With governmental control, such as was held by fallen administrations and as we have preserved until the present time, we can boldly address a challenge to anyone who would seriously accept public functions, and thus diminish the personnel of two formidable armies that weigh on the liberties and the fortunes of France: the army of the offices and that of the barracks. We can challenge them, consequently, not to proclaim liberty—if they do that, I will laugh—but to put that liberty into action, and lead them to be something other than a nonentity.
Even more, we could challenge them to reduce taxes. Better still! We will forbid them to maintain tax revenue at sixteen hundred million francs, which is a monstrous figure, but one which any finance minister could show to be insufficient.
Here, in its true colors, is what governmental control accomplishes: slavery and ruin.
That control, attributing to itself the right to rule according to its fancy both the movement and the thought of each citizen, has produced, in the moral order, a result not less deplorable. Truly! It has legalized everything.
Oh well! We would be strangely mistaken if we believed that legality carries within its litigious bowels the seeds of human integrity.
The legislation of France is not founded on the respect for individuals. It is founded on the principle of violation of public right, since lese-majesty—respect for the king, for the emperor, and for the government—is consecrated at its root.
The law has never had a social sanction among us. There has only been royal sanction and sanction by governmental supremacy, whose character has always been to protect the minorities.
Our legislation is therefore immoral, because it does not come from the people.
This legislation, moreover, necessarily coming after the vices that it seeks to suppress, is in reality nothing but the consecration of these vices. A code teaches me what I must avoid and what I must do; and in its spirit I practice right conveniently enough, when I abstain from wrong. However, this could introduce a fundamental illusion into public belief, since a clever man finds that, in the eyes of the law, he appears the same as a man who is truly virtuous.
A legally honest man is one against whom no grounds for complaint have been proven; but a sly one has a right to claim the benefits of the same definition! He who has carried out shadowy misdeeds, without witness and without coming to grief, skillfully avoiding the prohibitive letter of the law, and who enjoys the protection of the judge, is still a man against whom no grounds for complaint have been proven. This one, too, is an honest man! And he would be in great error to follow the law of social equity, the rule of morality, while the legal gospel is there before his eyes, while he has a clear field in unforeseen circumstances, while he is, with his ability, up to all foreseen circumstances, and for whom, ultimately, there is the friendship of the judge.
According to legality, therefore, equity goes according to the judgment of the court and the public conscience is taken over by the conscience of statute book.
Legality! But in pushing the social body of the people into pure and simple legality, governments have created and brought into the world a fraud, the poetry of pugilism.
The man, challenged to show genius, to avoid the traps set by the legislator, does not even bother to become a hypocrite. Having cleverly escaped the forethought of the law, he boasts of it as something to recommend to his contemporaries; he has sailed close to the wind with the law and the victory is his: what a superior being!
It goes without saying that our legislation, made up of scholarly compendiums, whose scrutiny and interpretation is only for the erudite, has fallen short of the morality of the simple people who have always been and do not cease to be the quarry of the jurists.
Here, then, is what the much vaunted work of the legislative assemblies have provided us: a celebrated statute book, a gravestone raised by public grief on the tomb of virtue! Each moral failing has, on passing, come to write its formula in this glossy book, and, the more numerous the formulas, the more beautiful the statute book. But, also, the more beautiful the statute book, the more perverted the society.
Something we should never tire of repeating, is that morality can only exist among free people, and free people are those whose government, speaking very little of the national language, speaks foreign languages primarily; the government of democracies is above all diplomatic.
Among us, those who speak of government speak of the Republic, the State, society. In fact these words—the red Republic, the tricolor Republic, etc.—which try our patience, signify nothing but the red government, the tricolor government, etc. As far as the administration is concerned, the government is the Republic.
Who do you think is wrong?
The men of today, quite different indeed from those of times gone by, sense, though they understand it, that their being and their property are entirely independent of the acts of the administration. They feel it so much that on letting, as a result of custom, a government establish itself on a model of past times, they effectively withdraw from it, granting it neither their confidence, nor their material aid, except grudgingly, when faced with force and fear. They feel it so strongly that they take it upon themselves to control the acts of the administration in the public sphere. But a power whose acts are controlled has forfeited its rights, since its authority is undermined.
But this error, which consists of hiding the whole of society behind the symbol of government, is strongly embedded in public beliefs.
The influence of tradition has made of it an article of national faith, which everyday finds itself in more direct opposition with the public will and public sentiment.
