“For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.”
The Trial of Louise Michel.
The great interest felt by the readers of Liberty in our report of the trial of Kropotkine and his companions at Lyons moves us almost as much as the importance of the event to pursue a similar policy regarding the more recent trial of Louise Michel and her friends at Paris. Accordingly we present the following detailed report:
The defendants in this celebrated case, besides the famous Louise herself, were as follows: Jean Pouget, book-agent, aged twenty-three years; Kugene Mareuil, shoemaker, thirty-three years; Jacques Moreau, also called Gareau, printer, twenty-three years; Paul Martinet, hosier, twenty-six years; Henri Enfroy, lithographer, thirty years; Madame Bouillet, tavern-keeper. fifty-four years. Léon Thiery and Claude Corget, who had been released on bail, did not appear for trial, and consequently were defaulted. The nature of the charges against the prisoners can best be described by the following extracts front the indictment:
“Placards on the walls of Paris summoned laborers out of work to meet on Friday, March 9, 1883, in l’esplanade des Invalides. The police having dispersed those who met in answer thereto, a certain number of them, led by Louise Michel, Pouget, and Mareuil, started for the Boulevard Saint Germain, through the greater portion of which they marched. Louise Michel walked at their head, carrying a black flag; she was supported on either arm by Pouget and Mareuil; following them were five hundred persons uttering cries of ‘Down with the police’ and ‘Vive la Révolution!’ About three o’clock they reached a bake-shop kept by one Bouché. Fifteen or twenty individuals, of whom five or six were armed with loaded canes, rushed into the shop, crying ‘Bread, labor, or lead!’ and threatened the baker with their canes, which they raised to strike him. They took some loaves, which they threw to those remaining in the street, and on leaving broke a pane of glass in the shop window. Resuming their march, they stopped a second time before the bake-shop of Madame Augereau. Louise Michel struck the earth with her flag-staff, and a woman’s voice was beard to cry: ‘Go on!’ At this command about fifteen individuals entered the bake-shop crying: ‘Bread; we are hungry!’ Others followed; they took loaves and cakes and broke windows and plates. After this second pillage they again took up their line of march and stopped before the bake-shop of Madame Moricet. Louise Michel, still escorted by Pouget and Mareuil, waved her flag-staff, rested it upon the ground, and began to laugh, as Madame Moricet says, who was watching from her shop. At this; double signal the shop was invaded by a large number of individuals, crying: ‘Labor or bread!’ Madame Moricet immediately cut off some slices, which she offered them, but that I did not suffice. The shop was pillaged, the invaders taking loaves and cakes and breaking empty plates. An officer of the peace tiring informed of what was going on, started with a few subordinates in pursuit of the crowd. He caught up with it at the Place Maubert, pushed through it, and confronting Louise Michel. Pouget, and Mareuil, said to them: ‘I arrest you.’ Pouget sprang forward to give Louise Michel a chance to escape, and outraged the officer by branding him repeatediy as a coward and a rascal. In the tumult Louise succeeded in escaping; with the aid of one of her accomplices, she took possession of a carriage stationed at the Quai des Tornelles. A few moments later the coachman found his vehicle on the Pont Marie, but Louise Michel had disappeared. . . . The pillage of the shops is not denied; Louise Michel admits that she was between Pouget and Mareuil, at the head of the band which invaded the shops; that it was her design to parade through the streets of Paris with the persons who had been driven front the esplanade; and that, to guide them, she carried before her ‘the black flag of the strikes;’ but she denies having stopped intentionally before bake-shops or having given in any manner whatever the signal to pillage them.”
The indictment then says that upon the person of Pouget were found seven receipts for postal packages, a loaded six-barrelled revolver, and seventy-one francs in change, and that he at first gave a false address in the hope that a friend would be able to remove from his room several articles thus catalogued in the indictment:
“Search of his room resulted in the discovery of three flies sharpened like daggers, a copying press, six hundred copies of a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled ‘To the Army,’ a large number of Anarchistic journals and pamphlets, and some incendiary end explosive instruments. These instruments consist of capsules of fulminate of mercury used to explode dynamite cartridges, and bottles containing a solution of a phosphate in a mixture of weak petroleum and sulphuret of carbon. An expert’s examination shows that this solution is so dangerous that a few drops poured upon wood or any combustible material suffice to induce immediately a rapid combustion.”
The indictment further charged that, on that same ninth of March, Pouget sent several packages of the pamphlet. “To the Army,” to Amiens, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Vienna, Rouen, Rheims, and Troyes; that the package sent to Troyes was received by Enfroy, and its contents distributed among the soldiers by Enfroy, Moreau, and Martinet; and that the package sent to Rouen was received by Madame Bouillet, who delivered it to Corget.
The trial of these charges began on Thursday, June 21, before the Court of Assizes in Paris, the presiding magistrate being M. Ramé. The public were excluded from the courtroom; nevertheless, it was filled by witnesses, journalists, and lawyers. On a table lay the celebrated black flag and the articles seized at Pouget’s room. It was noticed that the stolen loaves did not appear in the collection. Attorney General Quesnay de Beaurepaire appeared for the government, M. Balandreau (by direction of the court) for Louise Michel, M. Pierre for Pouget, M. Zevort for Mareuil, and M. Laguerre for the remaining defendants. At twenty minutes past eleven the prisoners were brought in, causing a great sensation in the court-room. Louise.Michel was dressed in black. Her pale face showed that the three months which she had spent in prison while awaiting trial had not been without their effect. She was very calm and responded smilingly to the salutations of her friends. Henri Rochefort, Lissagaray, the historian of the Commune, and several others crossed the room to shake hands with her. After the reading of the indictment, M. Ramé proceeded to examine Louise Michel, who answered the questions asked her very clearly, calmly, and resolutely.
The Court. — Your age?
Louise Michel. — Forty-seven.
The Court. — Your profession?
Louise MicheL. — Teacher and woman of letters.
The Court. — Your last residence?
Louise Michel. — The prison of Saint Lazare. [Laughter]
The Court. — Have you ever been condemned?
Louise Michel. — Yes, in 1871.
The Court. — I know that, but that is a matter with which I cannot deal, since you have been amnestied. Have you not been condemned since?
Louise Michel. — I was condemned January 9, 1882, for having taken part in the Blanqui manifestation.
The Court. — You take part, then, in all manifestations?
Louise Michel. — I am always with the suffering.
The Court. — Was it as one of the sufferirg that you took part in the manifestation of March 9?
Louise Michel. — It was my duty to be there. At that time there were fifty thousand laborers out of work who thought it wise to assemble in demand for bread, and as I foresaw that, in accordance with the usual treatment administered by our governors to the vile multitude, the crowd would ire swept away by cannon, it would have been cowardly in me not to accompany them. So I went with them, though knowing that a peaceful manifestation could result in nothing.
The Court. — Did you ask your friends to come with you?
