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simone_remy in melkam

Speech made by Camille Desmoulins, notable 24/07/1792 on the position of the capital ~ first extract

This was an important speech for Camille. As the date indicates it's less than three weeks away from August 10 and must have been instrumental in shaping those events even though they may have been longer in the planning. He sets out some interesting ideas, I'm particularly interested in the lost idea of replacing the King with two honoured men of the revolution.
It's very long so I've cut out a lot of quite interesting references to English history, the Monmouth Rebellion. Judge Jeffreys et al. The full speech is available in Gallica if you want more. So here goes.......

Throughout history politicians have been aware that a great city is an immense threat to despotism.
We know that when Peter the Great was asked if he admired Paris the Czar replied 'if I had such a big city my first concern would be to reduce it by half.'
Our kings have not reduced Paris by a half, but to diminish the danger from such a large population they have resorted to the shrewd tactic of tying public wellbeing to the peace and prosperity of the tyrants. It is a deeply political policy in as much as it has created endless loans to pay for the unrestrained expenditure of the court. This has the advantage of involving equally the rich and the poor, master and servant, idle youth and feeble age. The despots have made an art out of mortgaging public wealth for their own benefit and making every citizen a creditor, so that they must all support their debtors or be ruined by them. Thus it is that in our own time we have seen Potemkin maintain a lifelong unshakeable credit because he had the art to borrow money from three quarters of Russia. Plutarch tells us that when Julius Caesar wanted to become a great pontiff he borrowed enormous sums from all sides. In this way he gained the votes of the poor, by buying them and the votes of the rich because they were frightened they would not be repaid. In fact on the day of the election Caesar said to his mother 'by tonight I will become either a great pontiff or a bankrupt'. We saw the same effect when M. de Lafayette was to be sent to Orleans, we could see how this thought filled a certain person with the fear of ruination. It was a curious thing for a observer to see how much concern the notary Brichard showed for the General, his debtor; how he wrote of him 'within and without the walls everyone speaks of his glory'. There can be no doubt that it is this which has so powerfully infected Paris with royalist sympathies. The division of France into 83 departments and a constitution which, at base, is completely republican allows a glimpse of a possible future in which there is a confederation of departments; a possible dismemberment of the empire and such a great draining away of taxes can only alarm a capital city entirely populated by those whose income is totally dependent on taxation, and of retailers who cannot support themselves unless Paris remains the centre of all skills, the meeting place of all the wealthy and the capital of the empire. Since these people cannot see any link but royalty cementing these 83 departments all the bourgeoisie believe that they must apply their efforts to strengthening this link. They must bind the people and the monarchy more tightly because they think it is only this indissolubility which safeguards their fortunes.

This is how it is for the wealthy, the merchants and the well to do throughout our country. Neither patriots or aristocrats, after having made the 1789 revolution with the people against the King, in order to avoid bankruptcy and the daylight robbery of the court, now they want to make the counter revolution, with the King against the people in order to escape the imaginary pillage of the sans culottes.

They are so horrified by the nightmare of an agrarian law and they have heard so many speaking of the Jacobins as brigands, that the notaries of Paris are more afraid of our clubs than of the Austrians or Prussians. I am going to set out, to these people, the position of the capital. I am going to speak in their own language,using their own passions and interests to make them understand, in place of their foolish fears, the real dangers to Paris and to their properties. They will understand that the same measures which they believe will prevent the loss of their fortunes will actually make that loss inevitable. And they must understand that Paris cannot spare fifteen days to deliberate if they want to avoid utter ruin.

As I showed, four years ago, the capital can easily be aroused, by the French constitution, by admiration and adoption of our laws to the same degree of splendour and prosperity as some towns of antiquity by shipping commerce and conquest. Indeed gentlemen, today wealth will arrive in the bosom of Paris not only by way of the Var and the Sambre but also the Elbe and the Tagus. This wealth will be more honourable to the capital since it will not arrive mingled with the blood of the people but through legislation,philosophy and the nobility of enlightenment. Recall the glory days of Rome and Carthage, of Tyre and Athens. Such would be the flourishing state of the capital if we had not rejected the alliance of the Belgians and Liegeois two years ago; if the patriots had not been ceaselessly misled down paths that were more and more deadly for three years by advisers who were either treacherous or blind; if they had not ignored our speeches, which they termed incendiary but which were proved to be prophetic; if they had not taken pains to defame our constitution abroad, by the disasters in our colonies, the flames in Courtray and by accusing the patriots of the execrable crimes of the executive. It was shrewd conspirators who actually committed these crimes expressly for the design and joy of blaming them on the people.

Four years of treachery has certainly changed the face of the business of the party of Liberty. The politicians in the council of the despots certainly know how difficult it is going to be to place us back under the yoke. They know perfectly well that we are country which has just modernised itself and has revived the rights of man. It is in vain that in their despair after the fall of the Bastille, the emigres, the Tuileries and even the nobles in the Constituent Assembly call ceaselessly on the tyrants of Europe for assistance.

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