"BEHOLD HOW SWEET AND BLESSED A THING IT IS WHEN BRETHREN DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY."
"BE ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN."
ORTUNATELY, Elisée Reclus' sister Louise, (widow of Alfred Dumesnil and Reclus' devoted assistant during the last decade of his life), from 1905 to 1910, collected great quantities of his Correspondence, which she published in two volumes, Paris, 1911; the third volume, for external reasons, remained unpublished till 1925. Madame Dumesnil had rare opportunities of access to many of the scattered family letters, and to those kept by a number of Reclus' intimate friends and most trusted comrades and thus preserved -- in many instances one might say, saved -- most precious materials. On the other hand, her effort was made so quietly and gently that it did not come under the notice of many other correspondents of Reclus. In numbers of instances also it was found that the letters had not been kept or could not be found; also, Kropotkin had destroyed most of them, or rather, had only preserved a few by accident altogether. It is too late now to hope for fresh intensive research, and we must be content with the three volumes collected, now available.
The following extracts try to illustrate Reclus' development, his social and political ideas, his contact with advanced men and movements, at least for 40 years of his life, from the fifties to the end of the eighties. It is evident that they must lack completeness and a careful explanation of the circumstances under which each opinion or impression was given or felt, but they give unique glimpses of the inner life and development of a man, who was good, true and free. -MAX NETTLAU.
London, March 2nd, 1852.
... Listened to speeches, by Louis Blanc, Pierre Leroux, Lachambaudie, who is better than his poetry, and others. Louis Blanc is more eloquent than I thought. A small man a voice of marvelous fullness, deeply engraved features. A remarkable face, dwarfish, by no means handsome as I expected. Pierre Leroux, thrice over a good man, seeking in vain for words, making ridiculous gestures; he really has got that mass of hair which Cham [the caricaturist] makes him wear, that hair in which swallows, on their return from Africa, build their nests. I spent my last shilling to listen to them. The day before yesterday I gave my last half penny to a poor woman. Sold old clothes to a dew who took them away, forgetting to pay me, which I had not been able to foresee, I the wise one. Poor as defunct Job I wish for your return....
London, March 8th, 1852.
.. . I follow homoeopathic lectures and begin to see that, as we are the only Swedenborgians in London, we are also the only homoeopaths. The opposition which stoops so low as to elect its cutthroat Cavaignac, would fain make me believe that we are also the only socialists....
New Orleans, June 28th, 1855.
... When 1 remember that we managed to vegetate and should even have been able to live at ease, if we had not had so many friends, in over-populated England where thousands of teachers of both sexes bitterly compete with each other for a hard crust of bread, it seems quite impossible to me that we [Elie and he] should not succeed in getting along in America where the land calls for the tiller and work for the toiler. As for me, if my opinions did not make me consider wealth as a veritable crime, and if I were shameless enough to let those suffer whom I know to be in distress, I could engage myself to become rich within a few years. Fortunately by taste I prefer to live in poverty, and I know that on this subject Elie thinks as I do. It is very fortunate in my opinion that my brother is not what is called in office in France; there no position exists without more or less tyrannical authority, and there is no question, certainly, that the opinions of my brother would place him in bad odour with all these great men decorated with a sash or a title. He would take a place only to lose it again, and what could he do after this in a country where it is hardly possible to turn without stepping on the toes of one's neighbor, so many people are there ! As for me, rather than burn incense to the golden calf in France, I should prefer a hundred times to live in some valley of San Domingo with only an apron to cover me and bananas to eat. As to become a clergyman, only a Jesuit could advise this alternative to my brother....
Believe me, dear mother, the little colony which we shall establish, will be charming, and my brother's family will enjoy happiness there . . .
New Orleans, 1855.
... Change of place produces a really magic change of our interior state: all the dead ideas which I had slowly burned within myself in Berlin  and in London  were still embodied in my mind, each object called them back. D., was a Saint Paul, X., good fellow, was none other than Jesus Christ; but since I saw the gilded waves of the tropics, since I saw the humming birds fly in the palm trees, I made a parcel of all the rags of my old self and threw it in the Mississippi. . . You will feel the same change: walking in the Liverpool fog amidst the tons of palm oil and the barrels of flour, waiting for some John Howell to get under way, you will cease to be a Christian, and cease to crush the infamous [écraser l'infâme; sc. church], because it will have vanished. Perhaps also the American climate is anti-mystic and its influence has weight in this general atheism of every Yankee, from the Bostonian to the Creole.
Here, by the way, the most interesting ethnographical question of the century is before us, that of the fusion of races. In France there is the fusion of classes and of principles, here there is the fusion of the carabineers; in France they dream of the brotherhood of souls; here the fraternity of colours is almost solely prepared by the brutal force of gravitation; but however that may be, there is a perfect parallelism between the two continents. Here the given factors of the problem are so clear and so numerous that no one can make a mistake about it; everybody knows that the slaves are going leeward following the gods, kings, hangmen, learned men, men and women, all that belongs to the past.
First, the slave owners defend their case; hence they are defeated, because the essence of authority is to be exempt from discussion; authority exists, because it exists; the moment it invokes a reason, even that of the stronger, it commits suicide. God struck himself by his own lightning when he conceived the awkward idea of showing himself on the Sinai surrounded by thunder and lightning. I saw a slaveholder refuse his slave the right to have a will of his own and he unveiled thus to him the rights of human individuality; I saw some paper defend the holy ark of slavery as a necessary evil, because the heat in summer is 100° and because negros alone know how to take care of the sugarcane. It is fine to see this bitter war of the press, of day's and night's, of every hour's discussion and conversation against that unassailable phantom of human freedom, no negro, no white man speaks up in favour of the rights of man, not a word, not a line in the whole South affirms that man is the brother of man, and yet every paper, every planter, every woman is embittered against this silence, foams and rages against this nothing, against this stir of unknown origin, fomented by nobody, and which threatens to sweep away the whole past. I need not repeat the sophisms which are used; you need but remember the pamphlets [anti-socialist, Paris 1848] of the rue de Poitiers to have an idea of the ineptness of the papers of Camp Street. .
Riohacha, New Grenada, August 30th, 1856.
... What more to tell you, dear mother? To speak of myself? You know, I am sad. Of the natural history of this country? This would require a book. Of politics? I am socialist here as elsewhere. This very day the presidential election in New Grenada is hell. The three candidates are: Ospina, the Jesuit; Mosquera, the soldier; and Murillo, the man of freedom. I am hopeful. . .
October 3rd, 1856.
... It appears that New Grenada is entering upon its period of reaction. We have been beaten at the last elections. Ospina, the immaculate Jesuit, a little man with bowed head, equivocal glance, and the voice of a cricket, one of those viscous Aarons from whom the holy oil drips on their beards and on their clothes, has been elected for four long years... Murillo, the candidate, like Girardin, the man of free trade, communal organization, and of the abolition of all kinds of brutalizing penalties, he who as state secretary formerly had the good luck to emancipate the last slaves, remains beaten. Thus New Grenada which unknowingly was the freest nation of the globe, is afresh thrown on the incline plane of revolutions. . .
[The then existing large Republic of New Grenada has been since 1852 under a system of the most advanced anti clerical radicals of that period who voted the most sweeping reforms. The reactionists raised loud cries against what they called "anarquia y rojismo" (anarchy and red rule), Reclus witnessed the end of these five years of absolute political, not social radicalism.-M. N.]
To:-HIS SISTER LOUISE, [then a teacher in Ireland.]
The community [the families of Elie and Elisée] choose that my pen should write you some words of affection. Each of us must tell you that we love you, that we wish you good hope, courage and success in your war against traditions, conventionalities and sentimental tricks, to become a daughter of freedom. We, all of us, who want to be good, are like swimmers struggling against the current: we must not only struggle against the water which sweeps us along, but against our own tiredness and failings. You are young, enthusiastic, generous, so advance as much as you can that kindness and love of truth become spontaneous in you, that you be perfect without making an effort. No one is anything but the milliard portion of the whole of humanity; hence our individual action upon this great mass will be quite minimal, and we shall have made the frightful machinery advance by a peg of infinitesimal diminutiveness only. We shall the more feel satisfaction to have done our duty, when we have done it from love of justice and when the joy of victory will but rarely enter for something in this. True generosity never asks for a reward. In this we differ from the Christians who are practicing usury with God and who put each of their acts and the joys of paradise in a balance. If we were satisfied to act, to make the world move, vanity could induce us to be good, but conscience of duty, the sentiment of justice, these alone must make us act. It is true that we have also the great satisfaction to act together and to help each other by our love. All the infinitely small particles of progress which we realise here and there, hasten the general progress, and like drops of water go to swell the great river. Let us found little republics within ourselves and around ourselves. Gradually these isolated groups will approach each other like scattered crystals and form the great Republic. . .
... It is not at all certain that the main struggle will soon be transferred to France, [meaning the republican revolution] and that the epoch of philosophical discussions on federative and republican freedom must come to an end in consequence of this great Italian embroilment [Garibaldi was just fighting the Pope again, but was soon defeated at Mentana]. We are too much inclined to imagine the great day come, and just this makes us commit mistakes which retard this day. . .
The Manin manifestation [tenth anniversary of the death of the chief of the Venetian insurrection of 1848-49] was, alas, a very small thing. The whole republican general staff was there, but no soldiers, hosts of bourgeois and very few workers. As to constables, municipal guards and spies, these were innumerable. In a corner of the cemetery the bayonets of soldiers were glittering. . .
[When Naquet returned from Berne he told Elisée, according to another letter] ...Three persons were proposed as editors: Chassin by Barni; Schmidt, [an Alsatian exile] of the Confédéré [at Fribourg, Switzerland] by I do not know whom, and you, by Bakunin, Naquet and G. Vogt. . .
Paris is evidently very restless, but has not got, alas, the revolutionary physiognomy. The provinces, they say, are much more agitated. . .
Nothing new, except a letter by Michael [Bakunin] proposing a new text [for the programme of the League]: "Federative republican institutions based upon the autonomy of provinces and of communes" [Bakunin's anarchist programme in a nutshell]. I accept. . .
[Elie Reclus did not go to Berne.]
ELISÉE RECLUS ON THE BERNE CONGRESS OF THE PEACE AND LIBERTY LEAGUE. (Sept. 21-25, 1868).
[EXTRACTS FROM A LETTER TO HIS BROTHER ELIE.]
... Since the first meeting of the Committee it became evident that there would be a clash. Chaudey, [a friend of Proudhon, but an anti-socialist bourgeois] poses as Jupiter, gets hold of the lightning and hurls it at Bakunin, whom he declares to be a Lassallean; then led away by his wrath, he speaks of Lassalle in a way which proves that he does not know even who this man was. Never mind, war was declared and Lemonnier, [old Saint-Simonian, then also on the bourgeois side] and Rousselle range behind the rank-leader.
These gentlemen, you understand, were greatly irritated against the workers of Brussels [the Brussels Congress of the Internationale which had refused to coöperate with the League and had invited it to join the Internationale]: they came in hot fury from Paris to act against the Internationale and to affirm themselves energetically, bourgeois against workers, politicians against socialists. They had even, as they told me in a special committee, an imperative mandate in this sense, and they acted on the terms of these instructions.
