Emile Digeon, “Proposal for the Indictment of Gambetta & the Ministers” (1881)





Whereas it is clear,

That Gambetta has, for several months, pursued in his paper, La République Française, a campaign to depreciate Tunisian values;

That, as a result of that campaign, these values have been cornered at the lowest prices: by a politico-financial gang, evidently accomplices of the author of the depreciation;

That the expedition against Tunisia has allowed the monopolists of Tunisian values to resell them with an illegitimate profit of more than fifty millions;

That Gambetta has exerted a corrupting action to assemble a docile majority, in order to obtain the vote for the credit for an expedition already undertaken without the consent of the legislature;

Whereas Gambetta has flagrantly departed from his remit as Speaker of the House by interfering in all the branches of the governmental administration, thanks to the blameworthy insouciance of Mr. Jules Grévy;

That, in many circumstances, he has taken, without status, with regard to civil and military authorities, the attitude of head of state, thus bringing confusion among the powers;

That his constant intrusion in the selection of functionaries has resulted in skewing universal suffrage to his advantage in the last legislative elections;

That, by all these maneuvers he has usurped an executive power of a nature to make fall back on his head the primary responsibility for the misdeeds committed by the Ministers that he has inspired, or that he controls;

Whereas, with regard to these Ministers, not only have they impinged on the rights of the nation by involving it, without its consent, in an unjust and fatal war,—but they have also far exceeded the credit extracted from the culpable complacency of the assembly;

That these Ministers have not provided effectively for the needs of an army in the field, and have thus brought about the death of a great number of soldiers;

Whereas, from the point of view of the administration of responsibilities, Gambetta and the Ministers have done everything to insure their impunity by bringing back, by reprehensible means, in the new legislature, the greater part of the Deputies who made up the majority of the old Assembly;

That the refusal of the indictment would constitute a denial of justice;

Considering that, from all of the above, there results against Gambetta and the Ministers sufficient presumptive evidence of guilt that they may be indicted by virtue of the letter and the spirit of the constitutional laws, such as articles 179, 258, 259, 401, 419, 423, 432 and 433 of the Penal Code:

The popular assembly, gathered today, October 30, 1881, in the 15th Arrondissement of Paris, Salle de la Victoire, declares it will adhere to the resolutions taken, the 16th of this month, by the Meeting at the Salle de Tivoli Waux-Hall.

It affirms in advance—save for the people choosing its favorable hour—the legal beginning of the right of insurrection, in case the legislature will not order the indictment of Gambetta and the Ministers;

It considers in advance these accused by the people as outside the law, in case a miscarriage of justice will not allow their guilt to be established properly their culpability and a legal punishment inflicted on them;

It invites the population of all of France to organize public gatherings in imitation of the reformist banquets which proceeded the Revolution of February 24, 1848.

Paris, October 30, 1881.

By mandate of the steering committee of the 15th Arrondissement :


[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.