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live. A people at peace, free and respected within and without, might listen to the advice which is given you to be generous; but a people whose liberty is still disputed, after so many sacrifices and combats, can not afford to do so.
V.-ON BEING CALLED AN ARISTOCRAT.
You have called me an a-ris'tocrat. Listen to my reply. My only aristocracy is the superiority which industry, frugality, perseverance, and intelligence, will always assure to every man in a free state of society. I belong only to those privileged classes to which you may all belong in your turn. The privileges are not created for us, but created by us. Our wealth is our own; we have made it. Our ease is our own; we have gained it by the sweat of our brows, or by the labor of our minds. Our position in society is not conferred upon us, but purchased by ourselves, with our own intellect, application, zeal, patience, and industry. If you remain inferior to us, it is because you have not the intellect or the industry, the zeal or the sobriety, the patience or the application, necessary to your advancement. This is not our fault, but your own.
You wish to become rich, as some men do to become wise; but there is no royal road to wealth, any more than there is to knowledge. You sigh for the ease and repose of wealth, but you are not willing to do that which is necessary to procure them. The husbandman who will not till his ground shall reap nothing but thistles and briers. You think that there must be something wrong in human society, if you do not become wealthy and powerful; but what right have you to expect-you idlers and drones in the hive- you shall always be fed on the honey and sweets of life? What right have you, who do nothing for yourselves, your families, your country, or your kind, to imagine that you will be selected for public favor, confidence, and reward?
I am not an aristocrat in that sense of the term in which it may be applied in absolute governments, or under imperial rule; but, if by an aristocrat you mean a man who has earned his promotion by his labor, his honors by his toils, and his wealth by his industry, O, then, indeed, I am an aristocrat; and, please God, I will always remain so. The distinctions in human society displease you, because you have not the talent or the industry to amend your own position. You are too idle to labor, and too proud to beg; but I will endeavor to take care that you shall not rob me. I throw back, then, with indignation and resent
ment, the charge which is made. I belong to the middling classes of society. I have been selected by my fellow-citizens as one of their representatives; and, by the blessing of Heaven, I will represent them.
GENTLEMEN, one great object of the Revolution of February was to establish universal suffrage; and you would now restrict, abridge, and mutilate it! Have you considered well what you are about? This law, which gives a share in the popular sovereignty to the down-trodden victim of social and political distinctions to the desperate man, ready for revolt — what does it say to him but this, Vote! No more fighting!" Universal suffrage says to all, "Be ye tranquil! Are ye not sovereign? When you have voted, the sovereignty has spoken." The right of insurrection is abolished by the right of suffrage. It is the overthrow of violence and brute force; the end of the material, and the beginning of the moral fact. And now it is proposed to abolish this sacred right; and, consequently, to reinstate the abominable and impious right of insurrection!
And why, ye ministers and men of state, who govern, why do you attempt this aggression upon popular rights? Why do you engage in this mad enterprise? It is because the people have seen fit to deem worthy of their votes men whom you judge worthy of your insults! It is because they have presumed to compare your promises with your acts. It is because they do not find your administration altogether sublime. It is, finally, because they have dared to give you their advice peaceably, through the ballot-box, and have not prostrated themselves at your feet! And, consequently, you wax indignant and angry. You cry out, "Society is in danger! We will chastise you, people! We will punish you, people! We will take you in hand!" And so, like that maniac, of whom History tells, you beat the ocean with rods! And so, you launch at us your poor little laws, so furious and so feeble! And so, you defy the spirit of the age, defy the good sense of the public, defy the democracy, and tear your unfortunate finger-nails against the granite of universal suffrage!
You, who believe yourselves the conservative upholders of society, are the most dangerous of revolutionists; the most dangerous, because, in your simplicity, you make revolutions without seeing it, without wishing it, and without knowing it —
nay, wishing all the while to do something very different. on, gentlemen! Disfranchise, if you will, three millions of voters, four millions, nay, eight millions, out of nine! Get rid of all these. The result will be the same. What you can not get rid of is your own fatal incapacity and ignorance; your own antipathy toward the people, and theirs toward you! What you can not get rid of is the time that marches and the hour that sounds; the earth that revolves; the onward movement of ideas; the crippled pace of prejudice; the widening gulf between you and the age, between you and the coming generation, between you and the spirit of liberty, between you and the spirit of philosophy! What you can not get rid of is this palpable fact, that while you pass on one side, the nation passes on the other; that what is for you the east, is for her the west; and that while you turn your back on the future, this great people of France, their foreheads all bathed in light from the day-spring of a new humanity, turn their back on the past!
