[Not super alert right now so probably tons of mistakes - I’ll go over it more when I get back.]
LE VIEUX CORDELIER NO. 1 - Camille Desmoulins
Live free or die
Quintidi Frimaire, the second week, the second year of the republic, one and indivisible.
When those who govern are hated, their competitors will soon be admired.
O Pitt! I revere your genius! What new arrivals from France to England gave you such good advice, and such sure means of losing my homeland? You saw that you would fail against it eternally, if you did not cling to losing, in public opinion, those who, for five years, foiled all your plans. You understood that it was those who always defeated you that it was necessary to defeat; that it was necessary to accuse of corruption precisely those who you could not corrupt, and of coolness those who you could not cool down. With what success, since the death of Marat, you have pressed the work of besieging their reputation, against my its friends, its brave fellow soldiers, and the ship Argo of the old Cordeliers!Yesterday particularly, at the meeting of the Jacobins, I witnessed your progressed with dread. I felt the force of your strength even amongst us. I saw, in this cradle of liberty, a Hercules about to be suffocated by your tricolored serpents.
At last the worthy citizens, the veterans of the revolution, those who made five campaigns since 1789, those old friends of liberty, who, since July 12, walked between daggers and poisons, aristocrats and tyrants, the founders of the republic, in short, have conquered. But even this victory leaves them in pain, in thinking how it could be disputed for so long in the Jacobins!
Victory is with us because, amid the ruins of so many colossal civic reputations, Robespierre’s in unasssailed; because he lent a hand to his competitor in patriotism, our perpetual President of the “Anciens Cordeliers,” our Horatius Cocles, who alone held the bridge against Lafayette and his four thousand Parisians besieging Marat, who now seemed overwhelmed by the foreign party.
Already having gained stronger ground during the illness and absence of Danton, this party, domineering insolent in society, in the midst of the most sensitive places, the most compelling justification, in the tribunes, jeering, and in the middle of the meeting, shaking its head and smiling with pity, as in the speech of a man condemned by every vote. We have conquered, however, because after the crushing speeches of Robespierre, in which it seems that talent grows with the dangers of the Republic, and the profound impression he has left in souls, it was impossible to venture to raise a voice against Danton without giving, so to speak, a public quittance of guineas of Pitt. Robespierre, the idlers that curiosity had brought yesterday to the meeting of the Jacobins, and who sought only a speaker and a show, came out regretting those major players in the tribune, Barnave and Mirabeau, whose talent of speech is often forgotten. But the only worship worthy of your heart is what gave you all the old Cordeliers, these glorious confessors of freedom, decreed by the Chatalet and by the tribunal of the sixth arrondissement, and executed at the Champ-de-Mars. In all the other dangers from which you have delivered the Republic you have had companions in your glory; but yesterday alone you saved it.
The Nocher, in his art, learns during the storm.
I learned some things yesterday. I saw how many enemies we have. Their multitude tears me from the Hotel des Invalides and returns me to combat. I must write. I have to leave behind the slow pen of the history of the Revolution I was tracing by the fire side in order to again take up the rapid and breathless pen of the journalist and follow, at full gallop, the revolutionary torrent. A consulting deputy who no one has consulted since June 3, I leave my office and armchair, where I had all the time in the world to follow in detail our enemies’ new system, an overview of which Robespierre laid out to you and which his occupations at the Committee of Public Safety have prevented him, like me, from seizing in its entirety. I feel again what I said a year ago, how wrong I was to put aside the journalistic pen and grant intrigue the time to adulterate the opinions of the departments and corrupt that immense sea by means of a mass of journals, like many rivers that ceaselessly bringing poisoned water. We no longer have any journals that tell the truth, or at least the whole truth. I return to the arena with all of my well-known honesty and courage.
A year ago we mocked, and with reason, the so-called freedom of the English, who don’t have unlimited freedom of the press. Nevertheless, what man of good faith would dare today to compare France to England when it comes to freedom of the press? See with what boldness the Morning Chronicle attacks Pitt and his war operations! Who is the journalist in France who would dare point out the errors of our committees, our generals, the Jacobins, the ministers, or the commune the way the opposition does to that of the British ministry? And I, a Frenchman, I, Camille Desmoulins, am I not as free as an English journalist? The very idea makes me indignant. Let no one tell me that we are in a revolution and that the freedom of the press must be suspended during a revolution. Isn’t England, isn’t all of Europe also in a state of revolution? Are the principles of freedom of the press less sacred in Paris than in London, where Pitt must have such great fear of the light? Five years ago I said that it is knaves who fear the streetlamps. Can it be that when on one side servitude and venality hold the pen, and on the other freedom and virtue, that there is the least danger that the people, the judge of this combat, can pass to the side of slavery? To even fear such a thing is to insult human reason! Can reason fear a duel with stupidity? I repeat: only counter-revolutionaries, only traitors, only Pitt could have an interest in prohibiting in France the unlimited freedom of the press. And freedom and the truth can never fear the products of servitude and lies.
I know that in the handling of great affairs it is permitted to stray from the austere rules of morality: this is true but inevitable. The needs of the state and the perversity of the human heart make such conduct necessary, and have made its necessity the first maxim of politics. If a man in office were to try to say all he thought he would expose his country to certain defeat. So let good citizens not fear the intemperate wanderings of my pen. My hands are full of truths, and I will hold myself back from entirely opening them. But I will let enough escape to save France and the Republic, one and indivisible.
My colleagues were all so occupied and carried along by the whirlpool of affairs, some in committees, others on mission, that they didn’t have time to read, and some even to think. I, who was on no mission, on no committee where something had to be done, who, in the midst of this overload of labor on the shoulders of my Montagnard colleagues, have made up, almost on my own (they pass me the expression,) their committee of readers and thinkers: shall I be permitted to present the report of this committee at the end of a year, to offer them the lessons of history, the sole teacher -whatever might be said – of the art of governing, and to give them the counsels that Tacitus and Macchiavelli , the greatest politicians who ever existed, would give them?
This journal will be available twice a week, each issue will have more or less pages, depending on the abundance of material and the indulgence of my fathers of the Convention and the Jacobins for the boldness of my talkative pen, and its republican independence.
Subscribe to Desenne, printer and bookseller, at the Jardin d ‘Egalité, no 1 and 2, for the price he asked, as it is for the first time an author requests his publisher keep the earnings for himself; but it is today that La Vontaine would be right to say:
Some seek treasures, and I avoid them.
Malgré tant de guinées, qu'on me cite, disait Danton, un seul homme fortement prononcé dans la révolution, et en faveur de la république, qui ait été condamné à mort par le tribunal révolutionnaire
(picking up where Simlo left off. Sorry, I am ruining the lovely chronological order here… any way to change that? Changing dates of publication does not seem to be working)
Moreover, everyone will agree to a truth. Quoique Pitt sentant cette nécessité où nous étions réduits, de ne pouvoir vaincre sans une grande effusion de sang, ait changé tout à coup de batteries, et profitant habilement de notre situation, ait fait tous ses efforts pour donner à notre liberté l'attitude de la tyrannie, et tourner ainsi contre nous la raison et l'humanité du XVIIIe siècle, c'est-à-dire les armes même avec lesquelles nous avions vaincu le despotisme ; quoique Pitt, depuis la grande victoire de la Montagne, le 20 janvier, se sentant trop faible pour empêcher la liberté de s'établir en France, en la combattant de front, ait compris que le seul moyen de la diffamer et de la détruire était d'en prendre lui-même le costume et le langage ; quoiqu'en conséquence de ce plan, il ait donné à tous ses agents, à tous les aristocrates, l'instruction secrète de s'affubler d'un bonnet rouge, de changer la culotte étroite contre le pantalon, et de se faire des patriotes énergumènes ; quoique le patriote Pitt, devenu jacobin, dans son ordre à l'armée invisible qu'il solde parmi nous, l'ait conjurée de demander, comme le marquis de Montaut, cinq cents têtes dans la Convention, et que l'armée du Rhin fusillât la garnison de Mayence; de demander comme une certaine pétition, qu'on fît tomber neuf cent mille têtes ; comme un certain réquisitoire, qu'on embastillât la moitié du peuple français, comme suspect ; et comme une certaine motion, qu'on mît des barils de poudre sous ces prisons innombrables, et à côté une mèche permanente ; quoique le sans-culotte Pitt ait demandé qu'au moins, par amendement, on traitât tous ces prisonniers avec la dernière rigueur ; qu'on leur refusât toutes les commodités de la vie, et jusqu'à la vue de leurs pères, Je leurs femmes et de leurs enfants, pour les livrer eux et leur famille à la terreur et au désespoir, quoique cet habile ennemi ait suscité partout une nuée de rivaux à la Convention, et qu'il n'y ait aujourd'hui, en France, que les douze cent mille soldats de nos armées, qui, fort heureusement, ne fassent pas de lois ; car les commissaires de la Convention font des lois ; les départements, les districts, les municipalités, les sections, les comités révolutionnaires font des lois ; et, Dieu me pardonne, je crois que les sociétés fraternelles en font aussi : malgré, dis-je, tous les efforts que Pitt a faits pour rendre notre république odieuse à l'Europe ; pour donner des armes au parti ministériel contre le parti de l'opposition, à la rentrée du parlement ; en un mot, pour réfuter le manifeste sublime de Robespierre. Even though Pitt, sensing this necessity under which we were confined, unable to win without much bloodshed, has suddenly changed batteries, and skillfully taken advantage of our situation, has made every effort to give our liberty the attitude of tyranny, and thus turn against us the reason and humanity of the 18th century, that is to say the same weapons with which we defeated despotism; even though Pitt, since the great victory of the Mountain on January 20, sensing himself too weak to prevent liberty from being established in France by fighting on the front, has realized the only way to defame and destroy liberty was to take himself its costume and language; even though, as a result of this plan, he’s given secret instruction to all his officers and all the aristocrats, to deck themselves out in a bonnet rouge, change their tight breeches for trousers, and become fanatical patriots; even though the patriot Pitt, now Jacobin, in his order to his invisible army that he settled amongst us, has conjured to demand, like the Marquis de Montat, five hundred heads in the Convention, and for the army of the Rhine to execute the garrison of Mayence; to demand, like a certain petition, to chop off nine hundred thousand heads; to demand, like a certain indictment, the imprisonment half of the French people as suspects; and, as a certain motion, to put barrels of powder under those countless prisons, and, next, a permanent lock; even though the sans-culotte Pitt has demanded that, at least, by amendment, all prisoners are treated with the utmost severity; that they are refused all the conveniences of life, and, before the sight of their fathers, their wives, and their children, deliver them and their families to terror and despair; even though this clever enemy has attracted throughout a swarm of rivals to the Convention, and there is today, in France, only twelve hundred soldiers of our armies, who, fortunately, do not make laws, as commissioners of the Convention make laws; the departments, districts, municipalities, sections, revolutionary committees make laws; and, God forgive me, I believe that fraternal societies make them as well; even though, I say, all efforts Pitt has made to make our republic odious to Europe, to give weapons to the governing party against the opposition, at the beginning of parliament, and, in short, to refute the sublime manifesto of Robespierre.
Malgré tant de guinées, qu'on me cite, disait Danton, un seul homme fortement prononcé dans la révolution, et en faveur de la république, qui ait été condamné à mort par le tribunal révolutionnaire ? Despite so many guineas, which I cite, said Danton, a single man strongly pronounced in the revolution, and in favor of the republic, who has been sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court? Le tribunal révolutionnaire, de Paris du moins, quand il a vu des faux témoins se glisser dans son sein, et mettre l'innocent en péril, s'est empressé de leur faire subir la peine du talion. The Revolutionary Tribunal, of Paris at least, when it saw false witnesses creep into its bosom, and put the innocent in danger, hastened to make them suffer the penalty of retaliation. A la vérité, il a condamné pour des paroles et des écrits ; mais, d'abord, peut-on regarder comme de simples paroles le cri de vive le roi, ce cri provocateur de sédition, et qui, par conséquent, même dans l'ancienne loi de la république romaine, que j'ai citée, eût été puni de mort ? It’s true, it condemned for words and writings; but, first of all, can we regard as mere words the cry of Vive le Roi, that provocative cry of sedition, and that, as a consequence, even in the ancient law of the Roman Republic, which I cited, would have been punishable by death? Secondly, it is in the fray of a revolution that this tribunal judges political crimes, and even those who believe it is not free of errors owe it at least that in matters of writing it’s more committed to the intention then the corpus delicti; and when it was not convinced that the intention was counter-revolutionary it has never failed to set free, not only he who had made statements or published the writings, but even those who had emigrated.
Ceux qui jugent si sévèrement les fondateurs de la république ne se mettent pas assez à leur place. Those who judge the founders of the republic so severely did not put themselves enough in their place. See between what precipices we walk. On one side is the exaggeration en moustaches, which would fail because, by its ultra-revolutionary measures, we would become the horror and the laughing stock of Europe; on the other side is the moderation in mourning, which, seeing the old Cordeliers rowing towards common sense and trying to avoid the course of exaggeration, came yesterday, with an army of women, to the seat of the Committee of General Security, and, taking me by the collar as I entered by chance, demanded, on that day, the convention open all prisons, for us to open all prisons, with a certain number, it is true, of good citizens, but a majority of counter-revolutionaries enraged by their detention. Enfin, il ya une troisième conspiration, qui n'est pas la moins dangereuse ; c'est celle que Marat aurait appelée la conspiration des dindons ; je veux parler de ces hommes qui, avec les intentions du monde les meilleures, étrangers à toutes les idées politiques, et, si je puis m'exprimer ainsi, scélérats de bêtise et d'orgueil, parce qu'ils sont de tel comité, ou qu'ils occupent telle place éminente, souffrent à peine qu'on leur parle ; montagnards d'industrie, comme les appelle si bien d Eglantine, tout au moins montagnards de recrues, de la troisième ou quatrième réquisition, et dont la morgue ose traiter de mauvais citoyens des vétérans blanchis dans les armées de la République, s'ils ne fléchissent pas le genou devant leur opinion, et dont l'ignorance patriote nous fait encore plus de mal que l'habileté contre-révolutionnaire des La Fayette et des Dumouriez. Finally, there is a third conspiracy, not the least dangerous; it’s that which Marat would have called a conspiracy of turkeys; I am referring to those men who, with the best intentions in the world, are strangers to all political ideas, and, if I may say so, are scoundrels of folly and pride, because they are such a committee, or occupy such a prominent place, hardly tolerate being spoken to; montagnards of industry, as they were so aptly called by d’Eglantine, all at least montagnards of recruits of the third or fourth requisition, and whose arrogance dares to treat veterans bleached in the armies of the Republic as bad citizens if they do not bend to the knee before their opinion, and whose patriotic ignorance causes us more harm than the skilled counter-revolutionaries, Lafayette and Domouriez. These are the three pitfalls which informed Jacobins see their road is strewn with continuously, but those who have laid the foundation stone of the Republic shall be determined to raise its height to the new Capitol, or be buried beneath its foundations.
For me, I have taken all my courage; and as long as I live I will not leave dishonoring my inkstand, true and Republican. After this third number of Vieux Cordelier, Pitt comes now to say that I don’t have the freedom to express my opinion as much as the Morning Chronicle! He comes now to say that the freedom of the press no longer exists in France, even for deputies of the Convention, after the letter full of ugly truths recently published by the courageous Philippeaux, though it may be reproached for having too much disregard for the great services of the Committee of Public Safety. Since I read this truly rescuing writing, I say to all the patriots I meet, Have you read Philippeaux? And I say this with as much enthusiasm as La Fontaine did when he asked: Have you read Baruch?Pour moi, j'ai repris tout mon courage ; et tant que j'aurai vécu, je n'aurai pas laissé déshonorer mon écritoire véridique et républicaine.
Oui, j'espère que la liberté de la presse va renaître tout entière. Yes, I hope the freedom of the press will be reborn in entirety. The best minds of the Convention were strangely deceived on the pretended danger of such freedom. It is intended that terror be the order of the day, that is to say the terror of bad citizens: so there we apply the freedom of the press, as it is the terror of scoundrels and counter-revolutionaries.On a étrangement trompé les meilleurs esprits de la Convention sur les prétendus dangers de cette liberté.
