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Modern History Sourcebook:
Léon Gambetta (1838-82):
The Belleville Manifesto, 1869

Gambetta was a republican leader who opposed Napoleon III's "Second Empire". He took part in the provisional government after the overthrow of the Empire following the defeat by Prussia in 1870.  After 1871 he was a major figure in the evolution of the Third Republic, and served as premier in 1881-82. 

The Electors:

In the name of universal suffrage, the basis of every political and social organization, we instruct our deputy to reaffirm the principles of radical democracy and to demand with vigor:

(1) The most radical application of universal suffrage; (2) Repartitioning of constituencies according to the actual number of electors entitled to vote; (3) Individual liberty to be in future protected by the law and not left at the mercy of arbitrary administrators; (4) Trial by jury for every kind of political offense; (5) Complete freedom of the press unrestricted by stamp-duty and caution-money;  (6) Freedom of meeting without let or hindrance, with liberty to discuss all religious, philosophical, political, and social affairs; (7) Separation of church and state; (8) Free, compulsory, secular primary education; (9) Election of all public fonctionnaires; (10) Abolition of privileges and monopolies; (11) That economic reforms be connected with the social problem. Indeed, this principle alone, put into general application, can cause social antagonism to disappear and give complete reality to our slogan: Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité!

Gambetta's Reply:

Citizen electors---I accept this mandate. On these conditions I shall be especially proud to represent you because this election will have been conducted in conformity with the true principles of universal suffrage. The electors will have freely chosen their candidate. The electors will have determined the political program of their delegate. This method seems to me at once right and in line with the traditions of the early days of the French Revolution. I therefore in my turn adhere freely to the declaration of principles and the rightful claims which you commission me to press at the tribune.

With you, I think that there is no other sovereign but the people, and that universal suffrage, the instrument of this sovereignty, has no value and basis and carries no obligation, unless it be radically free. The most urgent reform must therefore be to free universal suffrage from every tutelage, every shackle, every pressure, every corruption. With you, I think that universal suffrage, once made the master, would suffice to sweep away all the things which your program demands, and to establish all the freedoms, all the institutions which we are seeking to bring about. With you, I think that France, the home of indestructible democracy, will know liberty, peace, order, justice, material prosperity, and moral greatness only through the triumph of the principles of the French Revolution. With you, I think that a legal and loyal democracy is the political system par excellence which achieves most promptly and certainly the moral and material emancipation of the greatest number, and best ensures social equality in laws, actions, and customs.

But, with you also, I consider that the progressive achievement of these reforms depends absolutely on the political regime and on political reforms, and it is for me axiomatic in these matters that the form involves and determines the substance. It is, furthermore, this sequence and order of priority which our fathers have indicated and fixed in the profound and comprehensive slogan beyond which there is no safety: liberty, equality, fraternity. We are thus in mutual agreement. Our contract is completed. I am at once your delegate and your trustee. I go further than signifying agreement. I give you my vow: I swear obedience to this present contract and fidelity to the sovereign people.



This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall, July 1998

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