Gambetta was a republican leader who opposed Napoleon III's "Second
Empire". He took part in the provisional government after the overthrow of the Empire
following the defeat by Prussia in 1870. After 1871 he was a major figure in the
evolution of the Third Republic, and served as premier in 1881-82.
In the name of universal suffrage, the basis of every political and social
organization, we instruct our deputy to reaffirm the principles of radical democracy and
to demand with vigor:
(1) The most radical application of universal suffrage; (2) Repartitioning of constituencies according to the actual number of electors entitled to
vote; (3) Individual liberty to be in future protected by the law and not left at
the mercy of arbitrary administrators; (4) Trial by jury for every kind of
political offense; (5) Complete freedom of the press unrestricted by stamp-duty and
caution-money; (6) Freedom of meeting without let or hindrance, with liberty
to discuss all religious, philosophical, political, and social affairs; (7) Separation of church and state; (8) Free, compulsory, secular primary education; (9) Election of all public fonctionnaires; (10) Abolition of privileges and
monopolies; (11) That economic reforms be connected with the social problem.
Indeed, this principle alone, put into general application, can cause social antagonism to
disappear and give complete reality to our slogan: Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité!
Citizen electors---I accept this mandate. On these conditions I shall be especially
proud to represent you because this election will have been conducted in conformity with
the true principles of universal suffrage. The electors will have freely chosen their
candidate. The electors will have determined the political program of their delegate. This
method seems to me at once right and in line with the traditions of the early days of the
French Revolution. I therefore in my turn adhere freely to the declaration of principles
and the rightful claims which you commission me to press at the tribune.
With you, I think that there is no other sovereign but the people, and that universal
suffrage, the instrument of this sovereignty, has no value and basis and carries no
obligation, unless it be radically free. The most urgent reform must therefore be to free
universal suffrage from every tutelage, every shackle, every pressure, every corruption.
With you, I think that universal suffrage, once made the master, would suffice to sweep
away all the things which your program demands, and to establish all the freedoms, all the
institutions which we are seeking to bring about. With you, I think that France, the home
of indestructible democracy, will know liberty, peace, order, justice, material
prosperity, and moral greatness only through the triumph of the principles of the French
Revolution. With you, I think that a legal and loyal democracy is the political system par
excellence which achieves most promptly and certainly the moral and material emancipation
of the greatest number, and best ensures social equality in laws, actions, and customs.
But, with you also, I consider that the progressive achievement of these reforms
depends absolutely on the political regime and on political reforms, and it is for me
axiomatic in these matters that the form involves and determines the substance. It is,
furthermore, this sequence and order of priority which our fathers have indicated and
fixed in the profound and comprehensive slogan beyond which there is no safety: liberty,
equality, fraternity. We are thus in mutual agreement. Our contract is completed. I am at
once your delegate and your trustee. I go further than signifying agreement. I give you my
vow: I swear obedience to this present contract and fidelity to the sovereign people.