Why Vaillant Threw the Bomb! (1894)


Why Vaillant Threw the Bomb!


We feel it our duty, as English comrades, in the face of what has been said by the smug faced hirelings of the capitalist press concerning Vaillant, to say a few words about him and his actions before proceeding to his defence.

Vaillant’s life, like the lives of even our own workpeople, may be summed up in a few words,—one of intense struggle and misery. He, like others, possessed the heritage of the “right of life,” with all its pleasures. These were denied! He protested! Will his co-sufferers blame him? Never; they will admire rather than condemn his action. Will the middle-class disapprove of such deeds? Yes! Why? Because the happiness of such as Vaillant means the downfall of sleek hypocrisy and cant, of which those who blame are the exact examples.

Middle-class society, even as found in France, would never forgive such an one who dared to brook their happiness, built as it is on the misery of the class from which Vaillant came.

Vaillant was a love-child, and, as such, he was exposed to all the vexations of a hypocritical society; a society which will even inflict ostracism and make women criminals for daring to love and bear children without the authority of “the law”!

During the early life he knew what is was to be without joy, without warmth, and without bread. He, like many another worker, had been reared in the cup that overflows with misery, starvation, and woe! Who will wonder much for such an act as his considering his incentive?

We find him on the road at twelve years of age as a tramp, with no money or bread, looking for work, and experiencing continual disappointments.

Thus the years rolled on without sweetening his life, always being the recipient of kicks and cuffs, along with the maddening worry of where the next day’s meals would be obtained.

Such was the youth of Vaillant.

The middle-class of France, as of other “civilized” countries, are themselves to blame. Not satisfied with the cruelty and merciless harassing of Vaillant in his youth, it was still continued as he grew older. His first experience of prison life was for wandering without visible means of subsistence. What a terrible crime! The second time was for having dared to assert his manhood and take bread.

This, then, was the help, the encouragement, he received from society! Can you wonder, fellow-workers, that the iron of bitterness had seared deep into his heart?

Vaillant observed side by side with the luxury and wealth of the middle-class, the woes and tribulations of the workers. It made him a rebel. He detested and abhorred middle-class institutions and developed a strong affection for those who were his fellow-sufferers. It made him a man intensely human. This, we maintain, in spite of the bewailings and nashing of teeth by the writers of the capitalist press, anent the attempted destruction of “innocent life” through his act, of which he was found guilty.

What did Vaillant say on this very point? He said: “On observing the intense misery of others like myself, I felt the imperative and instant necessity of propaganda for one ideal: the need for a society where suffering would be unknown, and where it would be folly for any one to inflict unnecessary pain. That is how and why I became an Anarchist!”

From that moment Vaillant became a passive Anarchist, a preacher, snatching every opportunity to enlighten his fellows of the necessity of doing something for suffering humanity. But his high conception of the ideal state of society, assisted by his deep hate for those who deplore and despise such as he, was not long in spurring him on to action.

We know what followed. For that middle-class “justice” have foully murdered a man who has demonstrated in his own way for the Miserables. His act was far nobler than that of a hireling British soldier potting off black men for the purposes of annexation and governmental schemers.

After his arrest he made the following declaration to the judge: “I have had the courage, the manhood, to strike a blow at your corrupt middle-class system, because I recognize in it a hindrance to all real progress. Your laws, you customs, are strangling all noble aspirations, and swells the despair of women and the sobbing of little children!”

Yes, fellow-workers, he has chosen to demonstrate against so-called “law and order” as advocated by those drones and exploiters of the poor, the members of the Chamber of Deputies! Yes, he has shown to the world that governmental force can be met on its own battle-ground and with its own weapons! It is quite legitimate for governmental hirelings to maim or kill the workers (remember Peterloo, Mitchelstown and Featurerstone, etc.), but quite another thing for the workers, the useful ones, to maim or kill the drones and parasites!

Brave, Vaillant!

Whatever may be said now by his enemies, it is pretty certain that Vaillant will be pointed out as a hero by the coming generations of workpeople, one who had the courage of his convictions and who fought for the emancipation of the downtrodden peoples of all lands.

Hurrah for Anarchy!