Louise Michel. — No; I was not in favor of the manifestation. Nevertheless I attended it because it had been decided upon in a meeting.
The Court. — Did you know Mareuil?
Louise Michel. — No.
The Court. — Did you know Pouget?
Louise Michel. — Yes; I had known him for several months, and I regret very much that on March 9 he, as well as Mareuil, tried to prevent me from being taken.
The Court. — You knew that Pouget busied himself with politics.
Louise Michel. — Yes; and that is why the young man interested me. In these days, when the moral level is lowering so rapidly, it is well that some young people are thinking about the misery of the people. That is better than frequenting cafés and bad places.
The Court. — Was not Pouget your secretary? Did you not give him the names of your followers? Did you not entrust to him the task of spreading your ideas?
Louise Michel. — Pouget was not my secretary; he has several times sent pamphlets, not to my followers, but rather to persons curious to know what our ideas and demands are.
The Court. — You take part in revolutionary propagandism?
Louise Michel. — Yes; it is the object of my life.
The Court. — And Pouget, too?
Pouget. — Yes; I admit it, and I will always admit it.
The Court. — Had you an appointment with Pouget and Mareuil at the manifestation?
Louise Michel. — No; we met there by chance.
The Court. — Do you believe the manifestation was made by laborers out of work?
Louise Michel. — Yes, sir.
The Court. — Nevertheless, out of thirty-three individuals arrested on that day, thirteen had previously been convicted of robbery.
Louise Michel. — I could not inquire into the civil status and judicial record of each one.
The Court. — Did you believe that the manifestation could procure work for the laborers?
Louise Michel. — Personally I did not, but, I repeat, I went there from duty; moreover, if the police had not interfered, there would have been no trouble.
The Court. — Did you not desire to get up a private manifestation of your own?
Louise Michel. — I followed the crowd of unfortunates who were clamoring for bread. I asked for a black flag, and an unknown person brought me black rag on the end of a broomstick.
The Court. — Who brought you this flag?
Louise Michel (with firmness). — Even if I knew his name, I would not tell it to you.
The Court. — One might think, from the flag, that the manifestation bad been arranged in advance.
Louise Michel. — No one who knew that the flag consisted of a bit of black stuff on the end of a broomstick would believe it, and no more do you, sir. I wished to show that the laborers were dying of hunger and in need of work. It is the flag of strikes and famines.
The Court. — Did you put yourself at the head of the manifestation which marched into Paris.
Louise Michel. — When given the flag, I was being followed by poor children from twelve to fifteen years old, in rags, crying from hunger. I know not what road we took. I marched straight ahead without stopping.
The Court. — Were not Mareuil and Pouget near you, holding you by the arms?
Louise Michel. — Yes; they insisted on protecting me, though I begged them to let me alone.
The Court. — Why did you stop in front of Madame Augereau’s bake-shop?
Louise Michel. — I probably stopped several times, but I do not know where. We were followed by gamins crying for bread. I could not trouble myself about the crumbs that might be given them. The first bakers gave bread and sous voluntarily. I confess that this almsgiving humiliated me, but it was no time to recriminate.
The Court. — The bakers say, on the contrary, that the individuals who entered their shops were armed with clubs.
Louise Michel. — There were none among us who had clubs. The people crying “Bread or lead” is one of the theatrical effects of the police.
The Court. — The prudent baker closed his shop; he was not reassured.
Louise Michel. — In presence of the people it was scarcely worth while.
The Court. — They demanded labor and bread.
Louise Michel. — Yes, and those who accompanied us were all hungry.
The Court. — You have a peculiar theory about bread. Do you believe that a man may take it when be is hungry?
Louise Michel. — I believe that the poor have that right. As for me, I would not condescend to take it or ask for it. If at any time I should need it after working for the Republic all my life, I would throw this existence in its face.
The Court. — That would be one of your theatrical effects.
Louise Michel. — we need no theatrical effects. Have we not continually before us the frightful spectacle of misery? It was not my intention that they should take bread; I know very well that one day’s sustenance amounts to nothing.
The Court. — This manifestation recalls the worst days of the Revolution. For the riots then began with pillage of the bake-shops.
Louise Michel. — It is not my fault if we are still in the days of ’89, and if the misery of the people is as great now as it was then.
The Court. — You pretend not to know that the bake-shops were pillaged; it is us if you should say that you do not see the gentlemen of the jury.
Louise Michel. — Exactly; just now I did not see these gentlemen; now I see them, because you have just called my attention to them. In the street I was thinking of poverty and did not see what was going on around me; my mind was not upon the bake-shops.
The Court. — But you waved your flag before Madame Augereau’s bake-shop.
Louise Michel. — I do not know Madame Augereau, and did not stop there, perhaps I waved my flag; not having the arms of Hercules. I was obliged to lower it very often.
The Court. — But you gave the signal for pillage by saying: “Go on!”
Louise Michel. — I may have said those words, but not as a signal. I do not remember them. Such proceedings would have had to be arranged in advance; that is out of the question.
The Court. — They have pillaged and broked windows.
Louise Michel. — I have not concerned myself about the pillage of such or such a bake-shop; you know very well that that is nothing to me; I have seen pillage and murder in 1871 of a very different character.
The Court. — Do not the bakers deserve protection?
Louise Michel. — Do not those who produce all and have nothing merit some regard?
The Court. — You find this pillage very natural, then!
Louise Michel. — I did not say that. But I speak seriously and repeat to you that I stopped before no bake-shop; I would perhaps have done so, bad I believed it possible in that way to give bread to the poor forever.
The Court. — Do you admit having laughed?
Louise Michel. — The spectacle was not such as to make me laugh. I was thinking of poverty and that street as full of people as a hive is of bees, and I said to myself that it is not the bees who eat the honey. There is nothing amusing about that.
The Court. — They have broken plates.
Louise Michel. — What is a plate?
The Court. — Then the manufacturers in your eyes merit no regard?
Louise Michel. — None whatever. When we are put in prison, do they see that our families are fed?
The Court. — The shop-keepers say that the crowd did not rush in upon them until a signal was given.
Louise Michel. — It is not true. It was a movement of children dying of hunger.
The Court. — How did it happen, then, that they passed five bake-shops without pillaging them?
Louise Michel. — That proves that I am right. Here is a letter in which some one writes me that bread was distributed voluntarily.
The Court. — you can give that to your lawyer. It is reasonable to suppose that they entered at a signal.
Louise Michel. — Monsieur, had I done that I should have been mad and should now be at Saint Anne instead of here.
The Court. — Oh, there are persons whom vanity or a desire for popularity move to senseless acts.
Louise Michel. — You know very well that I am neither vain nor desirous of popularity. I went to the manifestation because it was my duty.
The Court. — Arrived at the Place Maubert, you said to the officer: “Do me no harm; we ask only bread.”
Louise Michel. — Pardon me; I would not turn coward in ten minutes. I said to my friends: “They will do us no harm.”
