Henri Rochefort 1868-69

Selections from La Lanterne

Source: La Lanterne;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2005.

It is said that the French government is worried about the ecumenical council to be held in Rome in 1869.

I would have thought that 1869 held other subjects to be worried about than an ecumenical council. The government calls to mind the bad joke about the condemned man who, when marching to his execution, didn’t want to have his hair cut for fear of catching a cold.

—No. 8, July 18,1868

A good Turk having dreamed that he killed the Sultan, he was condemned to the harshest of penalties for having allowed his sleep to be soiled by that criminal, though involuntary, vision.

I am this Turk. My prose is not only condemned when it’s published, but it has barely escaped my head that it is already before the police. Every morning I expect the visit of two bookstore inspectors charged with searching the depths of my brain in order to administratively seize there all the revolutionary ideas that hold meetings there and that at a given moment I could introduce into La Lanterne.

—No 14 August 29, 1868

As I write this all the Belgian newspapers announce that their capital is guarded by a detachment of troops so small that the chief of the garrison is a simple major.

But the Workers’ Congress, condemned by the magistrates and singled out by’ their police as eaters of living children held its meetings precisely during this absence of any armed force.

In the same circumstances Paris would at this time be under a state of siege. All journalists less than 75 years of age would be in [the prison] of Mazas, and the artillerymen, the fuse lit, would be waiting at both ends of the rue de Rivoli for the signal to crush the people, and General Canrobert, who made war so well on the Boulevard but so poorly in Crimea, would be crying out while brandishing his glorious sword: You recognize me, brave soldiers! I am the man who didn’t know how to take Sebastopol!

—No. 17 September 19, 1868

Up till now there has been no mention during the revolution in Spain of a deportation, an incarceration or a reprisal. Not one citizen was executed even once. We know that in France on occasions such as these we are executed twice at least: the maximum penalty has no limits.

Not a single general was arrested in his bed; not a single child under thirteen sent to the convict ships.

Napoleon III must be hurting himself laughing.

It’s true, though that the Spanish revolution was carried out to the cry of


While the French coup d’état was carried out to the cry of


—No 19 October 3, 1868

The senate and the Legislative body have been convoked for January 18. We impatiently await the speech of the Emperor.

After the letter of January 19, we’ll have the speech of January 18, which, like its older sister, will announce new freedoms which up till now have freed the government from rendering the old ones.

Napoleon III generally chooses the month of January to make promises. He uses the other eleven of the year for not keeping them.

—No. 32, January 2, 1869

Several departmental prefects are extremely worried about their future. At an official dinner one of them recently said:

“I don’t know how to get myself out of this. I illegally spent only 2,500,000 francs beyond my budget. The Emperor thinks this is too little, and I’m threatened with complete disgrace if I don’t find the means of spending seven or eight times more next year.”

And there is talk of signed letter written by the head of state to another prefect that says:

“Monsieur, I am very unhappy with the way your accounting is kept up. I didn’t find the least error in it: expenses and receipts are in balance. You are unable to justify even one million illegally used. As a result I have just signed the notice firing you from your post. Your replacement is a former resident of debtor’s prison who was released after the holding of people for this was forbidden.

May God assist you.”


—No. 41, March 6, 1869

March 20, the anniversary of the landing of Napoleon I on his return from the island of Elba is the day that the Medals of Sainte-Helene are celebrated at the Palais-Royal under the chairmanship of the heroic Belmontet.

Napoleon had promised France and Europe the renunciation of any claim to the throne. He had sworn to respect the peace of nations and to content himself with sovereignty over the Island of Elba. He violates his solemn vow, landing one fine morning at Golfe Juan, again seizes the crown and delivers battle at Waterloo, where he has 50,000 Frenchmen killed, after having previously had 1,800,000 killed.

For a man to violate his sworn faith and lie about all his promises, well we have – without leaving the family- seen too much of this spectacle to be surprised by it, but that medal winners should gather at Véfour’s precisely to celebrate this betrayal and this lie is one of the characteristic facts of the Second Empire.

Why don’t these enthusiasts also celebrate every year, with this same Belmontet, the anniversary of the assassination of the Duke of Enghien?

—No. 44, March 27, 1869

We know that the Emperor wrote a work on artillery. But his inventive spirit and his good heart didn’t only apply themselves to the development of machine guns. It is said that he is extremely occupied at this time in perfecting the guillotine. This man is the father of the nation.

Up till now the condemned man was forced to climb the steps of the scaffold, which forced him to die on the second floor. Today he will die on the ground floor after having immediately passed through the doors. You can imagine the joy a man destined to be executed in the morning will naturally feel when the barber, talkative like all barbers, tells him of this modification while cutting his hair:

“I’m gonna tell you a good one. You probably think you’re going to climb those ten difficult steps that so many men hate. Well, you can rest easy, you won’t climb them. And what will you have in their place? A lovely plank covered by a nice rug that you’ll take to the last stop. Don’t you think the Emperor is trying to make your existence happier?”

It’s certain that in such conditions being guillotined will become a pleasure. But I know our sovereign: he won’t stop there. I’m sure that he’ll soon find a way to have come out of the side of this funereal apparatus, by the means of a button that you’ll only have to lightly push, a table loaded with a cold lunch (three plates and a half-bottle of wine). Perhaps we’ll even have a little theatre built on the platform, where a few scenes of the Courrier de Lyon will be performed for the victim.

Some opponents have seen in this graciousness on the part of the representative of the nation nothing but an electoral maneuver. They say that several deputies having offered their communes either bicycles or toilets, Napoleon III thought to reconcile all voters by offering to the country a perfected scaffold.

This, in any event, would be a delicate sign of consideration. So we call on all those condemned to death to vote for the government candidates.

—No. 50, May 8, 1869