Fair Use Blog

To the Point! To Action!! (2 of 4)

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth:

[Part 1]


The representatives at the National Assembly were elected, let us not forget, to create a democratic constitution, to simplify the administration to allow a reduction in tax and allow respect for the individual; they were elected to set up the country.

What have they done, however?

Instead of setting up the country, they have been busy setting themselves up in government; they have deduced consequence before having established principle; then, and without being able to escape the disastrous precedent they had just been establishing, they have only been occupied, as they could only be occupied, with the health and conservation of that government.

They acted thus and they were consistent! The country, did it not, in effect, cease to exist the day the representatives met in the legitimate Palais? Was the Assembly not declared sovereign, absolute sovereign, let us make note thereof! and so absolute that it could do more than us, because it was against us.

It could stay in place indefinitely.

It could, by decree, have us imprisoned or proscribe us individually or all together!

It could sell France bit by bit or as a whole to foreign powers!

You might object that it will not. Certainly that is where we rest our hopes, because I reply that it could; and I add that I do not understand that a free people can be regularly at the discretion of a single national representation which enjoys a modest instrument of action, made up of five hundred and fifty thousand bayonets.

The National Assembly has only the keenness of the kings: the spirit of democracy is a stranger to them.

The Assembly is a government; it should be a notary.

We elected representatives to draft a contract that determined, by specific clauses, the deciding line between where the people end and where the administration begins: it decided, without writing anything down, that the people end everywhere and that government starts everywhere.

If the Assembly was the faithful expression of national sovereignty, the laws or decrees that it makes would apply immediately to safeguard the rights of citizens rather than applying to nothing but its own security. The essence of the law is to express the will and protect the interests of everyone; the law, since everyone is supposed to obey it, well! let us examine all the decrees issued by the Assembly and we do not find one that is not designed to save administrative inviolability by paralyzing civil liberties; we do not find a single one that does not sanction the restriction of society to the benefit of officialdom.


I do not believe at all in the efficacy of armed revolution and I will state right now why I do not. But, once a revolution of that sort is accomplished, once it is accepted, without contest, by the whole entire country, I can conceive of the possibility of turning it to the benefit of the nation.

What are the conditions for this?

It is necessary that the revolutionary action intervenes in things; it is necessary that it applies itself to the institutions!

The February revolution, like that of 1830, only became of benefit to a few men, because that revolution only abolished some proper names. Then, the machinery of government kept, as it now keeps, the same gears, and I see no change other than the hand that turns the crank.

What did they mean to say when on February 24 they posted in the streets and printed in the newspapers that France had overthrown the government and regained its freedom?

Did this mean simply that the National Assembly had taken the place of the “Journal des débats”?

Has anyone realized that the consequences of this event that shook the world must have the triumph of Monsieur Marrast and his friends as its limit?

It would have been, indeed, much ado about a rather poor job! When the revolutionaries told us: The French people have regained their freedom, we took the revolutionaries at their word and we proclaimed in our hearts the abolition not only of royalty, but of royal government, government that held closely chained in its administrative talons the liberty of France.

Thus, in regaining freedom of thought, freedom of the press and freedom of voting, we have abolished, together with its budget, the government of the interior that was established to spread insecurity to the benefit of the government of king.

Thus, in regaining the freedom of education, we have abolished, with its budget, the government of public instruction, which had been set up to hone our intelligence and to direct our education to the benefit of the government of the king.

Thus, in regaining the freedom of conscience, we have abolished, with its budget, the government of religion, which was established to introduce into the church only men whose influence was gained in the interests of the government of the king.

Thus, in regaining the freedom of trade, we have abolished, with its budget, the government of commerce, which was established to hold public credit continually under the control of the government of the king.

Thus, in regaining liberty of work and industry, we have abolished, with its budget, the government of public works which was set up to provide great benefit to friends of the government.

