Report to the Society of the Friends of the People (2 February 1832)


Our central committee has asked me to present to you a report on France’s internal and external situation since the July revolution [of 1830].

I have not sought to address each and every detail of this vast question, which for the past eighteen months has been fuelling the periodical and non-periodical press, parliamentary debates and foreign diplomacy, not only in France but across Europe as a whole. Let us therefore leave aside the multitude of events that you are all familiar with, sparing ourselves the reflections they inspired in both you and me. In order to explain the position of the country I will simply try to make clear the various parties whose opposing interests constitute the struggle that is being waged with such violence, and in which you are playing an increasingly important role. These parties all existed well before the July revolution; no new party emerged during this revolution or as a result of it.

The present situation is defined simply by the extreme development of the parties who lay dormant side by side under the oppressive Restoration regime, and for whom the three days of awakening ignited an all-consuming fever, one that was steadily enflamed, stirred up and intensified by the disease that is progressively eating away at the social body.

We should not conceal from ourselves the fact that there is a war to the death between the classes that compose the nation. This truth being fully understood, the truly national party around which all patriots should rally is the party of the masses.

Until now there have been three interests in France: that of the so-called upper classes, that of the middle or bourgeois class, and finally that of the people. I place the people last because they have always been the last, and because I count on an imminent application of the Gospel maxim: ‘the last shall be first.’

In 1814 and 1815 the bourgeois class grew tired of Napoleon, not because of his despotism – the bourgeoisie cares little for liberty, seeing it as not worth a pound of good cinnamon or a properly endorsed bill of exchange – but because, the blood of the people having been exhausted, the war was beginning to claim its own children and, above all, because it was disturbing its tranquillity and hindering commerce. The bourgeois class therefore welcomed the foreign soldiers as liberators and the Bourbons as God’s own envoys. It was they who opened the gates of Paris [in March 1814], they who called the soldiers of Waterloo the ‘brigands of the Loire’,2 they who encouraged the bloody reaction of 1815.3

Louis XVIII rewarded them with the Charter. This Charter established the upper classes as an aristocracy and gave the bourgeois the Chamber of Deputies, the so-called Democratic Chamber. With this the émigrés, the nobles, and the big landowners (who were fanatical partisans of the Bourbons), along with the middle class (who accepted them out of self-interest), found themselves as equal ruling partners in the government. The people were left to one side. Deprived of leaders, demoralised by foreign invasion and having lost faith in liberty, they remained silent and submitted themselves to the yoke, and kept their reservations to themselves. You are aware of the bourgeois class’ consistent support for the Restoration through to 1825. It lent a hand in the massacres of 1815 and 1816, in the execution of Bories and Berton,4 in the war in Spain,5 in the accession of Villèle6 and in the changes to the electoral law. Until 1827 it regularly returned electoral majorities committed to those in power.

During the period from 1825 to 1827 Charles X, encouraged by his success on all fronts and believing himself to be strong enough to forego the support of the bourgeois, wanted to see to their exclusion, as was done with the people in 1815. He took a bold step back towards the ancien régime and declared war on the middle class by proclaiming the exclusive dominance of the nobility and clergy under the banner of Jesuitism. The bourgeoisie are essentially anti-spiritual; they detest the church, and have faith only in double entry bookkeeping. The priests irritated them; the bourgeoisie had agreed to join the upper classes in oppressing the people, but upon seeing that their own turn to be oppressed had come, full of resentment and envy of the high aristocracy the bourgeoisie now rallied to that small part of the middle class that alone had fought the Bourbons since 1815, and that they had sacrificed up to that point.

There then began a war that was waged with great resolve and fury through the press and elections. But the bourgeois fought in the name of the Charter and the Charter alone. Indeed, the Charter guaranteed their power. If properly enacted it accorded them overall supremacy within the state. The theme of legality was invented to represent this interest of the bourgeoisie’s and to serve as its flag. The legal order became a sort of divinity before which constitutional opponents burned their daily incense. This struggle continued from 1825 to 1830, turning ever more favourably for the bourgeois, who rapidly gained ground and who, as the ruling power within the Chamber of Deputies, were soon threatening the government with complete defeat.

