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The Vieux Cordelier Translation Project!
vivre libre ou mourir
Le Vieux Cordelier III part 2 
23rd-Jul-2013 01:18 am

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.

. . . bonjour.