PARIS being a great manufacturing city, its plebs have naturally had the ambition to rule the roast. This is what has given it the importance it has had all through French history. Multiply the natural quickness of the race into the development of that quickness by the practice of the skilled crafts, and this product again into the sense of great events ever passing on a great stage, and you have, in the colossal result, the medium in which the Paris man in the street has ever moved. He is the heir of the ages of the most stimulating suggestions of glory and power. So fashioned, like the Athenian of old, he has naturally come to regard himself as a sort of center of things. He is one to whom the making of a new constitution for his country, or, for that matter, for the human race, is the easiest thing in the world.
Hence the self-importance of the faubourgs from a very early stage of their history. The word is used here, not in its etymological sense of a suburb, an out skirt, a part without the gates, but, on the contrary, of a part that has come very much within them as the city has enlarged its boundaries. Nor, even in this sense, does it apply to those faubourgs which are still the haunt of the richer class. The faubourg of my theme is any part to which the poor have been pushed from the center to the circumference, or shut out from the center on their invading march from the outside. Even in this sense it is still hardly to be regarded as a geographical expression, and is not much more than a conventional term. Wherever the toilers and the small folk of every social category are gathered together, there you have a faubourg “within the meaning of the act.” The great manufacturing plain of St.Denis is still a faubourg beyond the walls, but it has a street of the faubourg within them.
The faubourg has ever played its part with the most perfect good faith. Its successive generations have been animated by the hope of ultimate success in the invention of a perfect governmental machine. This contrivance is to do the trick for the regeneration of mankind by a device as simple as that of putting a penny in the slot. It is to turn out equality, fraternity, and even liberty itself, as a kind of bonus, by an automatic process that precludes the need of personal exertion. The convenience of this arrangement is that it is less concerned with the conduct of the regenerators than with the conduct of those who are to be regenerated. You look after your neighbor, and allow yourself a reasonable exemption from watchfulness as inventor’s royalty.
The people of the faubourgs, the humble folk generally, small traders and small annuitants as well as workmen, like all the rest of us, are the product of their surroundings. They are shaped by the private life and by the public life, by the street and the home. These people in Paris owe a great deal to the public life. It condescends to their needs for color, variety, movement, in a way universal among the Latin nations. Out of doors is merely their larger home, and they expect to find adequate provision there for every kind of enjoyment. Our own race tends to regard that domain as a mere thoroughfare between the workshop and the fireside, where all our interests are centered. If it serves that purpose that is about all we ask of it. It may be as ugly as it likes, and, within certain limits of indulgence, almost as dirty. To the Frenchman it is more than a place of transit; it is almost a place of sojourn.
So the Parisian common man has his share of the Champs-Elysées and of the boulevards in his freedom of access to their fountains and promenades and their bordering alleys of tender green. He comes downstairs to them, so to speak, as soon as the scavengers have done their timely work. He descends to his thoroughfare as the millionaire expects to descend to his breakfast-room or his study, with all its appointments fresh from the broom, and shining in their brightness of metal and glass. So, whatever the gloom of the domestic prospect, his street helps him to feel good. The beauty of the statuary, of the public buildings, is a means to the same end. For nothing the poorest of poor devils may see the glorious bronzes in the terrace garden of the Tuileries, the outdoor figures of the Luxembourg, the great horses of the Place de la Concorde, the magnificent compositions of the Arch. The very street is the distinctive thing in Paris. The very plans for the houses have to pass municipal muster. You build as you please only within certain limits, and your right of purchase includes no license of monstrosity. The very letters in which you advertise your name and business must be in gold-leafat any rate, in the principal thoroughfares. Compare the obelisk of the Place de la Concorde with the obelisk of the Thames Embankmentthe first standing clean and clear-cut on its fine pedestal, with its whole message like a sheet of print to any one who knows the character; the other begrimed with the London soot, and with the fine figures at its base bearing innumerable traces of their degradation of use as a playground for the hobnailed urchins. The Parisian has looked on such things from his earliest infancy. He has never, except by pure mischance, looked on anything that is not beautiful in the public domain. The very house-fronts must be scraped for him into their original tint of still cream every two or three years. He is born to a splendid tradition of culture in the principles of taste. The poorest wretch who munches his crust in the open sees nothing that is not fine, whatever his luck in his nightly lair. For all the daylight hours he may be as lucky in that respect as the porter in the halls of Sindbad. And he has the equivalent of the purse of sequins in his share of the millions that have been spent on his morning promenade, from the shady Bois, at one end of the prospect, to the tiniest garden that gives him an oasis of comfort on his way to the gate of Vincennes, at the other.
