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David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) online

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takes no pecuniary security, since he has the disposition of the
body of his debtor. But of what importance are these mercantile
considerations ? They should not influence a great nation. Prin-
ciples are eternal, and no Frenchman can be rightly deprived of
his liberty unless he has forfeited it to society. The possessing
and owning class need not be alarmed. Doubtless, some indi-
viduals go to extremes, but the nation, always just, will respect
all the proprieties. Respect misery, and misery will respect
opulence. [Applause.] Never wrong the unfortunate, and the un-
fortunate, who have more soul than the rich, will remain guilt-
less. [Loud applause.]



400 GEORGE JACQUES DANTON

I ask that this National Convention declare that every French
citizen imprisoned for debt shall be liberated, because such im-
prisonment is contrary to moral health, contrary to the rights of
man, and to the true principles of liberty.



EDUCATION, FREE AND COMPULSORY
(From a Speech Delivered in the Convention, August 13th, 1793)
Citizens: —

AFTER having given liberty to France; after having vanquished
her enemies, there can be no honor greater than to prepare
for future generations an education in keeping with that
liberty. This is the object which Lepeletier proposes: that all
that is good for society shall be adopted by those who live under
its social contract. ... It has been said that paternal affec-
tion opposes the execution of such plans. Certainly we must
respect natural rights even in their perversion. But even if we
do not fully sustain compulsory schooling, we must not deprive
the children of the poor of an education.

The greatest objection has been that of finding the means;
but I have already said there is no real extravagance where the
good result to the public is so great, and I add the principle that
the child of the poor can be taught at the expense of the super-
fluities of the scandalous fortunes erected among us. It is to
you who are celebrated among our Republicans that I appeal;
bring to this subject the fire of your imagination, the energy of
your character. It is the people who must endow national edu-
cation.

When you commence to sow this seed of education in the
vast field of the Republic, you must not count the expense of
reaping the harvest. After bread, education is the first need of
a people. [Applause.] I ask that the question be submitted,
that there be founded at the expense of the nation establish-
ments where each citizen can have the right to send his children
for free public instruction. It is to the monks — it is to the age
of Louis XIV., when men were great by their acquirements, that
we owe the age of philosophy, that is to say, of reason, brought to
the knowledge of the people. To the Jesuits, lost by their politi-
cal ambitions, we owe an impetus in education evoking our ad-
miration. But the Republic has been in the souls of our people,



GEORGE JACQUES DANTON ^01

twenty years ahead of its proclamation. Corneille wrote dedica-
tions to Montauron, but Corneille made the <Cid,^ ^Cinna*; Cor-
neille spoke like a Roman, and he who said : ^* For being more
than a king you think you are something/^ was a true Repub-
lican.

Now for public instruction; everything shrinks in domestic
teaching, everything enlarges and ennobles in public communal
instruction. A mistake is made in presenting a tableau of pa-
ternal affections. I, too, am a father, and more so than the
aristocrats who oppose public education, for they are never sure
of their paternities. [Laughter.] When I consider my rights
relatively to the general good I feel elevated; my son is not
mine. He belongs to the Republic. Let her dictate his duties
that he can best serve her. It has been said it is repugnant
to the heart of our peasantry to make such sacrifice of their
children. Well, do not constrain them too much. Let there be
classes, if necessary, that only meet on the Sabbath. Begin the
system by a gradual adaptation to the manners of the people.
If you expect the State to make an instant and absolute regen-
eration, you will never get public instruction. It is necessary
that each man develop the moral means and methods he received
from nature. Have for them all communal houses and faculties
for instruction, and do not stop at any secondary considerations.
The rich man will pay, and will lose nothing if he will profit for
the instruction of his son.

I ask, then, that under suitable and necessary modifications
you decree the erection of national establishments where child-
ren can be instructed, fed, and lodged gratuitously, and the cit-
izens who desire to retain their children at home can send them
there for instruction.

