Joseph Chalier 1792

Address to the National Assembly

Source: Addresse de Joseph Chalier, officier municipal de la ville de Lyon, a l’Assemblée nationale. Paris, l’Imprimerie nationale, 1792;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2006.

The projects of the émigrés have made us feel our might, and the coalition of foreign powers has increased our courage. Now nothing external will halt France’s great destiny; this vast empire, whose reins you hold, must become the most flourishing one in the world.

And yet, the south and the north of France are in flames; everywhere the fanaticism of priests, the aristocracy of the ci-devant privileged, the military despotism of so many factions are leagued together, who still support and protect the administrative corps.

But the noise of these phantoms signals the day of their disappearance, and your enlightened wisdom has already made us secure from their influence. It is only blows delivered in the shadows that can do us harm; it is these secret maneuvers, these conspiracies that are being prepared in silence that are sometimes able to foil the most active surveillance.

Such, messieurs, are the dangers to which the city of Lyon is exposed. The peril that threatens it finally demands the full attention of the legislative body. Immensely populated, Lyon has always been split between a great number of privileged rich and oppressors, and a much greater number of poor, crushed beneath the weight of charges, demeaned by humiliation.

The first group was indignant that the others dared contemplate together with them the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The hatred of equality was the source of the troubles in Lyon. These troubles began with the revolution; they have continued, they still exist with the design and in the hope of reestablishing the ancien regime.

Municipal officer of the city of Lyon, I have come to denounce to the FATHERS OF THE FATHERLAND the Directory of the department of the Rhone and Loire as the cause of the troubles that are agitating us, of the defiance that surrounds us, of the poverty that crushes us.

Openly in coalition with those who lead the executive power, there are few things this Directory has not attempted or supported in order to overturn the constitution and put us in irons.

First, its vice-president, Imbert, exposed in the very midst of the Directory the plan he had traced out of a coalition of departments for a simultaneous counter-revolution throughout the kingdom. He even dared to publish this infamous project that the Directory never denounced, but the vigilant civisme of the municipality had the author arrested. Wicked men, in league with the tribunal to protect the aristocrats and favor those fanatics of which Lyon is today the lair, helped Imbert escape the scaffold.

It was nevertheless under that vice-presidency that Guillin’s conspiracy was cooked up, which would have inundated the city of Lyon in blood if the municipality hadn’t discovered it in time. Since that time the Directory has given open protection to its own agents in the affair of Imbert and Olivier, despite the clear pieces of evidence of their project for counter-revolution produced by the municipality. In an indecent and scandalous decree it destroyed the economic plan and forced the commune into useless expenses. It has consecrated the most revolting acts of fanaticism by publicly prohibiting the municipality from overseeing the dangerous effects.

With the same scandal it has overturned the measures that it took to prevent the devastation of public offices and libraries. With harsh and low expressions it insulted the municipality because, in executing the decrees that abolished the nobility and suppressed coats of arms , at the request of the people it effaced on a few monuments these remains of feudalism.

By these secret machinations, by these perfidious insinuations, despite representations, and forcing the resistance of all good citizens, the Directory surrounded itself with foreign bayonets. It filled the city with troops of the line, this city which never suffered this under despotism.

The people are starved by the numerous corps of troops whose officers seem to only be awaiting the signal to slaughter them.

The loan made to soldiers gives them an advantage over workers in the competition for the purchase of goods that could lead the latter to despair.

All of this was foreseen, all of this was spoken of, all of this was revealed to you in an address signed by 11,000 citizens, and would have been signed by 100,000 if the circumstances had been less demanding, the moment less pressing. The Directory sees this, it does this, and in fact it appears to want to force the people to furnish them with a pretext to massacre them.

As much as the municipality has judged it necessary to watch over the enemies of the public thing, as active as it has been, just as much has it seen itself forced to stiffen itself against the obstacles put before it by the Directory of the department.

Have they attempted to trouble public order by these clandestine gatherings, by the counterfeiting of billets de confiance, by the fabrication of daggers? In every case the Directory, as if it didn’t fear declaring itself the protector of these crimes, hindered the municipality’s measures. Finally, it went as far as passing humiliating decrees against it , odious in all ways. It committed an attack on the people by authorizing the seizing of its magistrates. It even dared to suspend one of them from his functions for having fulfilled them with zeal for the public good and with the purity of a good conscience.

We place before you, representatives of the nation, the authentic evidence that lays out the crimes we have just traced out for you.

The municipality, constant in its principle, firm in danger, inaccessible to fear, supported by the confidence and love of a just and good people, believed that it was enough for it to present itself to the king in order to obtain justice from the Directory of the department, in the form of protection for those who observe of the law and a striking punishment for those who commit infractions.

But the ministers abused their master; they unveiled the sinister project to degrade the people’s magistrates; they had the King make insulting, defamatory proclamations against honest citizens and virtuous magistrates, all of this against the text of the constitution and without notifying the legislative body.

This, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, is the position in which we find ourselves. The council general of the commune of Lyon appeals to you about these illegal, humiliating, unconstitutional acts. Our ills are extreme; only the power with which you are invested can ease them. We invoke the law of which you are the organs, the love of justice that guides you, the patriotism that inspires you – this enlightened zeal, ardent and active that harries misfortunes and casts them aside.

We tell you frankly, the municipalities are the support of the CONSTITUTION. They have the confidence of the people. In them resides the pure and disinterested love of liberty. If you don’t invest them with the authority that is necessary to them, the consideration they deserve, you will lose in them your firmest support, and we will lose in you our sole resource and all our hopes.

Hasten, then, FATHERS OF THE PEOPLE, to give the citizens of Lyon this example of your justice and firmness. Punish in an exemplary fashion the Directory of the department of the Rhone and Loire; re-establish in their functions the municipal officers of the city of Lyon by showing them your satisfaction for their zeal, the purity of their intentions. Such is the wish of the council-general of the commune of Lyon, expressed in the attached petition.

Joseph Chalier
Municipal Officer of the city of Lyon