France: Stability and Instability

"France: Stability and Instability," Yale French Studies, v15 (1955): 17-23.

There is nothing new in the gloomy appraisals of France’s political instability that are emanating from both sides of the English channel and the Atlantic. Examples of the same sort of comments can be found in the letters of Alexis de Tocqueville to his translator, Henry Reeve. In a style that should ring familiar to the readers of today, that  who does not know, when he leaves Paris, famous journalist of a century ago was already describing the French ambassador wants governments he will be representing by the time he gets abroad. Already in the 19th century it was common to joke about the country that had a revolution every 20 years. When the Boulanger  movements broke out under the Third Republic, English journalists wondered if the “20 year limit” had not been reached again and if France was not about to change its form of government once more. We are making hardly any such profound changes in our time, but this is more than made up for by the changes in the cabinet.