Chapter XXII: “The New Era”
“To good People” — Destitution, causes and remedies — The Republic — Reaction and division — T&e end of The New Era
While the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was going to the poor to comfort them in their misery, The New Era devoted itself to enlisting the sympathies of the charitable public. One of Ozanam’s letters, dated the 3rd July, a week after the insurrection, runs as follows: ” The New Era claims the greatest part of whatever time is left me from my examinations. I have contributed five articles in ten days. Those articles were snapped up as soon as they appeared in print. We have,” lie said, “the satisfaction of doing some good, for as many as eight thousand copies a day have been sold in the streets of Paris.”
These articles were received with quite unexpected popularity in the faubourgs. They were directed to the disarmed insurgents, “speaking to them without patronising them, without irritating them, but teaching them to estimate at their proper value those who had duped them. Well-to-do people praised the firmness of our words and did us the honour of attributing to us a sympathetic heart, and a sincere passion for the interests of the people.”
It was to those good people themselves, and to all good citizens that Ozanam appealed some months later “to be no longer silent about truths which have ceased to be a source of danger.” He addresses them in more stirring terms than usual “without fearing that my appeal will be misused by wicked men or that it will furnish ammunition for guns at the barricades.”.
Thus, on the 24th September, the following is to be read in a letter to M. Foisset: “I have allowed my feelings full expression in an article in The New Era, which you may have read, entitled: To Good People.” It is indeed his patriotic and Christian heart, which has dictated the twenty-five pages which one would wish to produce in extenso. There is here no aiming at literary effect, no academic controversy; only fundamental facts stated in the simplest, and consequently in the most eloquent and most beautiful, language. Ozanam relates what he has seen in his visits to the homes of those men. He tells it to all who have, or who wish to have, that knowledge of the poor which he himself has gathered.
To Good People! Those whom he so calls are, according to him, France itself, minus the self-seekers and the faction-makers: the immense majority of the eight millions of electors, who have given the National Assembly to the country: the eight hundred thousand National Guards who came forward in June to defend her. He addresses in succession, the Priests, the Rich, and the Public Representatives. What he would speak to them of to-clay is about an enemy which has not been defeated or crushed, but which stands forth more terrible and more menacing than ever: Destitution. The destitution of 267,000 unemployed workpeople in Paris, and in particular in the 12th Ward, which had been a storm-centre of the insurrection. Ozanam describes its horror and suffering; but he also throws into relief its concealed virtues, its simple Christianity. He makes us weep and wonder.
After that harrowing picture of misery, the article proceeds to enquire into the causes, which are to be found in moral conditions, and the remedy for which will be found in “reform of morals through education rather than through legislation; through Catholic education by those Friars and Sisters, who can teach the children of the people something better, than to spell out the words of a newspaper, or to chalk on the dead walls of the city the order of the day at the barricades.”
There is a place also in those schemes of reform, for adult night schools, for schools for apprentices, for Academies of Arts and Trades, Public Libraries, Military Associations, Co-operative Societies. But what Ozanam wishes particularly to create among men of good will is “the conviction that the public authorities of Paris have not discharged all their responsibility, when they have voted six million francs for the maintenance of unemployed workmen, which is at the rate of three-halfpence per head per day up to the month of the following April; and further that the time has not yet arrived to forget public starvation, simply because winter and cholera are no longer there to remind us of them.”
We apologise for giving only the rough outlines of those strongly-drawn pictures, without the colouring, the emotion, the sparkle, the movement, without in fact any feature which would demonstrate their greatness, power, truth and life. It is also a matter for regret that one can only give the title of another article: Assistance which humiliates and Assistance which honours; and of yet another: Almsgiving.
In these the supernatural point of view dominates all else. The poor man is the intercessor for the rich, and in that way gives more than he receives. “If you give in the name of God, and if the poor man prays for you, there is reciprocity of service. The poverty-stricken family, whom you have helped, has more than repaid the debt, when the old man, the good mother, the little children bring your name before His Throne.”
Elsewhere the poor man is a priest. His hunger, his sweat, his blood constitute an expiatory sacrifice which redeems humanity. The alms, which our religion tends to him in gratitude, are offerings such as we beg the priest to accept for Masses, while kissing his hand in thanks.
The titles of the articles do not give a true idea of their character. They are really a series of studies which embrace the whole doctrine of Christian Economy, animated by an eloquence, and illumined by a faith which make them seem indeed pages from the Holy Gospel.
The last of those essays, which come to us in his Complete Works1 is a philosophical and historical study on the Origin of Socialism.
“ It is time,” he states at the opening, “to demonstrate that the proletarian cause can be pleaded, the uplifting of the suffering poor be engaged in, and the abolition of pauperism pursued, without identifying oneself with the wild appeals which provoked the June upheaval, and which still cast a gloom over the future.”
