The World's Famous Orations/Volume 7/On Taxing the Rich
ON TAXING THE RICH
You have decreed an honorable mention of what the Department de l'Herault has believed to make for the public safety. In this decree you authorize the entire Republic to adopt the same measures, for your decree ratifies those which have just been brought to your knowledge. If everywhere the same measures be taken, the Republic is saved. No longer shall be treated as agitators and anarchists those ardent friends of liberty by whom the nation was set in motion, but we shall hear: "Honor to the agitators who turn the vigor of the people against its enemies!" When the temple of liberty shall have been established, the people may be trusted to decorate it. Rather let the soil of France perish than to return beneath a hard slavery; but let no one think we shall become barbarians after our liberty is founded. We shall embellish it; despots shall envy us; but while the ship of state is beaten by the tempest, what belongs to one belongs to all.
Agrarian laws are no longer spoken of; the people are wiser than their calumniators maintain, and the people as a whole have more sense than many of those who deem themselves great men. In a people great men are of no more account than giant trees in a vast forest. It was believed that the people wanted the agrarian law; and this idea may cause suspicions to arise as to the measures adopted by the Department de l'Herault — their motives and their decrees will no doubt be perverted. It will be said of them: "They taxed the rich"; but, citizens, to tax the rich is to serve them. It is rather a veritable advantage for them than a considerable sacrifice; the more the sacrifice upon the usufruct, the more is the principal guaranteed against the invasion of enemies. It is an appeal to every man of means to save the Republic. The appeal is just. What the Department de l'Herault has done, Paris and all France will do.
See what resources France will procure. Paris is rich and luxurious; well, by decree, this sponge is going to be squeezed, and by a gratifying singularity it will be found that the people will carry on the revolution at the expense of their internal enemies. These enemies themselves will learn the price of liberty; they will desire to possess it, when they have recognized that it has preserved their possessions. Paris, in making an appeal to capitalists, will furnish her contingent, which will afford means to suppress the troubles in la Vendée; for, at any sacrifice, these troubles must be suppressed. On this alone depends your external tranquillity.
- Delivered in the Convention, April 27, 1793. Translated for this edition by Scott Robinson.