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LOUIS ADOLPHE THIERS
their distance and the serious complications they may cause. The war in Mexico has already cost us more than the Italian war, to say nothing of the complications it may entail. The war expenditure, has, of course, been met by loans, and the public debt has consequently been considerably increased. Next come our great public works, an excellent employment for the country's savings in times of peace, as every sensible man will acknowledge ; but we ought to proceed prudently.
It is a mistake to suppose, as some do, that there need be no limit to the application of our savings to public works; agriculture and manufactures ought to have their share, and if only a portion should be employed by the State in improving roads, canals and other means of communication, still less should be devoted to the mere embellishment of towns. It is certainly necessary to widen the streets and improve the salubrity of cities, but there is no necessity for such vast changes as have been operated in Paris, where, I think, all reasonable limits have been exceeded. The contagion of example is to be feared The proverb says that he who commits one folly is wise. If Paris only were to be rebuilt I should not have much to say against it, but you know what La Fontaine wittily says:
“Every citizen must build like a lord,
Every little prince have his ambassadors,
Every marquis have his pages.'
Last year the Minister of State answered me that only a trifling expenditure was intended, not more than six millions; but it appears from the debates of the Council-General that the expense will be twelve or fourteen millions, and some persons say as much as twenty millions. I know that the Prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhône is a senator ; but if it takes twelve millions to build him a residence, that is a large sum. All the other prefects will be eager to follow his example, as the Prefect of Lisle is already. The sub-prefects, also, will want new residences and new furniture. Where would all this lead to ? The Minister of Public Works, full of glory, must have more consideration for the cares of the Minister of Finance. But here we have a new Minister of Public Works, with a new glory to make, and demands for millions multiply.
The Minister of Finance defends himself as well as he can, but appears to be conquered ; he might resist by resigning, certainly; but that is a means borrowed from past days. A compromise is at least effected. To spare the Treasury, one hundred millions are to be obtained by selling part of the State forests. For this, however, your consent is
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necessary; but the matter is settled in principle, and the public domain will supply the funds which the Treasury refuses. By whom is this torrent of expenditure to be arrested? By yourselves, gentlemen! Your wisdom, courage and patriotism can alone achieve the task. Your responsibility is great, especially in financial matters ; in politics your powers may be contested to a certain extent, but in questions of finance they are undisputed. In finances you, therefore, are responsible for everything. It is time to halt in this course of expenditure, and not to imitate those sinners who are always talking of reforming and, after all, die in financial impenitence.
We are often told that financial science is obscure, but the assertion is untrue. Sciences are never obscure, except through the dullness of those who expound them, or the charletanism of those who assume a false air of profundity. I will take my examples from private life. Let us suppose two fathers; one methodical, strict and somewhat morose; the other easy and good natured. The former will regulate his expenditure according to his income, and fix limits which he will not pass ; during the year this may cause some deprivation to himself and his family, but when settling day comes he has neither anxiety nor embarrassment. The latter takes no such precautions; he passes quietly through the year, restricting neither his own expenditure nor that of his family ; but when he settles his accounts he finds he has exceeded his income, and is obliged to encroach on his capital to pay his debts; and thus he goes on from year to year, with ever-increasing embarrassment, until ruin stares him in the face. The stern father, meanwhile, has preserved or even increased his estate, and taught his children that which will be useful to them through life. As in private life, so it is in public affairs. Statesmen have the same passions as other men, and it is only by resisting these passions that they can save the State .
I ask your pardon for speaking so warmly, but it is impossible to treat a graver or more interesting subject. I repeat that you are running toward the double rock, either of failing in your engagements, or of rendering inevitable the imposition of various taxes which may give rise to deplorable divisions. I abjure you to reflect most seriously on this state of affairs. You are on the brink of a financial gulf if you persist in the present course. I ask pardon for distressing you, but it is my duty to tell you the truth, and I tell it, whatever the result may be.
VICTOR MARIE HUGO (1802-1885)
POET, DRAMATIST, NOVELIST, AND ORATOR
RANCE has produced, among her many brilliant orators, but
one Victor Hugo, a man “everything by turns” and always
great. As a novelist, many look upon him as the greatest of the century, and regard his " Les Miserables” as a work peerless of its kind. As poet, as dramatist, he stood also in the first rank. And as an orator, no Frenchman has surpassed him but Mirabeau. He was an orator in grain ; his prose works read like animated speeches. He was as fearless as he was able. He did not hesitate to attack Louis Napoleon with trenchant bitterness during his climb to power, closing one of his attacks with the stinging words: “ What! after Augustus must we have Augustulus ? Because we had a Napoleon the Great must we now have Napoleon the Little ?”
NAPOLEON THE LITTLE [When Louis Napoleon seized the throne Victor Hugo went into exile. It was impossible for him to keep still with this small usurper on the throne of his great uncle, and he sought a refuge where he could speak his mind freely. How freely he spoke may be seen from the oration we append. He had the art of making vivid and telling sentences, and of such this outburst of patriotic passion is largely made up.]
