The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters

CXCIX. To George Sand

Dear master, I received your article yesterday, and I should answer it at length if I were not in the midst of preparations for my departure for Paris. I am going to try to finish up with Aisse.

The middle of your letter made me SHED A TEAR, without converting me, of course. I was moved, that was all, without being persuaded.

I look vainly in your article for one word: “justice,” and all our ill comes from forgetting absolutely that first notion of morality, which to my way of thinking composes all morality. Humanitarianism, sentiment, the ideal, have played us sufficiently mean tricks for us to try righteousness and science.

If France does not pass in a short time to the crisis, I believe that she will be irrevocably lost. Free compulsory education will do nothing but augment the number of imbeciles. Renan has said that very well in the preface to his Questions contemporaines. What we need most of all, is a natural, that is to say, a legitimate aristocracy. No one can do anything without a head, and universal suffrage as it exists is more stupid than divine right. You will see remarkable things if they let it keep on! The masses, the numbers, are always idiotic. I have few convictions, but I have that one strongly. But the masses must be respected, however inept they may be, because they contain the germs of an incalculable fecundity. Give it liberty but not power.

I believe no more than you do in class distinction. Castes belong to archeology. But I believe that the poor hate the rich, and that the rich are afraid of the poor. It will be so forever. It is as useless to preach love to the one as to the other. The most important thing is to instruct the rich, who, on the whole, are the strongest. Enlighten the bourgeois first, for he knows nothing, absolutely nothing. The whole dream of democracy is to elevate the proletarian to the level of the imbecility of the bourgeois. The dream is partly accomplished. He reads the same papers and has the same passions.

The three degrees of education have shown within the last year what they can accomplish: (1) higher education made Prussia win; (2) secondary education, bourgeois, produced the men of the 4th of September; (3) primary education gave us the Commune. Its minister of public instruction was the great Valles, who boasted that he scorned Homer!

In three years every Frenchman can know how to read. Do you think that we shall be the better off? Imagine on the other hand that in each commune, there was ONE bourgeois, only one, who had read Bastiat, and that this bourgeois was respected, things would change.

However I am not discouraged as you are, and the present government pleases me, because it has no principle, no metaphysics, no humbug. I express myself very badly. Moreover you deserve a different response, but I am much hurried.

I hear today that the mass of the Parisians regrets Badinguet. A plebiscite would declare for him, I do not doubt it, universal suffrage is such a fine thing.

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:53