Loustalot, who is too often forgotten, and who has failed to share the divine honors of Marat, who was assassinated two years ago, never ceased repeating that maxim of an English writer: If the freedom of the press existed in a country where the most absolute despotism brings into one hand all power, it would alone suffice to counter-act it. The experience of our revolution has demonstrated the truth of this maxim.Loustalot, qu'on a trop oublié, et à qui il n'a manqué, pour partager les honneurs divins de Marat, que d'être assassiné deux ans plus tard, ne cessait de répéter cette maxime d'un écrivain anglais : Si la liberté de la presse existait dans un pays où le despotisme le plus absolu réunit dans une seule main tous les pouvoirs, elle suffirait seule pour faire contrepoids. L'expérience de notre révolution a démontré la vérité de cette maxime.
Although the institution of ’89 was about the tyrant of all forms of corruption; although the majority of the first two national assemblies, corrupted by its twenty-five million, and by the supplements of civil list, conspired with Louis XVI, and with all the firms of Europe, to stifle our emerging freedom, it only took a handful of courageous pens to put into flight thousands of venal pens, foiling all plots and bringing about the 10th of August and the Republic, almost free of blood compared to that which had flowed before. Liberty, truth, and common sense beat slavery, stupidity, and lies wherever they met. Quoique la constitution de 89 eût environné le tyran de tous les moyens de corruption ; quoique la majorité des deux premières assemblées nationales, corrompue par ses vingt-cinq millions et par les suppléments de liste civile, conspirât avec Louis XVI, et avec tous les cabinets de l'Europe, pour étouffer notre liberté naissante, il a suffi d'une poignée d'écrivains courageux pour mettre en fuite des milliers de plumes vénales, déjouer tous les complots et amener la journée du 10 août et la République..
Mais est venu le vertueux Roland qui, en faisant de la poste des filets de Saint-Cloud que le ministre seul avait droit de lever, et ne laissant passer que les écrits Brissotins a attenté le premier à la circulation des lumières, et a amoncelé sur le Midi ces ténèbres et ces nuages d'où il est sorti tant de tempêtes. But came the virtuous Roland who, by making of the post nets of Saint-Cloud, that the minister only had the right to lift, and allowing only the writings Brissotins expected first to the circulation of lights, and heaped on the South the darkness and clouds from which has emerged a storm. The writings of Robespierre, Billaud-Varenne, etc, were interecepted. The war that was declared, supposedly in order to complete the revolution, has already cost us the blood of a million men, according to the account of Père Duchesne, in one of his recent issues; whereas I will die will the view that to make a happy and thriving republican France, only a bit of ink and a single guillotine are needed.
On ne répondra jamais à mes raisonnements en faveur de la liberté de la presse ; et qu'on ne dise pas, par exemple, que, dans ce numéro 3, et dans ma traduction de Tacite, la malignité trouvera des rapprochements entre ces temps déplorables et le nôtre. One will never answer to my arguments in favor of the freedom of the press, and let no one say, for example, that in this Number Three and in my translation from Tacitus, malignity will find some resemblance between these deplorable times and our own. I know it well, and I have armed myself with my pen for the sole purpose of striving to put an end to these resemblances, so that liberty may no more appear like despotism. But to prevent royalists from deriving from this an argument against the republic, is it not enough to represent, as I did just now, our situation and the cruel alternative which found itself reducing the friends of liberty in the fight to the death between the Republic and the monarchy?
Sans doute, la maxime des républiques est : qu'il vaut mieux ne pas punir plusieurs coupables que de frapper un seul innocent. Mais n'est-il pas vrai que, dans un temps de révolution, cette maxime pleine de raison et d'humanité sert à encourager les traîtres à la patrie, parce que la clarté des preuves qu'exige la loi favorable à l'innocence fait que le coupable rusé se dérobe au supplice ? Without doubt, the maxim of republics is: it is better not to punish the guilty than to strike a single innocent. But is it not true that, in a time of revolution, this maxim full of reason and humanity serves to encourage traitors of the country, because as the clarity of the evidence as required by law in favor of the innocent causes the cunning guilty party to escape punishment? Such is the encouragement that a free people gives against themself. It is the disease of republics, which comes, as we see, from the goodness of temperament. The maxim of despotism is the opposite: it is better that many innocent people die than a single culprit escape. (It is this maxim, says Gordon on Tacitus, that is the strength and security of kings.)
Le comité de salut public l'a bien senti ; et il a cru que pour établir la république Il avait besoin un moment de la jurisprudence des despotes. The committee of public safety was well aware of this; and it believed that to establish the republic it needed a time of the jurisprudence of despots. Il a pensé, avec Machiavel, que dans les cas de conscience politique le plus grand hier effaçait le mal plus petit ; il a donc voilé pendant quelque temps la statue de la liberté. It thought, with Machiavelli, that in the cases of political consciousness the greatest past erased the smallest evil; so it concealed for a time the statue of liberty. But do we confuse the transparent veil of gauze with the lining of Clootz, of Coupé, of Montaut, and this funeral pall under which we could not recognize the principles in the coffin? Do we confuse the constitution, the daughter of the mountain, with the superfluities of Pitt; the errors of patriotism, with the crimes of the foreign party; the accusation of the prosecutor of the town on the certificates of citizenship, on the closure of churches and its definition of suspected persons, with the tutelary decrees of the Convention, which maintained freedom of religion and principles?
Je n'ai pas point prétendu faire d'application à personne dans ce numéro. I make no pretense of pointing out anybody in particular in this number. It would not be my fault if Mr. Vincent, the Pitt of George Bouchotte, recognized in here certain traits of himself; my dear and brave colleague Philippeaux did not take so many detours to send him far harder truths. Let those men hasten to correct their conduct who, in reading these living pictures of tyranny, find there some likeness to themselves ; because it is impossible to persuade oneself that the portrait of a tyrant, drawn by the hand of the greatest painter of antiquity, and by the historian of philosophers, can now have become the portrait, taken from nature, of Cato or of Brutus, and that this which Tacitus called despotism and the worst of governments sixteen centuries ago, can today be called liberty and the best of all possible worlds. C'est à ceux qui, en lisant ces vives peintures de la tyrannie y trouveraient quelque malheureuse ressemblance avec leur conduite, à s'empresser de la corriger ; car on ne se persuadera jamais que le portrait d'un tyran, tracé de la main du plus grand peintre de l'antiquité, et par l'historien des philosophes, puisse être devenu le portait d'après nature de Caton et de Brutus, et que ce que Tacite appelait le despotisme et le pire des gouvernements, il ya douze siècles, puisse s'appeler aujourd'hui la liberté et le meilleur des mondes possibles.
I return to my credo.
Mirabeau nous disait : “ Vous ne savez pas que la liberté est une garce qui aime à être couchée (il se servait d'une expression plus énergique) sur des matelas de cadavres ; ” mais quand Mirabeau nous tenait ce propos, au coin de la rue du Mont-Blanc, je soupçonne qu'il ne parlait pas ainsi de la liberté dans le dessein de nous la faire aimer, mais bien pour nous en faire peur ; je persiste à croire que notre liberté c'est l'inviolabilité des principes de la Déclaration des Droits; c'est la fraternité, la sainte égalité, le rappel sur la terre, ou du moins en France, de toutes les vertus patriarcales, c'est la douceur des maximes républicaines, c'est ce res sacra miser, ce respect pour le malheur que commande notre sublime constitution ; je crois que la liberté, en un mot, c'est le bonheur, et certes, on ne persuadera à aucun patriote, qui réfléchit tant soit peu, que faire dans mes numéros un portrait enchanteur de la liberté ce soit conspirer contre la liberté. Mirabeau said us: "Don’t you know that liberty is a whore who likes to lay (he used a stronger term) on mattresses of corpses?" but when Mirabeau said this, at the corner of Rue du Mont Blanc, I suspect he did not speak in that way of liberty that intends to make us love, but rather to make us fear; I still believe that our freedom is the inviolability of principles of the Declaration of Rights; it is brotherhood, holy equality, the recalling on earth, or at least in France, of all the patriarchal virtues; it is the gentleness of republican maxims; it is this res sacra miser; it is this respect for misfortune that commands our sublime constitution; I believe that liberty, in a word, is happiness, and certainly, one cannot persuade any patriot, who reflected even the smallest amount, that created in my journal is an enchanting portrait of the liberty that is conspiring against liberty.
Je crois en même temps, comme je l'ai professé, que, dans un moment de révolution, une politique saine a dû forcer le comité de salut public à jeter un voile sur la statue de la liberté, à ne pas verser tout à la fois sur nous cette corne d'abondance que la déesse tient. I believe at the same time, as I have professed, that in a time of revolution, a sound policy would have forced the Committee of Public Safety to draw a veil over the statue of liberty, to not spill out upon us all at once this cornucopia held in the goddess’s hands, dans sa main, mais à suspendre l'émission d'une partie de ses bienfaits, afin de nous assurer plus tard la jouissance de tous. but to suspend the emission of some of its benefits, to later ensure for us the enjoyment of all. Je crois qu'il a été bon de mettre la terreur à l'ordre du jour, et d'user de la recette de l'esprit saint, que la crainte du seigneur est le commencement de la sagesse ; de la recette du bon sans-culotte Jésus, qui disait : “ Moitié gré, moitié force, convertissez-les toujours, compelle cas intrare. ” Personne n'a prouvé la nécessité des mesures révolutionnaires par des arguments plus forts que je n'ai fait, même dans mon Vieux Cordelier qu'on n'a pas voulu entendre. I think it was good to put terror on the order of the day, and to make use of the recipe of the Holy Spirit, that ‘fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’: of the recipe of the good sans-culotte Jesus, who said: "Half willingly, half by force, converts them always, compelle intrare case." Nobody has proved the necessity of revolutionary measures by arguments stronger than I did, even in my vieux Cordelier, which you did not want to read.
Je crois que la liberté n'est pas la misère ; qu'elle ne consiste pas à avoir des habits râpés et percés aux coudes, comme je me rappelle d'avoir vu Roland et Guadet affecter d'en porter, ni à marcher avec des sabots ; je crois au contraire, qu'une des choses qui distingue le plus les peuples libres des peuples esclaves, c'est qu'il n'ya point de misère, point de haillons là où existe la liberté. I believe that liberty is not misery; that it does not consist of having threadbare clothing, worn to the elbows, as I remember seeing Roland and Gaudet affecting to wear, nor of walking in clogs; I believe on the contrary that one of the things that most distinguishes a free people from an enslaved people is that there is no misery and no rags where there is liberty. Je crois encore, comme je le disais dans les trois dernières lignes de mon Histoire des Brissotins, que vous avez tant fêtoyée : “ Qu'il n'ya que la république qui puisse tenir à la France la promesse que la monarchie lui avait fait en vain depuis deux cents ans : LA POULE AU POT POUR TOUT LE MONDE. I still believe, as I said in the last three lines of my History of Brissotins, which you feasted on: "That a republic alone can keep the promise to France, vainly made by monarchs for two hundred years: A HEN IN THE POT FOR EVERYONE.” Far from thinking that liberty is the equality of poverty, on the contrary I believe that there’s nothing like a Republican government to bring the wealth of nations. C'est ce que ne cessent de répéter les publicistes depuis le seizième siècle : “ Comparez, écrivait Gordon, en se moquant de nos grands-pères il ya quarante ans, comparez l'Angleterre avec la France ; les sept Provinces-Unies, sous le gouvernement des États, avec le même peuple sous la domination de l'Espagne. It is this that publicists kept repeating since the sixteenth century: "Compare,” Gordon wrote, mocking our grandfathers some forty years ago, “compare England with France; the seven United Provinces, under the government of the States, with the same people under the domination of Spain.” "
Avant Gordon, le chevalier Temple observait que : “ Le commerce ne fleurit jamais dans un gouvernement despotique, parce que personne n'est assuré de jouir longtemps de ce qu'il possède, tandis que la liberté ne peut manquer d'éveiller l'industrie, et de porter les nations au plus haut degré de prospérité et de fortune publique où leur population leur permet d'atteindre ; témoins Tyr, Carthage, Athènes, Syracuse, Rhodes, Londres, Amsterdam. Before Gordon, Sir William Temple observed that: "Trade does not flourish in a despotic government, because no one is assured to enjoy what he has for a long time; while liberty cannot fail to bring industry to life , and bring nations to the highest degree of prosperity and public wealth which their people enables them to achieve; Tyre, Carthage, Athens, Syracuse, Rhodes, London, Amsterdam all serve as witnesses.” Et comme la théorie de la liberté, plus parfaite chez nous que chez ces différents peuples, présage à Pitt, pour la France, le dernier degré de prospérité nationale, et montre dans l'avenir au fils de Chatam notre patrie, que son père avait si fort en horreur, faisant par son commerce, ses arts et sa splendeur future le désespoir des autres nations, c'est pour cette seule raison, n'en doutons pas, que la jalouse Angleterre nous fait cette guerre atroce. "And as the doctrine of liberty, more perfect among us than among these various peoples, omens to Pitt, for France, the last degree of national prosperity, and shows in the future to the son of Chatham our homeland, which his father had so abhorred, making, through its commerce, its arts and its future splendor, the despair of other nations; it is for this reason alone, no doubt, that jealous England makes us this atrocious war. Qu'importerait à Pitt, en effet, que la France fût libre, si sa liberté ne servait qu'à nous ramener à l'ignorance des vieux Gaulois, à leurs sayes, leurs brayes, leur gui de chêne et leurs maisons qui n'étaient que des échoppes en terre glaise ? What importance to Pitt, indeed, that France was free, if freedom served only to bring us back to the ignorance of the old Gauls, to their Sayes, their brays, their mistletoe and their houses which were no more than stalls of clay?
Loin d'en gémir, il me semble que Pitt donnerait bien des guinées pour qu'une telle liberté s'établît chez nous. Far from moaning, it seems to me that Pitt would give many guineas for such freedom established here with us. Mais ce qui rendrait furieux le gouvernement anglais ; c'est si l'on disait de la France ce que disait Dicéarque de l'Attique : “ Nulle part au monde on ne peut vivre plus agréablement qu'à Athènes, soit qu'on ait de l'argent, soit qu'on n'en ait point. But how it would infuriate the British government if it were said of France that which was said by Dicaearchus of Attica: "Nowhere in the world can one live more comfortably than in Athens, whether we have money or not. Ceux qui se sont mis à l'aise par le commerce ou leur industrie peuvent s'y procurer tous les agréments imaginables ; et quant à ceux qui cherchent à le devenir, il ya tant d'ateliers où ils gagnent de quoi se divertir aux Anthestéries ', et mettre encore quelque chose de côté, qu'il n'ya pas moyen de se plaindre de sa pauvreté sans se faire à soi-même un reproche de sa paresse. Those who are put at ease in trade or their industry can procure all the amenities imaginable, and as for those seeking to become so, there are so many workshops where they earn enough to be entertained at the Anthesteria and still have something to put aside that there is no way to complain of poverty without being self-reproached for idleness.” I believe that liberty does not consist in equality of hardships, and that the greatest praise the Assembly could have, would be to leave this legacy: I found a nation sans culottes and I left it culotte’d” Je crois donc que la liberté ne consiste point dans une égalité de privations, et que le plus bel éloge de la Convention serait, si elle pouvait se rendre ce témoignage : “ J'ai trouvé la nation sans culottes, et je la laisse culottée.. Ceux qui, par un reste de bienveillance pour moi, et ce vieil intérêt qu'ils conservent au procureur général de la Lanterne, expliquent ce qu'ils appellent mon apostasie, en prétendant que j ai été influencé, et en mettant les iniquités de mes numéros 3 et 4 sur le dos de Fabre d'Églantine et Philippeaux, qui ont bien assez de leur responsabilité personnelle, je les remercie de ce que cette excuse a d'obligeant ; mais ceux-là montrent bien qu'ils ne connaissent point l'indépendance indomptée de ma plume, qui n'appartient qu'à la république, et peut-être un peu à mon imagination et à ses écarts, si l'on veut, mais non à l'ascendant et à l'influence de qui que ce soit. Those who, for a remnant of benevolence for me, and that old interest that they retain for the Attorney General of the Lantern, explain that which they call my apostasy, claiming that I've been influenced, and put the iniquities of my numbers 3 and 4 on the backs of Fabre d'Eglantine and Philippeaux, who have enough personal responsibilities, I thank them for the kindness in that excuse, but these clearly show they do not know the untamed independence of my pen, which belongs only to the republic, and perhaps a little to my imagination and its deviations, if you will, but not in the ascendancy and influence of anyone else.Ceux qui condamnent le Vieux Cordelier, n'ont donc pas lu les Révolutions de France et de Brabant. Ils se souviendraient que ce sont ces mêmes rêves de ma philanthropie, qu'on me reproche, qui ont puissamment servi la révolution, dans mes numéros de 89, 90 et 91. Those who condemn the Vieux Cordelier have not read the Revolutions de France et de Brabant. They would remember that these are the same dreams of my philanthropy, for which they reproach me, that powerfully served the revolution in my numbers 89, 90 and 91. Ils verraient que je n'ai point varié ; que ce sont les patriotes eux-mêmes qui ont enraciné dans ma tête ces erreurs par leurs applaudissements, et que ce système de républicanisme dont on veut que je proscrive l'ensemble, n'est point en moi apostasie, mais impénitence finale. They would see that I have not changed, that it is the Patriots themselves who have ingrained in my head these errors by their applause, and that this system of republicanism which they want me to proscribe entirely, is not Apostasy in me, but final impenitence.
