The French people are demoralised because they need an idea. They lack understanding of the time and situation and only retain pride in an initiative, the principle and goal of which have escaped them. None of the political systems they have tried have completely met their expectations, and they cannot imagine any others.

Legitimism barely arouses a feeling of pity in the masses or one of regret for the July Monarchy. What does it matter whether the two monarchies, finally reconciled, merge or not? They still have and can only have one meaning for the country: constitutional monarchy. However, we know this constitutional monarchy. We have seen it at work and can render our verdict on it: a transitional edifice that managed to last a century, from which better things could have been expected, but that destroyed itself by its own construction. The constitutional monarchy is finished: the proof is that today we no longer have what would be needed to re-establish it and, if by some impossibility we managed to rebuild it, it would only fall again due to its own powerlessness.

In fact, the constitutional monarchy is the reign of the bourgeoisie, government by the Third Estate. However, there no longer is a bourgeoisie; there is not even anyone to form one. The bourgeoisie was essentially a feudal creation just as the clergy and nobility, the first two orders, were. It had no meaning and could only find one through the presence of the first two. The bourgeoisie, like its predecessors, was stuck a blow in 1789; the establishment of the constitutional monarchy was the instrument of their mutual transformation. In the place of this bourgeois parliamentary and censitary monarchy,[1] which absorbed the two superior orders and shone for a moment on their ruins, we have democratic equality and its legitimate manifestation, universal suffrage. Try to remake the bourgeoisie with that!

Let us add that, if the constitutional monarchy returned to the world, it would succumb under the weight of the task. Would it reimburse the debt? With what? Would it reduce taxes? But increasing taxes is in keeping with the very essence of unitary government, and we would also have the costs of reinstalling the system as an extraordinary expenditure. Would it decrease the [size of the] army? Then what force would it use as a counterweight to democracy? Would it attempt a liquidation? But it would only impede liquidation. Would it produce freedom of the press, association and assembly? No, no, no! The way in which the bourgeois press has exercised the privilege of publication the empire retained for it for the past 10 years also proves that it does not love truth and freedom and that the repressive regime organised in 1835 against social democracy and developed in 1848 and 1852 would inevitably oppose it with violence. Would the restored constitutional monarchy try, as it did in 1849, to limit the right to vote? If so, it would be a declaration of war against the working classes and therefore the prelude to a revolution. If not, February 1848 foretells its fate. Once again, sooner or later, it will die of a revolution. Reflect for five minutes, and you will remain convinced that the constitutional monarchy, placed between two revolutionary destinies, belongs in the history books and that its restoration in France would be an anomaly.

The empire exists, asserting itself with the authority of possession and the masses. But who does not see that the empire, achieving its third manifestation in 1852, is worked upon in turn by the unknown force that incessantly modifies all things and pushes institutions and societies toward unknown goals far beyond the predictions of human beings? The empire, insofar as it acts according to its own nature, tends toward contractual forms. Napoléon I, returned from Elba, was forced to swear by the principles of 1789 and modify the imperial system in the parliamentary sense; Napoléon III already modified the 1852 Constitution more than once in the same way. While containing the press, he allowed it more latitude than his imperial predecessor had; while moderating the podium, because there were not enough harangues from the legislative body, he invited the Senate to speak. What do these concessions mean except that an essential idea in the country soars above monarchic and Napoléonic ideas, the idea of a free pact, imagined and granted by what, oh princes? By FREEDOM... In the long sequence of history, all states appear before us like more or less brilliant transitions: the empire is also a transition. I can say it without offending: the empire of the Napoléons is in total metamorphosis.

We have another unexplored idea suddenly affirmed by Napoléon III as the high priest of Jerusalem affirmed the mystery of redemption at the end of Tiberius’ reign: FEDERATION.

Up until now, Federalism has only evoked ideas of decay in people’s minds: it was reserved for our time to think of it as a political system.

a) The groups that comprise the confederation, which we name “the state,” would be states themselves, self-governing, self-judging and self-administering in complete sovereignty according to their own laws;

b) The confederation’s purpose would be to rally those groups to a pact of mutual guarantee;

c) In each of the federated states, the government would be organised according to the principle of the separation of powers: equality before the law and universal suffrage form its basis:

That is the whole system. In the Confederation, the units that form the political body are not individuals, citizens or subjects but groups provided a priori by nature, the average size of which does not exceed that of a population of a territory of a few hundred square leagues. These groups are small states themselves, democratically organised under federal protection, and their units are the heads of families or citizens.