As to Bakunin and us, among whom was Richard, [an Internationalist of Lyons] whom you know, we said that the action of the Brussels Congress was an impertinence, a knavery, but that our dignity commanded not to resent the insult and to strip it beforehand of all value by showing ourselves more energetic and united as the Brussels delegates in the affirmation of social equity.
On the first day the question of permanent armies was under discussion. Upon this point we all agreed. A report was given by a certain Beust, a German refugee [of 1849] at Zürich, where he became the head of an [educational] institution; I was much pleased with this man, owing to the intensity of his revolutionary passion. A narrow head, glowing eyes, thoughts always concentrated on the same aim, short, hashed words,- all in him proves lively energy directed towards the Republic. The day after his report, the news from Spain, [the Spanish revolution which soon led to the dethronement of Queen Isabella] arrived by telegraph; he left the same day to join the insurrectionists.
Beust's report was unanimously accepted, but not without an incident. He had rather pointedly exposed the theory of political assassination. Judge of the terror of Lemonnier, of André Rousselle. They rush on the platform, they entreat the assembly to spare them such a vote. Rousselle declares that he will rather leave the congress than to submit to that vote. At last, Fribourg, [one of the founders of the Parisian Internationale, but never a revolutionary socialist] the faithful ally of the French advocates, the same whom by inadvertence Rousselle the day before had called a spy, came to the assistance of his accuser at the preceeding sitting; he puts the dots on the i's, declaring that the question is to vote by yes or by no on: Have we the right of the dagger on Bonaparte? Great emotion. Upon strong insistence by Jollissaint, [a Swiss] Beust agrees at last to eliminate the redoutable words from his report. Lemonnier takes fresh breath: a new Spartacus, he will not arm himself with the revenging dagger.
The next day, the social question. The preparatory committee to which I belonged, could not agree. They did not wish to adopt our text in which we proposed as the ideal aim "the equalization of classes and of individuals", meaning by this, equality of the starting point for all, that every one may follow up his career without a hindrance. [This was Bakunin's theory and proposition.]
Chaudey, reporting, made the first speech; I never heard him pronounce a poorer one. Feeling the ground give way under his feet, he used all rhetorical tricks to speak for the purpose of saying nothing. He was against the Mexican expedition, then he made us "walk on the fields of Mentana." Finally, he was completely at sea, searching for words, then, entered upon a judicial discussion on the "recusation of judges". In short, he was deplorable, and, for my part, I felt real pity for him. Whilst he gesticulated wildly, a caricature was circulating, representing him with closed eyes and his hands acting as [the optical] telegraph. From that day, Chaudey was a fallen man, and Lemonnier took up the sceptre fallen from the hands of the poor lawyer.
After this absurd speech, to which Bakunin replied by a few words of rare power, exposing clearly, that to him and his friends, the principle did matter before all and this means, collective property, abolition of hereditary transmission of property, etc., etc., were left as an object for study, the situation for Lemonnier and his friends had become a very awkward one. Chaudey had compromised them by ridicule. Happily a diversion of the Germans came to their assistance. Beust and Ladendorf [a German exile], good people whom I esteem with all my heart, propose an amendment turning the difficulties and which in their eyes had the principal, the immense advantage to be of Teutonic origin. Lemonnier clung to it desperately, and, we ourselves, should have accepted it, if it had consecrated the equalitarian principle. Ladendorf was good enough to give us einige erklärende Motivirungen oder motivirte Erklärunge [some explanatory substantiations or substantiating explanations] on this point. But these did not satisfy us.
In the evening, the vote was taken by nationalities: Russia, Poland, Italy, America voted for Bakunin's proposition. America was solely represented by our friend Osborne Ward, who was in constant fury against the "bourgeoisie'. In the opposite party voting for the German resolution, four nationalities were also represented by single individuals: Spain, Emilio Castelar [the great orator and moderate republican], Mexico, a tourist straggler, England, a teetotaller, who wanted to constitute all the Jews in Europe to form a great society of insurance against war, a simpleton if ever there was any, finally Sweden. The Swedish representative, who asked also to vote in the name of Norway, Denmark and Finland, is a poor fool who never ceased to amuse the assembly by fantastical motions and who never stopped from letting champaign run like water, for friends and enemies, during all his stay in Berne. If the nationalities represented by single individuals had been omitted, the Congress would have taken no decision, and the adversaries would have been left as they stood.
It was evident, however, that we could never live on good terms with the Lemonnier party. All common action is impossible between people thus divided; we are only a danger in their eyes and they are but weakness for us. Bakunin wanted an immediate separation when the vote had been taken, but Rey [Aristide Rey, a young socialist-republican], and I, more pacifically disposed, succeeded to make him stay to the end of the Congress and we continued to take part in the discussion. Only upon each question, we exposed our programme: having no hope to win, we wanted at least to be clear.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Fourth day: question of federalism. Everybody agreed on principle, only for my part, I wanted to clarify the principle. Logically I believe, that after the destruction of the old fatherland of the nationalists [chauvins], the feudal province, the department and the district, engines of despotism, the present canton and the commune, inventions by centralizing extremists, only the individual was left, and that it was for him to associate himself as he chose. This is the ideal justice. Hence in the place of communes and provinces, I proposed: productive associations and groups formed by these associations. [This address was Elisée Reclus' first public profession of Anarchism.] I skip over the speech: for the rest it appears to me that it was a good one; only towards the end, I was not sufficiently explicit. After me, Jaclard, [a socialist with Blanquist leanings, but at that time in friendly relations with Bakunin's group, with his calm and laconic voice, pronounced a formidable speech of accusation against the bourgeoisie, terminating by violent and injudicious words which were for the rest received very badly. Chaudey, replying to me by half assertions, tried to make me responsible for Jaclard's words. Vote: 37 in favour, 77 against. . .At the end [of the Congress], we hand in our motivated resignation. ["Considering that the majority of the members of the Congress. . . have passionately and explicitely pronounced themselves against the economical and social equalization of classes and of individuals, and that no program and no political action which are not directed towards the realization of this principle, can be accepted by socialist-democrats, that is by the conscientious and logical friends of peace and of freedom, the undersigned believe it to be their duty to resign from the League"; drawn up by Bakunin and signed also by Reclus]; then the American Ward rushes on the platform to resign also. Eytel adjures us to remain. Bakunin and myself reply, and Chaudey declares that we are in the right a hundred times. Between Bakunin and Chaudey, one must choose. For the rest there is great courtesy exercised on both sides. In the event we assist at the banquet. Bakunin tells a little story, Jean Zagorsky, [a Polish delegate and a friend of Bakunin], hands round a most funny caricature on the equalization of classes; [rather that of individuals, for he showed the tallest and the smallest man of the Congress, Bakunin and the Swiss lawyer Beck rather helpless each holding the other man's trousers.] At the end of the banquet, Lemonnier came to shake hands with me and I thought I ought not to refuse. Rousselle, precisely showed the worst possible taste by toasting to perseverance and reproaching us with abandonning the cause. Mark well that the first threat of a split just came from the lips of this same Rousselle at the first sitting.
To sum up, from what Wyrouboff, Bakunin and Rey told me, the Berne Congress was infinitely more serious than the Geneva Congress [of Sept. 1867]. It was not a tumult, but a ranged battle in which we had the advantage, not of numbers, but of having a plan and not exposing ourselves to chance. By refusing to vote the principle of equality, the majority played into the hands of the Internationale which is now triumphing all along shouting: "See how right we were to protest beforehand!" The Congress is henceforth doomed to serve only as the dummy of a political party. As far as I can form an opinion Haussmann [a Württenberg democrat] of the Beobachter [of Stuttgart], a very adroit man, will use the Peace Congress as point of support for the Federation of Southern Germany. He is quite content that we are gone and warmly congratulated us for it. In this way, we will not disturb him by harping on these inopportune social questions. However, Beust and Ladendorf, our friends, remained and are still watching the Congress [the League is meant here] with jealous eyes. . . [but they were as authoritarian socialists entirely separated from Bakunin and Reclus and the Republic, not socialism was their first aim.]
FROM THE BERNE CONGRESS TO THE COMMUNE OF PARIS (1868-1871).
Paris, October 11th, 1868.
To:-ELIE RECLUS.This morning, in company of Rey, I made the acquaintance of an excellent workingman, manager of the Revendication de Puteaux [a suburban coöperative association], a young man full of enthusiasm, devotion, sincerity, and purity, an always open mind, speaking gently and to the point, though unfortunately stammering. In a few days, he will enter prison for three months, having been sentenced for the affair of the Internationale. [This was Bévoît Malon, later a socialist author, whose character is not always described so favorably--e.g. by Bakunin and others--than here by Reclus, on first sight.]
... I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Malon, he was satisfied to make mine and to hear from me that you were not "that anti-socialist and anti-revolutionary patriarch" whom the people of the Internationale had depicted to him.
He believed that you were my father and was also angry at you to have called me Elisée by a biblical recollection. [This passage explains in several ways why the brothers Reclus did until then take no interest in the Internationale. The renewed contact with Bakunin at Berne who, like all his political friends since then began to put his full energy in internationalist work, also made Reclus change his attitude.]
Albert [the Russian colonel Wladimir Ozerov, one of Bakunin's most trusted comrades, then working as bootmaker under the name of Albert] is constantly pestered by the police. Perhaps he will be expelled one of these days. He was asked, among other charges, whether it was true that he knew us. . .
[Elie proposed to travel to Spain where the political revolution was already settling down. Elisée's advice is rather sceptical, he continues:] If I am doubtful as to the importance of your work in Spain, I have no doubts as to the work incumbent on us here in Paris. You know better than anybody that the social war is in permanence and that a great crisis is preparing. It is for us, for you before all, who foresee the battle, to work beforehand to prepare the victory. Perhaps the present period is the most serious one of all, during which we shall have our work to do. How many warnings were given to the old social body from the assemblies of Vienna, Nürnberg, Brussels until those of Berne and Berlin! [socialist mass meetings and congresses.] These are dumb crackings, foreboding a revolution of quite other importance than that of Spain [a purely political one.]
Nothing new, except that Gambuzzi [an intimate Italian comrade of Bakunin] is in Paris since two days. If you go to Spain, he will be one of those who give you a mandate...
To:-ELIE RECLUS.I sent your letter to Michael [Bakunin who wished Elie to be very active in Spain in the interest of the secret society to which both, and Elisée, Gambuzzi and Fanelli also, belonged; but only Fanelli was really working in Spain in the interest of the revolutionary society], but before receiving his reply, I am told that several intend to go to Spain. Aristide [Rey] perhaps, and perhaps also our friend Fanelli. Michael desired very much that I should go there, but I categorically refused.
Aristide would like to take with him a republican revolutionary address [to the Spanish Republicans] signed at the same time by the group of the Internationale, by the red republican group (Delescluze and others) and by the Freethinkers' Group [among whom were many Blanquists]. I shall see tomorrow men of the Internationale, today some freethinkers and Germain, [Germain Casse, brother-in-law to Elisee, a political republican] is going to try Delescluze. It goes without saying that if this address is signed, I shall send you a duplicate. In any case Aristide would not go on this journey, unless he had in hand this "energetic" address "with serious signatures". . .
