THE VOICE OF ONE OF
THE “JANUARY 19” OF MR. EMILE OLLIVIER
BY WAY OF A FORWARD
“In 1848, being hardly 22 years of age, I was named commissioner general in the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône and Var, by Mr. Ledru-Rollin, who had goodwill for me and friendship for my father…”
“June 19, 1857. — Voters, it is not necessary for me to expound my faith to you: My name and my past have taught them to you...”
“Thursday, January 10, 1867, at five o’clock in the evening, I was introduced at the Tuileries, into the cabinet of the Emperor…”
“...Why should I not have accepted the audience offered to me? There is some reluctance that I will explain: I understand that no approach can appease those who complain about the coup d’état only because it was made against them, instead of being done with them. THEY HAVE BEEN HOODWINKED.”
We know how, and with what ease Mr. Ollivier let himself be appeased by the steps of the Emperor.
But it is difficult to see how he dared to imply perfidiously that there exist, among the victims of December 2, some men who would have taken part in the bloody overthrow of the Republic, if the president Louis Bonaparte had invited them!
He knew however that, if that had, like him, begged at the door of the victors, they would, like him, have obtained mercy and favor for themselves and their own.
They have preferred prison, exile, transportation, and death.
Oh! Mr. Ollivier will never be among the hoodwinked. He has placed himself among the ranks of the hoodwinkers.
THE IMPERATIVE MANDATE
Among all the questions raised by the electoral agitation, there is one which should, above all, attract the attention of the true democrats, — I mean by true democrats those who reject every system of under which the people are not allowed to exercise their rights in a direct and continual manner.
That question is the limitation and determination by the voters of the mandate entrusted to the deputies: — limitation of duration, without stopping at that fixed by law; determination of the solutions of certain political or social problems.
We have been surprised to see all the candidates, even those who call themselves radical democrats, refuse to submit to these conditions. — Their dignity will not allow them, they have said, to enter the legislature with that mark of mistrust.
And these same me accept each day, from a private individual, for private business, some mandates very carefully determined in advance, the duration of which depend solely on the will of the principal.
They understand that a friend, that a relative even, should take the precaution of limiting their power and imposing them some business solutions.
Their dignity is not appalled by it.
Indeed, where is the man who can believe himself shielded from error or aberration, and have the complete certainty of doing nothing contrary to the interests of those who have given him his mandate?
Are the public interests, where faulty results can be disastrous, less sacred than those of individuals?—Are they less worthy of precautions?
In this respect, therefore, no acceptable reason authorizes the candidates to refuse to submit to the will of the voters.
Several propositions have been made as to the restriction of the duration of the mandate.
Some are based, above all, on the obvious utility of the periodic public meetings which can only, according to the present law, take place during an electoral period, — it is a question of causing, by the resignation of the deputies, the more frequent repetition of elections.
The others attach themselves principally to the strength that opposition deputies would draw in successive reelections, which would demonstrate the continuation of their perfect agreement with the will of the people.
It is easy to think that, in the face of these periodic affirmations, the other deputies would eventually understand that, by their immobility, they could be reproached for no longer being representatives of the national will.
Those who had a bit of modesty would be carried along by the movement, and the electoral law would find itself modified in fact.
In any case, it is incontestable that the resigning deputies who were reelected would return to the chamber with a greater authority, as much because of the ratification of their mandate, as because they would be able, in the midst of their electoral meetings, to realize the new aspirations of their electors.
From all points of view, then, we must reject the claims of the candidates to escape a formal commitment as to the restriction of the duration of their mandate.
No doubt can any longer be admitted on the subject of the necessity of determining in advance the solution of certain vital questions. — These solutions are precisely what should constitute the program of each democratic candidate.
They must be embraced in the professions of faith—like, for example: the suppression of the budget for religions; the abolition of the permanent armies; the more equitable division of the taxes which should only weight on the excess, since everyone will not have the necessities; the organization of labor by free association; etc., etc.
They should be especially recommended with an eye to a future which could be forthcoming — it is no longer necessary to risk being taken by surprise.
It is important that the voters say loudly, that they do not intend to send to the legislature conciliators in order to obtain, by an arrangement with the men of the government, the arbitrary restitution of our liberties, who could, after the concession of some of these liberties and even to accomplish that, think themselves authorized to accept honorific posts, either in the commissions named by a reactionary majority, or in the scientific missions or other missions organized by the government.
Our deputies must know that their mission is to struggle energetically to arrive at the final and complete triumph of the eternal principles of our great revolution, that the irresistible logic of history has inscribed at the beginning of the constitution.
No weakness for beloved names, no attentions for unjustified sensitivities— let us demand some formal commitments.
Let us think back to the elections of 1857 and those of 1863:—With what indignation would we not have rejected the idea of subjecting Mr. Ollivier and Mr. Darimon to the commitment of not crossing the threshold of the Tuileries.
We would not want to consider even the possibility of aberration, in the presence of men whose past seemed, to nearly everyone, to respond to the future.
