1 ~, M. le Tellier is the author of this pamphlet and has just been arrested and taken to l’Abbaye. The Lantern is opposed to the principles of this lawyer, who is an enemy of progress, but she will make no less loud a complaint that he has been wronged when the nation raises an altar to press freedom. The sun shines for the bad as well as the good. Today press freedom is violated in the person of an aristo writer, but when the thirty tyrants erased the list of citizens Theramenes wrote ‘it is no more difficult for Critias to wipe out your role as citizen than to erase Theramenes. We must make a big fuss and demand freedom for this poor devil of an author and make an example of Miromesnil, who, despite bearing a hated name, knew how to insinuate himself among the representatives of the commune, and who, in his role as head of the police committee, ordered the detention of M. le Tellier. When Beauvilliers was sent to l’Abbaye, certainly with good cause, every gourmet in Paris rose up in defence of this cook. Yet when press freedom is violated by an imprisonment no one speaks up for the writer! Parisians are like the Athenians to whom Socrates said ‘I am a doctor, I plead my case against a pastry cook, and you are children, so I will lose my case’
Oh Athenians of the eighteenth century will you never grasp the need for press freedom? What more certain gauge of civil and political freedom is there? Press freedom – and after that – still press freedom.
‘But,’ the good priest will exclaim, ‘will you allow them to write poison?’
Don’t you see father that what you call poison and place on the index, curé Rabaut describes as balm for the spirit? Obviously a mother should keep watch on what her daughter reads. Fathers and mothers can exercise a domestic censorship which the National Assembly would not consider overruling. Any other censorship is just a form of inquisition. When it is poison, to use your terms M. le curé, how will you respond to the citizen who tells you ‘I love this poison’ or like Sganarelle’s wife ‘I want to be beaten’? Abbé Maury will still exclaim ‘they will libel me, they will accuse me of crimes’ ‘Me too’ exclaims d’Epresmenil ‘they will call me a cuckold.’ Gentlemen, I have three responses;
You know that Cato was betrayed and libelled seventy times. Was he any less wise? He obligingly lent his wife to his friend Hortensius and according to Virgil, led to him being acclaimed as chief of cuckolds, past, present and future. Was he a less honest man? Be like Cato and you will have nothing to fear from press freedom.
The press is like that lance which heals the injuries it has caused. Knapen published an anecdote claiming that M. Defontaine was in receipt of 20,000 livres from M.de Clugny, a certain presumption of cuckolding. Many people here say there’s nothing wrong with being cuckolded, but if you disagree, go and get Grangé to print a denial of the anecdote; Abbé Aubert is still offering his services; for 80 sous he will refute the fact in his posters and your honour will be restored; sooner or later the truth will out
If you are libelled, accuse the author; without doubt the law of twelve tables, which condemned all liars and libellers to death, was too severe. As Montesquieu observed this law was made by the décemvirs, great aristocrats who were enemies of press freedom. Since then a letter C is branded on the perpetrator’s forehead; still too extreme a punishment and one which doesn’t distinguish between different types of libel; there is a big difference between someone saying that M… has poisoned three women and someone who says that Duval has the inconvenience of being judged worthy of the secretariat of the most biggest order in the kingdom.
We must hope that the National Assembly will establish appropriate punishments, so that cuckolds can appeal against the authors. But above all we must preserve press freedom, which is the surest guardian of liberty. Thus, total press freedom, liberty for all and even at this time, when we recall with horror the parliaments where abbé Fauchet demanded a great festival on the day of their expulsion, we see that it was an aristocratic parliament which crucified Jesus Christ. Other, less Christian, patriots propose a more pagan fete for this anniversary; one which lasts eight days, a dance for widows and orphans throughout the kingdom. Ah well, the honourable member M. Bergasse must be allowed to extol their courage, honesty, objectivity and devotion and to lay aside the synagogue with honour.