On ne se souvient donc plus de ma grande colère contre Brissot, il ya au moins trois ans, à propos d'un numéro du Patriote Français, où il s'avisait de me rappeler à l'ordre et de me traiter de républicain muscadin, précisément à cause que j'avais énoncé les mêmes opinions que je viens de professer tout à l'heure. We can thus no longer remember my wrath against Brissot? At least three years ago, concerning a number of Patriote Francais, where he dared to recall me to order and called me a republican muscadin, for having stated the very same opinions which I have just now professed. “What do you mean” I responded somewhere (in my second volume, I believe,) “What do you mean with your black broth and your Spartan liberty? The beautiful legislator QUE CE Lycurgus for whom the science consisted only of imposing hardships on his citizens; who rendered citizens equal as a storm renders equal the shipwrecked; as Omar rendered all Muslims equal, and as the learned from the others, by burning all libraries! It is not this that is the equality we envy, it is not this that is my republic. The love of self, said J.-J. Rousseau, is the most powerful and even, in my opinion, the sole motivation for men’s actions. If we wish to love the republic, we must, M. Brissot de Warville, paint it such that to love the republic is to love oneself.”
We can thus no longer remember my discours de la Lanterne? On ne se souvient donc plus de mon discours de la Lanterne ? in which, fifteen months ago, I threw so high an outcry about a pamphlet entitled: The Triumph of the Parisians, where the author would have us believe that, in little time, Paris would become as deserted as the ancient Nineveh; that, in six months, the grass would hide the pavement of the Rue Saint-Denis and the Place Maubert; that we would have layers of melon on the terrace of the Tuileries, and squares of onions in the Palais Royal. “ Adieu, disait-il, les tailleurs, les tapissiers, les selliers, les épiciers, les doreurs, les enlumineurs, les bijoutiers, les orfèvres, les marchandes de modes et les prêtresses de l'Opéra, les théâtres et les restaurateurs. "Farewell, he said, tailors, upholsterers, saddlers, grocers, gilders, illuminators, jewelers, goldsmiths, milliners and priestesses of the Opera, theaters and restaurants. ” L'auteur aristocrate ne faisait pas grâce aux boulangers, et se persuadait que nous allions brouter l'herbe, et devenir un peuple de Lazaronis et de philosophes, avec le bâton et la besace." The aristocratic author left nothing to the bakers, and was convinced that we would eat grass and become a people of Lazzaronis and philosophers, with sticks and sacks. It can be read, in my Lanterne aux Parisiens, as I oppose this prophet of doom who disfigured my republic, and with what contrasting prophecy I counter this Mathan of the aristocracy. “ Comment ! "What!” m'écriais-je, plus de Palais-Royal ! I cried, “More Palais Royal! Plus d'Opéra ! More Opera! plus de Méot ! More Méot! c'est là l'abomination de la désolation prédite par le prophète Daniel ; c'est une véritable contre-révolution ! this is the abomination of desolation foretold by the prophet Daniel; this is a veritable counter-revolution! ” "
Et je m'étudiais au contraire à offrir des peintures riantes de la révolution, et à en faire attendre à la France bien d'autres effets dont je me faisais presque caution. And I worked to instead offer happy paintings of the revolution, and to make expected in France other effects which I made myself almost guarantee. Et les Jacobins et les Cordeliers m'applaudissaient. And the Jacobins and the Cordeliers applauded me. Et c'est par ces tableaux que, missionnaire de la révolution et de la république, je m'insinuais dans l'esprit de mes auditeurs, que je partageais les égoïstes, c'est-à-dire tous les hommes, d'après la maxime incontestable de J.-J. Rousseau que j'ai soulignée tout à l'heure, que j'en baptisais un grand nombre, et que je les ramenais au giron de l'église des Jacobins. And it is through these paintings that, missionary of the revolution and the republic, I integrated myself into the spirit of my listeners; that I divided the egoists, that’s to say every man, after the incontestable maxim of J.-J. Rousseau which I stressed earlier; that I baptized many and brought them into the bosom of the church of the Jacobins. No, there can be only three hundred clerks of Dubois, who, thinking it was their honor to avenge the little sting that I made to the self-esteem of the minister of war, instead of recusing themselves, as delicacy required, raised themselves to excommunicate me and remove me from the Jacobins. Although this decree had been reported in the session, after an oration of Robespierre which lasted an hour and a half, it is impossible that the society, even at the beginning of the session, had removed me for professing, in le Vieux Cordelier, the very body of doctrine which was applauded so many times in my Revolutions de Brabant, and for which I was named Attorney General Lantern, four years before my office was passed to Father Duchesne. We see that, in my papers, what is now called moderation is my old system of utopia. We see that my entire sin is to have stayed at the same position I was in on July 12, 1789, and not shifting an inch either Adam; On voit que ce qu'on appelle aujourd'hui dans mes feuilles, du modérantisme, est mon vieux système d'utopie. On voit que tout mon tort est d'être resté à ma hauteur du 12 juillet 1789, et de n'avoir pas grandi d'un pouce non plus qu'Adam ; tout mon tort est d'avoir conservé les vieilles erreurs de la France libre, de la Lanterne, des Révolutions de Brabant, de la Tribune des Patriotes, et de ne pouvoir renoncer aux charmes de ma République de Cocagne. my entire sin is to have retained the old errors of la France libre, la Lantern, les Revolutions de Brabant, and La Tribune des Patriotes, and being unable to renounce the charms my Republic of Plenty.
Je suis obligé de renvoyer à un autre jour la suite de mon credo politique, ne voulant plus souffrir qu'on vende encore vingt sous un de mes numéros, comme il est arrivé de mon cinquième, ce qui a donné lieu aux calomnies. I am forced to defer the rest of my political credo to another day, not wanting to endure more of my numbers being sold for twenty sous, as happened with my fifth, giving rise to slander. You know very well, citizen Desenne, that far from selling my journals to the republic, I do not even sell them to my bookseller, lest any should say that I am a merchant of patriotism, and that I ought not put so high a toll on my revolutionary writings, since they are my merchandise. Mais à votre tour, citoyen Desenne, je vous prie de soigner la popularité de l'auteur. But in turn, citizen Desenne, I urge you to care for the popularity of the author. Yes, it is you who have lost me. The exorbitant price of No. 5 is why no sans-culotte could read it; and Hebert was a complete triumph over me. Encore si la société des Jacobins s'était fait donner lecture de ce numéro 5, et avait voulu entendre mon défenseur officieux, comme elle en avait pris l'arrêté ! Even if the society of Jacobins had made themselves read the number 5, and wanted to hear my unofficial defender, as it had made the decree! L'attention et le silence que les tribunes avaient prêté à mes numéros 4 et 3 (ce qui prouve que les oreilles du peuple ne sont pas si hébertistes qu'on le dit, et qu'il aime qu'on lui parle un autre langage et qu'on lui fasse l'honneur de croire qu'il entend le français), la défaveur très peu sensible avec laquelle les tribunes avaient écouté ces deux numéros, annonçaient que la lecture du cinquième numéro me vaudrait une absolution générale; mais apparemment les commis de la guerre n'ont jamais voulu consentir à cette lecture, en sorte que si la société n'avait pas rapporté ma radiation, le déni de justice était des plus criants. The attention and silence the tribunes had lent to my numbers 4 and 3 (which shows that the ears of the people are not so Hébertists they say, and that he loves to be spoken to in another language and he is honored to believe he hears French,) the very little noticeable disfavor with which the tribunes had heard these two numbers, announced that the reading of the fifth number would be worth a general absolution, but apparently the committee of war have never consented to this reading, so that if the society had not brought on my removal, the denial of justice was the greatest.Et c'est vous, citoyen Desenne, qui êtes cause que ma popularité a perdu contre Hébert cette fameuse bataille de Jemmapes, ou plutôt c'est ma faute d'avoir fait une si longue apologie. And it is you, citizen Desenne, who are the reason why my popularity was lost against Hébert that famous battle of Jemmapes; or rather it is my fault for making so long an apology. My numbers will be shorter henceforth. I especially want to be read by the sans-culottes and to be judged by my peers; and I insist of you, when you should use a bad paper, that you do not sell my numbers on the street for more than the Pere Duchesne sell their own to Bouchotte, that’s to say 2 sous for 8 pages, and 120 thousand francs for 1200 thousand copies.
This fragment, which was begun in the Luxembourg Prison, does not have the usual titling. I never knew of its existence until I was reading Marcellin Matton’s edition of Le Vieux Cordelier. I thought I would post it here as a kind of tragic curiosity; the section that begins ‘Do we still have true Cordeliers’ reminds me of his outbursts on his way to the scaffold, and his attacks seem clearer than ever. It is not impossible, reading this, to imagine that he was virtually certain of his fate.
Citizens and brothers, do you remember how the tyrants of feudal times would personify the sovereign people of today under the name Jacques Bonhomme? Well if I were to be allowed to use this name, which is close to an insult, today I would say to you: Jacques Bonhomme, do you know where you are going, what you are doing, and for whom you are working? Are you sure that those whom you look upon now genuinely have the intention of achieving and completing the work of liberty? And this licence that I will give myself is not without example in the republic, because the sans-culotte Aristophanes spoke thus in times gone by to the people of Athens, he told them the truth and let it be. The senate, the Jacobins and the Cordeliers were grateful to him. Do we still have true Cordeliers, sans-culottes and impartial people? Is it not masks rather than faces that are the order of the day? And if I tear them off, these deceptive masks, what will you say people? Will you defend me? I don’t know if you would do that, but I know that there will be a need and this circumstance alone will show the danger and make you aware of its extent; I began by speaking of Athens and will return again, Solon was renowned for his honour: He it was who made the laws in this flourishing republic; it would not be he who carried them out, it would be wrong even to put his relatives in charge of that; this sole circumstance gave too much credit to his name. The trust of the sans-culottes went as far as allowing Pisistratus the power to serve them as master: It became a crime of lese majeste to plot against his life and from that moment on he became wholly a tyrant; every time it would be thus, to plot against a man would be to plot against the republic; every time that the people were represented by citizens who didn’t know their mission well enough to attach doctrines to the reputation of a single individual who seemed like a good sans-culotte to them………………………………………………
Free people! That is what you want to be; so be that entirely; do not content yourselves with the freedom of a moment, examine how your freedom will be in the future. You have seen off your Tarquin, you have done more than that, his torment has terrified all kings, those so called masters of the world who are no more than tyrants and despoilers. But why is the power of Brutus lasting more than a year? Why for three whole days [but Camille here must mean yearssurely] has one, two or three men been able to bestow, rank, favours and grace? Why do we have to preserve them, and not the republic?
Rome wanted ten legislators; they only expected to stand for election once, they remained good sans-culottes; as soon as prolongation gave them the hope of lasting sovereignty, they became tyrants.
Camille, exiled by the official voice, not seeing any partisans, in parting makes these wishes for an ungrateful patrie; Coriolanus leaves there his friends who have dared to defend him. They allowed one faction in the state to rise in his favour and he led the enemies of its nascent glory against Rome.
The powers of a dictator had a limit of six months. Anyone who, after completing his term, tried to exercise this supreme authority for one more day would find himself accused by all the good Jacobins of Rome. After having been a consul six times, an aristocrat was raised to this supreme rank; he thought he could keep it according to the law, but against usage; from this first encroachment on the title of perpetual dictator there is only one step, and if he scorned remaining as a tyrant himself the perpetual dictator gave an easy road to the ancestors of Caligula and Nero.
What must the Convention do? Finish the business; give France a constitution! Is this not already done? Now we should proclaim this constitution and everyone submit to it. If the majority of the assembly want to retain the powers, we must make another revolution against the majority of the assembly.
- Music:Chanson du Depart
LE VIEUX CORDELIER 7
By Camille Desmoulins
Deputy in the Convention and Doyen of the Jacobins
Quintidi Pluviôse, Deuxième Décade, l’an II de la république, une et indivisible
A CONTINUATION OF MY POLITICAL CREED.
Pros and Cons
A conversation between two old Cordeliers on freedom of the press .
I believe that freedom is justice, and in her eyes mistakes are personal. I do not believe that she pursues the innocent son for the crime of the father; and unlike Père Duchesne, the commune attorney, in one of his editions, she does not demand that we cut the throats of the Capet children; because although policy sometimes leads tyrants to cut the throats of the last offshoot of the family of another despot, I believe that the policy of a free people, of a sovereign people, is equity; and in supposing that this idea, true in general, may be wrong in certain cases and may have exceptions, at least you can admit to me that when reasons of state necessitate these sorts of murder, the order is given secretly, and that Nero never challenged decency by calling out the death sentence and poisoning of Britannicus in the streets.
What! Can it be a crime to debase the constituted powers of a nation, yet not be a crime to thus debase the nation itself, to defame the French people by making them dip their hands in innocent blood in the face of the world?
I believe that freedom is humanity; thus, I believe that liberty does not forbid husbands, wives, mothers or children of detainees or suspects from visiting their spouses or their children in prison; I do not believe that liberty would condemn Barnave’s mother to knock for eight hours on the door of the Conciergerie to speak to her son, and when this unhappy woman had walked a hundred leagues, in spite of her great age, condemn her to walk the road to the scaffold just to see him one more time.
I believe that prison was not created to punish the guilty, but to hold them under the judges’ hand. I do not believe that freedom confuses the wife or mother of the guilty with the guilty person themselves, because Nero did not keep Seneca in isolation, he did not separate him from his dear Pauline, and when he learned that this virtuous woman had opened her veins along with her husband he sent his doctor to help her, and by his skills to save her life. And that was Nero!
I do not believe that liberty would force prisoners to use their own money for food as the committe intends them to, and to spend more than 20 sous a day; Tiberius allowed prisoners all the necessities of life, he said 'quibus vita conceditur, us vitae usus concede debet'; and those whom we rightly call tyrants nevertheless paid out between 12 and 25 francs a day to feed those of their subjects whom they had imprisoned as suspects. Commodus, Heliogabalus and Caligula would never dream of demanding [as the revolutionary committees do], that their citizens pay rent for their prison, and of charging them, like my father in law, 12 francs a day for the 6 feet they gave him for a bed.
I believe that liberty would never require the decapitation of the dead body of a condemned man who had committed suicide; because Tiberius said
‘The estates of those condemned people who have the courage to commit suicide, will not be confiscated and will remain with their families, my way of thanking them for having spared me the misery of sending them to their agony.’ And that was Tiberius!
I believe that liberty is magnanimous; she does not insult the condemned right up to the foot of the scaffold and after execution, because death wipes out the crime; because Marat, whom the patriots have taken as their model and whom they consider to be the line of moderation between themselves and the extremists, Marat, who pursued Necker so fiercely, stopped speaking about him as soon as he was no longer in power or dangerous, and he said ‘Necker is dead, let his ashes rest in peace’
It is savage people, anthropophagi and cannibals, who dance around the stake. Tiberius and Charles IX certainly went to see the body of a dead enemy; but at least they didn’t make a trophy of the corpse. Neither did they make revolting jokes the next day, like Hébert, a people’s magistrate:
‘At last I have seen the National Razor separate the bald head of Custines from his rounded back.’
I do not believe in Custines’ fidelity or his republicanism any more than the next man; but I confess I have begun to doubt whether the extraordinary, almost ferocious determination with which certain people pursued him was not commissioned by Pitt and came, not from what Custines had betrayed but rather from what he had not betrayed sufficiently, the siege of Mayenne had cost the enemy 32,000 men and that of Valenciennes, 25,000; seven to eight similar betrayals will be enough to bury the combined armies of the despots in their trenches.
Re-reading the rest of Hébert’s papers will convince us that today he must not lead the nation, the French people, back to a time when their ancestors disinterred the body of Conciny from St Eustache in order to fight over the scraps, and roast and eat them; in the same way Hébert, in this way so different from Marat, cannot be allowed to lead the people to fight over the remnants of such a number of bodies.
