French Revolution 1792/p>

The Sans-Culotte’s Alphabet, or The First Elements of Republican Education

Source: Alphabet des Sans-Culottes, ou premiers elements de l’education républicain. G-F Gallet, Paris, Year II;
Translated: from the original for by Mitchell Abidor 2007;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2008.

More than 170 years before the Chinese Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in the Year Two of the French Republic, the revolutionaries of France also carried out a cultural revolution. Cities and neighborhoods were re-named to rid them of associations with the old world and its royalty; a new breed of civic hero was put forth as an example, one who lived and died for the people; the people were given voice in their clubs; and most significantly, a new, calendar, both more rational and more poetic was instituted, with time beginning in the Year One, 1791, when the Republic was proclaimed. The lower classes were the most unalloyed representatives of this new order, and revolutionary purity resided in them, the sans-culottes. Texts like this anonymous one, existed to spread the ideas that motivated the revolutionary left.


In their hearts new and pure, opening to life,
Let us engrave in strokes of fire the love of the Fatherland.

Chapter I

Q: Who are you?
A: A Republican
Q: Who do you belong to?
A: The Fatherland

Chapter II

Q: What should you adore?
A: The Supreme Being.
Q: Through which sect?
A: You are free to choose.
Q: Which is preferable?
A: That of nature and reason.
Q: Tell me what this sect is?
A: It’s that which unites us with the Supreme Being or which separates us from it.
Q: How does it unite us?
A: Through virtue.
Q: How are we separated from it?
A: Through crime.
Q: Why should this sect be preferred?
A: Because it is free of any superstition.
Q: How does one recognize superstition?
A: By its exaggerated dogmas, which tend to arm citizens the against another.
Q: Does this sect consist of vain ceremonies?
A: No.
Q: Then in what?
A: In pure morals, which will make humanity a people of brothers.

Chapter III
On Morality

Q: What is the primary duty of a republican?
A: That of being immutably and invincibly fixed on the good.
Q: Why?
A: Because this principle ensures the eternity of his happiness.
Q: What is the most essential duty of a republican?
A: That of submitting to the laws of his Fatherland.
Q: What should a republican most frequently discuss?
A: Justice, and for it alone he should work.
Q: What difference is there between men?
A: That of crime and virtue.
Q: What is the most useful estate?
A: That of the agriculturalist.
Q: Why?
A: Because he nourishes the others.
Q: What is a republican’s distinction?
A: Merit.
Q: His reward?
A: Glory.
Q: Define glory.
A: It is reputation conjoined with esteem.
Q: What are the sentiments innate to the soul of a republican?
A: The love of liberty and equality, and the hatred of tyrants.
Q: What is the term of these sentiments?
A: Death.
Q: What is a tyrant?
A: It is a man who through violence or ruse was able to expropriate the people’s sovereignty.
Q: What should you honor?
A: Old age and the authors of my days.
Q: How should you honor the authors of your days?
A: By profiting from their instruction.
Q: What are the greatest and first of all virtues?
A: The love of the Fatherland and of humanity.
Q: The most satisfying?
A: Hospitality.
Q: Who should you assist?
A: All the unfortunate.
Q: Should you forget insults?
A: Yes.
Q: And good deeds?
A: Never.
Q: Can you take the property of others?
A: No.
Q: Why?
A: Because I wouldn’t want anyone to take mine.
Q: What are the distinctive qualities of a republican?
A: A great and strong soul. And this grandeur and strength should never lead him to make much of himself, but rather to vanquish himself, to commit no base deeds.
Q: What does the honor of a republican consist of?
A: Of never being frightened of any danger, of not retreating before any labor when it is useful to the Fatherland.
Q: How should a republican be raised?
A: In great sobriety, in the study of justice and war, in the exercise of all social and patriotic virtues, in great horror of all vices, especially that of ingratitude, and in great emulation for glory.
Q: Why in great sobriety?
A: Because sobriety preserves the health of the mind and the body.
Q: Why in the study of justice?
A: Because man’s happiness derives from this study.
Q: Why in that of war?
A: In order to learn how to vanquish the enemies of the Fatherland.
Q: What are the enemies of the Fatherland?
A: All tyrants.
Q: Why should a republican be raised in this manner?
A: Because his education is entirely directed towards public utility.
Q: Can you hate anyone?
A: Yes, the enemies of the Fatherland.
Q: Can you take vengeance?
A: No; the law alone has that right.
Q: Is bearing false witness punished?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: Because the innocent must never be accused.
Q: Should a republican allow himself to lie?
A: No, he must always tell the truth.
Q: Why is liberty so rare?
A: Because it is the first of all goods.

