Selected Texts by Victor Hugo
Important addresses by Victor Hugo
about peace and the future
Victor Hugo was a visionary who cared deeply for the world. He spoke with great force and vision in several occasions. We give below a few samples of his most important addresses:
I. Opening Address to the Peace Congress (Paris, August 21, 1849)
A day will come when your arms will fall even from your hands! A day will come when war will seem as absurd and impossible between Paris and London, between
Petersburg and Berlin, between Vienna and Turin, as it would be impossible and would seem absurd today between Rouen and Amiens, between Boston and Philadelphia. A day will come when you France, you Russia, you Italy, you England, you Germany, you all, nations of the continent, without losing your distinct qualities and your glorious individuality, will be merged closely within a superior unit and you will form the European brotherhood, just as Normandy, Brittany, Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace, all our provinces are merged together in France. A day will come
Illustrated London News: an article about the Peace Congress at Paris, 1849 (top left: a portrait of Hugo, and bottom: opening of the proceedings by Victor Hugo
when the only fields of battle will be markets opening up to trade and minds opening up to ideas. A day will come when the bullets and the bombs will be replaced by votes, by the universal suffrage of the peoples, by the venerable arbitration of a great sovereign senate which will be to Europe what this parliament is to England,
what this diet is to Germany, what this legislative assembly is to France. A day will come when we will display cannon in museums just as we display instruments of torture today, and are amazed that such things could ever have been possible. (...)
It is after all a prodigious and admirable epoch, and the nineteenth century will be — let us say it openly — the greatest page in history. As I reminded you just now, all our advances are revealing and manifesting themselves together, in rapid succession: the decline in international animosity, the disappearance of frontiers from maps and of prejudices from hearts, a movement towards unity, a softening of manners, an increase in the level of education and a drop in the level of penalties, the dominance of the most literary, that is to say the most humane, languages; everything is moving at once, political economy, science, industry, philosophy, legislation, and is converging upon the same end, the creation of well-being and benevolence, and that for me is the end to which I shall always strive, the extinction of misery inside and of war outside.
II. Address to the Peace Congress held in London in 1851
Gentlemen, if someone four centuries ago, at a time when war raged from parish to parish, from town to town, from province to province — if someone had said to Lorraine,
to Picardy, to Normandy, to Brittany, to Auvergne, to Dauphine, to Burgundy, 'A day will come when you will no longer wage war, when you will no longer raise men of arms against each other, when it will no longer be said that Normands have attacked the men of Picardy, and the men of Lorraine have driven back those of Burgundy; that you will still have differences to settle, interests to discuss, certainly disputes to solve, but do you know what you will have in place of men on foot and horseback, in place of guns, falconets, spears, pikes, and swords? You will have a small box made of wood, which you will call a ballot box. And do you know what this box will bring forth? An assembly, an assembly in which
you will all feel you live, an assembly which will be like your own soul, a supreme and popular council which will decide, judge, and solve everything in law, which will cause the sword to fall from every hand and justice to rise in every heart. And this event will say to you, 'There ends your right, here begins your duty. Lay down your arms! Live in peace!' "
On that day you will be conscious of a common thought, common interests, and a common destiny. You will clasp each other's hands and you will acknowledge that you are sons of the same blood and the same race. On that day you will no longer be hostile tribes, but a nation. You will no longer be Burgundy, Normandy, Brittany, Provence, you will be France. On that day your name will no longer be war, but civilization.
Well, you say today — and I am one of those who say it with you — all of us here, we say to France, to England, to Prussia, to Austria, to Spain, to Italy, to Russia, we say to them, 'A day will come when your weapons will fall from your hands, a day when war will seem absurd and be as impossible between Paris and London, St. Petersburg and Berlin, Vienna and Turin, as today it would seem impossible between Rouen and Amiens, Boston and Philadelphia.'
A day will come when there will be no battlefields, but markets opening to commerce and minds opening to ideas. A day will come when the bullets and bombs are replaced by votes, by universal suffrage, by the venerable arbitration of a great supreme senate which will be to Europe what Parliament is to England, the Diet to Germany, and the Legislative Assembly to France.