Ozanam indicates the fatal doctrines of that false Socialism, contrasts the better types in the Church, and re-establishes the sacred foundations of all Social Science. Philosophy demonstrates that all social theories from Plato to Muncer and John Leyden, have only resulted in visionary Utopias, disorder and violence. The historian shows, on the other hand, what the Church has accomplished for the maintenance of the rights of property on the one hand, and for the right organisation of labour on the other, for co-operation founded on the twin base of Justice and Christian Charity. The theologian, if I may call him so, deduces the following principle as a consequence: “In Christian Society the interests of heaven and earth are so closely intertwined, that its dogma has never been attacked without shaking temporal institutions to their very foundations.” The dogma of the fall of man and his redemption by sacrifice and suffering: the dogma of a future existence, which is the sanction and the complement of this, encouraging and consoling it with hope: such is the twin-key of those deep problems: “For their solution, we must never cease to look to that Christianity, which has equally reproved socialist errors and selfish passions, which is alone able to realise the ideal of fraternity without sacrifice of liberty, which is alone able to find the greatest earthly happiness for men, without forcing them to abandon the divine gift of resignation; for that is the surest solace for suffering and the crown of a life which is finite.”
Ozanam continues: “The knowledge of social well-being and of reform is to be learned, not from books, nor from the public platform, but in climbing the stairs to the poor man’s garret, sitting by his bedside, feeling the same cold that pierces him, sharing the secret of his lonely heart and troubled mind. When the conditions of the poor have been examined, in school, at work, in hospital, in the city, in the country, everywhere that God has placed them, it is then and then only, that we know the elements of that formidable problem, that we begin to grasp it and may hope to solve it.”
There were young members of the Society who were fascinated by visionary Utopias. Ozanam relates for their benefit his own experience and the recollections of his student days: “It will be said, and it is being said, How long will you continue to work in Catholic associations to practise the charity of the glass of water? What can you accomplish in company with men who know only how to comfort misery, but who do not know how to prevent it? Will you not prefer to have a part in those greater associations that strive to tear up the whole evil from its roots, to regenerate the world, to restore the disinherited to their succession?’ That language is not new. The Saint Simonians and others addressed it to us fifteen years ago when, a small band, we founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul! Heaven forfend that we should praise our Society and its work! But when we contrast what we should have accomplished in co-operation with those men, with the needs we have helped, the tears we have dried, the marriages regularised, the number of children we have safe-guarded, of crimes perhaps prevented, and the anger which we have softened, we do not regret the choice which God inspired us to make. Make the same choice, gentlemen, and in fifteen years you will not regret it either.”
Up to that time The New Era, the journal of social pacification through the medium of Christianity, had practically no opponent in the Catholic ranks. It was indeed for the sake of the imperative need of social liberty, that the provisional support of their chiefs had been given to the Republic. The Univers had declared already on the 24th February: “The July dynasty is gone, the Republic is here. Nothing is possible to-day or yesterday without liberty. Genuine liberty can save all. Every Government has in itself the faculty of growing strong. It has only to love justice and to foster liberty.”
Montalembert had also associated the names of the Republic and liberty in his manifesto, dated 28th February, to Catholic Committees: “Amid every revolution the Church stands erect. In the first place and before all else, as Catholics, we must, under the Republic as under the Monarchy, defend, love and serve the cause of religious liberty, with an ardent patriotism and an imperishable devotion to the glory and happiness of our own country.” His profession of faith to the electorate of Doubs went so far as to say: “If this form of government guarantees here, as it does in the United States, the supreme benefit of liberty to religion, to property, and to family, the Republic will not have a more devoted son than I. But if it does not stop at violence, it may indeed have me for a victim, it will never have me as an instrument or an accomplice.”
We have already noticed that Pere Lacordaire had enrolled The New Era under the flag of the Republic, although “prior to February there was not an atom of republicanism in his nature.. If he did so, it was, he admitted, in the hope of, and with a view to, getting under its auspices that religious liberty which had been denied by former governments.”
Foisset’s prudent and far-seeing mind also ranged itself by the side of that loyal rally “with a view to holding anarchy in check, and in circumstances which had not so far given religion any cause for complaints.” He joined hands with Ozanam and Lacordaire; he was more than their guide, he was their oracle.
Ozanam had welcomed the Republic, not as a concession, not as a state of transition, but with conviction, nor as a matter of expediency but as a solution. He had not called for it, but he welcomed it as an act of Providence. The soundness of his reasons may be open to question, but not his religious conviction nor the nobility of his view.
He found his reasons to hand in the past history of the civilising of the barbarians through Christianity, which had been the subject matter of his research and of his lectures. He found in the Middle Ages an uninterrupted course of emancipation of which he wrote: ” My knowledge of history forces me to the conclusion that democracy is the natural final stage of the development of political progress, and that God leads the world thither.” It was the Church that had carried out that work of emancipation under conditions which caused Bishop Remi to exclaim to the great leader of the barbarians called Clovis: “Burn what you have hitherto adored, and adore what you have burned.” Comparing those barbarians of old with the ignorant and gross mass of the people of to-day, Ozanam does not hesitate to detest their vices and fear their violence; but on the other hand he sees in them a virile energy which gives grounds for the hope that vitality and regeneration is to be found in them. It will be wanted on the day when these forces, at present brutish, will have been reduced to discipline and brought under the gentle yoke of Christ the Redeemer. That was progress by the way of the Gospel. But was it the Gospel that the middle classes of July had preached to the people by their word, their example, their Press and their laws? Must not a government elected by the vote of the people, understand better the needs of the people and the duties of the State? “Let us side with it, let us trust in it, let us work out the ideal of the Church under a new regime. Are not the men of the Church and the men of the people to be found side by side at the foot of the tree of liberty?”
