Frederick Engels in The Northern Star

The Manifesto of M. De Lamartine

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 364;
Written: at the beginning of November 1847;
First published: in The Northern Star, November 13, 1847.

You recently published this curious piece of workmanship.[169] It consists of two very distinct parts: political measures and social measures. Now the political measures are, one and all, taken from the Constitution of 1791 [170] with almost no alteration; that is, they are the return to the demands of the middle classes in the beginning of the revolution. At that time the whole of the middle classes, including even the smaller tradesmen, were invested with political power, while at present the participation in it is restrained to the large capitalists. What, then, is the meaning of the political measures proposed by M. de Lamartine? To give the government into the hands of the inferior bourgeoisie, but under the semblance of giving it to the whole people (this, and nothing else, is the meaning of his universal suffrage, with his double system of elections). And his social measures? Why, they are either things which presuppose that a successful revolution has already given the political power to the people — such as gratuitous education for all; or measures of pure charity, that is, measures to soften down the revolutionary energies of the proletarians; or mere high-sounding words without any practical meaning, such as extinction of mendicity by order in council, abolition of public distress by law, a ministry of the people’s life, etc. They are, therefore, either totally useless to the people, or calculated to benefit them in such a degree only as will assure some sort of public tranquillity, or they are mere empty promises, which no man can keep — and in these two last cases they are worse than useless. In short, M. de Lamartine proves himself, both under a social and a political point of view, the faithful representative of the small tradesman, the inferior bourgeoisie, and [one] who shares in the illusion particular to this class: that he represents the working people. And, in the end he is foolish enough to address himself to the government with the demand of their support for his measures. Why, the present government of the great capitalists will do anything but that. The Réforme, therefore, is perfectly right in attacking, though with a deal of good will, and recognising his good intentions, the practicability both of his measures, and his mode of setting about having them carried

“Certainly,” says the Réforme, “these are high words, revealing a mighty heart, a spirit sympathising with the cause of right. The fraternal feeling is panting visibly under the cloak of words, and our poets and philosophers will be excited by them into enthusiasm similar to that produced upon Periclean Greece by the sentence of Plato. But we have not now anything to do with Pericles, we live under the reign of Messrs Rothschild, Fulchiron and Duchâtel, that is under the triple incarnation of Money, blockheaded Fear, and Police; we have for a government, profits, privilege, and the municipal guard. Now, hopes M. de Lamartine that the league of consolidated interests, that the Sonderbund [allusion to the Swiss Sonderbund, a separatist union of seven Catholic cantons] of dollars, place and monopoly, will surrender and lay down arms at his appeal to national sovereignty and social fraternity? Why, for good as for evil, all things in this world are connected — one keeps up the other, nothing is isolated — and that is the reason why the most generous programme of the deputy for Mâcon [Lamartine] will pass like perfumed zephyrs of summer, will die like empty trumpet sounds, as long as they shall bear the motherstain of all monopoly-feudal violation of Right and of Equality. And this league of the privileged classes is particularly closely united at this very moment, when the governmental system is the prey of convulsive fear.

“As to the institutions he proposes, the official country and its leaders call such things the sweet meats of philosophy: Messrs Duchâtel and Guizot will laugh at them, and if the deputy for Mâcon does not look out elsewhere for arms and soldiers to defend his ideas, he will pass all his life at making fine words and no progress! And if he addresses himself to the million instead of the government, we tell him that he follows a false route, and never will win over to his system of graduated election, poor rate, and philanthropic charity, neither the Revolution, nor thinking men, nor the people. The principles, indeed, of social and political regeneration have been found fifty years ago. Universal suffrage, direct election, paid representation — these are the essential conditions of political sovereignty. Equality, liberty, fraternity — these are the principles which ought to rule all social institutions. Now, the poor rate is far from being based upon fraternity, whilst at the same time it is an insolent and very impotent denial of equality. What we want is not English middle-class expediency, but quite a new system of social economy, to realise the right and satisfy the wants of all."
[a free translation of extracts from an article by Louis Blanc analysing Lamartine’s “Déclaration de principes"]

A few days after appeared the second manifesto of M. de Lamartine upon the foreign policy of France. In this he maintains that the peace system followed by the French government after 1830, was the only convenient mode of action. He covers by pompous sentences the infamous manner in which the French government first excited Italy and other countries to rebellion, and afterwards abandoned them to their fate. Here is the forcible reply of the Réforme ["Programme de M. Lamartine"] to this buttermilk manifesto:

“M. de Lamartine sacrifices the legitimate and only instrument of freeing us — the holy war of principle — to a theory of peace which will he a mere weakness, a lie, and even an act of treason, as long as the relations from people to people are based upon the policy of diplomatists, and the egotism of governments. No doubt, peace is the ultimate necessity of civilisation; but what is peace with Nicholas of Russia? The disemboweller of whole nations, the hangman who nails infants to the gallows, who carries on a deadly war against even hope and recollection, who drowns in her tears and her blood a great, a glorious country! For mankind, for civilisation, for France herself, peace with this madman of a Jack Ketch is cowardice; for justice, for right, for the revolution, it is a crime! What is peace with Metternich, who hires hosts of assassins, who confiscates for the benefit of crowned epilepsy, [Ferdinand I] the liberties of nations? What is peace with all those little Caesars of Europe, ruined debauchees, or villainous bigots who reign, today for the Jesuits, tomorrow for the courtesan? What is peace with the aristocratic and money-mongering English government, which tyrannises the seas, which kills liberty in Portugal, which squeezes money even out of the rags of its people? Peace with these Jews, these poison-mongers, we repeat it, is, fora country in revolution, cowardice, shame, crime, moral desertion, bankruptcy not only of interest, but of right and honour.”

The other Paris papers have equally expressed their dissent from M. de Lamartine’s programme in different respects.[171] He continues, however, illustrating its principles in his paper, the Bien Public of Mâcon. We shall in a few months be enabled to judge what effect his new move will make upon the Chamber of Deputies.