No. 74.
Mr. Washburne to Mr. Fish.

No. 1356.]

Sir: On the 2d instant, a presidential decree, read from the tribunes of the senate and of the house, prorogued the first session of the French Parliament.

That decree was made in virtue of article 2nd of the law on the “Correspondence of the public powers,” (one of the six laws making what is termed the constitution of 1875,) which not only gives to the President the right to adjourn both houses at any time he likes after they have sat five months, but seems to have lodged that right in him alone, for nothing in the text of the constitution indicates that Parliament can adjourn even on its own motion. At the request of a majority of all the members of the two assemblies, the President is compelled to call an extra session; he can do so of his own accord if he chooses; he can also adjourn Parliament during its normal session of five months, but not for more than one month, and not twice during the same session.

The Parliament which has just been prorogued is the first one organized under the constitution of 1875. I might add that it is the first one, since 1870, called in normal circumstances and under the authority of positive laws, sanctioned by universal suffrage.

The National Assembly which preceded it was not merely a legislative body, but a convention vested with all the constitutional rights of the people, and called into existence by a government which had sprung out of the necessities of the situation at the downfall of the empire.

When the new Parliament met on the 8th of March last, while the circumstances were not apparently very difficult or trying, yet they were of such a character as to call for moderation, political judgment, and firmness. The house particularly was in a rather difficult situation; it was elected in direct opposition to the former assembly, which had monarchical tendencies, and which had made the republic under the pressure of public opinion; its mission, therefore, was to carry out a policy quite different from the one secretly cherished by the majority of the previous assembly. It had to affirm itself as a true republican body and to show to the country that its institutions were republican in fact as well as in name. At the same time it had to avoid all cause of alarm for the great conservative mass of the nation, which still entertained fears of everything which was republican; it had to be liberal, wise, progressive, but not revolutionary. It has well fulfilled these conditions and has challenged the confidence and respect of the country. Without great pretension, but guided by a patriotic spirit, it has succeeded in the honorable task of reconciling republican institutions to the minds of a large class of citizens who distrusted them, and of inspiring the country as well as Europe with confidence in the stability of the new order of things. There has been some complaint in regard to the manner in which the chamber of deputies decided a large number of contested-election cases, and it is not unlikely that the decisions, in some instances, bore the stamp of partisan prejudice.

We know how such things go in our own country, both in the House of Representatives at Washington and in the State legislatures, and it is too often the case that parties are seated and unseated more in accordance with the prevailing majority than upon the strict rules of justice and right. When the excitement of the contest is over the whole matter [Page 123] has but little interest, except to those who have been immediately concerned in the result. There have been but comparatively few disorderly manifestations in the chamber, but from time to time there were displayed some evidences of hostility to the senate, which might have led to unfortunate results had not wiser counsels prevailed in both bodies.

The senate, which had already shown some aggressive disposition toward the house by electing Mr. Buffet a life-senator and by rejecting the bill restoring to the state the exclusive right of conferring university-degrees, in the end yielded to a more conciliatory policy in electing Mr. Dufaure a life-senator, while the house submitted to the amendment the senate made to the provincial mayors bill. This last act, coupled with the election of Mr. Dufaure, sealed the reconciliation of the two houses and dissipated the apprehensions of further and more grave conflicts between them, which had caused many misgivings in the minds of serious men.

It is now quite evident that there is no serious cause of dissent between the senate and the house. They have a different political temper; one is more conservative than the other, more inclined to court prominent men of former parties, but they are not divided on fundamental questions of principle, and all sincere wishers of the happiness and prosperity of the French nation will cherish the ardent hope that both bodies will become firmly united in the task of laying deep and broad the foundation of republican institutions in France.

Very likely the President will call for a short extra session, for the budget is not yet voted; the next regular session will be opened on the second Tuesday of January, 1877.

The death of Casimir Périer, a life-senator, one of the most distinguished members of the Left Centre, and a man of a great name in France, has just been followed by that of M. Wolowski, an eminent political economist and a useful legislator. M. Wolowski was a moderate republican, but he interested himself far more in questions of finance and practical legislation than in struggles of party. He showed himself greatly interested in the Philadelphia Exhibition, and perhaps did more than any other man to interest the French government and the people in the subject.

President MacMahon has taken up his official residence at the Élysée. All the heads of the public department have returned to Paris.

I have, &c.,