Babeuf 1789

Letter to “l’Observateur”

Source: Supplement to L'Observateur, no. 4, August 1789;
Translated: from the original for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.

August 16, 1789

It can be seen, Monsieur, that you are new to the work of a publicist. Even if the title of your latest issue didn’t assure us that it was issue number four, one could recognize that you are a young writer from your style. By casting aside in the future some improper, or rather poorly placed, expressions it is possible that you will be read. You must cure yourself of these defects. Receive then, a few lessons that are the fruit of my long experience.

For example, what do you mean in saying: “Frenchmen! The freedom of the press has made us citizens. It is this which created the National Assembly, which, etc, etc.”

Go gently, Monsieur, go gently. Learn that these great phrases are beginning to go out of fashion. We are returning to our former ways. It was worth attempting all of these innovations, but it seems that it’s already been recognized that the preceding forms, i.e., those of arbitrary power, were worth more than all the trappings of this vaunted liberty that has been substituted for it. A public writer, monsieur, if he wants to make his way in the world, must accommodate himself to the time and the circumstances. Model yourself on one of your wise colleagues who, while you continue to be in a state of transport as he was four days ago, prudently conforms himself to the tone of the aristocratic regime that we are being made to hope will be reborn. Consult the following:

“M. the Director General of Finances remits to the Subsistence Committee of the Etats-Generaux, on the part of the King, an instructional memorandum, etc. etc.”

This, Monsieur, is how we are again beginning to speak. It is always good, as you see, to warn young people and to guarantee them from the dangers to which their inattention exposes them. You, in the place of the colleague, might perhaps have still said; “the National Assembly,” a meaningless term of a shocking dissonance for many readers.

If you feel the true value of the good offices that my letter can render you I don’t think you will find that I demand excessive recognition in asking that you insert it in issue five of “l’Observateur.” This will serve to prove to me that you have profited from my warnings and want to share them with the citizens who read you.

I am, Monsieur, one of these Citizens.
Rue Quincampoix, no. 40