Convention, December 12th, 1793. — It is a proper time to
establish the principle which seems misunderstood, that the youth
belong to the Republic before they belong to their parents. No
one more than myself respects nature, but of what avail the rea-
soning of the individual against the reason of the nation ? In
the national schools the child will suck the milk of Republican-
ism. The Republic is one and indivisible. Public instruction
produces such a centre of unity. To none, then, can we accord
the privilege of isolation from such benefits.
4 — 26



402 GEORGE JACQUES DANTON

FREEDOM OF WORSHIP
(Delivered in the Convention, April i8th, 1793)

WE HAVE appeared divided in counsel, but the instant we seek
the good of mankind we are in accord. Vergniaud has told
us grand and immortal truths. The Constitutional As-
sembly, embarrassed by a king, by the prejudices which still
enchain the nation, and by deep-rooted intolerance, has not up-
rooted accepted principles, but has done much for liberty in
consecrating the doctrine of tolerance. To-day the ground of
liberty is prepared and we owe to the French people a govern-
ment founded on bases pure and eternal! Yes! we shall say to
them: Frenchmen you have the right to adore the divinity you
deem entitled to your worship : ^^ The liberty of worship, which it
is the object of law to establish, means only the right of individ-
uals to assemble to render in their own way homage to the Deity.'*
Such a form of liberty is enforcible only by legal regulations and
the police, but you do not wish to insert regulating laws in your
declaration of rights. The right of freedom of worship, a sacred
right, will be protected by laws in harmony with its principles.
We will have only to guarantee these rights. Human reason
cannot retrograde; we have advanced too far for the people ever
to believe they are not absolutely free in religious thought, merely
because you have failed to engrave the principle of this liberty
on the table of your laws. If superstition still seem to inhere
in the movements of the Republic, it is because our political ene-
mies always employ it. But look! everywhere the people, freed
from malevolent espionage, recognize that any one assuming to
interpose between them and their God is an impostor.



« SQUEEZING THE SPONGE »
(On Taxing the Rich — Delivered in the Convention, April 27th, 1793)

YOU have decreed ** honorable mention * of what has been done
for the public benefit by the Department De L' He vault. In
this decree you authorize the whole Republic to adopt the
same measures, for your decree ratifies all the acts which have
Just been brought to your knowledge.



GEORGE JACQUES DANTON 403

If everywhere the same measures be taken, the Republic is
saved. No more shall we treat as agitators and anarchists the
ardent friends of liberty who set the nation in motion, but we
shall say : * Honor to the agitators who turn the vigor of the
people against its enemies ! '* When the Temple of Liberty shall
be reared, the people will know how to decorate it. Rather
perish France than to return to our hard slavery. Let it not
be believed we shall become barbarians after we shall have
founded liberty. We shall embellish France until the despots
shall envy us; but while the ship of State is in the stress of
storm, beaten by the tempest, that which belongs to each, be-
longs to all.

No longer are Agrarian Laws spoken of! The people are
wiser than their calumniators assumed, and the people in mass
have much more sense than many of those who deem them-
selves great men. In a people we can no more count the great
men than we can count the giant trees in the vast forest. It
was believed that the people wanted the Agrarian Law, and
this may throw suspicion on the measures adopted by the De-
partment De L'Hevault. It will be said of them : *^ They taxed
the rich^^; but, citizens, to tax the rich is to serve them. It is
rather a veritable advantage for them than any considerable
sacrifice; and the greater the sacrifice, the greater the usufruct,
for the greater is the guarantee to the foundation of property
against the invasion of its enemies. It is an appeal to every
man, according to his means, to save the Republic. The appeal
is just. What the Department De L'Hevault has done, Paris
and all France will do. See what resources France will procure.
Paris has a luxury and wealth which is considerable. Well, by
decree, this sponge will be squeezed! And with singular satis-
faction it will be found that the people will conduct their revo-
lution at the expense of their internal enemies. These enemies
themselves will learn the price of liberty and will desire to
possess it, when they will recognize that it has preserved for
them their possessions.

Paris in making an appeal to capitalists will furnish her con-
tingent, which will afford means to suppress the troubles in La
Vendue; for, at any sacrifice, these troubles must be suppressed.
On this alone depends your external tranquillity. Already, the
Departments of the north have informed the combined despots
that your territory cannot be divided; and soon you will prob-



^Q^ GEORGE JACQUES DANTON

ably learn of the dissolution of this formidable league of kings.
For in uniting against you, they have not forgotten their an-
cient hatreds and respective pretensions; and if the Executive
Council had had a little more latitude, the league might be al-
ready completely dissolved.

Paris, then, must be directed against La Vendde. All the men
needed in this city to form a reserve camp should be sent at
once to La Vendue. These measures once taken, the rebels will
dispers*j, and, like the Austrians, will commence to kill f.ach
other. If the flames of this civil discord be extinguished they
will ask of us peace!






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Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 39 of 39)