A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece, as instruments of torture are today. And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed!
A day will come when we shall see those two immense groups, the United States of America and the United States of Europe, stretching out their hands across the sea, exchanging their products, their arts, their works of genius, clearing up the globe, making deserts fruitful, ameliorating creation under the eyes of the Creator, and joining together to reap the well-being of all.
Henceforth the goal of great politics, of true politics, is this: the recognition of all nationalities, the restoration of the historical unity of nations and the uniting of the latter to civilization by peace, the relentless enlargement of the civilized group, the setting of an example to the still-savage nations; in short, and this recapitulates all I have said, the assurance that justice will have the last word, spoken in the past by might.
III. Peace Congress in Lausanne: message, September 4, 1869
Fellow citizens of the United States of Europe,
Allow me to give you this name, for the European Federal Republic is established in right and is waiting to be established in fact. You exist, therefore it exists. You confirm it
by the union from which unity is taking shape. You are the beginning of a great future.
Alas, I am indeed not among those who would deny that a second war is necessary. What will this war be? A war of conquest. And what is the conquest to be made? The conquest of liberty.
IV. Peace Congress in Lausanne: Closing Address, September 18, 1869
Socialism is vast, it is not narrow. It addresses the whole human problem. It embraces the entire social concept. While it poses important questions of labour and reward, it also proclaims the inviolability of human life, the abolition of murder in all its forms, the reduction of deprivation through education, a marvellous problem solved. It proclaims free and compulsory education. It proclaims the rights of women, the responsibilities of man. Finally it proclaims the sovereignty of the individual which is synonymous with liberty.
What is all of this? It is socialism. Yes. And it is the Republic!
V. Address to French national Assembly: "For war in the present and for peace in the future" (March 1, 1871)
Let Germany feel happy and proud, with two provinces more and her liberty less. But we, we pity her; we pity her this enlargement which contains such abasement, we pity her
for having been a people and for being now nothing more than an empire.
I have just said that Germany will have two more provinces. But it is not done yet, and I add, it will never be done. Never, never! To take is not to possess. Possession presupposes consent. Did Turkey possess Athens? Did Austria possess Venice? And did Russia possess Warsaw? Does Spain possess Cuba? Does England possess Gibraltar? In fact, yes, but in right, no!
(...) We shall see France arise again, we shall see her retrieve Lorraine, take back Alsace. But will that be all? No... Seize Trier, Mainz, Cologne, Koblenz, the whole of the left bank of the Rhine. And we shall hear France cry out: It's my turn, Germany, here I am! Am I your enemy? No! I am your sister. I have taken back everything and I give you everything, on one condition, that we shall act as one people, as one family, as one Republic. I shall demolish my fortresses, you will demolish yours. My revenge is fraternity! No more frontiers! The Rhine for everyone! Let us be the same Republic, let us be the United States of Europe, let us be the continental federation, let us be European liberty, let us be universal peace! And now let us shake hands, for we have done one another a service: you have delivered me from my emperor and I have delivered you from yours.
On Education (extracted from Les Miserables)
Let us not weary of repeating, and sympathetic souls must not forget that this is the first of fraternal obligations, and selfish hearts must understand that the first of political necessities consists in thinking first of all of the disinherited and sorrowing throngs, in solacing, airing, enlightening, loving them, in enlarging their horizon to a magnificent extent, in lavishing upon them education in every form, in offering them the example of labor, never the example of idleness, in diminishing the individual burden by enlarging the notion of the universal aim, in setting a limit to poverty without setting a limit to wealth, in creating vast fields of public and popular activity, in having ... a hundred hands to extend in all directions to the oppressed and the feeble, in employing the collective power for that grand duty of opening workshops for all arms, schools for all aptitudes, and laboratories for all degrees of intelligence, in augmenting salaries, diminishing trouble, balancing what should be and what is, that is to say, in proportioning enjoyment to effort and a glut to need; in a word, in evolving from the social apparatus more light and more comfort for the benefit of those who suffer and those who are ignorant.
And, let us say it, all this is but the beginning. The true question is this: labor cannot be a law without being a right.