Much might be said about the comparison and the conclusions which Ozanam had drawn. While awaiting the fruit by which the tree would be judged, Catholic solidarity had held steady pending that adjustment of their different view-points. It had been the same in the case of the February Republic, and with The New Era in its early days. But the events of June had changed matters altogether. With whatever meaning of peace and Christianity Ozanam had been able to imbue the words Equality and Fraternity, they were now generally interpreted as meaning the reign of the demagogue, the communist, the socialist, and the anarchist. They spread terror.
That terror was shared by Europe, which had been shaken by the repercussion of that violent revolutionary upheaval. Italian Liberalism was losing ground daily. Pius IX saw his popularity in Rome changed into hostility when he refused to declare war on Austria, a prelude to further acts of violence. The patriotic efforts of Charles-Albert to free Italy from the yoke of Austria had altogether broken down in July 1848, at Novara before Radetzky’s forces. There remained only Venice, of all the Lombardy-Venetian States to continue the fight, protected by its marshes and directed by the dictatorial hand of Daniel Manin.
We mention these facts merely to mark the beginning of Frederic Ozanam’s grievous disillusionment. The party of confidence was about to he disintegrated. 1 t was towards authority, such as it was, that opinion was turning. The attempt of The New Era to reconcile all parties under the flag of the Republic appeared henceforward to be a chimera and became a sign of contradiction. Although that paper was edited and directed by prominent ecclesiastics, the religion which it placed in its forefront might even be discredited be being identified with its policy. Animated by that consideration, Pere Lacordaire decided that the interests of his order and of his preaching necessitated his resigning from the management of the paper. He did not cease on that account to hold it in affection.
He notified Ozanani on the 21st August, 1848, of the “sad sacrifice” which the management of the paper had decided on by four votes to three. His heart was against it. His letter was as follows: “We have furnished the model of a genuinely Catholic paper, at once honourable, calm, impartial and charitable. We have done our part to maintain unity in supporting the Church at a most critical period. Catholics have supported our efforts with enthusiasm. That is some consolation for our conscience, even if it be not all to the good.”
The letter to “his dear collaborator “announced the end of the month, the 31st August, as the last date for the appearance of the paper. Was it Ozanam who induced the management of the paper to re-consider its decision and who had it rescinded? There are good grounds for so believing. At all events The New Era continued to appear until April in the following year. Pere Lacordaire was now only a friend, but still a devoted friend, as would be apparent before long2.
It was not so with Montalembert. In the generous impulse which induced The New Era to hold out the hand of friendship to democracy, he saw nothing but a foolish and dangerous illusion; and in democracy itself nothing but the despotism of the many-headed multitude and the degradation of character and mind. His love for mother-Church was terrified at the monstrous acts of compromise, which the uprise of the Italian mob made necessary. He now declared therefore that he had only accepted the fact of the Republic from necessity and conditionally, and that it had not his confidence. He spurned it from him.
It was indeed a sad moment for Ozanam when he saw Montalembert ally himself with the Univers to beat down the poor little flag with the Cross standing on the rampart3.
The terror created by the revolution, which was everywhere either supreme or threatening, had paved the way for despotism. Ozanam in his jealous love for the independence and dignity of the Church, feared nothing so much as that. He had seen, in the light of his historical research, absolute power undertake the duty of making the Church subject to itself in order to annex it: “There were first,” he says in a beautiful sketch written in his younger days, “the Emperors of the East, who sought to make the Church a Patriarchate subject to their autocracy. Then came the barbarians, who pressed her to unite with them in the destruction of the old Roman Empire: there were the great feudal lords, who sought to clothe her with steel: next came Kings, who invited her to take her place in Parliaments which they controlled with whip and spur. Finally there are the modern founders of representative institutions, who condescend to reserve a seat in an Upper Chamber for her, but who storm if she does not square her ideals within the narrow groove of their administration, if she does not run up their transient flag on secular basilicas. But the Church has never accepted the position of being either imperial, barbarian, feudal, royal, or liberal, because she is more than the sum of all those, she is Catholic. Even as the claimants for Penelope, seeing her alone in the world, and hoping to win her for a spouse and to reign in her name, offered her in vain riches and power; so the immortal spouse spurns such unworthy offers of union.”