Does it not appear to you that the [Spanish] revolution is rapidly transforming into military dictatorship ? I am much afraid it is. May the local juntas hasten to create many accomplished facts ! For tomorrow it would be too late. . .
[Other letters often refer to Elie's Spanish journey where he was supporting the Federalist Republicans] . . . Your news is enchanting. I cannot give you similar news from here [Paris], but here as there, we have good hopes for the future. What an enormous step forward would it be, if Spain proclaimed the Federal Republic in spite of the Prims and Olozagas. . .
I am of the opinion of Rey: the Republican party can only win by revolutionary audacity. If it makes transactions and compromises, it is lost. In any case, it is probable that the republicans will be beaten; may they at least have had the merit to have been frank in the struggle! . . .
London, Summer of 1869.
. . . I assisted at a meeting of the Internationale. The English are more communistic than I had believed. Not one of these workers, who did not claim the nationalization of the land, even that of the collieries, the mines. "The right to existence, the right to the land", this is their formula. For the rest, the ~nationalization of telegraphs, now demanded by Gladstone, is interpreted by them in the communistic sense. After the telegraphs, it will be the turn of the railroads, then, after that of transportation, the turn of production comes. First, what is underground, then, what is aboveground. In Basel [annual congress of the Internationale, September, 1869] they propose to stand for pure communism, not only as a social necessity, but also because it is the "ideal". I was greatly astonished to hear this language. By the way, they consider communism an English invention. The point is for them, that this "national policy" shall become "international policy"...
[There are no letters for 1870, except some written during the siege of Paris when Reclus-his second wife and the children being in the province-did service as a national guard in the rank and file. We see him explain the situation in some letters to a brother-in-law, (Pierre Faure), in the province; thus he writes:]
... We must well remember that the Republic [of Sept. 4] was acclaimed by all as the supreme means of salvation. We have not been asked to replace Napoleon on account of our principles, but from an instinct of conservation. If we had conquered the position by a high-handed struggle, if we had vanquished the monarchical parties, we should be right in making immediately our ideas pass into practice: reform of taxation, suppression of the army, equalitarian instruction,-we could decree everything; but the present Republic is in reality only a suspension of arms between the parties. Orleanists, legitimists, bourgeois who are simply patriots, told us: Truce for the present, lead us, be victorious for us, and afterwards we shall see! Let us accept the truce, and if we execute well our mandate, if we save France as we are asked to do, then the Republic is assured, and we shall have the joy to see an epoch of progress in justice and well-being open for our children.
Thus, Faure, my friend, I who am more revolutionary than you; I, who am a frightful communist, an infamous atheist, I am not afraid to see the bourgeois element handling matters: I should even have accepted Thiers, for, I repeat, it is not we who have made the Republic. However, do not imagine that I do not intend to continue unceasingly and always my propaganda for the social revolution. . .
The name of Louis Blanc, as ambassador in London, seems to us as to you by far the best...
Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Feb. 1871.
To:-NADAR, The Photographer.
... Since everything is lost, let us begin life afresh, let us act as if awakening from a hundred thousand years of sleep, we should perceive that all remains to be conquered: fatherland, freedom, dignity, honour. After our immense rest, we should go resolutely to work. Well, let us work, let us forget fatigue, and before all, disgust, which is worse than fatigue..
What are you going to do?. . . As for me, unless exile or misery, force me to leave France, I shall stay: here lies my battlefield. . .
Sainte-Foy, no date, 1871.
To:-ELIE RECLUS.... I am going this evening to Bergerac there to defend the cause of the Republic. I am called there by Clamagéran, who by his republican profession lost all his lessons for bourgeois pupils. He has only workingmen about him. . . P. writes to me to proceed hic et nunc to Orthez, to make electoral propaganda in view of the coming elections. They had received my letter two days after the ballot only.
I replied that I had thought to pose my candidature on reflecting on the fearful responsibility which the representative would have to incur. But I do not know what the coming Chamber will have to do, and consequently I cannot think of keeping up my candidature permanently. I take back my complete freedom. . .
THE COMMUNE OF PARIS, PRISON & EXILE (1871-72)
[Elisée Reclus, as the previous extracts seem to show, had no part in the steady preparation of an insurrectionary effort which the particular situation created by the Montmarte events of March 18th rapidly brought to a climax, but he endorsed fully the events since the beginning, and, as P. Kropotkin used to tell, never felt so happy than during the interval between March 18th and the election of the Commune, when there was no regular government, and all simply felt to be free at last. -M. N. ]
Paris, March 27th, 1871.
... I am not speaking to you, dear friend, of the revolution which is in progress. It seems to me, that the 18th of March is the greatest date in the history of France since August 10 [1792; the fall of Royalty]. It is at the same time the triumph of the Workers' Republic and the inauguration of the Communal Federation. There had been immense intellectual and moral progress since a change of this scope could be realised almost peacefully. Let us hope, my friend. . .
[Elie, Elisée and the youngest brother Paul, took part in the ill prepared sortie of April 4th, Elisée alone as a combatant; but these were made prisoners in masses without any real struggle on the plateau of Châtillon, south of Paris, Elisée one of them. These first Versailles prisoners were ignominiously treated from the beginning some shot on the road, the others led in triumph through the streets of Versailles and insulted by the bourgeois mob. Many years later, in reply to a question, Elisée noted these recollections on the murder of Clément Duval, to socialist workingman, who led the expedition by order ef general Vinoy:]
... We marched on the road to Versailles in rows of five, guarded on both sides by two lines of infantry and of hussars. In front, we saw a group of glittering horsemen standing: these were Vinoy and his staff.
The column stops. We hear violent words, an order of death. Three of us, surrounded by a troop of soldiers pass slowly an arched bridge between the road and the meadow, surrouned by hedges bordered in the east by a little house bearing the ensign:
Our three friends stand in line twenty feet from the house, they point to their breast and raise their heads:
"Long live the Commune!" The henchmen are in front of them. I see them an instant hidden by smoke, and two of our comrades fall on their face. The third one reels as if he was also going to fall on the same side, then raising himself, he oscillates again and falls back, his face against the sky. This was Duval. One of the fusileers rushes upon him, tears away the boots of the man who was still writhing, and two hours later, in the triumphant dust along the Versailles streets the soldier paraded his booty. . .
[Elie Reclus in his Journal de la Commune wrote:]
"I am blushing with shame, I am trembling with wrath upon learning how these horrible Versaillese treated their prisoners.
"They made them defile by the streets of the rural capital, parade before the fine people of the promenades, these unfortunates, with torn clothes, exhausted by insomnia, harassed by a long march in sunshine, by several days fatigue and by pain. Meeting them by insults, they were rushed at to be stared at, to be ignobly scoffed at, at close distance. There were among them such, who were wounded and bleeding--they received still more curses than the others. These men had their hands tied, and the dandies who the day before would not have dared to face them, now spat at their mouths and their eyes, and the fine ladies with their umbrellas struck into these faces bathed in cold sweat. An old man, an old man with white hair--people are infamous at all ages--struck blows with his cane on their naked cranes and they shouted bravo! bravo! to him Two young men approached this old man and remonstrated with him in undertones. Then a dozen former constables or disengaged spies threw themselves on the young men who were hooted by the crowd and rushed them to prison. . .
"Among these was the man whom I love, esteem and respect most of all in the world. . ."
[The son of Richard Heath told me that Elisée on his terrible march, felt his heart beating as if it would jump out of his breast, and that it cost him a supreme concentration of will to reduce it to an almost normal state. It is not impossible that the cardiac disease which made him suffer so much and die some thirty years later, had its origin in this ordeal which suddenly befell this man, who had been all his life one of the freest of the free.--M. N. ]
July 31st, 1871.
To: --F. RECLUS, (his wife).
... Yesterday, I received a letter by Maunoir, the secretary of the Société de Géographie. This friend told me, that he is provoking a collective step by the Society to obtain my liberation. Only, he says, it might be possible that a formal engagement, a promise, some sermon or at least a phrase of allegiance in a private letter shall be demanded of me. You understand what I had to reply. Since the future is unknown to me, it is absoluteley impossible for me to know which line of conduct my conscience will prescribe to me; consequently, I cannot sign my engagement, the terms of which would be put by others. What a strange thing! Whilst society in its present state of disintegration and demoralization would have need of all upright and conscientious men, some friends suppose, that to re-enter free life, I must begin by degrading myself. It is thought ordinarily that women are counsels of cowardice; so I had for a moment the idea to write to Maunois: "Go and consult my wife. She will decide. But I know beforehand what she will tell you. She prefers never to see her husband again, to seeing him return furtively with bowed head, the heart full of twinges of conscience. She wants to see her husband again, such as she has known him and as she loves him."
You see by what precedes that I must simply continue my life of a prisoner without breaking my head on the chances of liberation. . .
January 8th, 1872.
... Will it be my destiny to be transported there [to New Caledonia], far from wife, children, books and friends? I think not. Several geographical societies and, I say this with thanks, the most illustrious English scientists demanded the annulment or commutation of my penalty. I should be astonished if they do not succeed. But, whatever my fate will be, believe that I shall do my duty. . .
[The English petition, sent December 30th, 1871, by H. Woodward of the Geological and Zoological Society, contained 61 signatures; another contained 33 signatures by authors and scientists. In a letter to Eugene Oswald, London, dated Zürich, March 21st, 1872, Reclus writes :]
... Really, you were occupied about me with marvellous perseverance; you disputed me to these unfortunate reactionists of Versailles with a constancy which called for my admiration and that of my friends. At last, you did triumph, but not without difficulty. My very firm conviction is, that you, and our other friends in England, are my real liberators. No doubt, I had in France a number of confreres of the literary and scientific world who could have intervened in my favour; several of them, more or less isolated, did even energetically struggle for me, and I owe them great thanks; but to you, I owe, if not my freedom, at least several months advance in the possession of my own self. . .
["At last, it became known,_wrote his sister Louise, that by decision of February 15, 1872 his penalty was commuted to ten years of banishment, and that... Elisée had been transferred from Versailles to Paris, and thence to Switzerland, in a cellular car and handcuffed."]
March 15th, 1872.
To:--HIS PARENTS, at Orthez.
... Since yesterday, I am free on free soil. . . I have passed through a really hard year, and am a little terrified when I remember all I had to undergo: hunger, cold, lack of respirable air, blows, insults, coarseness of all kinds, the spectacle of unheard of evils, moral pain and physical suffering Now, all is passed for me, like an evil dream, but this frightful nightmare lasts still for numbers of my friends: there are many, better men than myself who, less fortunate, will probably die of their pain. . .
[After meeting Elie and his family at Zürich, he and his wife soon set out for Lugano in the Tessin, a southern Swiss town, and near to the large Italian city of Milan. Early in April 1872, he settled in a little villa, in the surroundings of Lugano. On July 9, he signed the contract undertaking the enormous work of his "Universal Geography" which, after much scattered work since the great volumes "La Terre" (The Earth) of 1867, occupied him from now for over twenty years.--M.N. N.]