Gentlemen,—In a few minutes you are going to condemn me, but I shall have at least the satisfaction of having dealt a blow at existing Society, this accursed Society in which one man may be seen uselessly expending enough to nourish some thousands of families, a hateful Society which allows some individuals to lay hold of all the social wealth, while there are a hundred thousand unfortunate people who have not even the bread that is thrown to the dogs, and whole families that commit suicide from lack of simple necessities. Ah! Gentlemen, if only those who direct affairs could go down among these unfortunate people. But no, they choose to remain deaf to their appeal. A fatality would seem to be driving them as it did the royalty of the eighteenth century in a gulf where they will be buried. Woe unto those who, thinking themselves of finer stuff, believe in the right of trampling in the dust and exploiting those below them! For there comes a time when the people do not reason. They rise like a tornado and overwhelm all like a torrent. Then are seen bloody heads at the end of pikes.

Among the exploited are two classes of individuals. The one, not alive to its own power, or to what it might come to be, takes life as it comes, believes that it is born to be slaves, and is content with the little which is given it in recompense for its work. But the other thinks and studies, and, casting a glance around, perceives the social injustices. Is it their fault if they see clearly, and suffer at the sight of others suffering? Then they throw themselves into the fray, and become the exponents of the claims of the people. I am one of the latter. Wherever I have gone I have seen the unfortunate bowing under the yoke of Capital. Everywhere I have seen the same wounds which make one shed tears of blood, even in the uninhabited provinces of South America, where I had reason to believe that he who was tired out by the troubles of civilization might find rest in the shadow of palm trees and study nature. Yet there more than anywhere else I say Capital like a vampire come to suck up to the last drop the blood of the unfortunate people.

There I returned to France, where it was reserved to me to see those who belonged to me suffering atrociously. It was that drop which made the cup run over. Tired of living this life of suffering and cowardice, I took that bomb into the midst of those who are chiefly responsible for social suffering. I am reproached with having injured those who were truck by my projectiles. Permit me to say that if the bourgeois had not committed massacres during the Revolution they would most likely still be under the yoke of the noblesse. Moreover, count up the killed and wounded of Tonkin, Madagascar, and Dahomey, and the thousands, nay the millions, of unfortunate people who die in the workshops, the mines, and wherever Capital weighs them down. Add those who die of hunger, and that, too, with the assent of our deputies. By the side of all this, how insignificant is the weight of that for which I am blamed to-day! True, one does not efface the other, but, as a matter of fact, are not we Anarchists really well enough able to defend ourselves against reproaches from those above us? I am well aware that I shall be told I might have continued only state our claims, but the deafer a person is the louder one has to speak to make himself heard.

For too long a time the only reply that we have had has been imprisonment, the rope, or a volley of musketry. Make no mistake. The explosion of my bomb is not only the cry of a revolted Vaillant, but that of an entire class demanding its rights, and soon destined to join deeds to words, for you may be sure that it will be all in vain you make your laws. The ideas of those who think will not be stopped. Just as in the last century all the forces of Government could not prevent the Diderots and the Voltaires from disseminating emancipating ideas among the people, so all the forces of Government to-day will not prevent the Reclus, the Darwins, the Spencers, the Ibsens, the Mirbeaus, and others from disseminating those ideas of justice and liberty which will break down the prejudices which keep the masses in ignorance, and these ideas, once received by the unfortunate, will ripen into acts of revolt, as they have done in me. In this way the process will continue until the disappearance of authority enables all men to organize themselves freely according to their affinities, so that each may enjoy the product of his labour. Then will disappear all those moral maladies known as prejudices, and human beings will finally live in harmony, their only aspiration being the study of the sciences and the love of their fellows.

I conclude by saying that a Society in which are seen such social inequalities as we witness every day about us, in which we see daily suicides that are the result of poverty, and prostitution flaunting itself at every corner, a Society whose principal monuments are barracks and prisons—such a Society must be transformed as soon as possible at the risk of being speedily wiped out from the human species. Hail to those who labour in any way whatever for this transformation! This is the idea that has guided me in my duel with authority. But, as in this duel I have wounded my adversary, it is for him to strike me in turn. It is of little account what the penalty may be with which you strike me, for, gazing upon this assembly with the eyes of reason, I cannot restrain a smile at beholding you atoms lost in matter reasoning because you possess a prolongation of the spinal cord, and pretending to the right of judging one of your fellows. Ah! how insignificant a thing is your assembly and your verdict in the history of humanity! Human history, too, is just as small a thing in the whirlwind which carries it across immensity, and which is destined to disappear, or at least to be changed, in order to begin again the same history and the same deeds—a veritable and perpetual play of the cosmic forces which are renewed and transformed for ever.

This leaflet can be obtain of N. Rhodes, Bootmaker, 22, St. Martin’s Court, St. Martin’s Lane, London, England, at 5s. per Thousand.


Issued by the Necessity Group of English Anarchists.


About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.