Those unworthy alliances had too long united Church and State. This much must be clearly understood; Ozanam’s republicanism was largely made up of his horror of the existing state of things. This was none other than Gallicanism4, those secular chains, the scars of which the Church still bore. Feet and hands seemed held out to him in appeal. Ozanam was looking on at a mad re-action precipitating itself forward to join hands with what was regarded as a liberating, but which was in fact an unlimited, and unbridled despotism, which would destroy at once both the Republic and liberty. He wrote: “My dear friend, I am very uneasy at the state of affairs in which we find ourselves, and which has driven the supporters of the Restoration to impossible lengths. If you were to know the illusions and to hear the language of some, I will not say mature, but young men and statesmen of from twenty five to thirty years of age, who, in their fanaticism desire neither constitution, nor national representation nor Press! The worst of it all is that religion is compromised by these madmen, by those who make it a point of honour to defend her in the House, and who afterwards fill the corridors of the Opera with an account of their adventures.”
What Ozanam foresaw, and what made him tremble for the future of the Church in France was the policy of reprisals which this offensive and defensive alliance with despotism was to expose her to: “My dear friend, everyone dreams now only of the alliance of Church and State. No one remembers the terrible reprisals which those pretty doctrines exposed us to in 1830. To-day, there is not a follower of Voltaire, burdened with an income on a few thousand pounds of War Stock, who would not send everyone to Mass provided he is not asked to attend it himself.”
If the man of honour was in revolt, the Christian was in despair at the scandal to souls and at the terrible re-action which was threatening: “I see with grief (oh! that sublime grief) the slackening of that glad return to the Church, which was the joy of my youth and the hope of my mature years. I ask myself if, in twenty years’ time from now, we shall be able to worship before the altar without hearing those shouts and cat-calls, which, twenty years ago, followed the faithful into the very Church? Let us watch and pray.”
The moral situation for The New Era became daily worse. Suspicion and despondency were at work. The position would have been intolerable for Ozanam if he had not had for his support two of the greatest and best militant Catholics of the time, and both, one lay and the other a Friar, men of God.
Pere Lacordiare, one of the two, expressed in his correspondence his regret at seeing “the clergy and the Catholics of France responding so badly to the advances of the February regime, which had been so extraordinarily generous. Any turning back would disgrace them. They would then appear as weather-cocks in the wind of favour. “As far as I am concerned, I have accepted the Republic sincerely, without having had any pre-existing or surviving sentiment in its favour. But whatever happens I must have regard to what I have done.”
M. Foisset in the Correspondant just as Lacordaire, expressed his opinion that the honour of Catholics was involved in standing their ground, and in not withdrawing through fear their loyal support from a form of government, of which they had no reason to complain. ” The New Era,” he wrote on the 11th November, 1848, to Montalembert, “is republican. So much the better. I do not see frankly what religion stands to gain by establishing a general state o: antagonism between Catholics and Republicans. There are in the ranks of the latter, as elsewhere, souls to be saved, and I should not wish that the idea of irreconcilable enmity between the Church and Democracy should make the return of those souls to God or the doing of justice by the Government to the Catholic cause, more difficult.”
Foisset was still closer in thought to Ozanam when he gave it as his opinion “that there was a more urgent work to hand for Catholics than violent reaction, and that was to strive with all their might and main to remove the hostility of the mass by giving themselves over completely to the consolation of those in suffering.”
” The middle class makes me despair,” he writes again to the same, “it is more selfish than ever. It clings to earth without wishing to hear of aught else, without seeing whence comes evil, without as much as suspecting the remedy. We must still pass through sacrifice, and yet the lesson of June was quite evident. The clergy are continuing in their groove; it does not appear to me that they are making sufficient capital out of the martyrdom of the Archbishop, nor that they are sufficiently mindful of the Evangelisation of the Poor. The episcopacy appears to be stunned.”
The Univers, on the other hand, stormed against The New Era, which they now christened The New Error. It occurred to Foisset to intervene with Louis Veuillot, whose ear he had. Veuillot understood that wise man and that good friend and hearkened to him. He replied as follows on the r8th November: “You will receive my last article on The New Era. I hope that you will not dislike it too much. If I have left some expressions in it which cloud the brows of angels of peace, it is contrary to my desire and through necessity. If I had not feared some papas like you, who are always present to my mind even when invisible, I should have slashed away like the Journal des Debats.” The swordsman slashed, but with reserve.
It was not so easy to bring Montalembert to reason “who,” according to Foisset’s biographer, “felt his contempt growing daily for a handful of journalists who storm for the support of a government flung up by chance and repudiated by the country.” Pere Lacordaire was greatly affected. His grief was further increased when The Friend of Religion, which had been recently resurrected by the Abbé Dupanloup, published first one, then a second, letter from Montalembert attacking The New Era:” I do not understand,” Pere Lacordaire wrote to Madame Swetchine on the 7th November, “this grand assault. The New Era may have deserved critics, it does not deserve an attack
which may stagger Christianity. It is very sad to see friends playing that role, which was hitherto played only by the mediocre and jealous-minded, who were ever ready to regard as heterodox every opinion which was not theirs, and as an enemy, every man who disagreed with them. It is a step which can only lead to discord.”
He wrote at the same time of Ozanam and his collaborators: “Is it for us to declare war against honourable Catholics, who are rendering good service by being more democratic than we, and who thus prove to the world that the Church can work with all forms of government?” Pere Lacordaire was however so deeply wounded, that Foisset had reason to fear a rupture between his two friends.