Thus, in regaining the liberty of transactions and the liberty of the territory, we have abolished, with its budget, the government of agriculture which was set up to keep the owner of the land, that is to say the one on whom rests the overseeing of the alimentation of the people, under the immediate dependence of the government of the king.

Thus, in regaining the right to free existence, we have abolished, with its budget, the government of the barracks, which, in times of peace, have only been used to hold us in political nothingness to the benefit of the government of the king.

Thus, finally, in reclaiming all our freedoms, we have abolished, with their multiple budgets, that complex administration of the illegitimate monarchies, that exorbitant tutelage that arose in the shady days of imperial tyranny, which has lain dead, crushed by discussion, for over thirty years, and whose corrupt cadaver, because we have not known how or where to bury it, stifles our freedom.

If it is true that a revolution abolishes something, here is what we abolished on 24 February.

If it is true that the people who form a revolution do so in order to win their liberties, here are the liberties that we won on 24 February.


The call to democracy of the last revolution was not heard by our representatives.

At that call, truly interpreted, France could have passed the barrier and gone home, that is to say to the commune. The nation thus rendered to its natural domicile, there would only remain in Paris an inoffensive symbol, carrying on diplomacy with the nations of the world, directing the navy, taking on or declaring war, according to events and conditions stipulated, signing peace treaties and trade pacts, keeping watch on the interior, on the implementation of the laws,—always simple and few in number among free people,—nominating, among its responsibilities a minister for foreign affairs, a justice minister, a minister for the navy and the colonies, a minister of war and a finance minister, and managing business with a budget which would reach, taking one year with another, save for the case of hostilities and debt interest, the figure of four to five hundred million.

I am not talking about the debt that remains underneath this scheme. This debt, that France can get to know rather better on returning to the commune when she is again in possession of her own wealth, will incur less interest as a result of the single fact that administrative charges absorb the clearest amount of its revenues. Here I am not liquidating the royal government. I oblige it, by canceling seven budgets, to return annually to the nation twelve hundred million, at least, with which the debt can easily be extinguished in a few years.

But the most immediate benefit that France must gain from the canceling of these budgets is her freedom of action, which must by nature result in confidence among citizens, the cessation of the crisis and the establishment of national credit on the ruins of this feverish credit of the government, credit which rises or falls according to how the government stabilizes or totters.

Apart from the ministerial departments of the navy and war, which are annexes to that of foreign affairs, and apart from the grand judge, on whom rests judicial unity, all other ministries are incompatible with civil liberties, because they are only a dismemberment of the royal despotism that held all social elements in its grasp.

If commerce, if industry, if education, if religion, if agriculture, if, in a word, the French are free can someone tell me what we have to do with the great masters of industry, of commerce, of education, of religion, of agriculture, of home affairs? Since when has great mastery ceased to be the sanction of servitude?


The government of France established on the bases that I have just indicated, the parties will disappear, ambitions will become extinguished and the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity will finally leave the domain of interpretation and controversy to go into effect.

I will explain myself and my explanation will be simple:

What is opposed to the establishment of liberty, equality, fraternity among us? Ambition, that is to say the desire to dominate, to govern the people.

Where does ambition reside? In the parties: that is to say, in those who desire to dominate and govern the people.

From where does a party derive its raison d’être? From the certitude that it will have power, victorious, take for itself national freedoms and taxes; that is to say in the possibility of demonstrating mastery in authority over all things and of thus imposing itself on the people and the opposition parties.

How can a party impose itself? By taking control of the administration.

So, what is the administration?

The administration is an I-know-not-what of the abstract, the indefinite, the illogical, the contradictory, the obscure, the incomprehensible, the arbitrary, the absurd, the monstrous.

Something which derives neither from the heart, since it is arid and without sentiment, nor from science, since no one there understands anything.

An instrument without form, without contour and without proportions. A myth, wicked and cowardly, whose ruinous culture occupies a million priests, all as insolent as they are fanatic.