Chapter IV
On the Form of Government

Q: What is the form of government?
A: Republican.
Q: What does this word mean?
A: Friend of the interests of all.
Q: What is the government founded on?
A: On justice.
Q: Who will support it?
A: Enlightenment and independence, supported by force.
Q: What is our constitution?
A: Popular.
Q: Who do we owe this constitution to?
A: To the people and to that part of the Convention called the Mountain, the true friends of the people.
Q: What are the bases of this constitution?
A: The rights of man, liberty, and equality.
Q: Recite the rights of man.
A: The French people, etc, etc.

Chapter V
On the Division of Powers

Q: How many powers compose the government?
A: Two powers.
Q: What are they?
A: The legislative and the executive.
Q: What is the legislative power?
A: It’s the National Convention, which makes the laws.
Q: What is the executive power?
A: It is the committees that execute them.

Chapter VI
On the Division of the territory

Q: How do you divide the territory of the republic?
A: Into departments.
Q: And the departments?
A: Into districts.
Q: And the districts?
A: Into cantons.
Q: And the cantons?
A: Into communes.
Q: Who renders justice?
A: The judges.
Q: Who names the judges?
A: The people.
Q: Who names to positions?
A: The people.
Q: Do the people also name to the National Assemblies?
A: Yes, Citizen.
Q: So everything is done by the people in the republic?
A: Yes, citizen.
Q: Why?
A: Because sovereignty resides in them alone.
Q: Are all citizens subject to the laws?
A: Yes, all equally.
Q: So there is no individual in the republic who is inviolable?
A: No. Only the people are inviolable.