I have entered the lists with the actual ruler of Europe, for it is well for the world that I should exhibit the picture. Louis Bonaparte is the intoxication of triumph. He is the incarnation of merry yet savage despotism. He is the mad plentitude of power seeking for limits, but finding them not, neither in men nor facts. Louis Bonaparte holds France Urbem Romam habet ; and he who holds France holds the world. He is master of the votes, master of consciences, master of the people; he names his successor, does away with eternity, and places the future in a sealed envelope. His Senate, his Legislative Body, with lowered heads,
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creep behind him and lick his heels. He takes up or drops the bishops and cardinals ; he tramples upon justice which curses him, and upon judges who worship him. Thirty eager newspaper correspondents inform the world that he has frowned, and every electric wire quivers if he raises his little finger. Around him is heard the clanking of the sabre and the roll of the drum. He is seated in the shadow of eagles, begirt by ramparts and bayonets. Free people tremble and conceal their liberty lest he should rob them of it. The great American Republic even hesitates before him, and dares not withdraw her ambassador. Kings look at him with a smile from the midst of their armies, though their hearts be full of dread. Where will he begin ? Belgium, Switzerland, or Piedmont ?
Europe awaits his invasion. He is able to do as he wishes, and he dreams of impossibilities. Well, this master, this triumphant conqueror, this vanquisher, this dictator, this emperor, this all-powerful man, one lonely man, robbed and ruined, dares to rise up and attack. Louis Napoleon has ten thousand cannons and five hundred thousand soldiers; I have but a pen and a bottle of ink, I am a mere nothing, a grain of dust, a shadow, an exile without a home, a vagrant without even a passport ; but I have at my side two mighty auxiliaries --God, who is invincible, and Truth, which is immortal.
Certainly, Providence might have chosen a more illustrious champion for this duel to the death ; some stronger athlete--but what matters the man when it is the cause that fights? However it may be, it is good for the world to gaze upon this spectacle. For what is it but intelligence striking against brute force? I have but one stone for my sling ; but it is a good one, for its name is Justice !
I am attacking Louis Bonaparte when he is at the height and zenith of his power, at the hour when all bend before himn. All the better; this is wbat suits me best.
Yes, I attack Louis Bonaparte ; I attack him openly, before all the world. I attack him before God and man. I attack him boldly and recklessly for love of the people and for love of France.
He is going to be an emperor. Let him be one ; but let him remember that, though you may secure an empire, you cannot secure an easy conscience !
This is the man by whom France is governed! Governed, do I say? -possessed in supreme and sovereign sway! And every day, and every morning, by his decrees, by his messages, by all the incredible drivel which he parades in the Moniteur, this emigrant, who knows not France, teaches France her lesson ; and this ruffian tells France he has saved her! And from whom? From herself! Before him, Providence committed only follies ; God was waiting for him to reduce everything to order ; at
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last he has come! For thirty-six years there had been in France all sorts of pernicious things,—the tribune, a vociferous thing; the press, an obstreperous thing; thought, an insolent thing; and liberty, the most crying abuse of all. But he came, and for the tribune he has substituted the Senate ; for the press, the censorship; for thought, imbecility; and for liberty, the sabre; and by the sabre and the Senate, by imbecility and censorship, France is saved.
Saved, bravo ! And from whom, I repeat? From herself. For what has this France of ours, if you please? A herd of marauders and thieves; of anarchists, assassins, and demagogues. She had to be manacled, had this mad woman, France; and it is Monsieur Bonaparte Louis who puts the handcuffs on her. Now she is in a dungeon, on a diet of bread and water, punished, humiliated, garroted, safely cared for. Be not disturbed, Monsieur Bonaparte, a policeman stationed at the Elysee is answerable for her in Europe. He makes it his business to be so; this wretched France is in the strait-jacket, and if she stirs—Ah, what is this spectacle before our eyes ? ) Is it a dream ? Is it a nightmare ? On one side a nation, the first of nations, and on the other, a man, the last of men ; and this is what this man does to this nation. What! he tramples her under his feet, he laughs in her face, he mocks and taunts her, he disowns, insults, and flouts her! What! he says, “I alone am worthy of consideration !” What! in this land of France, where none would dare to slap the face of his fellow, this man can slap the face of the nation? Oh, the abominable shame of it all! Every time that Monsieur Bonaparte spits, every face must be wiped! And this can last ! and you tell me it will last! No! No! by every drop in every vein, no ! shall not last! Ah, if this did last, it would be in very truth because there would no longer be a God in heaven, nor a France on earth!
THE HEROISM OF VOLTAIRE [On the centennial anniversary of Voltaire's death, May 30, 1878, Hugo made at Paris the following eloquent address.]
One hundred years ago to-day a man died ! He died immortal, laden with years, with labors, and with the most illustrious and formidable of responsibilities--the responsibility of the human conscience informed and corrected. He departed amid the curses of the past and the blessings of the future--and these are the two superb forms of glory !-dying amid the acclamations of his comtemporaries and of posterity, on the one hand, and on the other with the hootings and hatreds bestowed by the implacable past on those who combat it. He was more than a man-he was an epoch! He had done his work; he had fulfilled his mission evidently