From Paris to Berne
Printed according to the manuscript
First published in the Neue Zeit, Bd. I, Nos. 1 and 2, 1898-99
Published in English for the first time in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 7
Introductory note from MECW vol 7 :[edit source]
Frederick Engels’ travel notes “From Paris to Berne” have survived in the form of an unfinished fair copy. Prior to his trip the following events took place: On September 26, 1848, a state of siege was declared in Cologne and an order to arrest some of the editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Engels among them (see this volume, p. 593), was issued. Engels emigrated to Belgium and, together with Dronke who joined him en route, arrived in Brussels; but the Brussels police arrested both of them and, on October 4, deported them from Belgium (see this volume, pp. 459-60). On October 5, Engels and Dronke arrived in Paris. After a few days, Engels, who had almost no ready money, started on foot for Switzerland. About November 9 he reached Berne via Geneva and Lausanne, where he stayed for a while. Engels began writing his travel notes in Geneva, as evidenced by the original title to the manuscript, “From Paris to Geneva”. The manuscript is appended with two sheets of sketches drawn by Engels en route (see illustrations between pages 508 and 509 of this volume) between Auxerre (France) and Le Locle (Switzerland).
On the first sheet there are the following designations (in angular brackets are names crossed out by Engels; in square brackets — inexact names of localities in the manuscript):
1) Route from Auxerre to Chalon with marks:
“Auxerre— Saint-Bris — Vermenton — Pont aux Alouette— Lucy le Bois—AvalIon—(Rouvray)—Saulieu—(in the direction of Dijon) —Chanteaux — Rouvrav — in the direction of Dijon —Arnay-le-Duc —Château —(a long village)— here I went to the post-office — coal mines — an inn — a beautiful valley, wine — the same — Chagny—Chalon.”
2) Route from Beaufort to Geneva with marks:
“Beaufort —Orgelet—Ain — Moirans—Pont du Lizon [in the manuscript Pt. d’Ison]—Saint-Claude — La Meure—Mijoux — Gex — Ferney—Succony— Geneva.”
On the same sheet there are several drawings, including one of a rider in the Hungarian uniform. There are also discernible names:
On the second sheet there are the following designations:
1) Route from Auxerre to Geneva with marks:
“Auxerre—-Saint-Bris — Vermenton — Pont aux Alouette—Lucy le Bois—AvalIon—(Rouvray)—Saulieu —Arnay-le-Duc —a long village— Ivry— La Cange— Chagny —Chalon —Saint-Marcel —Louhans — Beaufort—Orgelet —Ain—Moirans— two mountains — Pont du Lizon [in the manuscript Pt. d’Ison]— Saint-Claude — La Meure — Mijoux —Gex— Geneva. “
2) Route from Moirans to Saint-Claude with marks:
“Moirans— wind mills — Pont du Lizon [in the manuscript Pt. d’Ison] — Saint-Claude.”
3) Route from Geneva to Le Lode with marks:
“Geneva — Bellerive — Coppet — Nyon — Rolle— Aubonne — Morges — Cossonay — La Sarraz — Orbe — Yverdon — Saint-Croix — Fleurier — Travers — Les Ponts—Le Locle.”
An ethnographie note and drawings appended to the manuscript suggest that Engels stopped writing his travel notes when, at Marx’s request, he started on an article “The Struggle in Hungary”.
I. Seine et Loire[edit source]
La belle France! The French certainly have a beautiful country and they are right to be proud of it.
What country in Europe can compare with France in wealth, in the variety of its gifts of nature and products, in its universality? Spain? But neglect or nature has turned two-thirds of its area into a hot, stony desert, and the Atlantic side of the peninsula, Portugal, does not belong to it.
Italy? But ever since world trade has been routed across the ocean, ever since steamships have plied the Mediterranean, Italy has lain isolated.
England? But for the last eighty years England has been reduced to trade and industry, coal-smoke and cattle-raising, and England has a fearfully leaden sky, and no wine.
And Germany? In the north, a flat, sandy plain, cut off from Southern Europe by the granite wall of the Alps, poor in wine, a land of beer, schnaps and rye bread, ot rivers and revolutions that have dried up!
But France! Washed by three seas, traversed in three directions by five great rivers, in the north an almost German and Belgian climate, in the south almost Italian; wheat in the north, maize and rice in the south; colza in the north, olives in the south; flax in the north, silk in the south, and wine nearly everywhere.
And what wine! What a diversity, from Bordeaux to Burgundy, from Burgundy to the heavy St. Georges, Lünel and Frontignan of the south, and from that to sparkling champagne! What variety of white and of red, from Petit Mâcon or Chablis to Chambertin, Château Larose, Sauterne, Roussillon and Ai Mousseux! And furthermore each of these wines intoxicates in its own way, with a few bottles one can experience every intermediate state from a Musard quadrille to the Marseillaise, from the exultation of the cancan to the tempestuous fever heat of revolution, and then finally with a bottle of champagne one can again drift into the merriest carnival mood in the world!
And only France has a Paris, a city in which European civilisation has its finest flowering, in which all the nerve-fibres of European history unite and from which emanate at measured intervals those electric shocks which can shake a whole world; a city whose population combines a passion for pleasure with a passion for historical action like no other people, whose populace know how to live like the most refined Epicurean of Athens and to die like the most intrepid Spartan, Alcibiades and Leonidas in one person; a city which really is, as Louis Blanc says, the heart and mind of the world.
