Danton 1792

To the Tribunals

Source: Georges Danton, Aux Tribunaux. Paris, A-J Gorsas, 1792;
Translated: from the original for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor 2009;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2009.

The court has begun to plot again. A vast conspiracy has just broken out in the chateau of the Tuileries and was cut off at the very moment of its eruption, stifled by the courage of the fédérés of the 83 departments and the 48 sections of the capital. After a bloody combat despotism and the aristocracy were forced out of their last entrenchments; the palace of Louis XVI was taken by assault. The bands of Knights of the Daggers and the regiment of Swiss Guards are destroyed. In the writing desks, the files, the archives of the chateau were found a mass of proofs of the most infamous perfidy and the blackest of plots. Finally, all crimes have been uncovered, proven materially and judicially. The forever memorable insurrection of August 10, that holy and thousand times happy insurrection, has removed all masks, has made the scales drop from all eyes. Today there are no more differences of opinion in the capitol, and tomorrow it will be the same in the empire. Already, the commanding general and a number of equally convicted and fugitive traitors, admitting to everything, seized with their hands full of the crushing proof of their baseness have paid for this treason with their heads. The counter-revolutionary priests who vomited so many slanders and libels from Paris against the empire have been consumed, and their characters dispersed and cast to the winds. A provisional commission of the 48 sections has replaced the general council of the commune. The insurrection has its municipal government and amidst applause the National Assembly has sanctioned this supplement to the revolution of July 14, which has become so necessary. The justices of the peace, the department, the ministers have been removed. The King is suspended: Louis XVI is a hostage in the tower of the Temple.

Through the organ of its representatives the French people has named new ministers. In this time of danger for the fatherland I could not refuse from their hands the seals of the nation and a ministry which was formerly offered by a perjuring and profoundly dissimulating King. One time alone this office was confided by him to patriots, but he soon removed them from it, and its acceptance has come to be nothing but a note of infamy and a sign by which the nation could recognize an enemy and a counter-revolutionary.

In a position which I have arrived at through the glorious suffrage of the nation, through the breach of the chateau of the Tuileries, and when the cannon has also become the people’s final reason, you will always and invariably find me the same president of the section of the Theatre Français that made so many contributions to the revolution of July 14 under the name of the district of the Cordeliers, and the revolution of August 10, 1792 under the name the Marseilles section. The tribunals will find me the same man, all of whose thoughts have as sole object political and individual liberty, the maintenance of the law, public tranquility, the unity of the 83 departments, the splendor of the state, the prosperity of the French people and, not the impossible equality of goods, but an equality of rights and happiness.

The Minister of Justice cannot hide from you that too large a number of you deserve the same reproaches that the Minister of the Interior has just addressed to most of the administrative corps.

The liberty conquered July 14 was solidified on unshakeable foundations in six months and without spilling of blood. The French people had no need to dispatch decemvirs to seek laws in far away lands from peoples renowned for their wisdom. We had among us Mably and Rousseau, those immortal flames of legislation, who left to the human spirit something to meditate on for the liberty and happiness of the world. The National Convention, which, after these two great legislators, could also consult others like Locke, Montesquieu, and Franklin had less need of genius than of good will.

But did most of the constituent and constituted functionaries desire such an order of things? No. Only that which was of the people loved the revolution. And the people, seeking new magistrates, instead of looking at what was right to hand naturally went to the men in place who, in their already elevated position, could be clearly seen and who, based on the few signs of patriotism through which these men captured their votes, they believed in. The tribunals were constituted with these men. They thus placed the protection of the law in hands which having already weighed the favors of the ancien régime, found the favors of the people light. In addition, accustomed to a magistracy that was, so to speak, personal, and which followed into society he who was garbed in it, they had a difficult time adjusting to a magistracy that was attached, not to a person, but to the functions of the moment and which, as soon as its marks were deposed upon descending from the tribunal, leaves you a simple citizen, returns you to an equality and loses you in the crowd.

The court knew how to turn these dispositions of the heart to despotism’s advantage. In the first place a Minister of Justice, Champion de Cicé, believed that in order to make the counter-revolution the tribunals must be paralyzed so that the people would tell this paralytic to rise up and march. But since the nation was in no hurry to demand of its representatives that they inspire movement in the judicial power, this plan was soon abandoned by the successors of the minister, who thought they could more quickly arrive at their goal if, by giving life themselves to the tribunals they were to impress upon these tribunals a movement in the direction of counter-revolution.

And so it remains proven today that the most powerful lever of the counter-revolution, that in which the court placed the most hope, was the non-juring priests who they used to act on consciences. The Minister of Justice sent you circulars recommending the defense of these priests against what he called the vexations and tyranny of the dissidents, and indirectly justified this protection by a seditious veto accorded against the violence of factions.

And so it remains proven that the most powerful lever of the revolution, the firmest rampart of liberty, were the popular societies and the courageous writers whose correspondence and lantern warned the entire nation of the nocturnal marches and counter marches of its enemies. But the Minister of Justice only sent you circulars against the popular societies and to invite you to repress these eternal agitators of the people who seek only to perpetuate anarchy; these bought-off writers, these rogues who are constantly shouting about treason; to smash the government’s efforts and condemn the most patriotic chiefs and administrators.

