Friday, March 23, 2007

Address to the Congres de la Paix, Victor Hugo

Bio: Victor Hugo, the great French poet, dramatist and novelist, was active in many of the international peace conferences that were held in the 1840’s. His great novel, Les Miserables, contains within it many of the concepts that have been essential to a deep understanding of non-violence. The following selection * is a speech he delivered in Paris in 1851.


" Gentlemen, if someone four centuries ago, at a time when war raged from parish to parish, from town to town, from province to province—if someone had said to Lorraine, to Picardy, to Normandy, to Brittany, to Auvergne, to Provence, to Dauphine, to Burgundy, “A day will come when you will no longer wage war, when you will no longer raise men of arms against each other, when it will no longer be said that Normans have attacked the men of Picardy, and the men of Lorraine have driven back those of Burgundy; that you will still have differences to settle, interests to discuss, certainly disputes to solve, but do you know what you will have in place of men on foot and horseback, in place of guns, falconets, spears, pikes, and swords? You will have a small box made of wood, which you will call a ballot box. And do you know what this box will bring forth? An assembly, an assembly in which you will all feel you live, an assembly which will be like your own soul, a supreme and popular council which will decide, judge, and solve everything in law, which will cause the sword to fall from every hand and justice to rise in every heart. And this event will say to you, ‘There ends your right, here begins your duty. Lay down your arms! Live in peace!’ On that day you will be conscious of a common thought, common interests, and a common destiny. You will clasp each other’s hands and you will acknowledge that you are sons of the same blood and the same race. On that day you will no longer be hostile tribes, but a nation. You will no longer be Burgundy, Normandy, Brittany, Provence, you will be France. On that day your name will no longer be war, but civilization.” "

"Henceforth the goal of great politics, of true politics, is this:
the recognition of all the nationalities, the restoration of the historical unity of nations and the uniting of the latter to civilization by peace, the relentless enlargement of the civilized group, the setting of an example to the still-savage nations; in short, and this recapitulates all I have said, the assurance that justice will have the last word, spoken in the past by might."

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