We will not insist upon this point; this is not the proper place for that.
If nature calls itself Providence, society should call itself foresight.
Intellectual and moral growth is no less indispensable than material improvement. To know is a sacrament, to think is the prime necessity, truth is nourishment as well as grain. A reason which fasts from science and wisdom grows thin. Let us enter equal complaint against stomachs and minds which do not eat. If there is anything more heart-breaking than a body perishing for lack of
bread, it is a soul which is dying from hunger for the light.
The whole of progress tends in the direction of solution. Some day we shall be amazed. As the human race mounts upward, the deep layers emerge naturally from the zone of distress. The obliteration of misery will be accomplished by a simple elevation of level.
I believe in direct God. The eyes of the masses are weak; this is their problem. Dogmas and rituals are glasses which help the short-sighted people to see the star. I can see God with naked eyes. Distinctly. I leave dogmas, rituals and symbols to the short-sighted intelligence. Glasses are useful; eyes are more precious. Faith through dogmas is good. Direct faith is better.
A religion is a translation. Those men who are said to "reveal" a religion look at the unknown which exists outside of man. High above there is a light and they can see it. They turn a mirror towards it. This mirror is more or less clear, more or less polished, more or less chromatic, more or less cleaned.
This mirror is the consciousness of these men.
Events, despotisms, kings, captains, rulers, at times make a lot of dust upon it.
• • •
In short, all religions are bad and all religions are good. Break them all: out of that immense shattered mirror, out of those innumerable pieces swept away in a heap, you will see the unique star shining. Once you have thrown away all these portraits of the Truth, twisted to the point of falsehood, the majestic image will appear.
Out of all the destroyed religions, comes out the indestructible. This is because, I have said it, all religions are translations. Under all their thick layers, there is the text...
This is an oration delivered by Victor Hugo in 1878 on the occasion of the 100th death anniversary of Voltaire. Voltaire was a great writer, satirist and philosopher of the XVIIIth century. His devastating criticism of absolutism, injustice, oppression, intolerance of all kinds and religious fanaticism (along with that of several other writers of the "Enlightenment Age") contributed a good deal in bringing about the French Revolution.
A hundred years ago to-day a man died. He died immortal. He departed laden with years, laden wih works, laden with the most illustrious and the most fearful of responsibilities, the responsibility of the human conscience informed and rectified. He went cursed and blessed, cursed by the past, blessed by the future; and these, gentlemen, are the two superb forms of glory. On his death-bed he had, on the one hand, the acclaim of contemporaries and of posterity; on the other, that triumph of hooting and of hate which the implacable past bestows upon those who have combated it. He was more than a man; he was an age. He had exercised a function and fulfilled a mission. He had been evidently chosen for the work which he had done, by the Supreme Will, which manifests itself as visibly in the laws of destiny as in the laws of nature.
The eighty-four years that this man lived occupy the interval that separates the monarchy at its apogee from the revolution in its dawn. When he was born, Louis XIV still reigned; when he died, Louis XVI reigned already; so that his cradle could see the last rays of the great throne, and his coffin the first gleams from the great abyss.
Before going further, let us come to an understanding, gentlemen, upon the word abyss. There are good abysses; such are
the abysses in which evil is engulfed.
Gentlemen, since I have interrupted myself, allow me to complete my thought. No word imprudent or unsound will be pronounced here. We are here to perform an act of civilization. We are here to make affirmation of progress, to pay respect to philosophers for the benefits of philosophy, to bring to the eighteenth century the testimony of the nineteenth, to honor magnanimous combatants and good servants, to felicitate the noble effort of peoples, industry, science, the valiant march in advance, the toil to cement human concord; in one word, to glorify peace, that sublime, universal desire. Peace is the virtue of civilization; war is its crime. We are here, at this grand moment, in this solemn hour, to bow religiously before the moral law, and to say to the world, which hears France, this: There is only one power, conscience, in the service of justice: and there is only one glory, genius, in the service of truth. That said, I continue:
Before the Revolution, gentlemen, the social structure was this:
At the base, the people;
Above the people, religion represented by the clergy;
By the side of religion, justice represented by the magistracy.
