Letter to the French People

Cagliostro’s Letter to the French People

“Scattered broadcast over Paris and all France it created an immense sensation. Directed against Breteuil, whose unpopularity, already great, it increased, it assailed more or less openly the monarchical principle itself. Of all the pamphlets which from the Necklace Affair to the fall of the Bastille attacked the royal authority none are so dignified or so eloquent. The longing for freedom, which was latent in the bosom of every man and which the philosophers and the secret societies had been doing their best to fan into a flame, was revealed in every line. It was not unreasonably regarded as the confession of faith of an Illumine.” —Cagliostro : the splendour and misery of a master of magic. By W. R. H. Trowbridge. P. 254.

On arriving in London, Cagliostro issued his celebrated ‘Letter to the French People.’ It is dated June 26, 1786.

“I have been hunted from France,” exclaims the prophet; “the king has been deceived. Kings are to be pitied for having such ministers. I mean to speak of the Baron de Breteuil. What have I done to this man? Of what does he accuse me? Of being loved by the cardinal, and of not deserting him; of seeking the truth, telling the truth, defending the truth; of assisting suffering humanity, by my alms, my remedies, my counsels. Those are my crimes! He cannot bear that a man in irons, a stranger under the bolts of the Bastille, in his power–his, the worthy minister of his horrible prison–should have raised his voice as I have done, to make him known,–him, and his principles, his agents, his creatures!

Well then, resolve me of a doubt.

The king has banished me from his kingdom, but he has not heard me. Is it thus that all lettres de cachet are put in force in France? If so it is, I pity you, and the more because this Baron de Breteuil will have this dangerous department. What! your persons and property are at the mercy of this man? By himself alone he can deceive the king with impunity; acting on slanderous and never contradicted information he can issue and have put into execution, by men like himself, rigorous orders which plunge the innocent man into a cell, and deliver his house over to plunder!

Are all state prisons like the Bastille?

No one can have any idea of the horrors of that place; cynical impudence, odious falsehood, sham pity, bitter irony, relentless cruelty, injustice and death are seated there. A barbarous silence is the least of the crimes there committed. For six months I was within fifteen feet of my wife without knowing it. Others have been buried there for thirty years, are reputed dead, are unhappy in not being dead, having, like Milton’s damned souls, only so much light in their abyss as to perceive the impenetrable darkness that enwraps them. I said it in captivity, and I repeat it a free man: there is no crime but is amply expiated by six months in the Bastille. Some one asked me whether I should return to France supposing the prohibitions laid on me were removed? Assuredly, I replied, provided the Bastille became a public promenade!

You have all that is needed for happiness, Frenchmen: a fertile soil, a mild climate, kindly hearts, charming gaiety, genius, graces all your own; unequalled in the art of pleasing, unsurpassed in the other arts all you want, my good friends, is one little thing: to be sure of lying in your own beds when you are irreproachable.

To labour for this happy revolution is a task worthy of your parlements. It is only difficult to feeble souls.

Yes, I declare to you, there will reign over you a prince who will achieve glory in the abolition of lettres de cachet, and the convocation of your States-General. He will feel that the abuse of power is in the long-run destructive of power itself. He will not be satisfied with being the first of his ministers; he will aim at being the first of Frenchmen.”