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Chapter 18


But we are asked: "Are you going a little too far? are you not unjust? Grant him something. Has he not to a certain extent 'made Socialism?'" and the Credit Foncier, the railroads, and the lowering of the interest are brought upon the carpet.

We have already estimated these measures at their proper value; but, while we admit that this is "Socialism," you would be simpletons to ascribe the credit to M. Bonaparte. It is not he who has made socialism, but time.

A man is swimming against a rapid current; he struggles with unheard-of efforts, he buffets the waves with hand and head, and shoulder, and knee. You say: "He will succeed in going up." A moment after, you look, and he has gone farther down. He is much farther down the river than he was when he started. Without knowing, or even suspecting it, he loses ground at every effort he makes; he fancies that he is ascending the stream, and he is constantly descending it. He thinks he is advancing, but he is falling hack. Falling credit, as you say, lowering of interest, as you say; M. Bonaparte has already made several of those decrees which you choose to qualify as socialistic, and he will make more. M. Changarnier, had he triumphed instead of M. Bonaparte, would have done as much. Henry V, should he return to-morrow, would do the same. The Emperor of Austria does it in Galicia, and the Emperor Nicholas in Lithuania. But after all, what does this prove? that the torrent which is called Revolution is stronger than the swimmer who is called Despotism.

But even this socialism of M. Bonaparte, what is it? This, socialism? I deny it. Hatred of the middle class it may be, but not socialism. Look at the socialist department par excellence, the Department of Agriculture and of Commerce,--he has abolished it. What has he given you as compensation? the Ministry of Police! The other socialist department is the Department of Public Instruction, and that is in danger: one of these days it will be suppressed. The starting-point of socialism is education, gratuitous and obligatory teaching, knowledge. To take the children and make men of them, to take the men and make citizens of them--intelligent, honest, useful, and happy citizens. Intellectual and moral progress first, and material progress after. The two first, irresistibly and of themselves, bring on the last. What does M. Bonaparte do? He persecutes and stifles instruction everywhere. There is one pariah in our France of the present day, and that is the schoolmaster.

Have you ever reflected on what a schoolmaster really is--on that magistracy in which the tyrants of old took shelter, like criminals in the temple, a certain refuge? Have you ever thought of what that man is who teaches children? You enter the workshop of a wheelwright; he is making wheels and shafts; you say, "this is a useful man;" you enter a weaver's, who is making cloth; you say, "this is a valuable man;" you enter the blacksmith's shop; he is making pick-axes, hammers, and ploughshares; you say, "this is a necessary man;" you salute these men, these skilful labourers. You enter the house of a schoolmaster,--salute him more profoundly; do you know what he is doing? he is manufacturing minds.

He is the wheelwright, the weaver, and the blacksmith of the work, in which he is aiding God,--the future.

Well! to-day, thanks to the reigning clerical party, as the schoolmaster must not be allowed to work for this future, as this future is to consist of darkness and degradation, not of intelligence and light,--do you wish to know in what manner this humble and great magistrate, the schoolmaster, is made to do his work? The schoolmaster serves mass, sings in the choir, rings the vesper bell, arranges the seats, renews the flowers before the sacred heart, furbishes the altar candlesticks, dusts the tabernacle, folds the copes and the chasubles, counts and keeps in order the linen of the sacristy, puts oil in the lamps, beats the cushion of the confessional, sweeps out the church, and sometimes the rectory; the remainder of his time, on condition that he does not pronounce either of those three words of the devil, Country, Republic, Liberty, he may employ, if he thinks proper, in teaching little children to say their A, B, C.

M. Bonaparte strikes at instruction at the same moment above and below: below, to please the priests, above, to please the bishops. At the same time that he is trying to close the village school, he mutilates the Collège de France. He overturns with one blow the professors' chairs of Quinet and of Michelet. One fine morning, he declares, by decree, Greek and Latin to be under suspicion, and, so far as he can, forbids all intercourse with the ancient poets and historians of Athens and of Rome, scenting in Æschylus and in Tacitus a vague odour of demagogy. With a stroke of the pen, for instance, he exempts all medical men from literary qualification, which causes Doctor Serres to say: "We are dispensed, by decree, from knowing how to read and write."