What were the people doing in the midst of this conflict? Nothing. They remained a silent spectator to the dispute, and everyone knows very well that their interests counted for nothing in the debates that arose between their oppressors. The bourgeois certainly cared little for them and their cause, which for fifteen years had been considered lost. You will recall that the newspapers most devoted to the constitutionnels regularly repeated that the people had resigned their political role in favour of the electors, become the only legitimate voice of France.7 It was not only the government that considered the masses to be indifferent to the debate. The middle classes scorned them perhaps even more, and they certainly counted on being the only ones to reap the fruits of victory. That victory did not go beyond the Charter. Charles X and the Charter with an all-powerful bourgeoisie – this was the goal of the constitutionnels. Yes, but the people saw things differently; the people mocked the Charter and execrated the Bourbons. Seeing their masters quarrel, they looked on in silence, waiting for the right moment to throw themselves onto the battlefield and bring the parties into agreement.

When things reached such a point that the only option left to the government was a coup d’état, and when this threat of a coup began to hang over the heads of the bourgeois, they were suddenly gripped with fear! Who does not recall the regrets and the terror of the 2218 after the ordinance to dissolve the Chamber appeared in response to their famous address? Charles X spoke of his firm resolve to resort to force, and the bourgeoisie turned pale. Most of them openly disapproved of the poor 221 for having allowed themselves to be swept along into revolutionary excesses. The most daring placed their hopes in the refusal of a tax that was bound to have been paid, and in the support of the tribunals, almost all of whom would have gladly served as officers of the provost courts. If the royalists demonstrated such confidence and resolution, if their adversaries let such fear and uncertainty show, it is because both thought the people had resigned their political role, and expected them to be neutral in the battle. Thus, on one side, there was the government, supported by the nobility, the clergy and the big landowners; on the other side was the middle class which, after having prepared itself for five years in a war of words, was now ready to come to blows; and then there was the people, who remained silent and who had been written off for fifteen years.

This was the context in which the fighting took place. The ordinances were issued and the police smashed the newspaper presses.9 I shall not speak of our joy, citizens, we who were trembling beneath the yoke and who finally witnessed the awakening of the popular lion that had been asleep for so long. 26 July was the most beautiful day of our lives. But the bourgeois! Never has a political crisis provided the spectacle of such fright, such profound consternation. Pale and distraught, they heard the first shots as if it were the first discharge of a picket that would shoot them down one by one. You all remember the deputies’ conduct on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They used what presence of mind and faculties fear had left to them to ward off, to halt the fighting. Preoccupied with their own cowardice, they refused to foresee a popular victory and were already trembling beneath the sword of Charles X.

But on Thursday the scene changed. The people emerged victorious. It was then that another, far greater and more overwhelming terror seized them. So much for their dreams of the Charter, of legality, of constitutional royalty, of the exclusive domination of the bourgeoisie! The powerless phantom that was Charles X had faded away. Through the debris, through the flames and smoke, the people appeared, standing atop the corpse of the monarchy, standing tall like a giant, with the tricolour flag in hand. The bourgeoisie were struck with stupor. Ah! It was then that they regretted that the National Guard had not existed on July 26, and then that they condemned the lack of foresight and folly of Charles X for having dashed his own last chance of salvation. But it was too late for regrets; you can see that during these days, when the people were so imposing, the bourgeois were shaken by two fears, first that of Charles X, and then that of the workers. It was a noble and glorious role for those proud warriors whose plumes float so high at parades on the Champ de Mars.

But citizens, how is it that such a sudden and fearsome revelation of the power of the masses did not bear fruit? By what fatality did this revolution made by the people alone, and that should have marked the end of the exclusive reign of the bourgeoisie as well as the advent of popular power, have no other results than establishing the despotism of the middle class, increasing the poverty of the workers and peasants, and plunging France a little deeper into the mud? Alas, the people, like an illustrious figure from antiquity, knew how to win, but not how make use of their victory.10 It is not their fault alone. The fighting was so brief that their natural leaders, those who would have led the way to victory, did not have time to distinguish themselves from the crowd. The people inevitably rallied to the leaders who had been at the head of the bourgeoisie during the parliamentary struggle against the Bourbons. Moreover, they were grateful to the middle classes for their little five-year war against their enemies, and you know what benevolence, I would almost say what feeling of deference, they showed towards those well-dressed men whom they met on the streets after the battle. Did the people already feel, as if by instinct, that they had just played a nasty trick on the bourgeoisie and, in their in generosity as victor, did they want to make advances and offer peace and friendship to their future adversaries? That cry of ‘Vive la Charte’, which was so perfidiously abused, was nothing but a rallying cry to prove their alliance with these men.