If one looks across Paris from a high point in the city or from Montmartre or the terrace of Saint-Cloud, if one strolls through its environs, one concludes that France knows what it possesses in Paris, that France has been prodigal of its best in tenderly fostering Paris. Like an odalisque on a glittering, bronze-coloured divan, this proud city lies beside the warm, vine-covered hills of the winding Seine valley. Where in the whole world is there a view like that from the two Versailles railways down over the green valley with its countless villages and little towns, and where are there such delightfully situated, such smartly and trimly constructed, such tastefully laid-out villages and little towns as Suresnes, Saint-Cloud, Sèvres, Montmorency, Enghien and countless others? By whichever gate one may leave, though one choose one’s route at random, everywhere one encounters the same fine surroundings, the same taste in the use of the topography, the same elegance and cleanliness. And yet again it is only the Queen of Cities itself which has created this splendid setting for itself.
But of course you need a France as well, to make a Paris, and only when one has become acquainted with the abundant wealth of this magnificent country does one understand how this radiant, sumptuous, incomparable Paris could come about. One does not understand it, of course, if one comes from the north, speeding by train across the plains of Flanders and Artois and the hills of Picardy with neither forest nor vineyard. There one sees only corn-fields and pasture, whose uniformity is interrupted only by marshy river valleys and distant scrubby hills; and only when one enters within range of the atmosphere of Paris, at Pontoise, does one see something of “beautiful France”. One begins to understand Paris a little more if one approaches the capital through the fertile vales of Lorraine, the vine-garlanded chalk hills of Champagne and along the beautiful Marne valley; one understands it better still if one travels through Normandy, now following and now cutting across the meanders of the Seine on the railway from Rouen to Paris. The Seine seems to exhale the air of Paris right down to its mouth; the villages, the towns, the hills, everything reminds one of the countryside near Paris, except that everything becomes finer, more sumptuous, more tasteful as one approaches the centre of France. But I did not fully understand how Paris was possible until I went along the Loire and from there turned across the hills to the vineyard valleys of Burgundy.
I had known Paris in the last two years of the monarchy, when the bourgeoisie was revelling in the full enjoyment of its dominance, when trade and industry were faring passably, when the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois youth still had money for its pleasures and for squandering it away, and when even some of the workers were still well enough placed to be able to participate in the general high spirits and light-heartedness. I had seen Paris again in March and April, in that brief intoxication of the republican honeymoon, when the workers, optimistic fools that they were, cheerfully and without any hesitation “decided to endure three months of misery” for the republic’s sake, when they ate dry bread and potatoes by day and when evening came, planted liberty-trees along the boulevards, let off fire-crackers and sang the Marseillaise for all they were worth, and when the bourgeoisie, hiding in their houses all day, attempted to appease the wrath of the people with coloured lanterns. I returned — much against my will, by Hecker! —in October. Between the Paris of those days and now there lay the 15th May and the 25th June, there lay the most fearful struggle the world had ever seen, there lay a sea of blood and fifteen thousand dead. Cavaignac’s shells had blown Paris’s irrepressible gaiety sky-high; the sound of the Marseillaise and the Chant du départ had ceased, only the bourgeoisie was still humming its Mourir pour la patrie between its teeth; the workers, who had neither bread nor arms, ground their teeth in suppressed resentment; in the school of the state of siege, the exuberant republic had very soon become respectable, tame, well-behaved, and moderate (sage et modérée). But Paris was dead, it was no longer Paris. On the boulevards, no one but the bourgeoisie and police spies; the dance-halls and theatres deserted; the gamins engulfed in mobile guard jackets, bought for 30 sous a day by the respectable republic, and the stupider they became the more the bourgeoisie celebrated them — in brief, it was the Paris of 1847 again, but without the spirit, without the life, without the fire and the ferment which the workers brought to everything in those days. Paris was dead, and this beautiful corpse was all the more uncanny for being so beautiful.
I could endure it no longer in this dead Paris. I had to leave it, no matter whither. So first of all to Switzerland. I had not much money, that meant going on foot. Nor was I set on taking the shortest route; one does not readily part from France.
Thus one fine morning I set out and without any fixed plan marched due south. I lost my way among the villages once I had left the city’s outskirts behind me; there was nothing strange in that. Eventually I found myself on the highroad to Lyons. I followed it for some distance, leaving it from time to time to climb the hills. From the top one has splendid views up and down the Seine, to Paris and to Fontainebleau. One sees the river meandering far, far away in the broad valley, vineyards on the hills on both sides, further away the blue hills beyond which flows the Marne.
But I did not wish to enter Burgundy by so direct a route; I wanted to reach the Loire first. So on the second day I left the highroad and went over the hills towards Orléans. I lost my way among the villages again of course, as my only guides were the sun and the peasants, cut off from the whole world and unable to tell right from left. I spent the night in some village whose name I was never able to make out in the peasant patois, fifteen leagues from Paris, on the watershed between Seine and Loire.