The boulevard is all life, and well-nigh all beauty, in the stately frontagesbeauty of high art at Barbédienne’s and in the picture-shops, beauty of texture and dyes, of fine craftsmanship in a thousand articles of luxury, in the others. Especially is it all life. The appeal to the fancy and the imagination is not to be missed in its insistency. The kiosks give our quidnunc a sense of all-abounding vitality. Here the hawkers shout their latest sensation from the uttermost ends of the earth, new editions piping hot with nothing in them, and yet with everything in their power of providing for the passing moment, which is the all in all. His enemies, home and foreign, are caricatured in the gaudy colored prints. The soldiers pass, the idlers take their afternoon absinthe. It is a pageant which does not depend for its effect on the consideration whether you see it from a bench on the trottoir or from a fauteuil under the awning, for, thanks to the municipal foliage, the bench is shaded just as pleasantly as the chair.
The general result gives every beholder to the manner born the sense that he is a citizen of no mean city. If the appeal lies too directly to the sensations and too little to the reflective part, that need not count. The creature, at any rate, lives in every nerve, and his tendency to go off half primed in every fugitive fancy entails no personal inconvenience, since, in the long run, it is France that pays. This is the street of our proletarian of the Latin races. You see it, with differences which are only local, in Barcelona and in Seville, in Florence and in Naples. It is a place made for the waking hours, the sleeping-quarters being very much of an accident, as they were in old Rome.
Still the question remains, What sort of home does he go home to? It is not a bad one if he is a Parisian of the working-class. The wife is still apt to be the angel of the house in cleanliness, neatness, and management, and she runs no risk of losing her wings by taking to drink. The poorer classes throughout the world have to make their choice between the life out of doors and the life within. Even with the help of the angel in the house, the Parisian workman is but poorly off. She can but do her best in her domain, and when that domain is only one half or one quarter story out of seven, she can hardly be called a controller of events.
The family of the faubourg is still too commonly lodged in the tenement-house, and that house in Paris wants what it wants pretty much everywhere else. It towers to the sky, though in comparison with the elevations common in Chicago and in New York it is an ant-hill. It gets light and air for the back rooms from a fetid court. Its sanitary arrangementsbut why insist? See one of these places in any latitude, and you see them in all the broad earth. This is no new thing. Paris has built in the air for generations. New York probably learned the trick from her as a grain of the wisdom brought home in the close fist of ” Poor Richard” on his return from abroad. All the old fortified cities built in the air built high and built narrow so as to lessen the circuit of the walls. In its origin it is rather ancient need than modern greed. To this day some of the highest houses and the narrowest streets of Paris are to be found in the old quarters near the Institute, and by no means a hundred miles from the Rue de Seine and the Rue du Bac. The latter was once a real “street of the brook” a brook gradually fouled into a gutter, and running so fouled within the memory of those now living.
