The Worlds Famous Orations. Continental Europe (3801906). 1906.
I. Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare
Georges Jacques Danton (175994)
Born in 1759, died in 1794; led the attack on the Tuileries in 1792; implicated in the September Massacres; helped to organize the Revolutionary Tribunal; Member of the Committee of Public Safety; overthrown by Robespierre.
IT1 is gratifying to the ministers of a free people to have to announce to them that their country will be saved. All are stirred, all are excited, all burn to fight. You know that Verdun2 is not yet in the power of our enemies. You know that its garrison swears to immolate the first who breathes a proposition of surrender.
One portion of our people will proceed to the frontiers, another will throw up intrenchments, and the third with pikes will defend the hearts of our cities. Paris will second these great efforts. The commissioners of the Commune will solemnly proclaim to the citizens the invitation to arm and march to the defense of the country. At such a moment you can proclaim that the capital deserves well of all France.
At such a moment this National Assembly becomes a veritable committee of war. We ask that you concur with us in directing this sublime movement of the people, by naming commissioners who will second us in these great measures. We ask that any one refusing to give personal service or to furnish arms shall be punished with death. We ask that a set of instructions be drawn up for the citizens to direct their movements. We ask that couriers be sent to all the departments to notify them of the decrees that you proclaim here. The tocsin we are about to ring is not an alarm signal; it sounds the charge on the enemies of our country. To conquer them we must dare, dare again, always dare, and France is saved!
Note 1. Delivered in the National Assembly on September 2, 1792. Translated for this edition by Scott Robinson. Dantons speeches offer a notable exception among the speeches of the orators of the French Revolution, in that they were delivered without previous preparation. The other orators carefully wrote out and read their speeches and then had them printed, but Danton, says Mr. Stephens, always improvised; he never drew up a report or published a single speech. For the text of Dantons speeches we have to rely entirely on the reports in the Moniteur. [back]
Note 2. Verdun surrendered on the day this speech was made. [back]