Whatever the reason, the masses had not formally expressed any positive political will [volonté politique positive]. What moved them, what had pushed them into our public squares, was their hatred of the Bourbons, their firm resolve to overthrow them. There were traces of both Bonapartism and the Republic in their wishes for the government that was to emerge from the barricades.

You are aware how the people, in their confidence in the leaders they had accepted (whose own long-standing hostility to Charles X had led to them being considered as equally implacable enemies of the whole Bourbon family), retired from the public squares once the battle was finished. It was then that the bourgeois emerged from their cellars and in their thousands ran into the streets, which had been left empty by the combatants’ departure. Everyone remembers the amazing suddenness with which the stage changed on the streets of Paris, as if by a coup de théâtre; the way suits replaced work jackets in the blink of an eye, as if a fairy wand had made some disappear and others suddenly loom into view. This was because bullets were no longer flying. It was no longer a question of receiving blows, but of claiming the spoils. To each his role: the men of the workshops had withdrawn, the men who work behind the counter now appeared.

It was then that the scoundrels to whom the victory was entrusted, after having attempted to reinstate Charles X on his throne, and feeling that their lives were at risk, settled on a less perilous treason: another Bourbon was proclaimed king. Under the direction of agents paid with royal gold, ten to fifteen thousand bourgeois, installed in the courts of the new palace, greeted the ruler with their cries of enthusiasm for several days. As for the people, since they enjoy neither the receipt of rents or dividends nor, therefore, the means to stroll beneath the windows of palaces, they remained in their workshops. But they were not complicit in this shameful usurpation which would never have occurred with impunity if they had found men capable of guiding the blows inspired by their anger and vengeance. Betrayed by their leaders, abandoned by the students, they remained silent and on their guard, as in 1815.

As an example I shall cite you a coachman who drove me last Saturday. After having told me of the part he played during the three days of fighting, he added: ‘On the way to the Chamber I encountered the procession of deputies making their way towards the Hôtel de Ville. I followed them to see what they would do. I then saw Lafayette appear on the balcony with Louis-Philippe and say, “People of France, here is your King!” Well sir, when I heard that word it was as if I had been stabbed. I could see nothing more; I went on my way.’ That man is the people.

This, then, was the position of the parties immediately following the July Revolution. The upper class was crushed. The middle class, which hid during the fighting and condemned it, showing as much shrewdness as they did prudence, snatched the fruits of victory that were won in spite of them. The people, who did everything, remain nothing, as before. But a tremendous act [fait] was accomplished. The people had suddenly entered onto the political stage like a thunderbolt, taking it by assault; and, although driven from it at almost the same instant, they nevertheless acted with mastery and put an end to their resignation. Henceforth a bitter war will be waged between them and the middle class. The war is no longer between the upper classes and the bourgeois; in order to resist the people, the latter will even need to call their former enemies to their assistance. And indeed, for a long time the bourgeoisie has not concealed its hatred of the people.

At first, and while the canon was still booming, so to speak, under the sway of the initial terror and of the initial respect that the heroism of victors inspires, it was thought necessary to lavish praise on them, though reluctantly, unwillingly and with bitterness in their soul. How many workers who fought were dismissed by their masters not because they had fought, but on the pretext that they had been absent from the workshop for four or five days! It must be said, however, that there was a chorus of praise for the moderation, generosity and wisdom that the victorious proletarians had shown.

