S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[Alphonse de Lamartine; a French poet, historian, and statesman; born at Mâcon, Oct. 21, 1792; published his first poems, 1820; elected to the Academy, 1830; deputy, 1833; published History of the Girondists, 1847; member of the provisional government, 1848, and of the Constituent Assembly; retired after the coup détat, and devoted himself to literature; died February, 1869.]
You are the best republic! (Vous êtes la meilleure république!)
Embracing Louis Philippe at the Hotel de Ville after the revolution of 1830, which put the head of the Orleans branch on the throne, and which seemed to liberals like Lamartine to give all the guaranties to freedom which a republic could offer, with greater security.
The prominent political position assumed by Lamartine dates from the banquets organized in 1847 in opposition to the government, which no longer seemed to be the best republic. At one of these revolutionary gatherings in his native city of Mâcon in that year, he made use of the expression: History teaches every thing, even the future. Experience is the only prophecy of wise men. It is almost identical with the apothegm of Frederick von Schlegel, already quoted. Hoffman gives a humorous turn to the idea: The historian is a sort of talking ghost from out the past (eine Art redendes Gespenst aus der Vorzeit).Doge and Dogaressa.
If a throne crumbles of itself, I will not try to raise it.
This remark, made just before the revolution of 1848, shows the change of sentiment which the son of a royalist officer and an original partisan of the house of Orleans had experienced.
The Spanish marriages, so called, or the union in Spain of the Orleans and Bourbon families, by the marriage of a son of Louis Philippe to a Spanish infanta, proved of great unpopularity; it covered its promoter, Guizot, with obloquy, and contributed to the overthrow of Louis Philippe. Lamartine expressed the views of liberal Frenchmen by predicting from it a great calamity: The House of Orleans will have ceased to reign in France from having wished also to reign in Spain.
The existence of the republic, which took the place of the monarchy of July, was imperilled by a want of sympathy between the provisional government and the Paris workmen, and by demands of the latter for national workshops, which the government opposed on principle. It was at this decisive juncture that the patriot turned to the hero of the American contest, where, as Lafayette said, Humanity has won its suit, so that liberty would nevermore be without an asylum. Unwilling to yield to demands which were based on communistic ideas, Lamartine declared, You might place me before the muzzle of those guns before you would make me sign these two words associated together, Organization of Labor. But his greatest triumph was a refusal to adopt the red flag which the workmen, then organized into an armed force, wished to impose upon France as the sign of successful revolution. With their guns pointed at his breast, he uttered the following words at the close of an impassioned address that carried everything before it: I will refuse, even to the death, this flag of blood; and you should repudiate it still more than I! for the red flag which you offer us has only made the tour of the Champs de Mars, drawn through the blood of the people in 91 and 93; while the tricolored banner has made the circuit of the world, with the name, the glory, and the liberty of the country!
The last years of Lamartines life were imbittered by poverty and neglect. I no longer live, he once said: I only assist at life (Je ne vis plus: jassiste à la vie). Thus the young and beautiful Mme. dHoudetot, being asked of what she was dreaming, when found during her last illness in a pensive mood, replied! I am regretting myself! (Je me regrette!)