This watershed is formed by a broad ridge which extends from south-east to north-west. On either side it is intersected by numerous valleys, watered by small streams or rivers. Up on the wind-swept summit only corn, buckwheat, clover and vegetables do well; but vines grow everywhere on the valley sides. The eastward-facing slopes are nearly all covered with great masses of those limestone rocks which the English geologists call bolderstones and which one often finds in secondary and tertiary hill-country. The huge blue rocks, between which green shrubs and saplings grow, provide a pleasant contrast to the meadows of the valley and the vineyards of the opposite slope.
Gradually I came down into one of these little river valleys and followed it for a while. Eventually I came upon a highway with people on it from whom I was able to discover where in fact I was. I was not far from Malesherbes, midway between Orléans and Paris. Orléans itself lay too far to the west for my purpose; Nevers was my next goal, and so I once more went up over the nearest hill, heading due south. A very pretty view from the top: the pleasant little town of Malesherbes between wooded hills, numerous villages on the slopes, and up on a hill-top Castle Chateaubriand. And what was even more to my liking: opposite, on the far side of a narrow ravine, a departmental road leading due south.
There are three kinds of road in France: the state roads, formerly called royal roads, now national, fine broad highways connecting the most important towns with each other. These national roads, which in the region of Paris are not merely excellently made but true luxury roads, magnificent elm-lined avenues sixty feet wide and more, and paved in the middle, become poorer, narrower and less tree-lined the further one proceeds from Paris and the less important the road is. In some places they are then so bad that they are scarcely passable for pedestrians after two hours of moderate rain. The second class consists of the departmental roads, providing secondary communications, financed from departmental funds, narrower and less resplendent than the national roads. The third class, finally, is made up of the major vicinal routes (chemins de grande communication), maintained from canton resources, narrow unassuming roads, but in some places in better condition than the bigger highways.
I struck uphill straight across country in the direction of my departmental road and found to my extreme delight that it went due south in an absolutely straight line. Villages and inns were few and far between; after marching for several hours I eventually came upon a large farm where I was served most hospitably with some refreshments, for which I drew some grotesque faces on a piece of paper for the farmer’s children and declared with all gravity: this one was a speaking likeness of General Cavaignac and that one of Louis Napoleon, these of Armand Marrast, Ledru-Rollin etc. The farm-folk stared at these distorted faces in great awe, thanked me in their delight and at once fixed these strikingly life-like portraits on the wall. These good people also told me that I was on the road from Malesherbes to Châteauneuf on the Loire, to which I had still some twelve leagues to go.
I trampled through Puiseaux and another small town whose name
I have forgotten, and late in the evening arrived in Bellegarde, an attractive fair-sized place, where I spent the night. The route over the plateau, which incidentally here produces wine in many places, was rather monotonous.
Next morning I set off for Châteauneuf, another five leagues, and from there along the Loire on the national road from Orléans to Nevers.
Under almond trees in blossom
On the verdant banks of Loire,
To lie dreaming, oh how pleasant,
Of the place I found my love —
so sings many an enthusiastic German youth and many a tender Teutonic maiden in the melting words of Helmina von Chezy and the molten melody of Carl Maria von Weber. But anyone who goes looking for almond trees and gentle, sweet romance on the Loire, as was the fashion in Dresden back in the twenties, is the victim of the kind of appalling delusion which is really permissible only in Germany amongst congenital bluestockings of the third generation. From Châteauneuf via les Bordes to Dampierre one scarcely catches a glimpse of this romantic Loire. The road goes over the hill-tops at a distance of two or three leagues from the river, and only rarely does one see the water of the Loire glinting in the sun far away. The district is rich in wine, cereals and fruit; down by the river there are luxuriant pastures; the view of the valley, which has no woods and is surrounded only by undulating hills, is however rather monotonous.
In the middle of the road, near some farm-houses, I came across a caravan of four men, three women and several children, accompanied by three heavily-laden donkey-carts, cooking their midday-meal at a big fire on the open highway. I stopped for a moment: I was not mistaken, they were speaking German, in the broadest South
German dialect. I spoke to them; they were delighted to hear their native tongue in the middle of France. They were as it happened from the Strasbourg area of Alsace, and travelled into the interior of France in this way every summer, earning their keep by basketweaving. When I asked whether this gave them enough to live on, they said: “Hardly, if we had to, buy everything; mostly we’re begging.” Slowly, another man, of advanced age, crawled out of one of the donkey-carts, in which he had a complete bed. There was something very gypsy-like about the whole band with the ill-assorted garments they had scrounged. For all that they had an easy-going air about them and chattered interminably to me about their journeys, and in the middle of the merriest gossiping the mother and the daughter, a gentle, blue-eyed creature, almost came to pulling each other’s tousled red hair. I couldn’t but admire the irrepressible force with which the easy-going and emotional German character would come out, even from beneath the most gypsy-like pattern of life and attire; I wished them good day and continued my journey, accompanied for some distance by one of the gypsies, who before eating permitted himself the pleasure of an amble on the sharpboned crupper of a lean donkey.
That evening I reached Dampierre, a small village not far from the Loire. Here the Government was employing three or four hundred workers from Paris, the remnants of the former national workshops, to build a dyke to prevent flooding. They were workers of every kind, goldsmiths, butchers, cobblers, carpenters, right down to the rag-and-bone man of the Paris boulevards. I found some twenty of them at the inn where I spent the night. A hefty butcher, who had already been promoted to a kind of supervisory position, spoke of the undertaking with great enthusiasm: they were earning between 30 and 100 sous a day, according to how they worked, it was easy to make 40 to 60 sous, if one showed any aptitude. He wanted to enrol me in his brigade there and then; I would soon get into the swing and certainly be earning 50 sous a day by the second week, I could make my fortune, and there was enough work for another six months at least. I would not have minded exchanging my pen for a spade for a month or two for a change; but I had no papers, and that would have landed me in a nice pickle.