The contrast in the workmen’s homes is between the fairly neat and well-ordered interiors and the abominations that begin at the staircase. Our race strives more for the amenity and the independence of the small house. within the fortifications of Paris the small house is almost unknown, the yard or garden patch, as the possession of a single family, quite unknown. There are great possibilities in the small house, if you choose to make the best of them, and there is still the individualized independence dear to the Anglo-Saxon, even if you make the worst. The hideous neglect of cleanliness and beauty in the public domain, in the poorer quarters of London, is one result of the difference of conditions. The poor man is content to find nothing attractive in the thoroughfares, because there is his own ” little bit of a place ” at the journey’s end. As the great model lodging-houses multiply, however, he is losing this compensation. His demand for its equivalent out of doors is therefore beginning to tell in the labors of the County Council for the planting of gardens and for the merely decorative improvement of the streets.
The poor man of the Latin race met smiling on the promenades seems to say, ” Please don’t follow me home.” His nights, then, are something of a terror if his days are a delight. One is reminded of the choice presented to fancy in the nursery tale. Under which fairy will you take service the one who gives a waking experience of every kind of happiness, with a sleeping life of all the horrors of nightmare, or the other, who offers the experience the other way about ? Be careful how you choose offhand. The Frenchman of the great cities may sleep in a cupboard after roaming all day in a pleasance.
The workman lives in a barrack. The small house has vanished. Sheer necessity has compelled the builders to forget the Stoic warning against raising the roofs of the houses instead of the souls of the citizens. The evil is that rich and poor now dwell by tribes, each in its own quarter. The very poor are in one ward,the half poor in another, and so on until you reach districts where it is all millionaire. In the old days the poor of Paris, like the poor of London, abode all over the place. It was the lower part of the house for the rich, the upper part for the less prosperous, but the whole social order under one roof. There have been many laws to amend this state of things in France, one of the earliest of the modern dating from 185o. It failed because it was permissive. It is thought that the state should make some gigantic effort to house everybody in the right way. The money might be found in the savings-bank fund, now amounting in paper to between two and three thousand millions of francs. But where is the savings-bank fund ? Nobody can say. It is distributed all over the surface of French finance. It has served as a sort of lucky bag into which the embarrassed minister dips when he is at a loss for a balance. Some fear national bankruptcy on this issue alone, and a second Revolution as bad as the first.
For all the years since the beginning of the century these thrifty and industrious people have been pouring their savings into the hands of the state in the sure and certain hope of finding them at call. They could not find them in the lump, and a panic might have the most fearful consequences. Then, money or no money, where are you to build ? It is impossible to continue the invasion of the skies, so there is nothing for it but lateral extension. Why not take the fortifications, just as they have already done in Vienna, raze the walls, fill the ditches, and make a workman’s zone ? The scheme is feasible. It would put the people on the circumference of Paris within striking distance of the center or of the suburbs. But it supposes a good civic railway system, and, happily, there is just a beginning of this in the new line (to be finished for the Exposition) which runs through the city from east to west. It has already burrowed under the Champs-Elysées, and it is now well on its way down the Rue de Rivoli.
Without this and a good deal more of the same kind Paris would soon be impossible. The omnibus system, even with its enormous supplementary force of the tramways, has completely broken down as a service for the needs of this vast population ; for Paris grows worse overcrowded than ever, owing to the work for the Exposition, and, indeed, to the rebuilding generally. This brings up thousands from all parts of the country, and most of them come to stay. Some, like the masons, come only for the summer work, and in the winter go back to their villages. While they are here they lodge in wretched garnis, or furnished lodgings, like Chinese, sleeping no one quite knows how many in a room.
Of eight hundred and twenty-five thousand habitations, great and small, six hundred thousand are at a yearly rental below five hundred francs, or a hundred dollars. Of course by habitations I do not mean separate houses, but merely separate dwellings of any and every sort. Think of what this means, and of how little in the way of house-room and of the decencies of domestic life those who pay so little can expect. But there is worse behind. Some habitations are below sixty dollars. This surely cannot give the right to much more than a cupboard, and a very dirty cupboard at that. Nor is this the lowest depth. I have seen the rag-pickers in shanties with mere ground for the floor. In one and the same hut they sorted the filth, housed the family, worked, cooked, and slept, were born, and died. An infant, who had just gone through the former process, lay in its cradle in one corner, and beside the cradle was a crib, where two others slept ; a bed for father, mother, and yet an infant more, occupied another corner. Rags, bones, broken bottles, and bits of rusty iron completed the furniture.