The Court. — Were Pouget and Mareuil arrested in your stead?
Louise Michel. — Yes.
The Court. — You ran away?
Louise Michel. — I beg your pardon, I am not in the habit of running away. I went because my friends demanded that I should not allow myself to be arrested that day. Another time I will not listen to them; that will save me from being charged with cowardice.
The Court. — Do you know the pamphlet: “To the Army”?
Louise Michel. — What I know is this,— that, when the Orleanists were tampering with the army, I spoke of the necessity of distributing pamphlets, and then I began to tamper with the army in the interest of the Republic. They wished to destroy this Republic which is not ours but is a door opening to the future. I did not make the pamphlet, and I no more read the pamphlets of my friends than they read mine.
The Court. — Are you familiar with Pouget’s special studies regarding incendiary materials?
Louise Michel. — Everybody studies chemistry now. For my part I read the scientific reviews and seek to put at the disposition of laborers all physical forces which may help to diminish their misery.
The Court. — You may be seated.
Louise Michel. — I have a word to say about the revolver found in Pouget’s hands. That revolver belongs to me.
The Court. — That matters little. The indictment does not take the revolver into consideration.
Louise Michel. — Pardon me, that matters much, because, if I passed the weapon to another, that shows the manifestation was peaceful.
The Court. — Do you call a manifestation peaceful in which three bake-shops were pillaged?
Louise Michel. — Ah! in 1871 the Versailles government did not confine itself to pillaging bake-shops.
Having finished with Louise Michel, M. Ramé turned his attention to Pouget, who answered his questions with an impertarbable sang-froid.
The Court. — You have means of existence. Why did you go to the manifestation?
Pouget. — I went to protest against the situation of fifty thousand laborers in misery.
The Court. — Did you not expect to meet Louise Michel there?
Pouget. — Not at all.
The Court. — Who gave her the black flag?
Pouget. — I do not know.
The Court. — Did you not hold Louise Michel by the arm?
Pouget. — The fact is of no importance.
The Court. — The prosecution will say that those who were at the head were the chiefs.
Pouget. — One may be at the head and not be chief.
The Court. — What role had you to play in the manifestation?
Pouget. — I had none.
The Court. — You expected to be arrested?
Pouget. — No, for I thought the government would have sense enough to let the manifestation alone.
The Court. — Oh, yes, of course, it is the government which does all the wrongs.
Pouget. — Quite correct, sir.
The Court. — Nevertheless, you gave a note to a friend that day asking him to remove certain objects from your room. Who was that friend?
Pouget. — I will not name him. Moreover, the note was written after my arrest. I did that because I know that the police have a habit of taking anything they please when they search premises, and that it is impossible to recover articles thus taken.
The Court. — Did you know of the pillage of the bake-shops?
Pouget. — I did not learn of it till later. I only knew that the bakers were giving bread and sous.
The Court. — Did you call the officers cowards?
Pouget. — I may have said some sharp words, but I do not recall them.
The Court. — You had a revolver upon you.
Louise Michel. — Monsieur, that revolver was mine.
Pouget. — I maintain that the revolver is mine.
The Court. — Either way the fact is of no importance.Neither of you are prosecuted for that.
Louise Michel. — It will be shown that the revolver belongs to me.
The Court. — You had seventy-one francs in change upon you.
Pouget. — Yes. that sum was the result of a collection taken up at a meeting in behalf of those condemned at Lyons.
The Court. — But you never said this before.
Pouget. — I did not wish to say so at the preliminary examination.
The Court. — It has been thought that this money was to pay those taking part in the manifestation. [Laughter.]
Pouget. — Seventy-one francs for ten or fifteen thousand persons! The share of each would have been meagre.
The Court. — When was this meeting held?
Pouget. — Two nights previously.
The Court. — Why did you keep the money two days?
Pouget. — Louise Michel did not hand it to me until that morning.
The Court. — Receipts for postal packages were also found upon you.
Pouget. — Yes; the packages contained journals and copies of “To the Army.”
The Court. — You assumed the name of Martin in sending them.
Pouget. — Yes, but I did not know that there was any real individual corresponding to the address.
The Court — You know the consequences to Martin. He was implicated in this prosecution and he is dead.
Pouget. — I do not think that his death is attributable to his arrest.
The. Court. — Where did you get these pamphlets?
Pouget. — From Herzig.
The Court. — Yes, from Herzig of Geneva. Geneva is now the cancer of Europe.
Pouget (energetically). — The cancers are the governments.
The Court. — You have distributed a good many of these pamphlets.
Pouget. — Not many, since out of a thousand I have still six hundred left.
The Court. — Does this pamphlet express your sentiments?
Pouget. — You have told me that this is not a prosecution of opinions; therefore I shall not reply.
The Court. — Certain manuscripts were seized at your residence, not yet published, but intended for publication,— notably one on the coining Revolution.
Pouget. — It seems to me very droll that you should busy yourself about that.
The Court. — It is a part of your examination. This pamphlet says: “To kill an employer, to kill a deputy, is better than a hundred speehes.”
Pouget. — You are conducting a prosecution of opinion.
The Court. — Gentlemen of the jury, it is necessary to read also some passages from: the pamphlet “To the Army.”
Pouget. — Read the whole of it. You should not read extracts only.
The Court. — I will read what I choose. You can say what you please in your defence. [After reading.] This is the pamphlet you are distributing throughout France. Nothing could be more abiominable than this pamphlet.
Pouget (coldly). — It is no more abominable than the mitrailleuse volleys of 1871 fired by the Versailles troops.
The Court. — Nothing like it was ever before brought to the attention of justice. I have a right to condemn it before the jury.
Pouget. — You have no right to anticipate the verdict of the jury.
The Court. — Do you recognize the chemical products seized at your residence?
Pouget. — Yes; chemical studies please me.
The Court. — But it is chemistry applied to politics that you study.
Pouget. — I tell you again that you are conducting a prosecution of opinions. All the products seized at my room are in the market. Have I used them? Can you prove that I intended to use them? Well, then! why not prosecute all people who study chemistry?
The Court. — All who do as you do will be prosecuted in the courts.
Pouget. — Oh, I know that you would like nothing better.
The Court. — You have declared war upon society; it defends itself; sit down.
Pouget. — One word more. Among the documents seized was my will. I demand its restoration. I need it for my defence.
The Court. — The document has no bearing upon the case.
Pouget. — You cannot judge whether or no it may be of service to me. If you are unwilling to produce it, it is because you have opened it. I assert that you have violated this will; it is an infamy of justice.
The Court. — Assert what you will, and draw conclusions if you think best; for my part, I decide, in virtue of my discretionary power, that this document shall not be restored to you till after the case is finished.
Pouget (in a louder voice). — It is an infamy of justice to have violated this will.
At this point a short recess was taken, after which the judge, who had in the meantime undoubtedly reflected, announced amid laughter that the will in question might be demanded at the clerk’s office. Next came the examination of Mareuil.
