Babeuf and the Conspiracy of the Equals 1797
Babeuf’s last letter to his family before his execution
Source; Ph. Buonarroti. La conspiration pour l’égalité, Editions Sociales, Paris. 1957;
To my wife and my children:
Good evening, my friends. I am ready to wrap myself in the eternal night. I express myself better to the friend to whom I addressed the two letters you saw; I better express to him my situation as far as it concerns you than I do to you yourselves. It seems that feeling too much, I feel nothing. I put your fate in his hands. Alas, I don’t know if you’ll find him in a position to do what I ask of him: I don’t know how you can reach him. Through all of the obstacles of our misery, your love for me has led you here; you have held up under suffering and privation. Your faithful feelings have led you to follow every instant of this long and cruel proceeding which you, like me, have drunk to the dregs; but I don’t know how you will return to the place from which you started; I don’t know how my memory will be appreciated, though I believe I carried myself in an irreproachable manner; finally, I don’t know what will become of the republicans, their families, and even the babies still at their mothers’ breasts, in the midst of the royalist fury that the counter-revolution will bring. O my friends! How heart-rending these thought are in my final moments!... To die for the fatherland, to leave a family, children, a beloved wife, all would be bearable if at the end of this I didn’t see liberty lost, and all that belongs to sincere republicans wrapped in a horrible proscription. Ah, my tender children! What will become of you? I can’t defend myself against the strongest of feelings.... Don’t think that I feel any regret for having sacrificed myself for the most beautiful of causes; even if all I did for it was useless, I fulfilled my task...
If contrary to my expectations you are able to survive the terrible storm that breaks over the republic and everything connected to it, if you are able once again to find yourselves in a peaceful situation, and find a few friends who can assist you in triumphing over your ill fortune, I suggest that you all live together ; I recommend to my wife that she attempt to guide the children with much kindness, and I recommend to my children that they merit the kindnesses of their mother, by respecting her and always obeying her wishes. The family of a martyr for freedom must set an example of all the virtues, in order to attract the esteem and the attachment of all good people. I would like my wife to do everything possible to give her children an education, by having all her friends assist her in doing everything that is possible for them with this aim in view. I invite Emile to accept this wish on the part of a father who believes he was loved, and who loved in his turn; I invite him to do so without wasting any time, and as soon as possible.
My friends, I hope you’ll remember me, and that you’ll speak of me often. I hope that you’ll believe that I always loved you. I couldn’t conceive of any other way to make you happy than through the happiness of all. I failed; I sacrificed myself; it is also for you that I die.
Speak of me often with Camille; tell him thousands and thousands of times that I had him with tenderness in my heart.
Say the same to Caius, when he’ll be able to understand it.
Lebois has said that he’ll publish our defense separately: you must give mine the widest possible publicity. I recommend to my wife, my good friend, that she never give Baudoin, Lebois, or anyone else a copy of my defense without having another correct one in her possession, in order to be sure that this defense is never lost. You will know, my dear friend, that this defense is precious, and that it will always be dear to the virtuous hearts of the friends of their country. The only property that will be left to you will be my reputation. And I am sure that you and the children will be consoled in having possession of it. You will love hearing all feeling and upright hearts say, in speaking of your spouse: he was perfectly virtuous.
Farewell. I hold on to the earth by a thread, which tomorrow shall break. This is certain, I see it clearly. The sacrifice must be made. The evil are the stronger, and I surrender to them. At least it is sweet to die with a conscience as clean as mine; the only thing that is cruel, that is heart-rending, is to tear myself from your arms, O my tender friends! O all that is dear to me!!! I tear myself away; the violence is done...Farewell, farewell, ten million times farewell...
...One more word. Write to my mother and my sisters. Send them, by coach or otherwise, my defense as soon as it’s published. Tell them how I died, and try to make these good people understand that such a death is glorious and far from being dishonorable...
So farewell again , my beloved, my tender friends. Farewell forever. I wrap myself in a breast of a virtuous sleep...