Page images
PDF
EPUB

secure,

march! Our own leaders let us be! If it is the war of the Court, that we must accept, the war of the Ministers, of Patricians shamming patriotism, - then, alas ! far from anticipating the enfranchisement of the wor I shall not even believe that your own liberty is

Our wisest course now is to defend it against the perfidy of those internal enemies who would beguile you with these heroic illusions. I have proved that liberty has no more mortal enemy than war. I have proved that war, recommended by men of doubtful stamp, will be, in the Executive hands, but a means of annihilating the Constitution — but the issue of a plot against the Revolution. To favor these projects of war, under whatever pretext, is, then, to join a conspiracy against the Revolution. To recommend confidence in the Executive, — to invoke public favor in behalf of the Generals, – is, then, to deprive the Revolution of its last security, the vigilance and energy of the Nation.

If, then, the moment of emancipation for the Nations be not yet arrived, we should have the patience to await it. If this generation be destined only to struggle on in the slough of those vices, where Despotism has plunged it, — if the theatre of our Revolution be doomed to present to the world no other spectacle than the miserable contests of perfidy and imbecility, egotism and ambition, — then to the rising generation will be bequeathed the task of purifying the polluted earth. That generation shall bring — not the peace of Despotism, not the sterile agitations of intrigue, but the torch and the sword, to consume Thrones, and exterminate oppressors! Thou art not alien to us, O more fortunate posterity! For thee we brave these storms, for thee defy the plots of tyranny. Disheartened ofttimes by the obstacles that surround us, towards thee we yearn! For by thee shall our work be finished ! 0! cherish in thy memory the names of the martyrs of liberty !

22. MORALITY THE BASIS OF CIVILIZED SOCIETY - BELIEF IN GOD THE BASIS

OF MORALITY. Robespierre. Original Translation. The name of Maximilien Robespierre is associated with all that is sanguinary and atrocious in the history of the French Revolution. Whatever his own practice may have been, he had the capacity to see that there is no security in a Republic which is not based on principle, and no security in principle which is not based on belief in God and the immortality of the soul. The extract we here give is froin his Report, read to the French National Convention, the 7th of May, 1794.

The idea of a Supreme Being and of the immortality of the soul is a continual call to justice. It is therefore a social and republican principle. Who has authorized you to declare that a Deity does not exist ? O, you who support so arid a doctrine, what advantage do you expect to derive from the principle that a blind fatality regulates the affairs of men, and that the soul is nothing but a breath of air impelled towards the tomb ? Will the idea of nonentity inspire man with more elevated sentiments than that of immortality ? Will it awaken more respect for others or himself, more devotion to country, more courage to resist tyranny, greater contempt for pleasure or death ? You, who regret a virtuous friend, can you endure the thought that his noblest part has not escaped dissolution? You, who weep over the remains of a child or a wife, are you consoled by the thought that a handful of dust is all that is left of the beloved object? You, the unfortunate, who expire under the stroke of the assassin, is not your last sigh an appeal to the justice of the Most High? Innocence on the scaffold makes the tyrant turn pale on his triumphal car. Would such an ascendency be felt, if the tomb levelled alike the oppressor and the oppressed? The more a man is gifted with sensibility and genius, the more does he attach himself to those ideas which aggrandize his being and exalt his aspirations; and the doctrine of men of this stamp becomes the doctrine of all mankind. A great man, a veritable hero, knows his own worth too well to experience complacency in the thought of his nonentity. A wretch, despicable in his own eyes, repulsive in those of others, feels that nature but gives him his deserts in annihilation.

Confusion to those who seek, by their desolating doctrines, to extinguish this sublime enthusiasm, and to stifle this moral instinct of the People, which is the principle of all great actions! To you, Representatives of the People, it belongs to hasten the triumph of the truths we have developed. If we lack the courage to proclaim them, then deep, indeed, must be the depravity, with which we are environed ! Defy the insensate clamors of presumptuous ignorance and of stubborn hypocrisy! Will posterity credit it, that the vanquished factions have carried their audacity so far as to charge us with lukewarmness and aristocracy for having restored to the Nation's heart the idea of the Divinity, the fundamental principle of all morality? Will it be believed that they have dared, even in this place, to assert that we have thereby thrown back human reason centuries in its progress ? O, be not surprised that the wretches, leagued against us, are so eager to put the hemlock to our lips ! But, before we quaff it, we will save the country!