Ozanam kept silence. Did he think that he ought to do so, when he found himself in opposition to the great man whom he could never cease to love and honour? His suffering was great. His spirit was in mourning at that moment for the death of all his political hopes. He unbosomed his sad heart at times in his professorial Chair, at times in his journal. When he resumed his Chair on his return from holidays in 1848 he found around him “the large and fraternal gathering of young men “who never failed him. He spoke to them as follows: “Last year, gentlemen, I opened this course of Italian Literature under the happiest auspices. I had just returned from Italy. I had seen from the balcony of the Quirinal the whole city of Rome applauding the reconciliation of the Church and Modern Society. I had been present at the first joys of the renaissance: the people marching on to liberty on roads strewn with flowers: wise men inaugurating that political and military education, which, in a few years, was to make Italy mistress of her destiny.
” To-day the cause of independence is crushed by the big battalions. The cause of liberty is dishonoured in Rome by ingratitude and assassination. The liberty of the world is compromised with that of the spiritual head of men’s consciences. It is again ostracism, despotism and all that recalls the worst of those ingrate lands, where even the bodies of their great citizens from Scipio to Gregory VII, are not allowed to rest! ”
One city, however, was still standing amid those disasters, Venice, and under the protection of its marshes offered a desperate resistance to Austria. Ozanam made an appeal on behalf of the heroic queen of the seas: “Let us inaugurate, gentlemen, this year’s course with one good action.” He recalled the fact that Venice had offered a home to Pius IX., and had taken to her arms all that remained of the hopes of Italian liberty, which she would neither barter for gold nor for the blood of her children. “But her own resources cannot suffice for such a prolonged and unequal struggle. A subscription list has been opened for her pressing need. Many will subscribe for the sake of her ancient glories, many others for the cause which she is now standing for. It is for us to remember, gentlemen, her Christian grandeur, her heroic dead, left on all the beaches of the Archipelago to save Europe from the Koran. France’s own needs are stupendous; but she is no poorer than the widow in the Gospel, and she will not refuse her mite to whomsoever asks for it in the names of God and fraternity.”
The fraternity of the French Republic did not respond to that appeal in The New Era. It was almost the only appeal made for the city of St. Mark. Daniel Manin, President of the Venetian Republic, thanked Ozanam publicly in the Ogicial Gazelle, on behalf of that city which was alas! abandoned by Europe, bombarded by cannon, and decimated by cholera. Manin departed into exile, and with him disappeared the only figure of truly heroic mould, which the Italian Revolution had thrown up.
Ozanam was indeed justified in writing later to the Venetian nobleman, Tomaseo: “The management of The New Era may have been at times wanting in worldly prudence, but God never let them be found wanting in love of justice, of the poor, of your fair land of Italy, and of her glorious defenders.”
The august head of Pius IX. in Rome, menaced by insurrection, outraged by ingratitude, remained none the less for Ozanam crowned with the glory of the great measures of political reform, which had heralded the commencement of his reign. I extract the following note from a lecture in the 1849 course:—” The complications of the present and the future do not deprive Fius IX. of the merit of having voluntarily surrendered absolute power, of having defended the principle of nationality in his letter to the Emperor of Austria, and of having taken the initiative in reforms which would have been crowned with success, if Pius IX. had not had in that land, where education is not organised, as many enemies of his beneficence as of his authority.”
Pius IX. was at that time a fugutive at Gaeta. Ozanam published in The New Era, in the month of January, 1849, an appeal to the Catholics of France for the august exile: “Pius IX. does not ask for
himself. The man who, on his first coming reduced his stables by
one-half, who exhausted his own private means in charity, has not waited for the hour of trial to strip himself of his property. All who have had the honour of coming into contact with him know well how little it would cost him personally to go back to the fishing-nets of St. Peter and the obscurity of the catacombs. It is not long since he was heard saying that he would thank God as long as he would be left a wallet and a stick, free to go everywhere and bless the people as he went. But leaving out of question the Pope himself, there are administrative departments and institutions under his care, the functioning of which constitutes the religious government of Christianity. Their maintenance is not only an act of charity, but an act of faith in the vitality of the Church.”
The appeal was especially directed to those of large means for a large subscription: “The Holy Father will see the great names of France at the head of the list. The appeal honours them, the donation will bring them blessings. 0 Holy Father, in stretching out to us that hand which so many lips have kissed, you will confer on us much more than you will receive.”