And, at that period of human society, what was the people? It was ignorance. What was religion? It was intolerance. And what was justice? It was injustice. Am I going too far in my words? Judge.
I will confine myself to the citation of two facts, but decisive ones.
At Toulouse, October 13, 1761, there was found in a lower story of a house a young man hanged. The crowd gathered, the clergy fulminated, the magistracy investigated. It was a suicide; they made of it an assassination. In what interest? In the interest of religion. And who was accused? The father. He was a Huguenot, and he wished to hinder his son from becoming a Catholic. There was here a moral monstrosity and a material impossibility; no matter! This father had killed his son; this old man had hanged this young man. Justice travailed, and this was the result. In the
month of March, 1762, a man with white hair, Jean Calas, was conducted to a public place, stripped naked, stretched on a wheel, the members bound on it, the head hanging. Three men are there upon a scaffold; a magistrate, named David, charged to superintend the punishment, a priest to hold the crucifix, and the executioner with a bar of iron in his hand. The patient, stupefied and terrible, regards not the priest, and looks at the executioner. The executioner lifts the bar of iron, and breaks one of his arms. The victim groans and swoons. The magistrate comes forward; they make the condemned inhale salts; he returns to life. Then another stroke of the bar; another groan. Calas loses consciousness; they revive him, and the executioner begins again; and, as each limb before being broken in two places receives two blows, that makes eight punishments. After the eighth swooning the priest offers him the crucifix to kiss; Calas turns away his head, and the executioner gives him the coup de grace; that is to say, crushes in his chest with the thick end of the bar of iron. So died Jean Calas.
That lasted two hours. After his death the evidence of the suicide came to light. But an assassination had been committed. By whom? By the judges.
Another fact. After the old man, the young man. Three years later, in 1765, in Abbeville, the day after a night of storm and high wind, there was found upon the pavement of a bridge an old crucifix of worm-eaten wood, which for three centuries had been fastened to the parapet. Who had thrown down this crucifix? Who committed this sacrilege? It is not known. Perhaps a passer-by. Perhaps the wind. Who is the guilty one? The bishop of Amiens launches a monitoire. Note what a monitoire was: it was an order to all the faithful, on pain of hell, to declare what they knew or believed they knew of such or such a fact; a murderous injunction, when addressed by fanaticism to ignorance. The monitoire of the bishop of Amiens' does its work; the town gossip assumes the character of the crime charged. Justice discovers, or believes it discovers, that on the night when the crucifix was thrown down, two men, two officers, one named La Barre, the other d'Etallonde, passed over the bridge of Abbeville, that they
were drunk, and that they sang a guardroom song. The tribunal was the Seneschalcy of Abbeville. The Seneschalcy of Abbeville was equivalent to the court of the Capitouls of Toulouse. It was not less just. Two orders for arrest were issued. D' Etallonde escaped, La Barre was taken. Him they delivered to judicial examination. He denied having crossed the bridge; he confessed to having sung the song. The Seneschalcy of Abbeville condemned him; he appealed to the Parliament of Paris. He was conducted to Paris; the sentence was found good and confirmed. He was conducted back to Abbeville in chains. I abridge. The monstrous hour arrives. They begin by subjecting the Chevalier de La Barre to the torture, ordinary and extraordinary, to make him reveal his accomplices. Accomplices in what? In having crossed a bridge and sung a song. During the torture one of his knees was broken; his confessor, on hearing the bones crack, fainted away. The next day, June 5, 1766, La Barre was drawn to the great square of Abbeville, where flamed a penitential fire; the sentence was read to La Barre; then they cut off one of his hands; then they tore out his tongue with iron pincers; then, in mercy, his head was cut off and thrown into the fire. So died the Chevalier de la Barre. He was nineteen years of age.
Then, 0 Voltaire! thou didst utter a cry of horror, and it will be to thine eternal glory!
Then didst thou enter upon the appalling trial of the past; thou didst plead against tyrants and monsters, the cause of the human race, and thou didst gain it. Great man, blessed be thou forever.
