Paris under the Commune eBook

John Leighton Stuart
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about Paris under the Commune.

Firstly, because his presence at this moment would create new dangers; and secondly, because this admirable and honoured man would compromise his glory uselessly in our sorry discords.  If I, an obscure citizen, had the honour of being one of those to whom the liberator of Naples lends an ear, I would go to him without hesitation, and, after having bent before him as I would before some ancient hero arisen from his glorious sepulchre, say to him,—­“General, you have delivered your country.  At the head of a few hundred men you have won battles and taken towns.  Your name recalls the name of William Tell.  Wherever there were chains to rend and yokes to break, you were seen to hasten.  Like the warriors Hugo exalts in his Legende des Siecles, you have been the champion of justice, the knight-errant of liberty.  You appear to us victorious in a distant vision, as in the realm of legend.  For the glory of our age in which heroes are wanting, it befits you to remain that which you are.  Continue afar off, so that you may continue great.  It is not that your glory is such that it can only be seen at a distance, and loses when regarded, too nearly.  Not so!  But you would be hampered amongst us.  There is not space enough here for you to draw your sword freely.  We are adroit, strange, and complicated.  You are simple, and in that lies your greatness.  We belong to our time, you have the honour to be an anachronism.  You would be useless to your friends, destructive to yourself.  What would you, a giant fighting with the sword, do against dwarfs who have cannon?  You are courageous, but they are cunning, and would conquer you.  For the sake of the nineteenth century you must not be vanquished.  Do not come; in your simplicity you would be caught in the spider’s web of clever mediocrity, and your grand efforts to tear yourself free would only be laughed at.  Great man, you would be treated like a pigmy.”

It is probable, however, that if I held such a discourse to General Garibaldi, General Garibaldi would politely show me the door.  Other and more powerful counsellors have inspired him with different ideas.  Friendship dangerous indeed!  How deeply painful is it that no man, however intelligent or great, can clearly distinguish the line, where the mission for which Heaven has endowed him ceases, and, disdaining all celebrity foreign to his true glory, consent to remain such as future ages will admire.[32]


[Footnote 31:  The Citizen Gambon, representative of the Department of the Seine, left Paris charged with a mission to seek Garibaldi, but was arrested at Bonifacio, in the island of Corsica, just as he was embarking for Caprera.

For Memoir, see Appendix 4.]

[Footnote 32:  Garibaldi was chosen by the Central Committee for Commander-in-Chief of the National Guard, but he refused in the following terms, pretending not to be aware of the condition of Paris:—­

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Paris under the Commune from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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