The Court. — You were not out of work on March 9. You are a very good workman. Why did you go to the manifestation?
Mareuil. — It was my duty. I have lived in poverty for thirty-three years. My mother drowned herself because of poverty at the age of sixty-six. I could not abandon my brothers. No one will pretend that I have not done my duty.
The Court. — That has led to your imprisonment pending trial.
Mareuil. — Yes; I have been kept in a sort of secret confinement for more than three months. But what matters it? I went to the Champ-de-Mars to give my voice in favor of the laborers out of work.
The Court. — We hear the best reports about you. What did you hope to accomplish by going there?
Mareuil. — To show that I was there to sustain my brothers.
The Court. — Did you know Louise Michel?
Mareuil. — Only from hearing her in the meetings; but I know that she is the best of all women.
The Court. — Did you assist in the pillage of the bake-shops?
Mareuil. — No; I was not aware of it; I only heard children saying they had received bread.
The Court. — You are accused of having cried: “Down with the police! Down with Vidocqs!”
Mareuil. — No, I did not say those words. I said nothing, and allowed myself to be arrested without resistance.
The Court. — Did you not do that to let Louise Michel escape?
Mareuil. — To that I will not reply.
The Court. — You belong to no society, and are not engaged propagandism?
Mareuil — Before becoming a skilled workman it is necessary to be an apprentice. I have had no instruction in socialism, and am not prepared to engage in propagandism.
Enfroy was next questioned.
The Court. — You have been convicted of robbery four times?
Enfroy. — Yes; but I ask permission to explain. Gentlemen, I had the misfortune to be the son of a girl. I never knew my mother. I was brought up by an old woman who lived herself upon the public charity. My adopted mother died when I was twelve years old. I was too young to work; I lived as I could, and I was several times convicted of taking part in robberies of cherries or potatoes. (Profound sensation). Since I attained the age of manhood I have worked. I am married and have children, and I defy any one to point to any act of mine committed during my thirteen years of manhood which stains my honor. Since I learned to labor and became a socialist, I have never been convicted.
The Court. — Were you in correspondence with Pouget?
Enfroy. — No.
The Court (to Pouget). — But you sent a package to Enfroy.
Pouget. — Yes; I knew him to be a socialist.
The Court (to Enfroy). — What did the package contain?
Enfroy. — Thirty pamphlets and socialistic journals.
The Court. — You gave them to Moreau.
Enfroy. — Yes; to relieve myself of them.
The judge then addressed himself to Moreau.
The Court. — How many pamphlets did you receive from Enfroy?
Moreau. — Twenty. The next day I gave them to various comrades.
The Court. — Who threw copies into the barracks at Troyes?
Moreau. — I do not know. Perhaps some one came from Rheims to distribute them at Troyes.
The Court (to Pouget). — You sent a package to Rheims also?
Pouget. — Yes, but that package contained only journals. There were no pamphlets in it.
The Court. — It pleases you to say so. But how happens it—
Pouget. — It pleases me to say so because it is the truth. I am not the only Anarchist in France and in Navarre. Others may have sent pamphlets to Rheims. [Laughter.]
Martinet, on being questioned, admitted that he had received a dozen of the pamphlets, but said that his wife burned them up.
*Madame Bouillet was the last of the defendants to be examined.
The Court. — You have never been convicted?
Bouillet. — I am fifty-four years old, and was never arrested before.
The Court. — Do you know Pouget?
Bouillet. — This is the first time that I ever saw him.
The Court. — Are you an Anarchist?
Bouillet. — I do not know what that means. [Laughter.]
Pouget. — Madame Bouillet did not know what the package contained. I wrote her a note, asking her to hand it to a person who would call for it.
The Court. — Who was that person?
Pouget. — I decline to say.
The Court (to Madame Bonillet.) — Why did you accept a package to hand to persons whom you did not know?
Bouillet. — My God! that is simple enough; anybody would have done the same.
The will demanded by Pouget was at this point delivered to him. He looked at it and said; “I beg you to notice that, without notifying me or any one else, they have opened a will deposited at my residence.”
The Court. — We are not here to judge the conduct of the examining magistrate.
Pouget. — It is an infamy of justice.
The Court. — I cannot allow such language. By virtue of the criminal code I call upon you to sit down.
The examination of the prisoners being finished, the hearing of the witnesses was begun, Boucher, the baker, being first called. He testified that about twenty individuals with loaded canes entered his shop crying: “Bread, labor, or lead,” and that he said to them; “There is bread; take it, but do not break anything.”
The Court. — Did you notice who was at the head of the crowd?
Witness. — No.
The Court. — Did you not see a woman in black with a black flag?
Witness. — Yes.
The Court. — Do you recognize her among the accused?
Witness. — No.
The Court. — Were the people who entered your shop children?
Witness. — No, they were reasonable men [Laughter],— of a reasonable age, I mean.
The Court (to Louise Michel). — You said they were children.
Louise Michel. — Undoubtedly I said that children were shouting that bread had been given them; as for the people with loaded canes, we do not know them; they are not ours; they are not among these accused; I do not know whence they come — or, rather, I know only too well.
The Court. — Whence, then, do they come, in your opinion?
Louise Michel. — From the police.
Madame Augereau, baker, testified that she saw Louise Michel stop before her door, and that several persons entered who stole nearly all her bread besides breaking two windows and a plate.
The Court. — Do you recognize Louise Michel?
Witness. — No, her back was turned to the shop.
The Court. — Did she wave her flag?
Witness. — I do not know.
The Court. — Did she shout: “Go on”?
Witness. — I did not hear her.
The Court. — Did you give your bread voluntarily?
Witness. — No.
Louise Michel. — Before the examining magistrate bakers admitted that they gave bread, but I do not trouble myself about that.
Mlle. Rosalie Augerean, aged seventeen, daughter of the preceding witness, testified that she beard a woman say: “Go on,” but she could not say that the words were uttered by Louise Michel. All she could say was that she heard a woman’s voice. This young lady added that she heard the noise of the flag as it struck the ground.
Louise Michel. — Did it make much noise?
Witness. — I saw it, but did not hear it. [Laughter.]
Moricet, another baker, testified that he was asleep when his little girl came to awaken him, saying, “They are robbing our house.” He went down and found his shop full of people. A well-dressed individual reassured him with these words: “Say nothing to them; let them alone.”
The Court. — Did Madame Moricet give her bread voluntarilily?
Witness. — A portion of it; afterwards the people helped themselves.
The Court. — Were the pillagers gamins?
Witness. — There were gamins among them, but also well-dressed people of thirty.
Louise Michel. — I have nothing to say. If it pleases you to condemn me, well and good. I consider that you have a right to accuse me of revolutionary propagandism, but of piilage,— no.
M. Pierre (one of the lawyers for the defence). — Well-dressed people, I imagine, take no orders from Louise Michel.
Then came Madame Moricet, who said that a crowd headed by a woman with a flag came in front of her shop. The woman stopped, laid down her flag, looked at her, and began to laugh. Some cried: “Bread or Labor!” The witness said she could give them no labor.