Thus, everyone knows that a popular movement puts nothing in danger but the official fortune of a few men. Despite public bills and proclamations saying that the movement puts society in danger, the nation allows it without further consideration.
If I wanted to adopt the reasoning of skilled people, who use the powers that society confers upon them for their own interests, it would lead me to a curious conclusion, a disappointing commentary on the tumultuous spectacle of revolutions!
I have seen, in the few years that my memory spans, a very respectable number of popular movements.
When these movements fail at the first step, their leaders are arrested, thrown into jail, tried and convicted as criminals of the State. The proclamations posted on every wall in Paris and sent to the very smallest township tell society that it has just been saved.
Certainly, at this news, I would logically have to think that if, by some sort of misunderstanding, authority had been overwhelmed, if the army had weakened, if the movement had gone beyond the law, that would have been the end of society. France would have been pillaged, sacked, set ablaze, lost!
When, however, these movements, mastering all obstacles, overturning authority, passing the armed forces have followed their course and arrived at their goal, then their leaders are carried in triumph, hailed as heroes and raised to the highest heights of the judiciary. The proclamations posted on every wall in Paris and sent to the very smallest township tell society that it has just been saved. Thus society, incessantly in danger, is always saved!
Who saves it? Those that put it in danger.
Who puts it in danger? Those that save it.
This means that society is never more completely lost than when it is saved.
And that it is never better saved than when it is lost.
As I said, if I adopt the reasoning of those skilled people who make use of the power with which society endows them for their own personal ends, it leads me to a curious conclusion!
Curious, indeed, but logically explicable by the facts.
Thus, taking us back to 23 February, according to the Journal des débat, Le Constitutionnel, Le Siècle and all the other newspapers that defend social order, it is understood that the agitators in Paris at that time were nothing but unsanctioned troublemakers who wanted nothing less than the subversion, the overturn and the ruin of society.
These unsanctioned troublemakers triumphed the next day and, immediately, every citizen said what they liked, wrote, printed what they liked, did what they liked, went where they liked, went out and came in when they liked; enjoyed, in a word, their natural liberty in every way possible in society, amid the most complete security, favored by the most fraternal urbanity. Society was, in short, saved by and for each of its members.
Well, this happened the day when, according to the friends of order, society was lost.
Thus, again, to the voice of the defenders of social order became added, for reasons known to itself, that of Le National: the June agitators were nothing but unsanctioned troublemakers who wanted nothing less than the subversion, the overturn and the ruin of society. These troublemakers failed and, immediately, every citizen was barracked in their own home, scrupulously examined on their own premises, disarmed, thrown in jail by a simple ill-willed denunciation, reduced to the most complete and absolute silence, placed under the unruly surveillance of the state-of-siege police and governed by the sharp, pointed and undiscerning law of the sword. Society was, therefore, lost by and for each of its members.
Well, this happened the day when, according to the friends of order, including Le National this time, society was saved.
From this I am forced to conclude, just as I have already said and proven, that society is never more completely lost than when it is saved and that it is never better saved than when it is lost.
This is, oh France, the spectacle, as delicate as it is subtle, that plays out in front of other nations and before posterity, in the most intelligent country in the world.
What an indecorous comedy!
I do nothing more here than to state the facts; I note them and report them as they appear to me. Regarding the commentary, I simply repeat what I have said elsewhere: I do not believe at all in the efficacy of armed rebellion, and for the simple reason that I do not believe in the efficacy of any armed government.
An armed government is a brutal entity, since its only principle is force. An armed revolution is a brutal thing, because it has no other principle than force.
But when we are ruled by the arbitrariness of barbarism, we must balk and resist like barbarians; and, as for the arms we cross over our chests, the parties would do well to oppose weapons.
To the degree that government, instead of improving conditions generally, only improves the condition of a few people, a revolution, the inevitable aim of such a government, will only be a substitution of persons instead of a change of conditions.
Armed governments are factional powers, party administrations.
Armed revolutions are factional wars, party campaigns.
The nation is as much a stranger to armed government as it is to armed revolution; but if it is the case that a revolutionary party is more immediately worried by the governing party than the nation, it is also the case that one day the nation, worried in its turn, will murmur about the government, and it will be in that precise moment when it wins the moral support of the people, that the revolutionary party will wage battle.
From there, this kind of public recognition leads to bloody rabble-rousing, which, under the pompous title of revolution, hides the impertinence of a few valets rushing to become masters.