These workers from Paris had not lost any of their old gaiety. They pursued their work, ten hours a day, amid laughter and jokes, entertained themselves in their leisure hours with outrageous pranks and in the evenings amused themselves by “deniaising” the peasant girls. But apart from this they were quite demoralised as a result of being isolated in a small village. Not a trace of concern with the interests of their class, and with current political issues which touch the workers so closely. They appeared not to read any papers any more. Their political activity went no further than giving nicknames; one of them, a big, strong lout, they called Caussidière, another, a bad worker and utter drunkard, responded to the name of Guizot, etc. The exhausting work, their relatively good living conditions and especially the separation from Paris and transfer to a remote, quiet corner of France had reduced their horizon remarkably. They were already on the point of turning into rustics, and they had only been there for two months.
The next morning I reached Gien and thus at last the Loire valley itself. Gien is a little town with crooked streets, a fine embankment and a bridge over the Loire, which here barely equals the Main at Frankfurt in breadth. It is altogether very shallow and full of sandbanks. •
From Gien to Briare the road goes along the valley at a distance of about a quarter of a mile from the Loire. It proceeds in a south-easterly direction, and the country gradually assumes a southerly character. The avenue is lined with elms, ashes, acacias or chestnuts; the valley floor comprises luxuriant pastures and fertile fields, amongst whose stubble a second harvest of the richest clover was sprouting, and which are bordered by long lines of poplars; on the other side of the Loire, in the hazy distance, a line of hills, on this side, right by the highroad, a second chain of hillocks, planted with vines in its entirety. The valley of the Loire is not at all strikingly beautiful or romantic here, as people tend to say it is, but it does create a most agreeable impression; all this rich vegetation testifies to the mild climate without which it could not flourish. Even in the most fertile areas of Germany I have nowhere found plants growing in such profusion as on the road between Gien and Briare.
Before I leave the Loire, a few words as to the inhabitants of the area I passed through and their way of life.
The villages within four or five hours travel from Paris cannot be taken as the measure for villages in the rest of France. Their disposition, the architecture of the houses, the mores of the inhabitants are far too much dominated by the spirit of the great metropolis from which they live. Only at a distance of ten leagues from Paris, in remote upland areas, does the countryside proper begin, does one see real farm-houses. A characteristic of the whole region as far as the Loire and into Burgundy is that the peasant-farmer conceals the entrance to his house as far as possible from the highroad. In the upland areas every farmyard is surrounded by a wall; one enters by a gate and then in the yard itself one must look for the door to the house which is usually situated towards the rear. In this area, where most of the peasants have cows and horses, the farm-houses are fairly big; on the Loire, on the other hand, where there is much market-gardening and even well-to-do peasants own few catde or none at all and catde-raising is a separate branch of husbandry left to the larger landowners or tenant farmers, the farm-houses become smaller and smaller, often so small that one cannot conceive how there is room within for a peasant family with its equipment and stores. But here too the entrance is on the side facing away from the road, and in the villages the public houses and shops are almost alone in having doors facing the street.
The peasants of this area for the most part enjoy a really good life, despite their poverty. The wine, at least in the valleys, is mostly their own produce, good and cheap (this year two or three sous a bottle), the bread is everywhere, except in the highest places, good, wheaten bread and there is in addition excellent cheese and magnificent fruit, which people in France eat of course always with the bread. Like all country-people they eat little meat, but a lot of milk, vegetable soups and in general a vegetable diet of outstanding quality. The living standard of the French peasant between the Seine and the Loire is three times higher than that of the North-German peasant, even if he is significantly better off.
These peasants are good-natured, hospitable, light-hearted folk, helpful and obliging to the stranger in every possible way, and even when speaking the broadest patois, still true, courteous Frenchmen. Despite their exceedingly highly developed sense of property towards the land which their fathers won from the nobility and the clergy, they still possess many of the patriarchal virtues, especially in the villages set back from the main roads.
But peasants will be peasants, and the conditions of life of the peasants do not for one moment cease to assert themselves. Despite all the private virtues of the French peasant, despite the more advanced conditions of life he enjoys in comparison with the peasant to the east of the Rhine, the peasant in France, as in Germany, is a barbarian in the midst of civilisation.
The isolation of the peasant in a remote village with a rather small population which changes only with the generations, the hard, monotonous work, which ties him more than any serfdom to the soil and which remains always the same from father to son, the stability and monotony of all his conditions of life, the restricted circumstances in which the family becomes the most important, most decisive social relationship for him — all this reduces the peasant’s horizon to the narrowest bounds which are possible in modern time sweep him along with them, but he has no inkling of the nature of the motive force of these movements, of their origin and their goal.
In the Middle Ages and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was alongside the movement of the middle class in the towns a peasant movement, which, however, constantly put up reactionary demands and, without producing any significant results for the peasants themselves, only succeeded in assisting the towns in their struggles for emancipation.