23. ROBESPIERRE'S LAST SPEECH. - Original Translation. The day after this speech, - delivered July 28th, 1794, and addressed to an assembly bent on his destruction, -Robespierre was executed, at the early age of thirty-five, under circumstances of accumulated horror. His fate is a warning to rulers who would cement even the best of Governments with blood. Robespierre's character is still an enigma ; some regarding him as an honest fanatic, and others as a crafty demagogue. Perhaps the traits of either predominated at times. “Destitute," says Lamartine, " of exterior graces, and of that gift of extemporaneous speaking which pours forth the unpremeditated inspirations of natural eloquence, Robes. pierre had taken so much pains with himself, -- he had meditated so much, written and erased so much, - he had so often braved the inattention and the sarcasms of his audiences, - that, in the end, he succeeded in giving warmth and suppleness to his style, and in transforming his whole person, despite his stiff and meagre figure, his shrill voice and abrupt gesticulation, into an engine of eloquence, of conviction and of passion."

The enemies of the Republic call me tyrant! Were I such, they would grovel at my feet. "I should gorge them with gold, - I should grant them impunity for their crimes, — and they would be grateful! Were I such, the Kings we have vanquished, far from denouncing Robespierre, would lend me their guilty support. There would be a sovenant between them and me. Tyranny must have tools. But the enemies of tyranny, - whither does their path tend? To the tomb, and to immortality! What tyrant is my protector ? To what faction do I belong? Yourselves! What faction, since the beginning of the Revolution, has crushed and annihilated so many detected traitors ? You, — the People, our principles, are that faction! A faction to which I am devoted, and against which all the scoundrelism of the day is banded!

The confirmation of the Republic has been my object; and I know that the Republic can be established only on the eternal basis of morality. Against me, and against those who hold kindred principles, the league is formed. My life? 0! my life, I abandon without a regret! I have seen the Past ; AND I FORESEE THE FUTURE. What friend of his country would wish to survive the moment when he could no longer serve it, — when he could no longer defend innocence against oppression? Wherefore should I continue in an order of things, where intrigue eternally triumphs over truth; where justice is mocked; where passions the most abject, or fears the most absurd, override the sacred interests of humanity? In witnessing the multitude of vices which the torrent of the Revolution has rolled in turbid communion with its civic virtues, I confess that I have sometimes feared that I should be sullied, in the eyes of posterity, by the impure neighborhood of unprincipled men, who had thrust themselves into association with the sincere friends of humanity; and I rejoice that these conspirators against my country have now, by their reckless rage, traced deep the line of demarcation between themselves and all true men.

Question history, and learn how all the defenders of liberty, in all times, have been overwhelmed by calumny. But their traducers died also. The good and the bad disappear alike from the earth ; but in very different conditions. O, Frenchmen! O, my countrymen! Let not your enemies, with their desolating doctrines, degrade your souls, and enervate your virtues! No, Chaumette,* no ! Death is not "an eternal sleep”! Citizens ! efface from the tomb that motto, graven by sacrilegious hands, which spreads over all nature a funereal crape, takes from oppressed innocence its support, and affronts the beneficent dispensation of death! Inscribe rather thereon these words : “Death is the commencement of immortality!" I leave to the oppressors of the People a terrible testament, which I proclaim with the independence befitting one whose career is so nearly ended; it is the awful truth, – “ Thou shalt die! "

24. ADDRESS TO THE CHAMBER OF PEERS, 1835. - Trélat. I have long felt that it was necessary that it was inevitable we should meet face to face: we do so now. Gentlemen Peers,

Chaumette was a member of the Convention, who was opposed to the public recognition of a God and a future state.

our mutual enmity is not the birth of yesterday. In 1814, in common with many, many others, I cursed the power which called you or your predecessors to help it in chaining down liberty. In 1815 I took up arms to oppose the return of your gracious master of that day. In 1830 I did my duty in promoting the successful issue of the event which then occurred; and eight days after the Revolution, I again took up my musket, though but little in the habit of handling warlike instruments, and went to the post which General Lafayette had assigned us for the purpose of marching against you personally, Gentlemen Peers! It was in the presence of my friends and myself that one of your number was received ; and it is not impossible that we had some influence in occasioning the very limited success of his embassy. It was then he who appeared before us, imploring, beseeching, with tears in his eyes; it is now our turn to appear before you, - but we do 80 without imploring, or beseeching, or weeping, or bending the knee. We had utterly vanquished your Kings; and, they being gone, you had nothing left. As for you, you have not vanquished the People; and, whether you hold us as hostages for it or not, our personal position troubles us very, very little ; — rely upon that.