New taxes, sumptuary taxes, vestiary taxes; nemo audeat comedere praeter duo fercula cum potagio; tax on the living, tax on the dead, tax on successions, tax on carriages, tax on paper. "Bravo!" shouts the beadle party, "fewer books; tax upon dogs, the collars will pay; tax upon senators, the armorial bearings will pay."--"All this will make me popular!" says M. Bonaparte, rubbing his hands. "He is the socialist Emperor," vociferate the trusty partisans of the faubourgs. "He is the Catholic Emperor," murmur the devout in the sacristies. How happy he would be if he could pass in the latter for Constantine, and in the former for Babeuf! Watchwords are repeated, adhesion is declared, enthusiasm spreads from one to another, the École Militaire draws his cypher with bayonets and pistol-barrels, Abbé Gaume and Cardinal Gousset applaud, his bust is crowned with flowers in the market, Nanterre dedicates rosebushes to him, social order is certainly saved, property, family, and religion breathe again, and the police erect a statue to him.

Of bronze?

Fie! that may do for the uncle.

Of marble! Tu es Pietri et super hanc pietram aedificabo effigiem meam.[1]

[1] We read in the Bonapartist correspondence:--"The committee appointed by the clerks of the prefecture of police, considers that bronze is not worthy to represent the image of the Prince; it will therefore be executed in marble; and it will be placed on a marble pedestal. The following inscription will be cut in the costly and superb stone: 'Souvenir of the oath of fidelity to the Prince-President, taken by the clerks of the prefecture of police, the 29th of May, 1862, before M. Pietri, Prefect of Police.'

"The subscriptions of the clerks, whose zeal it was necessary to moderate, will be apportioned as follows:--Chief of division 10fr., chief of a bureau 6fr., clerks at a salary of 1,800fr., 3fr.; at 1,500fr., 2fr. 50c.; and finally, at 1,200fr., 2fr. It is calculated that this subscription will amount to upwards of 6,000 francs."

That which he attacks, that which he persecutes, that which they all persecute with him, upon which they pounce, which they wish to crush, to burn, to suppress, to destroy, to annihilate, is it this poor obscure man who is called primary instructor? Is it this sheet of paper that is called a journal? Is it this bundle of sheets which is called a book? Is it this machine of wood and iron which is called a press? No, it is thou, thought, it is thou, human reason, it is thou, nineteenth century, it is thou, Providence, it is thou, God!

We who combat them are "the eternal enemies of order." We are--for they can as yet find nothing but this worn-out word--we are demagogues.

In the language of the Duke of Alva, to believe in the sacredness of the human conscience, to resist the Inquisition, to brave the state for one's faith, to draw the sword for one's country, to defend one's worship, one's city, one's home, one's house, one's family, and one's God, was called vagabondism; in the language of Louis Bonaparte, to struggle for freedom, for justice, for the right, to fight in the cause of progress, of civilisation, of France, of mankind, to wish for the abolition of war, and of the penalty of death, to take au sérieux the fraternity of men, to believe in a plighted oath, to take up arms for the constitution of one's country, to defend the laws,--this is called demagogy.

The man is a demagogue in the nineteenth century, who in the sixteenth would have been a vagabond.

This much being granted, that the dictionary of the Academy no longer exists, that it is night at noonday, that a cat is no longer called cat, and that Baroche is no longer called a knave; that justice is a chimera, that history is a dream, that the Prince of Orange was a vagabond, and the Duke of Alva a just man; that Louis Bonaparte is identical with Napoleon the Great, that they who have violated the Constitution are saviours, and that they who defended it are brigands,--in a word that human probity is dead: very good! in that case I admire this government It works well. It is a model of its species. It compresses, it represses, it oppresses, it imprisons, it exiles, it shoots down with grape-shot, it exterminates, and it even "pardons!" It exercises authority with cannon-balls, and clemency with the flat of the sabre.