VII. THE DEATH PENALTY.
I REGRET, gentlemen, that this question of the abolition of capital punishment the most important question, perhaps, of all before this body comes up at a time when we are little prepared for its discussion. For myself, I have but few words to say on the subject, but they will proceed from convictions profound and long entertained. You have established the inviolability of the domicil; we ask you to establish an inviolability higher and more sacred- the inviolability of human life! Gentlemen, a constitution, and, above all, a constitution made by France and for France, is necessarily an important step in civilization. If it is not that, it is nothing. Consider, then, this penalty of death. What is it but the special and eternal type of barbarism? Whereever the penalty of death is most in vogue, barbarism prevails. Wherever it is rare, civilization reigns. Gentlemen, these are indisputable facts.
The modification of the penalty was a great forward step. The eighteenth century, to its honor, abolished the torture. The nineteenth century will abolish the death penalty! You may not abolish it to-day. But, doubt not, you will abolish it tomorrow; or else your successors will abolish it. You have inscribed at the head of the preamble of your constitution the words," IN PRESENCE OF GOD;" and would you begin by depriy
REASONS OF STATE.
ing that God of the right which to Him only belongs the right of life and death?
Gentlemen, there are three things which are God's, not man's: the irrevocable, the irreparable, the indissoluble. Woe to man if he introduces them into his laws! Sooner or later they will force society to give way under their weight; they derange the equilibrium essential to the security of laws and of morals; they take from human justice its proportions; and then it happens, think of it, gentlemen!-it happens that the law revolts the conscience!
I have ascended this trib'une to say but a word, a decisive word, and it is this: After the Revolution of February came a great thought to the French people. The day after they had burned the Throne, they sought to burn the Scaffold! But this sublime idea they were prevented from carrying into execution. In the first article of this constitution you have consecrated the people's first thought; you have cast down the Throne! Now consecrate its second thought, and cast down the Scaffold! I vote for the entire abolition of the penalty of death.
VICTOR HUGO (Sept. 15, 1848).
VIII. - REASONS OF STATE.
UNDER the modest title of a law of deportation, the measure before us, gentlemen, would, in fact, restore the penalty of death for political offenses-a penalty which, to their lasting glory, the people of France abolished in the revolution of February. To banish a man to Madagascar, or to the Marquesas, what is it but to reestablish the penalty of death? The climate contributes its malignity, exile its crushing dejection, the dungeon its despair. In the place of one executioner, there are three. Ah! it is something worse than the scaffold! It is death without a last look at the sky of one's country!
Gentlemen, you will reject this law; you will confirm that grand principle, the abolition of the death penalty for political offenses, a principle which emanated from the large, generous heart of the people, in their moment of triumph and of power. You will not give the lie to that which was even something more than a cry of the popular conscience - to that which was the cry of the human conscience.
Conscience. Ah! I know there are certain profound statesmen - men very wise (in their own conceit), very practical, very sagacious-who smile whenever this word conscience is mentioned in political discussions. They oppose to our word
conscience the overpowering phrase of reasons of state. They tell us that we know nothing of business; that we are destitute of political sense; that we are not safe, sober, practical men; and they call us - as the severest stigma they can invent-poets!
They affirm that what we find, or believe we find, in our conscience, our faith in progress, in justice, in the amelioration of laws and of manners, our aspirations for liberty, for human im provement, for national grandeur, are all very well, no doubt, in themselves, but lead, in the attempt to apply them practically, to illusions and chimeras; and that, above and beyond all these considerations, we must be guided on real occasions by reasons of state! Reasons of state! Ah! a fine phrase, that! Just now, amid the interruptions from opponents with which I have been honored, I heard those sounding words-reasons of state!
But let us examine them-these "reasons of state." Let us review some of the measures to which they have given birth. I open history, and I see, along the line of the ages, all the acts of baseness, infamy, rascality, cowardice, cruelty, which have been authorized or committed under the plea of reasons of state! Marat invoked these reasons, as well as Louis the Eleventh; they were quoted to justify the enormities of the Revolution, as well as the massacres of St. Bartholomew. "Reasons of state!" Those reasons erected the guillotines of Robespierre, and are now erecting the gibbets of Haynau. Ah! my heart revolts at all this. I would have neither the policy of the guillotine, nor the policy of the gibbet; neither Marat nor Haynau - nor your law of deportation! And, come what may, whenever in critical moments an inspiration or a counsel is needed, I am of those who will never hesitate between that virgin, whom we call conscience, and that polluted hag, whom you call reasons of state!
Gentlemen, there is such a thing as political reprisals. 0! you murmur at that! Then it is against history that you murmur. Of all the men who have had the direction of government or of public opinion during the last sixty years in France, there is not one- hear you? not one, who has not, sooner or later, been precipitated from his high place. The names which remind us of great triumphs remind us of great catastrophes also. He who was Lafayette is soon a captive at Olmutz; he who was Napoleon is soon an exile at St. Helena. Examine consider!
Who recovered the throne in 1814? The exile of Hartwell! Who reigned after 1830? The pro'script of Reichenau,-to-day the banished monarch of Claremont! Who governs at this moment? The prisoner of Ham! Now make laws of proscription, now restore the death penalty for political offenses, if you willif you dare!