Written: April 14,1848;
Source: Ecrits sur la révolution. Oeuvres complètes tome I. Editions Galilée, 1977, Paris;
Translated: from the original for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
[****] indicates words illegible in the original;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2007.
On March 31, 1848 an article written by Jules Taschereau was published in the Revue Retrospective. The article contained documents from the Minister of Interior concerning the failed insurrection of May 12, 1839 and implied that Blanqui was the source of information given the police about the secret revolutionary societies of the period.
Suddenly a strange piece has appeared in an unknown journal. It accuses the principal leader of the secret societies between 1834-39 of treason.
Blanqui, the supposed author, did not write it, didn’t sign it. No sign reveals its origin or guarantees its authenticity.
It’s a question here of killing a man who had become an obstacle and a danger. Using police and court clerk notes, perhaps even using personal memories, a history of the secret societies of the years 1835-39 was fabricated, and at the top was written: “Blanqui’s Declaration before the Minister of the Interior.”
And so here I am garbed in the shirt of Nessus!
What was the forger’s secret? The use of the first person. How can anyone resist the magical influence of the words I, me that are repeatedly used in the tale as the personification of the same man? It’s him! They cry: he speaks, he tells all, he’s on stage.
It is forgotten that for thirty years, using the same method, and using the notes of chambermaids, literary fabricators have constructed heaps of so-called historical memoirs in the name of every possible person. I cite those of Napoleon published in 1820. The illusion was universal and people barely gave credence to the still living Napoleon’s denial. What was the procedure of the Abbot Pradt, the author of the mystification? A strong style and direct speech.
In the document in the Revue Retrospective replace the pronouns I and me with Blanqui and what is left? An incomplete and irregular account of the secret societies that is of impenetrable paternity. Even more. Substitute the words I and me for every name cited in the piece, suppressing the portrait of the author they make speak, and you will find the same revelation successively made by these various people.
It’s in my style, they say. Take my entire literary baggage: it’s quite thin. Let a jury of writers compare the factum with it and if he finds the least analogy with my style then I stand condemned.
And if it’s not my style, it’s even less my writing. Maybe you dictated it. No! In several places in this piece there is a certain care shown in the style, which doesn’t allow for the improvisation of the dictated word. I had to have written it. Where is the manuscript? I was a prisoner. I couldn’t take it out and they had a capital interest in possessing it.
No signature either! Is this believable? How could this be? Here was an old, dangerous enemy at their mercy, prostrated at the feet of the victors, handing over his past, his person, and they didn’t take the least guarantee, the least pledge, not even his simple signature!
And the very next day this coward stands up to his full height before the Court of Peers! He braves the judges with his words! With his silence! In the middle of the courtroom he justifies his insurrection! He publicly humiliates those whose knees he embraced the day before! How does this excess of cowardice on October 22, far from danger, gibe with the excess of daring on January 14, in the very presence of danger?
Slander is always welcome. Hatred and credulity savor it with joy. It doesn’t have to dress itself up; as long as it kills, what difference does verisimilitude make? Even absurdity doesn’t do it harm. It has a secret advocate in every heart: envy. It is never asked for explanations or proofs: rather its victims are. An entire life of devotion, austerity and suffering are destroyed in a second with a wave of its hand.
Treason! But why? To save my head which, as everyone knows, wasn’t threatened? If the scaffold couldn’t be built when vengeance was at its highest point, could it be raised after eight months of pacification and forgetting? It would at least have been necessary to await its presence. And if an excess of terror so hastily forced me into being an informer how, I ask again, did they not wrench a signature from that moral annihilation?
Did I at least manage to lighten my irons? Mont Saint Michel and the penitentiary at Tours answer this question. Who among my companions has drunk as deeply as me from the cup of anguish? For a year the death agony of a beloved wife, dying far from me in despair, and then four whole years, an eternal tête-à-tête in the solitude of a cell, with the ghost of she who was no more. This was my torture, mine alone, and now I hear ringing in my ears: Death to the traitor! Crucify him!