This is all the more trying in Paris, because in their work the Parisians are a highly domesticated folk.
Wherever they can do it, they work at home. The hardest thing in the world is to bring the artificial-flower makers into a factory. All the fine taste of these girls seems to go out of them when you range them in rows. What they like is to be left in their own garrets and to feign nature at their ease with a modeling-tool and a tinted rag. It is, in one view, the French passion for little industries of all kinds. They put off the evil day of machinery as long as they can. Whole districts are still cultivated with the spade. Many Parisian industries depend only less on hand-labor than the Japanese.
This is specially the case in the toy trade, a considerable item in the exports of France. All those fanciful creations which are the delight of the boulevards on the 1st of January are more or less traceable to dismal back rooms, looking out on walls of giant buildings which know no visitation of the sun. Even where the curious industry is established on the larger scale it still has something domestic in its character. There may be twenty people under a master as petty as themselves, but they still have to contrive to work in the master’s lodgings. He finds room somehow, and as they turn out of his impoverished workshop he turns in to go to bed. In this medium, and in this medium only, his serene spirit works at its ease in inventions for the toy market. Here he elaborates his wonderful buzzing bees and skipping monkeys, his industrious mechanical mice that creep up a string and down a string, and all the rest of it. A popular toy is a fortune. The man who first found out how to make a puppet walk, with his girl on his arm, and his poodle-dog in leash, must long since have retired in affluence.
A thousand considerations of policy and prudence affect this industry. Political toys are of no use except for the purely Parisian market, and the inventor strikes both for that and for the export trade. For the latter the non-political puppet with the poodle elbows the heroes out of the field.
Many of the great manufacturing houses try to lodge their own work-people in comfort and decency. At the iron-works of Creusot they make endless efforts of this sort, and are, on the whole, fairly successful. The working-class city founded by Jean Dolfus at Mulhouse is a wonderful creation. The wellknown Phalanstère de Guise is a sort of Republic of Plato, or Utopia of More, adapted to working-class needs. These philosophic employers of labor, who have tried to rear men as others rear pheasants, have a good deal to show for their pains, in settlements in which every one, down to the humblest, is lodged in a way that differentiates the human being from the brute. These are the industrial experiments.
Then there are the religious ones. The revivalist movement in the Catholic Church that began after the Franco-Prussian war is very active in the industrial domain. The church tried to turn the moral of that awful catastrophe entirely to its own profit. It has just completed its monumental temple at Montmartre, visible from every quarter of the city, and designed to warn the populace forever and forever of the wickedness of the Commune, and of the need of intercessory prayers. In the same way it has started all over the country workmen’s clubs “to combat democracy and infidelity ” clubs which are intended to procure work for the faithful from the faithful, and which put the poor and pious tailor in the way of mending the breeches of the Catholic millionaire. These have some success, though the artisan, as a rule, fights shy of them, and regards their members with the utmost scorn. They give free social entertainments, not to say free lunches, all on the easy condition of a due submission to the powers that be, both in church and state.
Connected with the religious organizations is the scheme of cheap houses. There is a great society for the building of habitations à bon marché, and it does good work, but still on what seems to me the unsatisfactory basis of charity. Some of its houses are built on the conception that a small house and garden belong to the natural state of civilized man. This idea, of course, can be carried out only in the country, where space is not so precious. At Auteuil there is a whole street of maisonnettes of this description, and of three-story houses in which two or more families may lodge in comfort and decency on the tenement system. With these, and forming part of the scheme, is a cooperative store, where the tenants get nearly all necessaries at cost price. There are other dwellings of the same society at St.-Denis, the great manufacturing plain beyond the walls, and in other parts of France.