In the first French revolution the peasants acted in a revolutionary manner just so long as was required by their most immediate, most tangible private interests; until they had secured the right of ownership to their land which had hitherto been farmed on a feudal basis, until feudal relations were irrevocably abolished and the foreign armies ejected from their district. Once this was achieved, they turned with all the fury of blind avarice against the movement of the big towns which they failed to understand, and especially against the movement in Paris. Coundess proclamations by the Committee of Public Safety, countless decrees by the Convention, above all those concerning the maximum and the profiteers, mobile columns and travelling guillotines had to be directed against the obdurate peasants. And yet no class benefited more from the Terror which drove out the foreign armies and put down the civil war than these same peasants.
When Napoleon overthrew the bourgeois regime of the Directory, restored calm, consolidated the new property relations of the peasants and sanctioned them in his Code civil and drove the foreign armies ever further from the frontiers, the peasants rallied to him with enthusiasm and became his chief support. For the French peasant is nationalistic to a fanatical degree; la France has come to mean a great deal to him now that he has become hereditary proprietor of a piece of France; foreigners he only knows in the form of devastating invading armies which inflict a maximum of damage on him. Hence the French peasant’s unbounded nationalism, hence his equally unbounded hatred of l’étranger. Hence the passion with which he went to war in 1814 and 1815.
When the Bourbons returned in 1815, when the exiled aristocracy once more raised claims to the landed property they had lost in the revolution, the peasants saw all their revolutionary conquests threatened. Hence their hatred of Bourbon rule and their jubilation when the July revolution restored to them security of possession and the tricolour.
From the July revolution onwards, the peasants’ participation in the general interests of their country came once more to an end. Their wishes had been fulfilled, the land they owned was no longer threatened, at the village Mairie the same flag was once more flying which had meant victory to them and their fathers for a quarter of a century.
But as always the fruits they enjoyed from their victory were few. The bourgeoisie began at once to exploit its rural allies to the utmost extent. The fruits of fragmentation and of the divisibility of the land, the impoverishment of the peasants and the mortgaging of their land, had already begun to ripen under the Restoration; after 1830 their manifestations became ever more widespread and ever more menacing. But the pressure which big capital exerted on the peasant remained for him simply a private relationship between himself and his creditor; he did not see and could not see that these private relationships, which were becoming increasingly widespread and increasingly the rule, were gradually developing into a class relationship between the class of big capitalists and that of small landowners. It was not the same situation as it had been with feudal burdens, whose origin had been long since forgotten, whose significance had long since fallen into oblivion, which were no longer payment for services rendered, and which had long ago become nothing but a burden oppressing one party. In the present case, with a mortgage debt, the peasant or at least his father has had the money paid out to him in solid five-franc pieces; the debt-certificate and the mortgage-repayment book remind him if necessary of the origin of the burden; the interest he has to pay, even the oppressive, constantly renewed subsidiary payments to the usurer are modern, bourgeois liabilities which apply in similar form to all debtors; the oppression operates in a quite modern, up-to-date guise, and the peasant is bled white and ruined in accordance with precisely the same principles of law which alone guarantee him his property. His own code civil, his modern-day bible, becomes a rod for his own back. The peasant can see no class relationship in the usurious mortgage terms, he cannot demand their abolition without simultaneously endangering his own property. The pressure of usury, instead of propelling him into the movement, utterly confuses him. The only way in which he can imagine relief is in a reduction of taxes. When, in February of this year, a revolution took place in which the proletariat appeared for the first time with demands of its own, the peasants showed not the faintest comprehension. If the republic had any meaning for them, it was merely: reduction of taxes and maybe occasionally something about national honour, war of conquest and the Rhine frontier. But when on the morning after
Louis Philippe’s.fall the war between the proletariat and bourgeoisie broke out in Paris, when the stagnation of trade and industry had repercussions in the countryside and the peasant’s produce, already devalued in a year of good harvests, fell yet further in price and became unsaleable, when to crown it all the battle of June spread fear and terror to the furthermost corners of France, a universal cry of the most fanatical fury arose amongst the peasants against revolutionary Paris and the eternally dissatisfied Parisians. Of course! For what did the stubborn, narrow-minded peasant know of proletariat and bourgeoisie, of a democratic social republic, of the organisation of labour, of matters whose fundamental conditions and causes could never exist within the narrow confines of his village! And when occasionally, through the murky channels of the bourgeois journals, he acquired a vague notion of what was at issue in Paris, when the bourgeoisie had tossed him the great slogan they aimed against the workers of Paris: ce sont les partageux, they are people who want to share all property and all the land, the peasants’ indignation knew no bounds, their cry of fury was redoubled. I have spoken to hundreds of peasants in the most diverse regions of France, and all were in the grip of this fanatical hatred of Paris and especially the workers of Paris. “I wish that cursed Paris would be blown sky-high during the day tomorrow”—and that was the most charitable of benedictions.
It goes without saying that the peasants’ age-old contempt for town-dwellers was merely increased and vindicated by this year’s events. The peasants, the countryside must save France; the countryside produces everything, the towns live off our corn, dress in our flax and our wool, we must restore the proper order of things; we peasants must take charge of affairs ourselves — this was the eternal refrain that sounded, more or less clearly, more or less deliberately, through all the peasants’ confused talk.