“You sold your brothers for a good price!” writes the prostituted pen of the orgiasts. Gold so I could go and slowly die in a tomb, between black bread and the pitcher of anguish. And what did I do with this gold? I live in an attic with fifty centimes a day. For entire fortune at present I have sixty francs. And yet it’s me, a sad wretch who drags his wounded body in rags through the streets, who is attacked with the name of sell-out while Louis-Philippe’s valets have metamorphosed into brilliant republican butterflies, fluttering around the carpets of the Hotel de Ville, from the heights of their well nourished virtue branding the poor Job who escaped from the prisons of their master.
Oh sons of man, who forever hold in your hands a stone to throw at the innocent, contempt be upon you!
The most benevolent say: “This must be some letter, some note of Blanqui’s perfidiously transformed into a denunciation.” They vaguely suspect an evil deed, without putting the evidence’s paternity in question. Two things fascinate them: the use of the first person, so powerful in encouraging illusions, and the sudden revelation of this underground world of secret societies.
Good people, don’t be fooled. Not a word of this writing is from my pen. It comes in its entirety from the filthy laboratory of the forgers.
These facts, so new to you, so strange, for the past nine years have been of the domain of publicity, emanating from a circle that includes no less than 1500 people. Among the oldest members of the Families and the Seasons there has been but one cry: “We know all this for a long time; there are at least a hundred of us that could have written this note.’’ And in fact it is nothing but a short, incomplete excerpt from among the countless files the police have on the matter. As for the portraits sketched out in this lampoon the artisan had an embarrassment of riches among the full face, three quarter, and profiles that the cartons furnished on all the principal and secondary characters. The police had the time and the millions needed to put together this collection, not counting what our internecine quarrels provided them gratis.
For the rest, this so-called revelation is not a revelation; it’s a vagabond stroll through the history of the four preceding years. What did the confiding of a thousand stories better known to him than anyone matter to the minister? What was the use of these details that had long since fallen into the dust of the court clerks? Written by hand this piece is conceivable; dictated it is impossible. We accept a manuscript is such as it is, but they would have said to a blabbermouth: “Let’s move on to the subject of the Flood and talk about something else.”
In this endless mass there aren’t twenty lines of revelations. They have to do with the personnel of the Society of the Seasons, reconstituted after May 12. Two men could be found in the new committee: a direct leader of half the society members, who was later recognized to be a police agent, and the other, a man of intelligence and knowledge, who became a royal procurator.
Let’s not forget the spy Teissier, friend and confidant of Lamieussens; Delahodde, member of the Family and the Seasons, living closely with the principal leaders. Here were sufficient sources of information for the rue de Jerusalem.
In summary, nine tenths of the lampoon is nothing but a series of useless divagations. As a denunciation it is an absurdity. But in the hypothesis of a fraud this grand historical exposé is indispensable for displaying the man they want to destroy and to portray his personality in a series of gripping details.
Another observation: there are strange disparities of language among the various parts of this document. Here animated developments, there absolute nudity. What is the source of these sudden changes from a picturesque style to that of an inventory? These contradictions, inexplicable in a narrator who allows his pen or his voice to flow with his thoughts become quite simple in a work fabricated of pieces and morsels.
If the piece is true it reveals an unreserved abandon, a decision to tell everything. What is more, my memories were recent and complete, so I couldn’t err or mislead others. Yet this document is full of errors, of nonsense, of contradictions and absurdities. This being so, how can it be attributed to me?
So I am made to say:
I am made to speak of M. Emmanuel Arago, who I never saw, who I didn’t know at all; of Vilcoq, about whom I had always held an opinion diametrically opposed to the one they put in my mouth.
Without pausing any longer over details, I will say that all these errors, impossible on my part, are only explicable in the case of a forgery. The arranger worked on a pile of dossiers and reports; all that was needed was an imprecise misunderstood, or incorrectly filed note to create an error, a blunder, nonsense. All the falsehoods I revealed above certainly had their origin in this.
