Front Page Titles (by Subject) Appendix A: CAVAIGNAC'S DEFENCE EXAMINER, 24 APR., 1831, PP. 266-7 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV
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Appendix A: CAVAIGNAC’S DEFENCE EXAMINER, 24 APR., 1831, PP. 266-7 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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For the context and for the introduction Mill wrote to this translation by him of Godefroy Cavaignac’s speech during his trial, see No. 101. Cavaignac’s father, Jean Baptiste Cavaignac (1762-1829), was a Montagnard during the Convention, which he served on various missions. Proscribed as a regicide, he died in Brussels. In the Examiner the speech appeared in quotation marks, here removed.
my father was one of those who, on the benches of the National Convention, proclaimed the republic in the face of victorious Europe.1 He defended it in our armies. For this he died in exile, after twelve years of proscription; and, while even the Restoration was forced to leave France in possession of the fruits of that revolution which he had sowed; while it loaded with its favours the men whom the republic had raised, my father and his colleagues suffered alone for the great cause which so many others betrayed; a last homage of their impotent old age, to that country which they had so vigorously defended.
That cause, then, is bound up, gentlemen, with all my feelings as a son; the principles which it embraced are my inheritance. Study has fortified me in the direction which my political ideas so naturally assumed; and now, when I have at length a fit occasion, I hasten to utter a word which others proscribe. I declare, without affectation, as well as without feigning, that in my heart, from conviction, I am a republican.
But it would not have been in me a sufficient reason for adopting my opinions, that a republic seemed to me, in itself, the least imperfect of governments: I have endeavoured to form an estimate of the times, to judge whether a republic is practicable, and I have perceived, not only that it is possible, but that it is inevitable; that all things are moving in that direction; the course of events, the human mind, and outward things. I have perceived, that it is impossible for the movement which now rules the world to end in any thing but in a republic.
This tendency, gentlemen, has long been pointed out. Napoleon acknowledged it;2 M. de Châteaubriand has more than once proclaimed it,3 although neither of them can well be suspected of partiality for republican principles. The present government itself has admitted this tendency: it declared itself at first a monarchy surrounded by republican institutions:4 and, although the union of these words is truly monstrous; although, as has been said, they howl at finding themselves together, it was imagined that they were seen engraved by the cannon-balls of July on the walls of the Hotel de Ville.
Gentlemen, this futurity, now so near to us, which is perceived even by those who turn away their faces in terror, is the true source of republicanism in those who are capable of reflecting upon it, and who do not embrace it from schoolboy enthusiasm. They cultivate it, for this reason, that every man of sense prepares himself beforehand for a result which he foresees, of which he will be a witness, and which he judges to be infallible. They are not republicans in remembrance of Rome or of Athens, that would be too silly: they are not so on account of the past, but on account of the future.
Now, it is precisely because the future appears to them certain, that they do not conspire. Why should they? If there is a party in France that does not conspire, it is the republican party, for it is convinced that it has only to let things alone. That those should conspire for whom every day is a chance the less; who are obliged to have recourse to their personal energy, to try a toss of the political dice-box, because their age rejects them, because they have no resource but plots, no futurity but what they must stake their heads for, that I can conceive. No doubt, there is at least one party of this sort in France; but the republican party must be mad if they compromised a cause of which the success is infallible, by ineffectual attempts. They must be frantic indeed if they exposed to the justice of kings, heads which may safely rest themselves upon the fortune of the people.
Gentlemen, if that party had chosen to conspire, they had the power. They had the power in the great week, and that under the open sunshine of July, in the public streets. They had the power, and the proof is, that it was thought advisable to negociate with them: my defender can attest it if necessary. Even on the 30th of July several of us, among whom were Guinard and myself, were conducted to the lieutenant-general of the kingdom.
And I declare it openly, we spoke to him with the same freedom which I employ now; we have long professed the opinions which I profess still; and hence all this distrust of our intentions: but (not to mention that it would have been a little too ingenuous) nobody asked him to proclaim a republic. “Consult the nation, it alone has the right to choose its government.” That is what we advised, that is what we think: the sovereignty of the people is the foundation of our principles; and when we are accused of wishing to impose upon the people an order of things which they alone have the right to establish, what is asserted is a falsehood.
Gentlemen, with what we have to wait for, it is easy to wait. Those who know that the future is theirs, can afford to have patience: besides, we are young, and in these days the world moves rapidly: and to express our idea in its completeness, I shall repeat what we have sometimes said to those who thought that more might have been done in July. You will understand the better, how any conspiracy must appear to us the act of simpletons.