And how do they hope to save France, how do they hope to take charge of affairs themselves? By electing Louis Napoleon Bonaparte as President of the Republic, a great name borne by a confused, vain, diminutive fool! Every peasant I spoke to was just as enthusiastic about Louis Napoleon as he was full of hatred for Paris. These two passions and the most unthinking, bovine amazement at the whole European upheaval are the sum total of the French peasant’s politics. And the peasants have over six million votes, more than two-thirds of all the votes in the elections in France.
It is true that the Provisional Government did not manage to bind the interests of the peasants to the revolution; with the increase of 45 centimes in the land tax, which chiefly hit the peasants, it made an unforgivable, irreparable mistake. But even if it had won over the peasants to the revolution for a few months, they would have deserted it in the summer. The present attitude of the peasants towards the revolution of 1848 is not the consequence of any mistakes or chance blunders; it is in the nature of things, it is based upon the conditions of life, the social position of the small landowner. The French proletariat, before it enforces its demands, will first have to put down a general peasants’ war, a war which even the writing-off of all mortgage debts can only postpone for a short time.
One must have spent a fortnight in the almost exclusive company of peasants, peasants from the most diverse regions, one must have had the opportunity of encountering everywhere this same obtuse narrow-mindedness, this same total ignorance of all urban, industrial and commercial conditions, this same blindness in politics, this same wildly uninformed surmising about everything beyond the village, this same application of the standards of peasant life to the mightiest factors of history — in short, one must have come to know the French peasant especially in 1848 in order to experience the utterly disheartening effect which this refractory stupidity engenders.
II. Burgundy[edit source]
Briare is a quaint little old town at the mouth of the canal which joins the Loire to the Seine. Here I took stock of the route and decided it would be better to go to Switzerland via Auxerre instead of via Nevers. I therefore left the Loire and turned across the hills towards Burgundy.
The fertility of the Loire valley declines gradually but fairly slowly. One climbs imperceptibly, and only five or six miles from Briare, in the region of Saint-Sauveur and Saint-Fargeau, does one reach the beginnings of the forested, cattle-raising uplands. The ridge between the Yonne and the Loire is higher even here, and the whole of this western part of the Department of the Yonne is generally fairly hilly. It was in the region of Toucy, six leagues from Auxerre, that I first heard the peculiar, naively-broad dialect of Burgundy, a patois which here and throughout Burgundy proper remains pleasant and attractive, whereas in the higher regions of the Franche Comté it takes on a ponderous, clumsy, almost didactic tone. It is like the naive dialect of Austria, which gradually changes into the coarse Upper Bavarian. In a remarkably un-French way the Burgundian patois constantly stresses the syllable preceding that which takes the main emphasis in good French, it turns iambic French into trochaic and in so doing strangely distorts the subtle accentuation which the educated Frenchman manages to impart to his speech. But, as I said, in Burgundy proper, it continues to sound rather nice and from the lips of a pretty girl even charming: Mais, ma foi, monsieur, je vous demande un peu....
If one can draw comparisons, the Burgundian is on the whole the Austrian of France. Naive, good-natured, confiding in the highest degree, having a great deal of native wit within their familiar social surroundings, full of naively odd ideas about everything that transcends them, comically clumsy in unfamiliar circumstances, for ever indestructibly good-humoured — in this these good people are almost one and all alike. The amiable, good-hearted Burgundian peasant is the first one forgives for his complete political vacuity and his starry-eyed enthusiasm for Louis Napoleon.
Incidentally, the Burgundians undeniably have a stronger admixture of German blood than the French who live further to the west; their hair and complexion are lighter, their physique a little bigger, especially in the women, there is already a marked decrease in that sharp critical intelligence and incisive wit, in place of which there is a more straightforward sense of humour and sometimes a faint touch of geniality. But the gaiety of the French is still markedly to the fore, and in carefree light-heartedness the Burgundian is second to none.
The hilly western part of the Department of the Yonne derives its living chiefly from cattle-raising. But Frenchmen everywhere are poor cattle-farmers, and these Burgundian cattle appear thin and small. However alongside cattle-raising a great deal of corn is grown and fine wheaten bread is eaten everywhere.
The farm-houses here also begin to resemble those in Germany; they are again larger and combine dwelling, barn and stables under one roof; but here too the door is still mostly sideways from the road or turned completely away from it.
On the long descent that takes one down to Auxerre, I saw the first Burgundy vines, for the most part still weighed down with the fantastically rich grape-harvest of 1848. On many vines the leaves were almost completely concealed by grapes.
Auxerre is a small, rugged township, rather unimpressive from within, with a pretty embankment by the Yonne and in places the beginnings of those boulevards which no French departmental capital can be without. In normal times it must indeed be quiet and dead, and the Prefect of the Yonne cannot have needed to spend much on organising the obligatory balls and dinners which under Louis Philippe he had to offer to the local notabilities. But now Auxerre was full of life, such as only occurs once a year. If Citizen Denjoy, the representative of the people who got so worked up in the National Assembly because the premises where the democratic social banquet in Toulouse took place were decorated in red, if this worthy Citizen Denjoy had accompanied me to Auxerre, he would have thrown a fit in sheer horror. It was not just one hall here but the whole town which was decorated in red. And what a red! The walls and staircases of the houses, the blouses and shirts of the people were coloured with the most unambiguous, the most blatant blood-red; dark-red streams filled even the gutters and bespattered the paving stones, and a sinister-looking blackish, foaming-red liquid was being carried about the streets in great tubs by sinister bearded men. The red republic with all its horrors appeared to be holding sway, the guillotine, the steam guillotine appeared to be working continuously, the buveurs de sang of which such fearful tales are recounted in the Journal des Débats, were obviously celebrating their cannibalistic orgies here. But the red republic of Auxerre was most innocent, it was the red republic of the Burgundian wine-harvest, and the drinkers of blood who consume the noblest produce of this red republic with such intense pleasure, are none other than the most respectable republicans, the bourgeoisie, big and small, of Paris. And in this context that honourable Citizen Denjoy also has a certain weakness for things red, despite the best intentions.