What is more, the miserable fabricator wasn’t able to carry this out to the end without betraying himself. The third part of the document is nothing but a confused mess of bits and pieces without order or meaning, a tissue of notes tied sewed together any which way and deprived of any meaning. The worker stumbles at every step and ends up being caught in his own trap. He forgets that I am on stage, that I speak, and in the middle of my speech he suddenly places a police note directed against me.
Here, the note says, is Blanqui’s escape plan: “He had accepted to reorganize the Society, but he wanted to leave once the organization was set up. He proposed going to Switzerland. After two or three months he lost all direction. We would no longer be forced to ask from him our marching orders.”
So it is I who speak in this way about myself! The Homer of this marvelous Iliad had doubtless fallen asleep at the moment of this heavy fall. Quandunque bonus dormitat Homerus. The wretch didn’t see that he cast into my harangue, and as a part of my harangue, the report of the spy who handed me over to the enemy when I left for Switzerland.
A strange, providential mistake that pinned the crime to the forger’s hand for the greater edification of all.
I’ve finished with slander, let us now pass to the slanderers. It is time to confront them. This pamphlet, their master blow, wasn’t their first attempt, for their hatred is fifteen years old.
The moment for public explanations has arrived. It sounded with the tocsin of February. We must finally bring into broad daylight these quarrels that have for so long simmered in the shadows.
My portrait doesn’t have the honor of figuring in the gallery that a charitable hand has just extracted from the museums of the police. In order to fill in this lacuna I give it here, such as I know it, twenty times traced by my open enemies of today, my hidden enemies of the past.
“Somber spirit, haughty, ferocious, bad tempered, sarcastic, immense ambition, cold, inexorable, pitilessly crushing men in order to pave his route, heart of marble, head of iron, etc”
This profile isn’t lovely. But is there no shading to this painting, and is the cry of hatred the gospel? I call on those who knew my domestic hearth. They know whether all my existence wasn’t concentrated in a deep, lively affection where my forces were ever and again tempered for political struggles.
Death, in smashing this affection, stroke the sole blow, I confess, that could touch my soul. All the rest, slander included, slides off me like a dust storm. I shake off my clothes and I continue on my way.
Sycophants, you who want to put me forward as a moral monster, open the doors to your hearth and home, put your heart’s life on display. Under your hypocritical exterior what would we find? The brutality of the senses, the perversity of the soul. Whited sepulchers, I lift the stone that hides your rot from people’s eyes.
What you pursue in me is revolutionary inflexibility and stubborn devotion to ideas. You want to strike down the indefatigable fighter. What have you done for the past fourteen years? Defect. I was at the breach in 1831 with you; I was there with you in 1839, in 1847. In 1848 here I am against you.
May 12 willed me your hatred as a legacy. The affront of May 12 still burns your cheeks. To believe oneself the republic and not know that the republic gives battle. How forgive the daring sweep of a tail that made your impotence the subject of public laughter. The entire party remembers your rage and insults against the vanquished insurrection. Le National every morning bandaged your wounds with bile and mud, and cowardly insinuations preceded the slanders that finally are bursting upon me, unleashed by vengeance.
During my agony at Mont Saint-Michel these resentments were dormant. A dying man is not fearsome, and with the rumors of my imminent death many quills were perhaps being sharpened for a magnificent funeral oration. But death has retreated and February has changed these quills into daggers.
I arrived the 24th, swept away by the joy of triumph. What an icy reception! One would think I was a ghost suddenly arisen before the new masters. Who are they looking at with that look of aversion and fright? I understand. It’s the hated author of May 12, the clear-sighted and staunch patriot who can’t be made an accomplice or a dupe, who won’t allow the revolution to be stolen. But already the new program of the Hotel de Ville has been decided on:
Change in form but not in content. The edifice of privilege, without a single stone less, with a few additional phrases and banners.
Exile to the Luxembourg awaits those who want more.
So on the 25th Citizen Recurt said to me, “You want to overthrow us?” “No, rather block the road behind you.” And the fight broke out immediately, loyal and moderate on my side, perfidious and implacable on the other.
A thousand rumors are spread about. “He’s mad! Sorrow and then joy have shaken his brain. He’s ill; he’s decomposing, he’s going to die. He’s bloodthirsty! He’s demanding 100,000 heads.”