Louise Michel. — This testimony is extremely clear,—so clear that I do not understand it at all. How did I laugh, Madame?
Witness (opening her mouth and attempting a huge laugh). — Like that, and I did not know why, for I do not know you.
Louise Michel. — Madame, I am very disconsolate, but you dreamed of that laugh. And if I had blown my nose, Madame, would that have been a signal also? You were frightened, that is all. You were under an hallucination.
Carnat, the officer who made the arrests, testified that Pouget resisted and called him a coward and a rascal.
The Court. — Did not Louise Michel say anything?
Witness. — She said. “Do me no harm.”
The Court. — Did she add: “We ask only bread?”
Witness. — I did not hear her.
M. Zevort. — Did you hear Mareuil say anything?
Witness. — No.
Louise Michel. — I did not say: “Do me no harm.” I said: “They will do us no harm.”
M. Pierre. — Have you not heard that there were other women in the manifestation?
Witness. — I have heard rumors to that etfect.
Louise Michel. — I beg the defence to let the accusation rest upon me rather than upon any other person.
Then came several officers to testify to the words used by Louise Michel when they tried to arrest her. Their statements varied, and Louise Michel pointed out the contradictions, adding; “I repeat that I said; ‘They will do us no harm!’ It is of little importance whether I afterwards said these words: ‘We sk only bread.’”
The Court (excitedly). — It is of more importance than you think. These words, repetitions of those uttered in the bake-shops, would prove that the pillage resulted from an inspiration which you shared if you did not provoke.
Louise Michel (ironically). — I see that I am judged in advance.
The Court (recovering possession of itself). — No; the jury will judge you.
Louise Michel smiled.
The government then called M. Girard, an expert, who had analyzed the contents of Pouget’s bottles. He testified that one of them contained a combination of phosphorus and sulphuret of carbon, which was an exclusively incendiary preparation.
Pouget (placidly). — I am sorry to contradict the expert. I defy him to pour the contents of the bottle on the floor and thereby set fire to it.
The Court (to the expert). — Can you prove your statement?
The expert took a sheet of paper and poured a few drops of the liquid upon it.
Pouget. — If you take paper, especially blotting-paper, it will be easy; but you should try wood.
The paper took fire, and the jurors opened big eyes.
The Court. — Would this substance set wood on fire?
Witness. — Yes, if there were enough of it.
Pouget. — It would take a barrel or it.
The Court. — What have you to say?
Pouget (ironically). — I thank the expert for the lesson in chemistry which he has given me. When I am free, I, like him, will perform experiments in public.
At this point the court adjourned. On the next day the witnesses for the defence were heard.
Emile Chaussedat, a painter, testified as follows: “On the day of the manifestation, I was at work opposite Moricet’s bake-shop. A crowd came along, headed by Louise Michel, carrying a black flag. She passed by without stopping a second. She was followed by several hundred people. The baker and his wife threw bread to the poor. But when they did so, Louise Michel was a hundred yards away”.
Louise Michel — I thank the witness. It is fortunate that there are some who do not lie.
Henri Rochefort next took the stand.
Louise Michel. — I beg Citizen Rochefort to tell what he knows about the seventy-one francs found upon Pouget at the time of his arrest.
Witness. — Before going to the prefect of police to surrender herself, Louise Michel came to me and told me that the newspapers had had a great deal to say about this sum of seventy-one francs, but that it was the result of a collection taken up in behalf of those recently condemned at Lyons, and that she had herself handed it to Pouget. She told me, also, that the manifestation was an entirely peaceful one. She refused a red flag which was brought to her, but deemed it her duty to accept a black flag offered her by an unknown person. I confess that I was extremely surprised to hear that Louise Michel was accused of pillage, she whom —
Louise Michel. — I beg you, Rochefort, do not speak of that.
Witness. — She whom I saw on board the frigate “Virginia,” which took us together to New Caledonia.
Louise Michel. — No, I beseech you.
Witness. — My dear Louise, I am here to tell the truth, not to save your modesty. I have seen you at a distance of three hundred leagues south from the Cape of Good Hope, the thermometer scarcely above the freezing point, without stockings and almost without shoes, because you had given all that you possessed to your companions—
Louise Michel. — No, no, do not speak of that. If I had known, I would not have asked you to come to testify.
The Court. — Please allow the witness to proceed; otherwise, I shall be obliged to have you removed from the court-room.
Witness. — In New Caledonia Louise Michel made her hut a hospital where she received and cared for the sick, sleeping herself upon the ground.
Louise Michel. — Do not continue. I do not call my friends to make me suffer.
Witness. — So be it! I will add no more. I do not wish to displease Louise Michel.
- Vaughan, a sub-editor of “L’Intransigeant,” was next heard.
Louise Michel. — I ask Citizen Vaughan to tell what he know about the seventy-one francs and about the revolver which I had on the day of the manifestation.
Witness. — On the evening of March 9 Louise Michel told us at the newspaper office that the seventy-one francs found on Pouget were destined for the families of those recently condemned at Lyons. The next day she repeated the same thing at my house.
The Court. — You believe this, then?
Witness. — I believe anything that Louise Michel affirms. As concerns the revolver which Louise Michel carries by my advice because she is the object of constant threats and lives in a lonely quarter, I know that she gave it to Pouget, not liking to carry so heavy a weight in the pocket of her dress.
The Court. — Disregard the pistol.
Pouget. — Yes, for I should be obliged to claim it as mine.
Louise Michel. — The information given by Citizen Vaughan is very accurate. I beg him to add nothing further.
Witness. — Very well. But Louise Michel will permit me to bear testimony here to my respectful affection for her and to say that I am very proud to be her friend and fellow-socialist.
Louise Michel. — I shall always look to it, Citizen, that my friends have no cause to he ashamed of me.
Citizen Rouillon was next heard.
Louise Michel. — I will ask Citizen Rouillon whether, in a meeting of Blanquists held previous to March 9, I did not say that, personally, I had no confidence in the success of the proposed manifestation.
Witness. — I affirm that Louise Michel did so say to me.
Louise Michel. — I would like you, further to tell these gentlemen how our families are treated. For we, too, have families.
Witness. — It is within my knowledge that Louise Michel has received numerous abusive letters, threatening her and hers with violence. Even now I have some of those letters upon me. I know that very lately a miserable scamp went to the house of Louise Michel’s mother, and gave my name in order to get the door opened. At the house of Madame Michel was a friend, Madame Biras, who was caring for her. This lady opened the door without mistrust, and was immediately struck violently on the head with a cane. Fortunately the door was chained; otherwise the poor woman would have been seriously injured. The malefactor, having struck the blow, rushed hastily away, meeting my wife upon the steps, who gave me his description the next day. I advised that a complaint be made at the office of the police commissioner, which was done. I will add that the guilty party has not been found.