I believe that the great joys of Père Duchesne are often the cause of greater good to Pitt and Calonne, for example when he took the liberty of writing on the closure of the churches and declericalism, so that where a year ago, villagers fanatically bowed down before an innocent man, crucified for his opinions, whom they called the good god, today they shoot at him like a target, as if he had been to blame for their devotion.
I believe that more than once, when Père Duchesne was ‘in a bloody bad temper’, Pitt and Calonne felt even more strongly on the same subject; such as when Hébert wept blood on reading le Vieux Cordelier, the friend of good sense and humanity, which strove to make the republic loved; and when Hébert wanted to deal with Rouen as we did with Lyon, proscribing all the generals, bankers, lawyers, wealthy, shop owners, and showing mercy to none of them and sending every last one of the Brissotins to the guillotine; such as when the Deputy Montaut explained to the Jacobins in the evening what Père Duchesne had meant in his rag in the morning. Just as he determined, by an example, the scope of this word of the Brissotins in explaining what he meant when he reported to the deputies and said in my presence and in front of more than a thousand people ‘there were, in the convention, a great gang of thieves, 21 were dead, but were there not more guilty than 21? Among those 21 there were also 5 or 6 imbeciles and we would condemn ourselves if we did not pass the same judgement against the 75. When I say 75, those are the Brissotins who agree with the direction of the Brissotins and after the nominal appeals there were 4 – 500. [I’m not entirely sure of his point here, I think he's criticizing the attempt to condemn more conventionels with the Girondists, but all these numbers – please god Camille have mercy!]
I believe it is the skilful politics of Pitt, that is the Coblenz party, foreigners, and anti-republicans which it is convenient to lump together under the name of Pitt, I believe it is the skilful politicians from this group who, appearing zealous to regenerate morality, under cover of Anaxagoras, closed the disorderly houses at the same time as the houses of religion; not in the spirit of philosophy, which, like Plato, tolerates preachers and courtesans, the mysteries of Eleusis as well as those of the good goddess; which looks in pity equally on Mary Magdalene in both roles, at her window or in the confessional; but in order to increase the enemies of the revolution, to stir up the mud in Paris and to stir up both libertines and the devout against the republic.
Thus it is that the deceitful politicians removed at the same time, two of the greatest motivators of government, religion and lax morals.
Religion is one lever of the legislator. Consider Cromwell’s famous ruling on Sundays; three sermons on that day, the first before sunrise for the servants; markets, nightclubs, gaming houses, all closed. Anyone who went for a walk on that day, during divine service was to be thrown into prison or condemned to pay a fine. Travelling was forbidden on that day. Banquets, theatres, hunting, dancing, all were forbidden on pain of corporal punishment. In this century England was inundated with a deluge of new religious opinions, John Bull was a Presbyterian and a Jansenist; and if the art of the philosopher is to direct opinion, the art of the ambitious is to follow them and to keep in the fashion.
On the other hand does the philosophical spirit have the ascendancy? Does egotism, the only mover of human actions in all systems, focus all its speculations on this world, rather than on the breast of Abraham? In one word does the generation corrupt itself? The politician, whose only aim is to govern, simply needs to follow the wind, to make himself a Molinist and to give oars and sails to public opinion.
Thus it is that Mazarin and Charles II, seeing the roundheads and the reforms of the lank haired pass out of fashion, relaxed the tight rein on morality and secured by the relaxation of morality the same result that Cromwell got with religion, for the peaceful exercise of their tyranny.
I believe also that Pitt must have had at least one joy as great as Père Duchesne, the day that he learned that just as children who have fallen down will beat the pavement, they made us declare national vengeance against the high walls and decree the annihilation of the town of Lyon. A strange thing, such was the folly of the best patriots, that on the subject of the order to raze Lyon [a measure which combined the joy of England with the sadness of French commerce just as much as the taking of Toulon] Couthon, who is nevertheless a good citizen and a man of sense, started one of his letters in the Bulletin thus;
‘Citizens, colleagues, we have anticipated you in all your measures; but how can it be that the wisest has escaped us, that of razing the town to its foundations?’
What giddiness had taken hold of our best minds, when Collot d’Herbois wrote to us a month later?
‘You have already dared to stir up indulgence for an individual; soon you will trigger it for a whole town. Up to now we have not dared ask for the report of your decree on the annihilation of the town of Lyon, but until now we have scarcely done anything to carry it out. The destruction is too slow; republican impatience demands speedier methods. In place of a hammer which demolishes brick by brick can we not use gunpowder to smash up the roads en masse?’
It is the good father Gérard who speaks thus, and how impatient are London and Amsterdam to see, destroyed by our own hands, a rival town, the most commercial and the most ancient ancestor of all our cities? What efforts the great Greek ministers made to have their towns approach the flourishing state of Lyon today. The law of Solon says
‘Foreigners, who come with their entire families to establish themselves in Athens, to build a career or a factory, will be instantly raised to the status of citizens’.
It was to attract a great number of people to the place and to encourage the growth of commerce there, that the Greeks instituted chariot racing, offered wreaths to athletes, musicians, poets, painters, actors, and even to the priestesses of Venus; whom they called the curators of the towns, before they become, as they have since Christopher Columbus, the great scourge of Europe; since when one can say that they practice a profession unknown in antiquity, that of plague spreader. In the same way, people lived well in Rome, the dictators confiscated the most noteworthy towns, to auction for the profit of their soldiers, like Sulla who got Florence, and Octavius who got Mantua and Cremona, but they didn’t raze them to the ground; if it was necessary to reduce Pérugia and Nursia to ashes, at least the speed of the flames lessened their hideous anger unlike the long lasting assault of Collot against Lyon. When we read Barrère’s report on this project, and see the enthusiasm with which the beauty of this measure seized the reporter to the committee of public safety, we feel we can hear N crying in Voltaire
‘To build is fine, but destroying is sublime.’
Again on Barrère’s motion the convention pronounced the most inconceivable decree against itself that any senate has ever passed; this truly suicidal decree, which allows any deputy, invested with the confidence of 30,000 citizens for whom he speaks and whom he represents in the National Assembly, to be imprisoned without a hearing simply on the order of the two committees, and the fine reason given for this is that the Brissotins were not given a hearing.
In vain Danton has explained the difference; then there was a manifest conspiracy and we find the same admission in the speeches of the two parties at the opening of the English Parliament today; The Convention listened to the accused every day for six months on the same basic question; we were all witness to their federalism; so on the subject of conspiracy there was a pressing need to convict the conspirators; but on one venal and fabricated accusation there was no need to trample over our principles and there would have been no disadvantage in giving d’Eglantine a hearing. Even in their most extreme frenzies the Brissotins themselves respected Marat, in his role as representative of the people and they allowed him to speak for two hours and say as much as he wanted before sending him to the Abbaye.
In the middle of these compelling reasons Danton was booed by his colleagues. Danton claimed that it was passed on faulty grounds, and it was evident that the decree set a most dangerous example; if the members of the committees were ambitious and lacked republican feeling, it would soon reduce the national assembly to the servile condition of a parliament in which they imprison members who refuse to endorse draft laws,.
Already the committee appoints all the seats on all the committees of the convention, and all the commissars who they send out into the departments and to the armies. In their hands is one of the greatest drivers of politics, expectation, by which the government attracts to itself all ambitions and interests.
What more do they need to control or rather to annihilate the convention and to exert the full strength of the decemvirate, if those deputies whom it cannot entice onto its side by rewarding them for their flexibility and adulation by shining the panache of the tricolor into their eyes, can be restrained by the fear of being sent to the Luxembourg if they should make themselves unpopular?
Are there any deputies, are there any men, completely immune to hope and fear? Even in the republic, history does not recount more than one Cato out of more than a million men. For freedom to be maintained by the side of such an excessive power it needed all citizens to be Cato, it needed virtue to be the sole driver of government. But if virtue were the sole driver of government, if you suppose all men to be virtuous, the form of government would be irrelevant and everything would be equally good. Why then are some governments detestable and others good? Why do we have a horror of monarchy and cherish the republic? It is because we assume rightly that men are not all equally virtuous, it is necessary for the goodness of government to provide the virtue and the excellence of the republic consists in exactly that, it provides the virtue.
I still believe what I said in my Revolutions de Brabant number 3, bad luck to the kings who want to enslave an insurgent population. France was never as fearsome as in the civil war.
When the whole of Europe joined forces and I exclaimed, like Isaiah; ‘Come on Assyrians and you will be defeated! Come on Medes and you will be defeated! Come on all of you and you will all be defeated!’ I always counted on the national energy and impetuosity of the French, redoubled by the revolution; not on the skill and tactics of the generals.
Amongst all the foolishness which Hébert came out with, apparently with the intention of putting me in my place, there was no more ridiculous proposal than suggesting at the Jacobin tribune, that if I went to dine with Dillon it was to prevent him being a prince Eugene and to win against us the battles of Malplaquet and Ramillies. I continue to believe that if we had had patriot generals at the head of our armies who had the military understanding of Dillon, the courage of the French republicans, guided by the skill of the officers would have already penetrated to Madrid and the mouth of the Rhine.
I persist in believing that I had reason to anticipate the fatal incompetence in the Vendee, when I heard ten months ago in the Jacobins, the thunderous applause which shook the room at the words of d’Herbois, that we had three million generals in France and that all the soldiers are equally entitled to their turn in command and by seniority of medals. How could they ignore the advantages of military science and genius on this point?
In my credo I am obliged to repeat what I have said time and time again, because the question here is not to make my reputation as an author, but to defend it as that of a patriot, to impress on my fellow citizens and to divulge to them my political dogma, and to submit in the Vieux Cordelier, my profession of faith to the judgement of my contemporaries and posterity; so that you can finally judge my reputation not as an writer but as a patriot; the question is not about me or my reputation but to impress sound political dogma and to inculcate in my fellow citizens those principles which a state cannot dismiss with impunity.
For example, it is certain, as I have said that war is a skill and as with all skills it cannot be perfected in a short time. You can find only two generals, Lucullus and Spinoza, whose extraordinary genius dispensed with this rule, and who took bold command of 40,000 men every day. Turenne, who was such a great captain, could not imagine how a general could put himself in charge of more than 35,000 men. And in effect it was with an even smaller army that he marched every day to new victories.
If skill is needed in a doctor, who has only the life of one man in his hands and if his skill is of prime importance, how much more important is military skill and how absurd is it to take no account of its ignorance in a general, who can dispose of the lives of 10,000 men whom he can lose or save by a wise or misjudged order.
I have heard Merlin de M and Westerman the Vendéen and many other soldiers who cannot be suspected of partiality or lack of citizenship say that the great mistake of Philippeaux, in his well-known denunciation, was to have imputed to treason that which should have been counted as impiety and not to attribute it to this system, preached and supported by the war office, that all the clerks’ relatives and the brothers of all the actresses they had slept with were as good as Villard to cover our borders.
It certainly was the reversal of all the ideas taught by the experience of time; because it was more than 3,000 years ago, if we are to believe Xenophon, that old Cambyses addressed these words to his son Cyrus, in the last instructions he gave him when saying goodbye and when the young man had already sounded the tocsin to ride with the cavalry to the aid of his father in law Cyaxerus.
‘My son it is not permitted to ask the gods for the rewards of skill, when you have not practised the skill, nor to guide a vessel into port, when you are ignorant of the sea, nor to be unvanquished if you have not provided a defence’
Camille did not finish his profession of faith, he was intending to continue it in the eighth edition of Le Vieux Cordelier of which we have only fragments, and in following issues.-[Matton ainé]
CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO OLD CORDELIERS
‘ If you do not see what the times demand; if you speak rashly; if you make yourself noticeable; if you pay no attention to those around you, I will not call you wise.’
The virtuous spirit of Cato was disgusted by this maxim. Surely pushing the Jansenism of the republic further than the times allow contributes a little to the reversal of liberty; just as suppressing the extortions of the chevaliers encouraged them to side with Caesar because of their desire for gain. But Cato was inclined to agree more with the stoics in the republic of Plato, than the senator who had dealings with the more criminal elements of the children of Romulus.
These thoughts introduce this epigraph! It is Cicero, writing with the faults of his century who thought to prevent the fall of the republic and it is the austerity of Cato which hastened the return of the monarchy. Solon said the same thing in other terms
‘The legislator who works on a rebellious matter must not give his country the best theoretical laws but the best which he can put into practice.’
And J-J Rousseau later said
‘I am not going to treat incurable cases’
It has rightly been said that my number 6 lacked interest because it lacked personalities; that those who only look in this journal to find fodder for their spite and pessimism will withdraw their subscriptions. I believe I have done well for the patrie in taking up my pen against the ultra-revolutionaries in the Old Cordelier, despite its mistakes.
Some few errors do not cover up an abundance of truths. But I accept that my editions would have been more useful if I had not mixed the names of personalities with other matters. As soon as my wish, the wish of Coligny, the wish of Mezerai is finally accomplished and France has become a republic we must expect parties or rather cliques and ceaselessly renewed intrigues. Liberty could not proceed without this following of cabals, above all in our country where the national spirit and indigenous character has been factious and turbulent since ancient times, when Julius Caesar, in his own words, said in his Commentaries:
‘Amongst the Gauls one finds only factions and cabals, not only in the departments, cantons and districts but even in the hamlets and villages.’
So it is necessary to expect factions, or to put it better accomplices, who hate the good fortune of those who are in their clique or on the other side more than their principles, and who never fail to call the love of liberty and patriotism, ambition and personal interest which set one group against another. But all these factions, all the little cliques, will always be contained within the great circle of good citizens, who will never suffer the return of tyranny; and I only want to be part of this great circle. I share Gordon’s opinion that there will never be a sect, society, church, club, lodge or assembly of any sort that is entirely composed of men of perfect probity or total badness; I believe that it is necessary to exercise leniency for the ultras as well as the citras insofar as they do not disrupt the intras, and the great circle of friends of the republic, one and indivisible. We read, in a speech on the principles of revolutionary government:
‘If we accept that citizens of good faith have fallen into the error of moderation, without knowing it, why should there not be patriots of equally good faith who have been swept towards extremism by a praiseworthy sentiment?’
This is how reason speaks; and this is why I have curbed my pen which rushes down the slope of satire. A stranger to all factions, I wish to serve none except the republic, which cannot be better served than by the sacrifice of one’s pride: my journal will be much more useful if, in each edition, for example, I limit myself to dealing in generalisations and abstract terms about people; some questions and articles of my profession of faith and my political testament. Today we are speaking of the English Government, the grand order of the day.
AN OLD CORDELIER [replies to Camille]
(An old believer from the Cordelier district, who comes to my house to see if I deal worthily with the topic in my number 7 and that I don’t let the side down)
What is all this nonsense? From 1789 till now, from Mounier up to Brissot; what has been the question if not to establish, in France, two chambers and an English government? Everything we have said; everything that you in particular have written for the last five years has been nothing other than a critique of the aristocratic constitution of Great Britain.
Finally the day of August 10 put an end to the discussion and the pleadings, and democracy was proclaimed on the 21 September. Now all political interests in Europe turn their gaze on democracy in France and aristocracy in England. No more speeches, these are the facts which will be decided before the world’s jury, considering which of these two constitutions is best.
Now the only, most powerful satire to make of the English government is the wellbeing of the people; it is the glory and good fortune of the French republic. Foolish athletes, instead of training and rubbing ourselves with oil, we will not dress the wounds of our enemy. We need to heal ourselves; and to do that we need to know our faults; we must have the courage to admit them.
Do you realize that all this preamble to your number 7, these circumlocutions, the oratorical precautions; all this is hardly Jacobin? How, I ask you, do we recognize a true republican, a genuine Cordelier? It is in his righteous indignation against traitors and mischief makers, in the harshness of his censure.
A republican is not characterised by his century or the government under which he lives; it is by the honesty of his language. Montausier was a republican in the Bull’s Eye, in the Misanthrope Moliere described republican and royalist characters to perfection; Alceste is a Jacobin, Philint ended as a Feuillant.
What outrages me is that I see scarcely any republicans in the republic. Is it then the name which we give the government which decides its nature? In that case Holland and Venice are also republics; England would also be a republic during the protectorate of Cromwell, who ruled his republic as despotically as Henry VIII ruled his kingdom. Rome would have been a republic too, under Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius, who called it The Roman Republic in their consulate as Cicero did in his. Why however, do we not remember these ages except as times of great subjugation for human kind? It is because freedom was banished from society, commerce and life; it is because as Tacitus said,
‘We dare not speak, we dare not even hear.’ Omisso omni non solum loquendi, imo audiendi, commercio.
