To three qualities I ascribe the success of John Bull: his tenacity, the coolness of his head, and the thickness of his skin.
Take an Englishman to visit the ruins of some old castle: he will not rest until he has thrust his nose into every nook and cranny of the place, and climbed the most crumbling walls, at the risk of breaking his neck over and over again. He has seen nothing if he has not seen all. You may think yourself lucky if he has not profited by your back being turned for a moment, to go and hoist the Union Jack on the summit of the highest tower. That is a little weakness of his that makes him a trifle inconvenient occasionally, I must say; but, you see, one cannot get on in this world without a certain aptitude for making one's self at home.
He conquers the world for the good of the world. When he goes after pastures new, he takes the Bible with him. It will not be long before the natives have the Bible, and he their land. On arriving upon his new field of operation, the missionary places the Bible in the hands of the natives, and thus addresses them: "My dear Brethren, lift your eyes to Heaven, and pray. Lift your eyes – higher – higher – still higher – that's it. Now close them, and do not open them until I tell you – that's it – pray – there – now open your eyes, you are saved."
When the worthy natives open their eyes, their territory is gone.
Truly, a strange being, but an interesting subject of study, is this same Englishman. Capable of combining a thousand different personages, of playing a thousand different parts, of doing in Rome (to use his own words) as the Romans do; extreme in each of his acts, presenting the most striking contrasts, but always guided by his reason. Fiery patriot, yet calmly bearing the greatest humiliations while awaiting the propitious moment for taking his innings. In the temple, a publican, crying aloud, "O Lord, I am but a miserable sinner!" Outside its door, a Pharisee, setting up for a marvel of virtue. Worshiper of Mammon and Jehovah, the man most concerned in the interests of the next world, and most wrapped up in the concerns of this.
In the singular, a man upon whose word you can rely as you would upon a trusty sword; in the plural, a people who have too often merited the epithet "perfidious." At home, preaching temperance, even to the forswearing of all drinks but water; abroad, not only encouraging, but enforcing the opium trade. At home, prosecuting the individual that ill-uses an animal, unless, indeed, the animal be a wife; abroad, setting a price upon the head of a recalcitrant foe. At home, punishing with imprisonment the people who obstruct the rowdy processions of the Salvation Army mountebanks; in India, sending to prison the same mountebanks, who, in their zeal, might create religious difficulties among a nation that he has subdued.
Opportunist par excellence, he never asks all or nothing. He accepts a little as being better than nothing; and thus it is that little by little, without shock or violence, without revolutions, he perfects the machinery of his constitution.
Everything John Bull does is perfect. When anything goes wrong, he knows where to lay the blame: he keeps Scotchmen, Irishmen, and Welshmen conveniently at hand for that purpose.
At prayer time, a man appearing somewhat uncomfortable. When he prays, he makes a grimace, or hides his face in his hat, and reminds one of Heinrich Heine's sayings, "that a blaspheming Frenchman must be a more pleasing object in the sight of God than a praying Englishman."
Also watch John Bull as the collection is going on. Hear him sing at the top of his voice
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my life, my soul, my all.
And all the time see how carefully he feels his pockets to be quite sure that it is a three-penny bit that he has got hold of.
And what a diplomatist he is! Ask him for a reform, and he will stare at you astonished, assuring you that all is for the best in the best of worlds. But shake your fist at him, and show him that you mean to have that reform, and he will smile, and say: "Oh, that's all right, I beg your pardon, I didn't know that you were in earnest."
To sum up:
Worshiping his old monarchy, devoted to his old institutions, but ravenous for justice and liberty, he would be ready again to-day to demolish both monarchy and constitution, as he did in the seventeenth century, if his liberty ran the least danger. In politics, possessing the virtues that are indispensable to the prosperity of a nation – respect of the law and respect of power clearly manifested – he always bows to the decision of a majority. Refusing to submit to despotism in any shape or form, he himself keeps in order and discipline all his paid guides and governors: his queen, his princes, his ministers, his generals, his judges, his priests.
Wise, industrious, and persevering, never doubting his strength, above all minding his own business, and imposing upon one and all their attributions and duties, from his sovereign down to the humblest citizen, he has chosen for his motto:
Fais bien ce que fais.
JACQUES BONHOMME, THE LANDED PEASANT-PROPRIETOR OF FRANCE
Jacques Bonhomme is a small landowner, fond of his country, his cottage, his fields, his cow, and his gros sous. His great aim is to be independent of the world, and to this end he takes great care of his pence, and has no need of any French John Bright to tell him that if he does so, the pounds will take care of themselves; it is a sentiment inborn in him. If you wish to make him happy, when he brings you a load of wood or a cask of cider, pay him in silver five-franc pieces – his coin of predilection. He will take gold without repugnance, but will look askance at a banknote. If you were to tender him a check, the odds are ten to one that he would immediately go for a policeman.
He does not seek to imitate the dweller in cities, either in his habits, speech, or dress. All he has on his back is not worth more than four or five francs, but his blouse is new when he buys it, and it belongs to him, as my black coat belongs to me. His food costs him about fourpence or fivepence a day at the outside, but it is wholesome and abundant. He keeps early hours and saves his candles, he lives a healthy life and saves doctors' bills. When he lies down to die, it is in his own bed, and his parish has not to pay for his funeral.
Every French village has its poor, but pauperism is unknown, for Jacques Bonhomme is charitable, and he always finds means to send a basin of soup to a neighbor whom he knows to be in want of one. It is only for the loafer that he has no pity; when he has called a fellow-creature fainéant, he has used the strongest invective in his vocabulary.
In politics, he takes very little interest, if any. All governments are acceptable to him, except perhaps the one that happens to be in power when he gets bad weather for the harvest. How else explain the fact that changes of government have always been made in Paris without his sanction, or even his opinion being asked for; and that the seven million five hundred thousand men who vote for the Republic to-day, are the seven million five hundred thousand who, when they were asked by the Emperor, in the year of the Plebiscite, whether they would still have him or not, answered almost to a man: "I will."
Jacques Bonhomme scarcely knew what a Plebiscite was; but he went to see his parish priest, who said to him:
"Are you married, Jacques?"
"Yes, monsieur le curé."
"Well, and what did they make you say on your wedding day?"
"Ma foi, monsieur le curé, they made me say, I will."
"Well, my good fellow, that is all the Emperor asks you to say; that is voting."
Whereupon Jacques went and threw his oui in the electoral box.
There is one form of government, however, of which he would dread the return: the government of the curés. He has not forgotten the tithe and the corvée, nor the days when the monks used to come and pay little visits to his wife and his cupboard, to bless his children, and relieve him of his superfluous