These rumors spread around Paris and the departments. But up to this point still not a word of the great slander. M. de Lamartine, at the Hotel de Ville, addressed me with these words:
“It is persecution that makes for your martyrdom and your glory.”
Such language is not used concerning an informer.
So once again you lied, sieur [****] in saying that your odious piece, passed around the city since February 24, was in your hands on March 10; your hatred would not have allowed it to slumber for so long and wouldn’t have waited until the 22nd to spread its poison. No, before the 17th you didn’t go so far. Effort can always be measured by the force of an obstacle. I was yet but a hindrance, not yet a danger. The moment for extreme measures had not yet sounded. During this time speech became more venomous, the Central Republican Society attacked with vivacity power’s retrograde demands. The reestablishment of the stamp, the maintenance of the former magistracy, the poor choice of commissioners, the disastrous decrees concerning the alienation of state lands, the anticipated quarterly payments each became in their turn the objects of energetic addresses, voted on my presentation. But our complaints bumped up uselessly against the disdain of bias and did nothing but attract anger, while reaction, supported by the majority in government, advanced rapidly. It was time to stop them. The adjournment of elections to the Constituent Assembly, twice demanded by the Republican Society, had been twice refused.
From March 12-16 at various assemblies of state bodies I proposed the support of the workers’ demands en masse. The proposal was received with enthusiasm.
On the 17th at noon Paris was set in motion and 200,000 men surrounded the Hotel de Ville. At the sight of that living sea, in waves on the squares and quays, with a formidable clamor resistance falls, the retrograde faction disappeared. Everything was promised; everything was granted to the deputation that spoke in the name of the people.
An intrigue strived to falsify the meaning of this great demonstration and see in it nothing but a response to the National Guard’s skirmish. Nothing could be more false. The popular movement had been stopped before the 16th, and its organizers were ignorant of the petty plot of the men in shakos. Chance alone was responsible for bringing together the execution of these two contrary efforts.
The events of the 17th struck the majority of the Provisional Government with terror; it thought it had escaped from a great danger. Absurd reports, and perhaps the awareness of its own sins persuaded it of the existence of plans for its overthrow, of armed violence.
Suspicion fell on me. I was the first, and almost the only one, to have raised the question of the adjournment of elections; I had kept it on the order of the day despite repeated failure, and finally that question had brought 200,000 men onto the public square.
Other influences, which had more collaborated in this great movement more than I, hid themselves before alerted eyes, fixed on one peril alone. It was thus the hostility of the moment, that which had to be smashed at whatever price. From this came two ideas that blossomed at almost the same time: one, that of modifying the government by my accession, the other, born of the fright caused by the first, to crush me with a club.
The entire reactionary faction trembled at the very threat that power was going to fall into the hands of the revolution, and in those lairs of Machiavellianism where the only crime is that of not succeeding a desperate plan was cooked up to ward off the peril and grab victory in hand.
Daring inspired the plotters. Without this determined coup, the popular party would today have been triumphant, reaction wiped out and the republic in full and vigorous march towards the realization of the future.
Look around us: the revolution is stumbling. The mass of its enemies is growing and increases from hour to hour. It is erupting through the breach I left open. I am conscious of this; I bore its flag. If it falls, the republic will follow.
It was I who had to be struck first, and numerous signs served as a prelude to the grand attack. March 19 the rumor spread with rapidity in the faubourg Saint-Antoine that I was a paid agent of the party of Henri V. Upon investigation it was recognized that these statements come from a rabble-rouser devoted to the Paris city hall. Three days later the decisive method was finally found.
And thus the plan for war to death developed. From the 17th to the 22nd the other idea, that of negotiation with the presumed leader of the movement, had also followed its course. The two plots unfurled in parallel.
On the 19th M. X. Durrieu, editor in chief of the Courrier Francais said to me: “M. de Lamartine wishes to come to an agreement with you. He recognizes that the government must be modified. He has decided to throw out the coterie of the National and to join with you and your friends. He will do whatever you wish; he’ll go as far as you. I have been charged with bringing on his behalf words of reconciliation to Ledru-Rollin.”
