From: Ishill, Joseph. (1927). Élisée and Élie Reclus: In Memoriam. Compiled, ed. and printed by Joseph Ishill. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Oriole Press.


By Elie Reclus

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E, who have seen 1848, and who are growing old, are sad and discontented and would like to assure ourselves that our age is the only cause of this. A terrible war has crippled the arms of France. Our nation is for a long time condemned to the policy of effacement for presuming to have desired to march in the vanguard of humanity guided by-a Bonaparte, the assassin of December. Today the peasant plows a soil already furrowed by the German shells; golden harvests are gleaned in the fields watered with the blood of the dead and wounded. Labour pays the interest of this enormous rancour imposed upon us with as much good as evil. The dead are dead, the survivors are again on their feet, the wounds are scarring over, but our moral pains are very slow to heal, if indeed they will heal. Internally it has not been desired to dose the large wound left by the civil war, by amnesty. The iron is in this wound always, and the iron is poisoned.

     We, finally have a Republic-but what sore of a Republic? Monarchical and Clerical. We are falling from abyss to abyss. After Daneon, Robespierre and Saint-Just, after Ledru-Rollin, Cavaignac and Thiers, Simon and Gambeeta, if one dares to place these names in juxtaposition. The Republic of our dreams, the object of so much ardent desire, sacrifice and devotion, has brought forth a still-born Senate, a Legislative body born old, like chose sickly, rickety children who come into the world with a face grooved and furrowed with wrinkles, gnawed by syphilis before their lips were wee with the milk of their nurses. We awaited a son beautiful as Love and laughing as Hope, there has come to us a sore of darkling abortion which causes us to blush when we think that this unfortunate creature passes for our child and perhaps is.

     The nation has very much wanted to change its form of government, but has not at all desired to change either its morals or its institutions or laws, nor even this magnificent administration "which all Europe envies us". All our daughters are brought up on the lap of the clergy, and our wives are seated upon it, our sons are cradled therein, all France has been "scourged and scourged again" by these dear lay brothers, and these Reverend Father Jesuits.

     Reflecting upon this more attentively, it seems to us that the part which our French magistrature played in this decadence of France is not given its just value. They have believed or pretended to believe that it is healthy, yet if it is regarded at dose range, there is perhaps no class more corrupted. The Cents-Gardes of the Coutt of Tuileries were not more pustulous and plague-ridden, than are our Daguesseau, Lamoignon, and Malesherbes.

     No State, even the most absolutist, can dispense with justice, good or evil; everywhere there is some sort of law, even in the Dahomey and with the Achanties, there is something which simulates justice and takes the place of it; but wherever there is only the simulation of justice, there is only the appearance of life. We would even say that we prefer a despotic government where justice reigns than a republic where injustice prevails, if the essence of tyranny were not the arbitrary, that is the negation of justice.

     The magistrature is not unaware of these truths, and occasionally gives them to us in its pompous harrangues and vestment of the robes of office, at the reopening of the court, after the official invocations and the hymns to the Holy Ghost. No constituted corps is more jealous of its privileges and dignities, of the deference which it demands. One word, a single impertinent word answered back to such and such a judge may cost two years imprisonment. In revenge it is within the power of the judge-during the course of debates to martyrise the accused, to cover him with opprobrium and insults. Insolence is one of his prerogatives.

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     You ask yourselves, why justice whose function it is to chastise the guilty does not rise in defense of her own wrongs? Why has not judiciary reparation been instituted for those who have been wrongly convicted? Why are not they and their families indemnified for the injury caused them?.... Judgments are perfect; if a thing is not true, it is decreed that true it shall be and so much the worse for the evidence. What matters to the law is not right-but might. The judges are bourgeois pontiffs whose judgements are no more infallible than those of the Pope....

     Against whom does this army of lawyers function? Against people who have little respect for property, against despisers of the social order, and most particularly against the proletariat. "When the worker has been brutalized by the minutes" division of labour, by servitude to machines, by ignorant instruction, when he has been discouraged by degradation of wages, demoralized by slack-time, famished by monopolies, when he has neither food nor hardihood, nor a cent to bless himself with, nor bread nor shelter, then he begs, marauds, cheats, steals, murders, after having passed through the hands of the exploiters, he passes through those of the judges", says Proudhon.