"At your pleasure," repeat some worthy incorrigibles of the former party of order, "be indignant, rail, stigmatize, disavow,--'tis all the same to us; long live stability! All these things put together constitute, after all, a stable government."

Stable! We have already expressed ourselves on the subject of this stability.

Stability! I admire such stability. If it rained newspapers in France for two days only, on the morning of the third nobody would know what had become of M. Louis Bonaparte.

No matter; this man is a burden upon the whole age, he disfigures the nineteenth century, and there will be in this century, perhaps, two or three years upon which it will be recognised, by some shameful mark or other, that Louis Bonaparte sat down upon them.

This person, we grieve to say it, is now the question that occupies all mankind.

At certain epochs in history, the whole human race, from all points of the earth, fix their eyes upon some mysterious spot whence it seems that universal destiny is about to issue. There have been hours when the world has looked towards the Vatican: Gregory VII and Leo X occupied the pontifical throne; other hours, when it has contemplated the Louvre; Philip Augustus, Louis IX, François I, and Henri IV were there; the Escorial, Saint-Just: Charles V dreamed there; Windsor: Elizabeth the Great reigned there; Versailles: Louis XIV shone there surrounded by stars; the Kremlin: one caught a glimpse there of Peter the Great; Potsdam: Frederick II was closeted there with Voltaire. At present, history, bow thy head, the whole universe is looking at the Élysée!

That species of bastard door, guarded by two sentry-boxes painted on canvas, at the extremity of Faubourg Saint-Honoré, that is the spot towards which the eyes of the civilized world are now turned with a sort of profound anxiety! Ah! what sort of place is that, whence no idea has issued that has not been a plot, no action that has not been a crime? What sort of place is that wherein reside all kinds of cynicism and all kinds of hypocrisy? What sort of place is that where bishops elbow Jeanne Poisson on the staircase, and, as a hundred years ago, bow to the ground before her; where Samuel Bernard laughs in a corner with Laubardemont; which Escobar enters, arm-in-arm with Guzman d'Alfarache; where (frightful rumour), in a thicket in the garden, they despatch, it is said, with the bayonet men whom they dare not bring to trial; where one hears a man say to a woman who is weeping and interceding: "I overlook your love-affairs, you must overlook my hatreds!" What sort of place is that where the orgies of 1852 intrude upon and dishonour the mourning of 1815! where Cæsarion, with his arms crossed, or his hands behind his back, walks under those very trees, and in those very avenues still haunted by the indignant phantom of Cæsar?

That place is the blot upon Paris; that place is the pollution of the age; that door, whence issue all sorts of joyous sounds, flourishes of trumpets, music, laughter, and the jingling of glasses; that door, saluted during the day by the passing battalions; illuminated at night; thrown wide open with insolent confidence,--is a sort of public insult always present. There is the centre of the world's shame.

Alas! of what is France thinking? Of a surety, we must awake this slumbering nation, we must take it by the arm, we must shake it, we must speak to it; we must scour the fields, enter the villages, go into the barracks, speak to the soldier who no longer knows what he is doing, speak to the labourer who has in his cabin an engraving of the Emperor, and who, for that reason, votes for everything they ask; we must remove the radiant phantom that dazzles their eyes; this whole situation is nothing but a huge and deadly joke. We must expose this joke, probe it to the bottom, disabuse the people,--the country people above all,--excite them, agitate them, stir them up, show them the empty houses, the yawning graves, and make them touch with their finger the horror of this régime. The people are good and honest; they will comprehend. Yes, peasant, there are two, the great and the little, the illustrious and the infamous,--Napoleon and Naboleon!

Let us sum up this government! Who is at the Élysée and the Tuileries? Crime. Who is established at the Luxembourg? Baseness. Who at the Palais Bourbon? Imbecility. Who at the Palais d'Orsay? Corruption. Who at the Palais de Justice? Prevarication. And who are in the prisons, in the fortresses, in the dungeons, in the casemates, in the hulks, at Lambessa, at Cayenne, in exile? Law, honour, intelligence, liberty, and the right.

Oh! ye proscribed, of what do you complain? You have the better part.

Victor Hugo