At first I refused this interview, and only ceded two days later to his repeated pleas. A meeting was set for the 22nd, but at the moment fixed M. X. Durrieu said to me, “It’s not going to happen. Lamartine has changed his mind. He’s made a complete turnabout. He thinks that everything is going fine, that the people are happy, and that things should continue as they are. That man is the very personification of changeability and inconsistency.”
Fine. Let’s not bother talking anymore.
And here is the source of the mystery: it’s the 22nd that the famous piece makes its first appearance. That very day it is brought to the provisional Government. It is passed from hand to hand. Surprise! Exclamations! “Blanqui!” each reader repeats. “Blanqui!” But it’s not his writing. The original must be at the Luxembourg someone says. They doubtless searched the Luxembourg. I’m still waiting for the original.
Let’s return to the dates, since this is the whole trial. The piece appears at the Hotel de Ville the 22nd, not a day sooner. How then could the sieur [****] claim that it was stolen on February 24 from M. Guizot’s office, passed around for a week and put at his disposal around March 10. What? A document of such seriousness would have been passed everywhere from February 24 without anyone knowing about it? M. [****], a close friend of the National, kept it in his wallet for twelve days without breathing a word to anyone and until the 22nd not a sound, not an echo betrayed its existence.
For I repeat: before the 22nd there was no trace of the lampoon.
That day it unexpectedly falls into the midst of several members of the Provisional Government. A coup de theatre and a coup d’etat. At that very instant everything changes. Reaction, almost defeated, raises its head. It appeared that a providential hand had just saved it from shipwreck. Confidence succeeds despair. M. de Lamartine breaks off his negotiations with the public agitator. He is less feared, and they no longer hesitate to falsify the word given to the people. The election isn’t adjourned till the May 31; it was only deferred a few days due to material reasons.
What promptness in exploiting this document! It becomes known the 22nd and the 24th several provincial newspapers reproduce in the same terms the following note emanating from the offices of the National.
“ We could name a certain club president, a fiery democrat who was miserable enough to betray the secrets of his political friends in order to save his own life. The Provisional Government has many pieces of evidence in its hands which are condemn those who want to undermine it as well as the social order that guides us so as to substitute for it a bloody chaos under the pretext of fraternity. It will remain disdainful and magnanimous until the day it is forced to resort to reprisals.”
And so by your own confession the publication of this cowardly lampoon is nothing but a reprisal. It isn’t an act of justice, but an act of revenge. Your goal is to condemn those who want to undermine you, i.e., those who oppose you.
So again it isn’t sieur [****] but the Provisional Government that had pieces of evidence in its hands. Who lied, you or them? It claims to have the evidence, and so do you. It says it is publishing them for historical reasons; you declare you are using them as a means of reprisal against an enemy. Watch out! You seem to be eager for reprisals. Do you need them at whatever cost?
Imposture and ambush; these are the pivots of the intrigue cooked up against a man who disturbs you. Perfect, my good sirs; wretches used to purchasing with all crimes imaginable the favor of those in power forged a poisoned arm for your hatred. What that arm is worth, and whence it comes you know too well, and don’t dare to touch it. But it goes along with the honor of your arrangements. Hidden in the wings. You toss the dagger into the hands of an assassin, laughing in advance at the useless blows your victim will waste on this mannequin.
Unfortunately, iniquity lied to itself. You should have ensured that your two Offices of Fraud were in agreement and not confound yourselves with your own work.
Fear perturbs perfidy’s calculations. Your semi-official note sought to reduce me by this threat of reprisals, tempered with the insolent offer of recourse to your magnanimity. But you weren’t reassured. One can’t walk without care on the sinuous paths of calumny.
My response to intimidation was clear and swift, I think. Evidence in hand, before the public I showed that you had just turned over to Leopold the Belgian workers and refugees.
This proof of an act of coldly premeditated vengeance was greeted with cries of vengeance. This cry again threw terror into the Hotel de Ville; they already heard the rumblings of riot at their doors, and imposture in all its forms was called to the rescue. Rumors spread by a thousand mouths pointed to me as the author of a plot whose goal was the members of the Provisional Government. The news of my arrest circulated in all the clubs.