What distinguishes the republic from the monarchy? A single thing; freedom to speak and freedom to write. Allow freedom of the press in Moscow, and tomorrow Moscow will be a republic.* Thus it is that in spite of Louis XVI and the two right wing factions, and the entire government, conspirators and royalists, freedom of the press alone has led us by the hand towards August 10 and overturned a fifteen hundred year monarchy almost without bloodshed.
*In the original manuscript it says ‘have press freedom in Constantinople and tomorrow the district of Pera will be as republican as St. Marceau. On the contrary, destroy press freedom in France and tomorrow the republic will be destroyed; the time is near when you undermine the freedom to speak and write.
What is the best defence for a free people against the invasions of despots? It is freedom of the press; and the next best? It is freedom of the press. And after that the next best is still freedom of the press.
We have known all this since the 14th of July; it is the childhood ABC of republics. And Bailly himself, aristocrat that he was, on this point was more republican than us. We have retained his maxim:
'Publicity is the safeguard of the people.'
This metaphor should shame us. Who cannot see that the freedom to write is the greatest threat to criminals, ambitious men and despots, but in its wake comes a little inconvenience for the people’s security. To say that this freedom is dangerous to the republic is as foolish as if one were to say that beauty should be afraid to stand in front of a mirror. One is right where one is wrong, one is just, virtuous and patriotic where one is not. If we make mistakes we must redress them; and to do that we must have a newspaper to show us; but if you are virtuous what fear will you have of editions published against injustice, vice and tyranny. That mirror is not for you.
Before Bailly, Montesquieu professed the same principle that a republic cannot exist without freedom to speak and write. He says that when the décemvirs, in the laws which they brought to Greece, slipped in one against calumny and the writers of it, their aim of destroying freedom and perpetuating their decemvirate was discovered [because tyrants are never short of judges to destroy anything which displeases them on the pretext of calumny]
In the same way, four hundred years later Octavius revived the décemvirs law against words and writing, and added an additional article to the Julian law against crimes of lèse-majesté. We can say that was the last sigh of Roman freedom. In one word, the soul of republics, their pulse and, if we can speak this way, the breath in which we can see that freedom still lives, is in freedom of speech.
See in Rome what invectives Cicero came out with to drown Verrus, Catilinus, Claudius, Pison and Mark Antony in their infamy. What a cataract of insults fell upon these scoundrels from the high tribune! [The poet Catullus dragged Julius Caesar through the mud. You yourself have quoted the passage from Cicero’s letter on the subject of the savage posters which Bibulus incessantly directed against the dictator. Bibulus's papers pleased the people so much that it was impossible to get through the streets where they were posted].
It is better to be wrong, like Père Duchesne in his senseless, mistaken denunciations but with that energy which typifies republican spirits, than to see that terror which freezes and enchains both thought and words. Marat expressed it in this way:
'Bourdon de l’Oise, a republican, dared to speak his mind entirely and showed a republican spirit.'
Robespierre gave proof of his great character, some years ago, at the Jacobin tribune. One day, in a moment of violent disfavour, he clung on to the tribune and exclaimed that he must needs be assassinated there or be heard; but you, Camille, made yourself a slave and him a despot on the day when you allowed him to cut you off so brusquely after your opening words,
‘Burning is not replying’
But you did not pursue your justification doggedly enough. Representative of the people,today will you dare to speak to the first clerk of the war as courageously as you did four years ago to St Priest, Mirabeau, Lafayette, and to Capet himself? We have never been so enslaved since we were republicans, so grovelling since we had the hat on our head.
Today, even in England, where liberty is decrepit and lies in extremis, in her agony, with scarcely a breath left in her, see how she speaks out on war and on the French ministers and the French nation. Stanhope says;
‘In France, in the upper chamber, the ministers speak, write and act in the shadow of the guillotine. It would be good if our ministers had the same healthy fear, then they would not outwit us so grossly.
They tell us that the French troops are without uniforms, but they are the best dressed in Europe.
We are told that lack of numbers stops our enemies from sustaining the war, yet we estimate that in France there is more gold, silver and bullion provided from the sacristies and enforced borrowing than in all the countries of Europe put together.
With respect to the assignats, they have increased in value by seventy per cent in six months and will undoubtedly gain even more in another six months.
We were told that the French troops would not withstand the Austrian, Prussian and English troops, the best disciplined in Europe; the reverse was proved true by a great number of battles. Some Austrian generals declared that by their discipline and courage in the middle of the carnage, the French became the terror of the allies.
Finally we were told that the French would run short of grain. That was a wicked idea, that 25 million men, who have never given you any offence, should suffer the horrors of famine just because the form of their government displeases a few despots. But this evil plan only served to instil in the people an enthusiasm which surpassed everything we have heard reported about the old republics.’
Afterwards Stanhope reproached the French people with the charge of atheism. He distinguished the constitution from the excesses indistinguishable from revolution; He added that the nation has renounced meddling with the governments of other states by solemn decrees. He defied all philosophers not to approve our Declaration of Rights, and finished by presenting as the base and corner stone of our republic, this sublime phrase|:
'Do not do unto others what you would not want done unto you.'
The opposition, in the House of Commons, speaks of us with no less respect and praise. M. Courtney says;
‘We are beaten everywhere, for as long as the French deploy an energy and courage worthy of the Greeks and Romans. In the mouth of the cannons they sing their republican anthems. The Emperor and the King of Prussia, with all their famous generals and their well-armed troops could not beat General Hoche, who, nevertheless, had been no more than a simple sergeant a short while before taking his command.’
If the praise which pleases most is that of an enemy, these are the speeches to flatter our ears. It is thus that some men, republicans from overseas, in full Parliament make a satire of their nation and praise those on whom they make war; and we, strong in liberty and democracy we dare to ban one number for saying something lacks perfection in our government. We dare not praise in England something which is less bad, like freedom of thought, habeas corpus, and propose them to our citizens as an example for fear that they do not become worse.
We mock freedom of speech in England, however, in the trial of Bennett, convicted of having said publicly that he
‘Wished for total success for the French republic and for the destruction of the English government,’
After a long deliberation, fifteen days ago, their jury found Bennett not guilty, and that thought should be free.
We mock the freedom to write in England; however it must be admitted that the ministerial party does not call for the head of Sheridan or Fox, for having spoken of the generals Brunswick, de Wurmser, Hoode, Moyra and even the Duke of York with at least as much contempt as Philippeaux and Bourdon de l’Oise used when speaking of generals Ronsin and Rossignol.
Strangely bizarre! In England which is all aristocrats, corruption, slavery, venal natures; it is Pitt, in one word, who calls loudly for the continuation of the war; and it is the patriots, republicans and revolutionaries who vote for peace, hoping that peace will effect a change in their constitution.
In France it is completely the opposite. Here it is the patriots and revolutionaries who want war and if we are to believe Barère, it is only the moderates, feuillants, counter revolutionaries and friends of Pitt who dare to speak of peace. Thus it is that the friends of liberty, whose interests it seems should be the same, want peace in London and war in Paris, and that the same man finds himself a patriot on this side of the channel and an aristocrat on the other side; montagnard in the convention; ministerial in Parliament.
But at least in the English Parliament they have never passed the unbelievable motion that those who did not at first make up their minds to war, became suspect for their opinion, in a question so delicate and of such importance that one cannot share Barère’s opinion without at the same time sharing the opinion of Pitt.
It has to be admitted at least that the tribune of the convention does not enjoy the same inviolability of opinion as the English tribune, and that it will not be safe to speak of our own setbacks in the way that Sheridan speaks of their defeats at Noirmoutiers, Dunkirk and Toulon. How far we still are from this harshness of criticism, this savage abrasiveness of harangues and habits which exist, albeit slightly it is true, in England, which ill fits the very humble and faithful subjects of George, but in which we recognise a republican spirit in JJ Rousseau, like the peasant on the Danube; in a Scythian, in Marat. We will discover amongst ourselves the appalling hate of Alceste;
‘This violent hatred which must give flaws to virtuous spirits’
In his rag Hébert denounces Legendre as a bad citizen and a disloyal representative, Legendre denounces Hébert to the Jacobins as a salaried libeller; Hébert is floored and has no reply. Momoro, who comes to his aid in this difficulty, says;
‘Come on make it up both of you embrace and shake hands’
Is this the language of the Romans or that of Mascarille in the theatre?
‘He’s a rascal, never mind, we’ll shoot a great number of his kind.’
Yes, I repeat it, I prefer that we denounce wrongly, I almost said libel, even as Père Duchesne does but with that vigour which characterises strong spirits and a republican calibre, than what we see today, this bourgeois politeness, childlike and honest civility, the pusillanimous considerations of the monarchy, this circumspection, the face of the chameleon and the antechamber, in one word this B….ism, towards the stronger, the men of credibility or position, ministers or generals, representatives of the people or influential members of the Jacobins, just as long as one bases it with strong rigour, on patriotism in disfavour or disgrace.
The language of democracy deserves more than intemperance. The pessimism of these eternal detractors of the present time, whose bile pours out on all around them, the cold poison of fear which paralyses thought to the bottom of the soul, and prevents us speaking out at the tribune or in our writing!
The misanthropy of Timon, who could find nothing fine in Athens, would be better than this general terror which, like mountains of ice from one side of France to the other smother the sea of opinion and prevent its ebb and flow. The slogan of republicans, these are the winds which blow on the tides of the sea, with this legend;
Tolland sed attollunt. They stir them but they lift them.
Otherwise I see, in the republic no more than the calm shallows of despotism, and the surface united by the stagnant waters of a marsh; I see only an equality of fear, the levelling of courage, the most generous spirits brought as low as the most vulgar.
Yourself for example, I say it to you alone, not to flatter you in giving you no more than your merit, you, who have had the tact and the good sense to be as incorrupt, as unchangeable and as unmoveable as Robespierre. You, who in the revolution have had the good luck that in all its phases it has never raised your condition or your fortune; the good luck never to have been a minister, or a government committee member or a commissar in Belgium; not to have caught the sight of jealous eyes, sister of calumny, nor panache, nor the tricoloured ribbon on the side of your shoulder, nor the starred epaulettes, nor any of the signs of power, which above all seem to give people wings like the ants to abandon themselves and to throw them to the envy of the gods; but you, honorary deputy and still a journalist since 1789 who prays to the skies each day to leave the plain cloak of philosophy on your shoulders, free from responsibility; not, it is true, the torn and dirty cloak of Diogenes but the cloak of Plato and the flag of Ecbatana. You have attacked one after the other all the high placed men, like Bailly, Pache or Petion who have shown themselves to be in a faction opposed to the Declaration of Rights.
You, we surely know are not free from error, but there is not a man of good faith among those who follow you, who is not persuaded that all your thoughts, as you have repeated almost ad nauseam, have had the object of political and individual freedom for citizens; a Utopian constitution, the one and indivisible republic, the splendour and prosperity of the patrie and not an impossible equality of wealth but an equality of the right to happiness:
You are equipped with all the authentic certificates, having received wounds and beatings for the peoples’ cause, and with all these considerations, under a malevolent report from Barère you had to show less cowardice and have the right to speak your thoughts clearly. Will you dare to hold up to ridicule the political blunders of this or that member of the committee for public safety, as opposition all feeble, degenerate and useless as it is mocks the reports of Pitt, Grenville and Dundas?
CAMILLE-DESMOULINS [in reply]
I will dare if there are no errors which are more useful to the Patrie to hush up than to make felt. How can you say the convention defends truth when later on, by a notable decree pronounced on Danton’s motion it has just allowed or at least tolerated liars and calumniators?
The revolutionary government restricts freedom of the press for royalists and aristocrats; it is still intact for the Cordeliers club. We learn that Barère himself is such an avowed partisan for the freedom to write that he wanted it to be constitutionally indefinite for all citizens whose patriotism and intentions were not suspect.
Since Barère made me this profession of faith, I have been wanting only the lightest editing to my number 5; because it is impossible, to my mind, that a man of character who wants press freedom, who wants it to be without limits, even against himself, could not be an excellent republican.
Later on, when your speech is finished, I will take the parole in my turn and I will demonstrate the sagacity and the necessity of his revolutionary distinction, on the maximum press freedom for patriots and the minimum for aristocrats. At this moment, I forgive your anger on behalf of republican principles, as it smothers you in a torrent of words and like the smoke from a fire does not exhale in the conversation:
As you are not at the tribune of the cordeliers, nor in the presence of David, or La Vicomterie, but in the presence of my tolerant household gods, who would not refuse an old patriot the liberty they grant to slaves in their Saturnalias give vent, my friend to your suffocated spirit, open a passage to this smoke which smothers you inside and which darkens your imagination for lack of a chimney; speak, dissipate this melancholy vapour; in passing here is my provisional response to all your grievances:
The revolution is so beautiful as a whole that I will always say of her, as Bolingbroke once said of Marlborough, he was such a great man that I have forgotten his vices, Now continue your tirade.
Le Vieux Cordelier [to Camille]
For myself I forgive you your blind and fatherly love for the revolution. You have had such a part in its birth! I wasn’t scolding your child; I wasn’t angry, I simply asked whether in the new born republic it is not permitted to make the same very humble criticisms of it such as the monarchy occasionally allowed.
You claim that Barère loves total press freedom, we don’t ask that much of him; just that he should love freedom of opinion in the national assembly. But will you dare to speak this undeniable truth, that Barère, through his famous report on the destruction of Carthage has truly achieved the miracle of resuscitating Pitt, whom everyone had thought dead after the taking of Toulon, and that inevitably on its arrival in London this fine report will restore the minister to the heights and will open all the coffers of the Carthaginians to him. How could Xavier Audouin and those other short-sighted patriots declare to the Jacobins that the Destruction of Carthage was without consequence, and could pass as the effect of the patriots’ indignation in their homes? Such a pride which does not kill.
But at the tribune of the convention, a member of the Committee for Public Safety said that it was necessary to go and destroy the English government and wipe out Carthage. Another member of the Committee for Public Safety, less short-sighted than Barère, had put forward this opinion at the Jacobins; he would claim to wage war not only on the government but on the English people, and a war to the death unless it democratised itself; in truth something which is inconceivable.
What! At the same time that Sheridan exclaimed in the House of Commons ‘The conduct of the French shows that they do not have the heart for war with the English people; they have destroyed the Brissotin party which was in favour of this war: I think they will be disposed to make peace with us on terms honourable and advantageous to the republic. I base my reasoning on my faith in the decrees in convention which state that the republic has renounced the idea of spreading its doctrine abroad and that its sole aim is to establish an internal government such as has been adopted by the French people.'
What! At the same time Robespierre in his speech to the Jacobins, without realizing it, took up the role of Brissot in nationalising the war! It is Robespierre, who so mocked Cloots for wanting to federalise Europe, who takes on the responsibility for his apostolic mission and wishes to democratise the English people! Because in the end all people in this condition and above all a proud nation like the English, whatever the vices of their constitution, say, like Sganarelle’s wife to Robert: (Molière)
‘And me, however much I wish him to beat me!’
And thus it is Robespierre who has forgotten the profound political speech, lively and irrefutable, that he made in December 1791, when almost alone, but with you, he spoke his mind so forcefully against war: It is Robespierre who forgets the emphatic statement that he made then:
‘When the fire is at our own house, is that the time to extinguish fires in other people’s houses?’
Robespierre who forgets the great truth which he proclaimed and then developed so well, that war will always be the resource of despotism, which by its very nature has no power other than in arms and gains nothing unless at the point of a sword; whereas liberty has no need of cannons and makes conquests only through peace, since she reigns not by terror but through her charms; she has no need to hide behind fortifications to seize towns; but once they see her they fall in love with her and run to her.
But will you dare to make similar connections and by these contradictions treat Robespierre to the same ridicule which he has heaped in handfuls upon you for some time now? Pitt must have a good laugh seeing that this man who called him an imbecile and a fool, at the meeting of the Jacobins [Pluviôse 10] is the same Robespierre who acts so powerfully to strengthen him in his ministry and to give Stanhope, Fox and Sheridan a good kick on the nose. Who didn’t foresee that on hearing of this speech and of Barère’s report they must say to themselves in London:
‘Ah well! Since we are Carthage, let us have the courage of the Carthaginians, let us make ropes with our hair and raise ourselves up en masse.’
Will you dare to express yourself freely in the same way on the subject of the Committee of General Security?
Will you dare to say that this committee, which imprisons the half-hearted and locks up citizens by the thousands as suspects who do not love the republic, has as its president, Vadier, the same man who on the eve of the Champ de Mars, fully supported Dandré’s motion to demand the trial of all Jacobins before the six Paris tribunes and their leader; this same Vadier who, on July 16th , said at the tribune of the National Assembly: ‘I worship the monarchy and I have a horror of republican government.’