Generous Christians decided that the moment had arrived to resuscitate the old time Peter’s Pence. His Grace Dr. Sibour issued a Pastoral dealing with the matter, ordered public prayers and called together a meeting of the Catholic Circle, at which an Address to the Pope was drawn up and an organising committee appointed. Ozanam was a member of it. In addition to his eloquent appeal in The New Era, he made a collection at his Monday lecture on the 23rd January, 1849. He first delivered an address, recalling the benefits which Pius IX. has conferred on Italy and on Christianity, which he concluded in these words: “But there is more at stake here than the interests of Italy. All civilisation is involved, and it cannot allow the independence of a spiritual power which holds sway over the consciences of two hundred million human beings to disappear. The future of society is concerned; it is wearied with a surfeit of agitation, it can only find rest in the reconciliation of Christianity and Liberty. We have been working at the Statue of Liberty, gentlemen, for the last sixty years. A shapeless figure appeared at our first efforts, and everyone thought that it would result in a monstrosity. To-day the radiant head can be seen with new features of gentle aspect, and the uneasiness of the multitude is reassured. There are yet many who say in passing ‘ It is only stone, it has no life.’ Gentlemen, we must give it life; we must seek life for it where Prometheus sought and found it, in Heaven. Christianity will be the soul of Liberty.”
The New Era was in extremities since the retirement of Pere Lacordaire; it had not ceased to struggle rather for honour than for victory: “If it had ceased to appear in September, 1848,” wrote Ozanam, “it could have been said that Catholics, a band of timid time-servers, had a republican journal as long as the Republic was a power, but that they had been in a hurry to veer round with the wind of fortune. It is now clear, after six months’ struggle, after many insults suffered and pardoned, that there is among French Catholics a sincerity which can endure sacrifice but not cowardice, which is not swayed by selfishness, by ambition or by pride.”
It must be admitted, however, that Ozanam did not contribute regularly to The New Era from January, 1849. He wrote on the irth March: “It is now some months since I have contributed to The New Era. I have a book to finish, and my course of lectures occupies all my time. But all my good wishes are with the paper. I must confess, however, that the same thing happens with that paper that happens with others, viz.: That articles appear at times in its columns with which I do not altogether agree.” His brother informs us that certain contributors wished to imbue The New Era with more decided tendencies in the democratic direction.”
Were there not also those who went so far as to claim that Christianity and democracy were one? Montalembert was up in arms at once: “No, Christianity which will work with every form of government, will not be identified with any. That must be unflinchingly and unceasingly proclaimed, face to face with the arrogant pride of the pigmies of our days. I heard constantly in my youth that Christianity and monarchy were the same thing, and that one could not be a good Christian without being a good Royalist. I have fought for twenty years, not without a measure of success, against that former error which is now no more. I shall fight another twenty against the new claim, which confounds Christianity and democracy, another form of the same blind idolatry of victory, force, and fortune.”
But have we not a short while ago read something similar in Ozanam’s writings: “The Church will never be regarded as imperial, feudal, royal, or liberal, because she is greater than the sum of all that, she is Catholic.”
A month later, on the 9th April, 1849, The New Era announced that it would not again appear. A Declaration signed by the whole management, with Ozanam at their head, gave reasons for their action, furnished a statement of their principles, and reviewed the different phases through which the paper had passed. That Declaration maintained a high tone and exhibited great breadth of mind. Ozanam’s hand is recognisable in it.
It first indicated the nature of the undertaking. I t was not a commercial paper. The nobility of its design, namely, the application of Christian principles to modern society with a view to the happiness of man through respect for his dignity and his liberty. It referred to the opposition aroused by the word democracy, which was naturally regarded with suspicion by men of good will, when they found it invoked by triumphant anarchy in Italy and elsewhere. “Yet who can deny the sincerity and indignation with which we condemned the revolution in Rome, which was inaugurated by assassination and undermined by ingratitude?”
” Now while, notwithstanding attacks and misunderstandings, The New Era was marching on steadily to its goal, a new grouping of political parties threatened danger. The course of events, which cannot subvert doctrine, but which can seduce the many-headed multitude, appeared to place the government of an honest Republic in the wrong. The majority went that way. The New Era suffered the inevitable consequence of that defection. But each one had done his duty. God, for Whom alone men of faith and courage devote themselves to the hard business of writing, of fighting, of being misunderstood, and of being misrepresented, asks nothing more.”
” The first Board of Management of the paper, united to-day as from the first, resigns in a body. Their farewell breathes neither discouragement nor repentance. We do not resign in consequence of the violence of the attacks, nor of that feeling of scepticism which has succeeded more than once in infecting the very defenders of liberty. We resign in consequence of material difficulties, in which God has perhaps hidden His design for the fructification of our doctrines, even as the very hoar-frosts, which drive the sower home, fructify the wheat.”
The signatories are: (Rev.) H. Maret, Ozanam, Audley, Eug. Rendu Gouraud, Feugeray, L. F. Guerin.
Some days later, on the 8th May, Ozanam, forwarding a copy of the Declaration to M. Prosper Dugas, added the necessary explanation: “It has been bruited around that the management retired on the advice of the ecclesiastical authority. There is no tnith whatever in the rumour. His Grace the Archbishop of Paris, his cousin, the Abbé Sibour, Right Rev. Monsignor Buquet, Vicar-General, have, on the contrary, expressed to us their keen regret at seeing the demise of this paper, a paper which they regarded as necessary for the defence of religion. Motives of delicacy do not allow us to publish the measure of the sympathy which we have received from the episcopate. If I can err in politics I have no fear 01 erring in religion, when we have on our side such men as the Abbé Maret5, the Abbé Gerbet, Pere Lacordaire, who, even when he ceased to contribute, did not cease to encourage us with his good wishes or to aid us with his counsel.