Thus constituted, the Federation alone would resolve, in theory and practice, the problem of the agreement between Freedom and Authority and give each its fair measure, true jurisdiction and all its initiative. Therefore, it alone would guarantee order, justice, stability and peace, with inviolable respect for the citizen and the state.

First of all, the federal Power, which is the central power here, the organ of the greater collectivity, could no longer absorb the individual, corporate and local liberties that came before it because they brought the federation into being, and they alone support it; furthermore, due to the manner in which they constituted it and by virtue of it, those liberties would remain superior to it.[2] Therefore, no more risk of upheaval: political unrest could only result in a change of personnel, not a change of system. You could make the press, podium, association and assembly free and eliminate all political police: the state would have no reason to mistrust the citizens, and neither would the citizens have any reason to mistrust the state. Usurpation by the state would be impossible: insurrection by the citizens would be powerless and purposeless. Right would be the linchpin of all interests and become the raison d’État; truth would be the essence of the press and the daily bread of opinion.

There would be nothing to fear from religious propaganda, clerical agitation, mysticism or sectarianism. Churches would be free in their opinions and faith: the pact would guarantee them freedom, having nothing to dread from their achieving it. The Confederation would surround them, and freedom would balance them: [even] if all the citizens were united in the same faith, burning with the same zeal, their faith could not be turned against their rights nor [could] their fervour prevail over their freedom. If France were federalised, all the Catholic resurgence we see would instantly fall away. Furthermore, the revolutionary spirit would invade the church, which would be happy to have its freedom and would confess that it has nothing better to offer the people.

With the Federation, you could provide higher education to all the people and be free from the ignorance of the masses, an impossible or even contradictory thing in the unitary system.

The Federation alone could satisfy the needs and rights of the working classes, resolve the problem of the agreement between labour and capital, association, taxes, credit, property, wages, etc. Experience has demonstrated that the law of charity, the precept of benevolence and all the philanthropic institutions are dramatically powerless here. Therefore, the recourse to justice remains, which is sovereign in both political economy and government; the synallagamatic and commutative contract remains. However, what does justice tell us, command us, as expressed by the contract? Replacing the principle of monopoly with the principle of mutualism in all cases in which it is a matter of industrial guarantee, credit, insurance and public service: an easy thing under a federalist regime but repugnant to unitary governments. Thus, a reduction and balancing of taxes cannot be obtained from a power with a heavy tax burden because, in order to reduce and equalise them, it would be necessary to start by decentralising them. Public debt will never be liquidated and will always increase rapidly under both a unitary republic and a bourgeois monarchy; thus, the external market, which should bring the nation increased wealth, is cancelled out by the restriction of the internal market caused by the enormity of taxes;[3] thus, values, prices, and wages will never be regularised in an antagonistic environment in which speculation, commerce and trade, the bank and usury increasingly override labour. Finally, workers’ association will remain a utopia as long as government does not understand that it must not perform public services itself or convert them into corporations but entrust them by term lease at a fixed rate to companies of united and responsible workers. No more power interfering in labour and business, no more incentives to commerce and industry, no more charters, concessions, lending or borrowing, commissions, industrial or dividend shares, no more speculation: from what system could you expect such reforms if not the federalist system?

Federalism would fully satisfy the bourgeoisie’s democratic aspirations and conservative sentiments, two elements that have been irreconcilable everywhere until now: and how is this true? Precisely through this political-economic guaranteeism, the highest expression of federalism. France, returned to its law, which is based on property of medium size, which is honest mediocrity, increasingly approximate levels of wealth, equality; France returned to its genius and morals, constituted as a union of mutually-guaranteed sovereignties, would have nothing to fear from the communist flood or monarchic invasions. The multitude, powerless from now on to crush civil liberties with its mass, would also be powerless to seize or confiscate property. Even better, it would become the strongest barrier to the feudalism of land and capital toward which unitary power inevitably tends. While city-dwellers only value property for the income it provides them, the peasants who cultivate it value it above all for itself: that is why property will never find a more complete and better guarantee than when, through continuous and well-arranged division, it approaches equality, federation. No more bourgeoisie and no more democracy but only citizens, as we demanded in 1848: is this not final word of the revolution? Where else can we find the realisation of that ideal if not in federalism? Certainly, and regardless what was said in 1793, nothing is less aristocratic and less ancien régime than Federation, but it must be admitted that nothing could be less vulgar.