Let us beware of committing the same carelessness, and arriving at the same result.
History demonstrates that, by a singular contrast, the people always show, either an excess of confidence, or an excess of mistrust.—And, a stranger thing, it is when its representatives find themselves faced with a power armed with all the seductions that it takes fewer precautions regarding them; it is for the day of triumph that they reserve their strictness and demands.
As long as it will be thus the nation will be deceived or led astray.
When then will we understand that all those who, to any degree, aspire to the honor of representing the people should be subject, at least as much as the courtiers are to the Imperial Majesties of which they are the sovereign.
As long as the law does not subject the deputies à the constant possibility of revocation, it will be indispensable to take the most rigorous precautions in their regard.
In a truly democratic government, the national representation, the aforementioned word, should only be the consistent expression of the progressive modifications of public opinion,—so that, if a deputy ceased to be in harmony with their electors, they must be able to recall him.
When this will be so, the mandate of representative of the people will only be sought or accepted by men of real devotion.
It will be useless to require the commitment to accept no public function; for then the constituents will directly choose their administrators.—The jobs which demand special knowledge, will be given, after competition, by juries drawn by lots from among those who will fill the job immediately above.
In such a system there would only be, apart from the direct election of the people, ministers and ambassadors, who will be named by the Chamber of Deputies and revocable at its will.
We know in advance that those who have an interest in maintaining the abuses of favoritism will cry out against utopia!
They will not dare say that such an organization would be bad—they will declare it impossible to achieve, especially in that which concerns the dismissal of the deputies.
But the men of good will should not recoil before the alleged impossibility of resolving such a problem.
They should say: It must be resolved.
Let all put themselves to work, in order that, when the hour arrives, each can bring their stone for the rebuilding of the social edifice.
Meanwhile, we must seek, in the legal mechanism of the Constitution, all possible means to bring us to the goal: The constant ability to freely and directly exercise our collective sovereignty.
Since the Constitution does not oppose it, let us compel our representatives to limit the legal duration of their mandate, and to follow our instructions for the solution of vital questions.
If we lack the time to obtain their prior commitments, we could, after the elections, address by writing, to those who are appointed, some collective notifications so that they have to take our desires into account.
Let us profit from the lessons of the past.
Voters, the moment is solemn:
Take care of yourselves!
To the future Representatives of the People.
By deciding to pass courageously before the dragon which, according to the mythological expression of Barbes, guards the entrance of the legislative body, you have certainly not intended to let yourself be devoured by it.
The oath incorporates two distinct commitments,—The first, obedience to the Constitution,—the second, fealty to the Emperor.
The idea of obedience to the law excludes that of reciprocity,—the idea of fealty to a person, on the contrary, logically implies, if it is true that slavery is abolished.
The law could have said obedience to the constitution and to the Emperor. In the presence of human fallibility, it did not want to.
It must have foreseen the case where he would misunderstand the obedience that he owes to the law itself.
And, so that no doubt exists in that regard, it declared him responsible.
You all know that the invincible logic of history has put the Constitution under the superior guarantee of the formal recognition of the principles of our glorious revolution, in the forefront of which appears liberty.
It follows, then, that by first taking the oath of obedience to the Constitution, you have, foremost, made a commitment to affirm, demand, and defend, for and against all, without exception, these eternal principles.
Read them attentively: you will find there the enumeration of our rights and instructions on the means of enforcing them.
The lawfulness of the previous arguments cannot be contested.
It is, doubtless, by some similar considerations that Mr. Emile Ollivier has been logically led to write, in his January 19, page 304, the following phrase:
“The responsibility of the Emperor, which could only be put into action by a plebiscite or by a revolution, is the constitutional recognition of popular sovereignty, in the name of which the english revolution of 1688 and the french revolutions of 1830 and 1848 were made.”
But while recognizing the accuracy of the legally revolutionary assertion of the author of the 19 Janvier, do not follow him in his foolishness!—Do not seek to become married.
Let his example serve as a lesson for you—you would soon be reduced, like him, to mourning your lost virtue, saying;
“They are like those bad sorts who compromise honest girls and do not marry them.” (19 Janvier, page 353.)
It is true that M. Ollivier does not give up so easily;—he is like those girls who always love the bad sorts who have seduced them, and stray, more and more, from the friends they had when they were wise.
He seeks again for those who have... compromised him.
The question is to know if he will be married to his little bundle of slowly allocated liberties—or if he will marry the large bundle of arbitrary restrictions.
As for you, do not accept as restored what one can still give you, as one has already taken it.
Do not forget the cry of alarm of the old Trojan:
“Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.—I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts.”
And I would add : It is especially than that it is necessary to mistrust them.
They are Greeks, and that is enough.
And if they say they are regenerated by the absolution.
Respond to them with all the moralities:—that the validity of the absolution is always subordinated, not only in the absence of violent pressure on the one who gives it—but also to the sincerity of the remorse manifested by complete restitution and by definitive renunciation.