When the people have understood the position that has been reserved for them in these Saturnalias that they pay for, when they have realized the ignoble and stupid role that they have been made to play, they will know that armed revolution is a heresy from the point of view of principles; they will know that violence is antipodal to right; and once the people are focused on the morality and inclinations of the violent parties, whether the governmentalists or the revolutionaries, there will be a revolution among them brought about by the force of right alone: the force of inertia, the denial of assistance. In the denial of assistance will be found the repeal of the laws on legal assassination and the proclamation of equity.
I see this supreme act of national sovereignty happening, not as a calculated result, but as an expression of the law of necessity, as an inevitable product of an administrative greed, of the extinction of credit and the doleful arrival of destitution. This revolution, which will be French and not solely Parisian, will tear France from Paris to lead it back to the municipalities; then, and only then, will national sovereignty become fact, since it will be founded on the sovereignty of the commune.
At these words—sovereignty of the commune—all the great minds, who have dragged patriotism to the bar of vocabulary to make the Republic a question of words, exclaim in admiration the thrice holy name of Unity.
Unity! The time is ripe speak about it. In the midst of the divisions tearing the country apart, I ask what has been made of national unity by the lame posers who speak in its name!
Unity! I know of only one way to destroy it, to desire to constitute it by force. If someone had the power to act on the planets, and if, under the pretext of constituting the unity of the solar system, he tried to make them adhere by force to the center, he would destroy the equilibrium and reestablish chaos.
There is someone who values unity more than the partisans of unity; that someone is the French people; and if France does not understand that she must promptly leave the belly of the administration, or else be dissolved there, that will not be my fault, nor that of the coarse peritoneum which processes their digestion.
Let us say, moreover, that the result of an armed revolution, supposing that the revolution is generously interpreted by a kindhearted man, all-powerful over opinion, honest, disinterested and democratic like Washington, the result of an armed revolution, I have said, can turn to the profit of public law.
The tyrants overturned, before others come to take their place, there always appears, on top of the ruins of the tyranny, a man greater than the others, a man whom everyone sees, whom everyone hears, and he is the master of the debris; it is up to him to scatter them or reconstruct them.
If Monsieur de Lamartine had had the genius of action, as he had genius of matters of intelligence, 24 February would have been the date of the French Republic, instead of being nothing but an occasion for invective.
France, on that day, expected everything from that man, to whom national sympathies had spontaneously handed over the powerful steering of the destiny of the people.
He only had to say to us in the harmonious rhythm of his beautiful voice: “The government of the king is abolished: France is no longer at the Hôtel de Ville!”
“Your masters have gone and they will not be replaced!”
“Their law was in force; it is in force no longer. It will not return!”
“You are returned to yourselves; the foreigner will learn from me that you are free.”
“Keep a watch over yourselves; I’ll keep a watch on the borders!”
Certainly, after declarations so substantial, our representatives, whoever they had been, would not have lost sight of the fact that they had to define national law, and not the frenzied law of governments.
Perhaps Monsieur de Lamartine would have perished, a victim of ambitious men left without prey. The despair of the apprentice tyrants might perhaps have been unleashed on him; but his death, like that of all great citizens, would have been fecund! And since, as he said, ideas grow in human blood, his would have remained at the beginning of the free era, as an eternal protestation against the tyranny of the delivered.
Unfortunately, instead of scattering the elements of despotism, he set about collecting them together again in order to reassemble them; today the building is complete except for the keystone. It is not he that lives in it, but it is inhabited; not too much worse, perhaps, but not much better either.
Ah, well! The time has come to be done with words and act!
The time has come to know what democracy wants to say!
The time has arrived for all Frenchmen, in whose arteries still beats a little Gallic blood, who, from Diocletian to Charlemagne, protested against the tyranny of the empire, to assume their position as free citizens, and to call to account the cowardice and the inability of the “men of the people,” the Republican individualities, for our collapsed credit, our vanished capital, our paralyzed industries, our lay-offs, our extinguished trade, and our products without market; for our France, finally, so unproductive, so alienated, so venal, so prostituted, so debased, so inhospitable, so foreign to ourselves, so polluted by the tax authorities, and so close to contempt for its children, that they will soon not have enough love in their hearts to set their courage against attempts by their ravishers!
The time has come, for we are facing a decisive spectacle:
On one side there is the government which defies the nation;
On the other, there is the nation which defies the government.
It is absolutely inevitable that either the government will devour the country or the country will absorb the government.