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Collected Letters of Elisée Reclus

To his brother-in-law, Pierre Faure, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande
No date, Paris, 1870 (September)

You have guessed by the reading of the papers or rumors which announced the events. The armies of Bazaine had been decisively cut and the army of Châlens, still stuck in the baggage of this terrible Bonaparte, who instead of running east to clear a path for Bazaine, is taking refuge next to Paris—others say even aside Soissons, finally the thief could easily shelter himself from danger. In a few days, that is no longer doubtful, the Prussians will be pressing against the doors. With a doubt that, by some strange irony, the Prussians who, likewise do not want the Revolution, will create some treaty with Bonaparte and will impose himself upon us and gut us up the middle by taking our two provinces.

Here’s the situation.

20 years of empire could not give us otherwise.

Against an armed nation, a single nation could defend itself, but until the last moment, whatever the newspapers say. Palikeo, Trochu, and (something I cannot read), (page 5) Bonaparte and his Camarilla commanded by tying their side and disorganizing the defense. Now, the politics of the expiring empire are nothing more that provisions to the personal safety of these fools.

Yet, with the empire, it is also the bureaucracy which killed us. No national salute without the popular approval: but this dash, we did everything we could to contain it, to prevent its explosion and we succeeded. To divert the opinion, we even fabricated the affair of the Villette, we had futile events with the firefighters which we made come just to send them away; we even refused arms to the national guard, even to the mobile infantry; we discouraged all the way to the volunteers. You’d figure that the state was beating itself up for never having learned the map of France and that O would have been a warmly welcomed geographer! What a terrible error after all! How, could they have said to themselves, this young man is a simple zealot and claims to know that which we do not! In prison for that! One of my friends brought the state a most useful proposition, perhaps one of the most indispensable. They responded to him: “Sir, you are without a doubt correct, but we cannot recognize your memoire: il n’est pas écrit en bâtard.” That’s why we’re worth invading, the billions, the shame of spilled blood!

P. is writing to us from Châlons. He is in the countryside, in despair from what he sees,


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