But if they were praised this was because they were still feared. The chorus of praise ended soon enough, giving way to indifference; it soon became unacceptable to speak enthusiastically of the unforgettable revolutions and the heroes of July. Then, as the people, impelled by hunger, marched its discontent through the streets, they were accused of disturbing public order, and were met with outrage; the word ‘rabble’ [canaille] that was supposed to have been erased from our vocabulary was now on everyone’s lips. As the workers responded to these insults with nothing but patience, their enemies grew bolder, spoke louder, threatened further. Insults, contempt, affronts – the poor people were spared nothing. Woe betide anyone who has shown themselves strong enough to win, but who does not know how to preserve their victory; the hatred they attract is intensified by the fear they inspire, and it soon becomes implacable. And in due course, from insulting words and openly expressed contempt the bourgeois soon turned to violence, and I need not recall here the cruelties inflicted upon unarmed and starving workers by national guards who were both well-fed and armed to the teeth.

For the last eighteen months, as you all know, the streets of Paris have been prey to military executions undertaken by the armed bourgeoisie. At this point the execration shown towards the people by this class is such that, after having celebrated with such enthusiasm the selflessness of the workers in July 1830, it today proclaims everywhere that it was only because of a lack of time and good will that they did not plunder the city, and that they are now ready to ransack Paris at the first sign of a riot. The sentiments of this class are the same in the provinces as they are in the capital.

If we examine the government’s conduct, there is in its policies the same march, the same progress of hatred and violence as there is among the bourgeoisie whose hatred and passions it represents. I think then that it is unjust to accuse it of being unfaithful to its origins. For example, it seems to me a nonsense, an impudent lie, to call Louis-Philippe’s monarchy the ‘July Monarchy’. Louis-Philippe is rather the monarchy of August, the monarchy of the Palais-Bourbon, and this is altogether different. Is there not something admirable, in your opinion, about the perfect precision with which the current head of the government retraces and summarises the character of the merchants who have put him where he is? He is the very type, the very incarnation of this merchant class. The rest of the government is in keeping with this.

At first, when the bricks of the barricades were still piled up on the streets, all that was spoken of was the program of the Hôtel de Ville, and republican institutions: there were handshakes, popular proclamations, and the grand words of liberty, independence and national glory were bandied about. And then, once those in power had an organised military force at their disposal, their pretensions mounted. All the laws, all the ordinances of the Restoration were invoked and applied. Later, we saw legal proceedings against the press, the persecution of the men of July, the people hounded by the sword and the bayonet, taxes increased and collected with a severity never experienced under the Restoration, the systematic deployment of violence – this entire tyrannical apparatus has revealed the government’s hatreds and fears. But it also realised that the people must hate them in return, and not feeling itself strong enough with only the support of the bourgeoisie, it sought to rally the upper classes to its cause, so that, once established on this dual base, it would be able to resist more successfully the proletarian invasion that threatened it.

The entire system developed by the government over the past eighteen months should be understood in terms of this manoeuvre to conciliate the aristocracy. Here lies the key to its policies. For this upper class is composed of royalists. In order to carry them along it was thus necessary to align itself as closely as possible to the Restoration, to follow its meanderings, to continue it. This is what was done. Nothing was changed except the name of the king. The sovereignty of the people was denied, trampled upon; the court mourned the death of foreign princes. Legitimacy was copied in every respect, and in every place. Royalists were kept on in their positions, and those who had had to withdraw in the face of the first onrush of the revolution all ended up in more lucrative positions. The configuration of the government was preserved in such a way that the whole administration is now in the hands of men devoted to the old Bourbons.

In the provinces, where patriots and royalists can be found in almost equal numbers, as in the Midi for example, every time the two sides have found themselves opposing one another as a result of the weakness and the betrayal of the government, the government has intervened against the patriots and in favour of the Carlists. Today, finally, it no longer seeks to hide its hatred of one and its predilection for the other.