On the evening of March 30 Citizen X. Durrieu said to me, “Let’s put our cards on the table. I come from the Provisional Government and here’s what I learned: you want to overthrow it and assume a dictatorship. You will no doubt succeed, for the government has no strength, but you will then be destroyed, both you and France. Your project is folly. Renounce it and adopt that which I will propose to you and which brings together all your possibilities. The coterie of the National will be thrown out and you’ll replace it with your friends. Come talk with Ledru-Rollin; this will be a simple thing, since you’re former schoolmates.”
To be sure such proposals surprised me in the presence of the odious rumors spread around Paris. At least they proved to me that a part of the government rejected the slander cooked up by the reactionaries at bay.
An unheard of situation! On one side I am offered a hand to rise to power, and on the other they try to throw me into the abyss. Here the Capitol, there the Tarpeian Rock. Eight whole days this strange struggle took me from the heights to the depths. Finally it appeared that justice and truth won the day. An appointment was set with M. Ledru-Rollin for the 31st. But reaction was on the watch; it understood the imminence of danger. The very day of the 31st the fabricated evidence appeared in the Revue Rétrospective.
The gauntlet was thrown down. A fight to the death was engaged. Republicans, old soldiers of the old cause who have remained faithful to the flag of principle, you who haven’t sold your consciences to the new masters in exchange for honors, money or positions, beware! Let my example be a warning to you. Today it is me, tomorrow it will be you. Woe on those who cause embarrassment. We will all be struck! In the head, the heart, in front, from behind it doesn’t matter: we will be struck!
What is my crime? That of having confronted counter-revolution, of having unmasked its plans for six weeks, and of showing the people the danger around them that is growing, and that will engulf them all.
The wretches! They give orders to their bravi to drag me before the tribunals whose resignation I demanded yesterday. And who will be the accusers, the witnesses, the judges in this trial? Royalty’s henchmen, become the henchmen of reaction. Those who tortured me twenty times will torment me again. Yesterday it was freedom, my life, today it’s my honor; everything must be turned over to them so that they can devour their prey whole. With what pleasure they will tear apart what is left of their old, hated enemy. And all these agents of Louis-Philippe what is the reason they pretend to punish me? I, worn out, my hair turned white in the dungeons of Louis-Philippe! Who would believe this? To have treated with Louis-Philippe! And they set themselves up as avengers of the revolution!
The executioners of patriots, the golden mean’s assassins are now the devotees, the faithful of the Hotel de Ville. The total due has been paid! There they are fulfilling the functions of the Forty-Five for the gentlemen of the Provisional Government, and they’ll assassinate the republicans for the account of the republic, as they have done for so long for the account of the monarchy. Positions, happiness, fortune will soon be theirs. So much audacity six weeks after the barricades. Who could have guessed it?
Reactionaries of the Hotel de Ville, you are cowards! I stand in your way, and you want to kill me, but you don’t dare attack me from the front, so you throw in my path three or four bassets from Louis-Philippe’s pack who are in search of a new kennel. You egg them on from behind, far from the risk of splashes. Kindly accept my sincere compliments.
There are royalists among you. I forgive them. They are avenging the monarchy through one of its bitterest enemies. But there are also republicans, and to them I pose the question, their hands on their consciences: is it thus that they should be treating a veteran who buried half his life, his family, his affections in royalty’s deepest dungeons?
If you had an accusation to make against me it should have been produced in broad daylight, solemnly, and surrounded with all guarantees of certainty, of authenticity. You should have spoken in the name of justice, of morality, without in any way declining the responsibility for such an act.
But you said it yourselves, these are reprisals you are carrying out. All methods are good in crushing a dangerous rival. Success at any price is your doctrine it seems, as it was for your predecessors. It appears that this document was necessary to you. Is fecit cui prodest. The infamy of its origins is betrayed by the shameful twists and turns of its publication. Reactionaries, you are cowards!
La République, April 14,1848