This shameful profession of faith was recorded in the Moniteur and all the newspapers of the time, for which, on the following day, Marat portrayed him as a turncoat, the most despicable of the constituent members; and behold! Today he is the Saint Dominic of the Committee of General Security.
Will you dare to say that Vouland, secretary of the Committee of General Security was an equally confirmed royalist and a member of the famous Feuillants club, as can be seen by his appearance on the authentic official list found in the secretariat of the Feuillants club, one of the important conquests of August 10, printed by the commune’s surveillance committee?
Will you dare to say that Jagot, another terrible brother of the committee who locked up the old patriot for the hands of his clock [just the same as on his own watch] a trefoil which had some resemblance to a fleur de lys; that this same Jagot, on the eve of August 10, ran to give the legislative assembly his resignation as member of the Committee of General Security, for fear the royalists should be victorious on the following day and that he would be swept up in the inevitable proscription of Merlin, Bazire and Chabot, his colleagues on the committee; that it is the same Jagot that the entire convention saw in the first four months of the session, sitting not merely in the marsh, but completely opposed to the mountain by the side of Brissot, Barbaroux and Duperret?
Who will you still find in this so powerful Decemvirate, because the committee is composed of no more than ten members? Amongst these bit part players, the furies, who will you find?
Is it Amar the least ferocious of them all, for whom music calms the tempest of his calling, but whom the sabre suits no better than his colleagues against misled citizens, since he has been misled more than anyone else? Is it Amar whose pun everyone still remembers when he voted at the end of 1792 for the renewal of the bureau: Lalois, Chassé, Danton? (Lalois chases Danton)
Is it David, lost in pride, made the most frantic of all by his miserable ambition to see in all the papers ‘David’s Presidency’? Zeuxis walked around the Olympic Games wearing a fine purple cloak on which you could read, in letters of gold:' the painter Zeuxis.’ David, even more ridiculously vain, will have no greater pleasure than to walk round with this legend: ‘President David!’ He said ‘They will not speak so much about my Horace, or my Brutus, nor of me as a painter, posterity will speak of me as a legislator and of my presidency.’
David has dishonoured his art in forgetting that painting is the heart of genius as eloquence is its centre: He is proof that one can be a great painter with the soul of Louis XI (XVI?), and he has shut up so many in the prisons to capture a momentary popularity, to achieve fifteen days as the speaker of the Convention and to seat his fat arse on the green leather chair!
Those who are familiar with this person and the vanity, with which he is puffed up, are inclined to believe it is an eruption of pride which causes him to take aim askew. History, which will want to make a lifelike portrait of him cannot conceal this fault with the golden chains which antiquity shows coming from the lips of Nestor or Julius Caesar, in order to explain their eloquence or beneficence; She will only be able to cover it with scum, to express the rage; and the resemblance will be perfect if, just as the painter, uses a sponge to create the foam of a horse so well, she throws upon the lips of David a sponge soaked in innocent blood.
In truth David glories in this rage; he claims it is the anger of Brutus against the Royalists and the Brissotins; but it is a shame that we know this ferocious republican was the King’s painter and spent his time painting Louis XVI in quite different colours from those that you used in your verses; it is regrettable that this anti-moderate, this anti-Brissotin who could not forgive Cicero for having thought of the terror, was the mentor for a day; that this is the same David who, not so long ago, picked a great quarrel with you and if he had had strength or courage would have struck you, on account of your ‘Brissot Unmasked’; it is regrettable that we know that it is this same David, such a Brissotin, that quite recently it was necessary for Panis, in the Tuileries, working up a sweat in the heart of winter, to persuade him that Robespierre was the patriot and that he was right about Brissot.
These are the new patriots, these are the famous men who cannot believe in Magdalene and St. Augustine and who make a crime of your compassion for the patriots, for some of the brothers who have been a hundred times less misled than they.
Who will you still find in the committee, and at the head of the most violent measures? It is La Vicomterie, known for his great book ‘Crimes of the Kings’ in which he rails on every page against the arbitrary arrest of people suspected by the kings, and who, single handedly has imprisoned more people in five months than all the tyrants of whom he wrote since the foundation of the Bastille.
But you will no longer find our two old Cordeliers, Panis and Boucher-Saint-Sauveur there, these two members of the Committee of General Safety, venerated for their services and for the five years of persecution by the court which they resisted could not bear to see the wrongs which were committed there and they got out, shaking the dust from their feet.
Doubtless the good Rhul, another proven patriot whom we no longer see, distanced himself for the same motive, and gave in his resignation, but, weak like Panis and Boucher, dared not explain his motives at the tribune of the Convention.
You will still see, it is true, one old Cordelier, a white haired patriot, the excellent Rougiff. Come and see Guff …. He will tell you that he only remains there to correct much evil with a little good. Guff is estimable for sticking to his post and it is Boucher Saint Sauveur, Panis and Rhul who must be blamed for their desertion.
Will you dare to say what your colleague P. told you, that M.Heron, ci-devant privateer by profession, scum of the sea, lieutenant, first unofficial clerk and volunteer in La St-Hermandad is today the scum of the cobblestones and the great entrepreneur of arrests and freedom for the price of silver. Unattached by any employment to the Committee of General Security, he has earned possibly over a million in the six months since he has been the Cicerone of the committee pointing out and fingering the suspects in the street.
Will you dare to say that this day student, even among the clerks of the committee, is so powerful that he has dared to seize by the collar a representative of the people who reproached him with creating the same fear that Cartouche made on the highways with his pistol, in the committee’s antechamber, through the terror? This M. Heron is still not content with being relieved of the surveillance of Boucher-Saint-Sauveur and of Panis, the two venerable patriots who tendered their resignation; it is not enough for him that the good Rhul hardly ever comes to the committee.
Will you dare to say what you have learned from Guff, that he has proof in hand that this infamous Héron went into the prisons to beg for false witnesses and to try to suborn some scoundrels to send him, Guff, our dear Rougiff, this fine white haired patriot before the revolutionary tribunal.
Will you dare to say that Fabre d’Eglantine, some days before his arrest said that he had found proof, with papers in the office, that this Héron, commended to the tribune of the convention as an exquisite patriot, this Le Noir of the committee, had blank arrest warrants and lettres de cachet in his house, in which he had only to fill in the names; and that today, under the reign of law and in the fortress of democracy and equality there exists a man, appointed by no one knows who, unknown in the revolution, whom no service has recommended, who has more power over the citizens than even Dubarry through the favour of LouisXV had over the subjects of the tyrant. Such as when, taking two oranges she said:
‘Blow up Choiseul blow up Praslin’
Héron does not take oranges but undoubtedly a handful of assignats and says this one to prison, for this one freedom. Blow up d’Eglantine, blow up Guff… blow up Camille Desmoulins, M… He holds the list of proscriptions in his hand and with no other explanation, without warning, delivers a dozen deputies, old Montagnards to the guillotine. How many citizens have been imprisoned by M. Héron in the last six months?
Will you dare to say that this scoundrel who lodged with Fallope, a member of the general council of the commune, has put him in prison because… Will you dare…
Yes, if to dare it saved the republic. But what good will it do the republic if I swear to the infamy of all these obscure names. The clamour of all that wounded pride would perhaps leave me unable to remedy the ills of our patrie. Also would we find that I throw these six great caustic passages in the fire without mercy? I admit that the satire is extremely sharp, it will avenge me; it will make all Paris run to Desenne, less for the truth than for the courage and the recklessness of the censure, because one good word from its author is always better than fashion.
But thinking on the birth, progress and fall of republics, I am convinced that animosities and pride driven quarrels have harmed them as much as Philippe’s golden mule. Cicero censured Cato for listening to his inopportune conscience, which, he said, harmed freedom, and yet Cicero harmed himself a hundred times more in listening to his pride too much in publishing the second Phillippique. Cicero forgot what he himself had said twenty years before, that there were rascals like Sulla, of whom a patriot must refrain from speaking ill of and respect their memory after their death for fear that if one criticised their deeds then the state would be overthrown.
The republican who cannot sacrifice his vanity, his resentment and even truth, for love of the public good is as culpable as the man who will not sacrifice his personal interest. Avarice does no more evil to the patrie than other passions whose names are less odious. Rivalry, for example and the envy of power, love of praise and popularity. The incorruptible patriot is he who thinks of nothing but the good of the patrie, and whose ear is as closed and inaccessible to the praise of the tribunes or the flattery of subscribers, as his hands are closed to the guineas of Pitt.
I respond, in a word : in the time of Sulla and Marc Antony of which you speak, if it was no longer politic to speak the truth, then there was already no longer a republic. The caution, the detours, the politeness, the circumspection, all that is of the monarchy. The character of the republic is to dissimulate noting, to march straight to the point, uncovered, to call men and things by their names, and to ignore the usage of some points and some stars in their writings. The monarchy does everything in the closet, in the committees and only by secret; the republic, all at the tribune, in the presence of the people and the public, which Marat used to call to make a grand scandal. In monarchies, the basis of government is lying, deception is the secret of the state; the politics of republics is the truth. You claim in your newspaper to make war on vices, without noting persons: therefore you are no longer a republican at the tribune of the Jacobin, but a preacher and a Jesuit in the pulpit of Versailles, who speaks to royal ears in a manner to reassure them, because it is well-evident that these portraits are fantasy, and resemble no one. Instead of removing in a Christianly manner in your newspaper these six great pages of facts, if you published only one or two as a true republican, it is then the public could draw some profit from the reading of the Old Cordelier.
After putting under the eyes two or three examples, you said to him : People, take your profit of the lesson ; I don’t want to try so many people, I want to open a door of repentance, I want to spare the patriots, and even those who pretend to be so; but by learning where that all these large rowdy popular societies who, like those which I mention, can only have recourse to the word of guillotine, who call you each day to their aid, use you as the instrument of their passions, and to avenge their vanity from the lightest prick, crying without cease the people stand, as the Dominicans, when they burn an unfortunate heretic in Spain, never fail to sing Exurgat Deus, God the Father is standing! Take heed, and you will see that all these hypocrites of patriotism, all these Pharisees, all these cross-bearers, all those people who say: we are the only pure ones, we will not stay twenty Montagnards at the Convention, if they were put on display, not in the club, but in my truthful newspaper, among those republicans (if fervent) who would not pardon a small tear, he would not find one who was not a novice on August 10, no one who had not been once or Fayétiste or Brissotin, or even a royalist.
Admit that you will not dare to cite a single one of these individuals: believe me, conserve at least your reputation of honesty; admit that you do not have enough courage, or rather it would not be to admit your cowardice. Courage is not madness, and it would have been madness not to follow the counsel of Pollion: “I don’t write against those who can proscribe.” It would be only to admit that we are not republicans, but, I see it, you cannot resolve yourself to make this admission.
And yet, how to deceive on this point? I cannot conceive how one can recognize a republic where freedom of the press does not exist. Do you know what is a republican people, a democratic people? I know only one among the ancients. It’s not the Romans; in Rome, the people hardly spoke with freedom and only by insurrection, in the heat of factions, in the midst of punches, chairs, and clubs, which fell like hail around the forum; but true Republicans, permanent democrats, by principles and by instinct, were the Athenians. Not only did the sarcastic and clever people of Athens permit speaking and writing, but one sees by what remains of their theater that they had no more grand diversion than to see to play on the scene these generals, these ministers, these philosophers, these committees; and what is even more to their credit, of seeing themselves play there. Read Aristophanes, who made comedies three thousand years ago, and you will be shocked by the strange resemblance of Athens and democratic France. You will find there a Père Duchesne, as in Paris, the red caps, the ci-devant aristocrats, the orators, the magistrates, the motions of sessions absolutely like ours; you will find there the principal personages of the day; in a word, an antiquity of three thousand years of which we are contemporary. The only resemblance missing is that when the poets appeared in public at the Opera, sometimes in the guise of an old man, and sometimes in that of a young man, the author did not take even the penalty of disguising his name. And as for what he called the people, the people of Athens, far from being angry, they proclaimed Aristophanes the winner of the games, and encouraged by both cheers and garlands to laugh at their expense. As history attests, at the approach of the Bacchanalia, the judges of the theater and the jury of the arts were more occupied than all the Senate and all the Aeropagas put together, because of the great number of comedies which were sent to the contest.
Note that these comedies were so caustic against the ultra-revolutionaries and the proponents of the tribune of this time that, played under the magistrate Stratocles, 430 years before J.C , which if it had been translated would have sent its translator to the guillotine, played at the Revolutionary Tribunal, would stand the Cordeliers, by Hébert would support that the piece could only be of yesterday, the infernal invention of Fabre d'Églantine, against him Père Duchesne, and that it’s the translator who is the cause of the scarcity of food, and he would continue to swear it until the guillotine.
The Athenians were more indulgent and no less satirical than the French; far from sending to Sainte-Pélagie, still less to the Place de la Révolution, the author who, from one end of the piece to the other, had let fly the tracts most bloody against Pericles, Cleon, Lamachus, Alcibiades, against the committees and the presidents of the sections, and against the sections en masse, caused the sans-culottes to applaud wildly, and there was no person killed by the representation of those spectators who were dying of laughter themselves.
Let no one say that this freedom of the press and of the theater cost the life of a great man, and that Socrates drank a ciguë. There is nothing in common between the Clouds of Aristophanes and the death of Socrates, which will arrive twenty-three years after the first representation, and more than twenty years after the last. The poets and the philosophers have been a long time at war: Aristophanes set Socrates on stage, as Socrates set him in his sermons: the theater will revenge itself upon the school. It’s thus that Saint-Just and Barère set you in their reports of the Committee of Public Safety, because you set them in your newspaper; but what destroyed Socrates was not the satire of Aristophanes, who never killed anyone, it was the calamities of Anitus of Melitus who alleged that Socrates was the author of famine, because having spoken of the gods with irreverence in his dialogues, Minerva and Ceres no longer made the butter and the eggs appear at the market. So do not exchange the crime of two priests, of two hypocrites, of two false witnesses, for the freedom of the press, which can never hurt and is good for all.
Charming democracy, that of the sans-culottes of Athens ! Solon didn’t pass there for a dandy; he was regarded as no less than the model of legislators, and proclaimed by the oracle as the first of the seven sages, although he had not a single qualm in confessing his penchant for wine, women, and music; and his possession of wisdom was so well-established that today we pronounce his name in the Convention and at the Jacobins as one of the greatest legislators. How many among us has a reputation of aristocrats and Sardanapalus, who has not published a similar profession of faith!
And the divine Socrates, one day encountering a somber and dreamy Alcibiades, apparently because he was piqued at a letter from Aspasia: what’s wrong with you, said the most grave of Mentors? Have you lost your shield in battle? Have you been vanquished at the camp in the race, or at the armory? Has someone sung or played the lyre better than you at the table of general Nicias? This tale indicates their mores. What amiable republicans!
To speak only of their freedom of the press, the great renown of the schools of Athens came primarily from their liberty of speaking and writing, from the independence of their schools and of their police administrators. One reads in history that when the president of the section Sophocles wanted to submit the gardens of the schools of philosophy to the inspection of the Senate, the teachers closed the class; there were no longer masters or students, and the Athenians condemned Sophocles Momoro to a fine of 24,000 drachmas for his ill-considered motion. The name of the magistrate was unknown in the schools. It’s this independence which earns the school of Athens its superiority over those of Rhodes, Miletus, Marseille, Pergamum and Alexandria. O times of democracy! O republican mores! Where are you now?
Today you have, however, the honor of being a representative of the people, a little more than just an honorable member of the parliament of England, yet it is not evident that either you or anyone have accepted the function of deputy at the charge of being infallible and never allowing yourself to be deceived in your opinions, to you it is permitted to lie to yourself, even in a single expression ; and if a word comes to escape you for another, the word of clemency for that of justice, although in truth you have only asked that of Saint-Just, justice for the detained patriots that the Convention decrees; revealed in a flick of his wand, Hébert transforms this word of clemency in the banner of a new faction, more powerful, more dangerous, and of which you are the standard-bearer!
And how dare you write and be an author, when most do not dare to be readers, when three-fourths of your subscribers, at the false reports that you had been expelled from the Jacobins, and at the slightest noise, run like distraught hares to Desenne to clear their names, in fear of being suspected of having read.
Now that you are a member of the National Convention, be in good faith: dare to shout at the Deputy Minister of War, the grand personage Vincent for example, as courageously as you did four years ago at Necker and Bailly, Mirabeau, the Lameths, and Lafayette, when you were only a simple citizen!
