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REASONS OF STATE.
ing that God of the right which to Him only belongs - the right of life and death ?
Gentlemen, there are three things which are God's, not man's : the irrevocable, the irreparable, the indis'soluble. Woe to man if he introduces them into his laws ! Sooner or later they will force society to give way under their weight; they derange the equilibrium essential to the security of laws and of morals; they take from human justice its proportions; and then it happens, think of it, gentlemen !- it happens that the law revolts the conscience !
I have ascended this trib'une to say but a word, a decisive word, and it is this : After the Revolution of February came a great thought to the French people. The day after they had burned the Throne, they sought to burn the Scaffold! But this sublime idea they were prevented from carrying into execution. In the first article of this constitution you have consecrated the people's first thought; you have cast down the Throne! Now consecrate its second thought, and cast down the Scaffold! I vote for the entire abolition of the penalty of death.
VICTOR HUGO (Sept. 13, 1848).
VIII. — REASONS OF STATE.
UNDER the modest title of a law of deportation, the measure before us, gentlemen, would, in fact, restore the penalty of death for political offenses — a penalty which, to their lasting glory, the people of France abolished in the revolution of February. To banish a man to Madagascar, or to the Marquesas, what is it but to reëstablish the penalty of death? The climate contributes its malignity, exile its crushing dejection, the dungeon its despair. In the place of one executioner, there are three. Ah! it is something worse than the scaffold! It is death without a last look at the sky of one's country!
Gentlemen, you will reject this law; you will confirm that grand principle, the abolition of the death penalty for political offenses, a principle which emanated from the large, generous heart of the people, in their moment of triumph and of power. You will not give the lie to that which was even something more than a cry of the popular conscience - to that which was the cry of the human conscience. Conscience. Ah ! I know there are certain profound states
- men very wise (in their own conceit), very practical, very sagacious — who smile whenever this word conscience is mentioned in political discussions. They oppose to our word
conscience the overpowering phrase of reasons of state. They tell us that we know nothing of business; that we are destitute of political sense ; that we are not safe, sober, practical men ; and they call us — as the severest stigma they can invent — poets !
They affirm that what we find, or believe we find, in our conscience, our faith in progress, in justice, in the amelioration of laws and of manners, our aspirations for liberty, for human improvement, for national grandeur, are all very well, no doubt, in themselves, but lead, in the attempt to apply them practically, to illusions and chimeras; and that, above and beyond all these considerations, we must be guided on real occasions by reasons of state ! Reasons of state! Ah! a fine phrase, that! Just now, amid the interruptions from opponents with which I have been honored, I heard those sounding words — reasons of state !
But let us examine them - these “reasons of state.' review some of the measures to which they have given birth. I open history, and I see, along the line of the ages, all the acts of baseness, infamy, rascality, cowardice, cruelty, which have been authorized or committed under the plea of reasons of state ! Marat invoked these reasons, as well as Louis the Eleventh ; they were quoted to justify the enormities of the Revolution, as well as the massacres of St. Bartholomew. « Reasons of state!” Those reasons erected the guillotines of Robespierre, and are now erecting the gibbets of Haynau. Ah! my heart revolts at all this. I would have neither the policy of the guillotine, nor the policy of the gibbet; neither Marat nor Haynau - nor your law of deportation! And, come what may, whenever in critical moments an inspiration or a counsel is needed, I am of those who will never hesitate between that virgin, whom we call conscience, and that polluted hag, whom you call reasons of state !
Gentlemen, there is such a thing as political reprisals. 0! you murmur at that! Then it is against history that you murmur. Of all the men who have had the direction of government or of public opinion during the last sixty years in France, there is not one — hear you ? not one, who has not, sooner or later, been precipitated from his high place. The names which remind us of great triumphs remind us of great catastrophes also. He who was Lafayette is soon a captive at Olmutz ; he who was Napoleon is soon an exile at St. Helena. Examine – consider ! Who recovered the throne in 1814 ? The exile of Hartwell! Who reigned after 1830 ? The proʻscript of Reichenau, — to-day the banished monarch of Claremont! Who governs at this moment? The prisoner of Ham! Now make laws of proscription, now restore the death penalty for political offenses, if you will – if you
PART SIXTH. — THE FLOOR OF PARLIAMENT.
I. ON CONSTITUTIONAL RESISTANCE.
January 22, 1770. I THANK God, my lords, for having thus long preserved me, inconsiderable as I am, to take a part upon this great occasion, and to contribute my endeavors, such as they are, to restore, to save, to confirm, the constitution. My lords, I need not look abroad for grievances. The grand capital mischief is fixed at home. It corrupts the very foundation of our political existence, and preys upon the vitals of the state. The constitution has been grossly violated. THE CONSTITUTION AT THIS MOMENT
Until that wound is healed, until the grievance is redressed, it is in vain to recommend union to Parliament, in vain to promote concord among the people. If we mean seriously to unite the nation within itself, we must convince the people that their complaints are regarded, that their injuries shall be redressed. On that foundation, I would take the lead in recommending peace and harmony to them; on any other, I would never wish to see them united again.