If only one could have had one’s pockets full of money in that red republic! The 1848 harvest was so infinitely rich that not enough barrels could be found to take all the wine. And what is more, of such quality—better than ‘46, perhaps even better than ‘34! The peasants came pouring in from all sides to buy up what was still left of the ‘47 at bargain prices — at 2 francs per cask of 140 litres of good wine; cart after cart came in by every gate with empty barrels, and yet they could not cope. I saw with my own eyes a wine-merchant in Auxerre pouring out several barrels of ‘47, quite good wine,, into the street, simply in order to accommodate the new wine, which offered very different prospects to the speculator of course. I was assured that this wine-merchant had poured away as many as forty large barrels (fûts) in this way in a few weeks.
Having consumed several pints of both the old and the new, I crossed the Yonne in the direction of the hills on the right bank. The highroad follows the valley; however I took the old, shorter road across the hills. The sky was overcast, the weather gloomy, I was myself rather tired, and I therefore spent the night in the first village, a few kilometres from Auxerre.
Next morning I set out very early in the most magnificent sunshine imaginable. The route passed with never a break between vineyards over a fairly high ridge. But on top, I was rewarded for the exertion of the climb by a most splendid panorama. Before me, the hilly downward slope all the way to the Yonne, then the green valley of the Yonne, rich in meadows and planted with poplars, with its many villages and farms; beyond it the grey stone Auxerre, nestling against the scarp on the far side; villages everywhere, and everywhere, as far as the eye could see, vines, nothing but vines, and the most brilliant warm sunshine, attenuated only in the distance by a touch of autumn in the air, beating down over this great cauldron in which the August sun brews one of the noblest of wines.
I do not know what the reason is for the peculiar charm of these French landscapes which are not distinguished by any particularly attractive contours. It is of course not this detail or that, it is the whole, the ensemble, which invests them with the stamp of satisfaction such as is rarely found elsewhere. The Rhine and the Moselle have more beautiful combinations of crags, Switzerland has greater contrasts, Italy a fuller palette of colours, but no country has regions that make up so harmonious an ensemble as France. It is with an extraordinary inner peace that the eye roves from the broad, luxuriant meadows of the valley to the hills which are covered with vines of equal luxuriance right to their summits, and to the countless villages and towns rising from the foliage of the fruit-trees. There is nowhere a piece of bare ground, nowhere a discordant patch of infertility, or a harsh outcrop of rock with walls inaccessible to vegetation. Everywhere flora in profusion, a fine, rich green just taking on a shade of autumnal bronze, set off by the brilliance” of a sun which even halfway through October still burns hotly enough for not a single grape to be left unripe on the vine.
I went a little further and a second, equally fine view unfolded before me. Far below, in a narrower bowl in the hills, lay Saint-Bris, a small township that likewise earned its livelihood entirely from the vine. The same components as before, but more closely huddled together. Pastures and gardens down in the valley round the little town, vineyards all round about on the slopes of the bowl, only on the north side ploughed fields or fields and meadows of green clover growing on the stubble. Down in the streets of Saint-Bris the same bustle as in Auxerre; everywhere barrels and wine-presses, and all the inhabitants busy amidst laughter and jokes with pressing the grape-juice, pumping it into the barrels or carrying it through the streets in great vats. Amongst it all, a market was being held; in the broader streets peasant carts were halted with vegetables, corn and other field produce; the peasants with their white Phrygian caps and the peasant women with their Madras handkerchiefs round their heads thronged gossiping, shouting, laughing amongst the vintners; and the little town of Saint-Bris presented a picture of such lively bustle that one could believe one was in a big city.
Past Saint-Bris my way took me once more up a hill by a long ascent. But I climbed this hill with especial pleasure. Everybody was still occupied with the grape-harvest here, and a grape-harvest in Burgundy has a merriness about it of a different order to one in the Rhineland even. At every step I found the gayest company, the sweetest grapes and the prettiest girls; for here, where there is a small town always within three hours travel, where the population has a great deal of contact with the outside world by virtue of their trade in wine, here a certain degree of sophistication prevails, and no one assumes this sophistication more rapidly than the womenfolk, for they derive the most immediate and striking benefits from it. No French townswoman dreams of singing
If I were as pretty
As the girls who’re country-bred,
I’d wear a yellow straw hat
With a rose-red ribbon tied.