2 ~ We can no longer speak of the Almanach without recalling its divine creator, M. le Comte de Rivarol. We know all the harm which the revolution caused to him and the unholy mix of the three orders. Bagnole’s letter instructed the peasants to burn down the fine old chateau of Rivarol. Just as the princes have cannons and flags outside their palaces, so the count had artillery and a banner outside his door. Everything was looted; his bolthole and his noble titles no longer exist. Luckily the production of the Almanach should bring him in enough money to build an even more magnificent chateau. Behold, M le Comte, what fine almanachs you can create; the almanach of, the National Assembly, the almanach of l’hotel de ville, the almanach of the Districts, the almanach of this year’s twelve thousand pamphlets, the almanach of the king’s forty pensioners, the almanach of the sixty thousand girlies and the almanach of the hundred thousand cuckolds. Oh my dear count, such fine things, almanachs and press freedom!
3~ We no longer reward our actors with statues, but the Cordeliers district has already shown that we think of them as highly as the Greeks did. The nomination of M. Grammont as captain gave rise to an enjoyable discussion. ‘Messieurs,’ someone said ‘I am proud to have Oromane or Tancred as commandant; but for the honour of the district I put forward the motion that the other fifty nine must not be allowed to hiss our leader from the orchestra pit.’ This motion caused a great buzz. Most people said that all citizens were equal and that if there were any difference between them it would perhaps be to the advantage of those who, on the departure of Necker, closed the theatres and adopted the first example of national mourning, and who, in reviving the shades of Cicero, Brutus and Corneille, kept the last spark of our patriotism alive.
Nevertheless, these reasons were not considered entirely satisfactory, and the honour of the district was a little compromised until M. Perilhe, the worthy president of the district, and an illustrious patriot united everyone. ‘Messieurs,’ he said ‘I feel it would be tyrannical and contrary to the progress of the arts to forbid hissing actors and writers from the pit, but we should also be allowed to hiss lawyers and captains; they should not have greater privileges. The Marquis d’Uxelles, marshal of France was hissed at the opera on his return from campaign, for having surrendered the town of Mayence. Thus it was that our fathers, the Parisians, hissed the Corinthian regiment and the commandant general of the Paris militia. Many audiences have hissed our parliaments. We have seen chancellors, our S-P, the pope, Condé, Conti, d’Artois, all have been hissed; we would have been lucky if they had all departed because of the jeers! For such a gay nation as ours, the first article must be the right to boo people. For myself, gentlemen, I give you permission to hiss your president if you wish and I am sure that M. Grammont is well fitted to be the captain, and there is no need for debate’
The Cordeliers is a delightful district and I have no hesitation in proposing it as a model for the St. Roch district. It was the Cordeliers who gained M. le Tellier’s freedom and the release of Baron Tintot. They were arrested by the patrols for not respecting the public walkways and profaning the sanctity of this Palais, which should really be called the Palais National rather that the Palais Royale. The Cordeliers have declared the street traders immune from prosecution and have allowed them a voice in the arrondissement. The district is in the vicinity of the Café Procope. This café is not ornate, like so many others, with busts, mirrors and gilding; but it is primed with the memory of the many great men who have frequented it and whose work would cover the walls were it so displayed. One can never enter the place without feeling the religious sentiment which saved Pindar’s house from the fire. It is true that we no longer have the pleasure of hearing Piron, Voltaire and Rousseau, but the patriots continue to sustain its reputation. It was in this café that the National Assembly took abbé Sieyès to its heart. Its unique glory is that the language of servitude is never heard there; that neither the national nor the royal patrols dare to enter it, and it is the only place of safety where liberty has not been violated.
4 ~ Oh my dear fellow citizens! I groan when I see this crowd of people around me, making a business out of our sacred, majestic liberty and speculating upon the constitution. Such is the degree of corruption and self-interest into which we have fallen, that if we want to preserve we must take care to create a senate and permanent positions to put the benefits and to accumulate the wealth in the hands of a single man [???] At a time when all consciences are for sale there is nothing for it but to establish such a constitution that there is no one able to buy them. The treasures of Numidia corrupted many people at the time of King Jugurtha. But when the Roman people heard about it in the general assembly, it proved impossible for Jugurtha to corrupt all of them; not that the people were less corruptible than the senators, but where to find a buyer with sufficient funds?