It was difficult for the aristocracy to resist such tender advances. Moreover, one part of this class, the most rotten part, which wants gold and pleasure above all else, deigned to promise to protect the public order. But the other part, the one I shall call the least gangrenous or corrupted (so as not to use the word honourable), the part that has some self-respect and faith in its opinions, which worships its flag and its pious memories – that part disgustedly rejects the cajolery of the juste milieu. Behind them they have the majority of the populations of the Midi and the west, all those peasants of the Vendée and Brittany who, having remained alien to the movement of civilization, retain an ardent faith in Catholicism, and who in their worship conflate Catholicism with legitimacy – and rightly so, for these are two things that have lived and must die together. Do you think that these simple believers in God are susceptible to seduction? No, citizens! For the people – whether in their ignorance and ablaze with religious fanaticism, or more enlightened and inspired by enthusiasm for liberty – the people are always great and generous; they obey not lowly monetary interests but the most noble passions of the soul, the inspirations of a higher morality. Well then! However much consideration and deference is shown towards Brittany and the Vendée, they are still ready to rise up at the cry of ‘God and King’, and with their Catholic and royal armies threaten the government, which would break with the first clashes.

That is not all: the fraction of the upper classes that has aligned itself with the juste milieu will abandon it at the first opportunity. All it has promised is not to work to overthrow it; as for devotion [dévouement], you know whether it is possible for money grubbers to feel it. I would even say that most of the bourgeois, who are gathering, who are crowding around the government from hatred of the people whom they fear, from fear of the [social] war that terrifies them because they think it will cost them their money, these bourgeois have no great love of the current order; they feel it is powerless to protect them. Come the white flag [of the Royalists] and its promise to guarantee oppression of the people and material security, and they would be ready to sacrifice their former political pretensions, for they bitterly regret having, through pride, undermined the power of the Bourbons and paved the way for their fall. They will give up their share of power to the aristocracy, willingly trading tranquillity for servitude.

For the government of Louis-Philippe scarcely reassures them. However much it copies the Restoration, persecuting patriots, attempting to erase that stain of insurrection which tarnishes it in the eyes of the worshippers of public order, the memory of those three terrible days still pursues them, and dominates them. Eighteen months of a successfully waged war against the people have not yet managed to counterbalance just one popular victory. The battlefield still belongs to the people, and though already old, this victory remains suspended over the government’s head like the sword of Damocles. All are looking to see if the thread might soon break.

Citizens, two principles divide France, the principle of legitimacy and the principle of popular sovereignty. The first denotes the old organisation of the past. It is the framework in which society lived for fourteen hundred years and which some seek to preserve out of their instinct for survival, others because they fear that the framework cannot be swiftly replaced and that anarchy will follow its dissolution. The principle of popular sovereignty rallies all men of the future, the masses who, tired of being exploited, seek to smash the framework that suffocates them. There is no third flag, no middle term. The juste milieu is a nonsense, a bastard government whose efforts to give itself an air of legitimacy elicit nothing but laughter. And so the royalists, who perfectly understand this situation, take advantage of the consideration and indulgence of a government that seeks to win them over, in order to work more actively towards its ruin. Every day their many newspapers argue that only with legitimacy is order possible, that the middle road is powerless to hold the country together, that aside from legitimacy there is only revolution, and that once the first has been left behind there remains only the second.

What emerges from this situation? The upper classes are simply waiting for the moment to hoist the white flag. The great majority of the middle class, composed of men who have no other homeland than that of their office or their cash box, and who would gladly become Russian, Prussian or English if this allows them to earn a couple of pennies for a piece of cloth, or an additional quarter per cent of profit on a discounted bill, will without fail line up behind the white flag. The mere words ‘war’ and ‘popular sovereignty’ are enough to make them tremble. A minority of that class, composed of the intellectual professions and the small number of bourgeois who love the tricolour flag, the symbol of France’s freedom and independence, will take the side of popular sovereignty.

Thus, before July, power was concentrated in the hands of the upper class, who occupied the highest rung, and of the middle class who took up the second. The only consequence of the revolution was to invert the order of supremacy between these two classes; today the bourgeoisie finds itself in the front line and the upper classes are nothing more than their subordinate. The people, before as after, are nothing, they count for nothing. However, they want to be something, and in their common dread of this formidable pretender, the two privileged classes, with the exception of a small minority, put their mutual enmity to the side and unite under the same flag in order to fight against the advancing danger. As for the people, they scorn both aristocracies. They broke the power of the upper classes without the bourgeois and almost in spite of them. With their arms of a giant they will overthrow the allied bourgeoisie and aristocracy. The revolution is under way; nothing can stop it.