     Amidst all these laws of jurisprudence: civil laws, criminal laws, correctional laws, laws of appeal, laws of repeal, military law, administrative law, one seeks in vain for justice that should be nothing but justice, a law which should be merely law. For all that they have granted liberty of butchers, liberty of bakers, liberty of theatres,, all kinds of liberty in order to withhold liberty. Thus does the world dispense justice in its own manner, creating a justice for this one or that one to be entangled in. One no longer sees in the seventy-five or one hundred and seventy-five volumes of the Bulletin des Lois anything but an interminable Code of Procedure in which honest folk lose themselves, but rascals meet again as in the Forest of Bondy. The magistracy is respected-oh, yes-because it commands the bailiff and the gendarme, because it is authority or rather one of the authorities. Neither more nor less. All those who have their foundation on law, have it on authority. All those who are founded on authority are also founded on law. Forest keepers are the latest incarnation of the Goddess Themis.. This keeper draws up indictments, unless a five-franc-piece is slipped into his hands. The forest keeper makes a little revenue for himself by means of infringements against the forest-laws. He makes himself a rustic cottage with the cut branches and twigs that the law gives him through infractions of the law pertaining to leaves or branches. The corporals of the gendarmerie, simple gendarmes, are, in short, magistrates. The same with the chief-magistrates and great landlords, especially if they belong to the clerical faction.

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     Every well-balanced individual who will study our legislation will tell you that it is made not to protect the weak, but to serve the passions of the mighty, and that of all our jurisdiction, that of the commander Gaveau, of the general Gallifet, is the best because the most expeditive. The symbol of this justice is a mitrailleuse brought to a heap of prisoners. Picchie has shown us this in his tableau: The Triumph of Order. In their flowery, metaphorical language,-that of Cicero reinforced by Joseph Prudhomme-our lawyers rarely appeal to the scales of Justice, they invoke little more than her sword-is it because Justice only cares to strike-to strike justly? No, but to strike mightily.

     Have you heard the great slaughter-houses of Chicago spoken of? Troops of hogs are brought there, herds are pushed along a path which constantly narrows down until there is room for only one animal to pass along at a time. The one in front passes through a door, walks across a weighing-machine plank which carries him under an equally automatic guillotine. The knife descends and cuts the throat of the animal who falls into a scalding-tub, passes through a series of scrapers, flayers, chopping-knives, cutters, salting-tubs, etc. The pieces are pressed down into a vast tub, escaping through a cock, from there into a tube, and finally are crowded into a pudding rolled up on a barrel. In the same fashion does the French magistrature manufacture criminals, triturate punishments and fines, as formerly one manufactured sausages. At the Palais de Justice, one is only a citizen up to the entrance. When he enters he becomes a criminal until he goes out again. A prison with the necessary dungeons are annexed to the establishment. The conscience of the magistrates has been absorbed into their function which is to condemn-always to condemn. They are no longer men but chastisas, whippers-in-chief, purveyors for the hangman. The convictions they obtain or procure count with them as so much service performed. The most admired, the most envied among them is the least pitiful. Their value is measured in proportion to the number of years of hard labour they have inflicted. He who has had one person decapitated receives many compliments; he is rewarded by the ribbon of the Legion of Honour. As for him who has two decapitations to his credit, gratified by magnificent advancement, he may aspire to the softest armchair in the Courts-and who knows?-perhaps he may one day be Minister of Justice end keeper of the seals.

     Nothing more sadly proves the moral bankrupt of the whole of society than the prisons of which the magistrates are the dictators, where the order that they establish reigns, where nobody may enter except by their order and with their permission. M. Dufaure presides over the social inferno, where everything is calculated to debase and brutalize man. Tale-bearing, espionage, is the great means of the government with whom the first word is also the last. It is there that the traditions of old malefactors are preserved, where for generation after generation are transmitted tricks, sleight of hand, all that mysterious wisdom from alpha to omega. It is there that by the care and at the expense of the State, young delinquents, apprenticed to vice, are instructed in the mysteries of iniquity. That is the seminary, the university of crime.

