“No Need for Concern; I am in Charge!”

We can trust our leaders…no, really!

In a delightful account of his personal memories of the fateful revolution on 1848 in Paris, Maxime du Camp relates a timeless story about the ability of leaders, who after all are the experts and can–as we all know–thus be relied on, to perceive that which is about to hit them:

Une lettre inedite que j’ai sous les yeux raconte une scene qui prove a quel point etaient aveugles ceux-la memes qui, par fonction, auraient du mieux voir que les autres. [Souvenirs de l’annee 1848: La Revolution de fevrier, la 15 mai, l’insurrection de juin (Librarie Hachette: Paris 1876; Nabu Public Domain Reprint, 31)]

With tensions in Paris visibly rising early in 1848, several pro-monarchy citizens took it upon themselves to contact M. Gabriel Delessert, “le prefet de police,” to offer some free advice on how best to maintain public order, to which Delessert responded in classic form that:

la situation etait beaucoup moins sombre qu’on ne la faisait, qu’il etait mieux informe que personne et qu’il etait parfaitement en mesure de dominer la situation. [34]

Finding that the honorable official had condescended to open his door but not his ears, the citizens sadly departed with the following words:

Ce qui est effrayant, monsieur le prefet, c’est que vous vous croyez bien informe et que vous l’est mal; c’est que, malheureusement, vous vous trompez et que vous trompez le roi. [35]

The chaos that ensued over the next six months is the subject of Du Camp’s book.


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