A young journeyman pastrycook who had been to college, and who still
knew a few of Cicero's phrases, boasted one day of loving his
fatherland. "What do you mean by your fatherland?" a neighbour asked
him. "Is it your oven? is it the village where you were born and which
you have never seen since? is it the street where dwelled your father
and mother who have been ruined and have reduced you to baking little
pies for a living? is it the town-hall where you will never be police
superintendent's clerk? is it the church of Our Lady where you have not
been able to become a choir-boy, while an absurd man is archbishop and
duke with an income of twenty thousand golden louis?"
The journeyman pastrycook did not know what to answer. A thinker who was
listening to this conversation, concluded that in a fatherland of some
extent there were often many thousand men who had no fatherland.
You, pleasure loving Parisian, who have never made any great journey
save that to Dieppe to eat fresh fish; who know nothing but your
varnished town house, your pretty country house, and your box at that
Opera where the rest of Europe persists in feeling bored; who speak your
own language agreeably enough because you know no other, you love all
that, and you love further the girls you keep, the champagne which comes
to you from Rheims, the dividends which the Hotel-de-Ville pays you
every six months, and you say you love your fatherland!
In all conscience, does a financier cordially love his fatherland?
The officer and the soldier who will pillage their winter quarters, if
one lets them, have they a very warm love for the peasants they ruin?
Where was the fatherland of the scarred Duc de Guise, was it in Nancy,
Paris, Madrid, Rome?
What fatherland have you, Cardinals de La Balue, Duprat, Lorraine,
Where was the fatherland of Attila and of a hundred heroes of this type?
I would like someone to tell me which was Abraham's fatherland.
The first man to write that the fatherland is wherever one feels
comfortable was, I believe, Euripides in his "Phaeton." But the first
man who left his birthplace to seek his comfort elsewhere had said it
Where then is the fatherland? Is it not a good field, whose owner,
lodged in a well-kept house, can say: "This field that I till, this
house that I have built, are mine; I live there protected by laws which
no tyrant can infringe. When those who, like me, possess fields and
houses, meet in their common interest, I have my voice in the assembly;
I am a part of everything, a part of the community, a part of the
dominion; there is my fatherland."?
Well now, is it better for your fatherland to be a monarchy or a
republic? For four thousand years has this question been debated. Ask
the rich for an answer, they all prefer aristocracy; question the
people, they want democracy: only kings prefer royalty. How then is it
that nearly the whole world is governed by monarchs? Ask the rats who
proposed to hang a bell round the cat's neck. But in truth, the real
reason is, as has been said, that men are very rarely worthy of
It is sad that often in order to be a good patriot one is the enemy of
the rest of mankind. To be a good patriot is to wish that one's city may
be enriched by trade, and be powerful by arms. It is clear that one
country cannot gain without another loses, and that it cannot conquer
without making misery. Such then is the human state that to wish for
one's country's greatness is to wish harm to one's neighbours. He who
should wish that his fatherland might never be greater, smaller, richer,
poorer, would be the citizen of the world.