Something blind but that sees everything, deaf but that hears everything, impotent but capable of everything, without weight but crushing everything, invisible but filling everything, impalpable but touching everywhere, impossible to seize hold of but grasping everything, inviolable but violating.

An incandescent nebulosity of lightning, thunder and asphyxia.

A magical, demoniac and infernal invention that strikes out, always strikes out at everything and in all directions in such a way that there is always a bulwark of whirlwinds and moulinets between its officers and the people.

That is the administration!–that by which one governs, the primary cause of the requirement for parties, ambition, tyranny, privileges, hatred! This is the monster in dispute! Here is the Minotaur that drinks blood and devours millions upon millions! Here is the fortress by turns besieged, conquered, resieged, reconquered, and resieged again to be reconquered anew by the parties!

Remove the administration, smother the monster, crush the Minotaur, demolish the fortress, and what is left? Doctrines, nothing more! Individual doctrines having no way to impose themselves! Isolated doctrines, timorous and abashed, that you will see running, and utterly out of breath, throwing themselves, for protection and security, into the bosom of that great human doctrine: EQUITY.

Let us slay this dragon bristling with talons that the nationals want to tame for the benefit of Monsieur Cavaignac, in order to make it bite us.

That the socialists want to tame for the benefit of Monsieur Proudhon, in order to make it bite us.

That the Orleanists want to tame for the benefit of Monsieur de Paris, in order to make it bite us.

That the imperialists want to tame for the benefit of Monsieur Bonaparte, in order to make it bite us.

That the legitamists want to tame for the benefit of Monsieur de Bourbon, in order to make it bite us.

Disperse the nails of the animal in the municipalities; keep them with care so that no one can reunite them in the body, and discord flees with its unique cause; there will be in France only free men, having, for the right of others, due respect for their own rights, and embracing in the fraternal ambition to contribute to common well-being. Mistrust loses, thus, the guarantee of its heinous impulses; capital is attracted to production, production is supported by the capital, and national and individual credit is substantiated.


Having achieved this level of liberation, we will be masters at home to ourselves; no one will be above the rest; no one will be above the common law; national sovereignty will be from then on a fact, and universal suffrage will have a democratic meaning.

Instead of the silly and puerile right to choose our masters, as has just been granted us, we will select delegates who, in turn, instead of being guided by administrative law, as is the practice at the time I write, will be guided by the national law, whose definition will be specified by fact.

From this will emerge a simple administration, and, consequently, a comprehensible one; a true administration, and, consequently, a just one. The program of the accession of the French to all jobs will cease to be a crude lie, an iniquitous delusion whose turpitude is demonstrated by the inability of special studies to educate men to unravel the mechanism of a single section of the formidable administration that rules us.

And, our liberties once safe, the administration once simplified, the government once stripped of its means of aggression, put at its head a Frenchman. Whether he is called Cavaignac, Proudhon, d’Orléans, Bonaparte, Bourbon, to this I attach truly very little importance. As long as they cannot usurp my mastery, as long as they cannot fail in their duty towards me, those in office do not at all seem to me to require serious attention: the names of those who serve me are of little importance to me. If they act badly, I will punish them; if they act well, they have done nothing but their duty; I owe them nothing but that which is agreed as their salary.

What I have said about their name, I also say about their title. That the head of a democratic administration is called president, king, emperor, satrap, sultan; that he is mister, citizen or majesty, is of little importance to me! When the nation is truly sovereign, I am sure of one thing, that is, that the head of state, whatever his name may be, must not be anything other than the first servant of the nation, and that is what will suffice me; for, once he is established, de facto, as a public functionary, salaried by the people, he is nothing but a servant of the people, I know that the people will be protected from the passage of the functionary, who will show himself before the people who pay him, from whom he earns his living, to whom he owes his services, and who, therefore, are his master. This known, there is no more indecision in the city: public law is defined, the nation is queen and the civil servant is no more than a hierarchical member, remunerated by political domesticity, who owes everything to everyone, and to whom no one personally owes anything.