The frightful things that I have recalled were accomplished in the midst of a polite society; its life was gay and light; people went and came; they looked neither above nor below themselves; their indifference had become carelessness; graceful poets, SaintAulaire, Bouffiers, Gentil-Bernard, composed pretty verses; the court was all festival; Versailles was brilliant; Paris ignored what was passing; and then it was that, through religious ferocity, the judges made an old man die upon the wheel, and the priests tore out a child's tongue for a song.
In the presence of this society, frivolous and dismal, Voltaire
Le Chevalier de la Barre, who had become a symbol of an arbitrary justice was rehabilitated by the French Revolution. Later a statue of him (above) would be erected in Montmartre (Paris). What is written on the pedestal is: To the Chevalier de la Barre, tortured to death at the age of 19, on 1st July 1766, for not removing their hats when a religious procession went by. (That was one of the many accusations that were added to the first one. Another one was to keep at home some of Voltaire's banned books).
alone, having before his eyes those united forces, the court, the nobility, capital; that unconscious power, the blind multitude; that terrible magistracy, so severe to subjects, so docile to the master, crushing and flattering, kneeling on the people before the king; that clergy, vile mélange of hypocrisy and fanaticism; Voltaire alone, I repeat it, declared war against that coalition of all the social iniquities, against that enormous and terrible world, and he accepted battle with it. And what was his weapon? That which has the lightness of the wind and the power of the thunderbolt. A pen.
With that weapon he fought; with that weapon he conquered. Gentlemen, let us salute that memory.
Voltaire conquered; Voltaire waged the splendid kind of warfare, the war of one alone against all; that is to say, the grand warfare. The war of thought against matter, the war of reason against prejudice, the war of the just against the unjust, the war for the oppressed against the oppressor; the war of goodness, the war of kindness. He had the tenderness of a woman and the wrath of a hero. He was a great mind, and an immense heart.
He conquered the old code and the old dogma. He conquered the feudal lord, the Gothic judge, the Roman priest. He raised the populace to the dignity of people. He taught, pacificated, and civilized. He fought for Sirven and Montbailly, as for Calas and La Barre; he accepted all the menaces, all the outrages, all the persecutions, calumny, and exile. He was indefatigable and immovable. He conquered violence by a smile, despotism by sarcasm, infallibility by irony, obstinacy by perseverance, ignorance by truth.
I have just pronounced the word, smile. I pause at it. Smile! It is Voltaire.
Let us say it, gentlemen, pacification is the great side of the philosopher; in Voltaire the equilibrium always re-establishes itself at last. Whatever may be his just wrath, it passes, and the irritated Voltaire always gives place to the Voltaire calmed. Then in that profound eye the SMILE appears.
That smile is wisdom. That smile. I repeat, is Voltaire. That smile sometimes becomes laughter, but the philosophic sadness
tempers it. Toward the strong it is mockery; toward the weak it is a caress. It disquiets the oppressor, and reassures the oppressed. Against the great, it is raillery; for the little, it is pity. Ah, let us be moved by that smile! It had in it the rays of the dawn. It illuminated the true, the just, the good, and what there is of worthy in the useful. It lighted up the interior of superstitions. Those ugly things it is salutary to see; he has shown them. Luminous, that smile was fruitful also. The new society, the desire for equality and concession, and that beginning of fraternity which called itself tolerance, reciprocal good-will, the just accord of men and rights, reason recognized as the supreme law, the annihilation of prejudices and fixed opinions, the serenity of souls, the spirit of indulgence and of pardon, harmony, peace — behold, what has come from that great smile!
On the day — very near, without any doubt — when the identity of wisdom and clemency will be recognized, the day when the amnesty will be proclaimed, I affirm it, up there, in the stars, Voltaire will smile.
Gentlemen, between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation.
To combat Pharisaism; to unmask imposture; to overthrow tyrannies, usurpations, prejudices, falsehoods, superstitions; to demolish the temple in order to rebuild it, that is to say, to replace the false by the true; to attack a ferocious magistracy; to attack a sanguinary priesthood; to take a whip and drive the money-changers from the sanctuary; to reclaim the heritage of the disinherited; to protect the weak, the poor, the suffering, the overwhelmed, to struggle for the persecuted and oppressed -- that was the war of Jesus Christ! And who waged that war? It was Voltaire.