On the contrary, she knows only too well that it is to the town, to the absence of arduous labour, to civilisation and its hundred aids to cleanliness and arts of toiletry that she owes the perfecting of her charms; she knows that even if country girls have not already inherited that coarse-boned build from their parents which the Frenchman so abhors and which is the pride of the Germanic race, country girls — as a result of exacting farm labour in the most burning sunshine and the heaviest rain alike, the difficulties in the way of keeping clean, the absence of any aids to physical culture, and their admittedly venerable but no less ungainly and tasteless attire—will mostly end up as ungainly, waddling scarecrows, comically dolled up in garish colours. Tastes vary; our German compatriots mostly prefer the farmer’s daughter, and they are perhaps right to do so: all due respect for the kicks—similar to those of a trooper—and especially the fists of a strapping dairymaid; all honour to the grass-green and fiery-red check gown that embraces her mighty waist; hats off to that impeccably flat expanse that reaches from the back of her neck down to her heels and gives her from behind the appearance of a board covered with brightly coloured calico! But tastes vary, and so that portion of my fellow citizens-which differs from me, though being no less worthy of respect for that, must forgive me if the cleanly-washed, smoothlycombed, slimly-built Burgundian women from Saint-Bris and Vermenton made a pleasanter impression on me than those earthily dirty, tousled, young Molossian buffaloes between the Seine and the Loire who gape at one as though struck dumb if one rolls a cigarette, and take to their heels screaming if one asks them the way in good French.
It will therefore readily be believed that I spent more time lying in the grass with the vintners and their girls, eating grapes, drinking wine, chatting and laughing, than marching up the hill, and that it would have taken me no longer to have climbed the Blocksberg or even the Jungfrau than this insignificant ridge. The more so since one can eat one’s fill of grapes sixty times over each day and has thus the best of excuses at each vineyard to establish contact with these constantly laughing and obliging people of both sexes. But everything must come to an end, and this hill was no exception. It was already afternoon when I descended the far side into the delightful valley of the Cure, a small tributary of the Yonne, to the little town of Vermenton, which has an even finer setting than Saint-Bris.
Not far beyond Vermenton, this attractive region comes to an end. One gradually approaches the higher ridge of the Faucillon which divides the basins of the Seine, the Rhône and the Loire. From Vermenton one climbs for several hours and crosses a broad infertile plateau, where rye, oats and buckwheat largely take the place of wheat.
- Rape.— Ed.
- Evidently a slip of the pen for the words quoted are taken from a draft address to the Government of the French Republic submitted by Auguste Blanqui in March 1848.— Ed.
- Hoffnungsvolle Toren (optimistic fools) from Goethe's poem "Prometheus".— Ed.
- See The June Revolution (Neue Rheinische Zeitung, June 29, 1848).—Ed.
- Chant du départ (A Marching Song) — one of the most popular songs of the French Revolution. It also remained popular later.
- Words from the French patriotic song based on the Song of the Girondists from Chevalier de Maison-Rouge, a play by Alexandre Dumas (father) and Auguste Maquet which was staged in 1847. The words and music of the refrain are taken from Rouget de Lisle. The song won wide popularity not long before the 1848 revolution and was known as "the second Marseillaise".
- This form of the English word is used in the manuscript.— Ed.
- Carl Maria von Weber's opera Euryanthe (libretto by Helmina von Chezy), Act I, Scene 2.— Ed.
- The reference is to the Labour Commission that met at the Luxembourg Palace under the chairmanship of Louis Blanc. This was set up on February 28, 1848, by the Provisional Government under pressure from the workers, who demanded a Ministry of Labour. The Commission, in which both workers and employers were represented, acted as mediator in labour conflicts, often taking the side of the employers. The revolutionary action of Paris workers on May 15, 1848, led to the end of the Luxembourg Commission, since the Government disbanded it next day. National workshops were instituted by a government decree immediately after the February revolution of 1848. The Government thus sought to discredit Louis Blanc’s ideas on the organisation of labour in the eyes of the workers and, at the same time, to utilise the workers of the .national workshops organised on military lines in the struggle against the revolutionary proletariat. Revolutionary ideas, however, continued to gain ground among workers employed in the national workshops, and the Government took steps accordingly to limit the number of workers employed in them, to send some off to public works in the provinces etc. This caused great indignation among the Paris proletariat and was one of the reasons for the June uprising. After its suppression, the Cavaignac Government issued a decree disbanding the national workshops (July 3, 1848). On June 7, 1848, the Constituent Assembly passed a law against gatherings. Any violation of this law was punishable by imprisonment of up to ten years.
- Initiating, seducing.— Ed.
- Engels uses the German word Meile, a linear measure which at that time differed in length in different German states but can be regarded as roughly Ai miles.— F.d.
- The maximum laws and the law against buying up food supplies (June 26, 1793; in the manuscript Engels uses the German transliteration Akkapareurs for the French word accapareur—meaning “usurer”, “profiteer”) were adopted by the Convention under pressure from the masses, who were demanding fixed prices and effective measures against profiteers in food at a time of deepening food crisis and rising prices. The first maximum adopted on May 4, 1793, introduced fixed prices for grain; the decree of September 11, 1793, fixed a single price for grain and flour; on September 29, 1793, fixed prices on other staple goods (second maximum) were introduced.
- Of 1830.— Ed
- But indeed, sir, I ask you ... (the accents.indicate the syllables stressed in the Burgundian patois).—Ed.
- Drinkers of blood.— Ed.
- Goethe, "Kriegserklärung" (modified).—Ed.
- At this point the following note is written in an unknown hand: "[The manuscript breaks off here.]"—Ed.