But the dwelling-house is only one of the conditions. The workshop is another. In fact, where you work is perhaps more important than where you lodge, for there you spend the greater part of your time under one roof. A good deal has been done by legislative and administrative supervision to put the workshops in a healthier state. All this, however, is to be judged by the standard of the country, and it must be confessed that in certain matters the French standard is not high. Workshops that would pass muster in France as being quite on the improved plan would be considered by other communities as only less objectionable than a Kafir kraal. You are to bear in mind that it is an old country, and that it does all things in a more or less old fashioned way. Its own idea that it is the newest of the new is merely its fun. The apprenticeship laws abound in all sorts of quaint provisions. Boys and girls are to have one day’s rest a week, though the day is not fixed. There are strict regulations as to the weight of burdens that may be carried by the apprentice, according to sex and age.
Then there is another sobering influence in the question of wages. The skilled workman in the Department of the Seine that is to say, in Paris and its neighborhood earns from six to eight francs a day. This is only the average. It means much higher wages for some in the highly skilled and purely artistic trades, and much lower wages for others. The same kind of workmen earn from four to five francs in the provinces. This may serve to mark the difference in the proportion throughout. The lowest-paidthe unskilled in the countryearn from two to three francs a day ; the same class, of course, take relatively higher wages in the capital. There is a sort of middle term of the half-skilled trades, ranging in earnings between the two. All these rates, low as they are, represent an increase of a hundred per cent. in the last fifty years. Of course they have to be considered strictly in relation to their purchasing power, which is fairly high. If the French workman lived now exactly as he lived half a century ago, the cost of living would be only twenty-five per cent. higher as against the hundred per cent. of income. But his claim in living has naturally gone up. He wants better things, so his actual outlay is doubled. The net result, however, is an enormous increase in well being. If in one way he receives more only to spend more, the more he spends now gives him comforts undreamed of in the philosophy of his grandfather. Watch him at his midday meal at the brasserie, and you will see that he is fairly well provided with food. He gets a better dinnera dinner with more meat in it, and less onion and thin soupthan his father had. It is meat, if only meat of a kind.
The purchasing power of wages is increased to the utmost by the excellent system of markets. They are a wholesome survival of the old economy in which there was no middleman. The country folk brought their wares into town, and the townspeople went to buy them. That system obtains almost in its primitive simplicity in the Paris of today. All over the city there are local markets which are supplied directly by the growers in the suburbs. Here you may meet all classesthe workman’s wife and the smart young housekeeper, followed by her servant, who carries the basket. The city dues have, of course, to be reckoned in the cost. There is the charge of the octroi at the gates, and there are the market charges; but, with all this, the buyer gains a good, deal by not having to go to a costly shop. The octroi is a survival that promises to be perpetual. The French people will not endure direct taxation. They will pay to any extent through the nose, but it is hateful to them to have to put their hands into their pockets and bring out a substantial sum for any public service. You have to take toll of them in advance by laying a charge on everything they eat, drink, or wear. It is only the ha’penny or the penny in the franc, which they don’t miss. It is just the same in their contributions to charity. They are seldom capable of writing a check in cold blood, but they will do anything in reason, or in unreason, to see a charity performance, or to buy a trinket at a charity bazaar.
Most foreigners who study the markets generally make the mistake of going to the great central establishment of the Halles. It is wonderful, of course, but the smaller markets give one a clearer insight into the true civic life. The Halles is the place for the supply of the great shops, and the greater part of its trade is really wholesale. Its twenty-two acres, its two or three thousand stalls, its twelve hundred cellars, are on a scale that precludes profitable observation. It is a wondrous scene, but so are all great markets of the kind. The carts rumble along all the night through from the market gardens, with freights of eatables, alive or dead, that give one a positive horror of the human appetite. It is a still more awful sight at the cattle market at La Villette, with its six thousand oxen, its nine thousand calves and pigs, its twenty-five thousand sheep, marching in every Monday and Thursday to fill the insatiable maw of Paris. Most of these are brought in by the river port of La Villette.