     In parenthesis, the political prisoners are mingled with those condemned by common law. They no longer bear a name, they have only a number. They are re-garbed in the livery of shame, their books, papers and pens are confiscated, their intellectual occupations taken from them. But we mistake by saying that they are confounded with the prisoners of the common law. These men whose crime has most often been nothing but juvenile enthusiasm, or awkwardness, or imprudence,-all severities are reserved for them. They have sinned only by excess of virtue; they are the objects of all cruelties, all the persecutions of crafty dictatorship, violent and gross, which has but one care: to crush souls. When the memoirs of Thouars, Clairvaux, Embrun, Mmes and La Nouvelle Caledonie come to be published, then it will be seen just what our magistrates and directing classes are worth.

     Formerly the nation had an arch-saint, the cities of Palladium hidden from the profane regard. The high-priests themselves had but rare access to it. This mystery was indispensable. It was necessary to preserve the prestige of the of official relics which are neither hallowed nor sacred, unless they are enveloped in darkness. It has more than once occurred that, in spite of the protective divinities, the enemy overturned the walls of the city, drove in their batallions and slaying and pillaging, penetrated up to the temple which they sacked and they forced the door, and entered the Holy of Holies. There they expected to behold dazzling richess, an immense, accumulated treasure, and what did they find? Some day puppets, bronze figurines, ridiculous idols, old pikes, rusty swords, a junk-heap of old iron. It is with the same disappointment that a layman entered the sanctuary of French justice, the Palladium of the State, and penetrated into the private life of its magistrates. Does he think to see them worthy, wise, gentle, disinterested, serious, equitable? He supposes that those who mete justice should be the best among the citizens, and better than the average of those amenable to the law. And he learns that the books seized as obscene, the brochures condemned as attacking morals, go into the private libraries of the great judges, that from time to time high officials make perquisitions and seize improper drawings and photographs in order to enrich their collections. He learns thee in a certain court which we can name, a new judge has been obliged to demand his transfer because he refused to join a dub of filthy practices frequented by his colleagues. But lee us not stress this subject. We can only say that private life explains public life and vice versa. The value of one is the value of the ocher. To magistrates as well as to deputies may be applied this bon-mot that we read in the Charivari: "Papa, a deputy and an honorable is the same thing, isn't it?" "Often."

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     When we were young we had dreamed of a justice that would be an utterly different thing from jurisprudence. We thought that it would be able to harmonize with conscience and even be humane and ethical. We had supposed that it would be truly gratuitous, simple, expedient We believed that it could be exercised by judges elected every year, by functioning judges of all degrees. Now thee we have already seen an Empire and two Republics no more couching the magistrature than the Archangel, augmenting privileges, fortifying the arbitrary, we have become modest. Recognizing that Truth is perhaps a Utopia for man, and Justice an impossibility in France at lease, we limit ourselves to asking that they restore to us Judge Bridoison who pronounced his sentences and meted out imprisonments or acquittals according as the dice fell. It was simple, expedient, inexpensive and less wearisome. When judgement will be meted henceforth on the toss of the coin, it will often be absurd, but at lease it will be a justice equal for all, and will be better than that which we have today.


OVE is the concentration of sweetness and bitterness. Do you recall, in Gounod's Faust the double scene of love? The handsome Faust and the lovely Marguerite, Mephisto and Martha, the immodest hussy, come and go in the lanes of the flowering garden. They come and go, Faust costumed in green and white, Marguerite in a white and blue robe, then Martha, yellow and black, Mephisto, a great bat, black and vermillion. They come and go those two couples; here the ecstasy of tenderness, there the wanton play of lewdness. There he coos, there he sneers. And lechery alternates with transports of love; the chaste kisses of dawning passion are followed by the immodest contacts a devil with an old procuress All this is played to the same tune; the same melody expresses sweetness and filth; the same moonlight the same perfume of field-poppy and cytisus, iris and tuberose is replete with pleasure, kindles tender flames here and there impure fires. It is only a difference in degree.

     Faust and Marguerite are the butterflies of love. Martha and Mephisto are the bats of impurity.



Drawing by Luce