Jean-Paul Marat 1791

“Freedom is Lost”

Source: l'Ami du Peuple, No. 625, December 14, 1791;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2004.

One had to witness the session of last Monday to see just how poor the Assembly is in enlightened and upright members, in friends of freedom and the public good; just how vile and corrupted, how gangrened; how much it is the enemy of the revolution, how much it is prostituted to the will of the prince.

The ministerial party is all-powerful there: nothing equals their audacity. And among the handful of patriots who could have opposed their maneuvers, their machinations, their sacrilegious attacks on the sovereignty of the nation and the rights of citizens, there cannot be found even one man with insight, one man of character, not one man who devotes himself to the Fatherland. So not one decree, however lacking in energy, has been passed against public functionaries who have deserted their posts, embezzled, prevaricated; against the machinating ministerial agents. There is not a single decree that is even the least bit favorable to the people that isn’trevoked after a reading the proceedings of the previous day. This was the fate met by he who ordered the sending of the anti-patriotic and traitorous address of the department of Paris to the other departments, after the most indecent scenes in which the henchmen of despotism exposed their shameful maxims with unexampled effrontery.

And there is no device[1] sufficiently destructive of freedom, vexing enough, disastrous enough that they don’t have the art to have enacted, always with objections, often without opposition.

What defenders of the Fatherland do you have to oppose to this formidable conspiracy of representatives of the nation, of the prince, of the ministers, of public functionaries, of chiefs of the army and the National Guard, and the officer corps and henchmen of despotism? A mass of club members, of talkers and vain petitioners who hide at the moment of crisis, leaving their fellow citizens to be slaughtered, and who afterwards present themselves with bravado at the bar of the senate to display their stupidities and gravely assure the conscripted fathers that soon LIBERTY WILL ROLL ALL THE TYRANTS OF THE UNIVERSE IN THE DUST. People: these are the heroes who should be taking up your defense and seeing to your triumph. As if a few ridiculous phrases were enough to crush the countless enemies of freedom. O foolish nation! Why haven’t you renounced your vain babbling and followed the advice of your friend, armed yourself with rope, with daggers, and ended the days of those of your defeated enemies who would have the audacity to rise up again.

Yes, freedom is lost among us, and lost without a chance of return. But while waiting for the tyrant to be re-established in his power, cast a glimpse on the excesses of despotism that the fall of our current tyrants will soon bring about.

It is certain that the tyrant will burn to re-establish the nobility, but he won’t re-establish either the high clergy or the robe, two redoubtable barriers that limited his authority. As long as the public treasury, for which he has the keys, will be filled from the sale of national goods, and as long as the confidence in paper money is not destroyed, Louis Capet will have in his pay a numberless army of satellites formed of all the embezzlers, informers, and cutthroats ready to sell themselves, as well as all the intriguers jealous to share his power. It is they who will, for a certain time, support his tyrannical rule. But as soon as his resources are used up – and the time for this is not distant – a shameful bankruptcy will lose him all the creditors of the state, who will join the mass of the oppressed. Soon the onerous taxes that will weigh down citizens in order to satisfy the bought-off satellites will repel the artisans, the merchants and the cultivators, who will augment the party of the oppressed and denuded citizens with a mass of the discontented.

All the ambitious, who the cupidity of the court can no longer satisfy and the public functionaries it can no longer corrupt, will throw themselves into this party. The successive uprisings will be followed by a general uprising, and the satellites and the privileged henchmen of the prince will fall beneath the blows of the discontented, he himself will be thrown from the throne and proscribed along with his unworthy family. The kingdom will be torn apart by different factions. From the fire of civil dissension several federated republics will be born; the most audacious and skillful citizens will usurp the empire, will subject the multitude to a new yoke, and the government will have changed form without having re-established freedom.

O my Fatherland! What a terrible fate the future reserves for you! A fatal decree of pitiless destiny will always tie over your eyes the blindfold of illusion and error in order to prevent you from profiting from your resources and to deliver you, defenselessly, into the hands of your cruel enemies! What haven’t I done to make the scales fall from your eyes? Today there remains no means of putting off your ruin, and your faithful Friend has no other obligation to you than that of deploring your sad destiny, than that of shedding, over your too great disasters, tears of blood.

1. Such as those that authorize the king to crush the inhabitants of the colonies, friends of liberty; to have perish on the scaffold the patriots from Avignon; to provoke a rupture with the German princes and the Spaniards; to protect the monopolies in grain and currency. And such is that which solicits Duport – alias Dutertre – to put the high national court under the surveillance of the minister under the pretext of reminding him of his obligations, and by orders of the prince to have correspond with him the procurator of the nation charged with the pursuit of crimes. A decree that will very probably pass.