Sunday, September 1, 2019

An Eloquent and Fiery Speech

Before we begin:

Yes, I heard Taix was slated for demolition. Fingers crossed THAT doesn't happen (the Taix family's previous location downtown was razed to make way for...drumroll please...a parking structure for government offices...and long before that, they demolished their bakery to build the hotel that housed the original restaurant). Incidentally, good on the LA Times for finally getting Frenchtown's location more or less correct.

Don't forget the Saving Los Angeles Landmarks tour is Saturday, September 7 - one more week! The French Hospital will be the last stop. If you want the scoop directly from the nerd who tracked down Jeanne d'Arc (little old me!), get on the bus.

Anyway, just last weekend I was privileged to meet and interview Georges Le Mesnager's great-granddaughter (hi Denise!). At her request, I've dug up the speech Georges gave on July 14, 1889 - the centennial of the French Republic (French Angelenos threw a HUGE party). Consider this a belated Bastille Day entry, since on Bastille Day I was neck deep in a new job and scrambling to finish a commission. This is from a slightly longer article that appeared in the Los Angeles Herald two days later. In 1932, Le Guide Francais stated "his eloquent and fiery speech still rings in the ears of the older members of the colony."
MR. MESNAGER'S SPEECH. Ladies and Gentlemen—One hundred years have just struck on the clock of centuries—a century has passed since the day upon which the French, rendered desperate, by a sublime effort crushed their oppressors and destroyed the Bastille. It is to commemorate this event, which, by the influence it has exerted upon the human species, has not had its equal since Christ preached equality, that France has made its day of rejoicings, being desirous of keeping it sacred as the birthday of liberty. And upon this immense globe this day all Frenchmen concur in the deeds of their forefathers and proclaim their invincible attachment to the principles of '89. Eighteen hundred years of iniquity and misery had placed France within an inch of destruction. Pillaged, plundered, trodden under foot, she was becoming depopulated. And yet, even as now, our beautiful land was the garden spot of Europe. As now, her majestic rivers watered thousands of ever green meadows; her soil was covered with golden crops; numberless herds found pasturage upon her hills, the vines hid those beautiful grapes which make that good wine, which sparkles in the cup of the happy ones of earth. But the sound of the woodcutter's axe, the labor of the harvests was not accompanied as now by the gay song of the worker, because, having no hope that he would get his rights—in fact, hoping nothing—he struggled on in the throes of misery and starvation. Why could starvation exist in France? Because a King without fear or shame, selfish and cruel, unable to procure any more gold for his orgies, had sold to shameless speculators the monopoly of the breadstuff trade, and those human-faced monsters, armed with the royal mandate, went from hut to hut, robbing the peasant, of what remained to him after he had paid his tithes, taxes and the lord of the manor. The crops were sent out of the country by them ; they created famine in order to tear from the people their last economies, and to sell them bread at the price of gold. Reduced to dispute with wild animals the acorns of the oak and the grasses and wild roots of the forest, thousands died daily. Far above these agonizing creatures reveled the privileged class. Prince, duke, count, baron and marquis rivaled each other in splendor and wealth, all squeezing France to live upon sweat. For them all the good things of the earth, for them all the titles and honors; for the poor devil, cold, hunger, hardship and hard labor. For the one, silk, velvet, gold and diamonds; for the other, rags, insults, humiliation. For the one the sun and France, for the other a prison and the scaffold. And this unfair division had lasted over eighteen hundred years. All things have an end, and God was preparing himself to lay His heavy hand upon the guilty ones. Since a number of years thinkers and philosophers had been reminding the people that all men had a common origin, and that rich and poor, feeble and strong, little or big, must incline themselves before the law emanating from the only legitimate source of power — the will of the people. The people were murmuring. Louis XV. had used his celebrated sentence: "What do I care that the people suffer, so long as monarchy lasts as long as myself. After me may come the flood!" The son paid for his father's crimes and lost his life.  
The speaker here described eloquently the rising of the masses, the attack upon and the falling of the Bastille, and the twenty years of republican triumphs that followed under the devise of Liberty, Fraternity, Equality. 
Continuing, the orator said: Years have succeeded years, and liberty, for which the French have suffered so much, has become deeply rooted, and other nations, emboldened by our example, enlightened by that beacon called "89," have everywhere raised their voice. With the exception of dying Turkey and Russia, which is about to be born, all nations have imposed upon their kings a constitution containing their rights. Monarchies are in guiding strings until the day when they will be overthrown. Today all thinking and studious men, those with a developed mind and generous aspirations, greet '89 with enthusiasm, and declare themselves ardent disciples of its political creed. Everywhere the most advanced people have joined their banner with ours. To you, Americans, it is needless to say that we love and honor the land of Washington, without forgetting our France. Our arms, as those of our forefathers, would be valorous enough to defend our adopted land, but our hearts are large enough to harbor interlaced the star-spangled and the tri-color flags. 
The speaker also paid a graceful tribute to the people of Belgium, the Canadians, Italians aud Swiss, and concluded by saying that France cannot perish, because if she were to disappear the European equilibrium would be destroyed, and the world, leaving its axis, would roll in oceans of trouble and wars, gradually growing more bloody until it would finally return to barbarism. "'Vive la France.' Vive la Republique!"
 Eloquent and fiery, indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Hey you!!!! I'm honored for the mention. :) As I watch this interview of my dad speaking about the ranch, you'd be tickled to know that ....Yes! he was born at the French Hospital....
    This odd connection occurred as I read your story of the very same!! hospital