LUGANO, CLARENS, AND TRAVELS.
Lugano, February 14th, 1873.
To:--MME. DUMESNIL, (his sister).
. .. Spain recovers with one stroke her force of expansion of the time before Charles V. She returns, but victoriously this time, to the revolt of the Communeros. The misfortunes of conquest, of the Inquisition, of the colonial régime, all is effaced. More so, it is the abolition of slavery in Cuba, the definite liberation of the Antilles, it is also the reconciliation of all the old colonies which have become republics, with the mother country. Tradition will be knitted again in the good way, not by common servitude, but by common freedom. The Spanish-American Republics, which stupidly looked for their model to the United States, will no longer go astray and be out of their depth to such a degree as they were since they cut the ties connecting them with Europe. Then, when Portugal joins the merry round, its monarchy losing support, being so to speak suspended in space, imperialist and slave-owning Brazil will in her turn be isolated.
In Europe the same phenomena. Spain leans on our South, the red country of France, and the other side gives a hand to Algeria which is not less scarlet red. This is already the beginning of the Mediterranean Confederation.
But, if all these things seem to me realised already from the view-point of history, I know like you that the road will be long, often arduous. . .
Vevey, April 25th, 1878.
... If I could give back to you courage by saying that we shall triumph some day, that the conscience of justice will develop within all men, that we shall become equals and brothers, I should do this with pleasure, but I confess, my friend, that I am far from believing in progress as an axiom. For my part, I struggle for what I know to be the good cause, because I am thus conforming myself to my sense of justice. This is a question of conscience, not one of hope. Whether we succeed or not, matters little, we shall at least have been the interpreters of the inner voice. . .
[A partial amnesty in France excluded a number of transported and exiled Communards. To a protest made by the Geneva Assembly of refugees, March 28, 1879, Reclus added some remarks:]
. .. I should be a vile man, if my first words were not words of solidarity, respect and love for my comrades of exile and for those who stricken harder than myself, are still peopling the prisons or the New Caledonian bagnio. Among these men"covered with eternal stigma"are my most noble friends, those whom I revere most, those whose esteem is dearest to me. Their cause is always mine, their honour is mine, and every insult directed against them, hurts me in my deepest heart.
London, January 16 th, 1882.
To:--M. DE GÉRANDO
... Still more than you, I should merit the reproach of our friend Kropotkin, for being a revolutionist by principle, by tradition, by solidarity, I occupy myself only in a very indirect way with the affairs of the revolution. With the exception of some articles, visits, a little verbal propaganda and from time to time testimonials of solidarity between friends, I am doing nothing. My life is arranged, not to be directly utilised for the work of social renovation, but to be employed at collateral work of minimal importance. What I am working at is hardly science, and yet I dare not say that I am completely wrong to scribble each year my volume of more or less properly written banalités. To have a precise task before us, and to do our best at it, this contributes already to make the cause which we represent, respected. From this viewpoint, my work is not altogether lost. . .
July 8th, 1882.
. .. The anarchist, in the rigorous sense of the word, who is he, if not the man who recognizes no master and forbids himself to be somebody's master. He puts all his ambition, all his duty in living among equals, without giving or receiving an order. Is he not the absolute opposite of the man who prostrates himself before another man, who speaks in the name of God ? . . .
Clarens, December 24th, 1882.
To:--MONSIEUR RIGOT, INQUIRING JUDGE, AT LYONS.
I read in Lyon Republicain of December 23rd that "according to the judicial inquiry", the two leaders and organizers of the "International Anarchists" are Elisée Reclus and Prince Kropotkin, and that, if I do not share the prison of my friend, the reason is that "French justice cannot lay hands on me beyond the frontier."
You are, however, aware that it would have been very easy to arrest me, because I have just passed two months in France. You do not know either that I went to Thonon for the funeral of Ananieff [Mme. Kropotkin's brother], the day after the arrest of Kropotkin, and that I spoke a few words at the tomb. The agents who were there immediately behind me and who repeated my name among themselves, had only to invite me to follow them.
But, it matters little whether I reside in France or Switzerland. If you desire to open an investigation against me, I shall hasten to respond to your personal invitation. Tell me the place, the date and the hour. At the precise moment, I shall knock at the door of the appointed prison.
Accept, Sir, my civilities.
Clarens, February 18th, 1883.
... From the revolutionary point of view, I shall take care not to preach violence, and I am sorry to see friends impelled by passion drifting to the idea of vengeance, which is so little scientific, so sterile. But armed defence of a right is not violence. If it is true, as I believe, that the product of work in common must be property held in common, it is not an appeal to violence when somebody revindicates what belongs to him. If it is true, as I believe, that nobody has the right to appropriate the freedom of another man, he who revolts remains strictly within his right. That the rebel may be correct in his language and in his conduct, that he shall not indulge in intemperate words, that he makes himself respected,--nothing can be better, but let him make himself free!...
Clarens, January 24th, 1884.
To:--P. KROPOTKIN, (in the Clairvaux Prison.)
... But the resolve of our friend Martin is causing me consternation. [Pierre Martin, chose solitary confinement by which his term, four years, would have been shortened.] I am terrified and do not dare to tell him; for life in solitary confinement, seems to me a great torture. I tasted only four days of it, but those days were centuries, notwithstanding that I passed them in the company of the great Spinoza. Assure our friend of my tender friendship. .
Clarens, February 6th, 1884.
... You ask me whether even hopes are permitted that so great a revolution [as a social development in the direction of anarchism] could happen. As for me, I have confidence that it will happen, because we are progressing, and all progress must in the end proceed in the indicated direction. The incline and gravitation carry us in that direction. But, even if there was no hope, if even we were but two or only one, the personal duty of one who sees things as I see them, is none the less that to live as much as possible in conformity with his ideal:"without master and without slave", wishing to be surrounded by equals only. . .
. . . and if we wish that all our words, all our acts, be sincerity itself, we must carefully watch to detach them from all convention: no more churches and meetings at fixed hours, as sacred books or priests who are depositories of our salvation. . .
Clarens, June 6th, 1884.
... You tell me that my "poem" [the article Anarchy by an Anarchist] cannot be realized, that it is a utopia. I begin by replying that, if this was so, there would still be good reason to prefer this beautiful dream, to the nightmare of present society, for this society, as you recognize, has no avowable standing, organization, realities. The Gordian knot is not untied as you know, it is brutally cut by the sword. The difficulties of functioning are solved by murder, prison, death by misery or even famine, war, bankruptcy, false weight, adulterated food, stock jobing.
But, the fact that present society is impossible, and can be qualified as constant and perpetual failure in its whole and in its national or family components, this fact, I admit, does not prove that our dream of equity is capable of realization. This is true. So I reply simply: either we can realize this dream for the whole society; in that case let us work with energy. Or we can realize it only for a small number; in this case let us also work. Why not make flourish a little oasis of peace, mutual respect, and equality amidst the immense desert ?
But I hope, surely, dear friend, that before my death, I shall have time to convince historically, that our anarchist ideas are not a simple dream. I work at these studies, and others do the same with greater success than myself. If we succeed to publish the Letters on Anarchy of our friend Kropotkin to M. de Laveleye, I think that you will read them with pleasure and that they will help to modify your ideas. [Such a publication appears not to have been put in print.]
[In the next letter to Richard Heath, Reclus discusses Herbert Spencer's "The Man versus The State", then first published in the Contemporary Review, Feb. to July 1884. In this very long letter he observes:]
In the vital competition between the species disputing with each other their place on earth, I see two well distinguished types of struggle, personal violence and collective defence...
... To all personal violence we wish to oppose the coherent will of all who might be oppressed. My ideal is that tree in Cafrerie, where thousands of birds are nestling, the "republicans", happy and conscious of their force, looking without fright at the eagle who soars in the sky above the city. We have no need of a master: no will exterior from ours makes us remain in the same community, this is done by the conscience of our solidarity with all. We are of use to our brothers and our brothers are useful to us.
We wish to extend this solidarity to all men, knowing positively, thanks to geography and statistics, that the resources of the Earth are amply sufficient to feed all. . . In the name of science we can say to the erudite Malthus that he was wrong. . .
But, so you asked me: "Do you exclude the animals?" This is certainly a weighty question. . . For my part, I embrace also the animals in my affection of socialist solidarity. But I also say to myself: Every thing is accomplished by degrees and the first duties begin around us! Let us realize justice in the largest circle we can, first in the civilized circle, then in the human circle. Each realization of a partial ideal will make us more sensible, more delicate for the future realization of a larger ideal... My firm confidence has it that our harmonious society must embrace not only men, but all beings conscious of their lives. Where is the limit ? I don't know this, I only know that, it is beyond the animals killed to shoe us and to supply butcher's meat. I do not understand the murder of an animal or of a man; I make an exception only when it is a question of personal or social defence. I absolve the traveler who defends his comrades by killing a tiger. I absolve also the combatant who, in human society accomplishes a corresponding act. . .
... What I want is, the solidarity of the feeble, becoming strong enough by their union to be able to despise the force of the strong, and to leave no other alternative to them but to enter also in the great confederation of equals. . .
You also ask me: how to create this sweet oasis of peace and harmony between men who feel themselves as equals and who work in concert to bring about justice? By loving each other, by supporting each other, by propaganda and by encouragement. We are widely separated, but a letter, a word, the conscience of thinking and feeling harmoniously do us good and fortify us through space. The thought that I have friends in Italy, in Hungary, in England, in France,in Africa, makes me happy: without them, I should be a thing; with them, I am a man. . .
Clarens, July 28th, 1884.
. . . Do you know the recent works of Count Tolstoy? This is the man after your heart, I think, all your sentiments, all your words will be in unision. As to myself, I feel a deep sympathy for him, but I believe he is wrong like you in separating the "Son of man"- from other men to deify him, and to give to history what has been left about him, a value superior to that of other collections of words by men. . .
Clarens, January 20th, 1885.
... We, the rebels, who cause you fear, we are the combatants of the ideal. What are we seeking? Why, in our incessant struggle, do we accept beforehand prison, exile, death and the malediction of poets, if not that all may some day be free, equal in the great fatherland, enjoying life in its fullness, transported by beautiful songs and sublime poetry? Must I remind you of these German verses by one of your brothers [Friedrich Schiller], which for forty years make my joy and my strength:
"Vor dem Sklaven, der die Kette bricht
Vor dem freien Manne erzittere nicht!"
or this distich by Hugo, which I recommend to all who know to love:
"E sa mere disait en lui parlant tout teas:
Fils, quand tu seras grand, meurs pour la bonne cause!" . . .
Clarens, March 24th, 1885.
... At least, believe in good friendship. I also know by frequent experience how hard it is not to feel intellectual rapport as one feels heart to heart with men. I had a father who was all devotion, uprightness, kindness and justice, and yet, I never spoke his language, he never spoke mine. We had only looks to tell us that we loved one another. It seems even to me that my love had grown by the pain which I felt in thinking otherwise than my father.
Well, my dear friend, we are in an analogous situation, but that should not hinder us to love each other and to feel that after all we work for the same cause. . .
Clarens, November 8th, 1885.