Chapter VII
Revolutionary History

Q: What are the most glorious dates of our Revolution?
A: July 14, 1789, August 10, 1792, and May 31, June 1 and June 2, 1793.
Q: What remarkable event occurred on July 14, 1789?
A: The taking of the Bastille by the people of Paris.
Q: Where was the Bastille?
A: In Paris.
Q: What was the Bastille?
A: A horrible prison, where the tyrant buried alive those who dared raise their voices against the tyranny.
Q: What happened on August 10, 1792?
A: The attack on the tyrant’s palace by the brave sans- culottes of the faubourgs, assisted by all their brothers of the departments, and their victory.
Q: What did this victory produce?
A: The fall of the tyranny, and freedom.
Q: What is a brave sans- culotte?
A: It’s a man whose soul can’t be broken by the gold of despots.
Q: What are the virtues of a sans-culotte?
A: All of them.
Q: What remarkable events happened May 31, June 1 and June 2, 1793?
A: They were memorable days that complemented the preceding ones by destroying the conspirators, their liberticide plots, and ensured the unity and indivisibility of the Republic.
Q: So these revolutionary days were necessary?
A: Yes, for without them there would be no more liberty.
Q: Is it necessary to prolong them?
A: Yes, as long as tyranny lasts.
Q: Who are the men who deserved well of the Fatherland?
A: The men of July 14, 1789, those of August 10, 1792, and those of May 31, June 1 and June 2, 1793.
Q: In what way did they deserve well of the Fatherland?
A: By ensuring 25,000,000 people freedom and equality.
Q: Where will this freedom reach?
A: The ends of the earth.
Q: Who is it that most contributed to propagating it?
A: The citizens who make up the society of Jacobins.
Q: Who were the first martyrs to freedom?
A: Two representatives of the people.
Q: Name them.
A: Pelletier and Marat, the Friend of the People.
Q: Who assassinated them?
A: Monsters animated by the royalists, priests and federalists.
Q: What will national vengeance be?
A: The death of all tyrants.
Q: What was done with their bodies?
A: They were deposed in the Pantheon.
Q: What is the Pantheon?
A: It’s a superb edifice destined to hold the ashes of those men who have deserved well of the Fatherland.
Q: Was there another martyr for liberty?
A: Yes.
Q: Where?
A: In Lyons, currently Ville Affranchie (Freed City)
Q: Name him.
A: Charlier, president of the tribunal of the district of Lyons.
Q: Who had him sacrificed?
A: The counter-revolutionaries of that guilty commune.
Q: Was he also given the honors of the Pantheon?
A: Yes, for he died for liberty.
Q: Who are those who will be called martyrs?
A: Those who will die for liberty.
Q: Name the ancients who loved liberty.
A: Brutus, Mutius Scaevola, William Tell.
Q: Who are the men who, through their writings, prepared the Revolution?
A: Helvetius, Mably, J.J. Rousseau, Voltaire, Franklin.
Q: What do you call these great men?
A: Philosophers.
Q: What does this word mean?
A: Wise man, friend of humanity.
Q: What do their works teach?
A: That we must adore the Supreme Being, be subject to his laws, and love men.
Q: What else do they teach?
A: The practice of all virtues, and that we must sacrifice what is most dear to us to the interests of the Fatherland.
Q: What is our oriflamme?
A: The tri-colored flag.
Q: What is our victory cry?
A: Long Live the Republic! Long Live the Mountain!

Chapter VIII
On the State of the Republic at the Beginning of the Campaign

Q: Where was the Republic at the beginning of the campaign?
A: In a few decrees, In the hearts of a small number of firm men, devoted to the death to rise up to liberty.
Q: What was the state of our armies?
A: They were naked, incomplete, and formed of recruitments made in the midst of a civil war.
Q: Who were they commanded by?
A: By traitors sold out to tyrants in coalition against France.
Q: Who were the administrators of the departments?
A: They were Brissotins, Rolandists, royalists, and, to put it in one word, federalists.
Q: Was the Convention better composed?
A: We saw there both the wheat and the chaff, and incorruptible Montagnards destined for the dagger and slander.
Q: What was the situation in the southern part of the Republic?
A: It was threatened by a moral defection and a military invasion.
Q: Was the north in a less disastrous position?
A: No. It was betrayed and sold out to England and Austria, as was the Rhine.
Q: Did the coastal borders share this sad lot?
A: Yes, they were corrupted by the gold of English merchants.
Q: What had become of the Republican spirit?
A: It was debased, tormented, denounced to federalist opinion.
Q: What was the state of the public treasury?
A: It was dried up, pillaged; the gold and silver had disappeared.
Q: Didn’t the states minted money ease this exhaustion?
A: No, the enemies of the Republic had too debased it.
Q: The constitution was thus without force and vigor?
A: Alas, we didn’t have any.
Q: What is the Vendée which is so talked about?
A: The lair of royalists, aristocrats, émigrés, fanatical priests, swindlers and intriguers.
Q: What did these wretches do there?
A: Assisted by worn out peasants, in concert with Pitt and Cobourg they prepared the counter-revolution.
Q: Was this country the only one that conspired against the Republic?
A: No. The commune of Lyons, that of Toulon, even Marseilles had changed into reel camps.

