Georges-Jacques Danton: Do you hear the people sing?

Before continuing, please find a passing minstrel to sing this.

To Camille Desmoulins,

The midnight-oil burns quickly these nights.

I am no stranger to writing; indeed, as an Advocate for the people in France I am often found penning various legal pleas. Recently, however, my wrist has grown weary. Too many people are crying out in the dark – crying out to be heard in a country where no one is listening. In the Cordeliers District, my home, my child’s home, the last place in France where liberty has not yet been violated; the streets have filled up with the wretched faster that I could have imagined. I pride myself on giving a voice to those who cannot speak; however, in the past month I have not been able to make a dent in the ever growing list of the needy. I must do more to help the people. When my beautiful France has become a battleground between starvation and altruism, I know that I must act.

Camille Desmoulins, my dear, dear friend. You spoke of a France where the Monarchy is not irreconcilably hostile to freedom, where the Monarchy is elected by the people and for the people. As children we spoke of this, but now, my friend, this needs to become a reality. We can make a radical change. It starts with us; we will be the spark that will ignite the Revolution! We speak of a transformation; I say it is upon us! Let the winds of change fan the flames as to consume the corrupt bureaucracy that has been in power far too long!

These nights I stay up deep into the witching hour; writing letters, drafting documents and bringing people together. Camille, I propose that we form a society of like-minded individuals. Every change starts with a few, but we need to take action and that means we need people that can help. Together we can make a difference.

And Camille, we are not the only ones that are beginning to grow weary of the inaction. Have you had the chance to peruse the “Petition of Women of the Third Estate to the King?” Women from all over France wrote this, my friend –

The women of the Third Estate are almost all born without wealth; their education is very neglected or very defective: it consists in their being sent to school with a teacher who himself does not know the first word of the language [Latin] he teaches. They continue to go there until they can read the service of the Mass in French and Vespers in Latin. Having fulfilled the first duties of religion, they are taught to work; having reached the age of fifteen or sixteen, they can earn five or six sous a day. If nature has refused them beauty they get married, without a dowry, to unfortunate artisans; lead aimless, difficult lives stuck in the provinces; and give birth to children they are incapable of raising. If, on the contrary, they are born pretty, without breeding, without principles, with no idea of morals, they become the prey of the first seducer, commit a first sin, come to Paris to bury their shame, end by losing it altogether, and die victims of dissolute ways. 

Do you see, Camille! The time to strike is now! 

I have a dream for a new France, my friend, and I am now of the opinion that our vision for this magnificent nation has become more than a pipe dream.

My fondest hope is that one day I will see it with my own eyes – and this day is coming, I promise you.


Georges-Jacques Danton

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