To:--Miss de GÉRANDO
... Assisting at this continuous massacre called civilization, which places the peoples under the heels of the kings, the poor in the treadmills of the factories of the rich, the little children in the jaws of the ogres, I cry: "Revolt! Revolt!", because I have the sentiment of solidarity with all who suffer. I raise this cry by love and it is not, believe me, a cry of hatred. . .
... That wars are fatal, inevitable under present circumstances, I see this only too well. I take note in the same way of the fatality of lightning and the toothache, of cholera and earthquakes, but I am not congratulating myself on their existence. And if I see with pleasure the healing crisis, I tremble at the crisis of the disease, for it can kill the patient...
No date .
... It is probable that we disagree also on the moral value of the act of Clément Duval. But probably we do not agree on the act itsel_ Not knowing the man, I limit myself to take the fact as the prisoner exposes it. Knowing that in a house of ill fame, a fortune that could be put to good use by nourishing -unhappy poor people, was lying idle, he took this money... Later, when attacked by a police agent, he defended himself.
Such are the facts as I know them.
And I ask myself: "Was he right or wrong?" I declare he was right. Knowing, and before all practically, that property is collective, he took his share, not for himself individually, but for others, and he defended his rights of man when he was attacked.
In what differed his conduct from that of the righters of wrongs and the justiciers whom the people so justly admires, because they take from the rich to restore to the disinherited ? And is not the church itself showing us saints who "stole" from the rich to return to the humble brothers in Jesus Christ ?
Private property, that's theft! If a restorer touches it animated by the spirit of justice and solidarity, I have nothing to say against it. I myself, act otherwise by nature, by habit, by personal tendency, but by what right should I say: "Imitate me in my mode of action?" It is not for me to speak as a model.
... I am absolutely of your opinion on the subject of the project of an Anarchist Commune, elucidated by our comrade of Algiers. Your criticism appears to me decisive and final. I reserve only two points, those of language and of animals. Language grows, develops, is transformed like all other organisms; but outside of the living language, there exists or may exist a scientific language, a new creation altogether, like the nomenclature in chemistry:--we will talk of this.
As to the animals, they are brothers; it is necessary to educate, develop, and help them like comrades and to become in solidarity their companions. . .
Clarens, July 14th, 1887.
To:--MME. DUMESNIL, (his sister).
. .. I have read la Fille Elisa [by Edmond de Goncourt]. How sad this is! and to think that thousands of our sisters who might be happy, are condemned to this atrocious life, and will thus die in prison, in the hospital or elsewhere! I do not know whether you remember that Elie lost his regular correspondence with America [an American review about 1877], because he had written an article on the novel of the Goncourt. For shame! For we are virtuous in America! For we respect morals and we do not know the French vices. "O, heavens, I thank you not to be corruputed like these a people across the channel, or the ocean!" And we are all little like this. We boast of our virtue and we despise all this low seething people of the unhappy. . .
To: RICHARD HEATH.
... You put questions to me on the subject of immortality to which I can only reply by a confession of my profound ignorance. But, what I know is this that, by affection and solidarity, we can concentrate into this present life all the desires of immortal life which haunt us. We live and we perpetuate ourselves in others; not only shall we revive in them, but this resurection, this new birth is the work of every moment. All that which we have liked, we make live in others and perpetuate from age to age. What more can we want? . . .
... I believe that the human being must aim at complete, absolute freedom.
I believe that all oppression calls for revindication, and that each individual or collective oppressor exposes himself to violence.
When an isolated man, pushed by his anger, revenges himself upon society which badly educated, badly nourished, and badly counselled him, what have I to say? This is the result of horrible forces, the consequence of fatal passions, the explosion of rudimentary justice. To take sides against the unfortunate, to justify thus indirectly the whole system of atrociousness and oppression, which weighs upon him and millions of his kind, never.
My work, my aim, my mission is to consecrate all my life to make oppression cease, and to make arrive the period of respect for the human being, to live and to die at this task.
Rouen, October 29th. 1887.
... I am on my return from London where I saw friends. [Kropotkin then lived near London.] Things are marching. It seems impossible that something will not materialise from this. Picture that I had the chance to see an anarchist play acted, terminating with the song of the Carmagnole. One ought to have seen the enthusiasm of the audience. . .
[This was The Tables Turned, or Napkins Awakened, a socialist interlude by William Morris, then acted by the members of the Socialist League in their Hall in Farringdon Road, London.]
Viarmes, November 4th, 1887.
... I cannot reply on the subject of Auberon Herbert. [The English "Voluntaryist", editor of the "Free Life", etc., an antisocialist, individualist.] I heard it said, indeed, that in a certain sense, he is an anarchist, but what I do not understand is that he speaks against socialism. The respect of the human being must be complete, but complete also must be the sentiment of solidarity of each one with all. I cannot imagine anarchism without communism.
You ask me, whether in this Commune the comrades would retain some private property. It would be easy to play with words on this subject, but in a general way, I answer: No. Capital and the land are common property, machinery and libraries belong to all. This will not hinder the artist having his favorite crayon, nor the poet reading from his Shakespeare over again. All of which is: the simple expansion of the individual continues to belong to the individual...
Viarmes, November 20th, 1887.
... When I return from Paris in my third class compartment and see my neighbor, a husky worker, draw from his pocket the Jockey, a half-penny paper, and read it with attention, I make bitter reflections. But courage! There are people who know to die, as those at Chicago [the martyrs who were hanged November 11, 1887: SPIES, PARSONS, FISCHER, ENGEL and the suicide prisoner LING] and elsewhere, for the salvation of these indifferents! . . .
Clarens, June 2nd, 1888.
TO:--PROFESSOR GEORGES RENARD, Lausanne.
... Thus, historically, anarchy is not "la reaction naturelle contre l'excés de l'autorité". The slave who rebels against the whip does not learn the practice of freedom by an act of vengeance; . . . the tree suddenly released after having been bent down, rests none the less ungracious and crooked. The countries where anarchists are most numerous are those where the minds have been for a long time liberated from religious and monarchical prejudices, where revolutionary precedents shattered the faith in established order, where the practice of the municipal liberties has mostly accustomed people to go without masters, where disinterested studies develop thinkers outside of all cliques. Where these different conditions meet, Anarchists spring into existence. Anarchy has the greatest number of adepts, first in France, then in Catalonia, Northern Italy, in London, among the Germans in the United States, in the Spanish-American Republics and in Australia. Race, means nothing in this, education is everything. . .
. . . [All naturalists] are obliged also to declare that the cell, comparable to man in society, associates and disassociates itself continuously, an endless journey in the immense stream of life, being alternatively nourishment, blood, muscle and thought. There are no cerebral cells, as there are no kings by divine right, and no ventral cells as there is no people a la Menenius Aggripa, born to work and to keep its mouth shut. Whatever you do, you will always act as a free traveling cell, you will consult only yourself in feeling and in thinking. Not accepting the ideas of another before having made them yours; having no master, you are there and then an anarchist. Let others be this also. At the bottom, Anarchy is nothing but perfect toleration, absolute recognition of the freedom of others. And if humanity can get rid of all its educators, priests, academicians, polytechnicians and kings, if it does not perish like an abortive flower, its full bloom will be Anarchy among Brothers. . .
MONGST our Hyperboreans, as among the great number of primitive people, such as the Tartars, and, for the most part, the negroes, the construction of the dwellings is, as a matter of course, the business of the women, who take the entire charge of it from the foundation to the top, the husbands only assisting by bringing the materials to the scene of action. The fact has been often quoted as proving the notorious idleness of these uncivilized males, who throw the heaviest labours upon their weaker companions. I prefer to see in this an argument in favour of the hypothesis that woman was the first architect. It is to woman, I think, that mankind owes all that has made us men. Burdened with the children and the baggage, she erected a permanent cover to shelter the little family; the nest for her brood was perhaps a ditch carpeted with moss; by the side of it she set up a pole, with large leaves laid across; and when she thought of fastening three or four of these poles together by their tops, the hut was invented, the hut, the first "interior". She laid there the firebrand, with which she never parts, and the hut became illuminated, the hut was warmed, the hut sheltered a hearth. Has not Prometheus been called the "Father of Men" to make us understand that humanity began with the use of fire? Now, whatever may have been the origin of fire, it is certain that woman has always been the guardian and preserver of this source of life. A day comes when by the side of the doe which the man has slain the woman sees a fawn. It looks at her with pleading eyes. She has compassion on it, and carries it away in her arms. How many times has not a savage woman been seen to do so! The little creature becomes attached to her, and follows her everywhere. Thus it was that woman reared and tamed animals, and became the mother of pastoral peoples. And that is not all. Whilst the husband devoted himself to the greater game, the woman, engaged with her little ones, collected eggs, insects, seeds, and roots. Of these seeds she made a store in her hut; a few that she let fall germinated close by, ripened, and bore fruit. On seeing this, she sowed others, end became the mother of agricultural peoples. In fact, among all uncivilized men cultivation may be traced to the housewife. Notwithstanding the doctrine which holds sway at present, I maintain that woman was the creator of the primordial elements of civilization. No doubt woman at the outset was but a human female, but this female nourished, reared, and protected those more feeble than herself, whilst her mate, a terrible savage, knew only how to pursue and kill. Necessity forced him to slay, and the deed was not distasteful. He was, by instinct, a ferocious beast, she, by function, a mother. . .
¶IN the time of the ancient Greeks, Delos, the island of Apollo, was looked upon as the "holy land", where merchants congregated from all quarters, carried on business in the shadow of sanctuaries, and held slave markets at the side of the temples. The sale of human flesh became in the end the main feature of the commerce of Delos, and in the time of the Roman emperors as many as ten thousand slaves were bartered away there in a single day. But the markets, the temples, and monuments of Delos have vanished, and its stony soil now supports only a few sheep. .
|From--"The Universal Geography"||ELISEE RECLUS|
FROM THE THIRD AND CONCLUSIVE VOLUME OF ELISÉE RECLUS' LETTERS; (1925).
[The following extracts are directly translated from the galley-proofs of the 3rd volume which the editor has received in advance, before this material appeared in book form. As this particular work is rather extensive, we feel that the necessary space available herein is literally impossible. - EDITOR.)
Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, July 1st 1871.
To:- PIERRE FAURE.
My good friend and brother, ... I still have no information to give you concerning my lot. The days follow and resemble each other, but I need not complain, for they are replete with the work of study and instruction, as well as with the enjoyment of a fraternity with some friends. I hope that the prison of Quélern will prove the beginning of enduring friendship for me... I hope, all will go well. Courage, my friends! Even in misfortune let us keep a sort of joy, without which no action is possible.
Tell Grimard that it would be difficult for me to practice botany in our yard. The flora here is hardly more abundant than upon the Place Vendôme. However, one must admire, some roots of furze which will not perish. Branches and stalks are levelled to the earth, but below the harsh clay the plant continues its work of chemical elaboration...
|To:-PIERRE FAURE.||Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, July 19th, 1871.|
My dear brother, -- Thank you for your kind letter. It has found me in prison, and your next response, I do not doubt, will still find me there... Whatever it be, I accept destiny as it comes to me; I seek to extract, even from prison-life, the portion of happiness that can be found there. If I complain, I would not do justice to your good letters which come to rejoice and to fortify me.