The completion of the evangelical work is the philosophical work; the spirit of meekness began, the spirit of tolerance continued. Let us say it with a sentiment of profound respect; JESUS WEPT; VOLTAIRE SMILED. Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization.
Voltaire's famous smile
Did Voltaire always smile? No. He was often indignant. You remarked it in my first words.
Certainly, gentlemen, measure, reserve, proportion are reason's supreme law. We can say that moderation is the very breath of the philosopher. The effort of the wise man ought to be to condense into a sort of serene certainty all the approximations of which philosophy is composed. But at certain moments, the passion for the true rises powerful and violent, and it is within its right in so doing, like the stormy winds which purify. Never, I insist upon it, will any wise man shake those two august supports of social labor, justice and hope; and all will respect the judge if he is embodied justice, and all will venerate the priest if he represents hope. But if the magistracy calls itself torture, if the Church calls itself Inquisition, then Humanity looks them in the face and says to the judge: "I will none of thy law!" and says to the priest: "I will none of thy dogma! I will none of thy fire on the earth and thy hell in the future!" Then philosophy rises in wrath, and arraigns the judge before justice, and the priest before God!
This is what Voltaire did. It was grand.
What Voltaire was, I have said; what his age was, I am about to say.
Gentlemen, great men rarely come alone; large trees seem larger when they dominate a forest; there they are at home. There was a forest of minds around Voltaire; that forest was the eighteenth century. Among those minds there were summits: Montesquieu, Buffon, Beaumarchais, and among others, two, the highest after Voltaire: Rousseau and Diderot. Those thinkers taught men to reason; reasoning well leads to acting well; justness in the mind becomes justice in the heart. Those toilers for progress labored usefully. Buffon founded naturalism; Beaumarchais discovered, outside of Moliere, a kind of comedy until then unknown almost, the social comedy; Montesquieu made in law some excavations so profound that he succeeded in exhuming the right. As to Rousseau, as to Diderot, let us pronounce those two names apart; Diderot, a vast intelligence, inquisitive, a tender heart, a thirst for justice, wished to give certain notions as the foundation of true
ideas, and created the Encyclopedia. Rousseau rendered to woman an admirable service, completing the mother by the nurse, placing near each other those two majesties of the cradle. Rousseau, a writer, eloquent and pathetic, a profound oratorical dreamer, often divined and proclaimed political truth; his ideal borders on the real; he had the glory of being the first man in France who called himself citizen. The civic fibre vibrates in Rousseau; that which vibrates in Voltaire is tile universal fibre. One can say that in the fruitful eighteenth century, Rousseau represented the people; Voltaire, still more vast, represented Man. Those powerful writers disappeared, but they left us their soul, the Revolution.
Yes, the French Revolution was their soul. It was their radiant manifestation. It came from them; we find them everywhere in that blessed and superb catastrophe, which formed the conclusion of the past and the opening of the future. In that clear light, which is peculiar to revolutions, and which beyond causes permits us to perceive effects, and beyond the first plan the second, we see behind Danton Diderot, behind Robespierre Rousseau, and behind Mirabeau Voltaire. These formed those.
Gentlemen, to sum up epochs, by giving them the names of men, to name ages, to make of them in some sort human personages, has only been done by three peoples: Greece, Italy, France. We say, the Age of Pericles, the Age of Augustus, the Age of Leo X, the Age of Louis XIV, the Age of Voltaire. Those appellations have a great significance. This privilege of giving names to periods belonging exclusively to Greece, to Italy, and to France, is the highest mark of civilization. Until Voltaire, they were the names of the chiefs of states; Voltaire is more than the chief of a state; he is a chief of ideas; with Voltaire a new cycle begins. We feel that henceforth the supreme governmental power is to be thought. Civilization obeyed force; it will obey the ideal. It was the sceptre and the sword broken, to be replaced by the ray of light; that is to say, authority transfigured into liberty. Henceforth, no other sovereignty than the law for the people, and the conscience for the individual. For each of us, the two aspects of progress separate themselves clearly, and they are these: to exercise one's right; that
is to say, to be a man; to perform one's duty; that is to say, to be a citizen.