If the breach in the constitution is effectually repaired, the people will of themselves return to a state of tranquillity; if not, MAY DISCORD PREVAIL FOR EVER! I know to what point this doctrine and this language will appear directed; but I have the principles of an Englishman, and I utter them without apprehension or reserve. The crisis is indeed alarming: so much the more does it require a prudent relaxation on the part of government. If the king's servants will not permit à constitutional question to be decided on according to the forms and on the principles of the constitution, it must then be decided in some other manner; and rather than it should be tamely given up, rather than the nation should surrender their birthright to a despotic minister, I hope, my lords, old as I am, I shall see the question brought to an issue, and fairly tried between the people and government. My lords, this is not the language of faction. Let it be tried by that criterion by which alone we can distinguish what is factious from what is not, by the principles of the English constitution. I have been bred up in these principles, and I know that when the liberty of the subject is invaded, and all redress denied him, resistance is justifiable.
II. — IN FAVOR OF COËRCING THE COLONIES.
February 7, 1775. MY LORDS, we are reduced to the alternative of adopting coercive measures, or at once submitting to a dismemberment of the empire. Consider the question in ever so many lights, every middle way will speedily lead you to either of ese extremities. The supremacy of the British legislature must be complete, entire, and unconditional; or, on the other hand, the colonies must be free and independent.
The claim of non-taxation is a renunciation of your authority. If the doctrine be just, it extends to the right of separating from you, and establishing a new republic. It is to the last degree monstrous and absurd to allow that the colonists are entitled to legislate for themselves on one subject, and not on all. If they have any such privilege, the defense of it would justify resistance; and I have not yet heard any noble lord say that their resistance would not be rebellion.
I admit the impolicy of the taxes imposed in 1767, which have been the cause of the troubles and confusion which we now deplore. They irritated the colonists, cramped our own commerce,
and encouraged smuggling for the benefit of our commercial rivals. But the course was to petition for their repeal, and not to treat them as illegal. Concession now is an abdication of sovereignty. All classes will feel severely the effects of war, and no one can answer for its events. The British forces may be defeated; the Americans may ultimately triumph. But are you prepared to surrender without striking a blow?
The question being whether the right of the mother-country shall be resolutely asserted or basely relinquished, I trust there can be no doubt that your lordships are prepared firmly to discharge your duty, convinced that the proper season for clemency is when your efforts have been crowned with victory.
III. -ON TAXING AMERICA. MY LORDS, you have no right to tax America. I have searched the matter; - I repeat it, you have no right to tax America.
The natural rights of man and the immutable laws of nature are all with that people.
Much stress is laid upon the supreme legislative authority of Great Britain, and so far as the doctrine is directed to its proper object I accede to it. But it is equally true, according to all approved writers upon government, that no
THE MEASURES AGAINST AMERICA.
man, agreeably to the principles of natural or civil liberty, can be divested of any part of his property without his consent.
But some gentlemen tell us, seriously, that administration must reduce the Americans to obedience and submission; that is, you must make them absolute and infamous slaves, and then — what?
we will, say they, give them full liberty. Ay, is this the nature of man? No, my lords; I would not trust myself, American as I am, in this situation. I do not think I should, in that case, be myself for giving them their liberty. No; if they submitted to such unjust, such cruel, such degrading slavery, I should think they were made for slaves, that servility was suited to their nature and genius. I should think they would best serve this country as our slaves that their servility would be for the benefit of Great Britain ; and I should be for keeping such Cappadocians * in a state of servitude, such as was suited to their constitution, and such as might redound much to our advantage.
My lords, some noble lords talk much of resistance to acts of Parliament. King, lords, and commons, are fine-sounding names ; but, my lords, acts of Parliament have been resisted in all ages. King, lords, and commons, may become tyrants as well as others. Tyranny in one or more is the same: it is as lawful to resist the tyranny of many as of one. Somebody once asked the great Mr. Selden in what law-book, in what records, or archives t of state, you might find the law for resisting tyranny. " I don't know,” said Mr. Selden, “ whether it is worth your while to look deeply into the books upon this matter; but I'll tell you
what is most certain, that it has always been the 'custom of England,' and the custom of England' is the law of the land.”
I end, my lords, as I began : you have no right to tax America;— the natural rights of man, and the immutable laws of nature, are all with that people.
LORD CAMDEN (Jan. 20, 1775).
IV. - THE MEASURES AGAINST AMERICA.
Sir, what foundation have we for our claims over America ? What is our right to persist in such cruel and vindictive measures against that loyal, respectable people? They say you have no right to tax them without their consent. They say truly. Representation and taxation must go together; they are inseparable. Yet there is scarcely a man in our streets, though so poor as scarcely to be able to get his daily bread, but thinks he is the
* The people of Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, petitioned the Romans to send them a king.
+ Pronounced ar' kives.