simone_remy (simone_remy) wrote in melkam,

Lantern part 3

The Courrier de Versailles a Paris notes that there are clearly powerful secret forces behind these insurrections. A few poverty stricken people, whose daily toil scarcely preserves them from starvation, spent a few days in the public square. They were paid for it. We have seen men distributing money amongst these low class people: What will they do for it? What of this abbé, whom we had wanted to detain because he had been denounced by worthy witnesses, whom we bound to come before the lantern and face questioning. What has become of the so called chevalier, decorated with a foreign order, on whom we only postponed judgement not abandoning judgement completely? What became of so many other suspected people whose escape has been facilitated? Shouldn’t the National Assembly, in the name of justice, give a public account of what these people have done and of their interrogation?

Although…. Everyone knows that Chancellor Aguesseau shut himself away in vain, for twelve hours, with the most skilful decoder, to read the final interrogation and last testament of Ravaillac. It was written in invisible letters by a man called Gilbert, who was clerk to the court at that time. There had been written interrogations of that kind. But now there are many complaints and I will furnish plenty of stuff to think about.

It remains for me to warn you against the venom of some motions moved in the assembly and against some writings that are being circulated in the capital. Among these dangerous pamphlets is a particularly spiteful one called ‘Le Triomphe des Parisiens’. The author wants to make us believe that Paris is going to become as desolate as Ancient Babylon, that the French people are going to be turned into a nation of labourers, gardeners and philosophers by force of arms; that within six months the pavements of St Denis and la place Maubert will be hidden by grass, that we will be have melon beds in the Tuileries and onion patches in the Palais Royal. Bid farewell to the financiers, says the author. Turcaret will go back to Switzerland and eat dry bread. All the fat cats will grow scrawny together. If morality is reborn we can say goodbye to fine art! Ah, M. Farjeon, how will it help that you have surpassed all the perfumers of Egypt? And you, M. Maille, how will it help that you have created styptic vinegar, which removes wrinkles and leaves the brow as smooth as ice? Cypress vinegar, which in twelve days will unfailingly turn a blonde into a brunette? Unparalleled vinegar, which bleaches, shines, tones and beautifies; and finally a vinegar which creates, or at least recreates, virgins, in the advertisement for which you so kindly tell women that they can send their servants for it without them ever guessing what it is for. Such marvellous discoveries will be useless to you.

If only reform struck just at those women with excessive pensions! But this numberless army, whose inspector was Sieur Quidot, this army, who pass in review before us every day beneath the galleries of the Palais Royale, illuminated by the lamps of Quinquet; a parade a thousand times more delightful than that of…..; well, this army is going to be licensed in place of pay. Even better, this militia will be broken up. Following the three thousand defrocked monks and the twenty thousand abbés who will be returning home to guide the plough or measure out cloth in their family businesses, thirty thousand women will have to leave the galleries of the rues Trousse-Vache and Vide-Gousset, renounce the easy living of St. Martin and La Salpêtrière and like poor Paquin on the banks of the Pont-Euxin in Candide, go and make pastries with brother Giroflée. The author of this pamphlet goes even further. Farewell, he says, to the dressmakers, the upholsterers, the saddlers, fanmakers, grocers, attorneys, lawyers, jewellers, goldsmiths, bathers and restaurateurs; he doesn’t spare the bakers either, and convinces himself that we will be reduced to grazing on grass or living on manna from heaven[1]. It is easily shown that, far from being stripped of its glory, the capital will flourish more than ever. This generation is accused of destroying everything and building nothing. But was it not necessary to destroy the Bastille before replacing it? Already many architects are striving to design a palace which will be worthy of the nation’s august representatives. Soon you will see it rising from the ruins of the Bastille. There, in its heart, Paris will have the National Assembly, the congress of forty five provinces, the seat of majesty and the French people’s loyalty; the altar of concord, the chair of philosophy, the platform of patriotism, the very temple of liberty humanity and reason where everyone will come to find these oracles.

When the nation’s permanent council is seated in Paris, the town will eventually recover because the return of the ministries will lead to an increase in health, wealth and well-being, the loss of which Paris has suffered ever since Louis XIV divided it to create Versailles. This great benefit is not the only way in which the revolution has enriched the capital. Just as much as all the others it is a town which should rightly belong to its own citizens. Paris is the common mother and father of all the French. There is no city in the kingdom which doesn’t take an interest in its splendour and all the provinces hasten to compete with her. Parisian industry and activity, backed up by the determination of the rest of the country to embellish the capital will create marvels and I hope that M. Mercier will not die without seeing his dearest wish come to pass; Paris will be a port, yes! And such a port! I expect to see M. Lafayette inspecting a review of the Parisian infantry, cavalry AND navy there.