The moment of catastrophe is rapidly approaching. You see that the Chamber of Peers, the government officials and magistrates, and the majority of civil servants, are openly conspiring for the return of Henri V, mocking the juste milieu. Legitimist gazettes no longer hide either the hopes or the plans of the counter-revolution. The royalists in Paris and the provinces are gathering their forces, organising the Vendée and Brittany, and are proudly planting their banner. They state openly that the bourgeoisie is with them, and they are not mistaken. They are waiting only for the signal from abroad to raise the white banner, for without the foreign powers they would be crushed by the people. They know this and we fully expect them to be crushed, even with foreign support.

You can be assured, citizens, that they will not lack this support. Let us now take a look at our relations with the European powers. It should indeed be noted that the external situation has developed in parallel with the political course of the government internally. Shame without has grown in the exact same proportion to bourgeois despotism and the poverty of the masses within.

At the first sound of our revolution the kings lost their heads and, as the electric spark of insurrection rapidly set Belgium, Poland, and Italy ablaze, they sincerely believed their last day had arrived.11 Who could have imagined that the revolution would not be a revolution, that the expulsion of the Bourbons would not be the expulsion of the Bourbons, that the overturning of the Restoration would be a new version of the Restoration? Not even the maddest of the mad could have believed this. Over those three days the cabinets of Europe’s governments saw both the awakening of the French people and the beginning of its vengeance against the oppressors of nations. The nations judged like the cabinets. But for our friends as for our enemies, it was soon obvious that France had fallen into the hands of cowardly merchants who asked only to traffic its independence and sell its glory and liberty at the best possible price. Whereas the kings were awaiting our declaration of war they instead received pleading letters in which the French government implored forgiveness for its misdeeds. The new master apologised for his reluctant participation in the revolt. He protested his innocence and his hatred of the revolution, which he promised to subdue, to punish, to wipe out, if his good friends the kings would grant him their protection and a small place in the Holy Alliance, whose thoroughly faithful servant he would become.

The foreign cabinets understood that the people were not party to this treason and that they would not delay in bringing it to justice. They had made their choice: they would exterminate the insurrections that had broken out across Europe and then, once order had returned, unite their forces against France and go to Paris itself to strangle the revolution and its creative spirit. This plan was followed with admirable steadfastness and skill. They could not proceed too quickly, because the people of July, still full of their recent triumph, would have been alert to so clear a threat, and might have forced its government’s hand; it was moreover necessary to allow the juste milieu time to stifle enthusiasm, to discourage patriots and instil mistrust and discord across the nation. Nor could they go too slowly, for the masses might grow tired of the servitude and poverty that weighed on them internally and throw off the yoke for a second time, before the foreigners were in a position to stop them.

All of these pitfalls were avoided. The Austrians invaded Italy. The bourgeois who govern us cried ‘Good!’ and bowed before Austria. The Russians exterminated Poland. Our government cried ‘Very good!’ and prostrated itself before Russia. Meanwhile the London conference gained some time with its protocols aimed at guaranteeing the independence of Belgium. For a Restoration in Belgium would have opened France’s eyes, and France would have been able to defend its accomplishment. The kings are now taking another step forward. They no longer want an independent Belgium! They want to impose a Dutch Restoration on it. The three courts of the north are taking off their masks, and refusing to ratify the famous treaty that cost the conference sixteen months of labour.

Well then! Will the juste milieu respond to this insolent aggression with a declaration of war? War! Good God! The word alone makes the bourgeois turn pale. Listen to them! War means bankruptcy, war means the republic! War can only be supported with the blood of the people; the bourgeoisie does not get involved in such things. One must appeal to the people’s interests, their passions, in the name of liberty and of the country’s independence! The country, which they alone can save, would have to be put back into their hands. No, it would be a hundred times better to see the Russians in Paris than to unleash the passions of the multitude. At least the Russians are friends of order; they re-established order in Warsaw. Such are the calculations and language of the juste milieu.

