A young journeyman pastry cook who had been to college, and who still knew a few of
Cicero's phrases, boasted one day of loving his fatherland. "What do you mean by your
>fatherland'?" a neighbor asked him. "Is it your oven? Is it the village
where you were born and which you have never seen since? Is it the street where dwelled
your father and mother who have been ruined and have reduced you to baking little pies for
a living? Is it the town hall where you will never be a police superintendent's clerk? Is
it the Church of Our Lady where you have not been able to become a choirboy, while an
absurd man is archbishop and duke with an income of twenty thousand golden louis?"
The journeyman pastry cook did not know what to answer. A thinker who was listening to
this conversation, concluded that in a fatherland of some extent there were often many
thousand men who had no fatherland.
You, pleasure-loving Parisian, who have never made any great journey save that to
Dieppe to eat fresh fish; who know nothing but your varnished town house, your pretty
country house, and your box at that Opera where the rest of Europe persists in feeling
bored; who speak your own language agreeably enough because you know no other, you love
all that, and you love further the girls you keep, the champagne which comes to you from
Rheims, the dividends which the Hôtel de Ville pays you every six months, and you say you
love your fatherland!
In all conscience, does a financier cordially love his fatherland? The officer and the
soldier who will pillage their winter quarters, if one lets them, have they a very warm
love for the peasants they ruin? Where was the fatherland of the scarred Duc de Guise, was
it in Nancy, Paris, Madrid, Rome? What fatherland have you, Cardinals de La Balue, Duprat,
Lorraine, Mazarin? Where was the fatherland of Attila and of a hundred heroes of this
type? I would like someone to tell me which was Abraham's fatherland. The first man to
write that the fatherland is wherever one feels comfortable was, I believe, Euripides in
his Phaeton. But the first man who left his birthplace to seek his comfort
elsewhere has said it before him.
Where then is the fatherland? Is it not a good field, whose owner, lodged in a
well-kept house, can say: "This field that I till, this house that I have built, are
mine; I live there protected by laws which no tyrant can infringe. When those who, like
me, possess fields and houses, meet in their common interest, I have my voice in the
assembly; I am a part of everything, a part of the community, a part of the dominion;
there is my fatherland"?
Well, now, it is better for your fatherland to be a monarchy or a republic? For four
thousand years has this question been debated. Ask the rich for an answer, they all prefer
aristocracy; question the people, they want democracy; only kings prefer royalty. How then
is it that nearly the whole world is governed by monarchs? Ask the rats who proposed to
hang a bell round the cat's neck. But in truth, the real reason is, as has been said, that
men are very rarely worthy of governing themselves. It is sad that often in order to be a
good patriot one is the enemy of the rest of mankind. To be a good patriot is to wish that
one's city may be enriched by trade, and be powerful by arms. It is clear that one country
cannot gain without another loses, and that it cannot conquer without making misery. Such
then is the human state that to wish for one's country's greatness is to wish harm to
one's neighbors. He who should wish his fatherland might never be greater, smaller,
richer, poorer, would be the citizen of the world.