The Court. — What relation is there between this circumstance and the case in hand?
Louise Michel. — I asked this witness to come here to show that we, too, have our families; and that, as you have charged us with occasioning the death of an individual (M. Martin), from chagrin, after a few days imprisonment, we likewise have cause to complain of the sorrows which afflict our friends.
The witnesses having been heard, Attorney General Quesnay de Beaurepaire began his closing argument. “The manifestation of March 9,” he said, “failed. This failure carried with it disappointments. Among the disappointed were people who, too insignificant to attract attention otherwise, are fond of adding to their stature by mounting stilts. Of these people was Louise Michel. Much good has been said here of Louise Michel. This good I hold as established. But it only proves that a person may he humane and charitable to her own, to those that think as she does, and at the same time feel a burning, implacable hatred towards others. Seeing that the manifestation did not succeed, Louise Michel desired to have a manifestation of her own. She called for a black flag, ‘the flag of revolt,’ as she styled it at Lyons; then, like Semiramis, she placed herself at the head of the crowd, using the flag as a standard, which was to serve as a signal in front of the bake-shops. This manifestation was not peaceful, as the accused pretend; for among those taking part were people armed with loaded canes. It led to pillage. The pillage is undeniable. Louise Michel says that she did not see it; but the broken windows and plates? She says disdainfully that it was a matter of a few crumbs of bread. Certainly, if we were bakers, we should not agree with her. This woman undoubtedly did not take part in the pillage herself. I do not accuse her of it. I say that I believe her to be absolutely incapable of doing such a thing. But it is certain that she saw fit to preach pillage. Why? Because in her fanaticism she believed that a social war was at hand. For this she should be condemned.” He closed this portion of his argument by expressing regret at not being able to award to Louise Michel the eulogy bestowed upon the women of the old Roman republic. “She kept the house and spun the wool;” and added, with questionable taste, “Why did she not profit by the lesson given her by chance when she was presented, upon l’esplanade des Invalides, with a broomstick?” Turning then Mareuil and Pouget, he maintained that the former was an honest working-man, a simple supernumerary, dragged into the affair, deserving much indulgence; while the latter, on the contrary, the secretary of Louise Michel, was a dreamer of crimes, an organizer of social war, deserving all the severities of justice. He declared further that Enfroy, Martinet, and Moreau were unquestionably guilty, but abandoned the charges against Madame Bouillet. He concluded with these words: “In a free country the liberty to think and the liberty to struggle for the triumph of one’s ideas are sacred things. But the accused who speak here in the name of liberty are simply guilty persons. That is why I ask you to apply the law.”
The floor was then given to Louise Michel, who spoke in her own defence. Her remarks were somewhat discursive, but bristled with good things. We reproduce some of the passages: “This prosecution is a political one, and Anarchy is the prisoner at the bar. I am forced, then, to speak of Anarchy, and to tell the story of the manifestation of March 9. I shall pay no attention to the comparisons and epithets which the attorney general has indulged in regarding me personally. We are not the assassins. The assassins are those who in 1871 crushed our brothers as a mill-stone crushes grain. General Galliffet shot under my eyes two brave merchants who in no way participated in the Commune. . . . There is one feature of this trial quite frightful, which must astonish you exceedingly, namely, to see a woman struggle with you, robe against robe, for we are not accustomed yet to see a woman think. And yet in this troublous epoch has she not a right to think and to struggle side by side with the human race?. . . . An effort has been made to deny the peaceful character of the manifestation, on account of the devastation of two or three bake-shops. Is this serious? We did not ask bread for two or three days; we sought bread for the future, for all who are ready to work. . . . I believe that entire humanity is entitled to its inheritance. We lack the sense of liberty just as certain animals living under ground lack the sense of sight. We wish liberty, and, in order to have it in its entirety, we must begin to practise it. . . . We are all victims of authority. I would rather see Kropotkine and Gautier in prison than in the Cabinet, because in prison they can do good and labor for the realization of a future which will not see on the one hand beings eternally wretched and on the other beings etternaly gorged. . . . The attorney general said just now that I was once a schoolteacher. If I had not believed in liberty and equality, I should still be one. I should not have gone to New Caledonia, and my mother would not be subjected to-day to the vilest and most cowardly insults. . . . The threat of twenty yers in prison, for few miserable morsels of bread does not trouble me. Such things do not affect those who have seen and suffered all. Is there anything left for me to see and suffer? I think not, gentlemen. Pardon me, I have yet to see the dawn of liberty. . . . I am i barged with being implacable. It is true. I am implacable in the struggle, not against men, but against ideas. Our ideal is that the law of the strong should be replaced by right. And if I must pay for this affirmation by twenty years’ imprisonment, I shall be happy if I thereby aid in the triumph of right and justice. . . . We are tired of the present situation; you, also, are tired of it, gentlemen; only, as you see the evil from a greater distance than we, you are more patient. You say that we wish to make a revolution. That is an error. We cannot make revolutions; events do that. Some monstrous net will precipitate a revolution one of these days, and then perhaps you will be more indignant than we, in consequence of having retained your faith in the government longer. . . . But we are very far from Moricet’s bake-shop. Must we go back to it? No; it is distressing to discuss this miserable affair. If you wish to condemn me, do I not daily commit offences for which I might be attacked? I have but one word to add. Come what may, provided liberty and fraternity shall one day prevail, our own sufferings are of little moment.”
On the next day, June 23, the concluding day of the trial. Pouget was heard. He spoke in substance as follows:
“The attorney general said yesterday that the deeds charged upon us are violations of the common law. I protest energetically against this assertion. They all belong to the domain of politics, but I know why they are classed here as common law offences. The law for the exile of second offenders is about; to be promulgated; nominally it deals only with those condemned under the common law, but it is really aimed at political offenders; it is important, therefore, to accuse the latter of common law offences. This is hypocritical, but one instance of hypocrisy more or less is a small matter to the government. . . . Duty called me to l’esplanade des Invalides. I knew very well that the manifestation would not procure bread for the laborers without work, but I saw in it an opportunity to show my scorn for the wealth-gorged classes favored by society. Natural laws, the declaration of the rights of man, proclaim that men have a right to assemble freely and unarmed. This right is recognized and acted upon in England and Belgium. Here it is denied, at least to laborers. Other manifestations are tolerated. When the centenary of Victor Hugo is to tie celebrated, thousands of men can meet unhindered on the Champs-Elysees. Workingmen, on the contrary, if they wish to assemble, are not permitted. That is the way in which the government observes the principle: The law is equal for all. On March 9 we committed no offence. Had they a right to disperse us? No. And certainly not with the brutality which was used. The law requires three readings of the riot act; it was not read at all. As for the black flag, it is the flag of misery. How can it be treated as seditious unless misery itself is seditious. Now for the question of pillage. We are told that we are plunderers. But if that is so, why did we pass so many jewellers’ shops without touching them? Frankly, this is not serious; but then, it was necessary to deceive the public into the belief that this was the beginning of an insurrection. An insurrection! Are insurgents accustomed to begin insurrections unarmed? And with the exception of my little revolver who of us had weapons?. . . . I come to the second part of the accusation, which in my judgment should have been tried separately. we have been repeatedly told that this was not a prosecution of opinions; consequently I was greatly astonished at finding in the indictment passages front unpublished manuscripts. Can I be condemned for an intention? I am charged with having certain dangerous chemicals at my house. How long since it was forbidden to study chemistry? If I am to be condemned for that, all those who pursue similar studies ought to be likewise prosecuted. . . . The attempt is made to connect the second accusation with the manifestation of March 9. There is no relation between the two. But the government wishes to frighten people. It is nonsense to took upon us as conspirators. Conspiracies are contrary to Anarchistic theories. We act in broad daylight. Nothing is less rational than to confound revolutions with conspiracies. We are revolutionists, not conspirators. . . . The provocations contained in the pamphlet, ‘To the Army,’ are no stranger than those which fall from the lips of our governors when it is a question of shooting down the people. It must not be forgotten, further, that from a legal standpoint the provocation of soldiers to disobedience is punishable only when it refers to a definite order of an officer. The provocations are as legitimate as those which M. Grévy used in 1830 in order to start a revolt against the government of Charles X [Laughter.] No one dreams of prosecuting M. Grévy. We are no more guilty, than he.”