It did not go to war when Italy and Poland rose up, even though Lord Grey openly admitted before Parliament that Europe at that moment was in no position to resist France. It did not declare war after Austria’s invasion of Italy; the odds were already less favourable. It did not go to war after the extermination of Poland. Ah! This was understandable – the enemy forces had tripled. And what does the juste milieu say to absolve itself of its betrayal of our allies? It says that war would affect credit and ruin commerce, that is to say it would end financial speculation at the stock exchange and would cause the capitalists to lose a few pennies. That is why we must expect an invasion, for it threatens us; it is here. The government, which did not know how to resort to arms when the danger was minimal, will show no more courage before an imminent danger. It can boast all it likes that it will defend France with the greatest vigour. No! A thousand times no! War would lead to the same ills today as a year ago. It will allow Dutch rule to be restored in Belgium, and [the French government] will show itself to be still more grovelling when confronted with a stronger enemy.

Here we are, then, surrounded by a wall of bayonets! Europe is in arms along our frontiers: will they cross them this year? Perhaps in seeing us now reduced to our own forces alone, the kings will want to condemn us to an even greater impotence, and for that all they need to do is to give the juste milieu time, allowing it another year to augment the people’s discouragement, to put them off the revolution, and to strike them with inertia. The Royalists will make themselves ready, and in the spring of next year, the Russians will find their lodgings prepared for them the whole way to Paris. For you can be sure that even then the bourgeoisie will not resolve to make war. Its terror will further increase at the prospect of the people become furious and ready to seek vengeance, and you will see merchants wearing the white cockade and greeting the enemy as a liberator. The Cossacks frighten them less than the rabble in work jackets. And then is it not an honour to patrol alongside the Prussians, and will not our friends the enemies get commerce moving again? Perhaps these wretched bourgeois will see their daughters raped on the doorsteps of their boutiques! But who cares about a raped girl, so long as the till is full?

Such is the fate that awaits us if the people do not recover their energy in order to punish the traitors. But a people does not make revolution without a great purpose. A powerful lever is needed for it to arise; it only resorts to insurrection at the final moment, when the danger is at its doors. I say it with sadness, but the old regime will be restored in Belgium without the masses mobilising. I am firmly confident, however, that if the foreigners were to cross our borders the people would not offer their hands to be shackled, and woe to our enemies!

Should it go otherwise, then before the Russian and Prussian hordes had breached the walls of Paris all of us would be dead, citizens! All of us! But not like our brothers of July, in the midst of victory, taking with them to the grave the consolation of having bestowed liberty to our country. We would die in the despair of a defeat, dead with this idea that France was no more and that we had seen its final days! Thus it is not enough to give one’s blood for the country; what would this sad sacrifice matter if it did nothing for its salvation. We must do better, we must save it – and we can do it, if we will it! [nous le pouvons ! si nous le voulons !]

What magnificent opportunities lie before us, in fact! What beautiful elements of victory! Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Poland are ready to rise up en masse and welcome us as liberators. Spain is royalist and fanatically religious, it is true, but it is poor and depopulated, and moreover rendered powerless against us by the Constitutionals who are rich and numerous and who would cause a diversion in our favour. Prussia is divided into two parts, of which the entirely liberal one would be our auxiliary, and only the other half would fight for our enemies. Austria is troubled internally by the nobility, and by the Hungarian peasants. Russia, with neither money nor enthusiasm, would be forced to assemble at great cost and with an enormous waste of time its soldiers that are spread across its vast wilderness. Finally there is England, in whose entrails silently rumbles the greatest revolutionary storm that might ever serve as a lesson to the powerful of this world. For the people are far more miserable across the Channel than in France. Poverty is far more horrifying there, and it is not uncommon for men to collapse, starved to death, on street corners or by the side of the road. The English therefore greeted our revolution with cheers of triumph. There like here, the middle class was supported by the masses, struggling against the aristocracy and, seeing that the July days had brought the French bourgeoisie to power, it considered imitating it. But the workers’ insurrections in Bristol and Nottingham, the riots in Paris and the Lyon movement all taught it that the people grow tired of being duped, and that they seek to pursue their own interests. The English middle class saw what a revolution would mean and, unwilling to have a go at one itself, in its fear it rallied to the aristocracy to repress the popular masses.