We accept that, following the counsel of Pollion, you do not write against those who can proscribe; but dare you mention anyone who is in credit to the Cordeliers! And, taking only an example, dare you say that Momoro, who takes himself for a patriot without blemish, and before the flood, this bold president who, wherever he occupied the chair, at the club at his section, throws a rash hand a veil on the rights of man, and incites the citizens to rebellion against the Convention and the republic, is the same Momoro the printer in 1789, to whom you addressed yourself for your Free France, and who delayed as much as he could the printing of this writing, which he no doubt referred to the police, having been assured of the prodigious influence that he would have; this same Momoro, who entitles himself First Printer of Liberty, persisted in holding prisoner in his shop, as a suspect, this revolutionary tract whose printing was completed in the month of August; and when the Bastille fell, Momoro still refused to publish, who on the 14th of July, at 11:00 in the evening, you were obligated to make uproar at the door of this great patriot and would have threatened him with the lantern, if he didn’t give you your work back that the police had consigned to him; bravo, Momoro, your great denunciation, at the opening of districts and societies, and to return your work, it was necessary to give you a pass in writing from La Fayette who had been appointed commander-general, and this order was one of his first acts of authority! This burier of patriotic writings is today regarded as one of the foremost ultra-patriots, and the arbiter of our destinies at the Cordeliers, who now expels you, you and Dufourny, to acclamation.
Yet if only the law were communal and equal for everyone; if freedom of the press had the same bounds for all citizens! You, when you said that Hébert had received 120 million livres from Bouchotte, you produced his receipts. But to Hébert, not only is it permitted to say that you came to Pitt and to Coburg, that you are in league with the famine, and it’s you who are the cause that cattle does not come from the Vendée; but it is permitted to him, to him, to Vincent, to Momoro, to demand overtly at the tribune an insurrection and to cry to arms against the Convention. Certainly, if Philippeaux, Bourdon de l’Oise, or you had demanded an insurrection against Bouchotte or Vincent, you would have been guillotined in twenty-four hours. Where is thus this level of the law which, in a republic, falls equally on all heads?
I agree that those who cry so vehemently against clemency must find themselves well-pleased that, in this occasion, the Convention has employed clemency to their benefit. Many are dead, between the Tuileries and the Champs-Elysées, who had not spoken so audaciously as certain persons at this last session at the Cordeliers, which will be preserved in the annals of anarchy. Is there anything as criminal and detrimental to freedom as this mortuary drape that Momoro, under his double presidency at the section and at the Cordeliers, throws on the Declaration of Rights, this black veil, the red flag of the club against the Convention, and the signal of the tocsin? What’s more, when they’re about, these extravagant denunciations of Hébert that Paré is a second Roland, that me, I’m sold to Pitt and Cobourg, that Robespierre is a man astray, or that Philippeaux is the cause that hens do not come from Le Mans; when it’s about, such a report that this black veil has descended religiously on the statue of liberty by the pure hands of Momoro, of Hébert, or Ronsin, of Brochet, Brichet, Ducroquet, these vestals of the revolution? Is there anything more ridiculous? The doctors are as comic with their syringes in Molière’s scene, as the Cordeliers with their flags in the last session.
But to confine ourselves to the question of the freedom of the press, without doubt it must be unlimited ; without doubt republics have for their base and foundation the freedom of the press, not the other base bestowed upon them by Montesquieu. I will always think, and I never weary of repeating, as Loustalot said, that freedom of the press existed in a country where the most absolute despotism had set in the same hands all the powers, and it alone sufficed to act as an antidote; I am even persuaded that, for a reading public, the unlimited freedom to write in any case, even in times of revolution, would not be deleterious; by this sole sentinel, the republic will be sufficiently guarded against all vices, all knaves, all intrigues, all ambitions; and in a word, I am so strongly convinced of your sentiments on the benefits of this liberty, that I adopt all your principles in this matter, as the result of my profession of faith.
But the French people en masse are not yet great enough readers of newspapers, or clearly enlightened or instructed by the primary schools which are as yet only decreed by principle, to discern just a first glance between Brissot and Robespierre. Secondly, I don’t know if human nature is composed of this perfection which supports the unrestricted freedom of speaking and writing. I doubt if in any country, in the republics as well as in the monarchies, the government can support this unrestricted freedom. Aristophanes set Cleon and Alcibiades on the stage, but I suspect that over time Alcibiades became unpopular, and that he made a 31 May against Cleon, and that does not prove the superiority of Greek democracy, and the unrestricted freedom of theater in Athens, any more than that of our theater would be proved today by a comedy against the constituents or against the municipality of Bailly. The magistrates of Athens were made of the same metal as our magistrates and administrators, and were not in the mood to suffer the comedy of Aristophanes, nor today that of Fabre d'Églantine. The law of Antimachus at Athens, against personalities, the same as the law against Decemvirs written, proves that those who had the authority at Rome or at Athens, were not more enduring than Père Duchesne and Ronsin, and we do not hear more mocking in monarchies than in republics. I know that commentators have said that Aristophanes, in the Peloponnesian War, played a principal role in the republic, by his comedies; that he was less regarded as an author to amuse the nation, than as the censor of the government; Citizen Dacier calls him the arbiter of the fatherland. But these good times for authors lasted only a short time. The writer Antimachus, at the expense of whom Aristophanes had made all the city of Athens laugh, profiting from the fear of the thirty tyrants of such a free and biting censure, succeeded finally to push through under them the law against the pleasantries to which Pericles had himself constantly opposed, although Aristophanes would not have spared himself. He managed to even give his law a retroactive effect, and our old and gouty author was very happy to be allowed to leave for a fine. The triumvirate had been allowing Cicero, sexagenarian, to compose philosophical treaties at Tusculum, and like some senators, who were friends of the republic rather than republicans and who did not have the courage to fall on their swords like Cato and Brutus, to regret liberty, to seek out the bones of the old Romans and to engrave upon his seal a dog upon the prow of a ship, seeking his master. But yet Antony could not forgive him his famous Philippic and his no. 2 of the Old Cordelier.
They were so rare, even in Rome and Athens, men who, like Pericles, bombarded by insults upon leaving the section and driven home by a Père Duchesne who did not cease to shout at him that he was a coward, a man sold to the Lacedaemonians, are master enough of themselves and tranquil enough to say coolly to their domestics: take a torch and conduct the citizen home.
When unrestricted freedom of the press doesn’t find almost insurmountable boundaries in the vanity of people in place or in credit, sound policy alone would command to the good citizen who wants, not to satisfy his resentments, but to save the nation, to limit to himself this freedom of writing, and to not make to large bites of self-love, this balloon full of air, says Voltaire, out of which have come most tempests which disturbed empires and changed the form of governments. Cicero, who reproached Cato with having done so much harm to the republic by his untimely probity, made it much more so by his eloquence than by his setbacks and his divine Philippic. One sees by the historians that in the general corruption and bereavement of Rome, which had lost in the civil wars almost all that remained of virtuous men, if they had spared Marc Antony, more altered by voluptuousness than power, the republic could have prolonged its existence by some years, and dragged still further the malady of its decrepitude. Antony had abolished the name of dictator, after the death of Caesar; he had made peace with the murderers of the tyrant. While the coward Octavian, who had hidden himself behind the chariots of his army during the time of battle, vanquished by the sublime courage of Antony, basely insulted the corpse of Brutus which had been pierced by his sword, Antony shed tears for the last of the Roman, and covered him in his armor; also the prisoners, addressing Antony, called him by the name of imperator, but had only insults and contempt for the cowardly and cruel Octavian. But the old Cicero had made Antony, by his speech, an irreconcilable enemy of the republic and of a government which, by its nature, allowed a vivid painting of his vices and the unlimited freedom to write. Cicero, feeling that he had alienated Antony beyond return, and like all men, except Cato, so rare in the human species, who have sacrificed all without politics to his safety, more than that of his country, was obliged to caress Octavian, to oppose him to Antony, and to make himself thus a worse shield than a sword. The popularity and eloquence of Cicero made the bridge on which Octavian passed the command of armies, and, having arrived there, he broke the bridge. Thus, Cicero’s intemperance of language and the freedom of the press ruined the affairs of the republic as well as the virtue of Cato. In truth, my Old Cordelier, and to finish by a word which reconciles us a little together, and to prove that if you are a pessimist, I am not an optimist, I avow that, when virtue and freedom of the press become untimely, fatal to liberty, the republic, guarded by vices, is like a young girl whose honor is only defended by ambition and intrigue, and soon corrupts the sentry.
No, my old brothers, I have not changed my principles ; I still think as I wrote in one of my first editions ; the great remedy of the license of the press is in the freedom of the press ; it’s this lance of Achilles that heals the wounds it makes. Political liberty has no better arsenal than the press. There is this difference in favor of this kind of artillery, which is that the mortars of Alton spew death as well as those of Vandermersch. It is not the same in the war of writing; there is only the artillery of the good cause which overthrows everything that comes before it. Bribe dearly all the best artillery to support the wrong cause; promise ermine and fur to the honorable senators for Mounier, Lally, and Bergasse; give eight hundred farms to J-F Maury; make Rivarol captain of the guards; oppose them with the poorest writer, with good cause, and that good man will do more than the greatest villain. They inundated France with brochures against the revolution; against all those who support it; the Marquis of Favras peddled royalist pamphlets in the barracks; what has all that produced? By contrast, Marat boasts of having made the Parisians march to Versailles, and I believe that he played a great part in that celebrated day.
Let us be weary of repeating, to the honor of printing, that this is not the best general, but the best cause which triumphs in the battles in which we defeat the enemies of freedom and the nation. But, however incontestable are these principles, the freedom of speaking and writing is not an article of the Declaration of Rights more sacred than the others, all of which are supported to the most imperious and first of laws, the safety of the people; the freedom to come and go is also one of the articles of this Declaration of Rights; must we then say that the émigrés have the right to come and go, to leave the republic and return? The Declaration of Rights says also that all men are born and die free; do we thus conclude that the Republic ought not recognize the ci-devant aristocrats, and deal with suspects; that all citizens are equal before the committees of general security? That would be absurd; it would be equally absurd, if the revolutionary government had no right to restrict the freedom of property, and the opinion of the press, freedom to shout: long live the king or to arms, and insurrection against the Convention and the republic. I have especially doubted the theory of my no. 4 on the unrestricted freedom of the press, even in times of revolution, when I saw Plato, his head so well organized, so full of politics, of legislation and of knowledge of measures, demand as his first condition (in his treaty on laws, book 4) that in the city for which he proposed to make laws, there would be a tyrant (which is another thing entirely from the Committee of Public Safety and the Committee of General Security), and that it is necessary for citizens to have a preliminary government to succeed at rendering them happy and free.
But, even when the revolutionary government, by its nature, does not circumscribe to citizens the freedom of the press, the health of the body politic suffices to convince a patriot to limit this liberty by himself. I didn’t have to look far to find the example of Cicero, which I cited only a moment ago. What stronger evidence is there of the necessity of sometimes suppressing the truth and adjourning the freedom of the press, than that which is offered this moment in our current political situation!
It was three months ago that Robespierre said he had counter-revolutionaries among us; of even our veteran Jacobins, venerable by their medallions and their scars, all the best citizens, Boucher, Sauveur, Raffron, Rhull, Julien de la Drôme, Jean Bon Saint-André, Robert Lindet, Charlier, Bréard, Danton, Legendre, Thuriot, Guffroy, Duquesnoy, Milhaud, Bourdon de l'Oise, Fréron, Drouet, Dubois-Crancé, Simon, Le Cointre de Versailles, Merlin de Thionville, Ysabeau, Tallien, Poulletier, Rovère, Perrin, Calès, Musset, les deux Lacroix, and even Billaud-Varenne, Barère, Jay de Sainte-Foix, Saint-Just, C. Duval, Collot d'Herbois, although they were the last to agree ; I would have named almost all the Mountain, if I had wanted to make a roll call : all, and it would be easy to show, the newspapers at hand, all told, at the Jacobins, or the Convention, the same thing in other words as Maure, three months ago, that popular patriotic societies had risen like mushrooms, and their ultra-revolutionary creed was very keen to reverse the revolution.
Charmed at seeing so many of my recommendable colleagues come to the idea which had been forming in my head for more than a year, that if the hope of counter-revolution is not a chimera and a mania, it would only be by the exaggeration that Pitt and Coburg could do what they had tried unsuccessfully for four years by moderation, at the first lifting of shields, three months ago. In seeing some of my colleagues whom I esteem the most, famous patriots back into battle against the royalist army within, outrun the second line of ultra, who came to the aid of the first line of Feuillants or the moderates; and as I have always been on the same plan, and of all the parties, I still wanted to be of such a beautiful expedition.
I saw that this revolution that Pitt has not been able to enact for four years, with such men of spirit, is undertaken today by ignorance, with the Bouchottes, the Vincents, and the Hébertistes.
I saw a system predicated upon defamation against all the old patriots, all the most proven republicans; there is not a commissioner of the Convention, almost not even a montagnard who has not been libeled in the pages of the pages of Père Duchesne; the imagination of new conspirators had failed to invent a plan of counter-revolution; the first day Ronsin would come to the Convention, as Cromwell in parliament at the head of a handful of proud reds, and repeating the words of Pere Duchesne, we would have charged absolutely the same speech as the Protector: "You are jean-foutres, the cowards, the gourgandines, of Sardanapalus, knaves, who drink the blood of the poor people, who have people to do their dirty work while the poor people are hungry, etc.. etc.. "
I saw that the Hébertistes were evidently in coalition, at least indirectly with Pitt, because Pitt holds his principle force in the pages of Hébert’s journal, and has only to make certain insensitive motions, and to reprint the pages of the Père Duchesne, to crush the party of the opposition, and close the people to all those who, in the three kingdoms, call for a revolution, in showing the delirium of these pages, and repeating this speech to the English: “Will you now be jealous of this liberty of the French; do you like this goddess spoiled with blood, whose high priests Hébert, Momoro and their ilk, dare to ask that the temple be constructed, as that of Mexico, from the bones of three million citizens, and cry without cease, at the Jacobins, at the commune, at the Cordeliers, as the Spanish priests at Montezuma? The gods are thirsty! ... "
- Music:Il pleut, il pleut, bergère
[First half of Le Vieux Cordelier no. 6. still in progress, and there's still some rough spots, but hopefully it's somewhat readable.]
LE VIEUX CORDELIER no. 6 by Camille Desmoulins
LIVE FREE OR DIE
Decadi 10 Nivose, first week, second year of the republic, one and indivisible.
Peregrinatus est, in animas ejus nequitia not habitavit.
Camille Desmoulins made a display of wit with the aristocrats, but he has always been a good Republican, and it is impossible for him to be anything else.
(Attestation of Collot, and Robespierre, session of the Jacobin).
Although I did not make a decree, far from fabricating, as the immortal author of Philinte Encore que je n'aie point fait rendre de décret, loin d'en avoir fabriqué, comme on en accuse l'auteur immortel de Philinte, sur lequel on me permettra de suspendre mon jugement définitif jusqu'au rapport ; encore que j'aie pensé que le meilleur canot pour se sauver du naufrage était, pour un député, le coffre vide de Bias, ou le coffre vidé de mon beau-père (V. infra) ; et si la calomnie, compulsant mon grand-livre, au sortir de la Convention, et trouvant sur les feuillets zéro, comme le 21 septembre 1792, était forcée de me rendre cette justice : is accused of, on which you must permit me to suspend my definite judgement until the report; although I thought the best dinghy to escape a shipwreck was, for a deputy, the empty chest of Bias, or the emptied chest of my father-in-law (see below); and if the slanderers were to peruse my ledger at the end of the Convention, they would find on its sheets nothing, as on September 21, 1792, and would be forced to allow me this justice:
Jean s'en alla comme il était venu ; John left like he came;
However, today, 24 Nivose, considering that Toutefois cejourd'hui 24 Nivôse, considérant que Fabre d'Églantine, l'inventeur du nouveau calendrier, vient d'être envoyé au Luxembourg, avant d'avoir vu le quatrième mois de son annuaire républicain ; considérant l'instabilité de l'opinion, et voulant profiter du moment où j'ai encore de l'encre, des plumes et du papier, et les deux pieds sur les chenets, pour mettre ordre à ma réputation et fermer la bouche à tous les calomniateurs passés, présents et à venir, je vais publier ma profession de foi politique, et les articles de la religion dans laquelle j'ai vécu et je mourrai, soit d'un boulet, soit d'un stylet, soit dans mon lit, soit de la mort des philosophes, comme dit le compère Mathieu.Fabre d'Eglantine, the inventor of the new calendar, has just been sent to Luxembourg, before seeing the fourth month of the Republican Year; considering the instability of opinion and wanting to enjoy the time I still have with ink, pens and paper, and both feet on the andirons, to put my reputation in order and close the mouths of all the slanderers, past, present and future, I will publish my political credo, and the articles of the religion in which I have lived and in which I will die, whether by a bullet or a stylus, whether in my bed, or in the mort des philosophes, as said the compère Mathieu.