It is true that the revolution will be the death of the Almanach Royale. Farewell to M. Houry’s nest egg. But M .Baudouin will print us a national almanach[2]. It is true that there will be fewer seminaries, convents and monasteries, but we must hope that the people will not suffer too much from their loss. It is true that Parliament will pass away, but the Basoche will not. Our magistrates will be less aristocratic, less rude and ignorant and less costly. But we will not miss those; for sure, as long as there are men, there will be lawyers. Did someone say that law can only be practised in monarchies? There was litigation in Athens and Rome, and we can see from their cases that the Romans were even more given to legal quibbles than we are.

It is true that there will not be more than twenty professors of law eager to fill the bar with the ignorant because their income increases in direct proportion to ignorance and idleness; but the law schools will remain with the difference that there will be a genuine chair in place of a counter. It is true that Calchas will not have more than a thousand pounds in income; but Termosiris needed no more than a flute and a book of songs whereas Mathan needed treasures and tiaras. It is true that Sieur Leonard will no longer wear out six horses, rushing off to coif the ladies of Versailles; that he will not waste more than fifty thousand pounds insuring his comb; but hairdressers will not be banned in the republic. The slavery of kings has been shaken off, but for the charming dream of life we still need to be enslaved to women, and the gallantry of the French nation will endure. Does the author of Triomphe de la Capital believe that freedom is the enemy of performances or of Aspasia? Who hasn’t seen how liberty enjoys herself in the Palais Royale? No monarchy ever spent as much on the theatre as the democracy of Athens. The Thebans erected a statue of the actor Pronomus beside the one of Epaminondas[3]; and the Lacedonians, before whom all the virgins of the Peloponnese danced naked and displayed their charms around the foot of Mount Taygete, did they hate women? Were they so very wrong to prefer that simplicity to all the magic of the Athenian operas? On what grounds does our aristocratic author predict the abandonment of the theatres, or the ruin of the merchants of fashion, feathers, gauze and fabric who inhabit St. Germain and the rue des Lombards? The lantern predicts the reverse. Commerce and the arts will flourish as never before. The English excelled at making fabric which the French excelled at wearing. But be patient citizens, you had a hundred and forty thousand priests who were not part of the nation, who did nothing because they knew they could live at your expense. Just picture those two hundred and eighty thousand hands employed in business or agriculture; some polishing steel, others, instead of shrivelling up for lent over the years, set sail to fish for the cod of Newfoundland. Such spirit, lost in the quinquennium, in the dusty old schools and on the benches of the Sorbonne! The good effects of so much talent applied to manufacturing or developing a branch of commerce is incalculable.

In truth the clergy cling fiercely to their round haircuts, their vestments, their red and purple cassocks, their benefits, their pillows and their cuisine, they have no wish to hear talk of press freedom and they have a terror of rational thought. Since the great victory which we won over them on the day of tithes, I had thought only the first step would be difficult for them but the meeting on Sunday August 23 proved me wrong. Ecce iterum Crispinus [here’s that Crispinus again! (i.e., said of someone who shows up at every event) (Juvenal).] Scapin stuck his head out of the bag, screeching like a devil, and all the efforts of the Comte de Mirabeau could not get him back in.

Don’t give up brave Mirabeau! They have stifled your voice for the moment at Versailles, but Paris, France and the whole of Europe is listening to that voice; it is the voice of philosophy, patriotism and freedom, and our citizens respond to it by shaking their spears for you. When will we finally see you as President of the Assembly? Nevertheless, continue as an orator; continue to oppose the axe of Phocion along with the sonorous phrases of some of our pères conscrits. Pursue your twelve labours and complete the triumph over fanaticism. See how dear you have become to the patriots! The alarms in the Palais Royale on August 30th show that we do not differentiate between danger to the patrie and danger to you yourself. Without doubt the nation will know how to reward your services; it will undoubtedly reassert the incontestable right, of choosing its own representatives. These are the ambassadors who will represent us abroad; therefore it is for the patrie to choose them. Yes, she will choose the ambassadors. She has seen the dignity with which you supported her rights and she recalls your address to the troops

Nec dignitas unquam Majestas meminit ses Romana locutam

Public opinion has already chosen you as the nation’s representative in Europe. It is going to make our old and long standing allies forget that their help and friendship has been repaid by ingratitude; that faithlessness to the pacts of three hundred years and inviolable alliances has denied and dishonoured the loyalty of the French people. It is for you to call a meeting of the European powers and to achieve the unrealistic peace of l’abbé de St. Pierre.

I am, however, angry to see you accused of supporting the royal sanction and of having said that if the king has no veto it would be better to live in Constantinople. That is a calumny, the contradiction to the principles in which you have never varied would be too flagrant, if you accord to one man the right to disregard the wisest decisions of an entire nation, and allow him to say ‘what you want, you twenty five million people – I do not want it! I alone’ No, it is not possible that Mirabeau has used such language, just as we are making him an ambassador.