It is thus that ministers – or conspirators , or madmen – used you hasten the success of superstition and servitude by soliciting from the tribunals and not tolerating political opinions, which only speak to reason, strong souls and noble passions, and by tolerating religious fanaticism, which only acts on imagination and weakness: both of which, like water, only reach low parts and only fall on servile and superstitious souls.

You do not expect similar circulars from me, where I enjoin you to deploy courage and firmness against the best citizens, where I seek to set you at war against popular movements and too just murmurings, and to pour into the ears of the people through the channel of its judges the false opinions that Louis XVI loves liberty and the constitution. What will be the organ of truth in a nation if it is not the Minister of Justice, whose functions have the clarifying of truth as their principal object? Having become that organ I shall transmit it to the departments pure, in its entirety and without that pusillanimous delicacy that my character rejects and which is not appropriate to the dignity of a ministry that has been confided in me by a nation of 25 million men, the freest and most powerful of the universe.

Tell the citizens that that general, who my predecessors called the most patriotic chief, has not been placed under accusation by the National Assembly, but it has ordered every soldier and citizen to secure his person by all possible means.

Tell them that the accounts of the civil list found at the home of M. Laporte, and that the National Assembly has ordered printed, published, and read aloud, will show to all of France who were the writers that were bought off and rogues.

Tell them that a two years’ advance on the civil list was consumed in furnishing the cost for the printing of aristocratic pamphlets, in maintaining disorder, vilifying the representatives of the nation, inciting civil war and mocking assignats.

Tell them that the papers found in the King’s files, in the his wife’s secretary, will show whether the terrors the popular societies filled the nation with were false; that every day proofs of the most horrible plots are accumulating at the surveillance committee. That it is proved by bonds signed by Louis XVI, that these past months this perjured King was still paying his four companies of body guards in Coblenz. That it is proved by a plan concerted between his ministers and a few constituents that they betrayed the nation, and by letters from his two brothers that he even betrayed his traitorous ministers and constituents.

Tell them that it is proven that the movements of June 20, about which Lafayette made so much noise, were excited by himself. That the court was only waiting for the moment to take advantage of the straying of a part of the National Guard and the Swiss to bathe in the people’s blood; that the order given by the Commanding General Mandat, by the Commandant of the gendarmerie Rulhieres prove that the plotters saw this day as the last one for the patriots; that the first cannon shot was to be fired from the chateau; that that morning Louis XVI had had the Swiss and the National Guard pass in review, and had himself saluted by all with the war cry of Coblentz: Vive le Roi!

Tell them that the Swiss left before the Marseillais. That the latter, attracted by signs of patriotism and cries of Vive la Nation! went to the Swiss’ quarters and received their embraces. That the Place du Carrousel, covered in fédérés of the 83 departments and the 48 sections, displayed the disorder of a camp distant from the enemy and full of trust, where the ranks were mixed together. And that a multitude of soldiers were seated on the ground taking their meal, or had succumbed to sleep when the regiment of Swiss Guards, at the moment the fédérés shook their hands, in the midst of these fraternal embraces fired the most terrible discharge of cannons and musketry on them and the sections.

Tell them that indignant because of this treason, the people of Paris and the battalions of the National Guard threw themselves on the Swiss and the Knights of the Dagger dressed in the garb of the National Guard, who they exterminated.

Tell them that Louis XVI destroyed himself even in the spirit of the royalists when, while his oldest courtiers covered with their bodies the door to his offices where they believed him to be he fled through a back door with his family to the National Assembly where the Swiss began to fire only after he’d surrendered

A decree of the National Assembly has just enveloped, in a common suppression, all the king’s commissioners, most of them named by a minister either an émigré or under accusation. The incivisme of many judges has also excited much prejudice against the tribunals. The judges of the Sixth Arrondissement of Paris gave the signal for persecution of the friends of liberty, and that example has found so many imitators in the departments that there has arisen a general cry for the renewal of the tribunals. This cry has resounded more than once in the National Assembly. Nevertheless, the correspondence of the ministers who are conspiring to lull you and thicken the shadows around you can, in a certain manner, excuse most of them, since the distance of their positions and the gravity of their profession have kept from the knowing of the counter-revolutionary intrigues of the chateau of the Tuileries. Now that the truth of the treasons that we have denounced shine with all their éclat; now that you are penetrated and invested with its light; now that you see, hasten to enlighten those to whom you are charged with dispensing justice on these facts whose knowledge is ministerially transmitted to you. It is yet in your power to re-conquer national favor. Imitate the appeals tribunal and the tribunals of Paris. Swear on equality. Congratulate the national assembly for its liberating decrees. Turn against the traitors, against the enemies of the fatherland and public happiness the sword of the law that they wanted to guide in your hands against the apostles of liberty. When the justice of the tribunals begins, the justice of the people shall cease!

The Minister of Justice