Such is the situation in England. The people use the drive for parliamentary reform12 as a pretext to bring down the tyranny of the aristocracy, the clergy and the upper bourgeoisie; the middle classes, who can thus see that reform is for the workers nothing more than a pretext, want to deprive them of it by uniting with the nobility. Today it is announced that the Reform Bill has been withdrawn. If this news is true, it is almost tantamount to a declaration of war against France, for it means Wellington’s return to the ministry, and in order to attack our borders the Holy Alliance is only waiting for just this change, which it has been pursuing for fifteen months. But the withdrawal of the bill is also a declaration of war against the English proletarians. It remains to be seen if the aristocracy will be clever enough to deflect their anger by awakening the old national hatred of France, or if the people, understanding their interests, will rise up to punish their enemies – in which case, let God have pity on the English aristocracy!

Besides, be they for or against us, what do the English matter to us! They have already learned that we care little for the addition of one further flag amongst the ranks of our enemies. France still has fourteen armies to unleash on the Europe of the kings, and the Europe of the peoples is on our side!

  1.  Source: the most finished manuscript version of this text appears to be in MSS 9592(3), ff. 17-26, which is reproduced with some inconsistencies in OI, 202-223 and MF, 80-100. Having been convicted of sedition for his defence speech at the ‘Procès des Quinze’ in January 1832, Blanqui delivered this address at a meeting of the Société des Amis du Peuple in Paris, before beginning his prison sentence in March. The large audience included Heinrich Heine, who was impressed by Blanqui’s revolutionary vitality, his ‘vigour, candour and wrath’.
  2.  Following the defeat at Waterloo on 18 June and the fall of Paris on 8 July 1815, many of Napoleon’s troops withdrew south of the Loire River. Royalists labelled them the ‘brigands of the Loire’.
  3.  A reference to the White Terror of 1815.
  4.  Four sergeants of the 45th regiment in Paris, Jean-François Bories, Jean-Joseph Pommier, Charles-Paul Goubin and Marie-Charles Raoulx, created a Carbonarist cell in 1821. When their regiment was sent from Paris to La Rochelle they were arrested for conspiring to mutiny in support of General Berton’s failed insurrection in Saumur. The four sergeants of La Rochelle, as they became known, were guillotined at the place de Grève in Paris on 21 September 1822. A young Auguste Blanqui witnessed their execution, and later described it as a decisive event in the evolution of his political perspective.
  5.  The French army invaded Spain in 1823 at the request of King Ferdinand VII, to bolster his bid to restore absolutism.
  6.  Jean-Baptiste de Villèle, an ultra-royalist, served as Prime Minister from 1822 to 1828.
  7.  Under the Bourbon restoration of 1815-1830, the franchise was limited to large property owners, and scarcely more than 1% of the population were eligible to vote.
  8. On 16 March 1830 the liberal opposition in the Chamber issued an address, voted through with the support of 221 deputies to 181, calling upon Charles X to dismiss his council, led by the reactionary Prince Jules de Polignac. The King responded by dissolving the Chamber, and called for new elections.
  9.  The four ordinances dissolved the Chamber of Deputies, reduced the franchise by a further 75% (so that it included only the richest landowners), called for new elections to the Chamber, and suspended press freedom.
  10.  This is presumably a reference to Hannibal, who according to Livy was told by his cavalry commander Maharbal: ‘you know how to gain a victory, Hannibal: you know not how to use one’ (Livy, The History of Rome 22.51).
  11.  A revolt in Brussels on 25 August 1830 against Dutch rule led to the declaration of an independent Kingdom of Belgium. Contrary to the resolution of the London Conference, which saw several major European powers recognise Belgian independence in December 1830, King William attempted to re-establish Dutch control during the ultimately unsuccessful ‘Ten Days’ Campaign’ of August 1831. After the 1830 November Uprising broke out in Warsaw, Poland’s struggle for independence was eventually crushed by the Russian army after a long and bloody war that lasted until October 1831. In Italy, Pope Gregory XVI called upon Austria to repress the pro-unification insurrections that had erupted across the Italian peninsula in February 1831; the Austrian army duly marched into Italy, and its short-lived republic collapsed in late April 1831.
  12.  After a vigorous campaign waged for and against, the 1832 Reform Act extended a still-limited franchise across England and Wales.