I thank you very much for having given me your opinion on present affairs. That opinion has interested me very keenly, and in nearly all points is closely conformable to my own. It is particularly important that all of you, men who create opinion in your fields, should never yield to any infatuation whatsoever for a man -- whatever his talents may be besides. When one considers that it is so difficult to remain good, and that it is necessary to set so close a guard upon oneself, it is strange that at certain moments millions and millions of men precipitate themselves as toward a saviour to a man surrounded, moreover, by more temptations than all the others. But, in effect, that is history: -- we advance from fall to fall, like the peasant who tumbles from his ass, now to the right, now to the left, and who finishes, however, by arriving at the market.
The news you give me on the subject of the Progress of Communes, has made me very happy. It is well; do not permit your weapons to grow rusty...
|To:- LILLY ZIBELIN-WILMERDING.||Tarzout, Feb. 16, 1891.|
... It is with rapture that I wander over the pine-forests, that I hear the purling of the stream over the stones and the roaring of the sea upon the rocks; however, I already think of leaving all that and the beautiful days of blue sky and the clear, starry nights, and all this vast and powerful work of clearing, planting and cultivation. I am very satisfied here and it seems to me that everybody should be pleased here likewise. I do not speak of the good friends that I find in this place: I do not love those of the north less than those of the south... .
|To:-HENRI ROORDA VAN EYSINGA, LAUSANNE.||Paris, 16-III-91.|
My dear Friend,- Yes, you had written me a kind, and affectionate letter which had keenly touched me, and which I had constantly carried about with me because the words of a friend do one good. I should certainly not have failed to answer it, but life is short and thought precedes realization by a long time.
I am altogether of your opinion relative to the unconsciousness of reaction. Psychologically, it is certain that the majority of men make themselves ethics according to the type of their interests. The priest is usually a remarkable example of, this: -- he scatters charity and counsel, he pours out the oil of sweetness; in the name of a God of love whose representative he is on earth, he makes himself loved; but his God is also the God "strong and jealous", and, in his turn, he can, in the name of his master, nourish all passions of violence, hatred and rage. Likewise, we have "upright judges" and even Javerts, police-agents whom we are held bound to respect. All this is true, and on many an occasion, men who proclaim our ideas but whose character and conduct do not reach the exaltation of their words, force us to glance back with respect upon loyal and noble adversaries.
However, Kropotkin in La Morale anarchiste, and all of us in our propaganda, have the right to go to the roots of things and to say to the priest, the judge, the honest police: "Your integrity is only trickery! You believe yourselves good and honest, but you are not so; your personal interest, your ambition, your character command your ethics. You deceive yourselves unconsciously, and we tear off the veils. You are the "whited sepulchres" of which the Gospel speaks: "False good man", you are nothing but wicked, honest rich man, you are nothing but a thief! Undoubtedly, all folks whom we thus apostrophize will feel indignant and at first will no longer discuss with men like ourselves, brutal and keeping bad company; but our living words will none the less continue to live in them, and all at once they will tell each other with surprise that we are right! They will discover the crime in disguise; they will cease believing in their morality, they will no longer have faith. There is definite progress: the vicar of God very nearly ceases to believe in God any longer; the defender of jurisdiction has found him self already implicated in so many intrigues and villainies that he no longer believes in jurisdiction; the militarist who has been never made to fire except upon his fellow-citizens, is beginning to realize what one must think of the fatherland. It is up to us to hasten by our logic of things, brutally proclaimed, the wrechedness of sanctimonious faith, innocent in appearance, completely perverted to the core. It is up to us to force the pseudo-honest folk to choose between true probity and pure and simple scoundrelism, calculating villainy.
From all view-points I share your manner of looking at the subject of modesty. The part of "nature" to be found in this sentiment is so small that one is quite put to it to discern its true origin. In my opinion, the beginnings of clothing have been multiple. In the same manner that the cock is ornamented with a red crest and beautiful feathers, has the male among mankind sought in all ways to decorate his organs with plumes, fine stuffs and embroideries. The woman, on her side, desired to please and to double the prize of the victory by obstacles and refusals; then have come the proprietors who placed a barrier between their captured women and the public. In many respects, dress has the same origin as the safety-girdles and the horrible practices of infibulation. Then, by, virtue of the psychological law of which we have spoken above and which accommodates morality to the interests and the passions, is born modesty, the ethics of coquetry and of the capture of sexual possession.
Well, it is necessary to tell the truth concerning modesty as concerning every other sentiment of perverted morality, at the risk of scandalizing modest and virtuous persons in whom false ideas have inextricably confounded themselves with dignity of character and conduct. Dress must fall: necessity obliges us to show that which we have in us most vital and beautiful, the eyes and the smile; dignity ought to prompt us to show our entire bodies without silly prudery.
First morality. It is certain that the pretended morality of nuns, which consists of repressing the body, in no longer having any organs, has, for result to lead the thoughts incessantly towards these things "which one must hide": -- it is an obsession, a madness, ferocious lechery, the perversion of all senses; it is lying, hypocrisy. Normal acts become vicious; the source of life is corrupted by it and from generation to generation the world is perverted because of this.
And Hygiene! All this clothing, nests for germs, which separate us from the pure air and from the light, which renders us infirm and bodily unbalanced, which causes our flesh to turn pallid and covers it with ulcers, which makes lover disgusting to lover and which sometimes sterilizes the woman or condemns her to bring forth abortions!
And lastly, Art! how can beauty be comprehended when natural curves are replaced by rows of buttons, skirts and bodices, when fashion can displace the forms carry them from the stomach to the shoulders, make everything lie and be false? How can the thought be exalted to a statue of bronze which shows a man in a black suit? If the cult for the nude had not been maintained by artists, in spite of priests, in spite of modesty, I firmly believe that humanity would have so declined into the conventional and into the artificial that it would have ended by perishing. By continuing the Middle Ages it would have gone back to death! Certainly, in the great revolution of logic, of common and of nature, the destruction of clothes has a part. Wrap yourself against the cold as much as you desire, but, if you have the least comprehension of art and of beauty, do not dress yourself, do not hide your body and let the draperies harmonize with it...
|To:- NADAR, The Photographer.||Valladolid, March 4, 1892.|
My friend, I arrived without obstacle and in very good health in the city of the auto-da-fé. Undoubtedly they still play pranks there, but they no longer burn men. It is an improvement, no matter what the powerful and good fanatic of whom you were the friend and of whom you have made yourself the Hagiographer [Louis Veuillot] thinks of it., I persist in believing that the world progresses, E pur si muove! . . .
|To: - JACQUES GROSS.||Ars en Ré, 10-V-92.|
My dear friend, . . . I have a plan in mind: to reach the peasants by song. They love song, they understand it, they are penetrated with it... they mock at didactic brochures. I should like to make a collection of such songs with music and drawings, but it is necessary that they should be all good and executed in good form. If you could help me in seeking them out, you would give me great pleasure...
|To:- LILLY ZIBELIN-WILMERDING.||Sèvres, 0ct. 15, 1892.|
My dear friend and comrade, -- As to the work of Mackay, ["The Anarchists" by John Henry Mackay] I have read it and find it quite bad. He poses his persons and their doctrines with a good faith that I entirely believe, but, towards the end he leaps over grave difficulties.
And what is his conclusion? That it is necessary to succeed even though not traversing a way considered right by the Anarchist, but taking the ordinary road of gain and fraud. Carrard succeeds, grows wealthy because he terrorizes and deceives his editors. Truly, there is no need to be an Anarchist to come to that. Again, it is necessary. in this case to be among the privileged. If the editors did not need him, he would remain the very last among the wretched. The entire book with its discussion and its philosophy rests then upon a simple chance. That is not a book of principle. ... Our life is a great deal more collective than individual and particular conditions of the individual transform him into a phonograph, conscious or unconscious, of the collective life. That which one of us knows, the others know, more or less, and the mediums, that is to say, people very impressionable on the collective life know it entirely. In a gathering, if one single individual knows Chinese or Hebrew, the medium will have the opportunities of knowing that language also. If you have analyzed your own life, that of your friends, the medium will in a large measure profit by that analysis: he will know you and will think your thoughts, feel your affections. We live in each other. But there the power of the medium ceases; he no longer sees beyond that: he expects that science should be made for knowledge also, he does not prophecy it. It is evident that in this order of things. many facts are of a nature to astonish us, but the motive-power of all is personal research. From all these forces of the individual which creates, will be born the collective power of society...
|To:-HENRI ROORDA VAN EYSINGA.||Ixelles, March 7th, 1894.|
... Yes, "the revolt of life against all that opposes itself to its development". But revolt on its own account, while being just, legitimate, conforms to the law of nature and to the ideal of things, does not impassion collectivity, "clear yourself my man" they say to every rebel who struggles only for himself. The true ones, those whom we love, those who inspire us are the champions of suffering humanity.. .
HEY had denounced and given themselves up, and told the facts with absolute frankness, with scrupulous exactitude, considering themselves bound in honour to be silent upon nothing which might be prejudicial to them. What a contrast to the Bengalese, those incomparable knaves, those artists in dissimulation! It was one of the rare errors of Stuart Mill [Essays] to assert that uncivilized men take pleasure in lying and seem incapable of speaking the truth. Most assuredly we do not mean to deny that true civilization develops side by side with sincerity and justice; but the great philosopher would have expressed himself otherwise if a sojourn in the Indies had brought him in contact with Gonds and Khonds, with Malers, Birhors, Sonthals, and others, who hold truth sacred, and contract no engagement that they do not fulfil. There is no graver offence than to suspect their word, it is an insult which they wipe out with blood, and if they cannot slay the offender, they kill themselves...
Before the encroachments of civilization, before they had undergone the English conquest, these savages were distinguished by a manly pride, by a joyous independence, rendering account to no one of their sayings and doings, paying dues to neither chief, nor government, nor landlord; each enjoyed full possession of himself, his house, and his field. Their independence was complete within and without. None had conquered them; for twenty centuries their tribe-folk had never bowed the head before a stranger, -- a noble pride, which might be read in their attitude and in their physiognomy. They avoided every obsequious word, every courtesy which might seem humiliating; for greeting they confined themselves to lifting the hand. The younger said, "I go about my business." "Go," returned the elder.
Their mutual affection is still the pleasantest trait in their character. The civilized peoples of the plain make a pastime of lawsuits; they hale one another before the tribunals on the most frivolous pretexts. In their judicial duels, they vie with one another in treachery and lies. But amongst the Kolhs and Khonds manners are different. Quarrels are rare between man and man, still rarer between man and woman. The husband who should take upon himself to blame his better half before the world, to threaten, to say nothing of insulting her, would raise censure, would excite the general indignation. It would take less than this to make the wife destroy herself, too often a discreet reproach has been enough to provoke poisoning; more than one has hanged herself for an ironical word, a compliment taken the wrong way. . .
|To:-HENRI ROORDA VAN EYSINGA.||Brussels, Jan. 30, 1893.|
My friend,- (Letter started two days ago). Yes, propose to our friend Brouez your Miettes d'anarchie. I think it will yet be sufficient to nourish us. And then, it is not bad that you should have relations with our little audience at Brussels. As to that audience, you know that we are always the poorest of the poor, and all the professors still blithely live gratuitously by their devotion to the cause. Consequently, it will be necessary, when you will come here, to arrange to find paying lessons in some academic establishment. It will be good for you to take some time in advance.