The great wine market is another extraordinary sight, and with its thousands of barrels ranged along the quays it reminds one of the Lilliputian preparations for a meal of Gulliver. Near this market is a wonderfully good restaurant, almost wholly unknown to the general diner in Paris, but exceedingly well known to the prosperous wine-merchants who visit this remote quarter to trade. There are such restaurants, good, and little known to the outsider, near most of the great markets. The Pied de Mouton, in the neighborhood of the Halles, is a famous one, and its cellar is one of the best in Paris. There is another overlooking the neighboring square in which stands the beautiful fountain by Jean Goujon.
So the French workman is the creature of the street for the sense of the joy of life, and the creature of the home and the workshop for the sense of the hardship, and sometimes of the sorrow. Fashioned as he is in this way, two outside forces contend for the possession of him. The question of questions is, Will he take his guidance from the recognized agencies within the law, or from the agencies of revolt ? The state, and also, as we have seen, the church, offer him all sorts of bribes and bonuses to consent to work in their way. They recognize his trade and self-help societies. They try to get him to the altar as a devotee, and to the urn as a voter. But he has heard of Utopias, and he longs to have one more struggle for absolute perfection at short notice, though he may have to lay down his life in the attempt. The key to modern French history is to be found here. Every political movement has to be a compromise between the aspirations of the faubourg and the world as it wags. The French workman has been bred in the belief in revolution as a recognized agency of progress, and by instinct and habit he loathes second-best. The old order offers him the churches, the thrift and benefit societies, cooperation, insurance against accidents, education, technical and otherthe old political economy, in a word, and the paternal state. The new whispers socialism, the Commune, anarchy sometimes, and with these the barricade.
The societies of mutual help form an enormous force on the side of the established order. Their numbers are counted by thousands ; their capital is over a hundred million francs. Some are ” municipal,” and this means they are helped by public funds. In this instance they give help in sickness only. The ” professional,” those formed without such help among the crafts themselves, give aid to men out of work, and sometimes pensions to the aged and infirm. The state approves ” those of the first type, and only ” authorizes ” the others. The savings-banks have been under government patronage for the better part of one century, or, to carry it still further back to the origin of the Society of Deposits, for more than three. The organization of that petty thrift which is the foundation of national wealth dates from a decree of Henry III issued in 1578.
The cooperative movement in France has two aspects, and one of them is revolutionary. The wilder spirits are always trying to capture cooperation as it was captured in 1848 for the national workshops. Their aim is the forcible abolition of the middleman in one word, of the boss. The more thoughtful are content to work out their own salvation by the slower processes of thrift, selfdenial, and selfcontrol. The revolutionary line is indicated by what was once the great superiority of the productive over the distributive societies. The workmen wanted to begin at the beginning, by getting hold of the workshops. Everything, they said to themselves, is, at first, a thing made, and if they, and they alone, could make it, the question of distribution would already be half solved. The less theoretical English workman was content to take the thing as made no matter by what agency of the lordship of capital and to buy it at the cheapest rate for distribution to the consumer. The French seem slowly coming round to that view. At any rate, the consuming societies are now very far in excess of the others. As it is, they have no affinity with the English trading-stores, which virtually sell to everybody, and they are compelled to confine their operations strictly to the circle of membership.
