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Victor Hugo: What greater aim could there be than civilization through peace?

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

French writers on war and peace

Victor Hugo: Selections on war

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Victor Hugo
From Memoirs
Translated by John W. Harding

Conversations with King Louis Philippe

“Well, this Duke of Clarence used to say to me:

‘Duke d’Orleans, a war between France and England is necessary every twenty years. History shows it.’

I would reply:

‘My dear duke, of what use are people of intelligence if they allow mankind to do the same foolish things over and over again?'”

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“Oh! fear! Monsieur Hugo, it is a strange thing, this fear of the hubbub that will be raised outside! It seizes upon this one, then that one, then that one, and it goes the round of the table. I am not a Minister, but if I were, it seems to me that I should not be afraid. I should see the right and go straight towards it. And what greater aim could there be than civilization through peace?”

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“What a job to govern amid this mob of bewildered Kings. They won’t force me into committing the great mistake of going to war. I am being pushed, but they won’t push me over. Listen to this and remember it: the secret of maintaining peace is to look at everything from the good side and at nothing from the bad point of view.”

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The King said to me yesterday:

“What makes the maintenance of peace so difficult is that there are two things in Europe that Europe detests, France and myself – myself even more than France. I am talking to you in all frankness. They hate me because I am Orleans; they hate me because I am myself. As for France, they dislike her, but would tolerate her in other hands. Napoleon was a burden to them; they overthrew him by egging him on to war of which he was so fond. I am a burden to them; they would like to throw me down by forcing me to break that peace which I love.”

Then he covered his eyes with his hands, and leaning his head back upon the cushions of the sofa, remained thus for a space pensive, and as though crushed.

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