Declaration of the Provisional Committee for Schools (Le Globe, 22 January 1831)

When, covered in blood, we emerged from the barricades of July, having won freedom, we said to the men who then came forward as the friends and guardians of France: ‘We confide to your patriotism this freedom that has cost us so dearly; it is now the property of all French people; we leave to you the task of sharing it out; do not be selfish.’1

The students waited for their share of this freedom, and it would have been large had it been based on their share of the fighting and the funerals. Enclosed within the narrow confines of arbitrary decrees and ordinances under the Restoration, they thought that, in the great battle of the people, they had forever smashed the barriers erected by a prescient despotism. But here now the men who owed us the cost of our blood instead entrench themselves against us within this arsenal of tyranny. Now a minister,2 whom several amongst us remember having met in many a conspiracy [against the Bourbons], finds nothing better to do than to throw himself into the arms of our most implacable enemies, the Bourbons’ henchmen, placed by the agents of the Holy Alliance at the head of education in order to stifle education; now a minister, a former Carbonaro, exhumes the bloody ordinance of 5 July 1820 and hangs it over our heads once again, with its threatening evocation of Lallemand.3

We admit that our hearts have withered at the sight of so many broken promises. Our good faith, the faith of simple and trusting young people, has been outrageously betrayed, our future has been sacrificed, and the blood of our brothers appears to count for nothing. But it is easier to deceive us than to demoralize us, and since the powerful only hear when you speak loudly, we will make ourselves heard. We have been taught an excellent lesson, and learned that when it comes to freedom, you cannot wait for it; you must take it. As the elderly like to say, experience is good for the young.

Students, young people, have the right to join together in order to guide their efforts towards a common goal, and they will use this right. As for their goal, it is simple: for them it is a matter of ensuring that the July revolution is not a lie; every edifice built by the Empire and the Restoration must be overthrown, and since not one single stone of this edifice is yet to fall, they will work indefatigably to demolish and destroy it.

We call for the destruction of the university. We call for the destruction of the country’s most odious and harmful monopoly, of that which stifles civilization at its source and which is the cruellest insult inflicted on human intelligence. Certainly, the university of the middle ages was an admirable institution and an ingenious innovation. Founded in the time of oppression and feudal anarchy with the aim of shielding science from the dominance of the sword, which at the time remained the only recognised power, the university was like an oasis of freedom, reserved for civilization, amid deserts of barbarism and slavery. The near monstrous privileges with which the kings of France had continuously and willingly surrounded it had made it a sanctuary impenetrable to feudal violence, one that was always respected even during the most disastrous disputes. Even a student who might have committed the most serious of crimes, by virtue of the simple fact of being a student (and thereby deemed to bear a small part of that sacred flame of science whose hearth the kings strove to protect), avoided common jurisdiction, and was only subject to trial in a court of the University.

But since liberty has become a common right, since, thank God, enlightenment and civilization have no longer required guardians or privileges, that which in the past was intended to spread education well beyond the needs of the time, today, by an incredible metamorphosis, serves only to suppress it within a gothic enclosure. The university, shaped by Napoleon into an instrument of despotism, one that was so well exploited by the Restoration, must not outlive these two tyrannies. We are tired of this execrable tax that strikes that which is most holy and sacred, that which makes the man and the citizen: education.

We only acquired this education by sacrificing our most fruitful years of study, years deliberately prolonged by avarice and by hatred of the Enlightenment. And yet the same men who as monopolists so dearly sold our education to us, now come to take back what we wrested from them at such great cost, robbing us of the fruits of our work and striking dead our future; they operate as the blind and pusillanimous instruments of power, in the form of a tribunal that proceeds in the absence of any guarantee or publicity.

It is this odious yoke that we reject with all our might.

Let power, in its arrogance, call us rebellious children, forgetting that it was more than happy to address us as men back on 22 December4 and that, adopting the language of the abhorred [Bourbon] dynasty, it speaks of paternal reprimands while crushing us by its brutality. Let it drive us from all the schools of France, let it drag us from court to court, let it shower our elderly parents, whose children are being struck down, with sorrow and bitterness! This will be a fine and honourable spectacle, that of young people marked by the scars of July being treated as pariahs on the soil that they redeemed with their blood. But what does it matter! Through persecution and violence we will march firmly, unshakably, towards our goal. We are young, we are patient; we will not easily give up on freedom. We won it in July, and by January it was already lost. Well! It is worth being won twice. Legitimate right and the future are ours; the day of justice will arrive.

And all of you, our friends and brothers, students of the schools of Paris and the whole of France, join your efforts with ours. Our isolated cries would get lost in the immense tumult of society; but united as a solid mass of acclamation they will form one great voice that will silence these charmers of tyranny. Let us rally around the immortal motto: freedom! In the hubbub of all the cries that the passions and base interests have sought and still seek to mix with this sacred cry: freedom! Its echo alone stirs our hearts; it alone has a right to our love, our devotion: we want it, and we will have it [nous la voulons et nous l’aurons].

  1.  Source: MF, 57-60, based on the manuscript in MSS 9580, f. 28. In the winter of 1831 the government sought to disband the republican student movement by re-establishing the ordinance of 5 July 1820 that imposed stricter admissions criteria in universities and greater surveillance over students. Students gathered at the Sorbonne on 16 January 1830 and signed a declaration against the legislation; the government responded by arresting student leaders. In late January Blanqui drafted this text on behalf of an improvised ‘Comité des Ecoles’.
  2.  As Le Nuz notes (MF, 58), this is a reference to Félix Barthes (1795-1863), a former Carbonaro who took part in the July Revolution but who soon came to support the new regime, serving as minister of Public education then of Justice in March 1831.
  3.  Nicolas Lallemand (1797-1820), a student shot dead during a demonstration on 3 June 1820. 6,000 people joined his funeral procession in Paris.
  4.  On 22 December 1830 students took to the streets in an effort to calm the crowds rioting in response to the decision to allow four of Charles X’s ministers to evade the death sentence, following their trial on 15-21 December.