Society of the Friends of the People, 9th of October 1831.
The new persecutions of authority against patriots and the liberty of the press have, this time, delayed the publication of our brochure. We are angry about it for the sake of those of our fellow citizens who, sympathizing with the purity of our principles, come to draw public instruction from us. As for ourselves, we do not complain: it is a triumph to suffer for the cause of liberty and equality.
Poland is dead; it’s our turn!
It isn’t true, as the enemies of liberty allege, that a state which recognizes the sovereignty of the people as a base must make war the essential principle of its existence. But assisting the peoples’ emancipation against the power of tyrants is a sacred duty for a free nation.
The government which was imposed upon France after July has not done so; in making deals with kings against the independence of nations, it has paid for its welcome in the Holy Alliance through the promise to crush the revolution of the barricades, and to give up foreign patriots to their absolutist executioners; and it has kept this promise more faithfully than the promises made at the Hôtel de Ville. Through it, the judges of Charles X have had their victims, the streets of Paris their persecutions, Italy its scaffolds, Belgium its proconsul, Spain its massacres of constitutionalists, and Warsaw its tomb. Yes! (and we cannot shout it any louder) it was by virtue of a counter-revolutionary treaty, approved by the cabinet of the Palais-Royal, in the interest of dynasties and at the expense of the peoples’ liberty, that Poland perished. Nothing could touch our egotistical aristocrats: not the services rendered to France by the Poles, not the noble nature of their insurrection, not the fraternal sympathy of 33 million Frenchmen, not the cries of distress from our second fatherland. Alone, without friends, without allies, without ammunition, without clothing, almost without bread, Poland struggled for a year against the three united scourges of the barbarian invasion, cholera, and betrayal. And then she died, seeing us fail to come to her aid, forced to curse both our deceptive promises and our sterile sympathy, whose effect was a hundred times more grievous for her than Nicholas’ honest enmity.
Everything there is to say about this terrible catastrophe has been said, and unlike the Chamber of Deputies we have no intention of stirring, with no profit for the future, the cold dust that all the beautiful speeches in the world could not reanimate. Today the veil has been torn. Thanks to betrayal, our revolution has fallen into a cramped labyrinth which has only invasion and servitude at its center. The frightful and sad future is already here, upon us like a giant; it is pushing us, it is pressing us.
The north and the east of France are defenseless. Between now-Cossack Warsaw and the banks of the Rhine, what do we have? Prussia and Austria, the accomplices of our brothers’ death. Between the banks of the Rhine and Paris? Despair and misery, a corrosive stagnation, the product of deceived waiting, associations against the invasion declared rebellious, mobile guards killed in their enthusiasm, and five or six guns per rural community, to push back the foreign invaders.
If by dint of abasement and opprobrium, by dint of dragging the July Revolution through the mud, by dint of kissing the hand that has just assassinated Poland, the cabinet of the Palais-Royal manages to stop the autocrat’s march, that will not let us escape the fatality of our destiny; the only difference is that we will pass through the shackles and the gags of the juste milieu before arriving at the barbarians’ Caudine Forks. The great voice in Europe which shouted “Shame upon the French government!” has just expired; no more troublesome clamor for our Périers and our Sebastianis, and if in their dreams the heroes of Ostrolenka who fill the graves of Warsaw come to torment and pursue them, the money of an ever-expanding budget and the kickbacks of uncontrolled power will erase these grim images when they wake up.
For us, heartless men who will have done nothing but exchange money and give charity concerts to acquit a blood debt, our our complaints will be stifled more than ever as those of a vile flock. We have had laws of arbitrariness and privilege: we will have laws of exceptions. Today the prisons are full: new ones will be built. But it will be then, when we are well and truly humiliated, divided, exhausted, when hunger and misery have overwhelmed us, that Europe in coalition will hear our death-knell ringing; and that will be the moment for them to have us cheaply, and the total loss of our liberties will shortly give the signal for a Third Restoration.
And then it will be known, too late, which was more sincere: the monarchs’ protocols or their old forty-year hatred of the French people. And then we will learn, too late, that the misfortunes of peoples always come from their governments’ crimes. And then we will ask ourselves why the National Guard, formerly so active against riots, was so constantly blind to the cause that gave it birth? And seeing itself invaded and defenseless, France will say: “Where are my treasures, which the government that followed the barricades extracted from me under the pretext of raising and equipping armies?”
But those billions, the product of the people’s sweat, will have served only to feed the pride of a few bourgeois aristocrats, and their least questionable effect will have been to add financiers to the nobles, and a handful of lawyers to the traitors of the Restoration. And then the Cossacks, who camped twice in the Tuileries to support the Bourbons, will come and camp there again a third time to protect the same race against democratic vengeance, and perhaps we will finally be persuaded that from branch to branch, from relative to relative, the enmities of princes are much less durable than the lines of despots against the people.
And in the shadow of the white flag (or perhaps, who knows, under the shadow of the tricolor flag) we will see royalist scaffolds raised to punish those who cry, “Vengeance for France!” as once was saw spies armed and paid to assassinate and imprison those who cried, “Vengeance for Poland!”
Perhaps at that moment, in a magnificent carriage, some minister of the king will pass by; and if the people’s clamour strikes his ear; and if they stop his horses to demand an accounting of his crimes, he will turn insolently to the people and say to them, as he says today, “What do you want of me?”
What do we want? Justice and nothing but justice against the men who bear, like Cain, Poland’s blood on their foreheads, whose hearts are unmoved at the voices of all the murdered peoples, just like the groans one lets out in a tomb will not reawaken the corpses.
If ministerial responsibility were not a cruel derision insolently written into a patchwork charter, today would mark the beginning of a great trial against France, which is threatened on all sides, and against Louis-Philippe’s government. But for the ministers, around whom so many patriots’ blood is still steaming, for the public officials, guilty of impoverishing and dishonoring France, would a monetary fine or a soft prison term be enough? No, no! For lying ministers, responsibility is death1.
1 Quote from Isnard to the minister Narbonne, who was giving his pledge to the Convention.