You have well interpreted my sentiment: It is up to you to create men where they have not yet been; it is up to you to make them spring up; there. is. everywhere the elements of renewal, I read a, Japanese proverb: "You find no man sincere? Be so yourself and all those about you will become sincere". That is saying a great deal, but in this maxim there is a core of truth...
Another thing: friends are starting another publication: La Pensée libre à travers les âges, which should be a library of works and extracts of works to recommend to every sincere man. ["La Bibliothèque des Temps nouveaux", of Brussels. Its first tract was the brochure entitled: "Aux Anarchistes qui s'ignorent" by Charles Albert, 1896.] I know Bernard Lazare: he has been unable to come to Brussels, for he lives by his articles, and the Institut des Hautes Etudes could only have offered him work and fatigue. He is a man of very great goodness and very generous, but, in his criticisms appears to me to be too laudatory or too vituperative...
|To.-Mme. DUMESNIL.||London, [no date, Feb. 11, 1895.]|
Yesterday I went to see Alfred Russel Wallace, who lives in Dorset, and I am very happy to have seen this man, radiant with moral power and probity. There is one who holds his works cheap: he thinks but of one thing: "The Land to the Peasant." I had forgotten to pay for my seat and when I arrived at London I vainly sought my ticket that I forgot to get . . Here also I have seen friends. How many fine men there are on earth! May our lives pass in, associating these forces! ...
To:-MLLE. CLARA KOETTLITZ,
(Now MME. JACQUES MESNIL).
|Brussels, April 12, 1895.|
... Young folks -- and fortunately you are of them, having before them a whole future of happiness and of good __ willingly imagine that things can change rapidly by brusque revolutions. No, transformations are brought about slowly, and consequently, it is essential to work towards them with so much more conscience, patience, devotion. In the haste of an immediate revolution, one is exposed, through reaction, to despair, when one ascertains the ascendency of absurd prejudices and the action of evil passion. But the conscious Anarchist does not despair: he sees the development of the laws of history and the gradual changes of society, and if he cannot act upon the whole of the world except in an infinitesimal manner, at least he can act upon himself, working to rid himself personally of all preconceived or imposed ideas, and grouping about himself little by little friends living and acting in the same way. It is gradually, through little affectionate and intelligent societies that the great fraternal society will be constituted.
You have paused in the comprehension of the anarchistic ideal upon a ticklish question: that of the "family". I understand your hesitation so much the more that the book which has fallen into your hands is truly of a nature to give you offence. Gross language is always inspired by gross ideas. Now, in treating of these questions, it is necessary always to do so with a perfect respect for feminine delicacy, with a sentiment which I will call religious, so necessary is it to be careful of human modesty. That is perhaps one reason why so little has been written upon this subject, for it demands an absolute purity of language and thought. The question, reduced to its essential elements is this: the normal spontaneous family must rest only upon affection, upon fine affinities: everything which, in the family, proceeds from the power of prejudices, the intervention of the laws or interests of fortune, must disappear as essentially corrupt. Here, as in everything else, liberty and the natural bent are the elements of life.
You have the extreme amiability to ask for my photograph. As soon as I will have a copy of my "old beard" I will be very proud to know that you do me the great honour to accept it....
|To:- MME. DUMESNIL.||
In the, country, at COBDEN-SANDERSON'S.
Sunday, Rain and Mist [July, 1895].
My little Sister,- Ta, ta, ta! You tell me too much good of your dear brother. If ever he dies in a lunatic asylum, affected with megalomania, it will be the fault of his sister Louise who made him believe so. For example, it is very difficult for him to believe today that he works on his lectures on Anarchism, seeking English works, asking himself how he ought to pronounce them, writing sentences à la française, absolutely strange to the English language. Ah! when I heard M. Sanderson speak, so correctly, so purely, with so much elegance, how beautiful I found his language and how I wanted to equal it!
It is a beautiful sight to behold the three inhabitants of the house at London where I have received hospitality: Paul, the German Kampffmeyer and the Georgian Tcherkesoff, all three emulating each other in gayety, kindness, gentleness, usefulness, earnestness in the comprehension of the things of life. Perfection resides in that little house...
The mystery of my hat is disclosed to me. How many times have I said to myself: "It is surprising; I believed my hat to he dirty, shabby, not at all ornamental, but by what miracle has it been suddenly cleaned, so that I am able to put it proudly on my displumed head?" Everything is explaned (by a casual exchange)...
Edinburgh, August 16, 1895.
My dear wife
In a few minutes I am going to deliver my second lecture. The first has passed off very well, before a sympathetic public composed of people who seemed to me to really know French. My fourth lecture must be delivered in English and before an audience composed, for the greater part, of workingmen anarchists. That will he the difficult experience of the campaign.
The organization of the University Society founded by M. Geddes, is of the greatest interest. I do not describe it to you, it would be too long, but I take all the necessary information in order that Elie should write a detailed article on the subject. At all events, the part of Edinburgh that we inhabit is already found singularly transformed from the material point of view.
An abbot of France, From the Université Libre of Paris, is my ordinary company. He would very much like to become an anarchist, but he does not dare...
|To:- PETER KROPOTKIN.|||
My friend and brother, -- Upon your recommendation, Page, of the "Atlantic Monthly", has asked me for an article upon the Far East. Two months having elapsed since your recommendation and his letter, I was no longer in a state to furnish him this article. I wrote him in this sense, and, if I remember well, I hastened to inform you of it and even to send you his letter, in case it would be convenient for you to take up the question again, for yourself and to treat of it in the "Atlantic". . .
I have read the resumé of the situation of the Mechanics, inserted in Les Temps Nouveaux. Evidently there will be a double evolution in the working masses: some will seek the subterfuge of politics, others will know to go back to the profound cause of the defeat ...
|To:-HENRY VAN DE VELDE.||Brussels, April 23,1898.|
My dear friend, -- I have just read your noble review on William Morris and I have to tell you how it has interested me. If you have a great number of copies, do not fail to give them to all Workingmen's Societies of the French language, and to all important Public Libraries.
One of your appreciations seems to me to be a bit excessive. Is it not too much to give a "unique" rôle to Morris? Among the Florentines and other republics of the grand epochs of artistic and revolutionary fervour, among the Huguenots who died upon the stake, less as Huguenots than as free-thinkers and rebels, among the workingmen of the middle ages, have we not had Morrises, whose poetry remains unknown to us, perhaps, but is none the less real?
Apropos, I must tell you how happy I am at your protest against the absurd repetition which attributesl'art agival to faith. There is an absolute contradiction between the man who abandons himself and the artist who finds himself and joyously exalts himself. The Reformation, that is to say, the strict return to faith, was the destruction of art. The cathedrals are beautiful because the architects, workers and painters had fled from abominable dogma to the joy of beauty...
|TO -PETER KROPOTKIN.||Brussels, August 28, 1899.|
My friend, -- The adoption of the title Memoirs of a Revolutionist seems decided. You know that this title does not correspond to the idea of the author, but to that of the publishers. It is your story that these gentlemen want, whilst you have desired to make the history àpropos of your person. And if they seek a title, a bit sensational, which will not give them an air of recoiling, why not Memoirs of an Anarchist?...
|To:-JEAN GRAVE||Brussels, December 25, 1899.|
My dear friend,- I am sending you the extract from Freiheit, herewith enclosed.
Recently you have included an article that spoke to us of the struggle against clericalism, against Christianity, as of secondary importance in the great economic battle. Is not there an. error of judgement? Historically, the terror of the Unknown, the origin of Religion, seems to me to have preceded the régime of private property. If man has so much trouble in rebelling against injustice, it is because he feels himself always dominated by the mystery...
|TO:-VAN DER VOO||June 4, 1901.|
My dear friend,
I have never either pronounced or written the words that Félix Dubois attributes to me in his Pé;ril anarchiste. I have moreover had the occasion to contradict them formally in a letter addressed to the Temps. Besides, I am shocked to see phrases attributed to me written in such bad style.
You will do me a favor by denying them...
|To,- MME. CLARA MESNIL||Vascoeuil, Sept. 6, 1904.|
... You ask me if I am acquainted with the memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini; I know it only through the extracts which Taine and other authors who speak of the Italian Renaissance, cite from it.As to the little psychological appreciations of which I was the object, I am sure that it would have been very useful to me. However, I hold to showing myself before you such as I am, or at least, such as I believe myself to be. You are sufficiently my friend and I esteem you sufficiently to authorize you to question me upon my entire life, my intimate personality, the thousand incidents of my career, my wrongs, when I was in the wrong, the defects of my character, the struggles with myself. It is probable, it is certain, that the picture of my personality, traced by autopsy, will differ notably from that which your sagacious interlocutor has painted for you. You will judge it in entire friendship, but also, I beg of you, with an entire wish for correctness in your scientific study. The judgement of those who, for one reason or another, allow themselves to be carried away by a passion of malevolence matters little; moreover I am not at all preoccupied by that consideration: It will he enough that I do not take too seriously the manifestations of amity.
Greet your Jacques and receive the expression of my frank and friendly cordiality. Be always my very dear comrade and do not fear to be severe, if there is room for severity.
|To:-MME. CLARA MESNIL||Brussels, November 24, 1904.|
MY very good and charming comrade and friend,-
I thank Jacques very much for having sent me the 2 copies of his Mariage Libre, translated by Federn, and excellently done, as far as I can judge...
Whatever happens, I am pent in at Brussels, as I told you, and hold well to it, for my brave editors of Paris would not fail to let everything go to the dogs if I were not there close upon their heels, to ask questions of them, require answers, fix dates. It is necessary that I should have my hand upon the helm to steer my vessel. I well know that a young hero is to be found at my side, ready to replace me if necessary, but for him also I have to set an example as long as it will be possible to do so. In the meanwhile I must call myself fortunate in having in Paul [Elie's elder son] a companion so affectionate, so honest, so upright and so marvelously in harmony with my own nature! And my dear Louise, how fate makes us vibrate together..
Here I meet with several young men, but the points of contact are rare and sometimes painful. I feel more than tormented upon the reading of their journal: it is hesitant, flabby, weak and yet pedantic; besides there is always a dirty article, as if love were not a thing divine, radiant, as pure as a godess rising from the waves. That saddens me, but perhaps these young people will purify themselves in their ordeals of existence. I salute you in all affectionate cordiality.
|To-PETER KROPOTKIN.||Monday, February 6, 1905.|
My excellent friend and brother,
I have received your letter, your good letter, announcing the commencement of your convalescence, at the moment when I took the train to come to Paris where comrades culled me to speak on Russia and on the Revolution. Alas! I should speak to them in words of fire and I have only my asthmatic breath to give them. However, I will put all my soul into it.