In a corrupt century it will not be enough for the people to divest themselves of all their power in order to establish a senate and that it alone should be the dispenser of positions. It will be necessary to make sure that there is no opportunity for greed to feed! So jobs are not done for profit and those who wish to dominate, or win renown, should have that ambition not to gain high office, but to do great things. Ambition which stems from pride will of necessity be destroyed. The only ambition left will be the ambition of great hearts, to do good and to be useful. Sadly most people don’t work for this noble ambition, but are driven by a completely different fever.
In town we know what strife there has been between the electors and the representatives of the communes, each one disputing, and claiming the curule chair for himself. Everyone in the districts expends all their time and energy trying to become president, vice president, secretary or vice secretary. Outside the districts people will kill themselves for an epaulette. In the streets one meets only dragons and grains of spinach.
What do you expect? Everyone is looking for fame.
It is not just the fusilier who wants to impress me with his power. When I come home at eleven in the evening they ask me ‘who goes there?’ ‘Monsieur’ I reply to the guard ‘allow a Picard patriot to pass.’
But then he asks me if I am French, backing himself up with the point of his bayonet. Too bad if you’re a mute! ‘Stay on the left of the pavement’ cries one sentry, but further on another cries ‘stay on the right’ and in the Rue St Marguerite two sentries are shouting ‘left of the pavement, right of the pavement.’ So the district obliged me to walk in the gutter!
I will take the liberty of asking MM de Lafayette and Bailly what they expect to do with 30,000 uniforms. Exclusive privilege is hateful to me. Everyone should have the right to a rifle and a bayonet providing these defensive weapons remain hanging by the hearth with the household gods, only taken down when they are needed. M. de Lafayette is colonel of 250,000 men not merely 30,000. We are all soldiers of the patrie; it seems to me that there is no need for so many soldiers of the police. The governments of Lacedonia or Normandy in the time of Rollo managed perfectly well when any citizen could be called in the hour of need. In Amsterdam 80,000 unarmed men sufficed for the guard. The town, mind you, was composed of more nationalities than the Tower of Babel!
5~ Is It not beyond belief that the Marquis de Saint-Huruge remains in prison on the denunciation of the Journal de Paris? Why? Because the Journal de Paris accused him of having written a threatening letter to the president of the National Assembly, despite his residence, his denial, without verification of his handwriting – Yes, a citizen has been thrown into prison without prior verification of his handwriting!
The Marquis de Saint-Huruge has demanded a retraction from the Journal de Paris and the obstinate refusal of the journalist concerned reveals that it was not an error but a deliberate libel. The Marquis de Saint-Huruge asked where his accuser was, but they refused to bring him forward or to name him. Nevertheless the Marquis remains in prison! He asked to see the letter, to see his signature, he defied them to produce it – it doesn’t exist. Nevertheless he remains in prison. Is there anything more tyrannical or grotesque? The Chronique de Paris, Revolutions de Paris, l’Observateur, all patriotic journalists published a request for beneficence from the Journal de Paris. They have stirred up public indignation: the innocence of the accused is clear – nevertheless he remains in prison. And why does he remain there? It is because the denunciation in the Journal de Paris is supported by a letter from two members of the National Assembly. These two honourable members are going to be compromised. The moral turpitude of the Journal de Paris will be revealed and it will be better if the Marquis de Saint-Huruge remains under lock and key if his freedom should disturb the sleep of these fine journalists. They are paid to divert our curiosity with this nonsense, to keep it circulating in the cafés where people swallow the government’s great lies with their cakes and lemonade; they write fine words about how we muddy ourselves out walking, they tell us how the filth escapes at a tangent and other marvellous things but they know how to keep themselves off the pavement in a carriage with good suspension, from which the bastards splatter us with their filth.