Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Day After Independence Day

Given all the concerns raised by the Con-Ass and the Cha-cha in local politics, I came upon this speech in Rafael Sabatini's swashbuckling adventure novel Scaramouche which I thought was quite pertinent.

In the events leading up to the French Revolution, protagonist André-Louis Moreau addresses the crowd at the city of Nantes on the despicable actions of the nobility. The entire speech can be seen here:

"My name is Omnes Omnibus-- all for all. Let that suffice now. I am a herald, a mouth-piece, a voice; no more. I come to announce to you that since the privileged orders, assembled for the States of Britanny in Rennes, resisted your will-- our will-- despite the King's plain hint to them, His Majesty has disolved the States.

...Unfortunately, the nobles, in their insolent arrogance, have elected to ignore the royal dissolution, and in despite of it persist in sitting and in conducting matters as seems good to them.

So that these men who were already rebels against the people, rebels against justice and equity, rebels against humanity itself, are now also rebels against their King. Sooner than yield an inch of the unconscionable privileges by which too long already they have flourished, to the misery of a whole nation, they will make a mock of royal authority, hold up the King himself to contempt. They are determined to prove that there is no real sovereignty in France but the sovereignty of their own parasitic fainéantise.

This is no new thing. Always has it been the same. No minister in the last ten years, who seeing the needs and perils of the State, counseled the measures that we now demand as the only means arresting our motherland in its ever-quickening progress to the abyss, but found himself as a consequence cast out of office by the influence which Privilege brought to bear against him...

But what the privileged orders can no longer prevent, they are determined to stultify. Since it is now a settled thing that these States General are to meet, at least the nobles and the clergy will see to it-- unless we take measures to prevent them-- by packing the Third Estate with their own creatures, and denying it all effective representation, that they convert the States General into an instrument of their own will for the perpetuation of the abuses by which they live. To achieve this end they will stop at nothing. They have flouted the authority of the King, and they are silencing by assassination those who raise their voices to condemn. Yesterday in Rennes two young men who addressed the people as I am addressing you were done to death in the streets by assassins at the instigation of the nobility. Their blood cries out for vengeance.

Citizens of Nantes, the motherland is in peril. Let us march to her defense. Let us proclaim it to the world that we recognize that the measures to liberate the Third Estate form the slavery in which for centuries it has groaned find only obstacles in those orders whose phrenetic egotism sees in tears and suffering of the unfortunate an odious tribute which they would pass on to their generations still unborn. Realizing from the barbarity of the means employed by our enemies to perpetuate our oppression that we have everything to fear from the aristocracy they would set up as a constitutional principle for the governing of France, let us declare ourselves at once enfranchised from it.

The establishment of liberty and equality should be the aim of every citizen member of the Third Estate; and to this end we should stand indivisibly united, especially the young and vigorous, especially those who have had the good fortune to be born late enough to be able to gather for themselves the precious fruits of the philosophy of this eighteenth century.

Let us swear to raise up in the name of humanity and of liberty a rampart against our enemies, to oppose their bloodthirsty covetousness the calm perseverance of men whose cause is just. And let us protest here and in advance against any tyrannical decrees that should declare us seditious when we have none but pure and just intentions. Let us make oath upon the honor of our motherland that should any of us be seized by an unjust tribunal, intending against us one of those acts termed of political expediency-- which are, in effect, but acts of despotism, let us swear, i say, to give a full expression to the strength that is in us and do that in self-defense which nature, courage and despair dictate to us."

For more notes on the story's background, see: French Parlement and a chronology of The French Revolution vis-a-vis classic literature. And who says fiction doesn't have anything to say about reality, hmmm?

1. Picture taken from here.
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