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Friedrich Cotta, On the Constitution in France (ca. 1793)

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All officials must perform their office publicly, so that everyone who wishes can listen as they carry out their duties, present their accounts, and so on.

Justice is administered in France free of charge, and because trials always cause great unpleasantness, separate mediation courts and the like have been set up, where an attempt is first made to settle the disagreement amicably before one lets it come to a trial. In France, no person can be executed except in accordance with a court judgment and the law. The ministers must see to it that the laws are carried out throughout the realm, that peace, quiet, and order prevail everywhere, that trade and commerce are not disturbed, especially that food can be freely brought everywhere, also that the officials all do what they are supposed to, and so on. In France the ministers, too, are elected by the citizens from amongst themselves, and the ministers, too, are punished in France if they do not exercise their office properly. Other than the ministers there was in France also a king, but he was deposed because he was performing his service only to the detriment of the people, and the people completely abolished an office as superfluous, costly, and dangerous to liberty as the office of a king or prince. That is why France is now called a republic, because only citizens are elected to all offices for a specific period of time in order to look after the common weal of their fellow citizens, and in case they do not do so, they can be deposed and punished without distinction.

The army exists in France only to defend against enemies and to preserve the public peace; it may not get involved in any civil matters. Recruitment into the soldiers’ estate is done voluntarily, and the soldier, once his period of service is over, must be released free of charge. Soldiers must be treated fraternally by their officers, receive no blows with sticks, but are given good pay, salubrious bread and meat, clothing, and so on, and if they serve meritoriously or become old serving, a pension. From among the soldiers are chosen the non-commissioned officers, from among those the lieutenants, and thus upward all the way to the general.

Thus everything has been arranged in France such that every inhabitant can live securely, independent of others, and undisturbed in his trade, contentedly and happily.

Long live the Frankish people! Long live freedom and equality!

Source: Friedrich Cotta, Von der Staatsverfassung in Frankreich [On the State Constitution in France] (c. 1793); reprinted in C. Träger, Mainz zwischen Rot und Schwarz [Mainz between Red and Black]. Berlin: Rütten & Leoning, 1963, pp. 243-48.

Also reprinted in Jost Hermand, ed., Von deutscher Republik 1775-1795. Texte radikaler Demokraten [Of the German Republic 1775-1795. Texts by Radical Democrats]. © Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1968, pp. 96-99.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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