Under a federal authority, the politics of a great people would be as simple as its destiny: domestically, to make room for freedom, to provide work and well-being to all, to cultivate intelligence and strengthen conscience; internationally, to set an example. A federated people would be a people organised for peace; what would they do with armies? All military service would be reduced to police service, civil service and guards for the armouries and forts. There would be no need for alliances or trade agreements: common law would suffice amongst free nations. In business, there would be freedom of exchange except with regard to the withholding of taxes and income tax in some cases debated in the federal council. For individuals, while waiting for the country’s entry [into the Federation], there would be freedom of movement and residence except with due respect for each country’s laws.

This is the federalist idea and its consequences. Furthermore, the transition can be as painless as one could want. Despotism is difficult to construct and dangerous to conserve; it is always easy, useful and legal to return to freedom.

The French nation is perfectly ready for this reform. Long-accustomed to hindrances of all kinds and heavy burdens, it is not very demanding. It will wait 10 years for the completion of the building as long as one floor is erected each year. Tradition is not opposed to it: strip the former monarchy of its caste distinctions and feudal rights and France, with its provincial states, customary laws and bourgeoisie, is no more than a vast confederation with the king of France as its federal president. The revolutionary struggle gave us centralisation. Under that regime, equality was sustained, at least in mores, but freedom was gradually eroded. From the geographic point of view, the country is just as well-suited: its overall territory is perfectly assembled and demarcated, with a marvellous fitness for unity, as we have seen all too well, and it is also very suitable for federation due to its drainage basins, which empty into three seas. It is up to the provinces to be the first to make their voices heard. Paris, a capital that would become a federal city, would have nothing to lose in the transformation. On the contrary, it would discover a new and better existence. The force of absorption it exerts on the provinces impedes it, if I dare say so: less burdened, less apoplectic, Paris would be freer and would earn and produce more. The provinces’ wealth and activity would ensure a market for its products superior to any in the Americas, and it would recover in real business all that it would lose to decreased parasitism. The fortune of its inhabitants and their security would no longer be intermittent.

Whatever power is responsible for France’s destiny, I dare say that there is no longer any other policy for it to follow, no other salvation or idea. Therefore, it should give the signal to the European federations that it is going to adopt federalism’s example and model. Its glory will be so great that it will crown all glories.

End Notes

[1] Censitary [censitaire] refers to voting based on census and in which only those whose taxation exceeds a certain threshold can vote. That is, suffrage is limited to the propertied classes. (Editor)

[2] The central or federal power’s relationship with the local or federated powers is expressed by the distribution of the budget. In Switzerland, the federal budget is barely one-third of the total contributions the Swiss dedicate to their political life; the other two-thirds remain in the hands of local authorities. In France, on the contrary, the central power possesses nearly all of the country’s resources; it governs receipts and expenditures; also, it is responsible for administering, by committee, the large cities, such as Paris, the municipalities thereby becoming purely nominal; central power is also the depository of commune funds, and it oversees employment.

[3] In an average year, France produces 30 to 35 hectolitres of wine. That quantity, along with cider and beer, would not much surpass the consumption of the country’s 38 million residents if everyone could go to Corinth [a reference to Horace’s famous dictum: non licet omnibus adire Corinthum, “Not everyone can go to Corinth,” i.e., not everyone can live a life of ease], that is, if everyone could drink their share of wine, beer or cider. Therefore, what good is it to look for a market outside the country when we already have one here? But worse, when the domestic market is closed in some way by state taxes, transportation costs, tolls, etc., then it has been believed that another market should be obtained abroad, but the foreign market only buys expensive wines, not ordinary ones, which it is not much interested in or which it finds too expensive: therefore, producers still have their merchandise but no domestic or foreign buyers. The department of Gironde had counted on the trade treaty with England to sell its wines; large quantities were shipped to London, but remained unsold on the docks. If you look, you will see that this defect, once indicated, is in keeping with a series of causes that all stem from one cause: the unitary system (see my Théorie de l’Impôt , volume 1, 1861).