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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

62. A New Idea in Europe

Texte intégral

1On 3 March 1794—or 13 Ventôse (‘the windy month’) of year II according to the revolutionary calendar—just a few months before dying on the scaffold, the radical deputy Louis-Antoine-Léon de Saint-Just (1767–1794),i who was 26 years old, suggested the French example could lead the way in bringing happiness to the people beyond its borders. Here he is addressing the French parliament, or ‘Convention’, as it was known at that time.

2The peoples of Europe are being wilfully misled about what is going on here in France. Your debates are being misrepresented. But powerful laws cannot be misrepresented. They strike at the heart of foreign countries like unstoppable bolts of lightning. Let Europe learn that you will no longer countenance people being miserable and poor, that you will no longer countenance any oppressor! May this example bear fruit across the land; may the love of virtue and happiness spread throughout the world! Happiness is a new concept in Europe.

3Louis-Antoine-Léon de Saint-Just,
Speech, 3 March 1794.

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