The lawyers then addressed the jury in behalf of their clients, after which Louise Michel arose and made the following declaration:
“The attorney general says that I am the principal accused party. Since this is so, I alone should be held; there is no necessity of prosecuting the others; they should be released, it being decided that I have made fanatics of them. Yes, I accept the role of principal accused. I am accustomed to sacrifice myself. But I repeat that I am a political prisoner. The prosecution, whatever the attorney general may say, is political and nothing else. The jurors will not lose sight of that. As for my theories, which have been incriminated, you know them. What I want is the Revolution, which will cause poverty to disappear. I hail the Revolution, which is inevitable, and I hope that it will come soon to bring liberty and equality to the suffering.”
The jury then retired, and, after deliberating an hour and a quarter, returned a verdict of guilty against Louise Michel, Pouget, and Moreau, acquitting the other prisoners.
“Have you anything to say regarding your sentence?” asked the judge.
“Nothing”, calmly answered Louise Michel and Pouget.
“For six years I have been exploited,” said Moreau, “and I always shall he.”
The judge retired, deliberated three-quarters of an hour, and then, reappearing, sentenced Louise Michel to six years’ imprisonment and ten years’ police supervision, Pouget to eight years’ imprisonment and ten years’ police supervision, and Moreau to one year’s imprisonment. The sentences were greeted with an explosion of indignation. Cries went up on all sides of Vive Louise Michel! “You condemn her,” shouted one citizen, but the people will acquit her.” It was some time before order could be restored. The prisoners took their sentences calmly, and Louise Michel was confined in the prison of Saint Lazare. Paris was excited from one end to the other, and even the conservative journals condemned the severity of the court. The result was cried by newsboys under the windows of the sick-room of Louise Michel’s mother, who thus learned for the first time of her daughter’s arrest, the fact having been carefully kept from her. An active agitation for the amnesty of all political prisoners is in progress throughout France, but thus far it has resulted in nothing.
“A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason and his faculties; who is neither blinded by passion, not hindered or driven by oppression, not deceived by erroneous opinions.” — Proudhon.
An Offended Patriot.
To the Editor of Liberty:
It is quite evident that the writer of the article on “Memorial Day and its Mockeries” in your last Liberty never shouldered a musket during the war, and that he has very little of what is known as patriotism about him. In fact, I presume he glories in being unpatriotic. He is, no doubt, one of the kind who would shout the loudest for abolition of slavery, but be one of the last to undergo any hardship for bringing about such a result. The veterans of the war parade, of their own free will and accord, once a year, in memory of their fellow comrades. Very little pomp and display is indulged in. Their families join them at the cemetery. Their children sing, and all scatter flowers over the graves, not only of the soldiers, but of all departed friends and loved ones. A short address is listened to, and the band plays a dirge. In short, it is a general holiday which is enjoyed by the people, and certainly we do not have too many of them. It is only those who have a continual holiday who fail to appreciate the few day we do have in this country when the factory and shop do not run. To the working class such a day is a rare treat, and they all sem to enjoy it.
For this, then, we are termed scoundrelly politicians and bloated political gushers by one of those would-be elevated souls that are so far above the ignorant and stupid masses whom they would fain enlighten.
Conceived in a jealous and rancorous spirit, he shoots wide of his mark and weakens the cause he would promote. Attack the State all you choose; advocate Anarchism to your heart’s content, but don’t try to make light of the soldiers kindly feelings for their dead comrades simply because none exist your own cold heart. This we say to the person who penned the article first mentioned.
[Assuming the writer of the above-mentioned article which appeared in our last number to be an honest and sincere man, he of course could not consistently shoulder a musket during the war, and his unwillingness to do so did honor to his integrity. Patriotism in his breast would be utterly unbecoming. How could it be otherwise if he is a sincere Anarchist? All our critic had to do, then, was to answer the arguments of the Anarchists as they bear upon the criminal and atrocious deeds of the American government by which 300,000 men were needlessly sacrificed and their widows and orphans left to mourn. This he does not attempt, any more than he attempts to face the accusation that the whole undignified and scandalous mockery is essentially a political advertising dodge. As “Ex” chooses to flourish so bold and free a hand in impugning the motives which inspired our article, he will perhaps pardon us for publishing the fact that he is an active political worker and office-holder inside one of the most corrupt, unscrupulous, and despotic local Republican rings in America. A splendid fellow in his personal relations, the fact that he fondly subscribes for Liberty and takes note of its admonitions furnishes some hope of his ultimate salvation. At present he is evidently a victim of bad company, and the kind of glasses in vogue among his political bed-fellows ill conduce to clear moral vision. — Editor Liberty.]
The next number of Liberty will appear August 18. The present issue has been delayed in order to offer our readers a report of the trial of Louise Michel and her comrades. It was well worth waiting for. This trial will live in history; its heroine will stand high among the martyrs, and her judges low among the persecutors, of mankind.
Afflicted with a Moral Tapeworm.
To the Editor of Liberty:
As is very natural, there are not a few men in every locality whose honest convictions side with Liberty. They know very well that the rotten machine which falsely passed for government is virtually a conspiracy to plunder the people, and that it stands upon no moral or even true sociological basis. Eminently respectable and reputed orthodox citizens who subscribe for your little sheet are often heard to say in private that they had rather misd their whole batch of periodical reading than not receive Liberty.
