not become a hooligan. inspired by generous ideals.
And how strenuous has been his caYou get a very good notion of these reer since then! a perpetual war against ideals by reading M. Clemenceau's the wearisome inefficiency of French philosophic novels, which he wrote a politics. 'Nous sommes en pleine inquarter of a century ago when he was cohérence,' he exclaimed one day in the
Chamber; and nothing could more At one moment their hostility looke caustically express the futility of much fatal to his ministerial longevity. Ther Parliamentary effort in France as else- was not a single Socialist in his Cab where. The intrinsic justice of his crit- net. How was it possible to exist with icisms has made him master of France out them? But those fears passe in time of war. The critic is now the when one realized that events were executant. He who has preached the stronger than parties, and that the fortiter in re must now exhibit it in Premier's national appeal had no need action.
of partisan support to make it acceptHe has begun with master-strokes: able. The fact is that the Socialists he has imprisoned persons implicated who threatened to wreck him, stood is in the défaitiste' campaign. Bolo,
Bolo, danger of a similar disaster from the Malvy, Caillaux, represent different Russian hurricane. It was as much 25 phases of that movement. M. Clemen- they could do to save their own live ceau has brought them to book; but The red ruin of Russia came swifth it may be that he has not quite shown home to France. It meant that the that rigid spirit of the Convention peasant's savings invested in Russia which the occasion demanded. He has were lost - perhaps permanently. The been too ceremonious, perhaps, in his Bolshevik talk of repudiation infuria:treatment of the two ex-ministers. M. ed Jacques Bonhomme. Not to pay Malvy, the former Minister of the In- one's debts, even on the most 'adterior, is sent before the High Court, vanced' pretext, gains no ear in France. the supreme tribunal in the land; but where each possesses something and an obscure subordinate, who acted, pre- is apt to hold firmly to it. And for leat
femr sumably, only under orders, is dealt of seeming to sanction confiscatioa, with by court-martial. But the fact French Socialism has lost a little way. that the Premier has impeached boldly and has to steer most carefully am. the most influential persons in France the shoals of treacherous definitions is so considerable, that it overshadows And so, the least said on this head the the rest. That he is less Jacobin in his better for advanced reformers. Not zeal than M. Léon Daudet, the Roy- only as the custodian of a common alist journalist, may be set down, I honesty, but in his singleness of perthink, to a sense of responsibility. De- pose to win the war, M. Clemencees spite the piquancy of this accusation of could not be lightly attacked, much boulevard critics, that he is but a timid less defeated on a vote. None cosid successor of the great Revolutionary quarrel with his programme, when be judges, there is probably more force expressed it as definitely as this: than truth in it. Certainly M. Cle- *They tell me we should have peace menceau has put forms into his proced- as soon as possible. Peace! I want it,
I : ure; he has given his accusés time to it would be criminal to have any other make their defense, as well as, perhaps, idea. But it is not in bellowing peace to destroy their papers. But if there is that one silences Prussian militarism. no weakness in the trial, public fair- My formula applies to everything ness will indorse the preliminaries. Domestic politics: I make war; foreiga
M. Clemenceau's command of the politics: I make war. ... Russia beSocialists, who profess to regard him as trays us: I continue to make war. a citadel of bourgeois prejudice, with Unhappy Roumania is obliged to suran uncanny knowledge of their own render: I still make war. And I shall strategy, has proved his greatest asset. continue until the last quarter of an
hour; for we shall have that last quarter Caillaux is a genius of another sort. of an hour.'
Tu m'as défait,' he exclaimed with This vibrant language, uttered in the heart-sick melancholy to his wife, Chamber last March, stirred even the when he learned of the assassination of Socialists, and M. Clemenceau was Calmette for his exposures true or urged to carry on' by a thumping ma- false — in the Figaro. I know of no jority. When he speaks thus clearly, more tragic destruction of a glistening with the voice of France, he is neither web of power such as Caillaux had to be silenced nor to be upset. And the woven for himself. He felt that he had Socialists know that, and know, also been ruined by the rash act of his wife.
, that the paramount anxiety of the pro- Gone all his grandiose projects of beletariat is not the destination and ul- coming President of the Republic, and timate fulfillment of their catchwords for bringing about a swift peace with and devices for social salvation, but the consequent title — for posterity the speedy conclusion of the war. In of saviour of his country! All had confusing this clear issue, in impeding disappeared in the smoke of Madame the accomplishment of this steady aim, Caillaux's revolver. how would they justify themselves be- For Jacques Caillaux, ex-Premier of fore the electorate?