On the other hand, some of the productive societies are highly prosperous, and under the republican system they get a share of the government work. Two societies of printers used to have the contract for the Journal Officiel,” and, for aught I know to the contrary, have it to this day. The relations of all these societies with the state are regulated by a special bureau; very much to the disgust of the ” clubs of social studies,” who want to be as free as air. The play of the two opposing forces of liberty and authority is incessant in this as in every other institution in France. Cooperation now moves all along the line, not only in manufactures, but in agriculture, for cheap houses and for cheap loans. A newer type is one in which masters and workmen combined, each contributing their capital, large or small, and sharing benefits, of course in proportion to the amount of their subscription. This, it was hoped, would bring cooperation , into the department of grand industry,” and provide for the purchase of extensive and costly plant. But it has not had much success, owing to constant discussion between the workmen and the syndicate, and there is now a tendency to revert to the earlier system of small cooperators, providing everything for themselves.,
The man who has tried most to make the social movement evolutionary, instead of revolutionary, is the Comte de Chambrun. He is the great patron of the cooperative movement, and he has given his money and his time to it. In nights of insomnia great waking thoughts that were better than visions came to him, and urged him to make himself useful to his kind. So the ” Social Museum ” of his creation is now a government department, where you may study every branch of the subject with the aid of one of the best special libraries in the world. His Temple of Humanity at the Expositionstill perhaps a temple of fancy only is to have two doors. One is to bear the date of the expiring century, and is to be labeled ” Salary “; the other the date of the century to come, with the title ” Association.” France has scores of men of this sort, all working to the same end by different means, some of them revolutionary. Edmond Potonié, whom I used to know, sacrificed the succession to a large business to live on a fifth floor at the East End and promote the cause of universal peace. The brothers Réclusone of them the great geographer, who was just saved from the worst after the Commune by a memorial widely signed throughout the world were for blood and fire. Yves Guyot, journalist, ex-minister, and a man of perfect honor and integrity all through, is a free trader of the old school. His life has been in a mild sort of way a martyrdom, because he insists on the perfect harmony of interests between labor and capital. This is ever the great line of division between the two schools. In labor insurance, for instance, one school cries, State aid,” and the other, ” Self-help.” The state-aid schools stand for the taxation of wealth, the self help schools for frugality. The new law is received with only partial favor by the advanced party.
It is the same in technical education. Nobody disputes the need of it, but many think that the old gild schools were the best. The municipality, however, has long had possession of the greater part of the field, and it does wonders in training the poorest children in those principles of taste which come by nature, in the first place, to the majority of Frenchmen. A municipal crafts-school is a wonderful sight. The pupils study high art, in its application to all the superior industries, without spending a penny for the best teaching in the world. They draw, model, and paint from the best examples. They are the pick of the elementary schools, where drawing is one of the subjects, though naturally it is taught only in its elements ; but whenever special aptitude is shown, the higher school seeks the parents out, and takes counsel with them as to the propriety of giving the pupil a chance in one of the art trades. If all goes well the child is sent to the school. If the earlier promise is not fulfilled, the parents are again warned that they had better think of something else. If it is fulfilled, the school does its very best for three or four years. Then one of the great art houses in bronze or marble or stone carving or engraving, or some other of the many applied arts, makes an opening for the new hand. Fame and, in a modest way, fortune is the next step. This, and this alone, is the secret of the French supremacy in the precious metals. It comes by no accident ; it is the result of a careful selection of the fittest at every stage.
The wives and womankind generally of the laboring class are a great force on the side of the domestic virtues. The well-brought-up Frenchwoman of whatever class is order, method, thrift, and industry personified. If a representative goddess of these virtues were wanted, there she is ready to hand. Within her degree she is, as I have said, neat from top to toe, well shod, trim in her attire. Within the same limit of opportunity she is notoriously a good cook. She will work early and late. Her children rise up and call her blessed as they put on the shirts and stockings which she has mended overnight. Strong drink is a vice almost unknown to her experience in so far as it is one affecting her own sex. So far as I know there is no analogue in France to the British matron of the working-class who tipples at the public-house bar. It is an insistent fancy of mine that the Frenchwoman, both for good and ill, is the stronger of the sex combination for the whole race. Like the person in the nursery rhyme, when she is bad she is horrid, because of the will and the mental power that she puts into her aberrations. But when she is goodand she is generally so (for in all life, thank Heaven ! the averages are usually on the right side)she is a treasure. She keeps the poor man’s home straight.