Your prisons open to receive within their dungeons all who retain a free heart in their bosoms. He who first placed the tri-colored flag on the palace of your old Kings — they who drove Charles the Tenth from France are handed over to you as victims, on account of your new King. Your sergeant has touched with his black wand the courageous deputy who first, among you all, opened his door to the Revolution. The whole thing is summed up in these facts: It is the Revolution struggling with the counter-revolution; the Past with the Present, with the Future ; selfishness with fraternity; tyranny with liberty. Tyranny has on her side bayonets, prisons, and your embroidered collars, Gentlemen Peers. Liberty has God on her side,

- the Power which enlightens the reason of man, and impels him forward in the great work of human advancement. It will be seen with whom victory will abide. This will be seen, - not to-morrow, pot the day after to-morrow, nor the day after that, - it may not be seen by us at all ; — what matters that? It is the human race which engages our thoughts, and not ourselves. Everything manifests that the hour of deliverance is not far distant. It will then be seen whether God will permit the lie to be given Him with impunity.

Gentlemen Peers, I did not stand up with the purpose of defending myself. You are my political enemies, not my judges. In a fair trial, it is necessary that the judge and the accused should understand, — should, to a certain extent, sympathize with each other. In the present case, this is quite out of the question. We do not feel alike; we do not speak the same language. The land we inhabit, humanity itself, its laws, its requirements, duty, religion, the sciences, the arts, industry, all that constitutes society,– Heaven, earth, — nothing appears to us in the same light that it does to you. There is a world between You

may condemn me; but I accept you not as judges, for you are unable to comprehend me.

us.

25. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE REPUBLIC, 1848. - Lamartine. We establish the Republic. The Republic! It is the Government that most needs the continued inspiration and benediction of God; for, of the reason of the People should be obscured or misled, there is no longer a sovereign. There is an interregnum, anarchy, death. In order that a Government may be durable, and worthy of the sanction of religion, it must contain a principle that is true, that is divine, that is best adapted to the welfare of the many. Without this, the Constitution is a dead letter ; it is nothing more than a collection of laws; it is without soul ; it no longer lives; it no longer produces fruit. The new principle of the Republic is political equality among all classes of citizens. This principle has for its exponent universal suffrage ; for its result, the sovereignty of all; for its moral consequence, fraternity among all. We reign according to the full measure of our reason, of our intelligence, of our virtue. We are all sovereigns over ourselves, and of the Republic. But, to draught a Constitution, and to swear to it, is not all. A People is needed to execute it.

Citizens ! all progress requires effort. Every effort is painful, and attended with painful embarrassments. Political transformations are laborious. The People are the artificers of their own future. Let them reflect upon that. The future observes and awaits them! Shame upon the cowards who would draw back! Prudence to the inconsiderate, who would precipitate society into the unknown! Glory to the good, to the wise, to the persevering !--may God be with them!

26. DEMOCRACY ADVERSE TO SOCIALISM. - Alexis De Tocqueville. Orig. Trans.

DEMOCRACY!— Socialism! Why profess to associate what, in the nature of things, can never be united ? Can it be, Gentlemen, that this whole grand movement of the French Revolution is destined to terminate in that form of society which the Socialists have, with so much fervor, depicted ? A society, marked out with compass and rule; in which the State is to charge itself with everything, and the individual is to be nothing; in which society is to absorb all force, all life; and. in which the only end assigned to man is his personal comfort! What! was it for such a society of beavers and of bees, a society rather of skilful animals than of men free and civilized,

was it for such, that the French Revolution was accomplished ? Not so! It was for a greater, a more sacred end ; one more worthy of humanity.

But Socialism professes to be the legitimate development of Democracy. I shall not search, as many have done, into the true etymology of this word Democracy. I shall not, as gentlemen did yesterday, traverse the garden of Greek roots, to find the derivation of this word. I shall point you to Democracy, where I have seen it, living, active, triumphant; in the only country in the world where it truly exists; where it has been able to establish and maintain, even to the present time, something grand and durable to claim our admiration, — in the

« PreviousContinue »