It was during the last days of Lent that The New Era ceased to appear. Ozanam was humiliated, but not crushed, by its disappearance. Writing to his mother-in-law on Holy Saturday, he told her of the sweet consolation which his wearied and disappointed spirit was finding that week, in the familiar society of Jesus and in the expectation of His divine visit: “0, dear mother, after the griefs, the struggles, and the defeats of this life, how consoling it is to enjoy these brief moments of peace, reclining, like St. John, on the bosom of Our Saviour. When the head is worn out with work, and the heart is embittered by controversy and disappointment, one leaves the petty rivalry of men and contact with wicked passions, to aspire to the peace of these holy days! How very good it will be to come to the feet of the kind Master, who awaits us to-morrow morning.”
The great sacrifice in the cause of peace having been made, we find Ozanam hastening to hold out his hands to his Lyons friends, who were not of his way of thinking, by showing himself less assertive: “The truth is, my dear friend,” he wrote to M. Dugas, “that divine Providence has not yet unlocked the secret of that terrible year, 1848; that even the best intentioned minds can err in regard to it, and that the wisest course for Christians is not to hate one another for the sake of matters of controversy.”
In view of the political differences between the President and the Assembly his early confidence seemed to weaken. “If that be the goal to which God is leading the world,” he wrote to the same, “I admit that He is leading it over rough ways. If I still believe in democracy, it is in spite of excesses which disgust honest men.”
In the same letter he refers to the obscurity of the questions: “Face to face with the formidable questions with which Providence confronts us, and seeing the obscurity which surrounds them, I, for my part, do not understand why friends grow cold and part, because they have regarded such questions from a different angle—and solved them
in a different way… I cannot do without my friends, and their
memory has become infinitely dearer to me, since revolutions separate so many friends who had dearly loved each other.”
Ozanam also expressed his pleasure at having left the scene of militant politics for the more serene sphere of study, which he does not intend to abandon again: “You in Lyons must understand that, political agitation, in which I have been too much engaged, has not taken me from my first love, research, that is to say from what can hasten the alliance of science and religion. Such reconciliation was never more needed than to-day, for peace will only come into our dealings with one another when it has been first established in our minds. What bitter passions! What implacable resentment! Ah I It is full time that God let light into this chaos.”
A few months later when the vacation was at hand, Ozanam received orders from his doctors to go to the mountains for a change of air. All forms of political activity were expressly prohibited. He was still there on the loth October, when he wrote as follows to his friend Dufieux, editor of the Lyons Gazette, a copy of which he had just seen: “You ask me a question of present political interest with which I cannot deal, as the medical faculty have decided, that, pending further orders, politics were not to concern me.”
His journey via Lyons had restored him to the warm friendship of his former comrades: “That is the charm of the journey,” he wrote to Janmot. “My dear friend, repeat that to our Lyons friends; the memory of your warm welcome will not be forgotten by me; it will sustain me in my work and in those moments of depression which accompany it too often. I thought that I had some ideas, and some work to do in this world. I am afraid I have greatly over-estimated myself. Who knows but that God is humiliating and punishing my pride by withdrawing my health, by making me understand too late that I am nothing, and that I presumed too much on my own strength?” He mentioned some of those friends by whose friendship his heart was warmed: La Perriere, Arthaud, Genin, Velay, Laprade, the Catholic poet and future member of the French Academy; but he always gives pride of place to the Abbé Noirot.
lie was in Ferney with his wife’s uncle, “but so removed from public affairs that he returned as if it were from China. In the presence of those glorious mountains which bound our horizon, the quarrels of men appear to me to be very petty, and I cannot at all conceive why human beings are so anxious to tear one another to pieces, instead of enjoying the works of God.” His only cause for displeasure was that he was breathing the air in the shade of Voltaire’s trees and living in the immediate vicinity of Calvin’s city.
As a set-off to Calvin he found a Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Geneva, which had been established by Dr. Dufresne, son-in-law of M. Foisset. The eloquent address which he delivered to the Brothers is still remembered. It was nearly altogether on the life of St. Francis de Sales.
His stay in Ferney was cut short by a summons to a meeting of the Faculty to nominate a successor to M. Guizot: “My attendance might decide in favour of my friend, Wallon. Apart from considerations of friendship, it was a question of putting a Catholic and an excellent Professor into the Chair of Modern History. My duty was to go by the most direct route, not passing through Lyons. I arrived in Paris on Thursday. The next day we nominated Wallon.”
When Ozanam was requested on his return to again step into the gap of danger in the editing of a new paper le Monileur religieux, in collaboration with the Abb6 Gerbet and under the patronage of His Grace the Archbishop, he declined to do more than contribute a few occasional articles: “You must not think,” he wrote, “that I am again going to take up journalism. I have experienced its bitterness. The present time has nothing attractive enough to draw me away from the Barbarians and the Fathers of the Church.”
