19th Century

Monarchy vs Republic (1848) | François-Vincent Raspail

F. V. Raspail

The following lines were written by the French physician François-Vincent Raspail (1794–1878) while he was imprisoned in Château de Vincennes because of his role in the French Revolution of 1848. Titled ‘Many Kinds of Monarchy—One Kind of Republic’, Raspail sets out his vision of what a republic should be, and ends with the dream that maybe one day the whole of Europe would be united into one republic. This translation of Raspail’s short essay was originally printed in the Red Republican magazine and has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.[1]

Château de Vincennes (19th century watercolour)

Many Kinds of Monarchy.—One Kind of Republic.

Selections from the writings of F. V. Raspail, written in the dungeon of Vincennes, 1848:—

There are many kinds of monarchy. We have monarchy for life, hereditary monarchy, limited and absolute monarchy. But there is only one kind of republic. It is the government where every one contributes to the social burdens, and has a right to share in the social advantages; where each labours for All, and conversely, All for each; where every thing depends on the popular vote and nothing on privilege and favouritism; where law is the beneficent application of the laws of nature, and not a bugbear which frightens children and excites the contempt of thinking men. Call this form of government what you will, it is the republic; but if you take away any one of the above conditions, you will have monarchy, more or less disguised; a government composed of a few silly intriguers, or of traitors, who prepare the way for the restoration of royalty.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

You desire liberty: no more despots then, real or fictitious, absolute or constitutional. You desire equality: no more monopolies or privileges, no aristocrats, whether landed, financial, or bourgeois. You desire fraternity: let us hear no more of war then, of hatred and vengeance; you must arrange the disputes of individuals and of nations according to the will of the majority expressed by universal suffrage, and not by means of bayonets and cannon balls.

The European Republic

A monarchy is organised from above downwards; it has a court before having a people. The republic begins from below and ascends; the people are there first, the administrators of public affairs are cared for the last. The method of the republic is the method of nature. Every whole derives its properties from the parts or atoms composing it. The republic groups its component parts symmetrically and harmoniously, in order to obtain a compact, homogeneous whole. Precisely as a crystal has the form of its integrant atoms, and cleave it as often as you like, you obtain the same figure,—so must the republic, with its properties and means of action, be found in the smallest of its subdivisions, in its ultimate atoms. The atom, or strongest integral part—of the republic, is the commune. Isolated, the latter could perform all the functions of self-government, as well as when united to its neighbours. The principle of fraternity which unites the citizens one to another, also unites the communes, by the natural law of neighbourhood and contact. The commune, or municipality, is a large family living—as it were—under the same roof, cultivating the same tract of land for the benefit of all its members, classed according to their age, physical force and capacity. Admit a federation of communes, living on the same soil, and having a reciprocal exchange of their agricultural and manufactured products. Such a group of communes is called a canton; it forms a natural circonscription [constituency] because, from the community of soil and of climate arises a community of interests and of wants. These cantons, composed of communes, if again associated, form a larger commune called a department; which is again a natural aggregation, occasioned by the identity of climate and soil, and by the similarity of resources and of wants between the diverse members of this large family,—and which has a superficial extent in proportion to the wants of its members. Finally the aggregation of these departments, or natural groups of communes, is called the republic, embracing in its natural limits, races having the same language, having similar wants and customs, derived from a community of soil and climate. One day, Europe will be a federation of republics, whose limits will not be traced by usurpers and victorious castes, but by the hand of nature, by the land-marks of rivers and mountains. This republic of races or peoples can only be proclaimed when not a single monarchy exists in Europe, its affairs will be regulated by a European congress, which will be held at Prague …….. Utopia! say you? Eighteen years ago the little that has been done now, was a Utopia, and punishable by imprisonment. Dreams? perhaps so, but as yet our dreams have always come true.

[1] F. V. Raspail, ‘Many Kinds of Monarchy—One Kind of Republic’, Red Republican, 19 October 1850, 144.