But when these good people are asked to put their faith into open confession and deeds, they hesitate and equivocate. They shy coyly around the door of Liberty when it is opened to them, but dare not come in. When told that they will find warm hearts, brave consciences, and the vivifying atmosphere of mental and moral integrity within, they squirm, after the most approved methods of “ethical culture,” and then, assuming an air of deep solemnity, proceed to invent some dilemma in social adjustments, after which follows the inevitable, “Now, what would you do in such a case if you had no government?”
The case generally put has reference to a railroad; for almost every American sceptic is troubled with a moral tapeworm in the form of a railroad when social adjustments are up. It is supposed that some malicious villain is located in a narrow gorge, between two endless mountain ranges on either side. A million people on both sides of him want a railroad to go through the gorge. Upon this project hangs inexpressible comfort and convenience, besides the development of countless wealth. But against this million of people and these millions of wealth stands the stubborn barbarian. He will neither sell, lease, rent, nor give away his land under any consideration. It is physically impossible to carry the rail road over, under, or around him. Everything is hopelessly blocked unless he can be induced to relent, and this he will not. It is in this awful dilemma that ethical culture stands sweetly yet gravely at the door of Liberty, and asks, “Now, what would you do in such a case if you had no government?”
Let me briefly attempt to aid these dear good friends in their distress. Let them suppose that this million of people were journeying on foot, with millions of wealth in the rear which must either spoil or go through. They reach the gorge and are confronted by the malicious barbarian, who commands them to halt and not pass through his land. As becomes true ethical culture, the barbarian is first reasoned with. This failing, his conscience and moral sense are appealed to, This all going for naught, he is then offered full satisfaction for all damage and costs of whatsoever nature resulting from the trespass. This proving in vain, he is then offered a full market value for his land, with all incidental costs of conveyance added. But no; he will not. He insists with the stubbornness of a demon that a million of fellow creatures who have just as good a right to the earth as he shall stand back. It is in this terrible dilemma that conservative culture stands trembling at the door of Liberty, and asks, “What would you do in such a case if you had no government?”
Good friends; if you have tears to shed, prepare to shed them now. We should go through; only that and nothing more. Nor should we propose to wait till a government had been organized to arraign the barbarian for blackmail and put him under a Star Route trial. And yet the philosophy of Liberty would not be violated in the slightest by such a transaction.
It implies an astonishing ignorance of the first principles of this philosophy to suppose that by Liberty is meant the right of one man to occupy natural wealth to the exclusion and general inconvenience of his fellow-men. This is just what is accomplished under the unnatural tenure that is now defended and enforced by existing governments; but it is just this thing that Liberty seeks to abolish by abolishing the State.
The cost principle, if the reader will be at pains to study it, everywhere accompanies Liberty. No man has a right to occupy natural wealth and thereby impose an enormous bill of costs upon thousands of others who have the same natural right to the benefits of the soil as he. In any social adjustment involving the right of transit over the earth the inconvenienced and cost-burdened parties would be quick to demand their natural rights, even though the governmental machine had never been heard of. It is true that the State often condemns land justly in the interest of transportation. But the few cases where its services are just are as but a drop compared with the enormous injustices perpetrated upon the people through railroad subsidies.
But can any thoughtful man be so far gone in governmental superstition as to suppose that the same service could not be effected if the State were out of the way? If all men were free to assert their natural right to occupation and transit on the earth, and all men equally free to protest in the adjustments of cost, the result would be peaceable arbitration in the place of now-existing farce. This is all that Liberty asks for, and if the sceptic would only spend half the time in studying how simply adjustments may be effected, that he spends in inventing idle puzzles, these matters would soon look as plain as they are natural.
It is unfair — not to say “uncultured” — criticism to measure the possibilities of Liberty by the standards of the existing State, which are all pivoted on force as against reciprocity and natural right. To deny Liberty a chance and then, entrenched behind arrogant brute force, flippantly invent problems which she is not permitted to solve in practice by her own methods is a cowardly trait which the State is eminently fitted to nurture. Without wishing to be uncharitable I am inclined to believe that some of these doubting *** and “cultured” sweet Williams find the exercise of this trait an easy and convenient ruse by which to skulk away from justice and hide their own moral cowardice.
[We are not prepared to follow our correspondent through the narrow gorge. In fact, until the stubborn barbarian supposed to occupy it shall of his own free will become a more amiable and yielding fellow-citizen, he shall have our aid in maintaining his undisturbed possession of his mountain fastness, and till then we will forego, if necessary, the enjoyment of the products and society of the hypothetical millions located beyond his territory. That is to say, any person living upon and actually and definitely using any portion of the earth’s surface cannot rightly be evicted, either with or without damages, by any human power. He is in his right, and that right is sacred. However devoted a friend of Liberty our correspondent may be, he will not be the perfect champion of his cause until he shall filter from his blood the lingering trace of the fatal majority taint which this communication reveals, and thereby become logically faithful to the grand truth that the interests of the million are never good against the rights of the one. There is no right of transit which dominates the right of occupancy limited by actual use. Further, our correspondent’s answer is not only illogical but unnecessary. It is sufficient to say, as he very forcibly says, that this stubborn barbarian is an impossible character; that all the conditions of this hypothesis never would occur simultaneously; that, ninety-nine times in a hundred, any difficulties arising from situations in any degree approximating to it are surmountable, perhaps at some inconvenience, without the sacrifice of individual rights; that the surest way to conquer a stubborn man is to recognize his right to be stubborn; and that, even if the hypothesis were a legitimate one, it ought to weigh as nothing in the balance against the tremendous social advantages resulting from the recognition of Liberty. No, we should not go through! — Editor Liberty.]
Don’t keep Liberty to yourself, share it with others!
Leonard E. Read: Accent On The Right: To Frederic Bastiat (1801–1850), who sought for truth rather than outcome and never witnessed the fruits his labor bore. Obedience to conscience was his first rule; we witness the results.
Leonard E. Read: Anything That’s Peaceful: Many favor peace but not many favor the things that make for peace. — Thomas à Kempis
Leonard E. Read: Awake for Freedom’s Sake: Finally, share with others. Forget about “reforming” them! The more we share, the more we learn. This is in the interest of self and freedom!
Leonard E. Read: Castles in the Air: If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau
Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State: Political philosophy is dominated by a myth, the myth of the necessity of the state. The state is considered necessary for the provision of many things, but primarily for peace and security. In this provocative book, Gerard Casey argues that social order can be spontaneously generated, that such spontaneous order is the norm in human society and that deviations from the ordered norms can be dealt with without recourse to the coercive power of the state.
Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers: Murray Rothbard: Murray Rothbard (1926–1995) was an economist, historian, philosopher, and legal theoretician. His work was unified by a passionate and resolute commitment to a libertarianism that may be characterized as ‘anarcho-capitalism’ and which implied a belief that even the legal system may be provided privately without the need for a coercive collective authority. Hence, anarcho-capitalists envisage a society where the traditional role of government is wholly subsumed by private, profit-making enterprises and all social relationships are ultimately founded upon consent.