If democracy is the overthrow of a regime unworthy of office;

If democracy is the consecration of the dignity of the citizen;

If democracy is the nonexistence of ambition and crime, and at the same time a source of altruism and its virtues;

If democracy is the government of the people, the government by oneself for oneself;

If democracy is nothing but pure and simple rule and not a tyranny of administration;

It seems to me that I am to the point.


There are only two points among the people on which no divergence of opinion can exist, two points on which converge the good sense of all parties irrespective of details.

Those two points are:

The repression of crime against the person and against property, and the defense of the territory.

Consult in this respect all the sectarians of the social schisms. Ask of the socialists, of the conservatives of this regime without name at the National Assembly, of the Orleanists, of the imperialists, of the legitimists, ask them, I tell you, if it is necessary to punish the assassin and the thief, and if it is necessary to defend the country’s borders. All will respond unanimously in the affirmative; for all, regardless, the person and his belongings are sacred, and the national territory inviolable. These are the common, universal doctrines; before them the parties step aside and fade away; at these supreme points of public rendezvous, every Frenchman is in agreement and fraternally offers his hand.

So, well, why should we seek the guardian spirit of a government outside this reservoir of the common aspirations of all? Why should we permit the introduction of a dose of individual attachments to this potion prepared for the health of all?

Do you want a strong government with the consent of the public? a government whose existence is in no way threatened by the irritation and sudden attacks of minorities? Establish a serious governmental administration, a stranger to the petty squabbling and to the wretched ambitions of individuals; a national administration which includes the parties by their rational and sensible foundations, an administration whose power, though limited, extends to provide assistance in the execution of arrests decreed with a view to repress crimes and offenses against the person and against property, and to regulate the agreements and differences between our country and foreign ones.

A government whose powers are thus defined cannot excite the discontent of anyone without at the same time being condemned by everyone; since it only occupies itself precisely with issues on which everyone is in agreement, whether it acts well or whether it acts badly, it has no opposition. The sanction of its acts is in the conscience of all. To protect a government from revolutions, it must not be permitted to interfere in the real lives of its citizens, it must not be allowed to be able to touch the instincts, the tastes, the private interests of its citizens; because these instincts, these tastes, these interests are varied and changing, while the rules of an administration are uniform and fixed. A democratic government must remain forever in social abstraction.

Let me be enjoined, by a higher authority, to think in one way rather than another, to trade on such a condition rather than some other, to instruct myself in one school or with such a book rather than in another school or with another book; to exercise one profession rather than another; to like this instead of liking that—that is to tyrannize me as much as if I were ordered to eat vegetables rather than meat, and a government that has powers over such inordinate details will not fail to annoy an intelligent people that possesses a sense of human dignity.

If we rest our attention for a moment on the spirit of the institution that preoccupies me, it will be impossible for us to find a ministerial act that does not carry within its flanks the violation of a liberty. A minister (I speak of those whose administration applies to the instincts, to the tastes or to the interests), a minister could only respect the public right—I speak not of the written law—solely on the condition that he did not act; since, acting, he acts for everyone and in the place of everyone, it would be necessary for him to act well and without hurting anyone, that he has an instinct for current trends, a mind for current tastes and an awareness of the current interests of everyone. That being the case, one thing astonishes me: that there are still men sufficiently wicked or so profoundly unfit to not be able to shrink back from accepting a portfolio.

Who then would have suffered from the stripping down of the apparatus of monarchy?

Some civil servants!

Who would have benefited from it? All France!

Who then suffers from the conservation of the full apparatus of monarchy? All France!

Who benefits from it? Some civil servants!

I have said enough to make it understandable, how, by taking the revolution in February at its word, it is possible to attain both sides of the democratic equation: individual freedom and cheap government.

[to be continued...]

[Translation by Collective Reason (Robert Tucker, Jesse Cohn, and Shawn P. Wilbur.) Robert did most of the hard work, and I'm responsible for the final choices.]

Read the whole thing at Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth.

Leave a Reply