Her daughter grows up like her, with the most elementary notions as to rights and pleasures, with the sternest notions as to duties. The home is, of course, the best nursery of these virtues, and I could wish that the girl had never to pass its bounds for the indiscriminate companionship of the factory. She has been taught to look for a sort of maternal initiative in all things, and she is apt to feel like a corporal’s file without its corporal when she stands alone. She is not so well fortified as the Englishabove all, as the American girl by pride in her selfreliance. She is best where she best likes to be at home. After all, the best of factories is only the secondbest of this ministrant sex, as the best of crèches, where one day, I suppose, the cradles will be rocked by steam-power, is only secondbest for her baby brother or sister. Both are very much better than nothing ; no more can be said. In France, as in England, the workman’s ideal is to keep the woman at home.
These in their sum are the great steadying influences that correct the boulevard and the wine-shop for the French working-man. They also correct the platforms of the revolution. Where they are not well developed he is apt to run a little wild. His parting of the ways points to thrift, toil, hardship, on the one hand ; on the other, to revolution as the promised short cut to the temple of happiness. In one section, and a large one, the faubourg is invincibly revolutionary, and as much given to the formula and the nostrum of curative regeneration as any malade imaginaire. Sometimes the workman thinks that if you can simply overturn the existing order and set forth liberty, equality, and fraternity by decree, you will at once change the face of the world. Disappointed in that, and disappointed, if he could only see it, by the play of his own passions and appetites as much as by aught else, he turns with hope and longing to equally fantastic schemes. He perished in his thousands after the war to make Paris one of thirty-six thousand communes of France, sovereign within its own borders, and uniting with the others for any and every purpose of law, government, and commerce only at its sovereign pleasure. The literature of these movements is based on the Genevese dreamer’s concept of man as naturally good, and wanting only a single bath of light to reveal him in his native purity. That is why the faubourg so contentedly dies, just to provide the bath for the human race.
The wellknown institution of the Bourse du Travail is an instructive case. In its origin it was a sort of labor exchange, founded at the public expense to bring employers and workmen together in their relations of demand and supply, and to enable the latter to study all the economic problems affecting the welfare of their order. With this it was a teaching institution officered by some of the best specialists in Paris ; but its working-class members, being of those who think that all roads lead to socialism, soon proposed that as the end of the journey, and the government took the alarm. The institution was closed ; but the influence of the essentially democratic constituency of the municipal council was strong enough to have it reopened, and there it is today, in the Rue du Château d’Eau, more flourishing than ever.
It has a workmanlike look. You are received by men in blouses at the door ; you find men in blouses in many of the offices ; and you may haply discover a meeting of men on strike in the great hall. They come there when they are out of work, either by their own volition, or by the chances of the market. In the latter case they expect the Bourse to let them know of all the work that is going. In the former they discuss their grievances, and choose deputations to lay them before the employers. They have their own organs, monthly and annual, and other organs which, perhaps, speak more effectually in their name because they have no official sanction. The trend toward extreme doctrine is seen in their ” Ouvrier des Deux Mondes,” a monthly review. One of the numbers of this publication celebrates the International and condemns the ” atrocious suppression ” of the Commune. Another declares that the policy of the revolutionary party is to get all it can while waiting for ” the coming revolution.” ” Not that we ought to ask anything of capital,” pursues the writer, ” though we should take something at once.” And in the official ” Annual ” I find an account of a little festival on which one of the guests toasted the Commune, and boasted that the organization of the Bourse du Travail was a benefit ” snatched from the egotism of the bourgeoisie.” This, in fact, is the dominant note. It means that capital and labor in France are still as wide apart as the poles, and that the vast majority of the poor of Paris still take their ” funeral of the eighth class ” as much under protest as ever.