As for M. Mounier, who wants not only a veto suspensif, but a veto absolut and who has suggested that we adopt a Venetian style senate, he can return to the Dauphiné just as he came, with the only difference being that he arrived to applause and he will be booed on his return: and M. de Lally, that fervent royalist who apparently imagines that as a reward for his zealous support for the power of a single man, we are going to create, as in the Spanish Netherlands, the role of grand domestique. He can go, if he wants, to a meeting of the upper house of the Irish parliament which he has given us as a model.

When that honourable member proposed an upper chamber, a plenary court and two hundred seats in the senate, for life and at the king’s nomination[4], when he dazzled everyone with those two hundred rewards for traitors, how was it that Chapelier, Barnave, Petion de Villeneuve, Target, Grégoire, Robespierre, Buzot, Landines, Biauzat, Volney, Schmits, Glezen, Mirabeau and all those Bretons, those faithful defenders of the people did not rip their clothing in distress? How did they not cry out ‘he has blasphemed’? Of course I am a zealous proponent of the freedom to argue and pass motions; I myself have need of indulgence

Veniam petimusque, damusque vicissim [we give this privilege and receive it in turn (Horace, a reference to the author as critic)]

I would never propose, like the celebrated legislator Zaleucus, that those who want to put forward a motion should come to the foot of the lantern with a rope already around their necks. Nevertheless, to propose a veto and to suggest creating aristocrats for life by royal command, I do ask if we could imagine any motion more deadly to liberty.

So was the Palais Royale so very wrong to cry out against the agitators and authors of a similar motion? I know that the promenades of the Palais Royale are a strange mixture; that the crooks there make frequent use of press freedom and that many a zealous patriot has lost more than one handkerchief in the heat of debate. That doesn’t stop me from being a faithful witness to the people of the Lycée and the Porticos. The garden is a hotbed of patriotism, a meeting place for the cream of patriots who have left their homes and provinces to be present at the magnificent spectacle of the 1789 revolution, not to be mere idle lookers on. By what law might these people, this crowd of strangers, correspondents for their provinces, be deprived of suffrage? They are French. They are interested in the constitution and the laws which accompany it. How many Parisians don’t even bother to go to their districts? It is quicker to go to the Palais Royale. They don’t need to ask a president for the right to speak and then wait two hours for their turn to come around. There they propose their motion, if the patriots like it they lift them onto a chair…if it is applauded the motion is written down; if it is hissed they can push off. What the Romans did in the forum is not so very different from what happens in our Palais Royale. They didn’t go to a district for the right to speak. They went to the forum and climbed on a bench with no fear of being sent to prison. If the motion was accepted it would be formally proposed and posted in the square, it would remain there, in printed form, for twenty nine market days. At the end of that time there was a general assembly; every citizen, not just one, sanctioned it.

Honest denizens of the Palais Royale, ardent promoters of the public good, you are not depraved Catilinas as M. de Clermont-Tonnerre and the Journal de Paris[5] [which you don’t read anyway] say you are. If I remember rightly Catilina wanted to seize the veto, following the example of Sulla who removed the veto from the people. So, far from being like Catilina, you are the exact opposite, sworn enemies of Catilina. My good friends, accept the tenderest thanks of the lantern. The generous citizens who freed the French guards from l’Abbaye, where they were held for no good cause, left from the Palais Royale. The order to close the theatres and adopt mourning clothes on July 12th went out from the Palais Royale. It was in the Palais Royale on that same day that we made the call to arms and took up the national cockade. For the last six months the Palais Royale has flooded France with the pamphlets which have turned everyone, even soldiers, into philosophers. It is in the Palais Royale that the patriots danced around with the soldiers, with dragoons, cavalrymen, Swiss guards, hugging them, plying them with drink, lavishing gold on them so that they could drink the health of the nation, and by winning over the entire army, they thwarted the hellish plans of the real Catilinas. It was the Palais Royale that saved the National Assembly and the Parisian ingrates from a general massacre. And because two or three scatterbrains, who wished for the conversion of the sinner rather than his death, have written a threatening letter, which has not been without effect, the Palais Royale will be put out of bounds and we will no longer be able to stroll there without being thought of as a Maury or a d’Epresmenil.

[1]See Appendix to Lantern part 3 for Camille’s own footnote

[2] See Appendix to Lantern part 3 for Camille’s own footnote

[3]See Appendix to Lantern part 3 for Camille’s own footnote

[4] See Appendix to Lantern part 3 for Camille’s own footnote

[5] See Appendix to Lantern part 3 for Camille’s own footnote

Tags: camille desmoulins, lantern
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