The Republic finished its existence on the 2nd December, 1851.
It was not an absolute Monarchy that replaced it, but an autocratic Empire. Montalembert had not waited for that catastrophe to detach himself from him whom he called “his Prince “and to return to his friend. He wrote as follows to Madame Ozanam the day after her husband’s death: “A different appreciation of the disasters of 1848 had separated us for the time being without making us enemies. In the course of subsequent events, which enlightened both our minds, we instinctively sought each other out. After that we were of one mind.”
Thus finished The New Era after a short but brilliant twelve months existence. “They had provided an eloquent medium of expression for the Party of Confidence, and a lead to such Catholics as were unwilling to despair of a critical situation, and who were aiming at securing for the Church her place in the triumph of democracy. Misunderstood, violently attacked, ultimately undone by the course of events which played into the hands of disorder and force, the enterprise of a handful of noble-minded Catholics could not succeed. But it sustained courage and upheld progressive and noble ideals in very difficult times.”
Ozanam devoted faith and charity to it, his faith in God and his charity for the people. But did he not mistake illusions for hopes? Was it not an illusion in the first place, to compare the barbarity of the masses of to-day, who have denied God and reverted to paganism in beliefs and morals, with virgin races who knew not Jesus Christ, but who could be converted to Him? Was it not also an illusion to regard them as sufficiently responsible and conscientious in the discharge of a public duty, to place in their hand the two-edged sword of universal suffrage? He lived to see the use that was made of it. Was it not also an illusion to identify two things, very dissimilar in themselves, a republic and liberty? Generous illusions, but none the less dangerous. He is to be excused for he could not see what we have seen. History will award due merit to his motives and his activities, as God, I hope, has already given him his reward.
To-day, when, realising the conviction and fulfilling the prophecy of Ozanam, the democratic regime has prevailed anew and the Republic has returned not in the form of liberty, but in that of the worst of tyrannies, no longer honourable and decent but corrupt and impious, nay, even disastrous, what conclusions are to be drawn from the Christian democracy and republicanism of Ozanam, of The New Era, of the honourable men who were devoted to the interests of the people, and who worked for two full years in the Party of Confidence?
The first is this: that it was well at the moment that true friends of the people, men of good heart and good will, should have held up to France, if it were only for one hour, the ideal and the project of a republic broad-based on virtue, prudence, liberty, honesty and good faith, and that those true friends of the people should have been preeminently servants of God. The other conclusion is thrown into relief by contrast with existing conditions, and it is this: that there is not, nor will there ever be, any possible, moral, acceptable, habitable and durable republic, save such a one as I have above described, if it be ever to be found.
- Ozanam’s articles are not signed. We must therefore confine ourselves to fragments inserted in his Complete works: Mélanges, vol 7, page 231.
- Pere Lacordaire wrote as follows from Chalais to Madame Swetchine on the 24th October, 1848: “You are aware, of course, that, though I have resigned from the management of The New Era, I approve of the paper and shall collaborate with it as far as my position as a priest will permit me. . . . If I have left the Press and the Platform for fear of going to extremes, to return altogether to my religious ministry, that is a simple act of prudence, not of repudiation. I have left the field to others younger and more daring than I. They will hold the ground on their own responsibility and I ought not to do anything to weaken or divide them.” (Correspondence with Madame Swetchine, p. 478).
- See for the details of this split the well documented book of M. Henri Boissard: Theophile Foisset, pp. 104, etc., Paris, chez Plon, 1891. Ed. Letters de Lacordaire to M. Foisset, Vol. II., Letters, 104, 105, 106.
- The growth of a movement in France (1) to enlarge the prerogatives of the French Church and to restrict proportionately the authority of the Holy see; and (2) to exalt the authority of a General Council and to depress correspondingly that of the Pope. The first feature was concerned with the growing power of the Kings of France, to appoint to vacant benefices. and reached a crisis in a dispute between Louis XIV and Innocent XI with regard to the appointment of Crown nominees in the Sees of Aleth and Panaiers. Louis XIV convened an assembly of the French Clergy in 1682 which passed the Four Propositions of the Galilean Clergy. The first three propositions declare the supremacy of the King in temporals: the fourth declared that the Pope has the principal share in questions of faith . . . “nevertheless his judgment is not irreformable unless the consent of the Church be added.” This was to exalt the authority of a General Council over that of the Pope. The definition of the Infallibility of the Pope has made the doctrinal basis of Gallicanism formal heresy, and the subsequent course of events has made it unlikely that the Gallican temper, in relation to the supreme ecclesiastical authority on the one hand, and the civil power on the other, will ever reappear in any large scale in the Church.
- The Abbe, later Monsignor Maret, Dean of the Sorbonne, in the year 1870, on the eve of a Vatican Council did, it is true, err on the subject of the Constitution of the Church in two volumes entitled: Of the General Council and of Religious Peace. But as soon as he was notified of his error he hastened to withdraw his work from publication and to make his submission to the Holy See. Monsignor Pie described that submission as “very detailed, very complete and very honourable.”