France, is not the vulgar adventurer All loyal citizens of France must rally building a bubble fortune out of sunto the Clemenceau banner. The purity beams. He has statesmanlike views. of his aims, the known strength of his He believed that France had put her reforming zeal, are the instruments of money on the wrong horse, that she his power, instruments more cunningly should have backed Germany instead shaped and better adapted to his hand of England, and thus got rid of the than any he could choose in the arsenal danger to her economic development of politics.
which had thwarted her national life for half a century. Remove this men
ace, make peace, establish economic II
relations with Germany - that was, What are the problems with which apparently, his receipt for war-worn he is faced? They are, obviously, in- France. Unfortunately, he disregarded ternal and external war within and
a great historic wrong; he applied no war without. For Germany has at remedy to an open sore; he thought tacked along the line of least resist- only of immediate adjustments. Deep ance in seeking to seduce the vain and and dangerous, alas! were his methods ambitious by dreams of conquest or a of achieving his ideal. He had a Jesrich emolument. And that subtle sap- uit's belief that the end justified the ping proved, indeed, as dangerous as means. His words not only concealed gas-shells on the Western front. How his thoughts, but created a false imcan we reconcile this turpitude and pression. While apparently adhering treason with the superb heroism of the to the Entente and making many deMarne, of Verdun, and of the Aisne? clarations in that sense to English corWhile the heart of laborious France respondents (myself among them), he has always been true, vast cosmopoli- was, if report speaketh true, 'striving tan Paris has been tempted and tainted to bring about a quite different orienby pacifism and worse. Bolo Pasha is tation of French foreign policy. His a figure from the Arabian Nights, in- duplicity has not succeeded. We will credible in his magnificence and folly. leave him to face his trial, with the sug
gestion that ambition, and not money, ism - calls his attention. But be cas
for he inherited amply from his long be proof against it. His consicfather,— has made him mad and in- tion for criticism springs from his et duced him to regard himself as a Na- desire to be free. His ardent temp poleon capable of carrying out a new ment chafes at unintelligent resta sort of revolutionary Eighteenth Bru- tions. Every one knows how his es maire. His fanatical belief in himself paper, the Free Man, became the Xhas brought him to the sorriest pass for in Chains (L'Homme Enchaîné) becas. a man of his position and attainments. he felt that way about the censor's a
M. Malvy is a conspirator of a com- tivities. On the very day when he moner kind - slack and complacent in came Premier, he restored the old to the discharge of his duties and rather L'Homme Libre, and every journe weak than willfully wrongdoing. The in France was a free man. But, as G. Republic certainly has need of surer tave Hervé himself says, superior: servants, after its generally satisfac- the right of the press is the safety tory existence for nearly half a century. the country. That is the first law. Happily, there is Clemenceau, the 'In- M. Clemenceau's tendency, perhas corruptible' as well as 'green' in his is to play with a situation and me perennial youth. As the author of the lessly prolong it. We saw this chara' discoveries, with Gaston Calmette and teristic in the strike in the North . Gustave Hervé, who wrote, the one and lowing the great mining disaste a the other, in the Figaro and the Victoire Courrières. He dallied with diffico accusing and urging punishments, it is ties, tasting a pleasure therein, 2 right that he should be the authorized protested that conciliation would ef justiciar of the Republic. There is none everything
everything — until it was almost a
better qualified to lead his country into late to effect anything. Bloodshed, the paths of an honorable peace, by deed, came before tranquillity in th: reason of the strength of his convic- tormented region. And in the mov: tions and his consistent loyalty and ment in the South, where the wine-gros disinterestedness. After a long life of ing departments threatened to brez great political influence, he remains a with the Republic, in order to expre poor man and is proud of it.
their dissatisfaction with laws affects But he has the defects of his quali- their prosperity, he showed the sam ties. One is a sporting indifference to habit of temporization - even a sort minor consequences. He is not afraid flippancy, as it seemed. of risks. Sometimes those that he takes But although the disaffection gren seem unnecessarily great. He decrees until it became really serious, the Pro the liberty of the press and removes mier finally put an end to it by meth the shackles of the censorship. Theods most suggestive of comic opera. I effect is a new and hardened tone in must have rejoiced the spirit of iron public comment. The windows are which is so strong in him. The wire open and fresh air is let in. But even growers' leader, whose impassioned on so salutary a process is accompanied by tory had fascinated thousands, walls. danger; for, accompanying the whole- one Sunday into M. Clemenceau's some draft is a wave of défaitiste pro- fice and was swiftly and quietly packe paganda. Intent on winning the war, off home — he had come to Paris : he disregards this abominable enter- escape arrest — with a hundred fran prise, to which Gustave Hervé — the (M. Clemenceau's) in his pocket :: patriot converted from anti-militar- pay his fare. Thus ended the rebellion