On a prétendu que ma plus douce étude était de charmer les soucis des aristocrates, au coin de leur feu, dans les longues soirées d'hiver, et que c'était pour verser sur leur plaies l'huile du Samaritain, que j'avais entrepris ce journal aux frais de Pitt. It’s been alleged that my smoothest work was to sooth the troubles of aristocrats at their fireside, in the long winter evenings, and it was to pour on their wounds the oil of the Samaritan that I had undertaken this journal at the expense of Pitt. La meilleure réponse, c'est de publier le credo politique du Vieux Cordelier, et je fais juge tout lecteur honnête, si M. Pitt et les aristocrates peuvent s'accommoder de mon credo, et si je suis de leur église. The best response is to publish the political credo of le Vieux Cordelier, and any honest reader can judge, whether Mr. Pitt and the aristocrats can accommodate my credo, and whether I am of their church.
Je crois encore aujourd'hui, comme je ce croyais au mois de juillet 1789, comme j'osais alors l'imprimer en toutes lettres, dans ma France libre, page 57 : “ que le gouvernement populaire et la démocratie est la seule constitution qui convienne à la France et à tous ceux qui ne sont pas indignes du nom d'hommes ”. I still believe today, as I believed in July 1789, when I then dared print in words, in my la France Libre, page 57: "popular government and democracy is the only constitution suitable for France and for all who are not unworthy of the name of men."
On peut être partagé d'opinion, comme l'étaient Cicéron et Brutus, sur les meilleures mesures révolutionnaires et sur le moyen le plus efficace de sauver la république, sans que Cicéron conclût de ce seul dissentiment que Brutus recevait des guinées de Photin, le premier ministre de Ptolémée. One can share the opinion, as did Cicero and Brutus, on the best revolutionary measures and on the most effective means of saving the republic, without which Cicero would conclude, from a single disagreement, that Brutus was receiving guineas of Photinus, the Prime Minister of Ptolemy. Je pense donc encore comme dans le temps où je faisais cette réponse à Marat, au mois d'avril 1791, pendant le voyage de Saint-Cloud, lorsqu'il m'envoyait l'épreuve de son fameux numéro : Aux armes! I think still, as in the days when I made this response to Marat in April 1791, during the voyage of St. Cloud, when he sent me proof of his famous number: Aux armes! ou c’en est fait de nous, with the footnotes and changes in his hand, which I conserve, and which he consulted me about on this proof: "Always print, my dear Marat; I will defend in your person patriotism and freedom of the press until death. ” Mais je crois que pour établir la liberté il suffirait, si on voulait, de la liberté de la presse et d'une guillotine économique, qui frappât tous les chefs et tranchât les complots sans tomber sur les erreurs." But I believe to establish freedom it would suffice, if we wanted, in the freedom of the press and an frugal guillotine, which would smote all the chiefs and slice through all plots without falling in error.
Je crois qu'un représentant n'est pas plus infaillible qu'inviolable. I believe that a representative is no more infallible than inviolable. Quand même le salut du peuple devrait, dans un moment de révolution, restreindre aux citoyens la liberté de la presse, je crois que jamais on ne peut ôter à un député le droit de manifester son opinion ; je crois qu'il doit lui être permis de se tromper ; que c'est en considération de ses erreurs que le peuple français a un si grand nombre de représentants, afin que celles des uns puissent être redressées par les autres. When even the public safety should, in a time of revolution, restrict its citizens freedom of the press, I think we can never deprive a deputy of the right to express his opinion; I believe he should be allowed to make mistakes: that it is in consideration of his mistakes that the French people have such a great number of representatives, so that the mistakes of some can be corrected by the others. Je crois que, sans cette liberté d'opinion indéfinie, il n'existe plus d'assemblées nationales ; je crois que le titre de député ne serait plus qu'un canonicat, et nos séances des matines bien longues, si nous n'étions obligés de méditer dans le silence du cabinet ce qu'il ya de plus utile à la république ; et, après que notre jugement a pris son parti sur une question, d avoir le courage de dire notre sentiment à la tribune, au risque de nous faire une foule d'ennemis. I believe that without this unlimited freedom of opinion, there would be no more national assemblies; I believe that the title of deputy would be no more than canonry, and our morning sessions very long indeed if we were required to meditate in the silence of a cabinet that is of no more use to the Republic, and, after that our judgment has made up its mind on an issue, to have the courage to express our views at the podium, at the risk of making a host of enemies. Il est écrit : Que celui qui résiste à l'Eglise soit pour vous comme un païen et un publicain. Mais le sans-culotte Jésus n'a point dit dans son livre : Que celui qui se trompe soit pour vous comme un païen et un publicain. It is written: ‘He who resists the Church should be seen by you as a heathen and a publican.’ But the sans-culotte Jesus did not say in his book: He who has made a mistake should be seen by you as a heathen and a publican. Je crois que l'anathème ne peut commencer de même pour le député, non lorsqu'il se trompe, mais lorsque son opinion ayant été condamnée par la Convention et le concile il ne laisserait pas d'y persister, et se ferait un hérésiarque. I believe, the same way, that such an anathema cannot be begun for the deputy; not when he is mistaken, but when his opinion is condemned by the Convention and the council, it would not be allowed to persist and would be heretical.
Ainsi, par exemple, dans mon numéro 4, quoique la note et la parenthèse ouverte aussitôt montrent que c'est un comité de justice que je voulais dire, lorsque j'ai dit un comité de clémence, puisque ce mot nouveau a fait le scandale des patriotes ; puisque, Jacobins, Cordeliers et toute la montagne l'ont censuré, et que mes amis, Fréron et A. For example, in my fourth issue, even though the footnote and open parenthesis show immediately that I meant a Committee of Justice when I said a Committee of Clemency, since this new expression made a scandal with the patriots, seeing as Jacobins, Cordeliers, and the whole Montagne have censured it, and that my friends, Freron and A. Ricord fils, n'ont pu s'empêcher eux-mêmes de m'écrire de Marseille que j'avais péché ; je deviendrais coupable si je ne me hâtais de supprimer moi-même mon comité et d'en dire ma coulpe, ce que je fais avec une contrition parfaite. Ricord fils, couldn’t help writing me from Marseille to tell me I have sinned, I would become guilty if I didn’t hasten to suppress my Committee myself, and say mea culpa, which I am doing here with perfect contrition.
D'ailleurs, Fréron et Ricord parlent bien à leur aise. Moreover, Freron and Ricord speak excellently at ease. On sent que la clémence serait hors de saison au port de la montagne, et dans tel pays d'où j'entendais dénoncer l'autre jour, au comité de sûreté générale, que la nouvelle de la prise de Toulon y avait été reçue comme une calamité, et que, huit jours avant, la plupart avaient déjà mis bas la cocarde. One feels that leniency would be out of place at the port of the mountain, and in this country where I heard it denounced the other day, to the Committee of General Security, that the news of the capture of Toulon had been received as a calamity, and that, eight days before, most had already put down their cockade. Certes, si là j'avais été envoyé commissaire de la Convention, et moi aussi j'aurais été un André Dumont et un Laplanche. Certainly, if I was sent here as a Commissioner of the Convention, and I, too, had been a Laplanche or an André Dumont. Mais les lois révolutionnaires, comme toutes les lois en général, sont des remèdes nécessairement subordonnés au climat et au tempérament du malade ; et les meilleures, administrées hors de saison, peuvent le faire crever. But the revolutionary laws, like all laws in general, are remedies necessarily subordinate to the climate and temperament of the patient; and the best, administered out of season, can result in the worst. Prends donc garde, Fréron, que je n'écrivais pas mon numéro 4 à Toulon, mais ici, où je t'assure que tout le monde est au pas, et qu'il n'est pas besoin de l'éperon du Père Duchesne, mais plutôt de la bride du Vieux Cordelier ; et je te vais le prouver sans sortir de chez moi et par un exemple domestique. Therefore be reminded, Fréron, that I did not write my fourth issue in Toulon, but here, where I assure you that everyone is in pace, and where there is not so much need for the spur of Pere Duchesne, but instead for the bridle of le Vieux Cordelier; and I'll prove this to you through a domestic example, without leaving my own house.
Tu connais mon beau-père, le citoyen Duplessis, bon roturier et fils d'un paysan, maréchal ferrant du village. You know my father in law, the citizen Duplessis, a good plebeian and son of a peasant, the village blacksmith. Eh bien ! Well! avant-hier, deux commissaires de la section de Mutius Scœvola (la section de Vincent, ce sera te dire tout) montent chez lui ; ils trouvent dans la bibliothèque des livres de droit ; et nonobstant le décret qui porte qu'on ne touchera point à Domat, ni à Charles Dumoulin, bien qu'ils traitent des matières féodales, ils font main-basse sur la moitié de la bibliothèque, et chargent deux crocheteurs des livres paternels. The day before yesterday, two commissioners of the section of Mutius Scaevola (the section of Vincent, it will tell you all) came to his home. They found the library of law books, and, despite the decree stating that neither Domat or Charles Dumoulin would be touched, though they deal with feudal matters, they helped themselves to half of the library, and loaded two porters with paternal books. Ils trouvent une pendule dont la pointe de l'aiguille était, comme la plupart des pointes d'aiguilles, terminée en trèfle ; il leur semble que cette pointe a quelque chose d'approchant d'une fleur de lis ; et nonobstant le décret qui ordonne de respecter les monuments des arts, ils confisquent la pendule. They found a clock whose pendulum tip, like most, ended in trefoil; they felt that this tip looked was something like a fleur de lis, and, despite the decree ordering to respect monuments of art, they confiscated the clock. Notez bien qu'il y avait à côté une malle sur laquelle était l'adresse fleurdelisée du marchand. Note that there was next to it a trunk on which was an address fleurdelis’d of the merchant. Ici il n'y avait pas moyen de nier que ce fût une belle et bonne fleur de lis ; mais comme la malle ne valait pas un corset, les commissaires se contentent de rayer les lis, au lieu que la malheureuse pendule, qui vaut bien 1 200 livres, est, malgré son trèfle, emportée par eux-mêmes qui ne se fiaient pas aux crocheteurs d'un poids si précieux ; et ce, en vertu du droit que Barère a appelé si heureusement le droit de préhension, quoique le décret s'opposât, dans l'espèce, à l'application de ce droit. Here there was no way to deny it was a good and beautiful fleur de lis, but as the trunk itself was not worth a corset, the commissioners merely scratched out the fleur de lis, unlike the unfortunate pendulum, well worth 1200 livres, which was, despite its trefoil, carried away by the commissioners themselves, as they did not trust the porters with such a precious burden; and this in virtue of the law which Barere has so happily called the law of prehension; although the decree precludes, in this case, the application of the law. Enfin, notre duumvirat sectionnaire, qui se mettait ainsi au-dessus des décrets, trouve le brevet de pension de mon beau-père, qui, comme tous les brevets de pension, n'étant pas de nature à être porté sur le grand-livre de la république, était demeuré dans le portefeuille, et qui, comme tous les brevets de pension possibles, commençait par ce protocole Louis, etc. Finally, our duumvirate sectional, who put themselves above decrees, found my father-in-law’s patent of pension which, like all patents of pension, is not likely to be on the ledger of the republic, had remained in its folder, and, like all possible patents of pension, began with the protocol ‘Louis, etc..’Ciel ! Heavens! s'écrient les commissaires, le nom du tyran !… Et après avoir retrouvé leur haleine, suffoquée d'abord par l'indignation, ils mettent en poche le brevet de pension, c'est-à-dire 1 000 livres de rente ; et emportent la marmite. cry the Commissioners, the name of the tyrant! ... And after regaining their breath, choking with indignation, they pocket the patent of pension, 1,000 livres, in other words, and take away the pot. Autre crime. The other crime? Le citoyen Duplessis, qui était premier commis des finances sous Clugny, avait conservé, comme c'était l'usage, le cachet du contrôle général d'alors. Citizen Duplessis, who was the chief clerk of finances under Clugny, kept the stamp of general control at the time, as was the custom. Un vieux portefeuille de commis, qui était au rebut, oublié au-dessus d'une armoire dans un tas de poussière, et auquel il n'avait pas touché ni même pensé depuis dix ans peut-être, et sur lequel on parvint à découvrir l'empreinte de quelques fleurs de lis, sous deux doigts de crasse, acheva de compléter la preuve que le citoyen Duplessis était suspect, et le voilà, lui, enfermé jusqu'à la paix, et le scellé mis sur toutes les portes de cette campagne où tu te souviens, mon cher Fréron, que décrétés tous deux de prise de corps, après le massacre du Champ-de-Mars, nous trouvions un asile que le tyran n'osait violer. An old clerk’s portfolio, discarded and forgotten on top of a cabinet in a pile of dust, untouched or even thought of for perhaps ten years, and on which one could make out, under two fingers’ worth of dirt, the imprints of several fleur-de-lis, completed the proof that the citizen Duplessis was suspect, and voila, he, confined until the peace, and the seal put on all doors of this campaign, you remember, my dear Freron, that decreed both of the arrests, after the massacre of the Champ de Mars, we find an asylum that the tyrant did not dare violate.
Le plaisant de l'histoire, c'est que ce suspect était devenu le sexagénaire le plus ultrà que j'aie encore vu. The irony in the story is that this suspect had become the most ultra sexagenarian I have yet seen. C'était le père Duchesne de la maison. This was the Père Duchesne of the house. A l'entendre, on ne coffrait que des conspirateurs, tout au moins des aristocrates, et la guillotine chômait encore trop souvent. According to him, we would confine not only conspirators, at least all aristocrats, and the guillotine is idle too often. Je crois que s'il n'avait été un peu plus content de mon numéro 5 il m'aurait fermé la porte du logis. I think if he had been a little more content with my number 5 he would have closed the door of the house. Aussi, la première fois que j'allai le voir aux Carmes, la piété filiale fut moins forte en moi que le comique de la situation ; et il me fut impossible de ne pas rire aux éclats de ce compliment qui venait si naturellement, et avec lequel je le saluai : “ Eh bien ! Also, the first time I went to see the Carmelites, the filial piety in me was not as strong as the comedy of the situation, and it was impossible not to laugh out loud at the compliment which came so naturally, and with which I greeted him: "Well! cher père, trouvez-vous encore qu'il n'ya que les contre-révolutionnaires qui sifflent la linotte ? dear father, do you still find that it is only counter-revolutionaries who can down a bottle?” ” Cette anecdote répond à tout, et j'espère que Xavier Audouin ne fera plus, à la séance des Jacobins, cette question : “ Hommes lâches, qui prétendez arrêter le torrent de la révolution, que signifient ces nouvelles dénominations d'extrà, d'ultrà-révolu-tionnaires ?This anecdote answers everything, and I hope Xavier Audouin will no longer make, at the meeting of the Jacobins, this question: "Cowardly men, who pretends to stop the torrent of the revolution, what is the meaning of these new names of extra, of ultra-revolutionaries?” Je viens d'en donner, je pense, un échantillon." I have just given, I think, a sample. Car, enfin il n'est dit nulle part, dans les instructions sur le gouvernement révolutionnaire, que M. Brigandeau, ci-devant en bonnet carré au Châtelet, maintenant en bonnet rouge à la section, pourra mettre sous son bras une pendule, parce que la pointe de l'aiguille se termine en trèfle, et dans sa poche mon brevet de pension, parce que ce brevet commençait, comme tous les brevets de pension des quatre-vingt-six départements, par ce mot, Louis, roi, qui se trouve aussi dans tous les livres. For, after all, it is nowhere stated in the instructions on the revolutionary government, that M. Brigandeau, formerly in the square cap at the Chatelet, now in a bonnet rouge in the section, can stick a clock under his arm simply because the tip of its needle ends in trefoil, and, in his pocket, my patent of pension, because the patent began, like all patents of pension of the eighty-six departments, with the words, “Louis, king,”, which can also be found in all books. Et nous n'avons pas fait la révolution seulement pour que M. Brigandeau changeât de bonnet. And we have not made a revolution solely so Mr. Brigandeau can change his hat.
Je reviens à mon credo.