A revolution, however admirable, however easy it may have been, is always followed by immense difficulties. Monarchy has taken upon itself the task; so much the worse for monarchy, and the better for us: if it is unsuccessful this time, all is over with it; and our conviction is, that it cannot be successful; for nations in these days are eaten into by so deep-seated, so inexplicable, so corrosive a disease, there is in society so powerful a principle of dissolution acting upon all the machinery of power, that the machine needs to be entirely renovated; and really, looking at the wants which torment the world, it would seem that even a God would find it easier to reconstruct it altogether than to govern it.
This new combination, we said, satisfies many minds; it is counted upon. General Lafayette has rallied round it, with all the ascendancy of his immense popularity. Let us suffer the experiment to be complete; let us leave the burthen to those who take it; let us allow men and systems to be tried and laid down, one after another, for some time longer. When your turn comes, you will still have enough to do. In the rapid course into which society has been projected, men and systems succeed one another to conduct it to its destination: the last relay is the one which will arrive, and that one is you. We are living in the age of suicide-governments. The monarchy will do our work; it will exhaust itself without your interference; it will conspire for you.
Yes, it is thus, gentlemen, that we understand our position. We do not conspire; we hold ourselves ready. At an epoch when the whole of a people mingle in politics, there are no more conspiracies; that was well enough at a time when the contest was among a few persons, alternately conquerors and conquered; when an entire party was held in the hand of one principal conspirator. In our days, there is no man who has a hand sufficiently large, sufficiently strong. The public streets are the only theatre large enough for those masses, which act at nobody’s will and pleasure, which it is no more possible for any one to raise, than it is to resist them when they have risen.
In the era of revolutions, conspiracies are good for nothing. We know it of old. We conspired for a long time against the Bourbons. What came of it? A mere unavailing protest against foreign usurpation: a break in the line of prescription, sufficient to keep alive the consciousness of a right to resist oppression. With this, the flight of some, the ruin of others, the death of those who have shed upon the scaffold their blood, the purest blood of patriots. Then, one fine day, the people, who did not conspire, threw themselves into the streets, and extemporized in a few hours that deliverance so long sought for.
This is what we have learnt, and what we shall not forget: and the evidence has proved it. Let others, too, remember it, and renounce for the future this bugbear of republican conspiracies. We hope that this trial will put them out of conceit with it. We are not children, and we have a better use to make of our lives than to stake them for what is unavailing. This court has so often resounded with the words, “plot against the safety of the state,” that there are, perhaps, here some echoes to prolong the sound, but none will hereafter be found out of doors. Charlatans will cease to make their profit out of this imaginary evil, and our accuser will have done this service to the country, in default of a better.
The accused have perhaps a right to claim some share in this service. Placed before you, without any celebrated name to join itself to their cause, they have had confidence in you and in themselves, for you and they are men of honour, who need nobody’s assistance to serve the truth: and if this trial is of use to our country, we find our reward already in the means which it affords us of loudly and openly making answer to our calumniators.
Our blood is not our own,—it belongs to our country—to our country which we love, because it deserves that its children should love it; because it has made them free, because it is great, because it is dear, useful, and formidable, to the rest of the world. It is to the country that we are devoted—devoted, body and soul; not like fanatics, who are intoxicated by a word, but like brave men, who are happy to find something in this world to which it is noble, just, and sweet to consecrate their affections and their lives.
These, gentlemen, are our sentiments, these our principles, for we do not separate the one from the other. And yet we are here, we are in the place where several of our brothers stood to hear their sentence of death pronounced in the name of Louis XVIII. Were I to turn round, and see in the caps of the soldiers who guard us that tri-coloured cockade which we have restored to them, I could not believe my eyes. Were they the Swiss, or the soldiery of the royal guard, I should understand it. Then, we should go back to the time of our dear and ill-fated Bories,5 and thinking that Charles X still reigned, we should not be astonished that it is wished to make us victims, as Charles X would have done if he had been the conqueror eight months ago.
[1 ]For the Declaration (21 Sept., 1792) of the National Convention abolishing royalty, see Moniteur, 1792, p. 1130.
[2 ]See Las Cases, Mémorial de Sainte Hélène: Journal of the Private Life and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at St. Helena (1823), 8 pts. in 4 vols. (London: Colburn, 1823), Vol. II, 1, p. 61 (Pt. III, Bk. iii).
[3 ]See, e.g., François René, vicomte de Chateaubriand, De la restauration et de la monarchie élective (Paris: Le Normant fils, 1831), pp. 27-8.
[4 ]For the origin of this description, see No. 137, n2.
[5 ]Jean François Louis Clair Bories (1795-1822), a soldier of liberal views, was imprisoned in 1821 for demoralizing members of his regiment and, with twenty-four others, was accused of participating in a plot to overthrow the government. After an attempt to escape, he and three other sergeants were executed on 21 Sept., 1822.