A European walk through Bordeaux 26
Victor Hugo, Germany,Italy, Europe, Humanity.
Place de la Comédie.
L'Assemblée Nationale au Grand-Théâtre de Bordeaux. (Février 1871) - Archives municipales de Bordeaux
Elected in 1871, Victor Hugo arrived at Bordeaux on 13 February 1871 (he wrote about it in his diary on the next day). On the 14th, acclaimed by all Bordeaux, he went to the Grand Théâtre, which was decked in red from the seats to the platform installed on the stage. Upon leaving the Assemblée, besieged by a horde of admirers, he took refuge in the café opposite (Hôtel de Bordeaux) where he was pressed to give a speech on the balcony overlooking the square to talk to the crowd. He refused to do so, preferring to reserve his speech for the platform. That day, he contented himself with a simple statement, which was already the beginning of another speech. “It is the question of Europe that must be addressed at this time. The destiny of Europe depends on the destiny of France.”
Of course, while there is no question of taking the quotation out of its contextual framework, except to recall that two weeks later, at the meeting of 1 March 1871, Victor Hugo mounted the platform installed on the stage of the Grand Théâtre to celebrate, after a deeply patriotic and national discourse, a future Franco-German reconciliation: “My revenge is fraternity! No more frontiers! The Rhine for everyone! Let us be the same Republic, let us be the United States of Europe, let us be the continental federation, let us be European liberty, let us be universal peace! Germany, here I am! Am I your enemy? No! I am your sister.”
Seven days later, on 8 March, he was getting ready to speak again in order to defend Paris, following the recent presentation of a report to cancel the election of Garibaldi in Algiers.
The Garibaldi issue arose again. On 13 February, Giuseppe Garibaldi had gone to the Grand Théâtre and handed over his resignation as deputy. Because he was not French, he had no intention of keeping the mandate with which he had been invested. His letter read as follows: “As a last duty rendered to the cause of the French Republic, I have come to give it my vote, which I place in your hands. I also waive the mandate of deputy with which I have been honoured by various departments.” Violent incidents took place at the end of the session. Garibaldi tried to speak, but he was prevented from doing so by the jeers and insults unleashed by the Assemblée’s very conservative majority. So he withdrew with dignity and descended the steps of the Grand Théâtre in a grey cape lined with red, to retire to his island of Caprera.
On 8 March, when Victor Hugo mounted the platform, it was to defend the cause of the “admirable soldier who fought for us: Of all the European powers, none rose to defend this France that, so many times, had taken up the cause of Europe... Not a king, not a state, nobody! Just one man accepted... this man, gentlemen, what did he have, his sword, and this sword had already delivered a people... and this sword could save another. He thought, he came, he fought.” But every sentence was interrupted by exclamations, delegations and invective. In the commotion, he could not finish his speech. In the face of this tumult, the poet made a gesture with his hand and said: “Three weeks ago, you refused to hear Garibaldi. Now you refuse to hear me. That is enough. I will resign.”
Using the pen of one of the reporters, he wrote his letter of resignation on the spot, standing on the outer edge of the reporters’ office, located at the foot of the platform. He had to hold firm in the days that followed, despite all the invitations, declarations and pressure arriving from all parts. On 13 March, he returned to Paris, taking the corpse of his son Charles with him, found dead a few days earlier in a carriage in front of the Hôtel de Bordeaux.
From his island of Caprera, a few weeks later, Garibaldi wrote to him: “… …
down Rue Esprit des Lois
to Place Jean Jaurès.