Such is the signification of that word, the Age of Voltaire; such is the meaning of that august event, the French Revolution.
The two memorable centuries that preceded the eighteenth, prepared for it; Rabelais warned royalty in Gargantua, and Moliere warned the Church in Tartuffe. Hatred of force and respect for right are visible in those two illustrious spirits.
Whoever says to-day, 'might makes right', performs an act of the Middle Ages, and speaks to men three hundred years behind their time.
Gentlemen, the nineteenth century glorifies the eighteenth century. The eighteenth proposed, the nineteenth concludes. And my last word will be the declaration, tranquil but inflexible, of progress.
The time has come. The right has found its formula: human federation.
To-day, force is called violence, and begins to be judged; war is arraigned. Civilization, upon the complaint of the human race, orders the trial, and draws up the great criminal indictment of conquerors and captains. This witness, History, is summoned. The reality appears. The factitious brilliancy is dissipated. In many cases the hero is a species of assassin. The peoples begin to comprehend that increasing the magnitude of a crime cannot be its diminution; that, if to kill is a crime, kill many cannot be an extenuating circumstance; that, if to steal is a shame, to invade cannot glory; that Te Deums do not count for much matter; that homicide is homicide; that bloodshed is bloodshed; that it serves nothing to call one's self Caesar or Napoleon; and that, in the eyes of the eternal God, the figure of a murderer is not changed because, instead of a gallows cap, there is placed upon his head an emperor's crown.
Ah! let us proclaim absolute truths. Let us dishonor war. No; glorious war does not exist. No; it is not good, and it is not useful, to make corpses. No; it cannot be that life travails for death. No; oh, mothers that surround me, it cannot be that war, the robber,
should continue to take from you your children. No; it cannot be that women should bear children in pain, that men should be born, that people should plow and sow, that the farmer should fertilize the fields, and the workmen enrich the city, that industry should produce marvels, that genius should produce prodigies, that the vast human activity should in presence of the starry sky, multiply efforts and creations, all to result in that frightful international exposition which is called a field of battle!
The true field of battle, behold it here! It is this rendezvous of the masterpieces of human labor which Paris offers the world at this moment.1
The true victory is the victory of Paris.
Alas! we cannot hide it from ourselves, that the present hour, worthy as it is of admiration and respect, has still some mournful aspects; there are still shadows on the horizon; the tragedy of the peoples is not finished; war, wicked war, is still there, and it has the audacity to lift its head in the midst of this august festival of peace. Princes for two years past, obstinately adhere to a fatal misunderstanding; their discord forms an obstacle to our concord, and they are ill-inspired to condemn us to the statement of such a contrast.
Let this contrast lead us back to Voltaire. In the presence of menacing possibilities, let us be more pacific than ever. Let us turn toward that great death, toward that great life, toward that great spirit. Let us bend before the venerated tombs. Let us take counsel of him whose life, useful to men, was extinguished a hundred years ago, but whose work is immortal. Let us take counsel of the other powerful thinkers, the auxiliaries of this glorious Voltaire, of Jean Jacques, of Diderot, of Montesquieu. Let us give the word to those great voices. Let us stop the effusion of human blood. Enough! enough! despots! Ah! barbarism persists; very well, let civilization be indignant. Let the eighteenth century come to the help of the nineteenth. The philosophers, our prede-
1. The "universal Exhibition" of 1878 was then open in Paris and attracted many visitors. It was a time of great rejoice and pride in all the new modern inventions and realisations
cessors, are the apostles of the true; let us invoke those illustrious shades; let them, before monarchies meditate wars, proclaim the right of man to life, the right of conscience to liberty, the sovereignty of reason, the holiness of labor, the beneficence of peace: and since night issues from the thrones, let the light come from the tombs.
from The Writings of Voltaire. New York: E.R. Dumont, 1901