Chapter IX
On the Current State of the French Republic

Q: Where is the Republic today?
A: In the unwavering vows of its representatives, in the courage of the armies, in the will of the people, in the popular societies, in the victories in the Vendée , in Lyons and Marseilles, and in the hearts of the honest sans-culottes, freed of monarchical and religious prejudices, and knowing nothing but the god of nature, of reason, and of liberty.
Q: What is the present situation of the Republic?
A: It will soon reach its great destiny.
Q: What is the base on which it rests its hope?
A: On a republican constitution, where holy equality finds itself consecrated for the first time.
Q: Do we have armies to make it respected?
A: Yes, and twelve for one, all in full activity.
Q: Who are they commanded by?
A: By honest republicans, by true sans-culottes.
Q: How was so immense a levee carried out?
A: By a tiny decree of one line.
Q: Was there not a second decree to reinforce these armies?
A: Yes.
Q: What did it produce?
A: A levee of 600,000 men executed in the blink of an eye by a spontaneous movement.
Q: In what period was it made?
A: At a moment when we lacked supplies and arms.
Q: So the Convention is quite powerful?
A: Its power is limitless, for it has as its foundation the confidence and love of 25,000,000 men.
Q: Did it purge itself of the members who soiled its sanctuary?
A: Most have already the penalty due their misdeeds, and it daily delivers to the sword of the law all those whose perfidy is revealed.
Q: Our representatives are thus no longer inviolable?
A: No, they have been stripped of a prerogative useless to virtue and favorable to crime.
Q: What effect was produced by the just punishment of deputies who dishonored their august character?
A: It has recalled the Convention to its dignity, its unity, and the energy appropriate to the representatives of a democratic republic.
Q: What is the state of the constituted authorities?
A: They were scrupulously purged and assist with all in their power in public happiness.
Q: And that celebrated society, the cradle of liberty and equality and its strongest boulevard; does it still have its energy and splendor?
A: Yes. It’s still at the Jacobin Club that can be found the sacred flame that consumed the soul of Aristide and Brutus; it is there, on the mountain, that the grateful Fatherland contemplates its most intrepid defenders.
Q: What has become of royalism?
A: It as destroyed or deported, along with the infamous race that could reproduce it.
Q: And federalism?
A: It died on the gallows.
Q: What was the fate of the cities that revolted against the Republic?
A: Lyons was violently returned to its bosom.
Q: And Toulon?
A: It was taken in an assault against the English who had bought it off.
Q: What became of its perfidious inhabitants?
A: Most of those traitors were guillotined or shot. The rest carried the opprobrium that covered them to the enemy.
Q: What is the state of the public treasury?
A: It overflows with the immense riches of fanaticism, the treasures of traitors, conspirators, and émigrés.
Q: And the assignats?
A: They have recovered the value they never should have lost.
Q: So new taxes weren’t created?
A: Not the smallest, though the Republic spends 400 million per month.
Q: What is our fundamental maxim?
A: Unity and indivisibility.
Q: What is our defense and our strength?
A: Unity and indivisibility.
Q: What is our salvation?
A: Unity and indivisibility.
Q: What is the goal we are headed towards?
A: The peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice whose laws, as Robespierre so well said, are engraved in the hearts of all men, and even in those of the slave who forgets them, and the tyrant who denies them.

Chapter X
On the Situation of the Coalition of Kings

Q: What is the state of the armies of the kings in coalition against the Republic?
A: They are frightened, decomposed and lacking in effectives.
Q: It is easy for the places to be filled?
A: Oh not at all. The allies can only obtain recruits and militias through threats, violence and chains, or by forcing the residents of cities and dragging along those from the countryside.
Q: What is the state of their finances?
A: They have long since been exhausted.
Q: How then can these tyrants meet the expenses of so ruinous a war?
A: By contracting loans from anywhere — having crushed their imbecilic subjects under the weight of taxes.
Q: How, without funds and with troops that they force to fight, do they dare attempt to resist the enormous might of the French, their immense resources?
A: Having learned from experience, they no longer hide the difficulty or, more accurately, the impossibility of doing so, but their pride prevents them from begging for the clemency of a magnanimous nation.
Q: What will be the result of their united efforts?
A: The overturning of their shaky thrones and the triumph of the universal liberty of nations.