It, is indeed a case of repeating: 'The Revolution is on the march!
|To:- CLARA MESNIL.||March 25, 1905.|
My delightful friend and comrade,
I am very late in thanking you for your field-flowers, gathered in the country by the mother and child, by these two joyous beings who, in nature, must be so beautiful, mingling their cries and their laughter, rhythmically harmonizing their attitudes, so much more glorious to see when happiness transfigures them beyond the ordinary sensations of life. I see all that through imagination and affection and I rejoice at it.
If I have not written you it is because I have had a strong attack of grip, assailing me particularly at various sensitive points, but leaving me absolutely at ease as far as my heart was concerned. That continued for twelve days; now I am at that period of convalescence which still allows a great deal of fatigue... The two powerful attractions that attach me strongly to existence, you know, are first of all, affection, tenderness, the joy of living,, the happiness of having friends and feeling that one loves them, that one asks of them nothing but to permit themselves to be loved, and that every proof of affection is a gratuitous rapture. Then comes the study of history, the joy of seeing the concatenation of things. Undoubtedly in this study there is a great deal of imagination. The deceptive Maïa guides us there also towards many false tracks, but it yet is a great joy to discover her errors. As to my book, it gives me no pleasure: in order to interest me it is necessary that I feel myself living with the printer, the compositors, the proof-readers, that every day should bring its little conflict, its little discussion, but the work does itself industriously, so to say; I count for nothing there. As the Florentines of the beautiful epoch, I should myself carve the characters which would serve for the impression of my book...
|To:-LUIGI GALLEANI.||May 15, 1905.|
My very dear comrade and brother,
Thanks for your kind souvenir, written with your hand, signed with your name.
I have not to tell as many episodes as you. My life is hardly fluctuating: it passes particularly in struggling against the maladies and infirmities of age, but there are details there at which I ought not stop, since I have comrades to love, works to continue, or even to undertake, and the great course of contemporary and future history to contemplate. The news which you give me, that which other comrades bring me, make me love life... notwithstanding.
And Russia. What a grand beginning of the end! I have asked my excellent sister Louise to occupy herself with your requests. It is she who ought to procure for you a photograph of our dear Elie, who has left so profound an impression in the life of those who have known him; it is she also who will copy for your journal extracts from a manuscript of my brother on the Commune. As for myself, I have indeed some portion of the "personal impressions" relative to this great epoch, but I have not been fortunate enough to lay hand on them again, and at present I have not the necessary time to sit down to a new editing.
Our dear Magali is studying at Montpellier where she occupies herself especially with botany, in company with excellent friends. She gives us absolute satisfaction. The other children are well, through one of my granddaughters I am already a great-grandfather. I have not, then, lived on earth uselessly.
Your very devoted friend,
[With an apology to our beloved friend and comrade, PAUL RECLUS, (elder son of Elie), we take the liberty of inserting the following fragment from a long and detailed letter addressed to Mme. Amy Putnam-Jacoby, living at that time in Washington, D. C. as physician. She studied in Switzerland and France in company with Dr. Paul Reclus (younger brother of Elie and Elisée), afterwards recognized in France as a great surgeon and an ardent supporter in the pro-Dreifus defense. Thanks are also due to her sister, Ruth Putnam, who was kind enough to put the Reclus family letters at our disposal.[EDITOR.]
|To:--AMY PUTNAM-JACOBY.||April 10, 1900|
Dear friend, -- Since you have broken the long silence, it is good that we should come to the point and that errors should be dissipated. I have your letter before my eyes and I take up the points that you find obscure. . .
Our migration to Brussels did not take place on account of the Boulanger affair in which we had nothing to do, nor did our son Paul. For a long time there had been no mixing in politics in our family nor about us. But Elisée being a militant anarchist by virtue of his writings and by the publication of the journal Le Révolté published in Geneva and later at Paris, our son Paul, disciple of Elisée, has paid for his uncle whom they pestered as much as they could; but whom they did not dare to proceed against. It happened that Vaillant, author of the attempt in the Chamber of Deputies, sent his will to our son Paul, and made this choice because he had no personal relations with him and thought that he could not compromise him. Vaillant said this very plainly to the judges. Immediately there was an outcry in all the governamental press. "This is an accomplice, this is an adviser and a Vaillant at bottom." There was an investigation in his house, where nothing compromising was discovered. Then, two days later, they sent to arrest him, but he had disappeared, taking refuge with a generous friend. Then, all the anti-anarchistic journals, and they were all that, began to howl. The reporters, with artless treachery, came to ask us the address of our son, and for any information that could aid the police. The father, disgusted, wrote to the papers to protest against this ignominy in consequence of which he was searched and arrested, because they thought they found in his house proofs of affiliation in a conspiracy. But he only remained a few hours in prison, because his brother Paul, who is considered a personage, intervened and because the proofs of affiliation which they thought they had found, proved to be nothing more than papers in regard to the secret organization of the Vaudois. But from that moment, it became impossible for us to remain in Paris. We were classed among the "Malefactors". The father had written to the papers in regard to his son: "As far as I know, I approve of him. In regard to what I do not know, I trust him." What are called les lois scélérates were turned against us, and those of our kind in all severity. Our correspondence was suppressed and under survellance. Our persons spied upon, abroad and at home, by our concierge who suddenly turned into "Monsieur" with decorations, rings and insignia. After a few months of this underhand and daily war, we betook ourselves to foreign parts in our turn. Elisée had been in Brussels for several months when we arrived there in August, 1894, a little before the trial of the "thirty" all of whom were acquitted except three who refused to appear, among whom was our son. He took refuge in England where he has had the sympathy of all who knew him. He is someone, that eldest son of ours. We used to call him St. Just, and that he is still. He preaches by example. I can say of him what you said of our son-in-law. He has all the virtues. It is certain that strife and misfortune, far from abating, have increased and grown stronger. And what fine intelligent children, his are! As to material position, that is very modest. He has some scientific work and a chair in an institution in the outskirts of Edinburgh. His wife also teaches.
This letter was to rectify certain errors. I stop there. You make known to us your daughter and her husband. Their happiness is in themselves and will rebound to you. It would be a great joy to us to see you. My next letter will perhaps be less sad. I wish that spring would come, for we are still in winter. The lilacs cannot flower, and I am tormented by rheumatism.
Our best memory and sincere affection.
E. N. Reclus. [Elie Reclus]
Villard sur Otton--Canton de Vaud.
July 13, 1880.
TO:--MME. VlCTORINE ROUCHY-[BROCHER].
... It is very true that a number of our friends, carried away by the desire to "arrive", abandon the principles they have formerly defended. What do you expect? It is human nature. After the period of youth and of struggle, the majority of men permit themselves to relapse into mediocrity. They see others pursuing fortune: they also persue it. They see them seeking power with friends, revindicating the "part of royalty". I do not excuse them even if I do not accuse them; I limit myself to studying and to ascertaining.
What they say about a candidature accepted by me against Louis Blanc, or against no matter whom, in no matter which district is not true. It can only have been told you as a joke...
Clarens, Vaud, Swiss, June 11, 1882.
TO:--MME. VICTORINE ROUCHY-[BROCHERI.
... It would be impossible for me to write in your journal, since I do not get to write often in the journal which is nearest my heart--Le Révolté. Before being busy with distant dutties, it is necessary to do the nearer ones.
As for the weekly rate of which you speak, I ask nothing better than to pay it; will you tell me how much I shall owe you for my share sent by the month? I begin by sending the French stamps which I provide and which can serve for correspondence.
Your devoted comrade,
|TO:--JEAN GRAVE.||Brussels, September 12, 1894.|
My dearest comrade and friend,
I was very happy to hear news of you, no more dated from a cell of Mazas, but from Clairvaux. There you will be, I do not say better, but at least less ill. All our friends, and you know they are numerous, greet you through my medium.
My health is, in general, fair enough, but the least fatigue exposes me to relapses of fever. Recently, in Normandy, I have passed some rather painful days.
My brother [Elie], called to Brussels by the Nouvelle Université, has settled here and finds it very well. We think that Mme. Dumesnil will come to pass the winter with us.
I am taking the liberty of sending you a trifle....; it is good to have some change in the pocket for stamps or other little expenses. .
|To:--ALFRED GIETZEN.||Brussels, May 1, 1903.|
My dear friend,
I should have answered your so interesting and amiable letter a long time ago, but everyday other work delayed my reply. Since then I have learned that Mme. Gietzen would soon bring you a more exact response than could a sheet of paper, even quite full of details. She will give you circumstantial account of all our deeds and achievements, little events, comprising the dramas and comedies. . . She will also tell you that I am always attached, I, the living, to the corpse of my defunct Société, and that no evil people could still desire to weary me and prey upon me.
I do not need to tell you how much we will regret Mme. Gietzen. She never stinted her time or her trouble. .. I beg you not to fail to send our thanks to your wife when she will be with you. Coming from you, the expression of our gratitude will have more value.
The European socialists continue to evolve in the governmental waters. They have come to support squarely the monarchy against the republicans. The years of parliamentarism have fulfilled their duty much sooner than one could believe. For my part, I am very much surprised. The world moves more swiftly than I thought.
Yours very affectionately,
|To:--AMY PUTNAM-JACOBY.||May 2, 1889--Saturday evening.|
My dear lady and friend, -- I thank you for the letters you have given me and which will not fail to open the doors of library and museums to me.
Still more do I thank you for the affectionate words that your letter contains. I am equally grateful for the words of criticism and I will not fail to profit by them. I see that language drags us beyond the actual thought and that should not be; I cannot promise to correct it, but at least I acknowledge that whimsicalities ought not to overstep the truth -- they should serve simply to add something piquant.
But as regards myself, you need not fear that I should be unjust to your people. . . Why do you want me to think or say, systematically, ill of my brothers, for I feel myself the brother in all lands, of all men, black and white? But beside the sympathy that I feel for all fellow men who love and suffer as I do, I study institutions in exactly the same spirit of observation, irrespective whether it is about America or France. In any case, my insufficiency forbids me to speak of things of which I am ignorant, but these scruples do not prohibit me from writing to an acquaintance even about unknown things, or to say, perhaps some truths on the subject.
To pass to France, as you refer to her. I am carried away by the solidarity given by knowledge and language when I deem that your judgement is not just. The pessimism of Daudet, the exquisite conception of Renan, the ribaldry of the Gaulois are, certainly phenomena plainly to be seen. I do not speak of Zola, who after all is not filthy, and you know, moreover, that I am very respectful to woman, but these are nothing more than phenomena, and I could mention other proofs, which, in my eyes, prove grand moral progress. And in literature itself why do you not cite the Justice and the Bonheur of Sully Prudhomme, why do you not admit that the immmense success of Tolstoy and Dostoievsky springs from what France has lent to their trumpet, why have you neglected the two works so admirably written and so nobly thought out by Guyau, I'Esquisse d'une Morale sans obligation ni sanction et l'lrreligion de l'avenir? I do not lay claim to any superiority for France, but I do say that there between the ocean and the Mediterranean, there are brothers of whom some are neither better nor worse than the readers of the World, but others who work and love, live with dignity and love of the Ideal. I do not speak of the decadence of France. If France declines, give her great examples and she will imitate them.
It grows late and I have other letters to write. I repeat my thanks and my friendly greetings. I have not a second copy of Metchnikoff to send you. The one I asked for has not arrived.